Local teen handles Westminster show like a pro
NEW YORK -- At 13 years old, Hayley Hendrick, of New Canaan, grants post-game interviews with the tone and poise of a seasoned veteran.
On Monday, she competed with her dog Micah, a 3-year-old, black-and-white Cavalier King Charles spaniel, at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Micah, whose official name is Ch. Orchard Hill Duly Noted, did not have much luck that day. He missed the cut in both the Best in Breed category and the Junior Showmanship Competition, where young contestants ages of 9 to 18 are judged solely on their handling skills.
Afterward, Hayley gave a frank assessment of Micah's performance that was neither harsh nor overly glowing.
"Sometimes, he isn't the best," she said. "But today I thought he did well."
Micah, unlike her other dog Islay, does not live to show. Rather, he is obsessed with tennis balls.
Hayley got her first dog, an English springer spaniel, when she was 5. When she was between 8 and 9, she decided she wanted a dog that could show.
She came to Westminster for the first time last year, when she entered the Juniors competition with a Cavalier named Chanel.
"It's very fun," she said. "I won a participation ribbon."
Hayley is now ranked 18th nationally among junior handlers.
Donna Gilbert, a dog breeder in Stamford, said she remembers meeting at Hayley and her father at a dog show in Greenwich several years ago.
At the time, she said, the two tried to enter their dog in every class, a rookie mistake because once a dog is eliminated in one class, he cannot compete any longer even if he advances in another.
"But she stuck with it," Gilbert said, "And now she's beaten the pants off people."
It just goes to show, she added, that "you can start knowing nothing."
For her first contest at 9 a.m. Monday, Hayley woke up at 5:30 a.m. During the afternoon, with the exception of a few loose strands of hair, there was no sign of fatigue or complaint as she sat next to her dogs in the benching area, willing to take questions as she tried to take quick bites of her lunch.
As a reporter shot questions at her rapid fire, her answers were well-thought-out and composed.
This kid, it seemed, knew the drill.
Why does she like competing in dog shows?
"I like the fact that I can do something fun with my dog."
What do you think about Westminster?
"It's so exciting. It's such a long show. It's so different from other shows."
Giving a nod to the other competitors, she added, "It's so great to see the other amazing dogs that come here."
Asked whether she was intimidated to compete against adults, the tiny contender brushed off the pressure.
"I'm not here to win it. I'm here for the experience."
To which she added, "I have to pay my dues."