By Kayla Bertagnolli
To all my DFR readers, I am more than ecstatic to introduce you to Casandra Clark. I cannot put into words how incredible this woman is and what an amazing dog show career she’s had. So I’m going to let her tell you the story of her juniors career and where she is today.
Casandra’s long list of accomplishments includes being one of the youngest winners of Best Junior Handler at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. From a very young age, she managed to achieve the following career highlights:
- -Youngest person to show a Siberian to Best in Show – with CH Kadyak’s Meet the Press – in 1995 at the Cabrillo Kennel Club.
- -Youngest person to show a Siberian to BISS – with CH Kadyak’s Meet the Press – in 1994 at the Camino Real Siberian Husky Club.
- -Only Junior Handler to win Best Junior Showmanship at Westminster Kennel Club with a Siberian Husky – with CH Artik*Sno’s Apricot Flambé – in 1997.
- -Only U.S. Junior Handler to win Best World Junior Handler at the World Dog Show with a Siberian Husky – CH Artik*Sno’s Apricot Flambé – in 1997 in Puerto Rico.
At left, Casandra winning Best Junior Handler in Puerto Rico in 1997. At right, Casandra winning Best in Show at age 12 in 1995.
Wow!!!!! How do you top that?! Let’s find out by asking Casandra herself.
KB: Tell me a little about yourself and your dog history.
CC: I am a breeder-owner-handler who started breeding with my grandparents, Ron and Kathie Isenberg, when I was about 16. I was involved since I was 8, however my grandparents didn’t start listening to me until I was about 12!
I started judging juniors when I was 18. I’ve judged at local shows, along with the Siberian Husky National and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.
KB: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
CC: As far as my personal life goes, I went to Cal State Monterey Bay on a golf scholarship where I studied international business. Later, I worked for eight years as an event designer and hope to one day continue in this field. I also have a whole new love for cooking (that is, when and if I have the free time.) I’ve even won awards for my cooking! Oh, and I’m an avid Angels baseball fanatic. I religiously go to their games. When I’m not cooking or going to baseball games, I hang out with my Dachshund ’Stanford’ or, of course, I go to dog shows!
KB: Who have been your biggest role models in the sport?
CC: I have had multiple influences, not only in the sport, but for my own breed as well. Obviously, my grandparents were one of the biggest factors and the reason I’m involved in Siberians and showing dogs. Also Marsha Hall Brown was my juniors coach. She is the one who sat there and worked with me inside and out. In fact, the year I won Best Junior Handler at the Garden, I would train with her for 1 to 2 hours every day after school for a month straight. I would always bring about four dogs with me, that way the dogs would get a break, but I wouldn’t. As far as juniors go, Marsha was my support system. Another great person who was involved in my juniors career was Mari-Beth O’Neill. She made sure everything went smoothly. She was always there for me if I needed anything. She was a “backbone” kind of person, a big influence and a big part of my early years.
KB: Looking back on those big wins, how do you feel they’ve helped you get to where you are today?
CC: Well, when I was younger, I had no self-confidence and I wasn’t competitive at all. Juniors taught me how to be competitive and have good sportsmanship at the same time. Because of everything I went through during the years I showed in juniors, I gained self-confidence not only in the ring, but in my real life as well. After juniors, I started working for Bruce Schultz in 1997 when I was 14. Bruce taught me everything about the sport, about dogs, business and anything I needed to know. I’ve been working for Bruce for over 16 years now.
KB: What advice do you have for young people showing in Junior Showmanship today?
CC: Have the desire to learn! A lot of juniors today just go into the ring, show their dog and go home. You have a lack of that desire to gain knowledge about not only showing dogs, but also learning about your own breed and how to show that breed to perfection. I would recommend that juniors learn as much as they can, through mentors and through seminars.
I can remember going out with all of my friends after a show and hanging out. Nowadays, I don’t see much camaraderie with juniors today. You need that to succeed.
Westminster Kennel Club Best Junior Handler in 1997 under Mr. Stephen Shaw.
KB: What is your most memorable dog show moment of all time?
CC: Winning Best Junior Handler at the Garden! Even now, whenever I think about that moment, I get goose bumps! Back then no one was allowed to videotape at the Garden, right? Well, my grandma actually snuck in her video camera and secretly taped the juniors final (under her purse!) The feeling I get whenever I watch that video is incredible. My grandma is screaming at the top of her lungs, and the whole video is just shaking. The feeling that my grandma had at that moment I can also “feel” just by watching the video. Amazing!
The moment Casandra won Best Junior Handler at the Garden.
KB: Can you describe how you felt after that incredible year you had?
CC: After all was said and done, I remember having this sad feeling knowing that I would never show in juniors again. Although I was extremely grateful, it was sad at the same time. I worked my ass off to get to that point! Afterward, I had a new goal – to work with Bruce and learn more about the sport. The last time I showed in juniors was in December of 1997.
KB: Thank you, Casandra, for this enlightening and inspirational interview. You are one of the most humble people I know, with an incredible resume!
I hope you enjoyed Casandra’s story as much as I did. Remember, DFR!, Dogs Freakin’ Rule, my friends!!!!!