News Update

We finished our last update as Mary was looking forward to the up and coming Crufts dog show which looked like it was going to be a busy time for her. At the end of February the BBC were coming out to take a quick video of Mary's new routine to help them with their camera and lighting angles. The music she was using was to a compilation of James Bond themes probably the best James Bond compilation we have ever heard. As is usual with all these types of events the BBC had to get rights to use the music which due to the unusual circumstances of the recording and the artist involved Dave had to get involved with the performing rights. I understand that he had to trace the people involved in Europe and speak to the personally to gain the rights. On Tuesday 6th March Dave spent the day up at the NEC sorting out some of his work that he does at Crufts and on the Wednesday Mary moved in for the duration. It was certainly going to be a busy time for her and for Dave as well as not only was Mary competing and Dave commentating and organising but they had a Mary Ray trade stand in Hall 1 and just talking about that it was an extremely busy stand this year and a friend of theirs, Pauline Churchill and Mary's sister Pauline spent the four days behind the counter. The main job for Mary on the Wednesday before Crufts was rehearsing in the main ring. She had 30 minutes to try out the routine on the non slip Crufts carpet and everything seemed to go well.

Mary and Levi

On Thursday, the first day of Crufts, Mary had been asked to do some htm with Matt Baker the ex Blue Peter presenter and his BC Meg. That was really good fun and Mary really enjoyed it and more importantly so did Matt. I think he would like to put a full routine together! That went out on the TV Thursday evening. Mary also did her first demonstration of her new routine in the main ring. Later in the day, Mary had been booked to put on a 30 minute clicker demo on the Pedigree stand. Pedigree had built a new raised stage area due to the popularity of these demonstrations and it looked like people were standing 15 to 20 deep watching. It was a really successful part of the Pedigree stand. Mary also did a couple of book signings.

Friday was the first of Mary's obedience days. It was the Bitch Obedience Championships and Mary had qualified Kizzy. Kizzy was 12 1/4 years old and Mary had made the decision in advance that she was going to retire her there as she is going a little deaf. She worked a super round and Mary was really proud of her but she did insist that we didn't say anything about Kizzy retiring as she didn't want any fuss made and it would have upset her if there had been any celebration of any sort. As far as she is concerned, Kizzy's obedience career has finished on a high at Crufts and she will now have a lazy life at home and hopefully have a long and happy retirement as the much loved pet she has always been.

Saturday it was obedience again this time the Dog Obedience Championships and Mary had qualified Taz and Quincy. Taz wasn't as confident as Mary would have hoped. He stopped during the heelwork pattern as if Mary had given him a position to do and along with many others he failed scent. It is weird what happens at Crufts because it is probably like no other show. Dogs were indicating the right cloths from a distance but then after going over decoys and then trying to find the right cloths they seemed to give up and then bring back a decoy cloth. Then it came to Quincy's turn, and if you know Quincy you will know he is sometimes a bit full of himself, well he contained himself today and worked extremely well. At one point during the round Mary set off in the wrong pace (naughty Mary!) and when she left him for distance control there was a rather loud bang from elsewhere in the hall which she knew would upset him. But on the whole he worked very well and completed the scent exercise correctly and came in with 3rd place in the overall results in the Dog Obedience Championships which of course Mary was very pleased with making another year that she has been in the line up at Crufts.

In dancing mode

On the Sunday she was back to HTM. In the changeover break between the Junior International Handler finals she once more performed her James Bond Best in Show routine. She had two spots on the Pedigree stand, some book signings and she put in a few appearances on her own stand in Hall 1. But the highlight of the day was going to be Best in Show on Sunday night. It is always a very highly charged atmosphere round the Best in Show ring on a Sunday night. The BBC put out a two hour live programme consequently the whole arena programme has to run to time and of course with any live event you can't do anything about it is something goes wrong and this year there was no exception there were a few hiccups. Mary was cued into the arena at 8:25pm and she did look gorgeous in her black evening suit a la James Bond complete with blue dicky bow and just to match her dogs were to be wearing their blue flashing collars. The house lights dimmed, the spot lights came on, the superb specially composed compilation of James Bond started and it was just a magical routine. If you were in the audience it was stunning! Mary will always do a flowing heelwork to music routine it will never be very circus tricky and it was enough to bring a tear to you eye as she flowed round the arena first with Foxy then joined by Levi in complete unison with them. I find it quite amazing that Mary hardly seems to speak to them they seem to take all their cues from her body language and the music. If you watched it at home on the television of course, it may not have looked as good. Even after numerous camera and lighting rehearsals for the BBC, this year seemed to be particularly bad for them to get the cameras zoomed in to the right place at the right time. When there was an interesting part of the routine going on the cameras zoomed right out showing the whole of the arena and the audience with Mary a little dot in the distance, so consequently viewers at home missed a lot of what was good in the routine. Anyway, as usual, it was a superb end to Crufts for Mary with the routine being watched with over 5 million tv viewers and 7,000 in the audience at Crufts.

There were two big innovations at Crufts this year. Firstly, was the layout of the show. There was no special events ring in Hall 3, all the events were moved into an area with over 3 times the amount of seating and this would also become the main ring for the evening performances and this was in the NEC arena complex where they have the pop concerts. The obedience, which used to be in the main ring in Hall 5, was moved to the Pavillion just adjacent to the Arena as of course there was no main ring in Hall 5 anymore. Certainly everyones's worry before the show was that they would not get enough people down to the arena to watch during the day, but you could not have been more wrong! From the mid morning on the first day it was absolutely packed and over popularity was to prove a major problem throughout Crufts. On the one day there must have been 2000 people queuing to get into the main arena and just this sheer number of people resulted in severe disruption around the obedience arena especially around the benching and collecting ring to the extent where a major rethink about where the obedience will be. The other big change this year was there were three separate HTM/Freestyle competitions on three separate days. On the Thursday there was a HTM final and on Friday a Freestyle final. All the finalists had qualified at the Crufts semi-final at the Rugby DTC show in February. I spoke to Dave afterwards and he said that he had enjoyed commentating on it so much and the standard was superb. And for the very first year, the winner from each of these first days went on to demonstrate their routine in the evening during the evening performance in the main ring. On the Saturday there was another big innovation, an International Freestyle competition with 14 countries competing. Some stunning routines and so popular with the audience and yet another event that Dave enjoyed commentating on.

James Bond Routine

We stayed over on the Sunday night and went back home Monday morning but as they say "no rest for the wicked" because on Tuesday Mary was filming a pilot for a new television programme called 'Underdogs'. A number of celebrities were given the chance to pick out a rescue dog from the Dogs Trust Kennels and their task was to train the dog over a number of weeks to compete in a knockout competition live on television. At the end of their participation they could adopt the dogs themselves or the general public could apply to adopt them. The spin off from this was to show how good rescue dogs are as family pets. The show was to be compered by Julian Clary and this pilot was to be a practise programme to see how it all worked out. Mary was originally spoken to months prior to this with I think a view to be one of the trainers or a judge on the programme but to take a role on like this she would have had to committed herself for 6 weeks and as you will see later, she had prior engagements so a cabaret spot was the best she could do. The pilot went well, everyone was pleased and Mary was asked to go back the following week to appear on the first live show. The day after the pilot was filmed, they sent through the music they wanted Mary to use on the first live show. It was just about the worst kind of music you could use for a HTM routine and Mary told them so! On the Thursday they agreed that Mary could use a Scissor Sisters number so Dave cut the music to fill in the time that was allowed - 3 minutes and Mary and Jan on the Thursday put together a routine in fact they hired the village hall to do so. The reason for having to do it then was that the next day, Friday, Mary was off to Iceland to train for the Icelandic Kennel Club for the weekend and she was not due back until the Monday night and the show was on Tuesday. When Dave got back from the airport on Friday the TV company had actually emailed a different version of the Scissor Sisters number they wanted her to use. So on the Tuesday morning before going down to London to appear on the programme Mary was frantically trying to rechoreograph the routine to fit the new edited edition of the music! Not an auspicious way to appear on a live television programme but anyway it went well she was pleased with it even though the television people insisted on her using a minimum of two dogs which is ten times harder to choreograph than with one dog.

Mary and Richard

The following weekend which was the 24/25th March Mary was training for Ian Davies in Barcelona. It seems to becoming a regular appointment and with all Mary's overseas training days they really seem to get a lot out of it. She is turning into a bit of an expert in training FCI obedience as well as British obedience. The added bonus with Barcelona is there is a late flight out on the Friday and a late flight back on the Sunday night into Luton.

She was abroad again the following weekend this time to Austria. She was taking a course for Renate Oeltze just outside Vienna. Again, it was FCI obedience and I think a successful time was had by all. Renate is a really nice lady and Mary stopped in her house and was well looked after.

Over the Easter weekend, Dave and Mary split up a little. Dave took the Pedigree stand down to the Easter Celebration agility show down at Ardingly. Mary decided to have an Easter obedience weekend and competed at three shows. On Good Friday she went to Sherwood Foresters at Nottingham and won Open 'C' with both Taz and Quincy and won Class 'A' with Levi. On the Saturday she attended Oxhey and Levi gained 2nd place in Class 'A' and Foxy got her first ever placing in Open 'C' coming 5th. On the Easter Monday it was the Midland Border Collie show and Quincy again won Open 'C' with Taz coming 5th. Levi came 2nd in Class 'A'.

The following weekend David accepted his first ever judging appointment for HTM at the Westglen show in Worcester. He seemed quite pleased with how everything went but I did hear him say that that might be the first and last appointment he would accept! He did tell me that in 90% of the routines his marks were in the same areas as his co judges so at least he felt he got it about right. Mary though had accepted a job at the British Dressage Championships in Solihull on the Friday and Saturday nights. She was to do a 20 minute masterclass showing what the dogs can do followed by her Crufts Best in Show James Bond routine later in the evening. This is a very professional event with tiered grandstand seating and the houselights were lowered and spot lights on for when Mary did her routine which went extremely well. The organisers were really pleased with it and I have to say that their hospitality was second to none. They were treated as sponsors both nights with a superb meal and all the wine they could drink. Mary competed at Birmingham on the Sunday and had another successful outing with both Quincy and Taz winning 1st places in Open 'C'.

Kizzy retired at Crufts

The weekend on the 21/22nd April Mary slipped up and hadn't got anything booked and forgotten to enter a show but as luck would have it during the week prior she had been asked to go on the final Underdogs programme on the 24th. But, it was a cabaret spot with a difference, Mary and Richard Curtis were going to do a pairs routine. They were both absolutely thrilled about this appointment and it was certainly going to be something that had never been seen before. So, on the 22nd they went down to the Dogs Trust Kennels at Uxbridge and spent five hours putting together a 2.5 minute routine to 'Me and my Shadow' with Richard. They were both going be partnered by their blue merle dogs, Richard's Pogo, just two years old and Mary's Levi just 1.5 years old. It was a stunning performance. They were using, I believe, 7 cameras in the studio and it came over a treat on television. I don't think that there is any doubt that we will be seeing Mary and Richard again performing their pairs routine. Even the celebrities on the programme and Julian Clary were thrilled with it.

On the 28/29th April, Mary was back to the shows with agility at Haslemere. She is looking forward to Levi coming out at agility shows and of course her new Sheltie puppy, Oz will be competing in another years time.

Mary's two books have been amazingly successful. Dog Tricks is now printed in 10 different languages including Japanese and Estonion! So Hamlyn have asked Mary to write another book which should be out by the end of the year. On Monday they had the first photo shoot. The publishers decided to hire a house for the day and what a house! The lady who owned it was there all day and she did tell them that she had recently had it valued for £2.5 million and as you can see from the photographs it was a house you dream of living in and a superb place for a photo shoot.

Well that is about all for now. The week that this is being written Mary is busy working on the Rugby DTC Championship Obedience show for which she is show secretary and of course you are probably aware that Mary is head trainer at Rugby and is a great supporter of registered dog clubs. In the coming weeks she has got a Cabaret in Edinburgh, a training day and a Cabaret night in Devon, they are going to be in Ireland in the beginning of June and on the 5/6th June she has got Cabaret nights in Lisburn and in the middle of June she is off to St Petersburg comrades to preach the benefits of the clicker.