Name: Bill Ellis
Westminster Kennel Club Best Junior Handler Year: 2002
Occupation: AKC Communications Coordinator
Breed shown: English Setter
How did you become involved in showing dogs?
My parents are both active equestrians, and horses are the businesses, so I grew up going to horse shows. We always went to the local dog shows near our farm in Florida, and there was finally a point when we decided to research getting a purebred dog to show. We started with an Australian Shepherd puppy, but my mother, being familiar with the horse business, wanted to get dogs who were already champions. Shortly after we got a puppy I got my first show dog, a PBGV who was already finished. He was the first dog that I showed in Junior Showmanship. I was hooked from the beginning.
Describe what you remember from showing in the Junior Showmanship Finals at WKC.
The night of the finals I remember being very focused on my dog. I did not go over to The Garden early the evening of the finals, because I did not want to get my dog ready early and have him waiting around on the grooming table for a long period of time. The English Setter that I was showing was a great show dog, but he would also get spooked. I was concerned about how he would handle the atmosphere. He was perfect the entire time.
What were you most nervous or excited about showing at The Garden?
Everything about showing at The Garden is exciting. Both of my parents showed horses in The Garden and had won, so there was a bit of family history. My parents showed Hunters. My mom was Champion in the Amateur-Owner division, and my father has shown many times as a professional in many different divisions The most exciting moment for me was in the preliminaries when I made the finals. The preliminaries are so large, and there were several cuts that were made in mine, so we had to keep coming back. They take so long to judge, and there are so many people watching, the energy just builds and builds. It was such an exciting moment when I was selected as a finalist.
Since the finals are only 8 kids, they go by so quickly. I felt like I didn’t have time to get nervous. Obviously, the feeling of winning is a very exciting moment.
How long had you and your dog been showing together before the Garden?
I had been showing my dog a little over a year. I finished him the year before, and then continued to show him in Juniors. He started his specials career the year after I was BJH. He went on to win multiple Best in Shows and was the #1 English Setter at one point.
How has winning BJH affected your career? How has it affected your love of showing dogs?
Winning BJH bolstered my love of the sport and gave me confidence in my talents as a dog handler. It is a great memory to have. I was working for a top Professional Handler at the time that I won, and I went on to work for two other top professionals.
What did you do after winning BJH? How did you celebrate your win?
At the time, I was working for a Professional Handler. After I was done, it was back to work getting the dogs out of The Garden and back to the hotel. Luckily for me, we had an amazing client at the time who took over for me so that I could go and watch the rest
What did you do after aging out of Juniors?
After aging out of Juniors I worked for a few different Professional Handers as an apprentice. I ended up becoming a hair stylist and, after going back to college, began working for the American Kennel Club.
What did you go on to study in college?
I studied Leadership and Management Studies in College, with a concentration in Marketing.
What is the best advice you could give to Juniors showing at WKC?
Do your best to treat WKC like any other dog show. It can be a stressful environment for a dog, especially at MSG in the big ring. The calmer you are, the better your dog will be, and the better you will be as a team.
How have you made an impact on future generations of the sport?
By going to college and working for the American Kennel Club, I hope that I am making an impact by showing future generations that there are many ways to stay involved in our sport.