Nice one, Cyril
by Nancy Bassant
The number 32 may not have come up in the lottery last Saturday but it was the certainly the number to pick at the tenth Welsh Kennel Club Top Dog & Top Puppy competition, held last weekend at the Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells.
The winners of both competitions were numbered 32, and I was lucky enough to be seated with both at the evening meal. The judges for the event were two well known faces, Bob Gregory and Eleanor Bothwell, and their canine knowledge combined with jolly personalities meant the day was more than entertaining.
Bob Gregory started his showing career in the Utility group more than 35 years ago, making up many champions, all of whom were homebred, in Dalmatians and Tibetan Terriers. Since the early days Bob has now been approved to award CCs in breeds of the Utility, Working and Pastoral groups, amounting to an impressive total of 21 breeds. He has judged all over the world, in at least four continents. Bob enjoys putting something back into his hobby and is the current Chairman of Manchester Dog Show Society, having served on the committee for 22 years.
Eleanor Bothwell has also had a successful career in dogs; her Norcis prefix is title to at least 20 British champions and she has been involved with showing and judging for over 30 years. Eleanor is an accredited trainer for KC judges Parts I & II. As a judge she is at present passed for five Hound breeds, the Hound group and Bichons Frises.
To qualify for either finals, the first criterion was that exhibits should reside in Wales, then, for the puppy final, a best Puppy in Breed at either a championship or open show would qualify. For Top Dog, all CC winners were eligible, as well as Best in show at open shows.
The competition was re-scheduled from its original date in March following the foot & mouth crisis and so unfortunately some of the competitors were not available to compete, a few of whom were on maternal duty. The puppies in the competition were of course no longer puppies; some had reached their second birthday. The gaps left by those who could not compete were not left empty and their places were taken by reserves.
The contest was to be judged in a match format with two pools, one for each judge, commentator for the event was Graham Hill and thanks to him and his team everyone was in the right place at the right time.
Top puppy was held in the afternoon, competitors eagerly listened out while the draw was made and the puppies were either in pool 1 or pool 2 and a judge was drawn for each. The competition commenced promptly at 2pm and Eleanor Bothwell was the first judge to step onto the green carpet and work her way through the puppy pairings.
As she progressed, things became more exciting until the first finalist was announced, James Adamson and Nigel Phillips' Afghan Hound Khamis Politically Correct, or Ffion as she is known at home. Her name is as in Ffion Hague, Welsh wife of ex Tory leader William, hence Politically Correct! In her young life she (the Afghan, not the wife!) has won 2 CCs, both with best of breed, and 2 RCCs, in 2000 she was Afghan top puppy bitch and at only fifteen months gained two Major Green Stars on the Munster circuit. Her breeding shows as, her mother was the youngest champion in the breed in this country and I guess it is only politically correct that she follow in her mother's footsteps!
The second pool started quickly afterwards and Bob Gregory kept exhibitors and spectators amused with entertaining quips throughout the match. This made the event even more watchable as despite the understandable nerves the atmosphere was warm and lighthearted. His choices brought him eventually to his finalist, Jan and Alan Rees' Welsh Springer Spaniel Typica Countryman, who has also had a successful show career to date, winning his first CC at the South Eastern WSS Club show, and followed that up with a RCC at Richmond. Throughout puppy and junior he won plenty of classes and best puppy in breeds which led to his junior warrant. Aside from the CCs he has also won best in shows and reserve best in shows at open show level, so the future is looking bright for what owner, Jan calls 'her true Welshman'!
Tension was building as both judges assessed the two chosen finalists, stood and on the move, they both came to a decision and neither was going to let it slip which one was the winner as they both informed Graham so that he could announce it to everyone! Finally we could all breathe again as Typica Countryman JW was crowned WKC Top Puppy 2001. Phew, well thankfully after the celebrating and snapping of photographs there was a well earned break until the Top Dog competition due to commence at 6.30pm.
As 6 o'clock came round I ventured downstairs, only to discover everyone jazzed up in sequins and black ties, and there I was, wondering how people found time to change in between the end of top dog and the dinner, how quickly the penny dropped! I wasn't sure if I would manage it in half an hour, but I impressed even myself at a speedy shower and change, arriving in the competition room with five minutes to spare, although tempted, I decided not to ask anyone for a pat on the back!
Unfortunately a number of exhibits who had confirmed they would be attending, didn't, so a few exhibitors passed through the first round with a bye which was a shame but not a disaster.
The pools were drawn in the same way as the puppy contest, as were the judges, Bob Gregory was drawn in first and Top Dog began. Towards the end his decisions became harder, after all these were all CC winning dogs, and all here in such good order. However a finalist was chosen, Jacqui Downe's Maremma Sheepdog Ch Verner Milwyr who was imported from Italy in May of 1999. Since his arrival he has clocked up 14 CCs with numerous best of breeds. Having been used at stud his first litter has been a successful one, producing three CC winners. Throughout the match he enjoyed looking at the crowd and Jacqui tells me he is particularly modest, constantly admiring himself in the mirror!
Eleanor followed suit, returning to the ring for the judging of the second pool, from which she chose the Basset Griffon Vendeen (Petit) Ch Tangaer Creme Caramel, owned and bred by Linda Lewis. At six years old, 'Cyril' has a total of 10 CCs all with best of breed, in 1997 he won the Hound group at Blackpool and that same year was crowned top BGV(P). He has passed his winning ways on to granddaughter Ch Willowbrae Amazing Grace for Afterglow, who has also won a group and is this year's top BGV(P).
So into the final we went and with two totally different breeds to assess, the judges had a tough decision. It didn't take long and they were both in agreement that Linda Lewis and her BGV(P) Ch Tangaer Creme Caramel was the WKC Top Dog for 2001. Presentations were made and photographs taken and of course applause was readily available for the winners.
The main sponsors for the event were Pedigree Masterfoods, represented by Dave Williams who provided vouchers for all those competing. Patsi Ann Standard images also provided some beautiful and unique sculptures for both winners and the runners-up.
The sculptures depicted the Welsh book of legends, called the Mabanogion, showing the tree of life, half tree, half fire and the Huntsman riding through the forest on horseback, with his hounds at his side. The pieces are really wonderful and represent this competition well, with the Welsh theme tied in with the canine theme. Patsi Ann herself was there to present them and she was the only person present on the day who has attended all ten of these competitions. She also gave Welsh dragons to all of the competitors, so well crafted, a lovely keepsake from the final, some lucky enough to go home with more than one.
It was only a short break and we moved in the dining hall for a meal and disco. I had exceptional company at dinner; with both winners and friends at the table I couldn't go wrong. I also learned a few tricks from someone regarding trainers, glitter spray, socks and sausages - I will save that story for another day, no doubt your minds are already working their way round that one! I thoroughly enjoyed myself and aside from congratulating the winners, I also would like to thank those who made the event what it was: the committee, judges, competitors, spectators and of course the dogs!