News Update
It looks like you have got me, Dave, reporting again! Last year Mary went to Australia by herself but this year I decided to join her for a bit of R & R, I remember two years ago Ann and Tony Bulke who own Coolangatta Pet Motel telling us how they were going to build a training centre with accommodation and last year Mary came back full of it saying how wonderful the place was and I have to say I was gobsmacked! The kennels are set in 77 acres of ground with 30 acres of that original rainforest which makes wonderful dog walking. The pet motel has 200 dog kennels and 60 cat cabins and they are extremely busy. It's one of the biggest and most modern kennelling facilities in Australia. Adjacent to this there is a huge, level grassed area where the training complex is situated, which Tony built completely from scratch himself, and is called Camp Tailwaggers. The accommodation in the camp area consists of 10 fully self-contained cabins. They are brick built and more like little bungalows. Each one has 3 beds, full bathroom with walk-in shower, dining area/lounge with tv and dvd player and a fully equipped kitchen. 

Mary and Richard in action at Discover Dogs

Outside, your own private patio and small garden all enclosed within steel mesh fencing and with a dog flap into the cabin so you can leave your dog loose in safety. In addition to this each of the cabins has its own little driveway and carport. There was no air-conditioning in the cabins when we were there but the week after we left Tony installed air-conditioning in each of the 10 cabins. For the duration of our stay at Camp Tailwaggers, we had one of the cabins to ourselves which really was super.

The outdoor covered training area was a huge open-sided barn with a smooth concrete floor for training on. You have to remember that in this part of Australia you don't need sides on a building - they do have a little bit of rain but for the majority of the time you are better off training outdoor so this sort of building suits the environment. Built into the roof of the barn was a first class sound system which was fed from the conference centre and as we found out when we had our evening HTM competition the lighting was superb. A few metres away from this was a grass paddock with a full set of agility equipment. There is an indoor conference centre directly off the barn, it is a very large centre which I guess would seat 150 in comfort to eat. Patio doors into the adjacent training area, covered patio, a fully equipped commercial kitchen, a state of the art sound and projection equipment, 3 large toilets/showers for campers, and a separate room fully equipped with laundry appliances. Yes folks, it's eat your heart out time! It sounds like I'm describing a holiday camp and that's what it was, a holiday camp for dogs. We talk about environment in this country and saving our resources and it was quite amazing how far they have gone in Australia going by what Tony has put into Camp Tailwaggers. Each individual cabin has got a huge hot water tank on the roof outside and next to each tank an extra large solar panel so although there is an immersion heater for emergencies it is never used; all the hot water is heated by solar power and the same for the conference centre. I was intrigued with the water supply, you will notice from the photograph, and there are four huge green water butts.  From memory, I think Tony said they hold 220,000 litres of water each. Every drop of rain off the roof of all the building drains into these tanks. From there it goes into his own water purification system and that is the whole water supply for the conference centre and the 10 cabins, there is no water supply at all. There is even a generator built into the water purification system so if the electric fails this automatically starts and maintains the water pressure. Anyway, enough about the place but I must just mention the journey. Ann is very good and pays business class for Mary but unfortunately I've got to pay my own! However, I did manage to get an excellent deal flying Emirates from Birmingham and how wonderful was that! No allowing 3 hours to drive to Heathrow, no worrying about parking or big taxi bills, no huge queues at check-in, in fact it was just brilliant. The hostesses, food and service on the jet were superb and I would thoroughly recommend that if you are going to Australia, Asia or anywhere in that part of the world the best example of this was when we arrived back at Birmingham landing at 11:55am and we were back home at 1:05pm!

Mary's seven day course at Camp Tailwaggers had about 55 participants and there were training sessions for puppies, trick training, obedience, HTM and agility. Also on the Friday night Ann had arranged a full HTM competition with a very large invited audience. We all had dinner and then the competition started, it was a really exciting evening with lots of good routines. Not quite up to the standard in the UK but it is certainly getting there. I think that they are all hoping that the Australian Kennel Club will adopt it as an official discipline and that will certainly push its popularity upwards.  The judges for the evening were Ann Bulke, resplendent in a pink Barbie outfit, young Mary and myself. As they say, a good night was had by all. Congratulations to the winner - Maree Field and her dog Muttley.

2007 Oz: Dave, Mary and Ann Bulke judging the HTM competition

2007 Oz: Mary leading the warm up dance

2007 Oz: Mary teaching with Val at her side

2007 Oz The all mod cons cabins

2007 Oz The conference centre with the traing area behind

2007 Oz The first fish Dave has ever caught

So then it was back to the damp UK again and back to normal. At the end of October we travelled down to Weston-super-Mare where Mary was taking a days training for a young lady called Steph Jefferies who had won the Shaun McAlpine trophy at Crufts and they had asked her what she would like as a prize for winning. She chose a training session with Mary Ray. This turned into almost a whole day and the venue was Waggytails Dog Training Club whose owner trainer is Alison Garforth. Mary, Steph and her labrador Kimmy had a really good day and Steph even had a go at working a couple of Mary's dogs. She is indeed an amazing young lady as she has to spend some of her time in a wheelchair as she suffers from cerebral palsy. If you want to see Steph working her dog she will be taking part in the Pat Dog 25th Anniversary Display in the arena at Crufts on Friday 7th March at 3pm. One of the reasons for picking this particular day to go down to the Weston area was that on the way back we would call in to Gloucester where Mary was going to do a Cabaret Evening for Janet Butler. We used the same venue as previously - a smashing Working Man's Club, nice and compact with around 100 in the audience and a really nice night with a good atmosphere.

Mary with Trophy winner Steph Jefferies

The first week in November, Mary had a quick film job in the centre of London, filming a "viral". This is a small, very short internet clip that they hope will be sent off around the world via email. It starts off on a company's website and they had all kinds of dancers and roller skaters there but they also wanted a dancing dog. The following day, Mary was off to Spain for a training day in Madrid. The weekend after that on 10th/11th November, it was down to London for Discover Dogs. I was busy commentating and Mary performed her James Bond routine, a Masterclass and also the very popular pairs routine with the ever-popular and talented Richard Curtis. We came back from London on the Sunday night and, living up to my reputation of keeping the whip cracking, it was straight back down to London on the Monday for a Cabaret Evening at Dima's Good Boy Dog School. Again, it was the usual church hall venue with around 100 in the audience and another smashing atmosphere. The following week, we were off to Darlington, to the Dog's Trust. David Fish was organising this and they were all very proud of their new training hall and, I have to say, they have every reason to be. It was a really nice place. As usual, the event was a sellout with over 100 in the audience and a really smashing night. And of course all the profits went to the Dogs Trust, which made it even better. They even put on a little buffet for everyone.

Dave commentating at Discover Dogs 2008

Mary and Richard in action at Discover Dogs

The last weekend in November, we went to the All Winners Show in Amsterdam, Holland again. We took the overnight boat from Harwich and found that they had refurbished the boat and we had what they called a 'Captain's Cabin' which was superb. The bed was wonderful, there were snacks and a mini bar in the room, colour television and an ensuite. The bonus was that it was all included in the price of the cabin. So there we were, drinking a glass of champagne before going to bed! We like going from Harwich: you don't have the hustle and bustle of Dover, we found somewhere local to give the dogs a good run before getting onto the boat and all the staff, including at check-in, are really nice. We also like going to the All Winners Show - it's a huge indoor breed show that also has agility and obedience and Herman and Tina, who run the show, booked us in with all the officials at a smashing hotel just round the corner (the food was scrumptious!) and this year Herman didn't waste any of Mary's time so she had several spots both in the Main Ring and the Demonstration Ring, either performing routines or giving Masterclasses. There was a Dutch bookstand there where they had the Dutch version of Mary's books and they were pleased as well as they sold out on both days!

DimaCabaretNight a young lady working Foxy

On 1st December, Mary had been invited to put on a demonstration at a showjumping event at Adlington just outside Buckingham. All they wanted was for Mary to do a short Masterclass and a routine - but what a fabulous place. It is without doubt the best indoor riding arena and facilities that we've ever been to. I would like to be able to describe it but really couldn't; suffice to say that however many millions it cost, it must be a hobby job because you would never get a return on it. The hospitality was wonderful, including having the owner's wife dining with us, and copious supplies of white wine.
A couple of day's later on Tuesday 4th December, we were down with Roy Dyer at the home of the Essex Dog Display Team for a Cabaret Evening and training day. We did this last year - it's a fabulous venue, really nice people, over 100 in the audience and the room was small enough to give it a good ambience and atmosphere.
Yes, I know that I crack the whip but on Thursday 6th December, Mary had a filming job in Bristol. In 2007, Mary had done four days filming for a new series coming on Channel 4 in February called 'Skins'. This was previously on E4, I believe, but it proved so popular that they're now putting it on Channel 4. In the previous filming, Taz was a dancing dog that belonged to the father of the family played by Bill Bailey, the comedian and musician. What they wanted Taz for this time was for a shot that they were obviously going to insert into the programme and all he had to do was to run up to the inside of a front door as the postman put a letter through, he had to grab the letter while the postman was holding it on the other side, have a little tug of war with the postman then pull it through and run back down the hall with it. When we got there, everyone in the building came down to meet Taz again. He was really popular with them and they reckon that the first piece he filmed with Bill Bailey is one of the funniest and best things they have seen. Anyway, apart from the drive to Bristol and back, and a lovely film set lunch, we had just 20 minutes work before being on the way back again - we could do with a few more jobs like that!

Mary & Levi on a Pedigree photo shoot
By now of course we were looking forward to Christmas but before we got to that we had the Olympia Christmas Horse Show where we had to stay down in London for the week. I organise all the competitions on behalf of the Kennel Club and Pedigree and Mary Ray, well, she was just my wife for that week. We had a really good week with a separate final on each day for five days and the only downside is that we didn't get back until mid afternoon on 23rd December which doesn't give us much time to devote to Christmas.

Olympia 011 ABC winner Nigel Staines being presented by Mary Ray

Which brings us to January. I never book much for Mary before Crufts because obviously the main thing for her is putting together a new Crufts routine and practising obedience for the Championship Obedience event. This year's routine will be stunning and very different and she is going to be using the music from ... ooh, I'd better not tell you that at the moment but I'm quite enthusiastic about it so if you're not going to Crufts then you will need to watch the TV on Sunday evening, 9th March from 8:20pm onwards.
So what's happening before Crufts? Well, I'm going on holiday with Roger Churchill. Originally I had the choice of going on Mary's Canine Cruise with Ann from Australia but I declined that and, as I'm really big into sightseeing but Mary's not too keen and Pauline (Roger's wife) won't go on holiday at all then we decided to go on a sightseeing holiday. So I'm off to Hong Kong and Vietnam for a quick holiday. Mary has been busy working on the launch of a new Pedigree training treat with them and she is also putting on a Masterclass at the Pedigree Stakes Final at the Metropole Hotel, NEC, Birmingham on the last weekend in January. I have been nominated for an award at the Agility Club Gala Night on 16th February at Stoneleigh - no, I know that no-one ever believes you when you say it but I didn't actually vote for myself and I'm hoping that in this category Jimmy White wins it. Jimmy is one of the guys that everyone depends on for help at shows, he was really ill last year but he has done so much at shows over the years that he really does deserve it. So we'll find out whether he's got it at the Agility Club Gala Night which celebrates 25 years of the Agility Club and it so happens 30 years of dog agility. And the whole evening is going to be a bit like the Oscars, so we're really looking forward to what should be a good night. A little later in February, we have a Cabaret Evening for Andy Moxham in Bristol and on 23rd February we have the Rugby DTC Annual Heelwork to Music Show at the Sports Connexion which includes the Crufts HTM Semi Finals.
Anyway, that's all for now and I'll try to be a bit quicker in updating next time. Oh, and I'd better just mention that it looks like the venue where we hold the week's course in July may not be available this year so if it's not then I think we have a venue where we can hold the week's course during the last week in June in the Midlands. So keep an eye on the Events Page for an update.