I could say that I’m a little late with the update but it doesn’t really describe it as it’s only around a year late! Some serious holes in this with shows missed out through lack of typing time.

The big news about Crufts is that Mary has been told that the Kennel Club have decided that 2018 will be the last time Mary performs a routine in the main arena at Crufts; they are revamping the main arena programme for 2019 so there will be no Heelwork To Music on Best In Show Night after this year.  We have known about this for a while and had decided not to say anything yet, but it has been printed in the Kennel Gazette hence our post on Facebook. This news and attracted a lot of comment on Facebook which was not our intention.

The membership magazine for the Kennel Club is called the Kennel Gazette and the pre Crufts edition has a feature on Mary.  It’s a potted history with photographs over 3 pages and a brilliant read, so I will put it on the website shortly.

We are at this moment looking forward to Crufts where I’m commentating as usual and Mary is also, as usual, putting her routine together for the Main Ring.  It is going to be a bit special this year as it’s the last one, so it’s really worth watching.  I have no doubt that, as usual, Channel 4 will not broadcast it on television, so there are two choices – Best in Show Night tickets are now on sale via the Crufts website or it will be live streamed via the Crufts website.

Mary has also started putting in some extra training for the Obedience Championships.  Lyric is drawn 15th in the Bitch Championship on Saturday and Levi is drawn 2nd in the Dog Championships on Sunday Levi has been such a good dog and it’s really a sad year because Mary is retiring him at Crufts.  So not only sad but it’s also a celebration of what a marvellous career he’s had in Obedience and Heelwork to Music.  On the home front, he’s just been a lovely dog to live with – a real gentleman and he still sleeps every night on a rug next to our bed.  Let’s hope he has a long retirement.

At the moment, Mary’s sister Pauline is getting a little nervous at the thought of Crufts!  She has been chosen to be a member of the Midlands team in the Inter-Regional Obedience Competition at Crufts.  Pauline has lived in our annexe now for just over a year and when she moved in, she really wanted her own dog and the result of that was a lovely Blue Merle called Lynx from a little bred by Anna Herzog and sired by our Levi.  She’s absolutely thrilled to have gone from Novice to having won one ‘A’ in the one season.

We had our usual quiet family Christmas with a few relations and guests, but it was lovely this year because for the first time in 25 years I didn’t have to go to Olympia to run the Kennel Club Agility Stakes Finals.  I had decided to retire from this position which meant that I also did not have to get heavily involved in all the preparation for the event.  This did give me the opportunity to go to Rugby DTC’s Dogs Christmas Party which I’ve missed all these years as it always fell on Olympia week.

Having retired from running the Olympia Agility Finals We were honoured to be invited into the Kennel Clubs hospitality box to watch the Saturday evening performance at the Olympia International Horse Show and even more honoured to be invited as a guest in the Presidents box on the Sunday evening, we did enjoy our non-doggie weekend in London prior to Christmas, Mary even wore a “frock” !!, it has been a long time we stayed away without the dogs so it was a rare occurrence for us, lots of shopping in and out of Olympia and I tried the old trick of leaving my credit card at home but sadly that did not work.

In November, we had what I think is now our annual trip to Northumberland where Mary did a demonstration evening on the Friday followed by training on Saturday and Sunday – which also included a good night on Saturday when we went out for a meal with everyone.  They are a lovely group of people and very welcoming.  We nearly did miss the start of the evening, however, and I think we all know the feeling when you set off for a long journey a little later than planned then caught up in long delays due to accidents and this delay actually put us into the worst rush hour night of the week around Newcastle, so it was a bit of a panic getting everything ready once we arrived at the venue which is Northumberland Canine Centre, it’s just North of Newcastle  It is a smashing venue for Obedience – fully carpeted and well lit, so an ideal place.  But of course, in November when it’s cold, as with any barn-type building, it does get a little chilly, even with heaters on. Mary enjoyed the training and everyone was very hospitable as usual.

Later in October, we had Discover Dogs as usual.  We have both done every single Discover Dogs since it started, which is probably about fifteen years ago.  Mary did a most entertaining demonstration of training techniques with the dogs, as usual, Lyric was the star of the show and I think everyone fell in love with little Yoko.  She also performed her current Crufts routine – and it was a full house every time she was in the arena.  Also as usual, I was commentating and ensuring the arena ran to plan so it was a good weekend in good company.  Sadly, because of a clash in dates, Mary had to miss East Grinstead Championship Show which was the final one of the season and which is always a sore point.

In early October, Cheshire Championship Obedience Show was entered which Mary had entered and we were looking forward to it as it was at a super new venue and we could camp on site.   But then disaster struck as monsoon-type rain arrived and having seen the photographs the beautiful grass areas turned into mini lakes, so it was with a sad heart that they had to cancel the show.  Having had to cancel one of our own shows a few years ago, I do know that it’s harder work to cancel than it is to run it, so this was really bad news for the committee.  However, we did have a donation from the show for the defibrillator fund, so our thanks go to the committee for that.

At the end of September we were off to the Elm park/Thurrock  weekend, where the problem is not so much the distance but more the roads we had to travel on, namely down the M1 then along the M25 to Essex.  This show has been held for years at Orsett Showground which is a great place for a dog show, lovely flat grass for the rings and a massive field to exercise your dog.  The downside is, of course, that Essex seems to be Travellers’ Utopia, so the entrance gate had to be manned at all times.  Mary had a great weekend though, as you will be able to see from the results.  But the most amazing result was Mary and Lyric winning the Bitch Ticket on the first day with Dot winning the Dog Ticket, then on the second day it was a repeat – how amazing is that! Judges were Stella Henstridge and Michelle Newman, lyric also won an open C under Bill Larkin, not forgetting young Frankie winning Open C under Jude Stone.         I must just mention what a great team they have running Elm Park and Thurrock and there’s always a smile when you arrive, from the ‘hostesses with the mostesses’ on the front gate.

In September, Mary has her annual week at the Birmingham shows, camping for nine nights at Sandwell Valley Park with a few hundred others.  It’s such a popular week’s holiday now, with two consecutive weekends of competitions including Championships.  Having made arrangements with the management to reserve Mary’s usual parking place due to the fact that we didn’t get back from the evening in Cwmbran until 1:00 am, all was well with Mary having the spot she’s always had for the last few years.  In fact, I think most people have established where they want to camp for the nine nights and that’s where they go every year.  It’s a great week with group training sessions and other activities taking place during the week, lots of dog walking options and a short walk into West Bromwich Shopping Centre.  In fact, the most amazing thing is that this Country Park is just a short walk away from an extremely busy town centre and suburbs.  Mary judged B Dog on one show day and she was also one of the judges for the Battle of the Sexes competition that took place on Friday 22nd September.  I was also asked to do the commentary and it was a light-hearted competition so I did try to make light-hearted commentary to match.  There were four judges sitting at the tables and it was judged Strictly Come Dancing style.  And the eventual winners were the girls!  In short, it was a great idea and really enjoyed by all and the whole event, including various raffles, riding horses etc was all about raising funds for Macmillan Nurses – and I have to say that it was absolutely brilliant!So well done to the Prince family as well as to Jan Green who was also fundraising for Macmillan and part of the whole party atmosphere.  It wouldn‘t surprise me if over £2K was raised.

On Thursday evening, Mary had an evening booked in Cwmbran for Annette.  She had been talking about having Mary back to Wales for a long time and after various bouts of ill-health, was in a position to be able to do so.  We knew this was going to be a little difficult for us because of Mary having to be at Sandwell Valley Park in the camper by the next morning, but hey ho that’s the way it goes.  We were at a sports centre with the usual polished floor but Annette had managed to get hold of some exhibition carpeting for the ring area and we had a pretty full house of people as well.  The stars of the show were no doubt Lyric and Yoko, both being great performers who really enjoy what they do.  We piled everything into the VW van so that we could have a quick journey which wasn’t so quick going due to traffic problems but certainly quick coming back, although it is still quite a long haul but it was a very appreciative audience.

The first weekend in September, as usual, we were in Anglesey for a week for Mary’s annual week’s course.  To avoid the manic rushing about, Mary decided that she would give Lichfield Show a miss and travel to Anglesey on the Saturday to Rex and Maggie’s farm where the training week is based.  It was also a little unfortunate this year as the weather was very Welsh or, in other words, very wet, which is a great shame because when it’s lovely then it’s a brilliant place to be.  But it was a good week nonetheless and I think it was only me who suffered as I didn’t get out on my Honda scooter much, being a fair-weather rider.  There were some lovely people on the course as usual, with nearly all of our ‘regulars’ and it was all very well organised by Maggie and Rex – oh, and I did food including a barbecue, a soup and crusty bread night and we also went for our usual meal out at a great local hotel with the longest dining table I’ve ever seen so that we could all get round it.  As usual, everyone enjoyed the week but Mary decided that she would like to have a break from it next year so there will be no Anglesey training week in 2019.  Therefore, anyone interested in the 2018 event should contact Maggie sooner rather than later.

On the Sunday, the day after we arrived home, Mary was on her usual trip to Coventry Obedience Show which is a nice easy local one and Levi got the reserve ticket under Richard kebble

One of the regular pupils on Mary’s monthly training day is Danielle.  She has made amazing progress with her dogs, especially when you consider the severe disabilities she has.  Two years ago, Mary did a fundraising evening for her and with a two year gap, Danielle asked Mary to repeat the exercise to raise welcome funds for ‘Dogs for Good’.  It really was a great night; the dogs were on superb form, the ticket included home-made cakes, the atmosphere was wonderful and the star of the show was once more little Yoko.  This week Mary had purchased a mini trampoline, so we had to take that with us but I don’t think she will be a champion acrobat in the near future but it was good to watch, and she also demonstrated the trick and treat machine which, again, was amazing to watch.  So yes, it was a really good night and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it even though the area where Mary was to finish with her Singing in the Rain routine which she performed on a smallish area but it still looked very good.

On the end of August Bank Holiday weekend, Mary did a Saturday and Sunday at Wakefield Championship Show – nice people, nice venue, nice show so what more can you say.  The bonus being that we were parked in our favourite spot and it was fairly level ground for Mary to get over to the rings.   Not a bad competition weekend either. Levi won the Champ Dog judged by Mick Vessey, Lyric got the Champ reserve under Richard Kebble

On the Monday of the BH weekend, Mary had entered Worcester so I stayed at home while she and Pauline went off to the show. Lyric won herself a win in Open C under Rob Pugh and the reserve champ ticket under Sandy Wadhams.

This is probably a good time to mention that Mary’s sister Pauline, having been made redundant, moved into our annexe in Autumn 2016 and also got herself a Levi puppy from Anna Herzog His name is Lynx and he’s looking to be pretty brilliant, in her first season she has had 4 wins & 5 seconds in Novice and one win in A and a place in B.

One of our favourite August shows is Ditton weekend but what isn’t a favourite is the journey there and back.  Going was actually quite good but it was a complete nightmare coming back with heavy rain, spray, accidents, diversions – you name it, we had the lot.  BUT it was a lovely show on a lovely venue.  It’s also great when you have one where they do evening meals in the clubhouse – we can recommend the chicken curry!  Mary had a good weekend and we were parked adjacent to the rings which was very helpful for her. Lyric go herself a reserve place in Champ Class under Janet Bates and an Open C win under Pat Burford, Levi got himself a Open C win under Denise Harrild.

Mary entered the well run show at Winchester, great venue and good parking, our only star today was Frankie winning his first open C under Marnie Wells, Ohhhh well there was another star and it was Pauline with Lynx who won,  It is a shame

There were more shows not had chance document everything but I can say that during the 2017 season:

Sarkam Sinatra “Frankie” had 11 x Class B wins & 3 x Class C wins

Ob.Ch Sarkam Sings The Blues“Lyric” had 4 x wins and 8 x reserves in Championship C & 11 x Open C wins

Ob.Ch Colliewood Blue Jeans “ Levi “ 6 x wins and 7 x reserves in Championship C  & 9 x Open C wins/

On 1st July it was the Chadkirk one day show at Bramham Park – a lovely peaceful venue and, as usual, a very well organised show.  But unfortunately the Ticket rings are in a different field to the Open classes, although they are adjacent.  The good news was that we were parked right outside the Ticket rings.  It always seems a little bit in the middle of nowhere although Bramham Park is just outside Stockport so I always think driving in “Thank God for Satnav”.  The driveway in which sometimes feels like a ‘track’ is very well wooded with low hanging branches as well, so taking the motor home was a non-starter. Levi still on form winning the Champ Class under Ray Wakelyn, Frankie getting another B under judge Mo Graham and Lyric picking up another reserve in Champ Bitch and a second in open C

After our trip to Chadkirk on the Sunday, it was down to Cippenham.  Being a little cramped in the VW van and the show being a bit closer, we decided to take the motor home for the day which, of course, is much more comfortable for travel and during the day for the dogs. Mary had another great day and it was to be Frankie’s first Open ‘C’ class which Mary decided would be a training round for the first one Lyric getting another reserve in Championship Bitch and a Open C win under Anna Herzog, Levi settling for a 3rd in ticket.

As usual, we were over to Daventry for Mary’s training camp.  We opened it up for everyone to arrive on the Saturday even though the course was not due to start until the Monday as it has become something of a social event as well as a serious training course.  This year, there were one or two new faces as well as the regulars and certainly everyone commented that they really enjoyed their week and found it very constructive.  In-between this, of course, we had plenty of food including – for the first time – a Chinese/Indian meal night, freshly cooked in the kitchen by our chef Heather. Oh, and that was accompanied by copious amounts of Pimms.  This year the weather was so good that it was too good, so numerous paddling pools were filled around the working areas and gazebos were also erected for handlers to sit under. The surprise of the week for Mary was when Jill Houston from Australia turned up with Lesley Wilks.  It appears that Lesley had been hiding her away for a couple of days, ready to surprise Mary.  She had a really good few days and did a little bit of work with Mary’s dogs at times – and obviously joined us with Lesley for the hospitality.  But what was she going to do for the weekend as we were off to Carmarthen in the motor home?  Well, it didn’t take much decision as she came with us and I had the pleasure of her keeping me company in the front while Mary and Pauline relaxed as usual in the back.  If anyone wants to join us on Mary’s Daventry course, I have started a waiting list for 2018.  I always give first priority to the previous year’s participants but circumstances dictate that there will be one or two who cannot make it, so the earlier you’re on the waiting list the better.  drayped@aol.com  Update all working places taken but we have a reserve places or spectator places available.

The last weekend in June was Carmarthen Show and last year we left Mary’s course at Daventry at around 2:30 pm and the journey was absolutely horrendous, especially on the M4 from Cardiff to Carmarthen.  Hence, this year Mary finished the course on Thursday evening and we were away from Daventry at around 10:30 am – and had a great run.  Unfortunately, we appeared to have left all the good weather in Daventry and received a good dose of Welsh weather, very breezy with rain at times and not helped by the fact that the surface of the showground was not the most pristine I have ever seen.  Nonetheless, it wasn’t a bad weekend and a remarkably good journey back on the Sunday evening.

Just adding to Jill’s trip out with us, she remarkably had two good nights of sleep on the side seats of the motorhome where she could just about stretch out in her sleeping bag, compliments of Jan Morse.  Food was a little more challenging as Jill is a vegan so at times she did have to resort to being a bit of a vegetarian due to the poor availability of vegan meals which, she tells us, is quite different to Australia where vegan food is readily available everywhere.  And there was me thinking they all lived on kangaroo steaks and Fosters!  Frankie was the star of the show with two class B wins but forgetting another reserve in Champ C for Levi

In early June, Mary takes a three day mid-week course for Angela White at the IABTC at Haxey.  As with Mary’s Daventry week, there were some new faces but a number of regulars as well.  This is a lovely venue with a carpeted hall and some good company so what more could you want, especially when the training part went so well with lots of positive feedback. The big bonus this year was that instead of taking 30 minutes to get up the drive, it took a fraction of that as the drive had been resurfaced, taking place again on 5th – 7th June 2018.

We had a long haul up to St Marys, Frankie got another B under Ann Young, Levi got a reserve in the Champ under Fran Herron, one of the few clubs that produce all their catering which is scrumptious and lovely group running the show.

The first week in June was another couple of Mary’s favourite shows.  On the Sunday it was Petersfield show; beautiful working surface, great parking under the trees and, most importantly, not too far from the rings for Mary which can sometimes make life very difficult for her but we are reticent to ask for any special favours as far as parking is concerned.  Petersfield always has a good team running the show, Levi got himself a reserve (2nd) in the Champ

On the Saturday, it was Basingstoke, set in the town centre park which was very picturesque and probably the closest to a town centre that I have ever seen a show albeit still having good access from the road network which I needed of course as we were in our motorhome which is a little on the long side at over 9 metres and 3.5 metres high!  It was a good working surface and a well organised and laid-out show. Frankie got B win under Brian Reed, for Levi it was an Open C win and for Lyric it was a second in open C under Jo Edwards and the same in ticket under judge Gerard this would be one of many reserve Ch places in 2017.

On the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of Mary we made our usual trip up to Waldridge Fell for their weekend show on the country park.  This was the first year of management for the new show secretary and what an excellent job she did with her team.  It is a great place to park up, not too far from the rings and a good surface as well.  Mary won the Dog Ticket with Levi  under Denise Robertson and had the annual run-off for the trophy for the overall Best Championship Dog.  And … she won it again! So it was a really good weekend for her, it was also Levi’s weekend as well as he won two Open C’s under judges Karen Davies & Sharon Dunston, we should call it a boys weekend with Frankie winner two B Dogs under judges Pamela Lochrie & Janice Woodcock.

The two weekends prior to this were another two of our favourite shows, the most recent being Loughborough.  There are always such nice people running these shows and Loughborough is no exception – a good venue with a good ring surface, it has historically always suffered if we’ve had wet weather before the show – possibly because I believe it’s clay – so a few had a little difficulty but it was all solved by Tony Lewis, and we did enjoy the fast caravan racing exit of the vans with caravans on the back on the judges’ side of the parking area. Mary had a successful weekend again and we are lucky that Loughborough lets us have the same spot each year, being just in front of the club house. So it does mean that she can get back to the van and have the odd rest between working the dogs. Probably no secret that Mary has Rheumatoid Arthritis so as far as parking is concerned every little helps.  As usual, I loaned Loughborough my pa set and battery and certainly the move of the secretary’s marquee over to next to the club house has made my life easier as far as setting it up is concerned, Levi was our top dog of the weekend after winning the Championship Dog class under Alison Gresty. But must not forget young Frankie winning B under judge John Taylor/

The weekend prior was Wirral and another of our favourite shows. parking adjacent to the rings so not too far for Mary to walk to the rings. This was a good weekend for Mary competitively and a nice day out for me, going to Liverpool with Ray Morse on the ferry plus a few pints down on the Riverside Inn which is just a few minutes walk from the venue through the country park – in other words ‘paradise’.  As usual, I also loaned Wirral my battery powered pa set. Its another one of our favourite venues and run by the lovely crowd from Wirrel Club, oh and must not forget (Mr Roastie) the caterer who does a great take away roast dinner and apple crumble pudding. Highlight of the weekend was Levi winning the Championship Dog class under Richard Burbage.

The first weekend in May is all about the Rugby DTC Championship Show.  This takes up our life in the run-up to the show but then everyone who runs a show will understand that statement.  We’re very lucky having such a good venue which we hire mostly from Rugby Borough Council who have been quite helpful, but it does get more expensive and this year we were charged for the set-up day as well.  But we can’t complain as it is a good venue and, of course, we are indebted to St Andrew’s Rugby Football Club for not only giving us the use of their pitch but also giving us ‘the run of the house’.  I have the keys as we can do whatever we like there which is gratifying for the club to be put into such a trusted position, even if it does mean that I have to pull some pints on a Saturday afternoon as I also double up as a barman to our thirsty helpers.  We had good weather this year, the council, as requested, had cut the grass, and it was just a lovely show.  Also we finished about the earliest we ever have for two reasons, we believe: firstly we had a high number of competitors who did not turn up on the day and – we think – because this was the once every few years that we were not on a Bank Holiday weekend,  our entries were down slightly. So that was  a little disappointing although I have to say that our helpers were quite pleased s this was the earliest we had ever got loaded and off the venue!, the highlight for Mary was Levi getting 1st place in the Dog Championships under Peter Lubbi. Frankie had a B win under judge Colin Huntley.

As I said Leicester was on the previous weekend to Rugby and it was a good show for Mary and Lyric with an Open C win under Christine Bland and the Championship Bitch under Sue Howell.

At the end of April it was our annual trip to Oxhey Show – I don’t know how many years we’ve been going there! It’s a nice venue with lovely people running it, good parking and a show that Mary likes to attend. She always asks me to take the motor home which more comfort and more room for the dogs.  I should say that when we’re in the motor home, Rooney, Ozzy, little Yoko and Vinnie travel and spend their day inside and not in the on-board fitted kennelling . I’m sure that I would also like to go in the motor home everywhere BUT it’s a very tight entrance into the venue and around the trees to get to the parking area.  I did it in my last motorhome but decided not to risk it with this one, Levi got a Open C win under Graham Paul Cooke also Frankie had a B win under John Taylor

The following day it was the BAGSD show and Mary was well pleased with an Open C win for Lyric Suzie Duke and a Open C win for Levi under Graham Wellings

Earlier in April, Mary took a Young Kennel Club Obedience Training Day at the Rugby Barn.  She really enjoyed this and got a lot of satisfaction herself in seeing how keen the young handlers were.  Hence, this will be repeated in 2018 on the 7th April.

The first big competitive event of the year was the Midland Border Collie Easter Show, run very competently by Sheila Hyde and her team.  The weather is always a consideration, no matter how good the ground is at this time of year but it was not bad and better than some of the rainy times we’ve had at this show over the years. So it’s always a little bit of a concern to me as my motorhome weighs approaching 7 tonnes.  This is another show that uses my outdoor pa system and another show that Mary really enjoys, especially as we are allowed to park ringside. A great show for Mary with Lyric she won the Championship C under Emma Lavender and open C under Tammy Wallace, Levi under Judge Steve Fraser got the reserve ticket in the CH Class.

Crufts was a resounding success for Mary this year, the first year using Frankie and Lyric for her Main Ring Heelwork to Music performance it was a joy to watch !!  – Singing in the Rain was a brilliant choice of music especially as it was the original version by Gene Kelly and it has been recognised as one of the best that she’s ever done and the dogs were just brilliant.  Two versions were put on by the Kennel Club, the first one on Facebook which was posted on the night she did it and the second directly onto YouTube.  The Facebook copy on YouTube rapidly progressed to 2.6 million views with the Crufts YouTube channel version catching up fast.  As usual, there were a lot of upset people as it was not broadcast on television and I did ask the question why not and the answer given was that the Channel 4  thought it was an “internet thing”.  Of course the biggest thrill for Mary was Getting the reserve place (2nd) in the Championships under judge Alan Gresty with Lyric and Levi getting the 3rd place.

I personally, had a great time commentating which I really enjoy.  I have now retired from most of my Kennel Club commitments including the fact that after 26 years I have given up running the KC Agility Stakes Finals at the Olympia International Horse show. But I may continue with Crufts whilst I’m needed as I still have a voice.

After Crufts, Mary jetted off to Tampa, Florida to see her sister with Pauline leaving me with some assistance to look after all the dogs.  I did manage to get two business class seats for the outward journey by cashing in some very old air miles I had but unfortunately I didn’t have enough for the return, so was expecting her to get off the plane crippled when she got back from a nine hour economy seat journey, BUT the ‘jammy devils’ – when she got on the plane it was half empty, so they had a block of seats to themselves and did actually lie down on the way back. How lucky was that!

They both had a great time.  It’s not a posh hotel or resort where they stay, it’s just a small development of apartments with a small swimming pool and somewhere to meet in the evening for the local people.  And I understand the same group always goes back for the first three months of the year every year including Mary’s sister Margaret and her husband Hugh.

Leave a Reply