A Junior Handler Aims To Make It As A Pro


  • April 06, 2019
  • by Marie Manning

From the March 2019 Issue of ShowSight, The Dog Show Magazine. Click to subscribe.

Lexi Schlott might be the youngest old soul you’ll meet.

This petite Latina handler got her start at age 12 as a junior assistant to Beth Swaggart and Peter Green, who lived up the street from her grandparents. Like many juniors, Lexi did a lot of caretaking and leash training with puppies—puppies like Rider, a Norfolk Terrier who went on to finish and make it big with 
Roxanne Sutton.

Lexi’s quiet determination and connection with her canine charges caught Beth’s and Peter’s eyes, and they put her on a Lab named Bubbles. “I won my class twice with Bubbles as a novice junior,” remembers Lexi. It was the start of a burgeoning career, one that would take Lexi to victories at Westminster, ICKC International, the National Terrier Specialty, and the National Dog Show.

With a precociousness and preternatural connection with her canine charges, Lexi built her reputation over the next six years. First there was Hercules, who took three Best in Shows over his career and finished his championship in one day at the ICKC International Canine Kennel Club. Then came Princess Gwenna, the first black and tan bitch to place in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels class at Westminster. There was Zeus, a Kerry Blue Terrier who took Lexi to the final 12 out of 126 juniors at the Eukenuba National Dog Show in 2014. And now there is Fiesta, a beige Frenchie who took a four point major her first weekend out at the National Dog Show in 2017.

“Juniors really was a test of my determination to be a handler,” says Lexi. “I had to work ten times as hard to show a dog compared to the adults who had so much more experience.”

But Lexi wouldn’t have it any other way. As a young Latina, she was already used to being on the outside looking in. Competing against more experienced—and well-known—adults only served to foster a steely determination to succeed against the odds.

“If you are smacked in the face, you have got to get up. If you want to be big, you have got to do something about it,” states Lexi matter-of-factly. This former junior handler and promising pro intends to go all the way.

Lexi prefers working with breeds that are not what one might consider the typical show dog. Terriers such as her beloved Kerry Blues require polished handlers to give them what she calls “flash.” The so-called “whole color” Cavaliers frequently get outplayed by the Blenheim Cavaliers. So Lexi has developed some signature moves that showcase her dogs against others.

“If you’re doing it right, you’re not supposed to stand out,” she explains. “A good dog shows itself and creates a beautiful picture.” Lexi achieves this, quite often, by free baiting, so the dog can show himself to perfection.

She also keeps a small, well-curated client list so that she can develop a rapport with her charges and personalize every experience for them.

And, without question, every dog she takes into the ring is groomed to perfection, a result of her full-time employment as a pet groomer.

Lexi plans to go to business school and use that knowledge to open her own kennel with separate grooming and boarding areas for show dogs. She also wants to train other young people to come along on this journey.

She ponders where the sport will be in 20 years, and wonders who will take the place of today’s handlers when they retire and become judges. “It’s so important to build that rapport with the new generation now rather than push them away,” says Lexi. “We need to replace frustration with encouragement because there are so many kids who want this but are struggling to learn how to achieve it.”

Lexi cites Peter Green as someone who did that for her. Not necessarily needing an inexperienced assistant, he still took her in and opened her up to the joys of showing dogs, particularly terriers.

Where does 19-year-old Lexi Schlott see herself another 19 years from now? She pauses before giving a hopeful, joyous laugh. “Thirty eight year old Lexi operates her own kennel and has a Best in Show at Westminster under her belt…and if I don’t, I’ll feel old.”

With continued hard work, lots of patience, and a bit of luck, this old soul shouldn’t have to wait that long. 

 

About the Author

Marie Manning is a marketing communications professional specializing in writing and social media. She is a member of the Old Dominion Pug Club.

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