By: Susan & Gemma Henshaw
From a spectator’s view
An early morning set off for us, and a short journey on the M42 from the hotel up to the NEC for the second day of Crufts 2016, just a short queue on the way into the car park and then across to Hall 5 for today’s Dog Obedience Championships.
It’s just before 7.30am when we arrive so chance for a strong coffee to keep us going for the morning, then a walk round to see all the benches festooned with their cards, presents and balloons. We deliver our cards and then it’s off to settle into our seats ready for the build-up of today’s competition.
Promptly at 8.40 the judge and her ring party enter and stand to the left of the ring, then the parade of this year’s competitors gets underway. Already some spectators are arriving and they greet each handler and dog with a round of applause. Introducing the teams and giving details on where and under whom they won their tickets is our man on the mic Gerard Paisley.
Once the official opening of Crufts is announced over the tannoy we have the introduction of today’s judge Stella Henstridge, Gerard gives a short round up of her judging career which started in 1988, also the levels at which her own dogs have worked and the ones that she has worked here herself in the Championships. Then the entry and introduction of the members of her ring party and which tasks they will be undertaking today.
The judge is wearing black trousers, a black top and a jacket of varying shades of grey almost like a waterfall effect. The female stewards are in dark grey trouser suits with a lovely blue top underneath the jacket, the male stewards are in grey suits, very pale blue shirts and a blue tie. A very smart looking team.
Looking across the ring there are four small circles at the far side -opposite the collecting ring- which are to be worked in normal pace alternating from clockwise to anticlockwise, then there is a long chalk line at the collecting ring side which has three semi circles along its length which are worked in slow and then normal pace. The retrieve article is a hand knitted blue dog and the send away consists of two black lozenge shaped boards with a white diamond on them as the front markers and the back marker is a similar shape, just bigger, with a larger white diamond in the middle of it.
Once the introductions are over the competition itself gets underway and first in the ring is Ann Rogers and ‘Ob Ch. Moakies Mystical Warrior o.w’. a good start with nice attention from the dog, neat footwork from Ann as they worked round the 4 small circles at the far side of the ring, the dog unfortunately missed the 2nd ASSD position. The dog showed total concentration and accuracy in the slow pace but he was a bit forward in fast pace, which led to some wide turns. There were some multi turns in the round and the dog did go wide going into some of them and didn’t straighten up immediately as they came out of the turn, the last halt was from the fast pace and the dog carried forward a little before sitting. The last exercise for the ring work was Distance Control and he was a little slow going into the first sit position from the stand but all the rest were completed well. A good round of applause as they finished as ‘Pedro’ is retiring from Obedience after today’s competition.
Coming in at No.3. we had Bronwyn Bartley with ‘Bheinn He’s A Gift Forever’, it’s some 15 years since Bronwyn worked a dog in this championship and its lovely to see her back on the green carpet. A very smooth heelwork style from this pair, the dog having total concentration on the handler. There was a well-defined difference between the paces, the fast pace was flowing with tight turns and a well held position. Onto the retrieve and the dog went straight out to the article, a slight run on in the pick-up then back into a straight front present and close finish. They finished their round with a clear Distance Control exercise which saw very quiet commands with the dog responding instantly.
Working at No. 5 was Jackie Duck and ‘Ob Ch Tyefold Xander’, this team have a lovely natural way of working, a relaxed looking style that makes the heelwork seem easy. The dog held superb attention and position throughout the exercise, the fast pace was flowing and the brakes applied at just the right moment for the turns to be done accurately. The send away saw the dog go out at speed straight through the front markers with no hint of slowing, an almost instant down on command smack in front of the back marker, an attentive wait then a fast run and an accurate pick up into the heelwork position. Lovely team to watch.
Following them into the ring was Janet Matthews with ‘Ob Ch Croftmist River Of Krismoss’ this team gave us a display of flowing fast pace with accuracy on the turns, in all of the paces the dog came out of the turns with a very straight line. He worked hard to maintain his position on the circles and semi circles just pushing on a little in the normal pace. The retrieve saw a very neat pick up on the article, and straight back into a very upright present and a tight finish. Some of the best set exercises in this class, losing just ¼ mark on each’
In at No. 9 was Philomena Barnes with ‘Ob Ch Forever Magic It’s A Gift’, after a solid heelwork round onto the retrieve, the dog going out at speed but not applying the brakes quick enough and ran on quite a bit as he picked up the article, then turned and straight back to the handler and a good present and finish. The send away was next and this had to be one of the fastest outruns in the competition, straight through to the back marker, instantly into the down on command followed by a very fast pick up back into the heel position, one of only two send aways marked clear today.
Coming in at No. 12 was Michelle Dunscombe and ‘Ob Ch Forevermagic Xrated ow cex’ there was some movement on the first of the ASSD positions but a good pick up into the heel position. Nice footwork from both handler and dog as they worked round the small circles, all three paces were well defined and the dog held super attention and position throughout. The transitions between the paces was very smooth and Michelle’s handling bought out the best in this little powerhouse of a dog. Finished their round with a very good Distance Control exercise, the dog having total attention on the handler and responding instantly to the commands.
Entering the ring at No.14 was Kathy Russell and ‘Ob Ch Ruskath Magical Image’ they started with a flowing fast pace, almost rhythmic, the dog holding superb attention and position in all three paces. The double turns were well schooled with very neat footwork from the handler and the dog coming out of them squarely. Kathy has a very upright no nonsense style of handling and it certainly brings out the best in this dog, he so obviously loves his work. The set exercises were also done with accuracy and full attention from the dog and the retrieve, DC and send away were all marked clear. The only team to achieve this today.
Into the ring at No.15 was Dot Watts and ‘Ob Ch Ziggdan Zyco ’. Dot’s style of working compliments this dog and allows him to get on with the job in hand, he really doesn’t give much away. Some slight crabbing on the right turns but the rest of the turns are completed neatly and accurately. The fast pace seems to float and the double turns are superb. They only lost 5 ¼ marks on this exercise, the best mark of the day. In the send away the dog went out at quite a good speed, straight to the back marker and down on command, an attentive wait until the call up from the handler then another fast run and applied the brakes at exactly the right time to go into a tight heel position. Team work at its best.
Coming in at No. 17 was Steve Frazer and ‘Ob Ch Gwynfair Classical Gas’, as they set off in the fast pace in heelwork you could tell that they were working as a team, Steve’s no fuss handling suiting the dog perfectly. All three ASSD positions were carried out with ease and the transitions from normal to slow pace were lovely. The footwork on the small circles and then the half circles was excellent, matching each other stride for stride. Very confident work from this team and lovely to watch. The distance control exercise was done with full attention on the handler and very accurate positions from the dog, from our position to the rear of the dog we noted that as Steve began to give the position commands the dog’s ears went straight out at the sides of his head, better for sheer concentration, obviously!!
Paul Cook and ‘Dunburgh Fun Lovin Criminal’ should have been coming in at No. 19 but they had had to withdraw from the competition as Paul recently injured his foot and cannot compete today, we wish them all the best for the 2016 season and hope to see them at next year’s Crufts.
The lunch break was at 12.25, time for a stretch of the legs, a bite to eat from one of the many catering units in the hall and a walk round the stands here in Hall 5. There has been a steady build-up of people coming into the free seats during the morning, although there are still a few empty in the main stand.
The competition resumed in the afternoon and working at No. 20 we had Margaret Ward with ‘Ob Ch Fellameeka Diamond Geyser’ the dog looked a bit unsure on the small circles and came off the leg a little, going into the slow pace he regained his confidence and held position well, footwork from both handler and dog round the semi circles was very neat with total concentration on the dogs face especially in the slow pace. A slight run on in the pick up on the article in the retrieve exercise but straight back to the handler and a neat present and finish. In the distance control the dog showed total attention on the handler, just waiting for the commands, the positions were almost instant with just a tad of forward movement but his hind legs were on the line when the exercise had finished.
Mark Herrits and ‘Ob Ch Dodgin Master Markat’ came in at No.22, and the heelwork exercise started with the dog holding a very close position, as the round progressed the dog seemed to be listening to the steward and started to turn before the handler, unfortunately did the wrong position for the 2nd ASSD command and picked up a little early from the ASSD down. The handler’s footwork was very neat and precise especially on the half circles. A very nice round showing a good partnership. Unfortunately the distance control was quite costly as the dog missed the 5th position, the others were carried out easily.
In at No. 23 was Mary Ray and ‘Ob Ch Colliewood Blue Jeans’ .As they started off in the heelwork the dog instantly took a very tight position and held superb attention. The small circles and the semi circles were worked with ease and the footwork from both of them seemed to match stride for stride. Just some of the multi turns were not quite finished off squarely. Onto the retrieve and the dog went straight out to the article, a very careful pick up and then turned and ran back into a very straight present and close finish, marked clear, as was the distance control which saw the dog responding instantly to each command, attention purely on the handler.
Once the teams had completed the ringwork the stewards marked out the places ready for the stay exercise, the teams came back into the ring and took their places. As the handlers left the ring for the 2 minute out of sight sit stay Jessica Lewis’s ‘Ozzie’ stood and took a pace forward and then Kathy Russell’s ‘Ob Ch Ruskath Magical Image’ stood and also took a few steps forward, both dogs remained in the stand position until the handlers returned. All teams went clear in the 10 minute down stay.
After a short break, in which we had a chance to stretch our legs and grab a drink, the ring party prepared for the last exercise of the day, the scent, a total of ten cloths are placed in a pattern, as the dog faces them there is one blank cloth, then behind that two blank cloths, the third row contains three cloths with a decoy as the middle one, then the fourth row has the judges cloth at the left hand side, two blanks and a decoy.
Starting the scent exercise was Ann Rogers and ‘Pedro’, the dog going straight out to the scent area, circled round it, then worked straight up the left hand side of the pattern, the right cloth found and neatly picked up he returned to the handler and a good front present.
Following them into the ring was Jessica Lewis and ‘Ob Ch Pepsanner Atlantic’ the dog going out at a good pace, working straight up the left hand side of the cloths, a very positive find on the right cloth and straight back into a good front present and finish. In at No.5. was Jackie Duck and ‘Tizer’ the dog went out to the scent area, started to check the cloths, stopped by the right one and then stood and stared at the handler, he needed an extra command to carry on, which he did and bought the right cloth back, costly, at this lost them 45 marks as the command was over the scent area.
In at No. 7 was Sharon Dunstan and ‘Murellas Just Jasper’ the dog searching over just a few of the cloths, found the right one and returned at speed to a lovely present and very close finish , the exercise was marked clear. In next was Julie Martin and ‘First Class Hooley Dooley’ a good methodical search by this dog, slowly working his way over all the cloths, a positive find and a neat pick up on the right one before returning to the handler and a good present and finish, a lovely exercise for this pair.
Coming in at No.10 was Jenny Lunn and ‘Ob Ch Longhalves On A High’ the dog going out at a very fast pace, a quick check, picked the right cloth up but then dropped it, picked it up again and this time returned quickly to the handler. Entering the ring at No. 12 was Michelle Dunscombe and ‘Maverick’ a quick search over a couple of the cloths and he found the right one, as he returned you could see he had hold of the cloth on the very edge, he then repositioned it in his mouth just before coming into a very good front present.
In at No. 15 was Dot Watts and ‘Zyco’ this being the team in the lead after the ringwork, the dog decided to do three fast circles round the scent area, checked a couple of cloths and found the right one, a careful pick up then straight back to a smart front present and close finish, marked clear.
Coming in at No. 17 was Steve Frazer with ‘Que’ the dog working up the right hand side of the pattern, picked up a decoy, dropped it straight away, checked the remaining cloths and returned with the right one. Much to everyone’s delight, a popular team with the audience.
Entering the ring at No. 22 was Mark Herrits, with ‘Bob’, the dog going immediately to the right cloth not needing to check the others, a good pick up and back to a straight front present and a close finish, marked clear. Following them into the ring was Mary Ray and ‘Levi’. And another dog who found the right cloth almost instantly, working straight up the left hand side of the pattern, a neat pick up, and a quick return to the handler and another scent marked clear.
By 4.05 all the ring work had finished and we had a short break whilst the ring was cleared and then the place boards were bought out and the stage was set for the presentations. These got underway with the entrance of the judge and her ring party and they received a welcoming round of applause from an appreciative crowd.
Gerard announced the start of the parade of teams and to the music of ‘We are the Champions’ the handlers and their dogs entered the ring, to a resounding round of applause. Each team were carrying a gift from the judge, one of the knitted dogs that had been used for the retrieve item.
Then the announcement of Crufts Dog Obedience Champions 2016 – and it was Dot Watts and ‘Ob Ch Ziggdan Zyco’, the audience greeted them with loud applause and lots of cheering as they walked out to the first place board. Called into the Reserve place was Mary Ray and ‘Ob Ch Colliewood Blue Jeans’ and an equally loud reception greeted them as they walked across the ring.
Third place went to Julie Martin and ‘Dooley’, fourth place to Margaret Ward and ‘Raffles’, fifth place to Michelle Dunscombe and ‘Maverick’ and finally sixth place to Steve Frazer and ‘Que’. The presentation of the trophies, place cards and rosettes took place and then as the rest of today’s competitors paraded out of the ring to applause from the audience, the photographers, friends, family and interviewers came in. A superb competition today now back to the hotel to get ready for tomorrow’s competition.