We first read about Morgan Mattioli’s journey competing for the last time in Junior Showmanship here, but what you didn’t see, hear or know are all of the details about what happened in between and after the fact.

I had a chance to catch up with Morgan in person after her final time in the juniors ring, and I know I’m speaking for everyone when I say that she not only did a wonderful job, but this young lady has a bright future ahead of her!

Let’s hear all about the experience from Morgan herself, and learn about a few unexpected struggles she experienced along the way…

Kayla Bertagnolli: Now that we are all caught up to speed, let’s start off with what challenges you faced before heading to the Garden.

Morgan Mattioli: The biggest challenge I had was having to change my juniors dog. Reagan, the Weimaraner I was originally going to use, became sick. I planned on using her sister, Giselle, instead. Giselle came in season one week prior to Westminster. My German Shorthaired Pointer, who was a last resort, also came into season! Gayle Prescott, the breeder of Reagan and Giselle, allowed me to show their dam, Piper. I had only met Piper two or three times before this. To add to it, she had not been in the ring in almost eight years!! I had 11 days to get to know her. I practiced with her as much as possible. By the time Westminster came, I felt as confident with her as I would have with Reagan or Giselle

Morgan and her “new” juniors dog, Piper, in the junior prelims at Westminster Kennel Club 2013.

KB: Do you think the change of dogs affected you in any way, positively or negatively?

MM: I don’t believe that it affected me either way. I think that one of the most important traits a handler can have is flexibility. Although many of the juniors I was competing against had been showing their dogs for an extended period of time, I did the best I could with a relatively new dog.

KB: How did you feel before entering the ring?

MM: I was incredibly nervous. I had watched Monday’s preliminary judging and knew that the judge would not make any cuts. Once I got into the ring, the nerves subsided, and it became just another show.

KB: Your prelim judge didn’t make any cuts in a group of 23. How nerve-racking was that going back into the ring for the final time?

MM: It was extremely nerve-racking. Although I have heard many speeches from junior judges about how “everyone is very good” and “if only I had more ribbons,” Ms. Sweigart’s speech meant the most. She reminded me that just being there is quite an accomplishment in itself, especially with the new qualifications.

Morgan’s prelim group just so happened to be the biggest of them all.

KB: Who was your support system during the show? What words of wisdom did they share with you?

MM: Both my parents, my uncle and our breeding partner, Nancy Simmons, were there with me the whole way. They all reminded me that no matter what the results were, they would still be proud of my accomplishments. They also offered some comic relief, which helped calm the nerves.

KB: Did you have any friends who were also showing in juniors ring at the Garden for the last time?

MM: It was the last time for a few other juniors that I know. I also remember seeing the older juniors a few years ago who were aging out and wondering how that felt. As they said, it is very bittersweet!

KB: In all of the years spent showing in juniors, what do you take away from the experience?

MM: I have learned so much from juniors that I could not learn anywhere else. The biggest thing is sportsmanship. I can’t remember the last time I was in the juniors ring when there was someone who didn’t congratulate the winner. I also learned that each day is a different judge’s opinion, and not to get caught up in the drama. And of course, the most important thing: have fun with your dog!!

KB: What do you plan on doing now that you have showed for the last time in juniors?

MM: I will still show in breed competition. I hope to expand the number of breeds that I show and learn as much as possible. In the big picture, I am still “new” at this, and there is still so much to learn.

KB: What would you like to share with others who have experienced their last time in juniors or will do so soon?

MM: For the juniors who will be aging out soon, enjoy your last few times in juniors. You won’t get those experiences anywhere else. And whatever the results may be, remember that it is just one person’s opinion. It is absolutely bittersweet, but new opportunities will be waiting for you. To the juniors who have already aged out, I wish you all the best of luck in whatever path you choose to follow.

KB: Any last words?

MM: I can’t say it enough, but thank you again to all who have helped me, even in the smallest way. It is the amazing support system I have that keeps me going. Also, best of luck to all the upcoming and current juniors!!

KB: Here’s to Morgan and the bright future ahead of her!

P.S. Dogs Freakin’ Rule!