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'Silver moments' at the PRO Dogs Awards 2001

Emotional moments are always a feature of the PRO Dog of the Year Awards and Lunch and this year's 25th celebration event was no exception although it was a moment that all of us in the world of dogs could have done without.

Immediately after the awards had been made for Show dog of the Year, commentator Bernard Hall called for a short silence in memory of Ken Woosnam who died on the previous day. His Lhasa Apso Ch/Ir Ch. Saxonsprings Tradition had been pulled out as Reserve to Angie Allan's Int & UK Champion Allmark Ralph Lauren. Ken had indicated that he wanted Tradition to be at the event and Shane Church bravely carried out this last request. It was Shane's wish that no-one, including judge Peter Jolley, was to be informed of Ken's death prior to the judging so, until that moment, the celebrations of the best of British dogs sailed along with only the occasional hitch.

This is the second year that the Awards have been held in one of the superb function rooms overlooking the racecourse at Sandown Park, Esher in Surrey. Unfortunately, this year, getting to the event was something of an obstacle course as extensive building work is being carried out. Many had to leave their cars in muddy area some way from the grandstand. There was also a coarse fishing exhibition taking place on the same day so what car parks there were available were packed to overflowing.

Competitors in the Pro Dog Show Dog of the Year contest held at Sandown last weekend
are pictured above with the judge Peter Jolley.

The annual general meeting of the charity was held prior to the awards and lunch and there is no doubt that this certainly boosts attendance. The charity has had a successful year but the separation of PRO Dogs and PAT Dogs (amicable though it has been) and the move of PAT Dogs' office to Reading in Berkshire will mean inevitable changes and it will be some time before the effects can be assessed. In some ways, PRO Dogs can now focus on its original aims for some feel that the demands and success of PAT Dogs had, perhaps deflected the real objective of PRO Dogs to promoting dogs and defend dog ownership in the widest sense.

The celebrity guest this year was Roy Barraclough, brought all the way down from Manchester by our own Our Dogs Media Director and TV personality, Kevin Horkin. Roy charmed everyone with his warm personality and genuine enjoyment of the occasion.

The awards themselves, supported as usual by Pedigree Masterfoods, demonstrated the incredible range, dedication and sensitivity of our best friends.

Roy Barraclough presents the Gold Medal for Devotion to Duty to Fire Investigation
Labrador, Star, seen here with handler Pete Simmons.

Pet of the Year was Lady, a Trail Hound and PAT dog Lady. She has raised many thousands of pounds for research into Alzheimer's Disease and her owner, Peter Wilson, has founded the Trail Hound Trust to find homes for ex-racing Greyhounds. The silver medal was awarded Max, a Leonberger and PAT dog who specialises in supporting encouraging phobic patients. These dogs have been truly successful ambassadors for dogs in the community and, of course, represent the hundred of dogs out in the community that encourage dog ownership by showing how important dogs are to people.

Pictured above are the 'bewigged' PAT Dog heelwork to music team during their display.

The gold medal for Devotion to Duty was awarded to Star, a fire investigation black Labrador with the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service. She attends around one hundred fire scenes each year when she wears special boots to protect her feet from heat, glass and other sharp objects. Her job is to detect substances that may have been used by arsonists to accelerate a fire. She also visits schools and community groups as part of fire prevention education with her handler Pete Simmons. The silver medal was awarded to Gem, owned by Tracey Brannan, a social worker, for her supportive work with Tracey's clients.

The Lifesaving Medal was awarded to Mause, a Boston Terrier who persisted in quite untypical behaviour until his owner responded and found her elderly eighty-four year old neighbour collapsed and unconscious in her garden. The silver award went to Skye, a young Flat-coated Retriever who raised the alarm when her owner's granddaughter slipped into a deep garden pond.

Ch/Ir Ch Saxonsprings Tradition was runner-up in the Show Dog of the year contest, and was bravely shown by Shane Church who in exhibiting 'Tradition' carried out Ken Woosnam's last request.

The Lesley Scott-Ordish Memorial Award was presented to Pauline Ludlow for her tremendous work in rallying support to fight the Forestry Commission's decision to restrict the right of dog owners to walk on Commission land. She founded the New Forest Dog Owners' Group and persuaded the Commission to lift its restrictions thoughout the country. Pauline's work is something for which we must all be grateful and there is no doubt that she thoroughly deserved the award for 'showing the same pioneering spirit and tenacity of the founder of PRO-Dogs, Lesley Scott-Ordish.

Each year the charity honours those who have put the most effort into fundraising for PAT Dogs and this year Carol Speed led the field with her Walk Over Britain total exceeding 4,000.

Kevin Horkin, OUR DOGS Media Director, pictured with guest Roy Barraclough
and (left) PRO Dogs chief Executive Mike Findlay.

As always, Doreen Baker, Marian Wright, Ann Lelliott and Monica Dixon were all in the frame in what was a very difficult year. Fundraising activities this year were seriously curtailed by the Foot and Mouth epidemic so, under the circumstances, the overall total of over 20,000 was excellent. Walk Over Britain and other fund raising events involve hundreds of volunteers giving up their time to support the charity and each contribution is an important element of the whole. The mementos for the top fundraisers were donated by Martin Groves Glassware and presented by their marketing manager, Vivienne Bewley

After a delicious lunch (no really - it was excellent) with wines courtesy of PRO Dogs supporters Bablake Wines, the afternoon began with a demonstration by the Pro-Dog Obedience winner and the runner-up Mrs H Shepherd's GSD, Sheraz Svenja Lady Tengroves, and Mrs C Prentice's Working Sheepdog Tri Clan's Magincal Addition respectively. In the scent test Sheraz picked up Roy Barraclough's handkerchief with no hesitation whatever. Roy was a little worried that his scent was so quickly picked up but was assured that Sharaz would have done the same for anybody!

Angie Allen's Int & UK Ch Allmark Ralph Lauren won the Show Dog of the Year contest under Peter Jolley.

The Obedience demonstration was followed by delightful presentation of Heelwork to Music by a PAT Dogs team. Led by Jeanette Maggs, who showed us exactly how it should be done, the team provided a genuinely pleasurable and, at times, amusing insight into the 'half way' stage of production!

Finally, before tea, Peter Jolley took to the floor for the PRO Dog of the Year Breed Final. Purina Pro-Plan sponsored this competition again this year and Danco kindly supplied the benching. The venue is excellent in that there was plenty of room although unfortunately there were several absentees. However, that did not detract from the overall quality. Peter pulled out Coxall's Standard Poodle, The Hustler at Tiopepi (handled impeccably by 'young' Dennis!), the Afghan Hound, Mottershaw's Jacosta Black in a Flash to Elangeni, the Pointer, Wilson's Bonnygate Gunns a Blazing, Allan's OES Int and UK Ch. Allmark Ralph Lauren, Hydon's English Springer Spaniel, Sallidene Kirite Kanawa, and Woosnam's Lhasa Apso, Ch/Ir Ch Saxonsprings Tradition (handled by Shane Church.

Mause the Boston Terrier, owned by Mrs Robson Hay, receives her Life Saving Award.

His winner was Angie Allan's OES Int and UK Ch. Allmark Ralph Lauren with Ken Woosnam's Ch/Ir Ch Saxonsprings Tradition in the reserve spot.

As always, it was a superb day and Mike Findlay, Angela Jakes and their team with voluntary help from Marian Wright, Bernard Hall, Trevor Turner, David Paton and many others must be congratulated on a very smooth running and enjoyable event.