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Teen eyes canine career
Ali Seeber, 15, a sophomore at Sequim High School, took to competitive dog-handling because mainstream sports didn't catch her interest.
"I like sports but I'm not that good - they just aren't for me," Seeber said.
"I'm not the best with a team, but with dog handling nobody will yell at you and your dog isn't going to yell at you."
Seeber began dog training at Legacy Canine Behavior and Training when she was 12.
Since then she's been training her dogs and absorbing tips from expert handlers and trainers in the Hurricane Ridge Kennel Club.
Seeber plans to make a career of dog grooming and handling but, to keep her dream alive, dog handling has become a family affair.
She lives with her mother, Laura Lestage, and 4-year-old sister Kaia.
In order to make it to practices and competitions, her grandparents Craig and Tara Andrews and Robert and Merry Nelson help her out.
"I'd be stuck at home without them all," Seeber said.
Others have noticed Seeber's dedication.
Nancy Tinker, owner of Goin' to the Dogs, donated a grooming table, a tack box and dog agility lessons to Seeber.
"We saw the potential in her and the extreme interest," Tinker said.
"We wanted to help her reach her goals. I'm sure she'll go far."
For more than a year, Seeber has been working with instructor Ray Sick once a week at Greywolf Veterinary Hospital. He said all his students have a lot of interest in their dogs but Seeber's interest includes grooming and other breeds.
"If you learn more about other dogs, then you learn a lot more about your own
dog," Sick said.
Who let the dogs in?
Seeber owns two shiba inu show dogs, Lola and Troy; a Boston terrier, Molly; and a mixed breed, Tipi.
Lola and Troy were chosen because she wanted to get dogs that were right for her. Costs factored in because larger breeds can be expensive and a lot of work, she said.
"My dogs are pretty low maintenance."
"All they need before a competition is a brushing and to be fluffed."
Seeber says she's learned a lot from them.
"They can be stubborn but there is definitely a big difference in personality," Seeber said.
"The dogs are actually opposites," she said.
"Lola can do agility and Troy will do fancy stuff. It's a role reversal."
Racking up the ribbons
The competition ribbons are piling up for Seeber, who ranks as an open senior.
Since she's focused on Troy as a show dog, he's become a finished champion.
"I used to get nervous with Lola but less so now with Troy," Seeber said.
Each age group has its own classification and experience level of novice and open.
• Juniors, ages 9-12
• Intermediate, 13-15
• Senior, 15-18
She has more than 20 ribbons from 25 events in Oregon and Washington.
She plans to start conformation with Troy in mid-September, competing at the adult level, and to enter Lola in agility competitions before the year ends.
Sick said Junior Showmanship competitions focus on how youths compose themselves.
"Judges don't judge the dog but the person.
"She's got good determination and the willingness to learn," Sick said of Seeber.
From here to the future
Seeber said she's discovered things about dogs that she never imagined.
"It's a learning process the whole way," she said.
Sick emphasized that in order for handlers to be successful, they must be aggressive and confident.
"She's done real well," Sick said. "She was a little shy at first but has become more confident in herself and her dog."
Seeber plans to improve her handling by joining Future Farmers of America to raise a pig or sheep.
For now, she'll start high school and continue class work through Hurricane Ridge Kennel Club, which meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Greywolf Veterinary Hospital, 1102 E. Washington St., Sequim.
More information can be found at www.hrkc.org.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.