You can see it in her eyes, that flash of delight that signals something good has happened or is about to. You can hear the excitement in her voice when she talks about the experiences she has had over the past few years. And, after only a few minutes in Jenna Thornton’s presence, you know that she has a special love of animals, particularly dogs, and wants to do all she can to make them shine.
For her, doing that, means bringing them center stage, as part of a dog show circuit that has brought both her and the animals she has shown some successes.
Showing dogs is a serious business for Thornton, a rising 10th grader at Clinton High School. She is the youngest member of the Sampson County Coon Club and one of only two females in the club.
She got involved showing dogs after attending a few local events and has quickly risen to the top of the leader board.
Thornton shows dogs all over the United States and has won numerous awards and titles.
And she knows precisely what the judges are looking for — not only are they analyzing how she handles the dog, she points out, they are checking angles of legs, eyes, teeth, ears and bones-looking for the coon hound that best represents that breed.
Her Treeing Walkers, Journey and Tonka, have done well this year.
“Tonka is 4 years old and has won overall shows in Smithfield, Virginia youth and N.C. Youth,” Thornton explains, pride easing into her voice. “Journey is one year’s old and still new to this and needs to be built a lot more before I put him in more advanced shows. Journey has placed in Smithfield, Clinton and at N.C. State,” she attests, a smile spreading across her face as she talks about the show animal.
“At these shows you will see the best of the best dogs from all over the country. I competed at Nationals in West Virginia last year. We look to travel to Indiana, West Virginia, Tennessee on my birthday and to attend The World Bench show in Georgia. “I have been on this journey for five years now.’
She couldn’t be so successful, Thornton quickly points out, without those closest to her. “Without the support of my parents, none of this would be possible.”
Thornton is the daughter of Alton and Betsy Thornton of Harrells.
“My daughter amazes me at how much she has learned doing this,” her mom says.
“Jenna has had to learn not only about training the dogs, but more importantly making sure they are clean and healthy all the time. She is teaching her little sister Jaxie a lot, too, by being a positive role model for her. Jaxie was able to help Jenna out when she injured her leg and couldn’t show. Jaxie may or may not become fully vested in this, but if she does we will support her. If not, that’s okay too. I want my girls to make their own way in life and do what gives them happiness.”
Currently, Jenna and Tonka are in the top 10 in the world for the breed Treeing Walker Coon hounds. If they continue to win, they will get an invitation to show and compete in Mississippi.
“A personal reward for me is to look at my dogs and see all the hard work I have put into them,” Thornton pointed out. “Training is every day, three times a day. These dogs are so pampered with baths, nail trims and haircuts. They are well taken care of. I enjoy every minute of it.”