A young dog lover from Northern Ireland has beaten youngsters from all over the world to win a major international award at the world’s biggest dog show, Crufts on Saturday 11th March.
Scarlett Burnside, 16, from Saintfield, County Down beat representatives from 43 other countries to win the International Junior Handling competition for Ireland in front of thousands of people in the Genting Arena at the NEC, Birmingham. Juniors from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and, for the first time, Chile were competing in the final.
The International Junior Handling competition sees youngsters aged 10-19 representing their country in a competition where they only meet the dog they are competing with 45 minutes beforehand. The juniors pick a first and second choice breed but do not get to meet the dog they will compete with until less than an hour before they take to the main ring at the show.
To help demonstrate their natural affinity with dogs, the juniors then swap dogs and have just five minutes to practise with a new breed in the second round. They return to the ring the same evening with their original breed, where a final shortlist of ten finalists is announced in front of thousands of spectators. Those ten have one final opportunity to impress the judge before the top three is announced.
Scarlett competed with a Pointer in the first round of the competition, and a Beagle in the second, before returning with the Pointer for the final judging in the evening. She was chosen as the winner by judge, Vesa Lehtonen from Finland.
Speaking about her win, Scarlett said: “When the judge walked towards me I said ‘are you serious?’ I never dreamed I would win on my first time at Crufts. Dogs are my life, my love, my passion, so it was really special.”
Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club which organises Crufts, said: “Congratulations to Scarlett on her fabulous win. Competing at Crufts can be daunting for many people, so to do so in front of such a huge crowd and at such a young age is a remarkable feat.
“Scarlett clearly showed the natural handling skills which she has with dogs, even ones that she has only just met, and she will surely have a long and successful Crufts ‘career’ ahead of her.”