“Emma Baldobino loves dogs and competition.
She seems a perfect fit for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which recently wrapped up in New York.
A 14-year-old freshman at Central High School, Emma and her 18-month-old English Springer Spaniel, Petey, did not advance to the finals in Westminster, but gained valuable experience.
“I really like the competition, but it also helps for scholarships,” Emma said.
The top eight junior handlers at Westminster shared $20,000 in scholarship awards. Close to 100 youth competed, with just two junior handlers from Texas qualifying for the American Kennel Club’s premiere event.
To qualify, junior handlers must be between 9 and 18 years old and must win “Best Junior Handler” at seven American Kennel Club (AKC) approved shows over a prior 12-month period. They must also have at least a 3.0 grade point average.
Emma got into showing dogs at age 10, when she was working with her dogs at agility training at Praiseworthy Pups in Keller (now closed) and caught the eye of a dog show trainer from Fort Worth.
Emma began assisting the trainer during summers who helped her start as a junior handler by co-owning a miniature pinscher.
Emma enjoyed the dog show world so much that she began to save for her own dog, with money from her allowance, summer assisting and garage sales. It took her two and a half years to afford Petey, whose official AKC registered name is “Champion Cerise That Little Rascal.”
She got Petey at four months, trained him in basic commands and first showed him when he was six months old in puppy divisions. Dog show training involves teaching the dog to show on a lead, how to stand and stay, look at the judge, be handled by the judge and jog around the ring with the handler.
At shows, Emma is usually up from 5 a.m. to midnight prepping Petey and showing. Before a show, Emma spends hours bathing, blow drying and combing Petey. They go to one show every month or two during the school year and a show every weekend for two months during summer.
Keeping a show dog is an ongoing commitment. Every evening after school and softball practices or games, Emma walks Petey and combs him. Each week she bathes and trains him. But all the work hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm.
She hopes to continue showing Petey and earn enough to acquire a second show dog.
Emma’s parents are supportive of her dog show aspirations. Mom Elisha Baldobino said, “She’s learned a lot from it.”
Dad J.B. Baldobino agreed. “It’s a lot of responsibility and has helped teach her focus and confidence,” he said.
Emma plans to return to Westminster.
“It was exciting,” Emma said of being in New York for Westminster. “When you would go to the rings, there were tons of people wanting to pet your dog.”