Today, DFR readers, I bring to you the one and only Miss Emma Echols. Emma has just returned home from her second consecutive year representing the United States in the International Junior Handling Competition at the largest dog show in the world, Crufts.

To become eligible to represent her country at Crufts, Emma first had to be awarded Best Junior Handler at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. This she not only did once, in 2012, but she’s done it twice now.

Emma returned to Crufts this year in hopes of making us all proud, and she did just that. She came out very nearly on top, being awarded second place. Thirty-eight junior handlers, the best of the best, went to Crufts from around the world to compete for the top prize. I think I speak for all of us when I say, we couldn’t be more proud!

Emma put up a tough fight for the first place prize. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the show via live streaming video, you can go back and watch it here: In the meantime, let’s hear all about this young lady’s second year competing at Crufts!

Take it away, Emma!

Emma and Silky Terrier, ‘Benjamin,’ pictured here with judge Bill McFadden after being awarded second place in the International Junior Handling Competition at Crufts 2013. Photo by Karl Donvil.

Kayla Bertagnolli: This is not only your second time competing at Crufts as the representative from the U.S.A., but this year you were awarded second place! Tell us how you feel!

Emma Echols: I feel incredible! It’s a huge honor to get to represent my country, and I’m so happy I succeeded and made my country proud. It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.

KB: As most of us may know, as part of the competition each junior handler at Crufts shows two different dogs that you only have a short time to meet ahead of time. Tell us about the two different dogs you handled.

EE: My chosen breed was a beautiful Silky Terrier, ‘Benjamin.’ He was a very sweet and well-behaved dog, although he would get worn out easily and then wouldn’t want to walk.

For my swap dog, I was given a Doberman, ‘Tiffany.’ Each junior only had five minutes with their swap dog to practice and get to know the dog. The Doberman I got however was a very well-trained, obedient Doberman, and we worked very well together!

Emma and Doberman Pinscher ‘Tiffany,’ her “swap dog,” looking quite good in the lineup. Photo by Dom Santoriello.

 KB: It’s not often that a junior handler competes two years in a row at Crufts. How do you think this year differed from last?

EE: I think this year was a lot more intense. There were a lot of returning juniors, myself included, who were all really geared up to win! So the competition this year was a lot stronger, but I liked that. Tough competition makes it more fun, and makes the win mean that much more!

KB: Did competing last year play a role in how smooth this year went for you?

EE: Yes, I’d definitely say so. This year I knew what to expect, I knew all the procedures and how the show ran, and it really took away all the stress I had last year.

KB: Did you feel any additional pressure this year representing the U.S.A. for the second year in a row under a judge from the U.S.A.?

EE: Not really, but I did feel a bit of pressure to really show perfectly to the American style since he would know how it was supposed to be done. Other than that, I was fine.

Emma and ’Benjamin’ being examined on their individual by Mr. Bill McFadden. Photo by Dom Santoriello.

KB: Were you able to enjoy any other events at the show?

EE: This time I unfortunately was not able to get to sightsee the show as much as last time. Last year I had a free day as the junior dinner was held on Friday and the competition on Sunday. This time I was busy all day Friday with going through the practice runs with the organizers and the junior banquet, and then Saturday I had the competition. I got to do a bit of shopping and watching Sunday, but unfortunately we had a scheduled train we had to catch.

KB: How was it competing with the best of the best from all over the world? Did you get to know any of the other handlers?

EE: It was great! I was friends with a lot of the juniors this year online, and we all had a great time finally getting to meet each other. Also a lot of other juniors knew me from last year, and I got to see them all again too. It was a really good time.

KB: What did you learn from the other talented handlers you were competing with?

EE: I’ve learned how serious they are about showing, and how deeply competitive they are and how, for a lot of them, it is more their profession than simply their hobby.

Emma pictured here on the podium with her fellow junior handler placements. Photo by Karl Donvil.

KB: Who was your support system at this show? Anyone you would like to thank?

EE: I’d like to thank my mother Georgie Echols, Maggie Peat of Pramada Kennels in California, Betsy Bozung of Silkiss’d Yorkshire Terriers in Florida, Lisa Welch of Limartine Silky’s in Crewe, England, Mari-Beth O’Neill of the AKC, all the regional kennel clubs belonging to the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America, and, of course, Eukanuba for sponsoring the AKC National in Orlando, Fla.

KB: Everyone is eager to know just exactly what is next for you.

EE: Well, I’m aging out of juniors in April, so I’m hoping to get seven Best Juniors before then so I can compete one last time at Westminster in 2014. I’m looking forward to becoming a freshman in college next fall where I plan to study business at the University of Georgia. I also will be working with various handlers and breeds to further expand my knowledge of handling, and specialing my grand champion, Silkiss’d Lets Rock, aka ‘Tucker.’

KB: Any last words?

EE: I’ve loved participating in the AKC junior program for the past nine years. Although I’m sad to be leaving, I’m looking forward to what the future will bring from what I’ve gained from it.

Just in case you didn’t know. . . Dogs Freakin’ Rule!