Jan. 29, 2007

Katie Gregg finishes her Cairn terrier at St. Paul Specialty

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

Some people own animals as pets, but Delano High School student Katie Gregg and her mother, Paula, work side-by-side as handlers to show and breed their Cairn terriers.

As a child, Katie saw her mother rush off to shows all around the country with her older brother.

“I wanted to do it because my big brother was doing it, so I thought it must be something special if he didn’t want me to be there,” she said with a laugh.

Always having a soft spot in her heart for dogs, in general, Katie began showing alongside her mother at the age of 10.

“I was in kindergarten when we had gotten our first Cairn terrier,” she said.

In the beginning, Katie and her mother had taken in dogs from shelters. Together, they would travel to nearby shows, and watch the many different breeds of dogs step into the ring for judging.

Dog showing is a competition. There is always one judge for each breed of dog. The dog’s age and level of maturity will determine what class they should compete in.

A goal for any handler that steps into the ring is to make his or her dog a champion.

To become a champion, the dog must acquire a certain amount of points. A Cairn terrier needs to have 15 points to become a champion. The points are based purely on the number of dogs competing in a class. A dog can only receive five points, at most, per day.

Like sports, the only way to continue on to the next round is for the dog to take first place.

Gender also plays a role. Males and females will not compete against one another until the final walk and trot in the ring of the “Best of Breed” competition.

During Best of Breed, the best male from the conformation classes and the best female will compete alongside past champions for the title of best of breed, and the chance to step inside the group ring.

The group competition puts every detail to the test, as breeds of a particular type are judged against each other.

“I’d be terrified, but I’d like to do that,” Katie said.

There are seven different classified types of dogs: sporting, non-sporting, working, herding, hound, toy and terrier. Like the regular classes, the dog must place first in order to advance.

Measuring the overall excellence of every dog entered in the show that day, the last and most competitive event is best in show.

Many handlers might choose to start their own breeding line.

Katie’s mother saw that her daughter enjoyed working with terriers, so Katie took on the main role of showing as her mother continued to promote the breeding line.

Katie laughed as she said, “I think it was because I was doing more winning with them than she was. She always jokes that I’m a better handler than her, but I don’t know about that.”

Just recently, Katie finished her Cairn terrier, Carl, Jan. 6 at the St. Paul Specialty.

There are shows all around the country every weekend, but typically, Katie focuses on school during the year, and stays “close to home.”

Together, Katie and her mother might take a weekend trip to areas in Iowa, Wisconsin, and other states around the Midwest.

Katie has shown Cairn terriers all her life, along with a beagle for four years, and a golden retriever.

When asked what her favorite breed was, she replied, “It was always hard showing Cairn terriers in juniors because the sporting breeds were so much more popular, but I do like showing the terriers.”

When Katie enters the ring, a feeling of excitement captures her.

“I wouldn’t say it’s nerve racking, but I get really excited,” she said. “You just get kind of nervous because there is all this waiting around before you go into the ring.”

However, when a handler enters the ring, “it’s all serious.”

Some dogs, like Carl, may not necessarily like to show.

“That was just frustrating because he just made a fool of me in the ring,” Katie said.

No human can fully know what is going through a dog’s head, but some clearly have little desire to show, as opposed to others who enjoy it.

Katie added, “It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work.”

With the judges, showing can be exceedingly political. When asked how she felt about the matter, Katie answered, “I dislike it a lot.”

If anything, Katie chooses to refrain from the gossip as much as possible.

“I get there so I have just enough time to get the dogs ready before I go into the ring, and then, I just book it afterwards because I am just sick of people’s attitudes,” Katie said.

However, the minor political side to showing does not discourage Katie, and she is the thrilled when she sees other teens join.

“Even if it is political, dog people try to help you get into it if you are serious about it,” she said. “There are a lot of nice people out there. I’d definitely encourage younger kids to do it.”

Over the years, Katie has made quite a few friends in her junior class, and she is more than “happy to see other juniors get into it.”

Recalling her first times showing, she was not alone, as there were about five other juniors starting out at the same time.

The minimum age requirement is age 10, which is exactly when Katie and the five others began.

“We’d meet up at the shows. I’d go just to see them and hang out. That’s kind of how I’ve stayed in it,” she said.

Katie discovered juniors to be rewarding in a sense that “they are not judging the dog, they are judging you. It’s a lot about responsibility. If anything happens in the ring, it reflects you.”

Katie has learned more from juniors when it comes to overall presentation. Because the junior is judged, not the dog, a huge emphasis is placed on the way a junior presents the dog to the judge, how he or she dresses, and their overall stamina.

“It teaches you how to look presentable and be responsible with and animal,” she said.

The hardest part for Katie is “losing, time after time after time, and then going back in there,” but each prolonged win really pays off in the end.

“Most shows have maybe, five juniors in a class, but Lake Elmo has, like, 10,” she said about her most exciting moment showing. “It was when I was younger, and I had not been doing well. I had gotten second in a class of 15, and I had beaten some girls that work with expensive professionals.”

It was extremely rewarding for Katie after such a long a time of being denied a win.

Like any other activity one participates in, it gets expensive. The entry fees are about $25 per class, she said.

However, regardless of the politics, the losing, and the expense, Katie enjoys showing and would never give it up.

“I can see myself showing dogs as an adult and I’d like to continue,” Katie said.

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