“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, mums and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and supporters,” said Peter Purves, the commentator of the International Junior Handling Finals of Crufts 2012. He went on to announce the Juniors into the ring one at a time. Then he continued, “These outstanding young talents have already competed at the very highest level in their own countries to be here tonight! “

For those of you just joining in on this second interview with the 2011 Eukanuba Best Junior Handler, Emma Echols, I had the great pleasure of catching up with her after her big venture out to the biggest show of the year – Crufts – where she competed in the International Juniors Competition.

A total of 38 Juniors, representing all different countries, showed in this event. The Juniors showed not only one, but two different breeds, during the competition. They then went on to the finals where Emma was a finalist in the Top 10! What an amazing result out of so many talented young Juniors! You can watch the video here.

Let’s see just what Emma has to say about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Kayla Bertagnolli: How nerve-racking was the whole event in general?

Emma Echols: Oh my gosh, I was freaking out every day up until the actual event. The morning I was showing and met my dog and things got settled, all the nerves went away. I was kind of like, “Hey, this is just another dog show. Calm down! “

KB: Tell me about the two different dogs you showed? Was it difficult not showing your own dog ‘Tucker’?

EE: It was difficult not knowing the dog and what it reacts to or how it would react to different things, but the Silky I showed was luckily very experienced and well-behaved. I didn’t have much trouble with him at all. When we all swapped dogs, I got a 16-month-old Australian Shepherd who was really hyper and jumping all over me. If he wasn’t jumping, he was sitting down. It was a major struggle to try to get him to stand still for me. Thankfully, right as the judge came to look us over and send us away and back, I managed to get him stacked perfectly and then after our down and back, he did a perfect free stack! It was really fun showing a bigger dog.

KB: How was it showing an Australian Silky Terrier with a long tail? Did that create any new challenges for you?

EE: Not really, no. It wasn’t too different from showing a Yorkie to be honest.

KB: In our first interview, you mentioned that you and your Mum would be doing some sightseeing! Did you get to see anything exciting?

EE: We didn’t get to do as much as we’d liked. The first three days we spent really trying to get over our jet lag. Then we spent Thursday and Friday all day at Crufts. Saturday we went sightseeing around Coventry. I saw the Coventry Cathedral, and we did some shopping. It was really fun!

KB: Making the Final 10 must have been so incredible! What did you feel in that moment?

EE: SO much relief, and that I’d succeeded at what I’d gone there to do.

KB: Being the last of 38 to be announced into the ring, did you have stage fright? Was your stomach in knots?

EE: No, not really! I was just focusing really hard on not tripping!!

KB: At the Juniors Banquet did you have to make a speech or anything? How did that go? What else happened at the banquet?

EE: OH, YES! We all had to make a speech, and I had forgotten about the speech, so I wasn’t prepared at all. I had a whole big speech prepared in my head before I stood up, but as soon I got up to speak and looked at everyone, I completely went blank. And since everyone was saying ‘good luck everyone!’ at the end of their speeches, those were the freshest words in my head, so I started off with ‘Hello everyone! Good luck!’ and I kind of stood there like ‘…Ohhh my gosh!’ And then continued on with ‘I’m Emma Grayson Echols, I’m 16.’ So on and so forth.

Also prior to the speeches we all had dinner, and afterwards we all exchanged gifts. It was really cool to get all these little trinkets from different countries!

KB Did the Juniors judge give the Juniors any words of wisdom?

EE: Yes, at the banquet he gave a speech and told everyone what he was looking for and for everyone to make sure they get the right pace with their breed, also not to focus too much on the judge. It was strange getting to speak to the judge and have him to tell us everything he expected from us.

KB: Did you get a chance to watch many other breeds or events at Crufts? What were some of your favorites?

EE: Well, I watched the Yorkies, of course. That was really different. They show them on little velvet boxes, and that’s what they stack on instead of just on the floor. The grooming is a lot less high-maintenance. I watched some other breeds briefly, but mostly we watched obedience and agility and did lots of shopping.

KB: In meeting so many different Juniors from all over the world, what did you take from the experience and what did you learn from your fellow competitors?

EE: I learned that there are a lot of different ways that they all handle. It seemed every country had a different style of showing. It was interesting to watch the way they all handled and dressed.

KB: During your examination, the announcer mentioned that you take great pride in mentoring young junior handlers with Toy breeds. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

EE: Well, in my local area, I see a lot of young juniors coming up with Toy breeds, and sometimes they’ll approach me and ask me for advice, or I’ll approach them and give them some tips on how to improve on showing their breed. It’s nice to know I can help the younger juniors, and it’s even better when they start to win more after I’ve given them some mentoring.

KB: They also mentioned that you volunteer at your local animal shelter. At your age, how would you say you benefit from this?

EE: I feel that it’s very important to learn what happens to pets after they’ve been abandoned. My volunteering at my local shelter helps me to understand that taking in an animal is a lifetime commitment and not for just while it’s a puppy. A lot of the dogs I come across there are un-socialized and they’re scared. I help try to make them see that people are friendly and we’re their companions who are here to love and care for them.

KB: To quote your FB: ‘Time traveling was fun. Nicolas Cage was on my plane. We’re practically bffs.’ Everyone wants to know…did you really meet Nicolas Cage on the plane?!

EE: Hahaha no, but he was on my plane!

KB: If you could summarize the trip as a whole what would you say?

EE: It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a wonderful learning experience. I feel very honored I got to go and represent my country.

KB: Any last words?

EE: I had a great time, and the experience was amazing. I’m proud of myself and how I handled both the breeds I was given, and happy I was able to make everyone back home proud of me. I hope one day when I’m older I’ll be able to return to Crufts.

Emma, thank you so much for taking the time to share such a wonderful experience with us! You did a wonderful job representing the USA! I can’t wait to see you continue on in your journey!