Hitting the Dog Show Big Time
LENEXA, Kan. –This week’s Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever is on the move again this weekend. As she does over many long weekends throughout the year, Kelli Denton will be competing in a major dog show, this time in Wichita. And at the Sunflower Cluster event, many eyes will be following Kelli and her dog because of what they did just a few weeks ago at America’s most prestigious dog show — Westminster.
For Journey, afternoons at Classy K-9 Dog Training in Lenexa are back to routine workouts these days. But with a purple and gold ribbon from Westminster– America’s famed dog show– this handsome three-year-old Keeshond now will always be a star in the arenas of big time dog shows. And so will his owner-handler, Kelli Denton.
“Oh, gosh, it’s a great honor, “says Kelli about what she and Journey achieved at Westminster. “I’ve worked really hard with Journey so it’s great for a judge to recognize our hard work and I’m glad someone appreciates his qualities as I do.”
Kelli showed Journey to Best of Breed acclaim at the 2012 Westminster show in New York City in February.
“I was so nervous in the ring, just because the atmosphere there is so intense and so I felt anxious and nervous and I was worried about Journey misbehaving,” says Kelli laughing. “But he showed great. It’s just incredible. I know it’s something I’ll look back on for many years and just be proud of.”
Winning Best of Breed at Westminster is a huge accomplishment in the dog show world — and a rare feat for a high school age owner-handler.
“There’s people I compete with that have been doing this longer than me, so I definitely am grateful to have won at such a young age,” says Kelli.
When a dog wins at Westminster, he doesn’t do it alone. It has a lot to do with the skill and dedication of his human partner. Kelli raised and trained Journey from an eight-week-old puppy.
“She gets better and better,” says Teresa Nash, owner-operator of Classy K-9 Dog Training and Kelli’s dog training mentor. “The more she shows and the older she gets, the more accomplished she becomes. She’s just doing great. She really is.”
And Nash says Kelli excels in the primary job of a handler in the dog show ring — completely showcasing the dog.
“The handler just kind of fades into the background,” says Nash, “and it should be all about the dog. And you showcase the animal and not the person. And she does that very well.”
Kelli devotes enormous amounts of time and effort to showing dogs, and has for years, including travel to dog shows all over the United States. But somehow she’s also managed to be a very successful and well-rounded high school student.
“I wanted the typical high school experience with all my friends and be involved,” says Kelli.
And she has done that. Now a senior at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in Shawnee, Kansas, Kelli joined the school bowling team mostly just to have a little fun and meet new friends. She got so good she became one of the varsity leaders of the very successful state tournament qualifying team.
“You could definitely say I’m a competitive person,” says Kelli. “I enjoy doing well and I’ll practice until I can improve so I can do better the next time. Any other sports or activities I’ve been involved in I obviously want to do and be the best I can be at it.”
Kelli’s a big winner in the classroom, too. She’s in the top five percent of the senior class at Shawnee Mission Northwest with a 4.65 weighted GPA and preparing for college in the fall to study international business or perhaps actuarial science.
“I’m glad I’ve dedicated so much time to my academics because that’s really what will influence my college decision,” says Kelli.
“You know, everyone wants to have 28 Kellis in their class,” says Britt Haney who coaches the Shawnee Mission Northwest bowling team and has taught Kelli in statistics class. “She cares about others. She’s a team player. She’ll do whatever is asked upon her. And she has high expectations of herself and tries to meet those.”
And as Kelli’s accomplishments out of the dog show ring mount up, she looks forward to more opportunities with Journey to win in the ring, maybe even the pinnacle, a Best of Show award at Westminster.
“We have a special bond in the ring,” says Kelli of her relationship with Journey. “We enjoy working together. It’s just fun. Our connection is evident when we are showing, too. He knows it’s his job and he loves it. He likes to perform. And he’s just a great show dog.”
Kelli says competing in dog shows has benefited her in many ways, including helping her build a nice nest egg for college. She says by doing well showing dogs, she’s already won $8,500 in college scholarships.
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