BEST JUNIOR HANDLER
LAUREN ELIZABETH WILLIAMS
As a 12-year old Lauren Elizabeth Williams knew her future was somewhere in the animal world. Her mother had been heavily involved in horses as a child and into adulthood. Lauren’s fate was sealed. After attending her first Dog Camp, Kids N K-9s, where she was introduced to the many aspects of dog ownership, showing and handling, she was hooked. Unfortunately her older brother, Jonathan, beat her to the Junior scene, and in 2007 was ranked as #1 English Springer Spaniel Junior Handler and #3 in the Sporting Group. Not to be outdone, Lauren was quietly determined to best her brother.
Since that dog camp she has handled and finished numerous breeds, mostly sporting, where her allegiance truly lies. Lauren has proven her handling abilities working with breeds in every group. All dogs love and respect her but know they must ‘tow the line’.
Lauren’s mother, Colleen, lost her job with IBM in May of 2009 and was diagnosed with breast cancer later that same year. This combination of unfortunate happenings could have ended Lauren’s quest to be #1. However, many friends, breeders, juniors and their parents stepped up and made it possible for Lauren to continue to show in juniors’ competition every weekend. Lauren has faced and overcome adversity when most juniors would have quit.
She has worked for and is well-respected by many professional handlers and currently works for Jody Paquette and Leonardo Garcini. Many caring individuals and knowledgeable dog fanciers have helped Lauren along her road to success. Numerous judges who have awarded her Best Junior have spoken of her ‘quiet hands’ and how she vanishes behind her exhibits. Lauren has always been very humble and more than willing to offer help to competitors ready to accept her suggestions and knowledge of handling.
Lauren aged out of Junior Showmanship in early January having finished an amazing 2010 by being named #1 AKC All-Breed, #1 AKC Sporting Group and #1 AKC English Springer Spaniel Junior handler according to AKC posted points as of December 31, 2010. She completed her juniors career by going Best Junior at 2 of the 3 All Breed shows prior to Eukanuba in Long Beach, California and 2 of the 3 shows in Winston-Salem, NC the following weekend. Before aging out, she qualified to show at Eukanuba this December and Westminster in February 2012.
Her philosophy for showing a canine to their best advantage is “read and understand all you can about each breed’s AKC standard and their history. Learning each breed’s quirks and their personalities are the most exciting and rewarding parts of presenting your dog. It’s amazing how one species can be broken down so diversely.”
Lauren graduated with honors from Green Hope High School in Cary, N.C. in June and has been accepted at several prestigious, out-of-state colleges. She plans to continue her studies in the animal field in the near future.
RUNNER-UP TO BEST JUNIOR HANDLER
SARAH ELIZABETH CONGLETON
Showing in Junior Showmanship has shown me how to use the techniques I have learned and to apply them to my every day life. I will forever be grateful for the years that I have been able to show Deuce, my own English Springer Spaniel. Deuce showed me what a true best friend was, and no matter what, he was always there for me.
My final year in juniors has been a year I will cherish as I learned the most about myself and working with ESS. It has been a whirlwind of a year since it was also my senior year of high school. After the ESS National in October, I decided to take a month off and focus 100 percent on my senior year in school. The month’s break for Deuce and me truly paid off and paved the way for the year I will remember the most.
My goal for my final year was for Deuce and I to qualify for Eukanuba and Westminster. I never in a million years thought my dream of a dog, Deuce, and I would earn five wins a row. That qualified us for Eukanuba in the first weekend in December. I was ecstatic that Deuce was there for me to qualify so fast, and then my goal was set for Westminster. Another dream came true when we qualified by the first weekend in February, and Westminster 2011 had not even happened yet!
Westminster 2011 was a successful show for Deuce, and he showed me again what an outstanding Junior Showmanship dog he is. He gave me his heart and soul, and we made it to the final cut of the top 12 of 48 extraordinary juniors.
A highlight of my final year was also a very memorable moment at Louisville, Kentucky. Deuce and I won BJH under the esteemed Professional Handler Valerie Nunes-Atkinson, and then made the Regional Junior Showmanship Finals under Elliot Weiss. In the months following, we picked up seven more wins including two at the prestigious Eastern English Springer Spaniel Club under Judy Webb and Alice Berd.
As my career is coming to an end in juniors, I will forever be grateful for the relationships that I will take with me. Whether I am grooming dogs, studying a textbook or texting my friends, I have been able to make it all work. Everything I learned in juniors applies to life, and everything in life applies to juniors. It’s how well I have learned to link it all together. Thank you to my family and friends and most of all Deuce’s breeder, Karen Lesley, for allowing me to share in his special life. He is my heart dog, and he has made my dreams come true. Who would have guessed where this journey would take me when it started eight years ago at the KY State Fair 4-H Dog Show? I showed a Vizsla in the non-experienced class-my first show ever- and won the class by defeating 29 other 4-hers. When I walked out of the ring, I asked my mom, “Now can I show dogs?” The rest is my dog showing history.
I plan to give back in the future by earning my judge’s license and by helping junior handlers. We truly are the future of the sport. To my brother, Tanner-enjoy your last year of Junior Showmanship. It will go by so quickly, but will leave you with memories and skills that will stay with you a lifetime.