Lizard Butte Kennel Club is keenly interested in attracting, mentoring, supporting dedicated Juniors to our sport.
We will be featuring new information on this page that will help young people join us as well as share wonderful stories and photos of their contributions to the AKC Show world.
Charese Kelly - A Junior Handler's Story
Charese started down the path toward being an accomplished dog handler at the early age of five when her family rescued a standard poodle in Rupert, Idaho. She was given the responsibility to help feed, care, and train the new, family pet. In addition, her family enrolled Charese into the 4H Cloverbuds youth development program where she first started learning the basics of dog handling and showmanship participation. After a few years of growing her skills and expanding her experience as a 4H member, one of her 4H mentors recognized her strong aptitude for dog handling and recommended that she also add to her focus the American Kennel Club (AKC) Junior Showmanship program This additional knowledge reinforced her foundational 4H learnings as she gained skills on how to work with dog owners, professional dog handlers, and other junior showmen in the world of AKC dog shows.
Charese is a smart young woman and is busy making plans to attend college. At this point, as much as she loved dogs, she does not see herself making a full-time career as a professional handler. Charese has found that the opportunities afforded her in 4H and AKC Junior Showman have given her invaluable lessons that have strengthened her confidence, self-esteem, and professionalism. She will definitely continue to have a strong personal interest in owning and likely showing them, just not full time as a career. Charese values the experiences that she gained while training as an AKC Junior handler and said that she learned a lot about the rigors of the “life of a handler” with all of the accompanying responsibilities, activities, traveling, grooming, and more.
Notably, Charese is allergic to dogs that shed and that is one of the primary reasons that she likes poodles. She also likes Bernese Mountain Dogs, but unfortunately, they shed too. Another reason that she likes both the Standard and Miniature Poodles is that they are both loyal and keenly interested in their owners. She likes the fact that they will do whatever you want to do, whether it is sitting on the couch, going for a hike, or riding in the car – they want to do it too. When it comes to the Miniature Poodles, Charese relates to their high-energy. She says that their energetic personalities really help in the show ring because they are always looking at their handler with interest and they enjoy pleasing them. Her opinion is that the “poodle attitude” makes it easier to look good in the ring.
What will 2019 look like for her? Charese says that she will try to qualify for the National Championships and Westminster again. This is her 2nd to last year as an AKC Junior Showman and she is planning on learning as much as she can – including details about the different breeds, grooming and more.
Reflecting on last year, Charese says of her second time going to Westminster, “It was a bit easier than the first year because I knew how the show was run. Westminster is actually a pretty small venue compared to some of the other shows – which also made it easier. I knew a few of the other juniors from different regions in the country, and it was cool to see them at the pre-show orientation and in the ring. Being in such good company made me appreciate that I had actually made it there – regardless of whether I won or not.”
Charese has used her time in the ring to also learn from watching the other handlers. Over the years, her mentors have been very instrumental in helping her build her own handling style. Deb Gschwender, a Lizard Butte Member and AKC judge has helped her for multiple years along with her 4-H leaders and teachers. She has made personal adjustments along the way to improve herself by taking in and practicing and perfecting new handling methods.
With this experience, Charese recommends to other young people that if they are interested in learning to handle dogs, “they need to just give it try – either with their own dog or someone else’s. It is a lot of fun and very rewarding.” Charese said that even when she has had some frustrations at times, she still learned and got better and better over time.
And with this interview, the Lizard Butte Kennel Club (LBKC) wanted to take this opportunity to recognize Charese Kelly as being a great example— of what a young woman, once shy and quiet, who worked diligently to become a confident, happy, and accomplished Junior Showman. Her example should help show other young people that they can do it too. Charese, you have truly demonstrated that hard work pays off, and LBKC holds you in high regard.