Young Fundraiser of the Year...

Georgina (Georgie) has been borrowing dogs and running Agility courses since she was six years old. After the family lost their previous GSD Cara, her parents decided that, at the age of nine, Georgie was ready for her own dog. The next one would be hers. Their initial thought was a spanielly-sized rescue. South West German Shepherd Rescue (SWGSDR) came to do a home check for them. The home checkers were fostering Bella, a Romanian rescue. It was love at first sight. This is back story behind this determined young lady who saw how awful the first few months of her best friendís life had been and how she has worked to help other rescue dogs. And now she is has been nominated for the prestigious YKC Young Person of the Year.

Georgie has always been concerned about the plight of unwanted dogs both here and abroad and even more so when she learned about Bella's appalling start in life.

When Bella first arrived, age approximately six months, she had the tendency to guard and steal food. On her first evening, she stole Georgie's chicken breast right off her plate on the table and ate it in an instant. We quickly discovered that Bella was a fantastic problem solver. When you think about it, itís obvious, She is only here because her predecessors possessed and used their brains to survive. 

Later that year, she told me that she wanted to raise £250 so one more dog could be saved and adopted thus perpetuating the legacy. As her mother, I was concerned that £250 was a big sum for a 10 year old and so we discussed ways she may achieve her goal.  Original ideas and value for money were the key points Georgie felt would help raise funds.

And so she started, glass painting at some local dog shows and she cooked a massive batch of liver cake to sell at a doggie Christmas Bazaar. Suddenly her goal didnít seem insurmountable any more. Within the year, with hard work Georgie had reached her target, but she didnít stop. She started fetching people's water for them at camping dog shows, and she spends hours glass painting in between her own runs. She was devastated when one fundraiser was hijacked for another charity by a figure of authority. I was so proud of her when she stood up to the unfairness, challenged the decision and got back the money back for her charity.

By the end of the 2016, Georgie had added copper bracelets to her repertoire and she topped the £500 target, but she still didn't stop.

In between all this, we worked through problems at home while Georgie has managed to train Bella and qualify for Crufts for not one year but three in a row.

Life with Bella is always interesting
Often rewarding but not always easy, Bella suffers with a combination of dog reactivity and the human magnetism. She loves all people and her waggy tail and swaying nose are legendary.

She likes to play with other dogs as long as there is lots of open space, no food or toys about and all involved 'speak dog' really well. However, in more restrictive areas, she struggles to relax and can be grumpy.

Finding the right training environment was important
Outside with small groups is ideal, but if indoors, then the fewer dogs and the larger the venue the better and the easier it is for Bella to concentrate. Georgie is never harsh, always upbeat and motivating saying sometimes she feels she puts more effort into the run than her dog!

Georgie found that 'shaping' was the best way to train Bella. Teaching 2 x 2 weaves using the clicker was the obvious choice. We really did do it in 13 days with only one day off.

In the ring
Some of the highlights of Bella's first season of competition included leaving the ring for the food tent or eating animal poo. If you have the same issue, Georgie says donít lose hope. Use garlic sausage instead! Four years on and Bella knows that Georgie has the best food in her pocket - always changing to prevent boredom . But a cautionary note, see the Crufts steak incident below.

Because of her love of space and dislike of confined spaces, queuing at shows creates it's own problems. These are resolved by Georgie queuing and mum standing out of the way with Bella. Once the previous dog is in the ring, Bella is moved in and Georgie has already asked the next person to give her space. This works really well and Bella is confident and happy to enter the large open space (aka the ring) which is a safe / fun place for her as no other dogs enter whilst she runs around playing with Georgie.

At home, she has a fantastic 'wait' but Georgie never uses it in competition as this gives Bella time to overthink the situation and get worried. You can always tell when she's really having fun as she woofs at Georgie as they are going round. Sometimes naughty contacts are accompanied by an 'I canít be bothered to stop on it this time' woof. She just makes us smile.

Despite these problems, Georgie has managed to qualify Bella for Crufts in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Competing there compounds Bella's insecurities further as there are a great many dogs in a very small space. Due to her past, poor Bella is terrified of metal fence and cages so crating is out of the question. We have discovered an end bench with Georgie's moon chair facing inwards and all her supporters around works really well. She is marched ringside at the last moment and is perfectly happy in the large open space of the picket fenced YKC ring.  Her favourite bit is running the dogwalk which is usually on the ring edge where she can play to her adoring public and check out what they are having for lunch. 

The first year they competed at Crufts, it was all a bit much for a 10 year old and Georgie got lost on course but still left with the best dog. Last year, the reward of choice was steak fat, some of which was given to Bella just before she entered the ring.  Unfortunately, it was a peppery bit! She took the first jump, got half way down the weaves Östopped, sneezed, shook her head then carried on weaving.  Lesson learned... no more peppery steak.

Georgie and Bella have been competing together now for four years and they are best friends. They have made it all the way to Grade 5 and have qualified for the YKC ABC class at Crufts  for the 3rd year running. All this from a sensitive intelligent and lovable Romanian Street dog and her adoring 13 year old owner.

Georgie needs your vote
Georgie dedicates her time to fundraising and her determination has never faltered from an early age. With the invaluable support of the agility community and others she has single handedly raised £3,353.07 for Bella's charity SWGSD Rescue - an amazing achievement for a 13 year old. The public sent in their nominations and this year she won the Young Fundraiser of the Year and is a finalist for the YKC Young Person of the Year Award.

She needs your vote. If you would like to recognise her hard work, selflessness and social awareness, please vote for her at YKC Young Person of the Year web page. Voting takes seconds and no signup is required. The deadline for voting is midday on Saturday, 9th March 2019.  The overall winner will be announced at Crufts in the YKC ring at 11.40am.

About the author...
Julie Bearder is the proud mum of this young lady.

Julie has been competing and judging at shows for more years that she cares to remember.

She has always had German Shepherds, but she is now competing at the other end of the spectrum with a small but feisty Manchester Terrier.


Photo: Alan Castle Photography

First published 12th February 2019


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