NEW PALESTINE — Cassy Didelot and her 2-year-old red fox Labrador retriever, Ruby, are not just best buddies: they’re the best in show.
Cassy, a seventh-grader at Doe Creek Middle School, and Ruby won two first-place honors recently at the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship junior competition in Orlando.
Finishing first in agility and obedience was somewhat of a shock, considering the pair was participating in the contest for the first time, said Cassy, 12. She and Ruby began training just last year.
Cassy and Ruby participated in the Hancock County 4-H dog show for the first time last summer after a friend introduced Cassy to the program.
She and Ruby won first place and were named grand champions, which earned them the chance to compete at the Indiana State Fair. There, they picked up first place for agility and obedience, which spring-boarded them into contests with the American Kennel Club.
The pair competed against adults in regional American Kennel Club events and did well, so the family planned a trip to Orlando, where Cassy and Ruby competed in the junior nationals, an event for dog owners 18 and younger.
That’s where she competed with dog owners from 13 different states and Canada before claiming top honors. Junior dog show competitors have to meet certain criteria to compete, including keeping high grades. They must have a grade-point average of at least 3.0 or equivalent for the 2014-15 school year.
The chance to compete with her furry best friend has been a lot of fun, Cassy said.
“It’s been such an amazing year,” Cassy said. “Ruby and I were close before, but this whole obedience thing has gotten us a lot closer.”
Beyond giving the girl and dog something fun to do, the competitions have also helped Cassy grow and mature, her mother, Ann Didelot, said.
“Cassy is kind of a quiet girl, and to watch her become someone who can stand in front of a huge crowd with a dog who you never know what (it’s) going to do, and do so well — it’s helped her confidence grow,” Didelot said. “It’s been quite a journey.”
Ruby deserves a lot of credit for the success, the family said. The dog went from being one who ran wild on their property to one who obeys when on a leash, taking commands from Cassy.
Although the dog is close to everyone in the family, she has a special bond with Cassy, Didelot said.
“It’s mainly just because Ruby wants to please Cassy,” Ann said.
Cassy was one of two Hancock County natives who snagged national honors at the show. Cassie Doss, 18, of New Palestine, also took part in the junior competition. She and her dog, Levi, earned second-place honors in the obedience category.
The requirements for participation in the American Kennel Club Junior Nationals Competition:
-Juniors must have five, first place wins in an Open Class, with competition present.
-Wins must be earned between October 09, 2014 and October 07, 2015.
-Juniors must be under 18 years of age at the time of the wins. Age on the day of the show has no bearing.
-Juniors must have a grade point average of at least 3.0 or equivalent for the 2014- 2015 school year.
-GPA must be verified by an official school transcript or home school information sent in and received by AKC prior to the entry form being sent to the Junior.