Last week I brought you a young handler who walked into the ring doing what any other handler would aspire to do at least once in a career: to be awarded a Best in Show.

This week I bring you yet another young handler who not only shared the same aspiration, but accomplished it at the age of 15. Wow!

Miss Kaitlyn Benedict of Wasilla, Alaska, attended the 2013 Working Group Dog Club of Alaska show hoping to have some fun with her homebred Newfoundland ‘Ziggy Marley,’ in both the Junior Showmanship and conformation rings. Little did she know that she would excel in both areas. Kaitlyn was awarded Best Junior Handler and Best in Show that day, both under Dr. Robert M. Brown, and believe me, it was a day she will never forget!

Kaitlyn Benedict and ‘Ziggy Marley,’ Am. Int. Can. Ch. BeringStrait’s NorthShore Dragonfly, CGC, TODD.

Here, I introduce to you the very talented Kaitlyn, best described in her own words.

Kayla Bertagnolli:Please give us a brief history of your dog show career.

Kaitlyn Benedict: I started showing dogs when I was 9 years old. As a junior handler I have qualified for AKC/Eukanuba every year since. At the Newfoundland Club of America, I was Best Junior Handler in 2011 and 2012, and received the Top Newfoundland Junior Handler of the Year award 2010, 2011 and 2012. My Ziggy is our first homebred Landseer. I have done all her training and showing, placing multiple championship titles on her, as well as her NCA Select and Award of Merit and CGC. Most recently we started doing rally. We received asecond place ribbon on our first leg during our Newf National in May. On her very first time out as a special, she received a Group First. I have received Best Junior Handler with multiple breeds of dogs and have placed championship titles on multiple breeds of dogs owned by others, as well as many Group placements with different breeds.

Kaitlyn and Ziggy’s official win photo from their first time in the ring together!

KB: If you have free time, what do you enjoy doing?

Kaitlyn B: During my free time I enjoy riding my 16-year-old Appaloosa, Bentley, working on my 1941 Ford, and learning how to fly my father’s bush plane, which is a Pacer PA-20. I also love to go hiking with my dogs and training them for water rescue at our local lakes.

KB: Tell us how it felt to go not only Best Junior Handler, but Best in Show at the same show.

Kaitlyn B: It was absolutely a privilege taking home the BIS and BJH ribbons. It validates my opinion that my girl represents the Newfoundland breed with honor. I go into the ring every time believing that my dog is the best. I try my best to ensure any dog I’m showing is having a good time. For me this is the key to showing my Ziggy. I gave her the same hug on the day we received both the Best in Show and Best Junior Handler as she gets every day. She is the love of my life.

KB: Are you currently involved in any other aspects of the dog show world?

Kaitlyn B: My goal is to put a VN [Versatile Newfoundland, a parent club designation] title on Ziggy. So we are involved in every aspect of the working dog: carting, water, obedience, rally and agility. We do very limited breedings, but we look forward to Ziggy taking some time off from showing to be a mom.

KB: If you could change anything about the dog show world what would it be?

Kaitlyn B: I would like to see more dogs being bred to do their jobs, as well as succeed in conformation.

KB: What are your goals as a junior handler for 2013?

Kaitlyn B: My goals for 2013 are to qualify for both AKC/Eukanuba and Westminster, and to be successful with an up-and-coming dog.

Kaitlyn and Ziggy do their thing in the ring.

KB: What other goals do you have for your future?

Kaitlyn B: To graduate from high school in 2015 and attend college, where I plan to major in occupational therapy and minor in psychology. But I will forever have a passion for the dog show world.

KB: Who do you look up to the most?

Kaitlyn B: I look up to our family friends, the McDowell family, who have been handling mentors since I was 9 years old; Holly Kramer for her grooming inspiration; and professional handlers Kim and Gigi Griffith for their support and help with my show career.

KB: What advice do you have for other handlers your age?

Kaitlyn B: No matter where you place, just remember your dog will still love you.

KB: Any last words?

Kaitlyn B: What you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are.

What an inspiring story, and one that we will remember for a long time to come. Thanks again, Kaitlyn!

Whether you win or lose, Dogs Freakin’ Rule!