One of the biggest shows of the year takes place this week. That’s right, we’re talking about Crufts! Now, this show is not necessarily a hop, skip and a jump from my home in Utah. In fact, it’s held across the pond in one of the most beautiful dog-loving places on earth – the United Kingdom.

With over 26,000 dogs expected to compete, the atmosphere is going to be more than “ace!” A wide variety of events will take place over the four days of the show, including the Agility and Obedience Championships, Breeders’ Competition, Discover Dogs, Friends for Life and the Good Citizen Dog Scheme. Oh, there’s breed judging too!

One main event to look forward to is the International Juniors Competition. This has to be the most prestigious of all Junior Showmanship events around. Juniors come from all over the world to compete, though only one is eligible to represent his or her home country. This year, 34 juniors are expected to attend, representing countries such as Kenya, Monaco, Poland, and Romania. (To see a complete list, click here). This year, our very own Emma Echols from Watkinsville, Ga., will represent the United States. Emma was this year’s Best Junior Handler at the 2011 AKC/Eukanuba Championship with her Yorkie, GCh. Silkiss’d Let’s Rock. This win with ‘Tucker’ qualified Emma to become part of the International Juniors Competition at Crufts.

Emma not only won Best Junior Handler at Eukanuba, but she was the first in the history of the event to do so with a Toy dog. What an amazing accomplishment!

I’m so happy to have Emma tell us all about her journey. My mini interview provides some insight into her ultimate dog show adventure and the shocking details about the International Juniors Competition at this year’s 2012 Crufts! You’ll find out even more in my post-Crufts interview with Emma, so look out for that in the near future!

Emma Echols Winning Best Junior Handler at the 2011 AKC/Eukanuba Championship with ‘Tucker,’ GCh. Silkiss'd Let's Rock, under Judge Mrs. Kimberly Meredith-Cavanna.

Kayla Bertagnolli: Emma, how long have you been involved in dog shows? Tell me a little bit about your dog history.

Emma Echols: I always had dogs growing up. When I was young, we had a Rottweiler, but I’ve also had Standard Poodles. Now I show Yorkshire Terriers. I got involved with dog shows when I was 9 years old, because my grandfather, Eric Ashton, showed Rottweilers in the ‘60s. When I was old enough to show in juniors, my mother, Georgina Ashton-Echols, asked me if I’d like to do the same, and I said, “Yes.” I’ve showed in Junior Showmanship for seven years now.

KB: Will you be missing school while you’re at Crufts?

EE: I’m home-schooled, so no, I won’t be.

KB: Do you have a special routine before showing, any mental preparation?

EE: Not really, actually. Sometimes I’ll listen to music but, normally, all the show grooming – which I find to be a lot of fun – really gets me prepared and focused by the time I go into the ring.

KB After winning Best Junior Handler at Eukanuba, did you plan to retire from Juniors, other than attending Crufts?

EE: I gave it a lot of thought, and decided I definitely want to continue my junior-handling career. I still have about a year and a half left, and I love it too much to quit just yet.

KB Did you know you wanted to attend Crufts immediately after winning at Eukanuba?

EE: Oh yes! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, really, and I knew I definitely wanted to attend.

KB Have you ever traveled internationally?

EE: Yes, when I was much younger I went on several trips to the UK to see my grandparents before they passed away. My mother is originally from there, but this will be my first time attending Crufts.

KB Do you have any tourist adventures planned? If so, what are you planning to do?

EE: Yes, I’d love to go see Warwick Castle and visit Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-Upon-Avon.

KB Will you be traveling alone, or will you be going with someone?

EE: My mother will be coming with me!

KB How did you arrange everything for the show itself?

EE: I was lucky enough to have my dog’s breeder, Betsy Bozung, make a lot of the arrangements for me. The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America and all of the regional Yorkshire Terrier Clubs donated a generous amount of money toward the trip. I learned that Maggie Peat of Pramada Dachshunds had a fund for Eukanuba winners, and she provided us with our airline tickets. The AKC was also generous enough to pay for three nights at our hotel.

KB How will your dog be traveling, and what special preparations did you have to make?

EE: The UK has strict regulations for all dogs coming into the country. There was not enough time for any of the international juniors to meet the government’s requirements for entries of foreign dogs, so each junior will be given a dog by The Kennel Club when they arrive. At this time, I don’t know which breed I’ll be showing. I’m hoping I will receive my requested breed of choice – a Yorkshire Terrier!

KB How does it make you feel knowing you will be the only junior representing all American juniors?

EE: It’s a great honor. I’m really hoping I will do well representing the USA and make everyone I know back home proud.

What an amazing experience for you, Emma! I wish you the best of luck and look forward to speaking with you when you’ve returned home!

Cheerio, and good luck to everyone who’s headed to Crufts this year! DFR! Dogs Freakin’ Rule, my friends!!!!!