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Something Special For Everybody!

We were all swaying about in the shuttle, trying to avoid stepping on the dogs, when it suddenly struck me - it had been a whole year since we did this before, but it seemed like yesterday! Crufts is a unique point in our year. 'I remember it. Just after Crufts, on the way home on the M45, or 'they were staying with us over Crufts,' we say, and the position in time is pinpointed precisely. Other people may say 'after Christmas.' Dog people say 'after Crufts.' Love it or hate it, there is nothing like it, the world over.

Of course, it has its snags, and the shuttle from car parks to halls comes under that category perhaps, but then we are fortunate to have a shuttle. At other shows, we have to walk. The trade people ought to be thankful too, seeing people struggle laden with carpets, blankets, huge dog-beds, food, disinfectants, grooming aids. They'd never do it if they had to walk all the way! A big Trade Fair it certainly is, making us realise how many live off our hobby.

The first thing to notice after passing through the turnstiles into the Halls is that there is no sign of a dog! They are there, behind the row upon row of stands selling everything imaginable, the smart rings carpeted in green, chairs set out ready, and behind, the dogs patient upon the benches as with the minimum fuss, the judges enter the rings, and the show has begun.

The part allocated for me to report was the Special Events, so making my way through the crowds, already large, I reached the area where most of the extra activities take place, while at the same time, people scattered to the various points which are their interest, for it is a fact that most people taking part are interested only in one facet - perhaps Obedience, Breed Competition, Agility - unaware that for the entire four days the Main Ring and Special Events Ring, the Citizens Obedience, the vast area of Discover Dogs, provide a constant show within a show, all free, giving a generous run for the money!

Layout Change
There had been a change in the layout of the Show, Discover Dogs. The Special Events, Good Citizens Obedience being in the same huge Hall, but even so early, many seats already taken, the atmosphere expectant as Mary Ray opened the proceedings with her Heelwork to Music, surely the ultimate in teamwork, the Border Collie and human perfectly in harmony with their dance routine. But this year, Mary had even excelled, bringing in a second dog also, creating an extra dimension of elegance and fun. Even our most devoted of Obedience addicts must surely admire! Then in came equipment for a new aspect of our Sport - the Tricky Tykes Terrier Racing Display Team, and as the groups of five little characters raced up and around to catch the 'Hare' on its speedy line, it demonstrated how joyful aspects of our sport can be, and how diverse the movement of even little creatures like these.

In complete contrast, the arrival of the Nuneaton Dog Training Club, not quite so expert as some we saw later, but not so long-established, with a varied routine, spoiled for me by the commentator insisting, very loudly indeed, in talking things through, not necessary when we can SEE, the constant banal remarks to the dogs becoming an irritant. With experience this should improve, as it has with some of the more established, who these days have learned when to shut up!

The members of RAF Dog Display Team, who have performed all over the world: Police Dogs: BAGSD, Upminster, were their professional selves, and after so many years at Crufts, are appreciated as our friends. Many of the dogs are 'rescues', with real problems, their capabilities under the tuition of their handlers remarkable.

On Friday evening in the main ring we had an unusual unscheduled event - the appearance of a streaker. Attired in a red nose, one other similar adornment, and probably goose pimples, racing round that huge arena. I guess he did his act in aid of Comic Relief, and hope he collected a good sum and will let us know his total! After this interlude we returned to the amusing Duck Herding, Gundog Displays, Paws for Thought, various Finals, which continued all show long.

Crufts is not just a time for entertainment, though. It is the few days of the year set aside by Charities for Fund Raising, and many rely heavily on the generosity of those present. The list is long, the need great. Some stands have much on offer, a lot of information, from local organisations to those caring for animals the world over. Among the crowds was a large stand with seven very incapacitated people and their support dogs, who enable them to lead an almost normal life. Some are visibly handicapped, others less so, people with epilepsy for example. Their dogs know how to take care of them, how to raise the alarm, and as I talked with some, I realised that their dogs are more than companions. They are their lifeline, giving them the independence they crave.

Support Dogs is the most recent of our Canine Help Charities, only a few years old, but doing wonderful work alongside Dogs For Deaf People, Guide Dogs for the Blind. Talking with them always makes me feel humble - I have so much, they so little. It also makes me wish that people winning vast sums on the Lottery might remember people to whom life is so cruel, and perhaps allocate a small part of their riches towards their future.

The Kennel Club's brainchild, Good Citizens Obedience, had a crowded ringside all the time, fascinating to see how swiftly new dogs can learn under expert tuition. An adjacent ring for the KC Junior Organisation showed how gifted our youngsters can be. Getting around this area was a battle all four days as the crowds stood to admire. Indeed, it was impossible to fit in all the activities in the time available.

Breed Rescue
At the same time, judging was going on unceasingly, at the side of most rings being the focal point - the stands for Breed Rescue, without which not only would the suffering discards of our world find no aid, but the big Welfare Organisations would find their task immeasurably harder. Nobody has ever discovered the total achievement of Breed Rescue. Working away within almost every breed, their tables here arrayed with objects for sale, often assembled with such effort, and high hopes.

Crufts - much, much more than a Dog Show, as this small roundup of Special Events may show, other writers explain, and TV illustrate. The grand razzmatazz of the final hours arrived, and slightly bemused with it all, we were queuing for the shuttle, and on our way home, heads awash with impressions, shoes kicked off - Crufts - elevated from top to toe.

Tell me it wasn't perfect, but I don't care. Thanks to the KC and all their works, it was a great exhibition. A hard act for the Millennium to follow!

Dogs - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Sheila Alcock

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