At 21 years old, Lindsay Gorder has already found the great passions of her life.
Gorder was only 7 when she first discovered her knack for show dog handling.
Gorder, now a junior studying political science with a focus in law, was first introduced to the world of dog shows by her mother, who used to be a Portuguese Water Poodle breeder.
Miles Flett, junior economics major and Gorder’s boyfriend, describes Gorder as “very, outgoing and confident. She’s one of those people that’s inspiring; always has something going on.”
She chose to attend Seattle Pacific due to its proximity to family, who are located in Lake Stevens and due to the access to practice one of her passions.
“I wanted it stay close to home, and I was really into dog shows, so I wanted to stay nearby,” Gorder said about her decision.
Gorder won her first state dog show competition when she was just 8 years old.
Early on she realized her love for dogs, poodles especially, as well as her natural talent in competition.
“I caught on to the showmanship factor really quick, and I was hooked,” Gorder said.
Since then Gorder has shown over 100 poodles all around the nation.
“One of my proudest accomplishments is [receiving] second in New York to the standard poodle that won first place in Europe in 2016,” Gorder reflected.
She received her first sponsorship when she was 15 from Debra Ferguson Jones of Lakeridge Kennels. Through this sponsorship, Gorder receives a selected puppy that shows potential. She then lives with them and trains them for around two or three years before that dog retires from show business.
“I underestimated how much goes into dog shows. The diet, grooming and training of the dogs is a really involved process.” Flett said, having attended a few dog shows and been backstage at some of the events.
On top of that main sponsor, Gorder also shows a few other animals whose owners ask her to show. These smaller clients are only shown a few times a month locally and do not live with her.
Currently Gorder handles five clients, her main dog Spender being the No. 1 standard poodle in the nation.
“It was actually one of my goals to show a standard dog, and I’m actually the youngest handler in the states right now,” Gorder said.
Gorder normally competes with 30-40 year olds on average.
Flett described being shocked when attending his first show. “I didn’t realize how big the dog show community [is].”
Spender, who has been with her since he was 6 months old and who is currently 2 years old, was the first male Gorder’s ever worked with.
Spender’s full registered name is “MBIS MBISS GCH Lakeridge Kaylen’s Hey Big Spender.”
“He’s so fun, and I’m definitely in love with him!” she said about Spender, who will be retiring soon.
The pair stays busy, as they compete in shows almost every weekend.
“She has a long day during competitions,” stated Flett. “Her day starts at 4 a.m. and can drag on.”
Gorder also attends handling classes about two times a week. In these classes she learns more techniques on how to train and show dogs.
Dog handling keeps a full schedule, giving Gorder only a couple of weekends off throughout the year. For example, in the first three weeks of January, Gorder spent 16 out of 21 days in shows.
“She keeps a tight schedule, planning when she has class or shows or time for homework,” Flett added about her daily life. “I think it’s incredible. As college students, we live for the weekend, but that’s when Lindsay’s work begins, and she does this year round.”
On top of the shows, Gorder trains with the dogs two times a week. “They train like athletes and learn special ways to stand and walk, similar to models,” she said.
“The Westminster Show in New York is the most fun, and I also enjoy showing in Orlando, where about 5,000 dogs compete,” Gorder said.
Gorder also grooms her poodles herself. Although it is more common for handlers to hire assistants to do the work, Gorder enjoys doing it herself; she even describes the experience as “therapeutic.”
Gorder does not take a salary, but trades the work for experience and the free travel, partly because of her age, but also as a personal choice.
Although Gorder has 14 years of experience, she emphasizes her desire to keep dog handling a hobby, and not a full-time career.
“I don’t want to rely on it for work, because I love it so much,” she said. “I don’t want it to become something I have to do; I want it to stay hobby, a really in-depth hobby.”
Instead, she hopes to practice corporate law as an attorney. She also hopes to eventually be able to take the occasional pro-bono case in family law as her way of giving back to the community.
“I’ve always loved rules and the Constitution,” Gorder said. “It makes sense to me.”
Despite her being in the dog show world for a long time, Gorder has always felt drawn toward law. A family friend practicing in the field inspired her, and since then her studies have confirmed for Gorder that law is the path she wants to take.
“[Gorder]’s experience with time-management, handling clients and long working hours, I think, will really help her in the future, practicing law” Flett commented.
Being a handler and a student, Gorder finds herself with a tight schedule and little time for other activities. “It’s hard to have a third thing, since I’m out of the state almost every weekend,” Gorder said.
Still, she feels a satisfactory balance between both big parts of her life. “I’m definitely happy the two are separate and I can keep handling as a hobby,” she said.
Gorder has excelled in both fields, placing in several shows through the years and making Dean’s List consistently for the last several quarters.
Taking part in two worlds that she loves, Gorder hopes to continue this balance for as long as possible.