You might call one Anchorage teen's upcoming trip to New York City a team effort. After all, you can't get to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show by yourself.

Chugiak High School junior Evelyn Rodriguez and her dog Killian, a Staffordshire bull terrier, are competing in the show. They've been together for most of Killian's life.

"For any handler, it's huge," Rodriguez said.

She'll enter this year's competition in the junior handler division, one of only two Alaskans to make it. The competition is so fierce nationwide that some people attempt to qualify out-of-state to give themselves the best opportunity. Evelyn made it by winning competitions in Alaska. 

Evelyn began handling dogs when she was 9 years old. Killian came to Alaska from Florida four years ago as a puppy, completing a match made in heaven. 

The competition will focus on Evelyn's skills as a handler and how she presents herself professionally. 

"I have a connection with my dog and the judges see that," she said. "So they usually say, 'Oh, well, she has a connection,' so they see it; the judges can tell." 

Getting to this point hasn't been easy. Rodriguez's first visit to a dog show with Killian wasn't a triumph. 

"He was just a little puppy and I got placed fourth," she said. "And I did cry and the judge told me that Killian was just too young, and I stopped showing him for a little bit. But no, I have to get back on track and show Killian."

Rodriguez is excited for the trip.

"With my own dog, especially, is a huge deal for me too – that I trained."

It all begins Monday. If they get past the early rounds, it's on to Madison Square Garden.

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