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Octavia Stensen – AKC National Championship 2023 Best Junior Handler

Octavia Stensen - AKC National Championship 2023 Best Junior Handler


Interview with Octavia Stensen – AKC National Championship 2023 Best Junior Handler

Congratulations, Octavia Stensen, on your Best Junior Handler win at the 2023 AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin! Is it a dream come true?

Octavia Stensen: This win has absolutely been a dream come true. Literally, I have dreamt of this moment!


How was the overall experience of being in Orlando for you? How were the Preliminaries?

Octavia Stensen: I adore this show. I would say it’s my favorite show of the year. The buzz of the show is so exciting that I feel like I can never be in a bad mood there. My Mom and I always say we will do stuff around Orlando, but instead we spend most of our days staying at the show and watching various breeds out of enjoyment. The Preliminaries were great, but it takes a long time to get through so many talented Juniors. It takes a lot of patience and it can take a toll on your dog’s focus. Every Junior in the ring is so deserving and talented that I felt extremely blessed to be chosen as one of the six to make it as a finalist of my group.

Octavia Stensen
© Kaitlyn Price

Who was the first person you called or texted after you’d won?

Octavia Stensen: I didn’t look at my phone for at least 30 minutes after I stepped out of the ring. I was enjoying the moment with my Mom and my friends who attended the show. When I did check my phone, I texted my two closest friends, Briana and Linnea. They woke up at 5 AM to watch me in the Preliminaries all the way to the Finals. I am endlessly grateful for them and all they do for me.


How have you celebrated your victory? Did you and “Pineapple” enjoy a special meal that night?

Octavia Stensen: That evening I went out to dinner with some close friends. We went to the Sugar Factory and enjoyed some extremely large milkshakes and a great dinner. Pineapple had a celebratory large dinner and plenty of hugs and cuddles. Pineapple just wanted a good night’s sleep.

What does your dog mean to you now that you’ve completed this journey together?

Octavia Stensen: Pineapple is my best friend and she has always meant the world to me—nothing will ever change that. It is an unconditional love. Pineapple meant just as much to me before we won as she did afterwards, because I will always think the world of her. I am always grateful to be at the end of her leash. I bred Pineapple, so I have been with her since the beginning and I fell in love with her from the start, though I never knew how large a role she would play in my Juniors career.


You’re a Breeder/Owner-Handler as well as a Junior. Is breeding something you’d like to pursue?

Octavia Stensen: I would love to pursue breeding Norwegian Buhunds. This will forever be my heart breed and to continue to help the breed strive would be amazing.


How has Junior Handling made a difference in your life? In your family’s life?

Octavia Stensen: AKC sports has had a large impact on my life and my family’s. I was a shy child, always hiding behind my Mother’s leg. The first time I stepped into a ring I left crying out of fear, but that day changed me forever. I went home that night thinking about what I could have done better and how I could change.

I had a spark, and that continued and pushed me to become who I am today. Dog shows forced me to socialize and speak for myself. They helped me grow into myself and I don’t know where I would be without them. I have learned so many life lessons from dog shows and assisting handlers, such as ethics, showmanship/sportsmanship, time management, patience, and the drive to work hard. I have grown close with my Mom, as she is the one who takes me to the majority of shows and is my biggest supporter. I’m so grateful for that. There are many places my family would likely not have traveled to if not for dog shows, and that has brought us all closer together.

Octavia Stensen
Octavia Stensen

Can you offer any advice to Juniors looking to compete at the AKC National Championship in 2024?

Octavia Stensen: I would just embrace the opportunity to compete against the best in the nation. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect and learn from other Juniors. This is a chance to put your best foot out there and give it your all. Don’t stress about the moment too much. Just have a good time with your dog and show to the best of your ability.


Would you like to say a few words about this year’s judging panel?

Octavia Stensen: There is always a phenomenal panel of judges for the AKC National Championship for Juniors. I had no idea what to expect, but I just put my all into my performance because that’s all you can do. There were so many talented Juniors that I definitely wouldn’t want to be put in the judges position. That is one hard decision to make. My sincere gratitude to Ms. Kasey O’Brien, my Preliminary Judge, and Dr. Adam King, the Finals Judge.


What’s next for Octavia Stensen?

Octavia Stensen: I am currently in college, majoring in Business and minoring in Chinese. I am also assisting a handler and hope to continue in the world of dog shows, but school is also a priority for me at the moment. I am excited to represent the United States at Crufts in the International Junior Handling competition in 2024. My last time in Juniors will be at Westminster in 2024 with Pineapple. A bittersweet moment I know I will cherish.