Name: Alexis Ditlow
WKC BJH: 2005
Occupation: Professional Dog Handler
Breed shown: English Springer Spaniel
How did you become involved in showing dogs?
I became involved in showing dogs thanks to my Mother and Grandmother. They showed dogs as well, so it was truly a family sport. My Mother has had Newfoundlands for 30 years and my Grandmother bred Weimaraners for many years. I was born into the sport of dogs. I showed my first dog when I was five years old at the Lancaster Kennel Club Match where I went Best in Match with a Golden Retriever named “Joy”. After that win, I was hooked.
Describe what you remember from showing in the Junior Showmanship Finals at WKC.
I remember showing in Finals like it was yesterday. I remember them dimming the lights before we all went in and exciting music playing. I was only 14 at the time so I felt like there was no pressure because I had plenty of years ahead of me to try again. I had a go and have fun attitude which made the big ring just slightly less intimidating. For the exam, the judge asked us to do an L pattern which is common in Junior Showmanship. My dog was spot on that night, he did everything I could have asked him to do. I just remember being lined up at the end and the judge came down the line and said “Miss you go over there…” Anyone who shows dogs knows what that means! I was at the front of the line and the judge asked us all to go around and that was it- my dream since I first started showing had come true.
What were you most nervous or excited about showing at Madison Square Garden?
Yes, I was nervous about making my family and mentors proud of me that night.
How long had you and your dog been showing together before Westminster?
My English Springer Spaniel “Nick” and I had been showing together for almost two years prior to the Garden. I remember showing at the Spaniel show in Juniors that January before where one of the great handlers of our time Mrs. Linda Pitts was judging. She gave me Best Junior at that show and I remember vividly her saying to me. “Now if you go home and work on how you move your upper body around the ring I believe one day you will go on to win Best Junior at The Garden.” One month later that happened.
How has winning BJH affected your career? How has it affected your love of showing dogs?
Winning at Westminster forever changed me. It gave me the confidence I didn’t know I had and certainly was influential in my eventual career decision to become a Professional Dog Handler. It also gave me the time when I was young to work for Professional Dog Handlers and focus on learning the basics of general care and the health of the dogs. Working for a Handler taught me that the dogs always come first.
What did you do after aging out of Juniors?
After winning I went back to my normal life as a student, athlete, and assistant for late Andrew Doyle. Andrew then introduced me to Katie Shepard who I worked for for almost 10 years. I am forever grateful to both of them for all they have taught me. Katie was the previous WKC Best Junior Handler winner and got to present the trophy to me. Truly a Cinderella story. (She may have been crying more than me when I won!)
How has the WKC BJH scholarship aided your passion for dogs? What did you go on to study in college?
I was only 14 when I won Best Junior Handler at WKC. After my WKC win, I decided that I would focus on learning from a Professional Dog Handler, because how was I ever going to top that win. I walked out of the juniors ring at Westminster and chose not to participate in Junior Showmanship again. I’m still happy I made that decision today as hard as it was because I loved it so much.
When I won BJH there was no scholarship, but I think it is a fantastic idea! I’m glad the Westminster Kennel Club started offering a scholarship to the winner. I did go onto college at Kutztown University where I achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Photography.
What is the best advice you could give to Juniors showing at WKC?
The best advice I can give to all Juniors showing at WKC is to go in the ring and have fun! You and your dog will perform at your best if you let all the nerves and pressure go. Remember that you are taking the best dog home at the end of the day regardless if you win or lose.
How have you made an impact on future generations of the sport?
I’m not sure if I have made an impact on future generations but I certainly hope so. I am always willing to help any of the juniors if they need advice or tips.