Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Where has the time gone?
It only feels like yesterday that we were driving home from #Crufts 2015 after winning Best Opposite Sex in our Breed along with Best Puppy in Breed.
It was a bittersweet moment as we knew this would be our final Crufts exhibiting - after 30+ years it was a decision that neither Alasdair nor myself came to lightly.
Showing had been our life. We lived and breathed the excitement, the constant worrying about dropping coats, seasons, whether or not the Judge 'liked' our type....the list could go on.
Exactly like the seasons of the year, things have to change and sometimes big changes are in order.
My first Crufts without taking any of our Hounds was 2016.
We decided to go not in a 'working' capacity either but as normal spectators.
My Mum and our son, Dominic joined us for this momentous event and I have to say that we all thoroughly enjoyed the day.
It took me quite a few hours to stop having that nagging feeling that I had forgotten something.....the dogs!! I was used to being pulled from pillar to post and sitting for hours on the benches waiting for our 5 minutes in the ring................not this time.
We strolled slowly through the myriad of stalls, something Ali and I had never really had the chance to do before! We stopped for a leisurely refreshment, then took in a few breeds which we have always wanted to watch but again were unable to due to concentrating on our own.
Up with the Gods!
Alasdair dug deep into his pocket to purchase 4 tickets for Best in Show (Hounds were on Best in Show day in 2015.) For those who don't know this, Groups are shown on different days and then alternate days the following year so every Group then gets a chance of being on the Best in Show day.
As I wasn't there in an official capacity I only took the Nikon P900 which has the record breaking zoom lens. We were sat up in the Gods, so thankfully my camera could get in nice an close and awaited the spectacle.
Again, this was something new to us because even after 30+ years of showing at Crufts we had never watched Best in Show live as we always had the dogs to take care of. #newexperiences
The fanfare erupted, the lights were dimmed, the spotlights came on and the announcer read out details of each breeds as they gracefully covered the main arena all decked in its now famous green carpet.
BEST in SHOW
The Terrier Group was won by the fabulous WHWT Ch Burneze Geordie Girl and the Hound Group was won by the stunning Hazel - Ch Nothing Compares to You at Crosscop JW who was handled by my friend Charley Donaldson. #whippet #westhighlandwhiteterrier
On to the moment everyone was waiting for, the Best in Show judging. The line up was seven of the most wonderful and as close to perfect dogs you could imagine. Coats were gleaming, teeth shining, condition was tip top and even the handlers were groomed within an inch of their lives.
Gundog Group was represented by the utterly fabulous #James the Gordon Setter handled by his owner David Alcorn who only lives a few miles away from the studios here.
Toy Group made an impact with Eric from the World famous Yakee Pekingese Kennels.
From the Pastoral Group came an International Champion in the beautiful shape of Zony, the Border Collie.
Working Group graced the ring with the brilliantly named Bouvier Des Flandres, Hector.
The Utility Group was represented by Ch Longdale's Jen you Win JW SHCM, the German Spitz (#klien)
With the individuals done, the Judge Mr Derek Smith gave the nod to the Stewards who put the podium in place along with the famous Best in Show Trophy in its glorious Challenge cup form.
The Magnificent Seven
Around the Crufts arena, holding around 6,000 canine enthusiasts became silent. Even the dogs around the NEC who had been singing all day, fell quiet.
It almost seemed the whole arena held its breath while Mr Smith walked slowly back and forth taking in a final glimpse of these incredible dogs who were the final 7 out of over 20,000 dogs to compete.
Suddenly, the Judge lifted his arm, walked quickly towards the Westie, a cheer almost lifted the roof and Marie Burns lit up when she realised it was she that the outstretched arm was reaching for.
Then without a moment's hesitation, Mr Smith turned and headed straight for Hazel the Whippet and the Reserve Best in Show was awarded.
Sitting in front of us during all of the proceedings was Charley's Mum and Hazels co-owner so you can imagine the cheer which erupted from our area of the seating. Even writing this I can still feel the emotion which swept over us at that very moment.
A day well spent
Tired, hungry, sore feet from walking miles but very, very happy we all bundled into one of the shuttle buses which took us back to the car in one of the multitudes of car parks at the NEC - you need a map and a slide rule to navigate this area.
The 5 hour drive home was filled with chatter about the days events. From watching our own breeds in their rings, to the fast and furious flyball, the elegant heelwork to music and so many other fascinating hobbies that people love to do with their dogs.
So that was our first year at Crufts without any dogs or in any official capacity.
I did enjoy it overall as it allowed me a freedom which I had never had before, but I don't think I could do it again in that way.
I now cover Crufts on my WDPA press pass and have done so since that year of going as a member of the public. A few of the images have been published around the World for which I am forever grateful.
Crufts 2018 is going to a be very special one for us as two of our Foxhounds are coming back over from Austria to compete in the breed rings. I am so proud of these two as they have both attained their World Champion title status. It will be really lovely to get a cuddle from them...tears of joy will be flowing!
The Greatest Dog Show in the World
Whether you love it or hate it, Crufts is and always will be the culmination of years of hard work from the top Breeders our great country has to offer and who make the show what it stands for.
Crufts 2018 will be another great show, I am sure of it. There are some amazing dogs already tipped for the top positions but anything can happen on the day. This year, Ali and I will be covering all 4 days, so please if you see us around give out a holler.
Crufts IS well and truly the World's Greatest Dog Show.