Well, we’re at that time of year again – Crufts 2017 is approaching and not only does this affect us because of Mary, but we also handle all the bookings for Rugby’s dog barn and we have just had so many people wanting to use it in the January/February period it’s untrue, so it has been a rather large task just to keep up with the bookings and fitting everyone in with where they want to be and when. That’s the problem with having such a great building available. This was compounded by the fact that I decided to go on holiday in January with my mate Roger as usual, when we were away for sixteen days, so I’ve had a bit of a log-jam in trying to get on top of everything since coming back hence it was probably a mistake to go on a long distance holiday to India and Nepal at this time of year.
Mary has been invited once more by the Kennel Club to perform a routine in the main arena on Sunday night and her rehearsals are going really well at the moment. She’s pleased where she is with it, plus she is fitting in some additional obedience practice ready for the championships, so I would probably say that January and February are the most stressful and busy two months of the year. The routine is scheduled for 7:10 pm on the Sunday evening which is 12th March and, as usual, it will be streamed live by the Crufts website. We would like to say that it will probably be on television but it may or may not according to the decision of the television producer.
You have to add to the above, of course, the fact that at the end of January Rugby DTC ran their Heelwork to Music Show including the Crufts HTM Semi Final at the Kennel Club building, Stoneleigh and which we are both heavily involved with.
Late last year, Mary’s sister Pauline was made redundant and she decided to change her life completely. I don’t think she could face working another ten years until her retirement and fortuitously, I suppose is the word, at that time the guy who was renting our annexe decided to move hence she decided to move in with us. So, yes, I now have two women telling me what to do – in fact I call them Wife No 1 and Wife No 2! After all these years of living by herself and managing a Post Office, I think the term to use is “living the dream” as she also has herself a super little puppy from the litter that Levi sired.
In November, we did a weekend at the Northumberland dog training centre again. They are such lovely people and it’s a great venue, fully carpeted, kitchen facilities, in fact everything you need for dog training and I would really love to order some sunshine and warmth for the weekend that we go! Mary did an ‘evening’ on the Friday night although confusingly I got my wires crossed and didn’t realise that we were actually doing one but it all worked out fine in the end. It’s almost a year now since we bought a new motorhome and when you’re in places like this, it really does come into its own, having somewhere warm and comfortable to stay. Apart from the memories of the doggy part of the weekend, they took us out for a meal on the Saturday evening to a local pub/restaurant and I have to say that it’s one of the best meals we have ever had and, in my case, the biggest and most delicious ham hock I’ve ever seen on a plate!
In October, Mary was booked to host an evening for Dima in North London but a couple of weeks previous to that date one of our most respected colleagues at Rugby DTC, Beryl Draper, passed away. She had been a member for over forty years so it was very saddening for us all and, as bad luck would have it, the funeral was on the day of the ‘evening’ Mary was taking for Dima. We are not religious but Beryl and her husband David were heavily involved with the local church and I have to say that it’s probably the best service both at the crematorium and the local church that we’ve ever been to – it was a truly great send-off for Beryl. So I think it was something like 4 pm when we had to jump straight in the van direct from the church to drive straight down to London for the evening and fortunately everything worked out well.
Also in October, we had our regular weekend booking for Jacqui Muir at Jarrow held at the usual St peters church hall. We had a good place on the car park, Mary knows a lot of people and it was another good weekend in good company.
It was a great shame that Tunbridge pulled out at their show at Ardingley but fortunately East Grinstead continues, always a well run show were it’s the last chance for catching to be done with friends at the end of the season and of course the last chance of the year to get that important win or place for most competitors.
As usual, in late October we were at the Kennel Club’s Discover Dogs Show at the Excel Exhibition Centre, South East London. It is a great venue for a show with our hotel just outside the front door, lots of grass to walk the dogs around on and a great audience as well. Mary performed her 2016 routine each day plus she did a training demonstration. This was also the first big trip out for Yoko, our latest acquisition. When I say ‘big trip’, I mean to a massive exhibition centre because she was going to be part of the demonstration in the arena. Also in the breed booths he was to meet some of the other Miniature Pinschers on the Miniature Pinscher Club Stand. I think they were quite thrilled at the fact that Mary has one of their breed and we did have the president of the club over in the collecting ring with a few photographs taken and, of course, Yoko enjoyed her visit to their stand. She is certainly a little character and you do have to be careful about leaving anything about that is chewable and, if you’re old enough, you will know the reason why I call her Zebedee (boing-boing!) So, of course, we were destined to finish up with ten dogs in the house again including Pauline’s new acquisition – yes, the world has gone mad!
There were two highlights in September, firstly our week in Anglesey at Maggie and Rex’s farm. This is a training week for Heelwork to Music and Obedience, but Rex also has a full set of competition equipment in the field and he takes some handlers for Agility training as well, so they do have a really good choice of disciplines. It’s a nice, compact training hall/converted barn with a non-slip floor; in fact, it was seeing the floor there that was behind the decision we made on the surface we were going to have at the Rugby DTC training barn! Quite a number of handlers on the course come annually and being not too far from some lovely beaches, it’s a really good week as well as having a short holiday as well. So what more can you say, being a good week in very pleasant company, in a lovely spot – what more to want! The only hiccup we had was that two of our friends and colleagues at Rugby DTC decided to get married on the Saturday that we were due to travel to Anglesey and we definitely did not want to miss the wedding of the year when Paul Grant and Richard Burbage got themselves married at a very posh hotel near Stratford on Avon. And, as anticipated, it was without doubt the grandest wedding that we have ever ever been to in every way! But due to travelling to Anglesey, we had to leave before the evening disco started so back home we went to collect the dogs and motor home and I think we left at 9 pm on the Saturday night to arrive at Anglesey at 1 am in the morning. The good news was that there was very little traffic on the road.
Mary did one day at Worcester this year as its fairly close to home, good result though so worth it
In August, it was the regular shows / mainly weekends that we went to. Life was a little easier this year as I had resigned from the committee of the Kennel Club International Agility Festival hence I didn’t have to worry about doing any of the work on that prior to it or staying at the show for nearly a week. Most weekends, I do try to get out on my motor scooter and leave the girls to it and I’m sure people think we’re a bit potty towing a trailer to all the shows but this is for my benefit as within it sits my scooter. Although, at one show, somebody did come up to us and asked whether we carried the dogs to the show in it. I did wonder if they were on the same planet as the rest of us, especially as it has no windows or ventilation showing on the outside, so it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t for transporting animals and we would no carry dogs in a trailer anyway!
The last weekend in July was particularly busy in a different kind of way as Mary had a demonstration to perform for the charity Dogs for Good – formerly known as Dogs for the Disabled – which was held at the Kennel Club Building at Stoneleigh. She had two thirty-minute slots in the main arena, both of which were extremely entertaining, informative for the audience and very well received. At the end of the second slot, she performed her Crufts routine which, considering she hadn’t done it for a while, was pretty good. As always, the only problem with the KC building is the sound. I took my ‘pa’ set which was used by everyone during the show but the constant hubbub in the background and the terrible acoustics of the building meant that it was certainly far from perfect.
The following day, we went to Halstead. Although we had booked in for camping, I decided in this particular instance that it would be too rushed to get the camper out for a one day show due to the time I thought we’d get back from the KC building which turned out to be correct. Mary did have a win with Levi in Open C but wasn’t in the line-up for the Championship class. Lyric had a place in Champ and she was really pleased with young Frankie and the fact that he didn’t get a place was her own fault as she gave the wrong command in sending him out for scent. It’s a great venue in Essex run by a lovely bunch of people but I do wish they’d cancel the doughnut van as we just ate too many!
The previous weekend, we had our annual visit to Redcar for the Redcar and Middlesbrough shows. We arrived late the previous Sunday evening and were staying for the week – and what a great venue it is, with beautiful weather for virtually the whole week and camping on well-kept grass behind the clubhouse of the rugby club. Our space had been saved by friend who arrived earlier so we were all pretty well camped together. It’s literally a few minutes’ walk from the seafront with a great beach and dogs are allowed. As usual, we towed the trailer with us which contains all our worldly goods for camping and, most importantly, my Honda scooter. The main visits for me this year were Whitby for fish and chips, a first ever visit to Scarborough which was great and almost a full day with Jan Morse’s husband Ray on the North Yorkshire Steam Railway. Mary also had a great week concentrating on the dogs with her sister Pauline and all her mates
On the weekend prior to going to Redcar we went to NATS show at a new venue. This was a football club and, bizarrely, it was in the middle of nowhere in a kind of forest but it was just immaculate. The working area for the dogs was one of the best I’ve seen but unfortunately – and there is a but – I think the farmer who rented out the camping/parking area for the show will be making some changes for next year. I spent most of the weekend worrying about how I was going to get my camper out without damaging it. Hence, the farmer and I spent around 1.5 hours at the exit on the Sunday afternoon helping people get their campers and caravans out undamaged which was successful and when I came to leave, I had the farmer, Mary and Pauline all standing guard to ensure I didn’t hit any of the obstructions. I understand that major changes will be made to this for next year’s show including a better entrance/exit and a hard road down the middle of the field. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that this happens as it would then make the venue 100% perfect.
The second weekend in July we were down at Eastleigh and Winchester – and a great shame that the Eastleigh show has now gone. This is a lovely venue for a show, both for the surface and for the environment and the team has run some really good events in the past. There was no camping hence we went down early on the Saturday morning in the camper van and on the Saturday evening, we went to Peter and Carol Lewis’s house which is situated just up the road from the following day’s Winchester Show. We park on their front garden which has a double metal front gate held on two piers and I was a little concerned about getting the camper in. If you’ve seen our new camper then you will probably understand what I mean as it’s the maximum width allowed and 9 metres long but I succeeded and we had a very pleasant evening. Peter has retired now but he was very active in Agility, on Kennel Club Committees and, of course, he was one of the people in agility just after its inception in 1978, so a very knowledgeable guy.
Early on the Sunday morning we went down to the Winchester Championship Show – a lovely venue run by a great team so everything always runs like clockwork and, as usual, I had been instructed to take my usual spot in the car park because of the vehicle size. So thanks David, and can I reserve the same plot for next year please!
The first weekend in July we had the one-day Cippenham Championship Show which is another good venue at Berkshire Agricultural College and big enough to ensure nobody is too far from the ringed area.
After Marys Training week in Daventry we were off to Camarthen, we did not leave Daventry until mid – afternoon and were faced with a 200 mile plus Journey on a Friday evening in the rush hour, we knew we would be late but it was worth it, really good show on a showground with lots of exercise area for the dogs and a very welcoming show team, an annual me thinks
The last full week in June was Mary’s training camp in Daventry. This year, we had a few new faces and Mary tries to make it not just a serious training opportunity but also a sociable one as well and, it sounds a little corny, but a great time was had by all. It’s held at a farm owned by Kath Dark and she gives us carte blanche to do almost what we want at the venue. Everyone was camped adjacent to the obedience ring and in the paddock next door there is a full competition agility set so the handlers had Obedience in the morning and Agility in the afternoons, or they could use the Obedience rings in the afternoon if they so wished.
In one of the buildings at Kath’s, there is a business run by Heather, a local farmer, who provides work placed training for older children who perhaps have trouble settling at school or other general difficulties. She has built a full catering kitchen, they grow all their own organic produce, have chickens etc and she has achieved a very high degree of success. At our welcome evening on the Sunday night, Mary hosted a dinner in Heather’s dining area which, as usual, was superb. I should also mention here that is pre-requisite to bring your own wine when you’re on the course! At the time of writing we have a couple of vacancies but you will have to be quick
On the Monday evening, we had a free night, Tuesday evening we went to the usual local pub where we had an excellent meal and managed to fit in 23 people at an L-shaped table hence we were all together, on the Wednesday evening I hosted a barbecue for 25 people – and have to say this was absolutely excellent. On the Thursday evening we had another meal in Heather’s place followed by one of the highlights of the week, being the doggy dancing routines, performed by all attendees, even those who didn’t think they would ever do such a routine – and we had a great night!
Now, you may think this was all social but it wasn’t as there was a lot of serious dog training throughout the day and everyone was very tired by the time they went home. So if you want to go on the waiting list for 2017, just email me.
In early June, we did St Mary’s Show but in the VW van this time and not the camper as it’s a long distance away for us for a one day show, Parking was not far from the rings and they have a good working surface plus the show is run by a great team of people, Oh and the catering was great as usual!!, oh and Mary got a useful place
On 7th/9th June, Mary took a three-day course at Angela White’s place in Haxey, North Lincolnshire. There were a lot of the usual faces, it’s a lovely quiet place to hold a course and was very successful as usual. Unfortunately Angela was not to well at the time so we did not see much of her, it’s a brilliant hall with a great working surface.
The first weekend in June was the Open Show at Basinstoke followed by the Championship Show at Petersfield. Unfortunately, this was the weekend that our Satnav decided to go into self-destruct mode and I had to use the one that was built in to the dashboard of the camper van – which took me the most weird and wonderful way from basinstoke to Petersfield. Hence I can tell you that I was pretty pleased to have my own Snooper up and running again on the following week. Mary enjoys this weekend as both shows are excellent and well-run.
At the end of May, as usual, we did the Waldridge Fell weekend. We had a great parking spot albeit a little bit of concern as, due to the increasingly extended amount of rain we’d had, the venue was quite soft but one of the benefits of having a rear wheel drive camper meant that I was able to get out without problem. Fiona and the team from Waldridge run an excellent long weekend, it’s a lovely place to walk the dogs in a huge country park and local pubs within walking distance so not much more you can ask for really apart from good weather.
The previous weekend was Loughborough Championship Show where they use my outdoor ‘pa’ system and let us have the same parking spot every year which is really nice for us. It’s a very sociable weekend and a very well run show under the guidance of Ruth and Tony
Earlier that week, Mary held an evening for Linda Croxford in Kent. We arrived a little early as it was held in an extremely busy school and risked getting caught in all the traffic, but it was a great venue and a really good, large audience. This was a fund raiser for the European Junior Agility Championships.
On 14th/15th May we had our usual weekend in Wirral, which is another show we love, and again they borrowed my outdoor ‘pa’ system. This has an extremely good working surface for the dogs, a nice environment to camp in and a short walk down to the pub on the Mersey – so what more could you ask for!
During the week prior to this, we were down at Bisley for one of Mary’s demonstration evenings and what a nightmare that was – and that was just the journey there! The venue was just off the second junction of the M3, so we joined the M3 from the M25 and that’s where we stopped for around two hours. It was absolutely unbelievable, so both we and some of the audience actually arrived together over 30 minutes late. Hence after setting up we were around 45 minutes late starting but it was a really good evening and Mary and the dogs were well on form.
The previous weekend we were up North again, with Mary taking a course for Jackie Muir at the usual venue of St Peter’s Church Hall. This was another satisfying weekend for Mary as well as the handlers. And, rather than going out for a meal on the Saturday evening, Jackie had arranged a party night for any of the participants who wanted to be there. Well, a mixture of party games and alcohol made for a hilarious evening and I will say no more!
The first weekend in May was our Championship Obedience Show followed by Leicester on the Monday. We were very lucky with the weather so everything pretty well ran like clockwork. We also have an excellent caterer we use called “ Eleanors Pantry ” who provides competitor catering as well as lunch for both judges and officials and I’m amazed she doesn’t have more booking from the obedience world as all her meals are home cooked and everything is such good quality – including proper coffee!
At the end of April it was Oxhey Show near Watford. Goodness knows how many years ago Mary started going to Oxhey but this was one of the earliest shows she entered. We would rather have taken the camper for the day but access is a little tight there so I had to give her the bad news that on this occasion it would have to be the VW. A good day for Mary at a show she likes
Mary went to the GSD UK Open indoor show at Newark, first time at the alternative to the Showground, it was held at the Oakridge Quarter Horse Arena, what a great venue, a good size arena with a really form equine surface, and as a bonus really great home- made refreshments overlooking the arena
At the beginning of the year we decided to change the camper for something with a better layout, we were lucky to find a 3 year old one that had been hardly used at a bargain price, the previous owner must have taken a huge loss on what he paid when he sold it, I cannot see why anyone would buy a new one really!!!
Crufts is always stressful for both us but obviously a lot more for Mary, its starts in December with Mary trying to find a suitable track to perform her main arena routine to, last year it came fairly easy with a Tango track that we already had a copy of, We both loved the music and it was just the type of music that suited the atmosphere of the main arena on Best In Show night, so in January 2016 Mary started to put this routine together, the 2016 routine was very important to Mary as it was going to be Levi’s 10th and last time performing a Heelwork to Music routine at Crufts.
Mary also had the practice sessions with her fellow team mates on the England team for the World Cup Competition and sadly it was going to be the last one, also of course there was the little matter of Crufts training for Levi for the Championships, so a pretty busy time for Mary
Mary just adores Crufts and she loves everything about it, her first visit as a spectator was to Earls Court in 1979 where she watched from the obedience from the Balcony and that was it, her path in life was chosen, she qualified for the Obedience Championships at Crufts for the first time with Mr Chips in 1984 and the the next time was Chip and Toddy in 1987, Mary has qualified almost every year since, winning it in 1990 with Toddy, 1992 with Roxy, 2003 with Quincy and 2013 with Levi.
1991 was a disappointing year as Mary had qualified Roxy & Toddy for the Championships, BUT, she had accepted the Crufts Agility judging appointment so… she had to withdraw from the Championships.
Results wise it was a great Crufts 2016, Levi worked his socks off in the Championships Mary could not have asked for better she was absolutely delighted with him and so pleased with his second place in the Championships, In the World Cup the team were so pleased to represent England but a win was not to be but again all the England team were delighted with the second place, Mary was over the moon though with Levi winning the World Cup Individual again, wot a boy.
We were then approaching the last night at Crufts and the pressure of performing a successful routine with a live audience of over 5000 and a few thousand more on live streaming throughout the world and of course not knowing how much or little will go on the TV, no pressure there then, the routine was superb and it just hit the moment and was a pretty perfect end to Crufts for Mary, and what about Levi being away from home for nearly a week Champs, world Cup and HTM what a great boy he is if only his breeder Paul could have seen would have been so proud.
Click on a thumbnail to activate slideshow