On the first day of Crufts (Thursday), Mary did a couple of demos in the Special Events Ring which were very well received and two clicker training demonstration spots on the Pedigree stand. These demonstrations are very popular and the crowd was standing eight or nine deep round the demonstration area to the extent that people were having difficulty walking past the stand. I think they find it quite amazing what you can train a dog to do with a clicker.
On the Friday, it was Obedience day and Mary was working Kizzy in the Bitch Championships. I didn’t see her work Kizzy myself but Mary’s thoughts and those of other people who spoke to us were that she had put in a stunning round. She certainly was really pleased at how Kizzy worked and had no complaints at all. But Mary wasn’t in the places with her.
On the Saturday, it was
’s turn for the Dog Obedience Championships. Quincy is a wonderful dog but he does tend to do his own thing a little bit and Mary is also perfectly frank about her own performance and as she said afterwards, he was a little on the untidy side in his heelwork so at least she wasn’t surprised that he did not make it into the places. On Saturday evening, it was dress rehearsal time for the main HTM slot. The BBC like to have Mary perform her routine so that they can get the angles correct on the spotlights and also pre-plan what their cameras are going to be for the Main Ring on the Sunday night. Mary had a lot of confidence after this as her routine performed well.
On the final day of Crufts (Sunday), Mary was in for another busy day. One of the highlights of the day was the Agility Championships and Mary and Tina had performed very well in the two qualifying rounds, so went through to the final in the Main Ring on Sunday night. Also in the Special Events Ring, during the break between the two parts of the Pedigree International Junior Handler competition, Mary performed her Mack and Mabel routine, finishing to thunderous applause from an audience of almost 2,000 and in Hall 3 once more she did a demonstration of clicker training on the Pedigree stand which was once more packed out with spectators.
Best in Show night at Crufts puts a lot of pressure on everyone. The BBC broadcast live so everything has to run to programme time down to the last second and obviously if anything goes wrong in the ring it is going to be seen by millions of people, so the pressure on Mary with her HTM routine which was going out live at 8:21 pm was tremendous. But before she did that, she had qualified with Tina for the Mini Agility Championships. Mary and Tina put in a stunning clear round and went into the lead and she kept that lead until the very last dog ran when unfortunately she was pushed down into second place, so instead of the winning spot in the Championships this year she was still very pleased to receive the runner-up’s rosette.
When this finished, she didn’t have much of a chance to hang around for the traditional press photographs as she had only 15 minutes to get herself changed and prepared for her Heelwork to Music routine which was due to go out at 8:21 pm. There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere at Crufts on the final night and I’m sure everyone would love to be there but unfortunately with only 4,000 plus seats, these are sold out three or four months before the show. The lights dim, the spotlights come on and Mary is signalled into the arena as the BBC go live on television. She was resplendent in a specially made white outfit with tails and introduced by Nick Brooks-Ward. The routine started in a very fast manner for the first minute or so after which Mary chased Kizzy out of the ring then came back with Taz and as explained previously she was eventually joined by the other dogs, giving four in total. And with the lighting and the tremendous enjoyment shown by the audience, the atmosphere was just unbelievable.
Yes, it was a very successful Crufts, perhaps not in terms of winning but in terms of how Mary felt the dogs had competed and performed and the personal satisfaction we had both got from the show itself.
The other item worth mentioning which happened at the show was the first-ever Heelwork to Music Competition (by invitation). The sport has really come of age now and a little on the late side, the Crufts Committee decided that they would like a competition and wanted 10/12 dogs to fill the time allowed. It certainly was a little bit late to hold a qualifying event, so it was decided that they would invite the Advanced dogs that worked at the very popular Rugby DTC Coventry Show held in February. I’m sure that in future years there will be some kind of qualifying process after the success of the event at Crufts this year, and really the word “success” is rather an understatement for this event. Unfortunately, Mary could not compete in the competition because the routine she had planned was working with more than one dog and as I think most people understand, in competitive terms Heelwork to Music is one dog and one handler which rather excluded her on this occasion and which she was disappointed about.