TO win a prize at Crufts must be the dream of any dog lover.
But for a Saintfield teenager that dream came true twice at the weekend.
Sixteen year-old Scarlett Burnside won two first places at the world’s most famous dog show.
On Saturday Scarlett came first in the international junior handling finals. The following day she won the own breed junior category with her 12 month-old Alaskan Malamute pup Ethan.
In fact, Scarlett was that far away from completing an unbelievable treble — she finished a highly respectable fourth in the Young Kennel Working Stakes class with another Alaskan Malamute named Marley.
Her win in the junior handling class, in which she was one of 45 competitors, was all the more remarkable given that she only met the dog she was competing with — a pointer named Babs — earlier that morning.
After being introduced to the dog by the owner, she had only half an hour to get to know him before she was out in the arena at the NEC in Birmingham.
Incredibly, for someone so young performing in front of the world’s most discerning judges Scarlett says she did not suffer stage fright.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be,” she said afterwards. “In fact, I felt fine. Any nerves I had disappeared once I got into the arena.
“The owner introduced me to Babs and told me what to do. Luckily, the dog took to me straight away and out we went. I couldn’t believe it actually.”
“What makes it really great is that I’m the first person from Ireland in 16 years to be placed in the junior handler category.”
Not so calm was Scarlett’s mum, Peri, who was with her in Birmingham. “I am still in a state of shock,” she admitted back at home in Saintfield on Monday morning.
“We are extremely proud of what she has done. The support she has been given and the accolades she has received from all over the world have been phenomenal.”
Peri said the judge singled out Scarlett’s skill at “promoting the dog,” rather than putting the focus on herself.
“For 16 years of age her professionalism is unbelievable. She deals with it quietly, puts the dogs first before herself every time. She eats, sleeps and breathes dogs, it’s amazing.”
Scarlett, who has worked closely with dogs since she was a little girl, has won numerous prizes at dog shows throughout Ireland, Britain and Europe.
Now she has got her sights set on representing Ireland at the World Dog Show in Leipzig, Germany, in November.
Scarlett is grateful for the support she has received, including from Dr Clauders dog food.