Madison Thompson, 13, was shocked when she and her golden retriever, Stella, placed among the top eight competitors at the Westminster Kennel Club Junior Showmanship competition in New York last weekend.
The North Whidbey Middle School student was one of the youngest competitors in her division that included 80 kids from across the nation.
She said judges look for the bond between handler and dog, how they follow directions and whether motions are smooth and consistent. She said she felt confident as she and Stella ran around the ring, but she wasn’t expecting to be in the top eight.
Thompson has shown dogs for five years and trained Stella from a puppy. It was her first time qualifying for the Westminster competition. Her mom, Laura Thompson, said her daughter practiced about 10 hours a week in order to qualify.
The young finalist said she got into the world of canine showmanship when she asked her mom for a dog. They made a deal that she could find a pal if she participated in the 4-H Club. Her mother is a leader now.
Then someone told their family about the American Kennel Club, and Thompson’s and Stella’s show career took off.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking but it was super fun,” Thompson said of the competition.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.