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Curtain Down On Crufts 2013

 by Polly King

Claire Balding in rehearsal

Once more Crufts is over, done and dusted, but we only have to wait a little over 360 days before we will once again gather at the NEC for the world’s greatest dog show! Before we look ahead though it is good to reflect on this year’s show.

As in 2012 Crufts 2013 was not without its controversial issues. Last year it was the introduction of the health testing of the high profile breeds, resulting in some dogs not passing the health checks. This year it was the Scrufts finalists with some pedigree exhibitors not happy that the Scufts final was to be judged at the show. By next year no doubt the Scrufts finalists will be part of the scenery we now expect to see at Crufts. The Kennel Club is for all dogs and over the years many crossbred and true ‘heinz 57’ dogs have been at Crufts competing in Obedience, Agility, Flyball and latterly Heelwork to Music, often referred to as ‘Dancing with Dogs’, however this is the first time they have had their own moment in the spotlight as show exhibits.

The Scrufts judge Pam St Clements better known as ‘Pat Butcher’ in Eastenders took her time deciding on the winner, the decision was not easy even though there were only four entrants. Prettiest Bitch - Becky from Northern Ireland;  Handsome Dog -  two year old Alfie a Labrador Great Dane cross; Golden Oldie – Rascal, a Jack Russell type terrier x Norwich terrier (one of her owners is serving in Afghanistan)  and last but not least Barley a golden retriever x Pyrenean who won through to the final representing the Childs Best Friend category.  Scrufts was won by the delightful Becky a dog that was rescued with her siblings from the river Lagan in Northern Ireland, where they had been left to their fate. Becky and all her siblings were saved and ‘forever’ homes found for them. Becky’s owner Margaret McKnight was thrilled Becky won and the huge smile on Margaret’s face as she lifted the trophy to go around the ring in a lap of honour said it all, she was so proud of her lovely dog.

For London Dog Forum as with many visitors to Crufts, it is a time to catch up with people we only see once a year at Crufts and to meet our readers and twitter followers. This year we met up with Rob Fellows who demonstrated Reiki 4 Dogs and people. Fellow reporter Stephanie Presdee had hurt her hand and Rob demonstrated Reiki for us, afterwards Steph said her hand did, in fact, feel a lot better, thank you Rob! Rob also offered to demonstrate his hypnotherapy which could help with weight loss, but the lure of cakes in our lunch boxes put an end to that idea for us for the time being at least.

Meeting up with old friends is definitely one of the high points of the show for many people and we are no exception. Touring the show we found Margaret from Dog Theft Action busy demonstrating and selling the new Halo Scanner which identifies a lost or stolen dog as soon as its micro-chip is scanned. Further round we also met the man responsible for creating the Halo Scanner Nick  Smith, (as I write this he is stuck on a ferry trying to get into the Guernsey harbour with the boat delayed due to the bad weather, he hopes to make it to the port by midnight tonight).

Nick Scan and Petlog Dog

The Halo scanner will make it easier than ever for vets and dog wardens to reunite dogs with their families, which judging by the number of ‘Lost or Stolen’ dog posters on Debbie Matthews’ stand covering one wall from top to bottom has been a long time in coming! Debbie told us “Dog theft as ever is increasing and owners should always be aware of where their dog is and never leave it tied up outside a shop even if you are only popping in to pick up a couple of things”. Her husband Richard who has supported her with her campaign told us he is very proud of all she has done and is continuing to do, lobbying MPs and attending Defra meetings trying to get the law changed so that a micro-chip will become recognised as legal proof of ownership of a dog.

Another old friend is Alan Parton and he was on a stand promoting Hounds for Heroes, young EJ his faithful yellow Labrador his constant companion as ever. On Friday there was a Get Fit In Your Kit challenge to launch this new and fun way to raise money for Hounds For Heroes. On the web site are four challenges to choose from ranging from easy to really tough. Each challenge has up to six exercises to do.

If you do not want to do any of the challenges listed on the web site then you can make up your own. The only requirement is that you do the challenges in your everyday work wear, so if you are a plumber you might be in overalls and carry your plumbing tools, if you are an office worker you might carry a brief case and umbrella, and anyone in a service such as a police officer, nurse or community group e.g. brownie or scout can wear their uniforms too. The main challenge month is to be June 2013.

Crufts now covers 5 halls at the NEC, the arena and the pavilion, so it might seem impossible to find so many old friends in such a vast area, but as many have stands it does make it easier for us. When we met up with Tony and Tina who come up to Crufts to help with the SSAFA stand we were pleased to be introduced to Tony’s new assistance dog Sniper, who slept through our visit curled up on Tony’s lap.  We thought Safa was small for an assistance dog but Sniper is even smaller!

SSAFA and new dog Sniper

Despite the dreadful weather on Saturday we watched Dogs Club TV filming a breed profile outside the NEC by the lake. Chris Wise of Mandrill TV who produces the films, said he was pleased to be filming outside as the weather had meant that some breed profiles could only be filmed in the Arena area which was not ideal. As the filming went on the great British weather broke and like members of a ‘Time Team dig’ we slowly got wetter and wetter. Watching the very well trained flatcoats go through their paces was wonderful to see, as we hear these dogs have a reputation of being ‘scatty’. We were assured that this is more often than not down to the standard of training or lack of it rather than being in built in the breed.

The big occasion for us was to attend the Kennel Club Charitable Trust’s International Canine Health Awards, which are sponsored by Vernon and Shirley Hill. Vernon Hill is founder and chairman of Metro Bank, as he said at the presentation he would like to think of himself as that rare commodity ‘A Good Banker’! The awards were presented to Dr Elaine Ostrander who is probably best known for her work in mapping the canine genome and research into cancer, particularly breast cancer and prostate cancer and heart disease in humans. Dr Ostrander was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award and £10,000 to put towards her research.

Professor Gustarvo Aguirre was awarded The International Prize in Canine Health and a cheque for £40,000. Professor Aguirre has developed a gene therapy in Briard dogs which help people with early onset blindness conditions of the retina such as LCA to see again. The final recipient was Emily Milodowski of Bristol University who won the Student Inspiration Award for her work on the effects of campylobacter in the canine gut and how bacteria might affect the healing process of wounds and sores. At a time when health professionals are warning us all of the dangers of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the danger this poses to public health, Emily’s research which was funded by the Wellcome Trust, could bring both dogs and people  a new alternative to treating bacterial infections.

For the dog exhibitors the big occasion was the group judging at the end of each day followed on the final night by Best In Show. The final line up presented the Best in Show judge Geoff Corrish with a lovely line up of some very nice dogs, to go over. On Thursday we were by the ringside when the Skye Terrier was awarded Best of Breed by Mr Colin Dann, so it was really good to see this British breed (which is considered to be rarer than a Bengal tiger or a panda we were told by an exhibitor) win the group and represent the terrier group on the final day. The final selection of dogs consisted of the King Charles spaniel from the toy group; representing the working group the German Shepherd; from the pastoral group the Australian Shepherd; from the utility group Tibetan Terrier and the Labrador Retriever from the Gundog group, but the winning dog came from the hound group. The Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, Jilly was worthy winner. She has been eye catching since a young pup at local open shows. We first time we came across her was at one of the Reading based open shows where she was best puppy in breed and even then was quite a character. We wish her a very happy retirement from the ring, but are sure she may well still be seen at the ringcraft club (which Gavin is a founder member of) in Horspath Oxfordshire.

Steve Dean and Polly King

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