Dog handler heads to nationals

An Oak Harbor high schooler will again compete to be the top junior dog handler in her age group.

An Oak Harbor high schooler will once again compete to be the top junior dog handler in her age group, this time with a massive mastiff by her side.

Maryah Love, a junior at Oak Harbor High School, qualified as the United Kennel Club’s number three junior handler. She will be attending an invitation-only top 10 event, the Premier Nationals, in Michigan this June. Love will show her 2-year-old, 100-pound Cane Corso, Bebe, who is the first dog that Love purchased with her own money.

Love became interested in handling when she attended dog shows with her mother as a young child. She likes it because it’s a great way to bond with the animal, she said.

Love has been passionate about Cane Corsos since she was about 11. Her family bought a Cane Corso that did not turn out to be show quality, so Love focused on the American Bully breed. At last years’ Premier Nationals, she showed a Bully named Kilo. Unfortunately, the dog had allergy issues and was itching too much to stay still.

Love met a Cane Corso breeder at a dog show and decided to purchase Bebe. She said she likes the breed because they remind her of American Bullies but they’re larger, so she doesn’t have to get up and down as much when handling the dog.

Love’s mother, Mary Edwards, said that if Love wins the competition she will get bragging rights. Love wants to become a professional handler and as soon as she turns 18, she can be compensated for her work.

“I think she has a really good chance,” Edwards said. “She’s awesome with people and dogs.”

Edwards said that it’s rare for someone of Love’s age to be handling a breed like the Cane Corso and Bebe will undoubtedly be the only one at the competition. Love has a history and the skill set to handle larger dogs with higher aggression levels.

“She’s got this massive afro and this big scary dog,” Edwards said. “She stands out.”