My name is Amelia Brooks, and I am a member of the Class of 2012 at Lincoln High School in Lake City, Minnesota, and a member of the Stanford University class of 2016. For my entire life, dogs have been a huge part of who I am and what I do. Since 1990 my parents have been owned, bred, and shown Australian Cattle Dogs. To me, our kennel name "Hillhaven" has always been synonymous with "family". After a few years sitting ringside watching and cheering on my parents, I stepped in to the conformation ring at age six with my first show dog, Crystal. In under a year, I finished her championship with three 5-point majors, and won a group placement. I was hooked.
When I turned 10, I started showing in Junior Showmanship, excited at the prospect of another opportunity to compete each weekend. Junior Showmanship was instrumental in helping me develop as a handler and a person. I have always striven to challenge myself, but school was never very difficult for me. Juniors helped fill that gap, by allowing me to set goals that I truly needed to work for to achieve. I haven't had a particularly illustrious Juniors career, but the time I devoted to polishing my handling skills, working with a breed not known for being "showy", and training all of my own Juniors dogs did have its rewards. I received several Best Junior Handler awards at Specialty Shows and qualified multiple times to show in Juniors at the AKC Eukanuba National Championship.
Over time, I have come to recognize that, while Juniors is important, I draw my true pride from my accomplishments in the breed ring and as a breeder. I was very successful last year with my dog Gauley (GCH Hillhaven's Journey the Rapids HSASD) as we finished the year ranked #4 Cattle Dog All Breed as well as the #1 owner-handled and breeder-owner-handled Cattle Dog. Gauley was the only top-10 Cattle Dog with a herding title (thanks to my mom, the herder of the family), and won Best Bred-By Exhibitor and an Award of Excellence at the 2011 AKC Eukanuba National Championship. Not only are these accomplishments a direct result of my individual skills, but they also highlight the hard work my family has done with our breeding program. Showing dogs brings me a lot of personal satisfaction, but it has remained paramount in my life because it is also my family's passion. In fact, not a whole lot has changed since my earliest years tagging along with my parents to shows...except now, I'm the one in the ring showing, and they're outside the ring clapping and cheering me on.
Even as I head halfway across the country to college, I know that my dogs and dog showing will continue to play a significant role in my life. Inspired by my fascination with the genetics of Australian Cattle Dogs, I have decided to study biology, and hope to pursue genetic research as a career. Eventually, I also plan to take over my family's breeding program, and continue showing dogs with my own family and children.
Over the years, breeding and showing dogs has proven to be more than a past time: it's a source of personal pride, and inspiration resulting from years of commitment and teamwork. Showing and raising dogs has been such a big part of what has shaped and defined me, that I know it will be impossible to separate my cattle dogs from my future. I am grateful for the lessons and successes I've had in the world of purebred dogs, and I am joyfully confident there will be more in the years to come.