I was hugely excited to be invited back to Crufts this year, especially as they were celebrating their 125th Anniversary! My journey to Crufts started off at a much more civilised time than last year, which suited my need for my beauty sleep. We managed to arrive on the Friday around midday – with the amount of stuff we had packed into the car anyone would think we were staying all week, not just one night.
First port of call was the Press Office to sign in and collect all the information we would need for the day, including the Gundog breed catalogue. We needed the catalogue to help us track down our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever friend, Echo (aka Asterlily Amaze). Echo was one of twenty-four bitches entered in the Post Graduate Class and we found her in a nice quiet corner in the back of Hall 4. This was Echo’s second year at Crufts and she seemed to have a fun time in the show ring, but sadly did not make the final line up in her class. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers (Tollers) were originally from Canada and are used to lure waterfowl close to the shore to within range of the guns, then retrieve the birds from the water. They were introduced to the UK in 1988 and have grown in popularity due to their friendly, playful nature and handsome looks.
We had a little time left to spare on Friday and so wandered round some stalls. Mum bought me a fab new toy with eight, yes eight squeaks in it – this to a terrier is heavenly. She also took me to the Blind Dog Rescue UK (BDRUK) stand to meet beautiful Nym, the Romanian rescue. The charity rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes blind dogs throughout the UK and Europe. They also offer support and advice to owners of blind and partially sighted dogs, helping them to live full and happy lives. Nym’s story is particularly sad as she was abandoned on the streets of Romania and had her eyes gouged out to stop her finding her way home, she was then tortured in a dog pound. Nym was rescued by BDRUK and then proved to everyone what an amazing, trusting and placid dog she is by becoming the first BDRUK dog to be registered as a PAT (Pets as Therapy) dog.
Friday finished with my first ever stay in a hotel. Mum had thoughtfully packed my crate, bed, food bowl, water bowl, food, bed time treats, favourite blanket ……I think you can see why the car was so full! We settled down to room service and watched Crufts on TV, Mum said I was very well behaved.
Saturday arrived with a full English breakfast (well mine was Canadian, as I eat Orijen) and off we went to Crufts again. I met up with my fellow Barking Bugle repawters in the Press Office, after a brief board meeting they went off to explore the halls, whilst I planned my day.
As we sat in the press office perusing the day’s activities I was delighted to see Allen Parton and EJ come in and park near us. Several years ago I read Allen’s book “Endal”, which he wrote about his struggles following his injury in the Gulf and how his first Labrador Assistance Dog (Endal) saved his life – I found it so moving I cried many times and became a huge fan of Endal, who was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal (Dickin Medal) in 2002. Sadly, like all of us, Endal grew too old to work and handed over his Assistance Dog role to EJ (Endal Junior), who never leaves Allen’s side. In memory of Endal, Allen set up the charity Hounds for Heroes in 2010, the charity aims to provide service dogs to wounded Armed Forces and Emergency Services men and women.
I was so pleased to meet Allen and EJ, they had also brought with them into the press office Squadron Leader Wayne Palmer (a media reservist) and Rookie (also a reservist). Rookie is an amazingly handsome and friendly golden retriever who works for Hounds for Heroes as a Developmental Dog. He lives with Allen and EJ and has not been assigned to a particular person because he is so intelligent and intuitive, as Allen said “if Rookie cannot work out how to help someone, then none of the other dogs will”. Rookie is the equivalent of a research scientist – he develops new techniques to assist people and uses his wonderfully sweet nature to soften the heart of anyone he comes into contact with – I’m not easy, but I certainly fell for him!
My next duty was to escort my Grandma around the stands in Hall 2, whilst Mum went to get the low down in the Main Arena for me – dogs are not allowed into the seating area so I had to send my assistant. Mum returned with some wonderful news – my buddy Jack and his amazing team mates (Flora, Spook and Parker) from Rushden Randoms had only gone and won the Small Team Agility Final!!!!!!!!! To say I was delighted would be an understatement.
I had just calmed down when I arrived at the Canine Partners stand, where I met the lovely Wendy Hilling and the very handsome Ted. Grandma even got her copy of “My Life in His Paws – The Story of Ted & How He Saved Me” signed by Wendy. Canine Partners is a charity that aims to transform the lives of people with disabilities by providing them with highly trained assistance dogs. Ted, the Golden Retriever was trained by Canine Partners to assist Wendy with a wide range of daily tasks such as opening and closing doors, retrieving items, undressing, pressing buttons, unloading the washing machine, picking up money from the cash point, collecting items from a supermarket shelf and putting them in the trolley. Ted also acts as a guide dog to Wendy when she suffers from a sudden migraine and needs help to get home, he is so clever he can even act as a medical alert dog if Wendy’s blood pressure goes up or if she stops breathing in her sleep. Ted has changed Wendy’s life so much and given her so much confidence that she decided to write a book about him so everyone would know how special he is. Whilst at the Canine Partners stand I had the pleasure of talking to Wendy personally, she was very friendly and seemed to be a real dog lover.
Still in Hall 2 I found several interesting stands, one being DermOpt. DermOpt have a range of products containing NewGenn technology, this has been created by a vet following extensive scientific research into dogs with skin conditions. I also enjoyed visiting the Feelwells stand where the lovely lady fed me some of their wonderful natural, hypo-allergenic dog treats and swapped naughty terrier stories with my Mum.
Back to the press office for another catch up with Frodo and Josef, this is where we all fell for the charms of novelist Jilly Cooper. Jilly was at Crufts to judge the Scruffts Final, she eventually chose Bella (Best Rescue), the lurcher as her overall winner.
Saturday at Crufts was such a busy day for us, we had a quick lunch and moved on the Young Kennel Club Arena to watch local girl Demi Wright compete in the YKC Small ABC Agility Final with her tiny Papillon x Chihuahua, Pip. As I predicted, they were the smallest (and at 9 years old Demi was the youngest) entered in the competition. They had managed to qualify in first place and so had to run first. Demi walked out confidently to the start line with little Pip in her arms. They set off brilliantly, despite their age (Pip is only 4), they are a very experienced pair – they are only one agility win away from moving up to KC Grade 6 and it showed. The crowd around the ring was huge, unfortunately this did not help little Pip (who had been rescued in Ireland as a youngster) and insecurities from his past crept in when he realised he couldn’t see Demi’s Mum in the sea of faces. Demi worked really hard to keep Pip focussed and was clear all the way to the second from last obstacle, where Pip misunderstood and took the wrong obstacle, resulting in elimination. I was really impressed with their run and hope they have better luck next year.
My hectic day of repawting finished at the breed show ring of the Norwegian Buhund, where I cheered another of my agility pals, Loxy (Trelowen Andrea) on to third place in the extremely strong Limit Bitch class. Loxy describes herself as an agility dog, not a show dog, as she has been awarded the Bronze Agility Warrant for her successes. I was later informed that the two bitches that beat Loxy in her class went on to win Best Bitch and Reserve Best Bitch, so she may need to credit herself more for her showing ability! One thing I picked up from sitting around their ring and watching the Norwegian Buhunds was how happy, friendly and charming they all were.
It was finally time to go home and despite a busy day, I felt buoyed up with exhilaration. I can’t wait to return to Crufts next year, although I will miss the pleasure of gentlemanly Frodo’s company and will have to keep control of the two “lads on tour” – Gizmo and Josef.
P.s Well done to my lovely Manchester Terrier pals Kita and Jazz, who competed in the showing on Sunday. Both picked up fourth place in their respective classes and Kita won the Good Citizen Class for the second year running!