Dog lovers everywhere know the holidays mean time to gather with family and friends to watch the 2022 American Kennel Club (AKC) National Championship Dog Show.

You can find them on ABC stations which will be broadcast on January 1, 2023.

SEE: How to Watch the 2022 AKC National Championships

This year there are a record number of participants. More than 5,300 dogs from more than 20-countries will be competing for the top honor: Best in Show.

Bailee Rodgers, 23, will be a professional handler for the AKC National Championship, America's biggest dog show of the year.

Rodgers was born and raised in Casper. She told K2Radio News she moved to Florida about two weeks after graduating from Kelly Walsh in 2018, going on year five in the Sunshine State.

She's currently an assistant professional handler and graphic designer for dog campaigns.

"We’re all here for the same reason: to protect and preserve Purebred dogs!"

Rodgers and Marge earn Grand Champion Select at AKC Nationals 2020
Rodgers and Marge earn Grand Champion Select at AKC Nationals 2020

Rodgers got her start in the canine conformation world young.

She remembers that her grandmother, Noreene Rodgers, attended shows with her mom while growing up.

READ ALSO: Central Wyoming Kennel Club Dog Show, Photos

When Rodgers was only eight years old, Noreene brought her to a couple classes. "I began showing in juniors at nine and the rest is history," she said.

Rodgers and Shooter, an Australian Shepard
Rodgers and Shooter, an Australian Shepard

Rodgers has been working as an assistant dog handler since she was fourteen.

"Assisting is meant to teach up and coming handlers the responsibility of taking care of client dogs. We work right alongside the handler grooming, conditioning, and learning each individual dog's needs and wants. Eventually you gain enough knowledge to 'go out on your own'" said Rodgers.

This year is Rodgers' fifth year competing at nationals.

"Being a Professional Handler is very exhausting, both physically and mentally. We are on our feet for very long hours, running, training, grooming and showing. We are usually up at 5 am and don’t get done working until 11 pm, only stopping to eat and care for our client dogs."

"We dedicate our lives to these dogs and love them like our own, to the point of crying when we send them home to their owners."

Rodgers and Rebel, a Siberian Husky
Rodgers and Rebel, a Siberian Husky

What goes into grooming?

"It all depends on the dog, some require baths, some scissoring, some conditioning."

Leading up to the show the handlers groom the dogs weekly at minimum, usually daily.

Rodgers began with Siberian Huskies. Now she owns Alaskan Malamutes, Border Terriers and Pointers.

As a handler she works with mostly sporting ("gun dogs"), working ("sleds and carts, guardians, etc.") and Herding breeds.

Right now she is feeling excited as well as nervous, she said, leading up to the show on Sunday.

She'll be showing her personal dog, an Alaskan Malamute named Khaleesi, and they've been preparing since March.

Rodgers and her Alaskan Malamut Khaleesi, Courtesy
Rodgers and her Alaskan Malamute Khaleesi, Courtesy

"I will be starting my own handling business as well as continuing my graphics work. My goal is to help new people in our sport and keep it alive. We’re all here for the same reason: to protect and preserve Purebred dogs!"

SEE ALSO: Ranking the 63 Smartest Dog Breeds. 

Central Wyoming Kennel Club Dog Show

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