Spectator report from Obedience Championship – Bitch day

By: Susan & Gemma Henshaw

Time flies and its already day three of Crufts 2014 and hardly any traffic on the M42 so it took us no time at all to get to the NEC from our hotel, probably spending more time in the car park queue than on the motorway. So into Hall 5 nice and early with plenty of time to catch up with a few friends who are competing here today. Once again the benches are a blaze of colour from the good luck cards and balloons. Grabbing the customary coffee we then made our way up to the seats ready for the start of today’s competition.

The judge, Nigel Slater and his team line up in the ring at 8.40am ready for the parade of competitors and then to the music of ‘Here comes the Girls’ the teams started to enter the ring, Gerard Paisley introducing each team as they came in with where and under which judge they won their tickets in 2013. There was a loud cheer from the Welsh contingent as Jane Moran entered with ‘Nellie’, and not to be outdone there was an equally large cheer from the Scottish fans as Denise Robertson and ‘Taylor’ entered. Kathy Russell entered with two of her dogs ‘Nyla’ and ‘Zuri’ as they had been drawn in consecutive running orders, Kathy having already been round the ring earlier in the parade with ‘Oddi’. Already there was a good atmosphere around the arena and the stands had started to fill up.

Once the parade had finished there was an announcement that today was Nigel Slater’s birthday and over the loudspeakers came a ‘Marilyn Monroe’ sounding personalised ‘Happy Birthday to You’ song, accompanied by cheers from the audience, then exit a slightly red faced judge and a laughing ring party.

The order of the exercises are the same as yesterdays, but this time the retrieve article was a white and pink hand knitted teddy and the send away markers were dark red steps with a heart shaped padded cushion with a daisy printed in the middle, attached to the front of them. We noticed that the steps had been secured at their joints with tape today, probably as one of the dogs had knocked into yesterday’s markers and collapsed them. The judge was in a dark grey suit, white shirt and a patterned orange tie; the male stewards were in pale grey suits, white shirt and warm orange tie. The ladies are in dark trousers, dark leather cropped jacket and a warm orange colour top with a lace effect, all looking very smart.

The show opened as usual at 9am and the judge and his ring party lined up once more in the ring for their introduction and Gerard gave a brief history of the obedience career of the judge. Then straight onto the first of today’s competitors, Michelle Newman with her St Poodle ‘Ob Ch Myall Kanya Tri Again’, starting with the retrieve, a bit messy on the pick up of the article and the dog mouthed it quite a bit on return into the present. Going into the heelwork and a good start in the fast pace the dog holding superb concentration from the off and trying hard to finish the turns off squarely, slight crabbing in the slow pace on the straights the turns being much neater. The ASSD stand was lovely and the pick up very well timed, and they certainly look very much a team. As with some of those in yesterday’s competition the dog missed the final sit in the heelwork.

Coming in at No.5 was Kathy Russell with her WS ‘Ob Ch & Wt Ch Ruskath Othentic Image Tdex’. In the heelwork all three paces were well defined with the dog giving total attention on Kathy, they showed matching footwork in the multi turns and the circle was worked with ease, the pick ups from the ASSD positions were almost spot on and they are a superb team to watch. Onto the send away and whilst Kathy set her up ‘Oddi’ lifted a paw as if to say ‘Okay I’ve seen it’, then a fast run out and an instant drop on command at the rear of the circle just inside the line, finished the exercise with a controlled pick up into the heelwork position and lost just 2 marks.

Into the ring at No.7 was Jane Moran with her WS ‘Dusters Done ‘N’ Dusted’, who qualified at Lichfield in 2013, which was their first season, working in the Championship classes. A good start in the retrieve, straight out on command with just a slight pounce on the teddy as she picked it up, then returned into a very neat present and finish. The heelwork started with a lovely extended stride in the fast pace and the dog held her position very neatly through the turns, the normal pace was consistent especially on the zigzag and the circle and the ASSD positions were instant on command. The slow pace was very measured with dog and handler working well. The send away was costly as after a fast run out the dog slowed as she neared the front markers and dropped just in front of them.

Running at No.9 was Karen Davies with her WS ‘Ob Ch Stillmoor Celtic Banner’ the retrieve saw a quick neat pick up on the article but she deviated slightly on the return then straightened going into the present. Fractionally dropping back off of the pace in fast as they started off but got into her stride for the rest of the heelwork, just not quite finishing squarely out of some of the turns, but holding lovely attention throughout and obviously trying hard to maintain her position, nice calm handling from Karen. The ASSD positions were accurate and the dog picked up well into the heelwork each time.

We then had a short interval, which gave most people just about enough time to grab a drink, and a ‘comfort’ break and then back into the seats as the competition re-started. Working at no.12 was Philomena Barnes and her WS ‘Ob Ch Bheinn Bewitched’ qualifying for Crufts for the fourth time and ‘Jezzie’ fresh from being a mum. The start of the heelwork saw an active fast pace with neat precise control on the turns and beautiful attention, the ASSD down on the zigzag was instant but the dog picked up a fraction early. The dog and handler gave the impression of total commitment throughout the heelwork exercise, losing just 6¼ marks. Onto the send away and the dog went out at speed, ran round the side of the right hand marker curved back in and dropped into the down in the centre of the circle, finished off with a fast but controlled pick up.

Coming in at no.15 was Jane Bint with her WS ‘Janyjoy Jumpin Jaro’, newcomers to the green carpet this year. In the heelwork the dog gave instant attention as they set off in the fast pace, then neat footwork from both handler and dog on the zigzag pattern and round the circle, the ASSD positions were instant with the dog picking up exactly when asked. You could visibly see the concentration on the dogs face in the slow pace, which was well measured from both. Gave one of the best send ways of the day, a fast outrun straight through the front markers and dropped in the circle on command, followed by a quick pick up. They lost just 1½ marks on that exercise.

Following them into the ring was Linda Rutherford and her WS ‘Lupitoonz Limelite’; just three years old this girl and she won her first ticket at NATS in 2013. Started with a controlled run out to the article in retrieve, a neat pick up then straight back into the present and finish losing just ¼ mark and the best retrieve of the day. Precision and style shone in the heelwork with the dog matching the handler stride by stride, not fazed at all by the surroundings. Linda’s dogs always seem to make the heelwork look effortless and this girl is no exception; turns are neat and accurate, the paces well defined and the ASSD positions virtually spot on. They finished the ring work with an almost textbook distance control exercise with the dog showing total concentration and they were marked clear.

In at no.18 was Kathy Russell with her WS ‘Ruskath Makana Image’ the second of Kathy’s three dogs working here today, in fact Kathy makes history here this year as the only handler to have had four home bred dogs qualified for the Championships, 3 bitches and 1 dog, what an incredible achievement for this lady. Onto the round and the retrieve was a little costly at 3½ marks, a neat pick but with a slight run on then returned into a bad knock on in the front present and not quite straight on the finish. In the send away you could have blinked and missed the outrun, one of the fastest of the day, straight through the front markers and dropped on command in the middle of the circle then an equally fast but controlled pick up into the heelwork position. Finishing their round with a superb distance control exercise, total concentration on the dogs face and the judge marked the exercise clear.

We then had a break for lunch at 12.20pm, during the morning as in previous days most of the free seats around the arena had been taken but there were still many seats not being used in the ticket only stand. There had been lots of support for each competitor from the audience and the atmosphere had been brilliant. Once again at the start of the break Gerard asked the audience to remain in their seats for a surprise presentation to someone in Obedience. Diane Martin was called into the ring and stood there looking slightly puzzled, then it was announced that she had recently gained her KCAI Accreditation Gold Standard and there was an appreciative round of applause as she was presented with the framed certificate.

There was plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and then have a walk round some of the trade stands to buy a few treats for our dogs before heading back to the seats for the afternoon session, and coming in at no.20 was Denise Robertson with her BC ‘Sinedes Taylor Made’, again starting with the retrieve in which the dog looked totally focused on the job in hand, a very neat pick up on the teddy, an instant return into a straight present and finish. In the send away the dog almost anticipated the send but just held until the command was given, went out quickly straight through the markers with no reduction in speed, an instant down on command in the circle, they lost just ½ mark for that exercise. Last team in to work was Lyn Green and her Aussie X ‘Ob Ch Bluefizz Cry Me A River’, their second appearance on the green carpet. They started well in the heelwork with a nice extended pace at fast, ensuring that the turns were neatly finished off, the dog backed off just a little in the slow pace and especially on a left turn but then settled well in the normal pace and maintained superb attention, giving a nice overall picture. Into the send away and the dog set off well but then about half way across the ring she slowed down and dropped in front of the markers, seemed a little slow picking up into the heel position and they lost 12 marks for the exercise which was costly.

By 2pm all the teams had completed the main ring work and there was a short break whilst the stewards prepared the ring for the scent, the cloths being laid out in the same pattern as yesterday, then as many of the audience seemed to have left the seats during the break, Gerard gives a ’10-minute warning’ for the start of scent which gave everyone time to get back, many of them, like us, look to have been queuing at the ice cream stands. A good crowd in for the afternoon session and the tension was starting to build as we came down to the last two exercises.

Scent got underway and in at No.2 was Dot Watts with her WS ‘Ob Ch Zygdann Rockin Frenzi’, the dog quickly searched the scent area, checked a few cloths and came back with the right one into a very neat front present, lost just ¼ mark and a total so far of 19. Coming in at No.4. was Mary Ray with her WS ‘Ob Ch Red Hot Foxy Music’ the dog carefully checked each cloth, very methodical in her work, found the correct one and returned to Mary, ¼ mark lost.

Following them into the ring was Kathy Russell with ‘Oddi’, who took the scent in her usual way, in the ‘beg’ position, much to the delight of the audience. The dog then worked out over the cloths and returned with the right one, losing just ½ mark and a total so far of 11½. In the ring at no.12 was Philomena Barnes and ‘Jezzie’ and the dog decided that she would keep everyone on the edge of their seats by working out over the scent area for what seemed like an age, then just picked up the right one and returned into a very straight front present and finish. They were the only team that were marked clear in the exercise today.

Jenny Gould and her GSD ‘Ob Ch Zakanja Little Creature’ came in at no.14 and the dog worked neatly and quickly over the area, a positive find on the right cloth then straight back to the handler and a straight front present, slightly crooked at the finish, they lost ½ mark. Linda Rutherford and ‘Neon’ entered at no.16 on 10¾ marks coming into this exercise. The dog gave a very fast search, pecked on a blank cloth then found the right one and returned quickly, just a little crooked in the present, losing 1¼ marks.

Coming in at no.21 was Marie Cartwright with her WS ‘Ob Ch Dodgin Firecracker’ the dog worked the scent area very thoroughly, a nice positive find on the cloth and straight back to a good front present but a little crooked in the finish, another team to lose ½ mark.

The scent had finished by 3pm and we had another short break whilst the ring was prepared for the stay exercise, with just three teams on a score of less than 15 marks.

At 3.15pm the teams entered the ring and took up position in front of their numbers, Kathy Russell obviously being allowed to set up all three dogs together. Starting with the sit stay and just one dog broke, Michelle Newman’s ‘Wiggy’. Then onto the down stay and Jane Bint’s ‘Danni’ decided that she would rather try and follow her mum, she slowed by one of the stewards, Keith Wall and he tried his best to hold on to her without upsetting any of the other dogs, at one point she tried peeping through his legs then decided that she would sit on his knee and look over his shoulder, a photo of which went almost viral on the net, certainly a way to make sure that people remember her debut at Crufts.

The handlers came back into the ring at the end of the down stay and Kathy Russell’s ‘Oddi’ decided to meet her mum half way across the ring and there was an audible gasp from the audience. As the handlers left the ring at the end of the exercise and the competition no one knew who had won the title. The stay marks had to be worked out and displayed on the scoreboards, then a rather large shriek from the collecting ring as Linda Rutherford saw the scores go up.

At 3.50pm the judging party entered the ring for the last time and to the music of ‘We are the Champions’ the teams made their way round the ring ready for the presentations to loud applause from the audience. Firstly we had a presentation of a gift to the judge and he received warm applause for a job well done.

Then the winner was announced – Linda Rutherford and ‘Lupitoonz Limelite’ – Crufts K.C. Bitch Obedience Champions 2014, and applause and cheering greeted them as they walked forward to the first place board. For the statistics this win is the equivalent of two ticket wins so Linda’s youngster became an Obedience Champion here today.

Kathy Russell and ‘Ob Ch & Wt Ch Ruskath Othentic Image Tdex’ take the reserve place and come forward to another huge cheer from the audience, always a popular team here.

So that’s it, the Crufts Obedience Championships are over for another year, two superb days and very worthy winners, its been brilliant to watch the cream of the top of our sport working here over the last two days.

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