Crufts brings back so many amazing memories, but by far my favourite has to be in 2009 when I showed my first Dalmatian in the puppy class. Although I’d shown horses in-hand for years – dogs are a whole different kettle of fish. I must confess that this is the most nerve wrecking thing I’ve ever done. We didn’t do a particularly good job in the ring – half way through the run up my treats came flying out of my pocket – much to Oakley’s delight, he started leaping around like a leprechaun trying to catch them! He then decided to give the judge an ear nibble when she went over him, to which I quipped ‘he’s a sucker for blonde’s – fortunately the judge had a sense of humour and despite all these cringey Bridget Jones moments she still placed him 5th and there were 15 in the class. I was stunned, elated, relieved all at once! At that moment I retired from showing! I’d just launched my wedding photography business so I couldn’t commit to the shows anymore. We had a blast, I learnt a lot about dogs and met some wonderful people.
My other great memory of crufts is when I returned a few years later in a professional capacity. I was granted permission to photograph the entire show – 4 days, 9am to 9pm. It was a massive learning curve – I was completely out of my comfort zone as a weddings photographer. I spent the first 30 minutes on the first night of the groups – trying to work out the correct settings. Luckily for me, I was taken under the wing of Dave and Alan, these seasoned pros showed me the ropes and offered advice. Something I’m so thankful for to this day.
The best part about being behind the scenes – aside from cuddling all the dogs – was seeing how everyone, humans and dogs came together in their masses but they all got on. It seems the shared love of our furry friends brings the best out in people. Even the ringside competitive rivalry is at worst friendly banter.
This year I’m heading back to Crufts, but this time as a visitor with a shopping list. I’m also taking my friend Andrea as she’s never been – she’s in for such a treat! Our first stop will Discover Dogs, which for me is the best bit of Crufts. When I was there as a photographer I would wander around this section for hours, mainly having a love with all the dogs on the stands and chatting with their owners learning about the different breeds. Next up we’ll be hitting the shopping Roxy has a long wish list so this may take some time. The show is spread over quite a few halls, so if you’re attending the show make sure you wear comfy shoes. If you get hungry or need to hydrate there’s a few different options available at the NEC. There’s also a shop and cash point.
It’s also worth checking out what’s on in the main arena during the day, you can pick up a show guide at the entrance. There’s lots of competitions which are great to watch, I particularly like flyball and agility.
Come evening the main arena will fill up with those eager to ‘groups’. During the day all the breeds within each group – toy, utility, gundog, working, pastoral, hound and terrier – compete for the for title Best in Breed. Each of the Breed winners will then compete against the other breed winners within their group to win the title Best in Group. Then on Sunday evening each of the Best in Group winners compete for the Crufts Best in Show title. It’s all very exciting and the atmosphere in the arena is electric. Obviously Roxy and I are cheering on the Dallies, but with that said, although everyone competing wants to take the trophy home, they all know that whatever happens win or loose they’re taking the best dog home!
Spots of love
October and Roxy