Interview with a Junior Handler, Zoe Brewer
Zoe Brewer: I am a typical 15-year-old. I am in the 9th Grade and am currently a hardworking homeschooled student. I enjoy horseback riding, going to the beach, traveling and, of course, showing dogs; especially Bulldogs!
Where do you live? Where do you go to school?
I travel back and forth from Uniontown, Ohio, to Middlesex, New Jersey. I attend an online academy called “The Keystone School Online.”
Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from purebred dogs? Do you have a job?
I do like to sing, play basketball, dance, and do arts and crafts. Working with, and caring for, these amazing Bulldogs could be considered my job, but I enjoy it!
Have you grown up in a doggy family? What is your breed(s)?
No, I grew up with my grandparents having dogs, but never had a dog of my own until I was nine years old, when I got a Cane Corso. Then, when COVID came along, I went to stay with my Aunt because my Mother was working on the medical frontline. So, we decided it best for me to go to Ohio for a little while. While staying with my Aunt, I was introduced to the sport of showing dogs and, immediately, fell in love with the Bulldog!
How were you introduced to Junior Showmanship? When did you start competing?
I first started showing in the Breed ring in late 2020, and then started Junior Showmanship about six months into my showing career. Our friend in the breed had two Juniors helping her, and all three of them said that I should try it out and that it was fun. They helped me learn the different patterns, and helped me get to where I am today in Juniors.
What do you remember about the first time you showed as a Junior?
I clearly remember that it was the first of the two shows on Friday at the Marietta, Ohio, show in May of 2021. I was so nervous. There were all of these older girls there who were so good it was impressive. I never realized how many kids were in this sport. We did not get anything in the Best Junior ring, but I learned a lot that day by watching the other Junior Handlers.
How do you prepare your dog and yourself for the ring? Any rituals? Any good luck charms?
Of course, every weekend that we go to a dog show the dogs get bathed and groomed. Every dog is different and has their own things that become a part of their grooming and getting ready routine. For example, the dog I am showing now has to have chicken in the ring. I always like to have fun with the dogs a little before we go in the ring, especially puppies, to get some of their energy out. Then I will start free-stacking and making them watch me. My Aunt and I call this “getting into work mode,” but still keeping it fun. I would say my biggest good luck charm is my lead. It seems that every time I use my lucky lead I will win big things on it, and when I don’t, well, let’s just say I make sure that lead goes everywhere with me!
What’s it like in the ring when the pressure is on? Do you have a secret for handling the nerves?
When the pressure is on, I try to think of it as any other time I am in the ring. This is because when I get nervous, or think too much about showing, my nerves travel down my lead to the dog, then he/she starts to act up. When I get really nervous, I try to think about a funny story or just think about my dog and I, like we are the only ones in the building. I used to get really nervous all the time, but the more I go in the ring the more the nerves go away.
Do you have a mentor in the sport? Have you assisted any Professional Handlers?
My mentor is my Aunt Shirley Slaterpryce of Slaterpryce Bulldogs. She has taught me everything I know and is continuing to teach me more and more important things that are valuable to my life in dogs. I have assisted Whitney Meeks and Jose Miguel Sanchez, in multiple different breeds, at different times, and have learned so much about grooming, showing, making schedules, and how to get from one ring to another when there’s a time crunch. It is a lot of fun to go out and help people who also love it so much. We work really hard, but when there is down time we can laugh and be silly. It is a really great experience and I would definitively encourage other Juniors to go out with professional handlers whenever they get the opportunity.
Are there any wins for which you are particularly proud? Any memorable losses?
Two of my most memorable wins are when I took Best in Specialty from the classes with the first dog I have owned and then when I took Reserve Winners Bitch on National day at my first National Specialty. And to top that off, it was with my first bred-by. My most memorable win in Juniors was my first-ever Specialty Best Junior at the National, and my first-ever all-breed Best Junior.
How do you accentuate your dog’s breed type in the ring? How do you try to stand out?
Two big parts of the Bulldog are the head/jaw and the silhouette. When I show the profile of the dog to the judge, I try to not get in the way or obstruct the dog’s topline with my hands or body. For showing the judges the head, I collar the dog up, so nothing obstructs the view. In Juniors, I will show the profile when we first come in the ring, but after I get examined I will do a three-quarter stack or face my dog in, because that is what we do in the Breed ring. In this way, it shows the important features of the front of the dog.
Are there any breeds that you haven’t yet shown but would like to some day?
There are many breeds that I have not gotten the opportunity to show. I would love someday to show Cane Corsos, Doberman Pinschers, any setter (but my two favorites are Irish and English), Bloodhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, and a Poodle.
What can be done to encourage more young people to participate in Junior Showmanship?
The rule that AKC has where you do not have to own the dog they are showing is a really big help. We could also, at more shows, have a “meet the breeds” or seminars where other Junior Handlers come and talk to kids who are not yet in this sport, and do hand-on activities. The breeders and owners of dogs should encourage children to show their dogs in Peewees and Juniors. This would allow Juniors who do not have their own dogs the opportunity to still show.
Have you bred or co-bred a litter? If so, can you share what you’ve learned from the experience?
Yes, I have co-bred many litters and have four bred-by champions. I have learned many different things, from how important the role of genetics is to taking pre-natal care of the puppies and then also after they are born.
Is breeding something that you’d like to pursue? Is breed preservation important to you?
Of course, breed preservation is very important to me. I would love to continue down this road of reproduction if given the opportunity.
What are your goals for the future? Do you see yourself continuing in the sport once you’ve aged-out?
My goal for the future is to become a veterinarian who specializes in reproduction. My Mom wants me to be a doctor, but I guess a veterinarian is a doctor too! And yes, I want to continue showing and breeding Bulldogs.
Can you share a word or two about your relationship with your current dog? What does s/he mean to you?
My current dog, even with some time off due to breeding, is my first bred-by, and we have learned so much together. She holds such a special place in my heart. There will never be another dog like her.
Is there a funny story that you can share about experiences as a Junior Handler?
One time at a Specialty show, I was helping our friend show her dog in Sweepstakes. We had to groom him, though I was wearing a light-colored outfit and did not want to get anything on it. I put it in a bag, so when we were done grooming I could put it back on. Well, guess what? I forgot the bag. I went to the show in pajama pants, an over-sized hoodie, and SpongeBob vans. I was freaking out! Luckily, one of our friends let me borrow an extra show shirt she had. I went into the ring looking like a hot mess, but won Best in Sweeps! It is a story that I, and all of my friends, laugh about all the time!