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Southlake Style

Handle With Care

Mar 05, 2014 10:29AM ● By Anonymous

Photo by Dustin Vyers

By Christina Mlynski

Erin and Her Aussies Prove Why They’re Top Dogs 

Rounds of applause erupt as Erin Turman strides down the navy blue carpet of the showroom with her furry sidekick, Briarbrooks Invincible, at the Texas Kennel Club. A judge dressed in stark black stands in the middle of the room, keeping a keen eye on Erin as she struts in a circle to show off her purebred Australian Shepherd. Erin briskly leads Briarbrooks Invincible back towards the judges, stopping quickly enough for him to stand in perfect composure — exuding confidence. Applause fills the showroom as Erin leads her trusted companion off the carpet. For Erin, this show leads to win No. 114.

After the dog show is all said and done, Erin and her family pile back into their silver van, which carries the bumper sticker, “Hauling Aussies.” Then, it’s on to the next competition.

Erin competes in 40 shows a year, typically traveling between three and eight hours, two to three times a month. Although it might be hard to calculate how long that is in doggy years, the yearly trips to Austin, San Antonio and even Wichita Falls are all stepping stones to get to the end goal of competing in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

“I’ve always had a love for dogs, and this is just different from sports,” Erin says. “I don’t want to do sports. I’m not bad at sports, but it’s just so typical. I want to do something that’s out of the ordinary and make a name for myself.”

The love for showing dogs is a family affair. Before Erin was born, her mom, Carroll ISD Accounts Payable Clerk, Kathy Turman, began training Rottweilers for agility competitions. This clocks the fastest time for a dog to complete the obstacle course put in its path. That’s where the love story began.

However, once Erin decided to take over the family hobby, Kathy and her husband, Craig, took a different route when it came to their miniature Australian Shepherd, Lola. Lola’s breeder convinced the Turmans to train Lola to compete in conformation shows, which show off the purebred breed of the dogs, which are then awarded accordingly. After training Lola for four months, Erin attended her first conformation competition at the age of 7, winning best junior in her category.

“After that, I just kind of got hooked,” she says.

 During her first year in 2010, Erin competed in 15 shows. At just 9 months old, Lola earned her MASCA Championship. On average, it takes a dog until the age of 5 to finish its championship. 

Between 2010 and 2012, Erin and Lola competed in hundreds of conformation competitions, taking home 282 different awards, ranging from Texas Mini Aussie Club No. 1 Female of the Year, to MASCA No.1 Conformation Dog of the year and International Canine Kennel Club Top Junior Handler of the Year.

“When I won best junior that year, I had 434 best junior points, which is a record,” Erin says. “I’m retired out of the rare breeds competition, but I have friends in there who are still trying to beat my record.”

Lola still competes, but she’s no longer strutting her coat through showings. Instead, she’s taking to the obstacle courses and is getting ready to compete in various agility competitions.

Currently, Erin competes with Brookshire Invincible, who is an AKC-certified Australian Shepherd and goes by Vince when he’s not on the road. The 3-year-old furry fellow comes from one of the top kennels in the country, Briarbrooks Kennel, which is known for producing some of the country’s best Australian Shepherds and taking home hundreds of awards, even setting records.

Vince joined the Turman family in May 2013, and it was love at first lick. Since then, the dynamic duo has received more than 100 different awards. To prepare for competitions, Erin trains Vince 40 minutes a day by attaching a leash to her bicycle and riding throughout the neighborhood. Additionally, Erin trains with renowned handler, Clint Livingston, who is one of the top handlers in the country.

This summer, Erin and Vince will travel to Colorado, where Clint lives, and compete in various dog shows throughout the Midwest and the South for two months.

Clint explains that Erin’s desire to learn, her passion for Vince and determination to perform to the best of her abilities are what set her apart from other junior handlers throughout the country.

“She watches, asks lots of questions, and you can instantly tell she is doing something she loves and just wants to get better and better at it,” he says.

Like her fellow companions, Erin is extremely professional when she is on the road and competing at shows. However, once everyone returns home, the Turman family gets the chance to unwind — even Vince and Lola.

“They get home, and they turn into the biggest goofballs ever,” Erin says. “They are just hilarious with what they do. Vince will just roll over and look at me like, ‘scratch my belly.’”

However, downtime is a rare commodity in the dog show arena. On March 1, Erin began her pursuit of conformation shows, ultimately attempting to win enough awards to earn Vince’s championship. To reach her goal to qualify for Westminster, she must finish his championship or win 7 Best In Shows in the junior handler competitions.

Vince is already qualified for the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, which takes place in December. This championship receives thousands of the world’s top canine competitors from all over the country, earning the title of Best in Show honors.

As Erin continues to compete, many challenges and benefits will continue to rise to the surface. However, the biggest obstacle is creating a reputation and earning recognition in the showmanship world.

Given the nearly 50 shows Erin competes in annually and the impressive awards she is taking home, it won’t be long before she becomes a household name.

“Just like anything that people compete in, there are ups and downs, emotional highs and lows,” Clint says. “But in the end, you get to share your time with man’s best friend.”

Erin’s Top Accomplishments

2011: MASCA Top Junior Handler of the Year

2011: Texas Mini Aussie Club Top Junior Handler of the Year

2012 #1 MASCA Dog of the Year

2012: International Canine Kennel Club Top Junior Handler of the Year

2013: No. 8 on the 2013 Juniors Breed Top 10