Junior Report: Abigail Vines

My name is Abigail Vines and I have been showing dogs since 2008. I began in 4-H and only participated in one AKC show a year, as 4-H shows were more reasonable to go to as a beginner. However, about three years into showing, I decided that I wanted to further my experience by showing in more AKC Junior Showmanship competitions. By my fifth year of showing, I decided to stop showing in 4-H and push myself to show like a professional in AKC shows. Although I have faced many challenges, including financial limitations, I qualified for the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in 2015 and Westminster in 2016. I also finished off 2015 as the number six Terrier Group Junior Handler and number one Cairn Terrier Junior Handler.

I began showing a Lhasa Apso, who was really just our family pet. While she wasn’t necessarily show quality, she was smart and I absolutely loved working with her. I won many 4-H competitions with her and moved from AKC Novice to Open with her after only five shows. I spent my first few years unaware of how much was entailed in dog showing. I would set up my table, groom my dog, compete in Juniors and go home. Shows that required hotel rooms for overnight stays were off limits due to my family’s budget. As I became more serious about competing, I knew that I had to show more often to gain handling experience, and quickly realized that a show quality confirmation dog would be more competitive than my pet Lhasa Apso. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with an American Staffordshire Terrier breeder. She encouraged me to show her dogs and helped me navigate the social and competitive aspects of the dog show world. While the Am Staff is a difficult breed to show in Juniors, I enjoyed working with the dogs and appreciate the amount of experience I gained.

After almost six years of showing, I finally had the chance to buy my own show dog. Working multiple jobs at horse barns and as a dining room server, I saved up money to buy my Cairn Terrier puppy, who I currently show and proudly took to Westminster this year. I am extremely fortunate to have the guidance and friendship of outstanding Cairn breeders who have helped me learn about the breed.  I am proud to have trained and groomed my Cairn, Chief, on my own.  I have been able to achieve many of the goals that I set forth for Chief and myself by staying focused and committed to working and saving money to pay for shows and show expenses. I believe that I am proof that anyone with a desire to compete and willingness to work hard can show and hold a national ranking in AKC Junior Showmanship. This is my last year to show as a Junior and I am on schedule to graduate with my Associate’s Degree this year. I plan to study Marketing and earn my Bachelor’s Degree. My motivation to show to the best of my abilities has forced me to reach out to professionals and breeders. This has enabled me to show and help groom other breeds including Goldens, Samoyeds, Am Staffs and Australian Shepherds. It is my goal to continue to gain experience in multiple breeds and to eventually show professionally.

Even as a confident handler, I still look up to the Juniors with whom I show. While I often wish that I could travel and show every week, I admire the people, especially Juniors, who dedicate their time and lives to presenting dogs. I believe that the best way to enjoy showing is to lose graciously and analyze how the winner earned the Best Junior title. This gives me a different perspective on what judges are looking for and makes me think about what I might have been able to do differently. Win or lose, the best part of showing dogs is the bond that is built with a dog. All in all, dog showing has changed my life and I look forward to a lifelong affiliation with AKC through showing and eventually breeding dogs.