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At age 18, Hadley George of Utica, Ohio, became an alumna of the Junior Showmanship program. Her accomplishments in that community are profound, and her future in the dog-show world is bright. Named an AKC Breeder of Merit at just 15 years old, George placed third in the Junior Showmanship category at the 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. A third-generation owner, breeder, and handler, she helps run the family business, Ripsnorter Kennel, which breeds German Wirehaired Pointers and Pudelpointers.

Building on a Family Legacy

George first entered the ring at just four years old, handling one of her family’s young dogs in a puppy match. Today, she participates in North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) hunt tests, as well as AKC dog sports such as Conformation, Rally, and Obedience. While George enjoys the hunt tests, Conformation remains her favorite sport because she enjoys the grooming, training, and act of presenting dogs.

George credits her mother, Lisa George, and grandmother, Helen Witt, for igniting her passion for showing dogs. “Both possess an [endless] amount of knowledge on breeding and handling dogs and have gone above and beyond to support my hobby,” she says. Neither her mother nor her grandmother “ever sugar-coated this career, and it’s shaped me into the dog person I am now,” she adds.

She takes maintaining the Ripsnorter legacy very seriously. “The history of the dogs and the people behind our program is insanely important to me. Without the past, we wouldn’t have the present,” George explains. For her, each puppy she has had a hand in producing influences the future of the breed and her kennel. “Every dog that is in a pedigree contributes something to what our current dog possesses, good or bad. And these are the qualities we must improve on,” she adds.

Competing in hunt tests suits German Wirehaired Pointers and Pudelpointers. “Preserving a breed is a hard job, and with a versatile breed, it’s so important to keep the dog’s original purpose present,” George explains, adding, “Through years learning from my family about pedigrees, preservation breeding, and health testing, I appreciate those who participate in this end of the sport greatly.”

For the Love of Dog Sports

George loves watching all her hard work and her relationship with a dog come together in the ring. And that joy is strongest when she watches a dog that she trained, conditioned, and/or raised, excel. After all, she observes, “so many hours are put into the dogs, and the reward of my hard work right in front of me never fails to put a smile on my face.”

Hadley’s hard work in the breed ring has paid off. Her proudest moment to date came when she took taking third place in Juniors at Westminster with Sage, an English Cocker Spaniel. Remarkably, George had only worked with Sage for a few months before the show. “It was a breed I knew very little about. With the help of his owner, Ania Kelly, I groomed, conditioned, and mostly trained him towards this win,” she recalls. She’d dreamt of competing at Westminster from a young age, so the experience meant a great deal to her.

Managing Schedules

In addition to breeding dogs, her family also raises goats. During high school, George was also an avid participant in 4H, the National FFA Organization (previously known as Future Farmers of America), and the Ohio State Fair Junior Fair Board (with dairy goats). “Keeping a balance of my education, career, and social life has been a struggle,” she admits. Starting with ninth grade, George decided to attend an online school. This allowed her to spend much time as possible showing dogs, which included leaving home and traveling with professional handlers.

Hadley George and one of her family's dogs at a conformation event.
MacKenzie Knabel

During this time, George became very self-motivated. “I worked super-hard during the day with the dogs and hard at night on school,” she says. It wasn’t always easy. “I struggled keeping up for a while, and became more distant with my friends,” George recalls. Now that she’s studying business at Columbus State Community College, George is creating more balance. “In my current job, I have a ton of support on continuing and focusing on my education and have taken the time to make sure to do things outside of work and school to keep a balanced social life,” she shares.

Looking to the Future

For Juniors considering getting involved in dog sports or trying to take their competition to the next level, George encourages them to keep up the hard work. “It doesn’t matter how amazing your dog is, how expensive your suit is, or how famous your parents are. If you put in the time, effort, and hard work, you are more than capable of your goals,” she says. While she acknowledges that she has benefited from being a third-generation handler and having mentors within her family, she knows not all Juniors have been so lucky. George also urges adults in the dog-show world to share their knowledge and support local Juniors. “Twenty minutes out of your day offering guidance goes such a long way for someone trying to find their way in the sport. If everyone refused to share the knowledge gained along the way, the sport would become stagnant,” she reflects.

Her experience as a Junior Handler has prepared her for life, both in and out of the ring. One lesson she remembers well is that “you win and you lose, a lot sometimes. That’s just how life goes. With every win comes a high, but no one is unbeatable and at some point, you will be defeated.” These competitions have shaped her outlook on life. “I’ve learned to appreciate the wins and accomplishments, but to remember all the losses and efforts that I went through to get there,” George says. The losses have taught her to stay committed to her dreams and to keep pushing. “The only thing to do when you take a loss is to get back up and put in more effort the next go-round, improving yourself every time,” George adds.

George is planning to finish her business degree with the goal of becoming a professional handler. She plans to show her own dogs and maintain her family’s legacy of breeding versatile German Wirehaired Pointers.
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