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At age 18, Dea Godlevsky of Justin, Texas has recently aged out of Junior Showmanship. However, as a Junior Handler, she made her mark, breeding, owning, and handling American Hairless Terriers and competing in Conformation and Flyball. And her five-year-old sister, Tillie, is following in her footsteps.

Following in the Family Footsteps

Godlevsky’s mother,  of DreamEyce American Hairless Terriers, was active in dog sports even while she was pregnant. “Mom was showing while I was there, so I came out and was basically already doing it,” Godlevsky explains. She was familiar with the dog show world as a young person, but one particular puppy born during the COVID lockdowns sparked her passion. “When quarantine started and we had [a] litter, and when we [got to know] Auli’i, I started just calling her my dog.”

Godlevsky began working hard with Auli’i, following “what I’d always seen Mom do with dogs,” and building on how her mother raised puppies in the past. And their collaboration has paid off. Auli’i is now AKC CH DreamEyce How Far I’ll Go TKN CGC BCAT TF. Godlevsky is heavily involved in Flyball, Conformation, and lure sports. She also enjoys training in Agility, weight pull, Scent Work, and Diving Dogs. In the future, she hopes to also focus on breed-specific sports, including Herding.

Godlevsky’s favorite part of being involved in dog sports is the animals themselves. In addition to spending quality time with her dogs, she enjoys “being able to show off my dog to others, let others meet the breed(s), let my dogs be breed ambassadors, [and] helping new people get into dog sports.” To close out her Junior Handler career, Godlevsky had some big wins. One of her proudest moments to date was taking Winners Bitch with Auli’i “over pros in the breed.” At the 2022 American Hairless Terrier National Club of America national specialty, she also won the coveted Best Junior Handler award.

Godlevsky is especially passionate about Flyball, which is also the activity Auli’i loves best. She started training and competing in the fast-paced, high-energy sport at age 16. Godlevsky and Auli’i have competed at the national level and bested numerous records, including personal-best and breed-specific records.

Raising Her Own Dog as a Junior

Showing dogs isn’t always easy. For Godlevsky, the biggest challenge she faced was working through Auli’i’s “teenage phase.” She explains that “right around the time Auli’i was a year old, she went through her teenage phase and had some minor reactivity.” Dealing with reactivity (when a dog overreacts to certain triggers) was difficult for Godlevsky, who remembers crying and thinking her dog’s career in sports was ruined. Thankfully, with lots of work and patience, Auli’i “matured out of it, and we worked through it and she’s one of the most stable dogs now.” Godlevsky has found that putting in the time, and not giving up on your dog, are keys to success in the dog world, no matter your age.

For kids and teens interested in dog sports, Godlevsky encourages them to focus on having fun with their dogs. She also advises being “cautious with who you trust, and let close to you, and be willing to cut people bad for you out.” She recommends that Juniors looking for a new dog should “pay close attention to contracts and how breeders treat people,” adding that “there’s plenty of good people and breeders.”

Godlevsky advises adults mentoring or engaging with Juniors to “treat them how you would’ve wanted to be treated at their age, not how you were treated.” She says that everyone should welcome and encourage Junior Handlers, adding that they “are the future of all dog sports.” She suggests that more adult handlers lend a hand to Juniors who need help, as well as assist Juniors in working and practicing with other dogs, which allows younger handlers to both learn and have fun.

Siblings in Dog Sports

Being a Junior Handler shaped Godlevsky’s sense of self and future plans. Now, as a young adult, she is looking forward to continuing with showing and sports.

Godlevsky also has a Belgian Tervuren puppy, BasqueLaine No Clouds Allowed (called “Coravil”), and she looks forward to showing and training her in sports. Pending health testing, Auli’i will hopefully soon have her first litter of puppies. At some point in the future, Godlevsky hopes to bring Auli’i back out for her Grand Champion title.

Godlevsky’s little sister Tillie is picking up her sibling’s baton. At just five years old, she is already involved in dog sports, in particular PeeWee competitions designed for young children. Tillie Cunningham loves any opportunity to dress up and show her American Hairless Terriers Sousa and Aston; she says her favorite part of the show is “getting candy and ribbons.” The young handler especially enjoys training Aston, whom she has helped raise from birth, and teaching her tricks.
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