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Crufts 2017: Saintfield's Scarlett wows judges with double win in show ring

By Allan Preston

A teenager from Saintfield "who eats, sleeps and breathes" dogs has won two first places at the prestigious Crufts competition.

On Saturday 16-year-old Scarlett Burnside came first in the international junior handling finals.

Making the achievement even more remarkable was the fact she only met the dog she was competing with that morning, a pointer named Babs.

Yesterday she picked up her second win in the own breed junior male class category with her Alaskan Malamute Ethan.

Scarlett's mum Peri Burnside said she was "absolutely delighted" with the stunning achievement.

"On Saturday they started at 8am. They had 30 minutes to meet the dog they were going to handle, to learn about the breed and build a rapport," she explained.

"In all, 45 handlers entered the Crufts arena, where a judge from Finland put the competitors through their paces.

"For junior handling you must not put yourself between the judge and the dog, so the handler must always be shadowing the dog.

"The handler should technically be invisible to show the best skills they have by doing this."

Mrs Burnside said the judge singled out her skill at "promoting the dog" rather than putting the focus on herself.

"He said she did this from the start to the finish. I think she's still in shock."

Scarlett was also in the arena yesterday afternoon for the Young Kennel Working Stakes with her Alaskan Malamute, Marley. She later finished in a respectable fourth place.

The proud mum said she was most impressed with Scarlett's ability to handle the pressure on the big day.

"She's very overwhelmed by the support and accolades, she's a quiet girl," she said.

"I think she takes it in her stride, I think when she gets home it will hit her. For 16 years of age, her professionalism is unbelievable. She deals with it quietly, puts the dogs first before herself every time. She eats, sleeps, breathes, dogs, it's amazing."

Speaking last week before the competition, Mrs Burnside said it was unsurprising her daughter has developed such a natural affinity for dogs.

"She used to crawl with the dogs when she was a baby and learned to walk by holding on to their ears," she said.

"From the age of two she has been training lots of puppies - she was the best puppy trainer. She is so passionate about showing dogs and training them and has been winning a lot of competitions."

Currently studying for her GCSEs, Scarlett hopes to go on to study animal management and welfare, with the aim of becoming a professional dog trainer.

In November she is due to attend the World Dog Show in Germany, representing Ireland. Other highlights from Crufts this year included golden Labrador Caddie, who was nominated for a dog hero prize for helping his 13-year-old owner Joel Sawyer deal with stress caused by his autism and sleep apnoea.

A Belgian shepherd named Deril from Belgium also caused a sensation with a routine that saw the talented canine perform CPR on his Italian owner.

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