Five Young Kennel Club members have been nominated for the prestigious Shaun McAlpine Outstanding Young Person award, which celebrates the hard-working, inspirational and selfless actions of young dog lovers.
The Shaun McAlpine Outstanding Young Person award is the highest level of achievement for young dog lovers. For over thirty years, Ed and Cindy McAlpine have presented the Shaun McAlpine Trophy at Crufts in memory of their son, Shaun. The award is given annually to encourage young dog lovers to become more involved in dog activities, as Shaun himself had achieved considerable success as a dog handler.
Previous winners of the annual competition have been selected for their volunteering and fundraising for dog charities, helping to organise dog activities in the local community and for assisting others through training, stewarding and mentoring.
This year, the five finalists are:
• Young Braveheart of the Year
Everyday life for 9 year-old Ruby James is a battle. She lives with a complex condition called Noonan syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder and deteriorating visual impairment, yet in spite of these obstacles she is a little girl completely dedicated to her dogs and thrives on handling them at every possible opportunity. Junior handling has boosted her confidence immeasurably and truly gives her a genuine sense of achievement unequalled by anything else.
• Champion of the Year
Lyndsey Jones, aged 16, has put an incredible amount of time and hard work into community-based volunteering, running a dog training school twice a week, with all proceeds going to a dog charity. She is mature beyond her years, incredibly selfless when it comes to anything dog-related, and is an inspiration to many.
• Good Buddy of the Year
Eight year-old Kaydie is the youngest member at the Newton Heath Dog Training Club, and helps with the puppy course at the club, informing youngsters about dog etiquette. With her mum, Kaydie goes to many dog shows and is often seen filling water holders for anyone who needs help. A number of handlers have asked for Kaydie personally as she is very responsible around dogs which may not be used to children - she has even been trusted to work a dog in the ring when the owner was poorly. She is loved by all who meet her for her positive attitude and helpfulness.
• Sporting Talent of the Year
Belle Howlett started training dogs in agility at the age of six. At 10, she got her very own dog, a Border Collie, which she named Ami and trained herself. Throughout the 2015 season, Belle and Ami won many first place titles including in the Agility Club Starters Cup Final and in the Kennel Club International Young Handler Final (for the second year running). They also gained fourth place at the Kennel Club Novice Agility Stakes Final at Olympia in London. Belle and Ami have qualified for Crufts in the Agility Dog of the Year and Jumping Final 2016. Belle, now 14, also shows dogs and is a talented handler, competing with other people's dogs as well as her own.
• Fundraiser of the Year
Every year Charlotte Page goes through tough physical challenges to raise money and awareness for charity. Last year Charlotte and her dog Pandora walked up Ben Nevis and this year they are taking on the Virgin London Marathon to raise money for Dogs for Good. The 21 year-old gives up her spare time to help two shows each year; East of England Championship Show and the North of England Dalmatian Club, and spends most evenings putting together the newsletter for the Dalmatian Club and various other activities that the committees need help with. So far she has raised over £3,000 pounds for charity.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, commented: "Every year we receive these incredible nominations for young people working with and helping dogs. This award reminds us of the way in which young people and dogs together can make such a difference in society. These five finalists and their families should be extremely proud - they truly are a credit to their generation.
The winners from each category have been invited to Crufts 2016 on Sunday 13th March for a special presentation ceremony and each will receive an exclusive ambassador's badge and award. This year, the overall winner will be decided via an online vote open to all. As well as being crowned the Outstanding Young Person of the Year, there is also a prize fund up to £750 which will be used towards helping the winner progress their love of dogs.