News Update
March 2012 - CRUFTS

Well, it was that time of year when all we were thinking about was Crufts.  Mary’s routine was well-practised, Jan had been having another couple of tries with Ozzie to try to get him into the Heelwork to Music mode ready for Jill Houston from Australia and Mary was spending whatever time she could spare on training.

She had the Dog Obedience Championships with Levi, the Bitch Obedience Championships with Foxy and the Obedience World Cup with Levi and, as mentioned, we also had little Ozzie in the International Freestyle competition being handled by Jill Houston representing Australia.  And then on top of that, Mary’s sister Tricia was taken a little poorly and finished up being away for the time we were at Crufts which, as you may imagine, gave us a little bit of a problem with our ‘golden oldies’.  Not fair to take them to Crufts with us and neither would we leave them in kennels so we were lucky to have a retired relation move in and our neighbour Dale came to take out Rooney and a couple of the others every day - so at least they survived in good health.

As usual, I was up at Crufts loading the trade stand on the Tuesday and we both moved up to stay on Wednesday morning.  ‘Pauline and Pauline’ arrived on the Wednesday as well as they were manning the trade stand and, of course, Mary’s friend Jan Morse moved up on the Wednesday as well.  Later that afternoon, Jill Houston turned up fresh off the flight from Australia as she’d only flown in that morning, and that was her first meeting with Ozzie – yes, she had to compete in the competition with him on the Saturday but she’d not done any practice with him until the Wednesday, so a quiet spot was found for her in the corner of a hall and off she went with Mary for a practice which she did several times before the Saturday.

A strange event for us two really, we bump into each other occasionally during the day but I spent virtually all my time in the Main Ring this year and it was absolutely mobbed.  In fact, the worst time was on the Saturday where every one of nearly 7,000 seats were taken and there was another almost 1,000 people queuing up in the pavilion trying to get in.  I think the NEC security people went into overdrive!  It’s amazing really, with all the publicity about dogs you would think the gate at the NEC would be down; in fact that’s more usual for all events at the moment but, no, there were 145,000 paying visitors going into Crufts, which is 8,000 more than 2011.  And this year, instead of the show being streamed through the Crufts website, it went live through YouTube and the worldwide hits on this exceeded everyone’s expectations and continue to do so now.  If you want to look at anything that happened at Crufts, just log onto “YouTube/Crufts”.

I could talk all day about Crufts, it’s such a good event and I really enjoy it but let’s move on to how Mary did.  However, better mention Ozzie first.  Jill did a great routine, I don’t think she’s ever worked in front of such a big audience before so razmattazz, she is one of the top HTM handlers in Australia but it is a little bit different when you’ve only practised the routine three or four times before actually performing it.  There were 16 competitors in the International Freestyle and she got tenth place so we were absolutely thrilled.  Ozzie lost some marks for losing a little concentration at one point and that was just no-one’s fault, but I have to say that I’m a very lucky chap as I have a ringside seat for all the Freestyle competitions as I commentate on them and this was the strongest field of competitors I’ve ever seen - it really was a brilliant competition.  So to get tenth in a field that strong was just fantastic.

Now, Mary’s Crufts - the dogs were all freshly washed and polished, or well bathed anyway, we had been  to Richard Curtis’ new place and he worked his magic on them as they looked smashing.

Mary was pleased with how all the dogs did at Crufts but unfortunately there was a major mistake for each one of them in each competition – apart from that, generally they worked very very well.  With Levi in the Dog Championships, he didn’t do the “sit” position then Mary had to second-command him to do it.  With Foxy in the Bitch Championships, Mary and to give a second-command on the “retrieve” finish and looking at the marks without that, it looks like she would have been very high up in the places but that was not to be.  And finally the Obedience World Cup with Mary being in the England team: everything was great until Levi brought the wrong dumbbell back on the “re-directed retrieve”, so that was that as well.

It’s not all bad news though: Mary’s Freestyle “Workers Routine” went down great in the Main Ring on Best in Show Night, the dogs all behaved themselves at the hotel, even though I had to keep shoving dogs from the bed when they lay across my legs during the night and we had some great company.

Just a final mention on some of the company that we did have at Crufts.  Ann Shannon brought over a team from Australia for the Obedience.  Unfortunately, a couple of mistakes and that put their team out.  It had been Ann’s dream for years to bring the team over and I think it cost something like $60k, the flight, veterinary, hotels and unfortunately 28 days in quarantine kennels when they get back – so all very expensive.  It would be great if Ann could get another team over but it might take a while because of the cost.  Another of our best friends from Australia was Val Bulte from the Gold Coast.  Val and Ann are the ones who Mary has spent an awful lot of time with when she’d been teaching in Australia and they’ve been great friends to us.  Unfortunately, Ann had to fly straight back to Australia with the team on the Monday after Crufts but Val came to spend the week with us and was great company as we get on so well with her.  She said that she was determined to have a bit of a holiday while she was here and I can tell you, she certainly had a good rest, watching DVDs in bed with Mary and Pauline at lunch time – how the other half live !! 

We also had Jill Houston with us for a couple of days, accompanied by her daughter Amanda.  Amanda is also a Freestyler in Australia and one of the country’s tip handlers so you can be assured there was lots of doggie talk. I was invited to their girls’ night out with Kath Dark at a local pub in Daventry but I declined.

Anyway, the show season starts again and as I write this we have the Easter weekend up and coming then the whole cycle repeats itself.  But then everyone is in the same position.