As usual, we don’t seem to stop. The big news for us was the fact that Pedigree have stopped all their sponsorship of working dogs which now includes agility - a big hole in our lives really after 20 years and of course Mary lost her sponsorship. We have spoken to a few dog food companies but of course Mary has got to respect the company and, most importantly, if it’s a dog food company then we have to ensure that any food we feed is what we consider to be the best on the market for the dogs.
It looks like we have found a premium food the dogs love, in fact one of the dogs refused his normal food the day after trying a new one !!. We are trying it for a few weeks to ensure the long term benefits are good but at the moment we are very confident.
Mary has recently started regular Monday training days; the first group filled up immediately so she has started a second group for one Monday a month and still has a few vacancies on that. It’s all Obedience and she only takes handlers who can commit themselves to being there every month to ensure she can see progress being made over a period of time. Mary enjoys training, especially if it’s when she can track the progress.
Since Crufts, Mary has taken a training day for the trainers at Thames Dog Training Club. She had a smashing day as they were a really nice bunch of people with some super dogs.
In April, Mary did a spot on a fundraising night for the World Championship Heelwork to Music team representing the UK at the Kennel Club building in Stoneleigh. It’s the first FCI World Championships to be held and no doubt is set to become the most important HTM competition as a worldwide event. The Kennel Club have given it their blessing although it has to be self-funded, hence Mary’s participation in the fundraising event. I became “DJ Dave” providing all the sound equipment, playing the music and being compère for the night. It’s amazing really that all this started from Mary’s obedience heelwork to music demonstration routine organised by John Gilbert in 1990 and here we are, 20 years later, having been totally supported by the Kennel Club, we now have three separate finals at Crufts including an international event and now we have the FCI World Championships.
Also in April Mary went to Shropshire to visit a young man who Mary met at Crufts when he visited the show with his carer, He is a really nice guy who has a few difficulties and he is a great fan of Mary’s, we had a smashing day, he took the dogs a walk with us and had a go at working the dogs and did really well.
In May we were down for our annual visit to Tiverton Canine Society where Mary took two training days and an evening in their training hall. They’re lovely people, there was a great atmosphere on the evening and we stayed with Bobby and her husband which was much better than staying in a hotel, as usual a great evening out in our favourite Chinese !!
During this time Mary was elected back onto the Obedience Council and the big news is that she won her 70th Championship Challenge Certificate at South London Championship Obedience Show and qualified Taz for the Crufts Championships 2011.
In fact, she’s had quite a good year so far in Obedience, only spoilt by a bit of aftermath from the flash camera at Crufts, which has left a legacy of uncertainty on the sendaway for Taz but he does seem to be getting over it now.
Levi has had a few near misses in Championship classes but has done rather well in Open C’s, winning three so far this year. It’s amazing really that Levi can fail part of an exercise in Championship class or indeed work just not quite well enough in one of the exercises, then on the same day he can go into Open ‘C’ and win it - and it’s basically the same exercises as the Championships! I often wonder if he’s saying to himself, “well I’m not going to do well in the important class but I’ll do well in the not-so-important class to stop me qualifying for Crufts”! Also Ozzy the Sheltie has had a second place in ‘A’.
The big event for us at the end of June is Mary’s week’s camp. This is held at Kath Dark’s near Daventry and is just a fabulous venue. This year, we changed the camping and agility areas around a little so had a lovely agility ring - a nice, compact little area for camping, Kath’s training hall all week (although due to the weather we didn’t need to use it for training, just for eating, drinking and making merry), and a great outdoor paddock for obedience.
The most important thing of all was that Kath had provided glorious weather! I didn’t stay on site because of the other dogs but felt like I was there most of the time, and it was one of the best camps we’ve had to date. Everyone arrived on the Sunday evening for a barbecue which I cooked with chicken, sausages and burgers, Jersey royal potatoes and salad followed by strawberries, grapes and whipped cream - and it was fabulous though I say it myself!
For the whole week we had agility in the morning and obedience training in the afternoon, Monday evening was the night off for a rest, Tuesday evening 23 people went to the local pub ‘The Countryman’ for a meal which was a gentle walk up from Kath’s and very pleasant as each evening was very warm.
On Wednesday we had a DVD evening. I have a big dropdown screen and a projector linked to a DVD player and the quality really is superb, so the highlight of the night was watching DVDs of last year’s camp that had been put together by Clare Russell. I think a couple of other DVDs were also played. Thursday evening was another meal, albeit a bit on the early side. Now you might wonder why I’m going into details about what we ate? Well, that’s because with some help from Kath doing the potatoes, I did all the cooking!
We had boneless chicken breast in honey and mustard sauce, Jersey royal potatoes, peas and whole French beans followed by strawberries and pineapple with whipped cream to finish. It was scrummy! Of course, I did provide some vegetarian options - und
er protest - I really must see if I can be a bit more creative with these next year.
And while we’re on the subject of food, last year Pauline Barr was my secretary and very into home-baked cakes but this year, working full-time, she couldn’t do it. So I telephoned the local bakery and within three hours of placing an order, they had actually baked me eleven assorted tray bakes which were absolutely gorgeous; shortbread, chocolate and carrot cake amongst others.
Well, after all this food, I think the training went quite well too; in fact, everyone was over the moon with the week. The highlight of course was Thursday evening when we had 15 singles routines and 3 team routines for our Heelwork to Music Night. We did this in the obedience paddock next to the road, I rigged up a full disco “pa” set for it, so the music was blasting out into the surrounding fields and would you believe, the farmer baling in the next field stopped the tractor a couple of times to watch in sheer disbelief. He must have thought everyone was on drugs!
Anyway, everyone says they’re coming back next year and we have a principle of first invitation going to those on the course the previous year but if you are interested in being on the waiting list then do contact me.
The big news which no-one can believe is that Mary has stopped smoking - yes, it’s unbelievable and in fact I can’t believe it myself! Also, Mary’s sister is now going to stop and I may have to pack up myself although God knows how I’ll do it!
If you’re thinking of going on a cruise from the USA, you may wish to try something different. Mary has said that she wanted a break from travelling abroad on training courses but she has relented and taken an appointment on a cruise liner leaving Fort Lauderdale on 18th February 2011. It’s a week’s cruise taking in Half Moon Cay, Aruba and Curacao in the Caribbean and Mary has been asked to be one of the eight speakers/lecturers. She has been on the cruise previously as a passenger and found it absolutely fascinating. You can laze round on the cruise or pick and choose whether you want to relax or go to one of the daily seminars that are held and, of course, you can leave the boat on the three Caribbean stops to sightsee. She really enjoyed it last time so I’m sure she will enjoy it just as much again. Full details are on Mary’s Diary page. I’ve made the supreme sacrifice as I’m going to stop at home and look after the dogs as Mary’s sister is going with her - although it might also be something to do with the fact that I had two weeks away with my mate Roger sightseeing in Cambodia and Borneo last November. I must admit, I’m not really into lazing around and much prefer a sightseeing holiday which unfortunately is not what Mary wants.