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Junior Resources

Junior Stories Summer 2020

Thank you to Luke, Lexi, Rachel, Savanna and Rebecca for sharing their experiences. Have your own story? Submit it to juniors@akc.org.

  • Luke Edmonson +

    Yesterday Luke and Apple competed in the MN State 4-H Dog Show. Here they are at the end of their day. The got Reserve Champion in Foundation Obedience grades 9-13 with a score of 192.5/200! And they got a blue in Foundation Rally with a score of 96/100 with a time of 42.09! The top people in that class must have been close and time must have been a factor also!

    If you don’t know Luke and Apple’s story here is a quick summary: Luke was born with severe, complex heart defects and has had 4 open heart surgeries. He also has Autism and severe anxiety. Apple was a stray picked up by a city impound and wasn’t claimed. We adopted her July 19, 2017 when she was 1 year old. When we got her she didn’t even know how to walk on a leash. Luke and Apple started the 4-H dog training program the end of April 2018.

    I am so happy that Luke had the opportunity to do the 4-H dog program this year. It has really helped his confidence and anxiety a lot. The trainers were amazing with him. They were patient, kind, and took their time to make sure he was comfortable and understood everything. When he won his classes at the county level they were so happy for him. 4-H is just awesome in general!

    I also couldn’t be more thankful for sweet little Apple. She is just amazing! She loves everybody, but she just has a special affinity for Luke. Once Luke puts that leash on her she is 100% locked onto him.

    You can follow Luke and Apple on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeamLukeNApple/

  • Lexi Halter +

    Hi, my name is Lexi Halter. I am 14 years old, and I show my 6 year old maltipoo named Morty. Morty was given to me on my 8th birthday, and we realized that he was not socialized. He snapped and growled at all other dogs and was scared of men. I began to train him with a private dog trainer and she suggested we show him in 4-H dog shows. This helped him gain confidence and learn that not everyone or every dog was going to hurt him.

    Since then we have earned his Canine Good Citizen thru the AKC, and have earned as high as the Grand Champion in Agility at the 4-H level. We have placed many times at the Indiana State Fair in agility and obedience. In 2017 we placed 3rd in our advanced agility and 9th in our advanced obedience. I decided after state fair was over that I wanted to show more than just the few months we train in 4-H, so I started to show Morty in AKC. Our first trial was in Terre Haute Indiana, and we received first place in his height in both Novice A jumpers with weaves, and in Standard Agility. Morty and I are training hard and will be competing in our next trial in November.

    Everyone in AKC has been very nice to me. It is very different from 4-H and so at first was a bit confusing. I am very thankful to the Agility Club of Terre Haute members who took time to teach me how to register, sign in, and helped me understand the course rules.

  • Rachel Head +

    My name is Rachel Head. I am 16 years old and I have been a junior handler for about three years. I have an Australian Shepherd named Perle. Perle is four years old and she is my first AKC registered dog. All of the relatives that were on her pedigree were conformation champions. Perle had a good line but she was way too hyper for her to be able to show. One day, I was looking through our newspaper and there was an ad for an agility class that was starting at our local kennel club. I was immediately interested and wanted to do it.

    The first agility class we went to, she was straining at the leash and wanting to go in the ring. Now, we go to trials and she is pretty calm and collected. Our first few trials were not good, but after lots of patience we have gotten better. Recently, we got our Excellent JWW title and in January, we got our Excellent Standard title.

    Through agility, I have learned about patience and practice. Perle can be interested in certain foods, like cheese, or some days she is more interested in her ball. I work with her in the early morning or late afternoon because I have three other siblings, 8 goats, and 42 chickens. It usually ends up that I will take her with me to put up chicks and on the way, I will make her heel, make her stay, or let her play.

    One important thing to do is to play with the dog almost as much as you are training them because you are forming a bond. That dog will want to come back to you if he runs off in the ring. I also learned not to give up on something that I am having a hard time with. When I was training on contacts, I went really slow at first because I was afraid that Perle would jump off the contacts. Now, because of my dad’s encouragement, we have gotten better at them. She is also slow most of the time in the weave poles. Sometimes, in the first run of the weekend, she surprises me and flies through them.

    My next goals are to get her Master titles and MACH. This is one of my favorite quotes: “Agility: If you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”

  • Savanna Michalak +

    My name is Savanna Michalak and I’m 11 years old. I was born with a lazy left eye which my eye doctor diagnosed as strabismus.  My eye would wander off to the side without me knowing and without me being able to control it.  I had my first eye surgery when I was 4 years old and then three more surgeries in the years that followed.  Some children at my school would say “stop looking at me” even though I wasn’t, it was my lazy eye wandering off. Kids would constantly call me ugly and laugh at me because my eyes were different.  My mom told me that having another eye surgery would now be my decision to make.  I remember coming home from school in third grade after being bullied, crying to my mom and asking to have another surgery.  I was tired of being picked on.  School days were so long for me and many times in school I would go into the bathroom to hide my tears. I feared having to participate in class because I felt everyone was watching my eyes and laughing at me. My teachers gave me lower grades because I would not participate in activities where I had to speak to a group.  I felt like none of the teachers understood me and what I was going through.  Only my mom, dad and other family members told me to believe in myself.

    When I was 7 years old, my parents brought me to a farm in Pennsylvania and let me pick out a puppy.   I immediately knew which dog I wanted.  She was so calm and had such soft golden colored hair.  I named her Sky and home we went.  Sky stays in my room with me every night.  I suffer from migraines due to my eye conditions and Sky is at my side through each one. Petting Sky calms my nerves and having her next to me I never feel alone. Whenever I’m upset Sky comes up and lays by me, she knows when I’m down and she wants to make me happy, so she starts wagging her tail, kissing my face and tries to make me feel better.

    Throughout the years, Sky has taught me how to overcome getting bullied.   Training with Sky has given me confidence and built up my self-esteem which is something that I never had. I am in fifth grade now and this is the first year that I’m starting to like school. I decided to run for President of my class.  I had to give a speech in front of my class and I did it!

    In 2017 I joined my local 4-H dog club called “Little Woofers” and then the following year I graduated to the older club called “Woof”.  My 4-H leaders have so much confidence in me and Sky.  I would like to thank Miss Sue, Miss Pat, Miss Denise and Miss Amy for helping me train Sky.  They have helped teach me how to talk to people that I don’t know and show a sense of confidence. Sky and I are a team, we work together and support one another.  In school I had to get extra help with reading.  At home I would practice reading to Sky. Sky does not judge me, she is always there for me and listens to me.

    I became an American Kennel Club Junior Handler with Sky.  Together we compete in obedience and rally competitions.  My first show I was the only junior present and to my surprise the only junior that was competing but yet I was not overly nervous.  I believed in myself and Sky learned through our training and we received our first qualifying score. This show proved to me that people were not looking at my eyes but watching the way Sky and I performed together. I was not being judged alone. I was not being made fun of or picked on. Sky and I have earned the Bright and Beautiful Therapy dog certification, Trick dog title, Rally Novice title, CGC and CGCA title.  We have two legs in Beginner Obedience and hope to earn our Obedience title next month.

    Sky helped me overcome my fears and now I do more things because Sky helped me get through those hard times.  I like school and I am no longer afraid to be in front of other people. I am now working with Sky for her to become certified therapy dog.   She can help other people who are scared, by comforting them like she does to me. No child should not get bullied by how they look.  Children should not be judged for things out of their control because it’s not their fault.  Some people are born with different diseases and conditions, like me I had lazy eye.

    I hope my story can help other children get over their fears.

  • Rebecca Skahan +

    I received a $2,000 scholarship through the AKC educational grant in 2017. I would first like to thank everyone on the committee who chose me as a recipient. I truly appreciate it.

    Here is a little bit of information about my experiences as a junior handler. I started as a junior handler when I was 13 years old, running a 12-year old rescue toy poodle. I fully trained him myself and was self-taught until I started working with an agility instructor about a year after I began training. I learned so much about working with dogs in that first year, that even the most stubborn of dogs can be taught new things. You just need to find what works for that particular dog. I then got the puppy I work with now, Leo, when I was 15 years old. I did every possible class I could with him and he earned his CGC at 8 months old. Then his CGCA a few months later. Through working with both of my dogs I have learned that what works for one dog, may not work for another. You just have to find what is the best training method for the dog you are working with at the time. I have never felt prouder than when I walk off the course with my best friend knowing that we worked our hardest and have accomplished something that makes us a more connected and better team. Leo is two years old now and we took second place at the 2016 Junior competition in Orlando. We are proud members of the 2017 AKC European Open Junior Team USA. We are so grateful for such an incredible opportunity.

    If I could tell any junior out there, considering running a dog, I would say do it! There is so much you can learn, from training techniques to meeting some incredible people from all over the world, to simply having the time of your life with your best friend. Go and enjoy whatever it is you decide to do with your dog. Whether it be obedience, agility, or conformation, have fun, because in the end, that’s what it’s all about; doing your best and having a blast doing it. I plan to continue participating in AKC sports with my canine counterparts. As a mentor of a 4-H group, I always encourage them to go out and try new events. The AKC offers so many dog activities that they are never short of choices of what they can do with their dog. I will continue to mentor my 4-H kids, volunteer at my local shows, give demonstrations at local schools and participate with my dogs in AKC sports. Again a huge thank you to the AKC for their generous scholarship.