“The Rest of the Story” -- From Craigslist to Number One Field Spaniel
Mikala Seymour and her Field Spaniel, Riley, are an impressive team. Riley, GCHB CH Bruce's Living the Life @ Upland, is currently the number one field spaniel all-systems and a national specialty winner, entirely owner-handled. This is a significant accomplishment for anyone. But “the rest of the story” is the impressive part.
Mikala just turned 18 years old. And Riley came to her through Craigslist, as a three year old. A junior handler and a backyard dog teaming up to successfully take on the dog show world is not an everyday occurrence.
“He was actually found for sale on Craigslist by my mentor,” Mikala said. “He was down in Texas. Three people piled together and were able to get him up here. My mentor when she finally got him had a table with her. She put him on the table, racked him up and said ‘underneath this mess of a dog’ 'cause his fur was matted and disgusting ‘there's a really nice dog under here. I think it needs Mikala’s touch’ pretty much is what she said. She ended up cleaning him up a little bit and shipping to me. That's when I started putting in the hard work. I had to teach him how to run, I had to teach myself how to groom. It was a good almost year of learning for me and we created a special bond and we've just gone from there.
“He was pretty much someone's pet that they barely did anything with. They barely socialized him or anything. But he is the sweetest little thing. He just wants attention and he's done so much for me. He's learned to tolerate a lot too, with the grooming and stuff. He wasn't too happy about it at first, but once he figured it out, he's getting to be good with it now.
“I'm actually third generation with this. We started in Saints. I started showing Saints as well in juniors and in the bred ring. (That’s) the breed that I fell in love with. It made me want to continue doing this. And then somebody said I should try a sporting dogs to be a little more flashy over the big drooly Saint, so we tried that and it just kind of snowballed from there.”
Mikala offered her top three tips for anyone who wants to be successful with their dog in the ring:
Find what makes your dog click. Get inside their head. “Learn what makes your dog special and get that connection with them so that they want to please you.”
Always talk to people. Learn more about your breed. Learn about other breeds. Get advice from other people with your breed. “Learn from them and take everything with a grain of salt 'cause everyone's gonna have a different opinion. You have to do what's right by your dog, while still listening to their advice and thinking about ‘is this gonna work for my dog or can I use this tip but do it in a different way, so it works better for my dog’ kind of a thing.”
Just have fun with it and do your best. As long as you're having fun, you can't go wrong.