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Ken Woosnam dies

KEN WOOSNAM, who will be remembered by many for his long association with the world famous Saxonsprings Lhasa Apsos, died on Friday November 30, at the age of 55, writes Sally Pointon. He had been fighting cancer for several years and leaves two sisters, Margaret and Gaynor, and his devoted partner of the past few years, Pam Shekyls.

Ken first became interested in showing while still a schoolboy, showing horses in the late '60s. Mrs Ward, who lived in the same village, went to the shows with Ken and his family, showing her Lhasa Apsos, and Ken soon became interested in the dog scene, later handling for her. When she became ill with cancer, he nursed her till her death, and she left him her Pantulf affix. His first show dog was Nangso Gretel, dam of his first champion, Ch Pantulf Clarissa, who he bred in 1977.

Having very few dogs to show himself in those early days, Jean Blyth, founder of the Saxonsprings affix, was always happy for him to give her a hand, even if it was just to pull the trolley from the car to the ring, but it was when Jean moved from Ilkley to Suffolk that he became more involved with the Saxonsprings kennel.

Ch Saxonsprings Frederico was probably one of the first big winners he handled for Jean - Fred was not the best showman and disliked men, so Jean suggested he spend some time with Ken - and having gained his title in 1993, they went on to win BOB and group 4 at Crufts.

The next Saxonsprings champion he handled was for Phyl Alsop, the BIS-winning Ch S High Society; and then came Lineka, a son of the Crufts BIS winning Hackensack, whom Ken handled throughout his show career, with the first of his 20 CCs coming from junior. He too became a BIS winner and won the veteran stakes final - an event he has qualified for several times, as he has done this year at the age of 11.

More recently, Ken will be remembered for handling the Top Dog of 1998, Ch/Ir Ch Saxonsprings Tradition pictured left, holder of 40 CCs and eight BIS as well as numerous other titles.

Several years ago, with his health deteriorating, Ken decided to retire and move to Saxonsprings, where he was able to take care of Jean, herself suffering from cancer, as well as the dogs. During this time he came to know Pam, a district nurse who looked after Jean during her final months. After Jean died in December 1998, Pam and Ken's relationship blossomed and they shared the last few years together, having so much in common, including the love of the dogs. Jean left the Saxonsprings affix to Ken, who had just three short years to continue the legend as was her wish.

Although Ken underwent countless treatment for his illness over several years, he always put the dogs first, being completely devoted to them. And one of his last wishes was that Tradition should go to the PRO Dogs stakes final on Sunday - so he asked Pam if she would ask Shane Church to take him, which he did - where he came second.

Ken will be remembered by many for his kindness - and his "how are you, kid?" greeting will be sorely missed.