Today I bring to all of you DFR readers and junior handler supporters an interview with the one and only Savannah Livingston, the 16-year-old Open Senior from Burton, Mich.
Savannah was chosen from more than 30 junior handlers from all over the United States for the top prize of Best Junior Handler at the 2013 Westminster Kennel Club dog show. This moment is definitely one for Savannah’s record book, and I’m sure she’ll remember her moment in the spotlight at Madison Square Garden for a lifetime.
Let’s hear just exactly what was going through Savannah’s brain before, during and after the biggest win of the year, and learn what advice she may have for up-and-coming juniors…
Kayla Bertagnolli: Congrats on taking home the prize of 2013 Best Junior Handler at Westminster Kennel Club. How does it feel?
Savannah Livingston: To win The Garden means so much to me, it is a feeling I can’t express in words.
KB: How and when did you get started in the sport?
SL: My grandma got me started in the sport when I was very young. I showed my first dog at the age of 4, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
KB: Who would you consider your support system?
SL: Definitely my grandma Karen Tower, who takes me to most of the shows and helps with entry fees. Also Kala Brown. Kala is a professional handler I work for. She has taught me everything about Cocker Spaniels, from how to trim them to how to get them ready for shows. And finally Karen Weaver who has allowed me to show Ally.
KB: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
SL: In my free time, I love riding and training my horses, and I also enjoy spending time with Ally outside of dog shows.
KB: Have you ever competed at the Garden before? Or any other notable junior competitions?
SL: Yes. This was my eighth year straight showing in juniors at the Garden. I also won third place in 2010 at WKC. I haven’t been to Eukanuba yet, but that is our next goal. Besides that, we compete at local shows and around the country every weekend.
KB: How did you feel competing during the junior prelims? What was going through your head?
SL: Well, it was rough being in the biggest prelim group of 23 other juniors, but I didn’t let that get to me. I just went out there and showed like it was any other day and didn’t change anything in my routine. Toward the end though, when she had to make a choice, is when I got really nervous! I was so excited when she picked me.
KB: Are you involved in any other aspects of the sport today?
SL: Yes. I show my breed specials in conformation every weekend as well.
KB: Now that you have won Westminster, what’s the biggest juniors event that you plan on doing in the future?
SL: Well, as soon as I age out of juniors, I want to apply to get my judging license to judge juniors, and then I want to pursue becoming a professional handler showing dogs.
KB: What advice would you like to share with those juniors who aspire to show at Westminster 2014?
SL: First thing is just be grateful that you have made it that far. Don’t change the way you show just because your there I act like it’s a small show back at home in Michigan, and there’s nothing to worry about. Don’t get yourself all worked up. Just stay calm, focused and breathe. And lastly, show the same dog that you qualified with if you can. Don’t change dogs to try to bring more attention to yourself because in the end it usually ends up hurting you more than it helps.
KB: Any last words?
SL: I am so grateful for all the support. This was a moment that I will never forget!