2021 Best Junior Handler
- Congratulations on your Best Junior Handler win at the 2021 AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin! Is it a dream come true?
Best Junior Handler Emma Rogers: It truly is a dream come true for me. Winning the AKC National Championship has always been a dream of mine ever since I first went to Orlando, Florida, to see my older sister, Sophia, show there. When I started showing dogs ten years ago, I thought being out there on the blue carpet was the greatest honor ever—but I never expected this dream to really come true. I am so grateful.
- How was the overall experience of being in Orlando for you? How were the Preliminaries?
Emma Rogers: I really look forward to going to Orlando for the AKC National Championship because not only do we get to visit with our family who live in Florida, I also get to reconnect with friends that I only get to see once or twice a year. Showing at the AKC National Championship is so exciting and fun because everyone is supportive, encouraging, and rooting for each other. “Lovey” is a young dog and he was a little overwhelmed with all the hustle and bustle of such a big show. The Preliminaries were very challenging because every person in the ring was so talented and deserved to be there. It was an amazing honor to compete with all of those hard-working, gifted, and accomplished Juniors. Each of the two Preliminary Judges can only pick six Juniors to make it to the Finals, and I was blessed to be one of those six kids.
- Who was the first person you called or texted after you’d won?
Emma Rogers: It is kind of a happy blur. I remember my sisters running up to give me a giant hug. The first person I called was my dad who, although he doesn’t really understand dog shows, has always supported me every step of this journey. The first person I texted was Gwen DeMilta who helped me so much with Lovey and is one of my biggest heroes in the dog show world.
- How have you celebrated your victory? Did you and your dog enjoy a special meal that night?
Emma Rogers: I let Lovey celebrate first with a special dinner and a brand new toy. After that, I went mini-golfing with my family and dog show friends.
- You’ve shown several different breeds in Juniors. How did you choose which dog to show this year?
Emma Rogers: The Great Dane, “Beckett,” that I was previously showing in Juniors, developed arthritis and was limping in Orlando last year. So I needed to retire him and find a new Juniors dog. The reason why I chose to show a Bloodhound was that I really wanted a difficult dog to show in Juniors. Having shown Great Danes and Basset Hounds in Juniors in the past, why not put them together in the form of a Bloodhound? LOL!
Breeder Deirdre Rahn had a puppy that needed to grow up a little before starting his show career, and offered him as a Juniors dog. I asked if he could come live with me while I was working with him in Juniors so that we could build a bond and train together. She was so kind to lend Lovey to me.
- What does your dog mean to you now that you’ve completed this journey together?
Emma Rogers: I will always love my dogs whether we win or lose. My dogs are my best friends who love with such unconditional love. I love all dogs, but Lovey is a very special dog. Lovey is an amazing dog to be around. He has such an incredible personality. He is an enormous, friendly, giant lap dog. We always kid around and say that Lovey is a Golden Retriever trapped in a Bloodhound’s body. I will always be grateful to Lovey for being a part of my life and being my partner in crime. He has a heart of gold and has forever left his pawprint on my heart.
- How has Junior Handling made a difference in your life? In your family’s life?
Emma Rogers: Participating in AKC sports has made a huge impact on my and my siblings’ lives. I was very shy, and my dog was like a living security blanket to comfort me as I took on new challenges, and forced me to overcome my shyness by focusing on my dog’s needs. I have learned so many essential life skills, like responsibility, time management, ethics, hard work, perseverance, good sportsmanship, how to set boundaries, patience, and so much more. I think these lessons will help me my whole life. I am grateful for the scholarships offered that have helped to defray the cost of higher education. I am also so thankful for the tremendous kindness, support, and encouragement from the dog show community from the very beginning. Without their help, this would not have been possible. I have found an extended family for which I am extremely blessed. I would like to say a special thank you to Gwen DeMilta and Carissa Shimpeno for everything they have done for me and my family. I want to thank Lovey’s breeders and co-owners, Deirdre and Timothy Rahn, for trusting me with their beautiful dog. I want to thank my amazing family too, for through anything and everything they have alwaysbeen there for me every single step of the way. I give all the glory to God. When I was in the ring, this Bible verse was running through my head the whole time: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” With God, all things are possible.
- Can you offer any advice to Juniors looking to compete at the AKC National Championship in 2022?
Emma Rogers: Setting goals like competing at the AKC National Championship in 2022 is an amazing goal to strive for, but I have found, for me, setting smaller, more focused goals has helped me to become a better handler. Sometimes a big victory at a dog show doesn’t include a ribbon. Sometimes it is when I finally trust myself and my dog enough to try something in the ring that we have been practicing—and he nails it.
Don’t worry about the wins and losses. Instead, focus on doing one thing better each time you’re in the ring. The best prize is having that unforgettable bond between you and your dog. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and listen to those who want to help you. There are so many people in the dog show community with giant hearts who are glad to help and share their knowledge with you. Qualifying for AKC National Championship is such an honor… just enjoy every moment of your time on the blue carpet.
- Would you like to say a few words about this year’s judging panel?
Emma Rogers: I was really touched by how passionate the Juniors Judges were. They really seemed to have fun and they put their heart and soul into their assignment. They have such a tough job. (Every person in the Juniors ring is amazingly talented, and I wouldn’t want to be the one to have to choose.) A special, huge “thank you” to my Preliminary Judge, Miss Kimberly A. Langlands, and the Finals Judge, Mrs. Debbie L. Melgreen, for this great honor.
- What’s next for Emma Rogers?
Emma Rogers: My career in Juniors is coming to an end this January when I turn eighteen. Westminster will be my last time competing in Junior Showmanship, as they allow you to compete if you qualify before you turn 18. Normally, the winner of Juniors at the National Championship is invited to represent the United States at Crufts. Sadly this year, due to COVID, the Junior Showmanship part of Crufts has been cancelled. While I would have loved to experience Crufts as the United States’ represetitive, I will cherish my last time in Juniors at Westminster. While it is bittersweet to be ending this amazing journey, I am looking forward to the future. l am excited to apprentice with a handler and continue to learn all that I can. I am looking forward to trying something new with my pets such as Trick Dog and Agility. I am also continuing my education in college. I am not sure what my future career will be yet, but I know that I will always be a part of the dog show world.