By Kayla Bertagnolli

A whole year’s worth of determination and effort, and now it’s finally here!

The time has come. The Garden is just one week away! For all you junior handlers out there, the anticipation is building and all of your hard work and effort this past year are about to pay off.

This year there will be approximately 140 Juniors from over 36 states, along with Canada, trying for the title of Best Junior Handler. For these competitors, the road to the Garden isn’t all glitz and glam. It takes more than just walking in the ring to get to this point.

For some of you, it may be your first or your last year showing, but for everyone there is only one goal in mind – to succeed – and there’s no better way to succeed than to compete at the most prestigious show of the year, right?

But what exactly does it take to get there? Well, for starters there are the actual qualifications. This year, you had to obtain 10 first place wins from your class but, if you aren’t already aware, the rules for next year have changed. You can read all about it in a previous blog. Click here. to read it.

Of course, making it to the Garden is a lot more complex than simply qualifying. It’s sort of like a juggling act! Between school during the week, shows on the weekend and other hobbies, things can get a little hectic. Staying committed and keeping your priorities straight may seem hard from time to time, but that is exactly what you have to do to stay sane!

The advice I can give you is to plan everything in advance and communicate with the people affected. School is probably one of the hardest things to deal with. A lot of teachers are strict and expect everything to come in at a specific time. I find that if you talk to your teachers in advance about what you have going on, more than likely they will let you complete work ahead of time. This is a plus and one less thing to worry about so that you can stay focused in the ring!

Now, as far as a social life and hobbies go, it’s important to keep a good balance and not overdo or underdo anything. When I was showing in juniors, I had a lot of other things going on as well. It was because of the balance I had that I never got extremely overwhelmed with any one thing. I ended up learning more that way, and it seemed that I enjoyed the best of both (or many) worlds. And so can you.

No matter how bumpy or rough the road may be or how many sacrifices you make along the way, stay inspired and always do your best. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

Oh, and don’t forget, Dogs Freakin’ Rule!