THIS WEEK, we feature an interview with ten-year-old Elise O’Connor who is from near Malvern in Worcestershire. She is starting to make her name in the world of showing by handling the family’s Tibetan Terriers.
MS: How many dogs live at home with you ?
EO: We have six dogs, two Irish Setters and four Tibetan Terriers. Rafferty, an Irish Setter, is nearly 13 and the oldest dog we have. He was a successful show dog when he was younger, but prefers to laze around all day now. Izzy is also an Irish Setter, she is eight years old but refuses to do anything she doesn’t want to, including showing! The TT’s all come from Khados and are mainly companions although Harvey loves agility. Ted is a beautiful sable colour, and always acts like a clown. Lola is my dog, she is very strong willed and comes to bed with me at night. Panda (Khados Dancing Bear) came to live with us last June when she was eight weeks old and I have trained her for the show ring myself. She loves the show scene and I couldn’t have wished for a better puppy to start handling with. I am very lucky that Dave and Cheryl Johnson have allowed me to co-own her.
MS: How long have you been interested in dog showing?
EO: I have been taken to some shows as my Mum likes to watch the Tibetan Terrier judging with her friends, but it wasn’t until last year that I asked if I could try junior handling. Now I watch judging and compete at all levels. I especially loved watching the international junior handling final at Crufts this year, as I learnt so much from really good handlers.
MS: How did you get started?
EO: My Mum’s friend Cheryl was trying to get a JW with her dog so we started going to shows to keep her company and I saw children doing junior handling. It looked very interesting, so I asked if I could have a go. I borrowed one of Cheryl’s puppies to handle until Panda was old enough to compete. My first show was at Tibetan Terrier Breeders and Owners Club championship show last April where I handled a dog I had just met, came second and won a chocolate bunny. I was hooked! I went to four more shows over the summer and was pleased to win two out of the three junior handling classes I entered. I have been regularly showing and handling since October last year.
MS: What ringcraft clubs do you attend?
EO: We go to Pershore Canine Society every Tuesday and we have also just started to train the dogs for their Good Citizen awards. We try to take the dogs in turn so they keep interested. As well as training the TT’s I have also helped train some Tervueren puppies. Meg Oliver has recently started handling training twice a month at Bromsgrove Canine Society, so we also go along to that.
MS: Are you a member of any junior clubs?
EO: As well as the two clubs mentioned above I belong to the Junior Handling Association and Young Kennel Club. I was also the first junior member of the Northern Tibetan Terrier Club.
MS: Is your family involved in dog showing?
EO: My mum used to show her Irish Setters but she stopped when my brother and I were younger, as she didn’t have time. Her most successful dog was Delsanto Charismatic (Rafferty) who was shown at Crufts several times. Luckily she has some good friends in the dog world who have encouraged me.
MS: Tell us about some of your best handling achievements?
EO: I won Handler of the Year ‘11 at Pershore which I was very proud of as I was the only junior and Panda the only puppy to reach the final. I have qualified for the JHA semi finals at Richmond ‘11 and ‘12, and more recently qualified for the YKC finals at Crufts ‘13. I also reached the final ten of the Eukanuba/DOG WORLD Learn from the Experts day in February. I have been lucky enough to handle Panda’s dad Int/Ger/Dan Ch Khados Dance with Ti La Shu in a YKC handling class. This dog also has two CCs and is the best dog I have handled so far.
MS: What about your best breed achievements? EO: Handling Panda to her seven BP awards and one PG2, one PG3 and two PG4 at open shows. She also won BOB at Ashford and BP, RBOB and PG4 at Oswestry recently. I also handled Khados Bring me Sunshine to VHC in junior and third in graduate in big classes at the National. I am starting to be asked to handle for other people in breed at both championship and open shows.
MS: What do you most enjoy about the show day?
EO: The excitement builds the day before a show as I help get Panda bathed and dried and sort out my show bag and outfit. I enjoy handling different dogs and showing my skills in handling and breed. I get butterflies each time I enter the ring. I am never happier than when I am in the ring with my dog. I also love meeting friends from all over the Country. Oh and chips and ice cream when showing has finished!
MS: Do you have any career aspirations just yet?
EO: As well as TTs I would love to have my own Poodles. As all these dogs need lots of grooming I am thinking of running my own salon in the future. I am also a very keen rider and enjoy looking after my pony, so if I could find a way to combine them it would be perfect.
MS: Would you like to stay involved in dog showing in the future and why?
EO: I enjoy handling and I would like to carry on competing. I have been invited to go to Ireland and Europe when I am a bit older to handle in both breed and junior handling, which I find very exciting. We also have plans to breed from both Lola and Panda in the future, so I would love to show a dog that has been bred by us.
MS: Do you have any ideas of how to improve dog showing for young people?
EO: Some shows put junior handling on at a certain time, like half an hour before the main judging which I think is a really good idea and I wish more shows would do this as it’s fair for everyone. At some shows we just have to wait until judging has finished in one of the rings, which can mean that it is on at the same time as breed judging, and sometimes they only give us five minutes notice so we all end up rushing for the ring.
Also I would like more judges who know about junior handling and can judge us on our patterns. I feel a lot of judges just ask for a triangle and straight up and down, but I would like them to ask for slightly more complicated patterns as junior handling is different from the breed showing.
MS: Is there anything else you would like to add?
EO: To thank everyone who has helped me in my showing and handling, especially Cheryl Johnson of Khados Kennels who has always believed in me and who has advised me and lent me some very nice dogs. Also Aimee Vernall of Renvall TTs for supporting me and asking me to handle her dogs.