Well, as usual, it’s been a busy few months and a little momentous in some ways - for all the wrong reasons! At the end of the year, Pedigree decided to pull out of everything in the working dog world, so Mary was informed that in future they would not be sponsoring her and, likewise, with myself, I have looked after their working dog sponsorship for nearly 20 years so it did come as a bit of unpleasant news although, I have to say, it’s all been very amicable and they have put an awful lot into agility during the 30 years that they supported it. And there’s no doubt, their support has helped, especially in the early days, in getting agility started with the finals at Olympia. Anyway, if you’re driving through Rugby and see me collecting trolleys on Tesco car park you’ll know what it’s all about! I just need to find Mary a new sponsor now.
Mary has had a good three months. At Discover Dogs, Celtic Feet, the Irish Dancers, came down and stayed the weekend and they performed their stunning Crufts 2009 routine twice on each day of the show and Mary also did a tricks and training spot as well. The show itself was tremendously exciting and successful, having moved from Earls Court 2 into the much bigger Earls Court 1 hall and that really added to the atmosphere of the event, especially as there was much more room for spectators to walk round and a few extra trade stands and features. I understand that once more it was a record gate.
Also in November, Mary teamed up with Richard Curtis at MyPetStop in Leeds, where they did a cabaret afternoon. I think there were around 150 in the audience and it was a really good, fun afternoon. In fact, there were some people in the audience who had flown in especially from Europe to see the show and that’s true I’m not kidding.
A couple of days after Discover Dogs, I had my own bit of holiday. It is difficult now for us both to get away together. Mary’s sister’s health is not good and being able to leave the dogs is more and more difficult, especially as we now have ten. So, I had ‘permission’ to go away with a friend of mine whose wife will not leave the dogs, hasn’t got a passport and doesn’t intend getting one. So we decided to have a couple of holidays at a local destination. It wasn’t quite Butlins so we flew out after DD via Hong Kong to Cambodia. We did Phnom Penh which is a really exciting and unfortunately very poverty struck main city of the country. I won’t go into everything we did but certainly we saw the Killing Fields, the famous torture school and I can assure you this really focuses your mind on man’s inhumanity to man. From here we went on to Siem Reap and again all sightseeing, the main part being Angkor Wat which has got the most awe-inspiring temple complex you’re ever likely to see. In fact, it’s where they filmed an Indiana Jones movie. What a tremendous country to visit and what lovely people. From here we went down to Borneo and did everything from going up in the jungle and finding out how delicious rice whisky was to meeting my friend the orang-utan - a really tremendous holiday but it will take me a long time to save for another one while I’m collecting trolleys on a car park (okay, okay, I’m only joking !!)
Anyway, while I was away Mary was busy getting ready for Olympia. She qualified Julie Skipp’s China for the Olympia Novice Final after competing in the semi finals at Stoneleigh, so she was really pleased with herself. As usual, I was running the final for the Kennel Club and Pedigree. Overall, it was probably one of the most successful events I’ve run for them yet.; I have a great team working for me and amazingly virtually every seat in the building was sold out over all five days that we had agility on.
Now, back to Mary and the Novice final. We had a 35 dog semi final at Olympia on the Sunday morning, 20th December. Charlie Wyatt from Rugby was judging; he’s a Championship Judge and there was severe difficulty in all his courses. The top ten in this competition were going through to the final on the Saturday nights, dogs placed 11th to 20th would compete in a pairs relay competition. Mary had a really good run and got sixth in the semi final with a clear round in 36.75, less than 2 seconds behind the leader and, I have to say, that I don’t think the guy in the lead was actually born when Mary first competed at Olympia. In fact, it must be some kind of record as this was the 24th time that Mary competed at Olympia and she has competed with six different dogs. Anyway, she was through to the Saturday night Grand final. She had a tremendous run but Anthony Clarke who was the morning semi final winner also won the final and Mary had just 5 faults and did really well to get a time of 38.41 but even if she’s not had the 5 faults on that time she would still only have got fourth place. One or two people said afterwards they were sorry she didn’t do better but I can tell you that she was absolutely over the moon with all the hundreds and hundreds of dogs who tried to get through to the Olympia Novice and then get fifth place against handlers somewhat younger than her, she was really delighted.
||Blazing Red of Rujaff
||Laetare Pike’s First Edition
||Just a Little Farm Boy
||She’s the One
After Olympia, as usual, it was a quiet family Christmas. Unfortunately, while we were at Olympia, one of Mary’s older brothers passed away so that did put a little bit of a dampener on it.
I bought her a Wii for Christmas or she told me I’d bought it for her when she turned up with it! so her and the family were a little besotted with that over Christmas and I’m now expecting some repetitive strain injury through playing tennis, bowling or snooker!
Also around Christmas we had a certificate arrive in the post to say that Mary had been nominated for a top prize in the National Bookwriters Competition for Superdog, chosen by a team of international canine correspondents, trainers and behaviourists. The award night was to be in February, asking us if we’d like to come along to the banquet and see if Mary had won an award. I had almost got to the computer to log on and book the tickets when I realised that the address of the hotel where the presentation was taking place was in Manhattan opposite the venue for Westminster Dog Show - yes, you’ve guessed it, it was New York! Mary had won through with the American edition of the book.
January saw Mary starting the planning for her Crufts routine. She decided on the music and although there was a great deal of pressure for her to do another Irish routine, she’s not going to do this and it will be another theme. Around this, she also has to fit in training for Foxy and Taz in the Bitch and Dog Obedience Championships respectively and also training for the Obedience World Cup at which she represents England on the team. Unfortunately, she had to go out to work as well so we had two clicker training days scheduled for January which filled up almost as soon as I advertised them so we put on a third one and fill that too. Unfortunately, the first one had to be cancelled because of the snow but the other two were a tremendous success and I still can’t believe how many spectators we had on the last day including nine people from the Blue Cross, so there were over twenty spectators in total.
We had now arranged another clicker day for 14th February but I don’t think there are any handlers places left although there is room for spectators. It’s a really great day and you also get my home-made soup for Lunch.
Also up and coming we have a night in the Reading area for Thames Dog Club on 1st February and on 17th February we have a night in Essex which is featured on Mary’s diary page.
Just looking forward to Crufts now where, as I said earlier, Mary will be kept busy. She’s also doing a spot on the Samsung stand on the Thursday. They did want her on every day but she won’t do it when she’s competition in the Obedience Championships. If you want to see Mary and her dogs anywhere, keep an eye on her diary page.
Mary will be spending her usual three days in Tiverton in mid-May, no doubt her two one-week training courses will be full up as usual and there are waiting lists for both and it’s a first for us for many years but we’re going to the Isle of Man in October where Mary will be doing a couple of training days and an evening at a big, posh venue. And one that’s just been booked is on 30th September at Darlington Dogs Trust venue.
Mary sends her best wishes to everyone and, along with myself, we wish you a happy and successful 2010.