ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - A Pinellas County 16-year-old and her dog are making their way to the Super Bowl of dog shows, competing in the Westminster Dog Show in New York City.
Shannon Piquet said her 4-year-old rat terrier, Gamble is the first of his breed to qualify for Westminster in the junior showmanship category.
“He is a pretty sensitive boy. But if you can get into his head and make sure that he’s not overthinking it and not psyching himself out, he can be an amazing little performer,” Piquet said as Gamble stood at attention on a table at her side.
Piquet has been training and showing dogs since she was 6 years old. She got her start at the Dog Training Club of St. Petersburg.
“My mother was also in the dog community. I saw my mother and my father doing that, and I wanted to be a part of it as well,” she said.
It’s a hobby that’s like a full-time job.
“Luckily, I’m homeschooled, so I take my studies with me,” said Piquet. “I do it all on the road. It’s a lot, gotta admit.”
Her days begin early and can run long. She has to make sure her dog can perform in different environments and weather conditions - no matter what.
“You get up really, really early so that you can get the dogs out,” said Piquet. “This guy and another one of my dogs, they sleep in my bed. For me, a lot of this is the passion. I have to get this dog to really, really bond to me.”
Piquet’s bond with Gamble has won them ribbons and now qualified them for the biggest show for dogs.
“I have little things that help him stay calm. To keep him busy, I’ll do little spins and he can sometimes spin to the left,” she said. “If he’s completely still for the entire round, he’s going to start driving me nutty. He’s going to start going, ‘Oh my gosh! When’s the next thing? I want to go right now.’”
She loves to show, but she doesn’t expect to make a professional career out of showing dogs. Piquet said she plans to keep showing dogs after she graduates high school and while in college, and she hopes to become a junior judge for competitions.
Her goal, for now, is for Gamble to become the number one terrier junior in dog shows.
“I love my dog. My dog loves me. So because of that, it makes my job 10 times easier,” said Piquet.
She said she’s never been to New York City, so she’s very excited about the trip. She and Gamble will compete in the first round on February 12, and you will be able to catch her the Fox Sports Go app. You can also watch the competition on TV on Fox Sports One and NatGeo Wild.