‘Aged Out, But Just Getting Started’
A Former Junior Looks Forward to Judging
(Photo: Lydia with "Tony" . Photo by Amber Aanensen)
*Editors Note: This interview originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of ShowSight.
If it’s true what they say about youth being wasted on the young, it’s clear that Lydia Frey didn’t get the memo. The 19-year-old from Wellington, Florida, has received more accolades “in dogs” than most of us could hope to achieve in a lifetime — and she’s just getting started. Last month, the former junior handler stepped into the ring for the first time without a show lead when she was selected to be the surprise judge of Best Junior in Cluster at the Grayslake Summer Cluster in Grayslake, Illinois.
Lydia grew up in Hume, Virginia, an unincorporated crossroads in horse and hound country. “My late father, Russell Frey, was a renowned hunter rider and judge,” Lydia says. “Growing up, my weekends were spent at horse shows all around the world.” In 1998, her father and Swept Away were the First Year Green Hunter Champions at the Cosequin Palm Beach Masters for Mr. & Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone. “He also showed in the jumpers and had a training business of his own,” Lydia adds. Only last year, Russell Frey won the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby aboard Kodachrome for owner Nina Koloseike Moore. Lydia’s mother, Kimberly Prince, is a successful horse woman in her own right who trains and shows Grand Prix show Jumpers. As Lydia notes, “She has represented the USA on many occasions.” So it should come as no surprise that the daughter of two competitive horse people would become a competitor herself. The only surprise, perhaps, is that Lydia chose dogs instead of horses to show.
In 2007, Lydia stepped into the Junior Showmanship ring for the first time. She started with Standard Schnauzers and in her parents’ livestock tradition Lydia wanted to produce the animals she would show. “I bred my first litter and finished my first champion at 12-years-old,” she notes. Lydia eventually discovered the Bedlington Terrier and has bred three litters to date. “From my first Bedlington litter I finished my first champion by going Winners Dog at two national specialties,” she claims with justifiable pride. Of the many Bedlingtons she has bred or shown, the most celebrated has to be BGCH LAMZ Let Them Eat Cake CA CGC. Bred by Laurie Zembrzuski and Gabrielle Gilbeau of Centreville, Virginia, “Tony” proved to be a most dependable partner. As Lydia puts it, “I practiced stacking, moving, and free-stacking to the point where I didn’t need to say anything to him, he knew what I wanted and he performed perfectly.” She kept her charge in good condition with thrice-weekly baths and avoided putting undue pressure on the dog. “That, I think, was the secret to success for me,” Lydia offers. By the time the pair stepped onto the green carpet at Madison Square Garden in February of 2015, their bond was unshakeable. “My main focus was making sure it was a good experience for him. We were both calm and focused on each other which made a real difference,” she explains. That difference was acknowledged when Mr. Michael Dougherty awarded Lydia Best Junior Handler at Westminster. Five months later, she once again rose to the top when Mr. Hugo Quevedo of Peru selected the young American as his winner from among the junior handlers competing at the World Dog Show in Milan, Italy.
Throughout her years competing as a junior, Lydia honed her skills by assisting several professionals. “I have worked for Margery Good, Anna Stromberg, Whitney Meeks and Heather & Zack Helmer,” she notes. By working for professional handlers, Lydia gained experience by showing breeds in each of AKC’s seven Groups. “Through working for professional handlers and helping breeders, I have been able to show lots of great dogs,” she says. According to Lydia, the best part of traveling with a handler is the knowledge that is gained. This includes how to show dogs, of course, but also included is mentoring on the important role animal husbandry plays in the care of show dogs. Lydia points out, however, that there can be a down side to assisting the professionals. “The hardest part can be when there is a conflict and your dog doesn’t get enough prep time — or get shown at all,” she admits. “It rarely happens, but it’s definitely upsetting.”
Like the true professional she has become, Lydia doesn’t settle on minor regrets. Instead, she looks forward to the future and achieving her next goal. “I always planned on judging Junior Showmanship once I aged-out,” she reports. “I knew I wanted to give back to the sport the way it has given to me.” Lydia has already attended seminars on judging Junior Showmanship. “I then did the necessary paperwork and scheduled an interview,” she notes. In the meantime, Lydia plans to attend North Carolina’s High Point University in the fall where she will study communications with a focus on public relations. Thankfully, the dog sport will continue to benefit from her participation. “I plan to be in dogs for the rest of my life and look forward to getting licensed to judge breeds and Groups,” she promises.
In Grayslake, Illinois, Lydia surprised everyone when she stepped into the ring to judge Best Junior in Cluster. “I was quite nervous beforehand,” she reports. “Though once I got out there, I felt right at home.” When it came time to select her winner, Lydia found support from the words of Michael Dougherty. “After awarding me Best Junior at Westminster, he said that he was told by his father to always pick the handler that you would want to show your dog if you had that breed,” she shares. “With those words in mind I picked a lovely Newfoundland handler [Lynzze Grispin] who made a less than enthusiastic dog look graceful.” No doubt Lydia’s own father would have been proud of his daughter’s selection and of her decision to contribute to the sport she loves as a breeder, an exhibitor and as a judge.