P-P-P-Pick up a puppy penguin!
WELL HERE we are again at the start of another show year, wondering where last year went and what this year will bring.
The Pup of the Year finals are the first social event of the year, and this year it was the 30th final. Not all have been held in the beautiful surroundings of the Porter Tun Room of the Whitbread Brewery, right in the heart of the City, where all the ceilings are made from oak timbers from Elizabethan sailing ships. I remember going to London Zoo and driving back to the North in the days before the M1 was fully linked to the M6, what a journey!
This year there were only 28 pups qualified from the 10,000 who competed, as WELKS, UK Toydog and Border Union had to cancel due to Foot and Mouth. Of these, two unfortunately had to withdraw, but the reserves were able to step in.
It is a few years since there was a foreign judge but as the British dog scene is getting more international the organisers felt the time was right again. Hans Lehtinen is a familiar face at British dog shows as he has judged at most of the general championship shows over the last 30 years. He was accompanied by another well known Finnish judge, Kari Jarvinen, and Leena Harjaapa.
For the first time the Chairman of the KC was also present, as well as the new Chief Executive Rose Smart. Also there was Shona Lowrie, well known on TV for presenting pet programmes, so the top table was a little bigger than normal. But everyone was there to see the pups and, after a bit of gentle cajoling from commentator Bernard Hall to everyone to take their seats around the green carpeted ring, the proceedings got under way.
Before the judging started, last year's winner Lovaine Coxon with Ch D'Arisca Simply Stunning came into the ring to be presented with a portrait of 'Stanley' by artist Simon Burton; she was also presented with the rossut Trophy as breeder of last year's winner.
There were all three sizes of Schnauzer present, which I think is a first; the Miniatures had fielded two, as had the Akitas both having Killilea owners and handlers. There were two Siberian Huskies, and three Whippets qualified - although one had to withdraw before the day, and a Lhasa Apso came in its place - but another Whippet came in the place of the Great Dane who sadly had died, so they were back to three.
Only one Toy, the Italian Greyhound; in fact, I thought there were more big breed dogs this year than before, they are often at a disadvantage in this small ring, especially on the tight corners. First into the ring was the Norwegian Buhund winner from Manchester, Tapui Tane, who won his heat at his first show; he also won the CC, BOB and group 4 that day!
There were two dogs listed with their titles, including the oldest on the day, the Giant Schnauzer, but there are a number waiting for just one CC so as usual many will go on to become champions and perhaps even more.
Previous finalists have gone on to Top Dog all breeds and BIS at Crufts. The Beagle Dialynne Hallmark is line bred back to the famous Gamble, who appeared at the first ever POTY. Both his sire and g/sire have qualified and he is owned by Melanie Spavin who co-owns the Min Schnauzer.
Mum Dianna handled as Melanie was in Barbados. Hans wasted no time and very quickly all dogs had been seen and put through their paces and all were called back into the ring where they filled all four sides.
He walked around the ring twice and without any hesitation pulled out ten. First into the middle came the Buhund, followed by the Pointer Tzaziki Diamond Royale who took the place of the Rottweiler who had won at Bath.
Next came one of the Whippets, Nevedith Ayfa Aze, whose dam had qualified, and the Akita handled by Dave Killilea, Aftikas Dallas Cowboy for Redwitch. Also the French Bulldog Alsuma Bewitched - who I was rooting for as she qualified at Leeds - and the Tervueren, Hawksflight in Technicolour, who has brains as well as beauty as he is winning in obedience.
The Min Schnauzer Hideki Who's That Guy with Risepark was next out owned by Melanie and Peter Newman. The distinctive style of Patsy Hollings with Gunalt Intuition the Weimaraner was next into the centre followed by another handler with style Mike Gadsby and the Tibetan Terrier Araki Pick Up a Penguin for Afterglow, obviously black and white.
The last in was the Siberian Husky Suraliam Charmed shown by Sue Holmes who qualified at the last show of the year LKA and last year at this event had two qualifiers. Another walk for the judge and the tension was high you could have heard a pin drop as he indicated the boards be brought out.
He walked towards the Tibetan Terrier and the room filled with applause as Mike Gadsby and a very excited 'Pingu' came into the middle of the ring followed by Patsy Hollings and Judy.
The rest left the ring to applause and Phil Humphreys the Commercial Director UK for Nestlé Purina PetCare presented the large disc to worn around Pingu's neck and the beautiful crystal to co-owner Mick. Elain MacDonald his other owner was overcome with emotion what a lovely day for her.
The Weimaraner another top puppy in her breed won through at her second time of trying unlike her dam who never came out as a pup but won three CCs on the trot when she did come out as an adult.
Both of the winner were quickly wised away to have photos taken and TV interviews by Shona and it was less than an hour ago that the judging had started. Shona Lowrie was invited to cut the cake to celebrate the 30th anniversary.
Feffie Somerfield thanked Friskies Beta for their support and told the audience that she had retired after 46 years with DW and introduced Kerry Williamson as the new MD. Pam Blay has been involved with the event for 15 years.
Patricia Sutton whose mother Catherine had the idea for this all those years ago presented the Catherine Sutton Memorial trophy to the winning owners and Dianna Spavin presented the Ch Dialynne Gamble trophy on behalf of Marion to the runner up. Coincidently Marion was the judge that sent the TT through.
The final award is the Tom Horner Award of Excellence which is decided at DW in secret long before the day, it is given to someone who has made an impression in dogs through breeding, winning or judging throughout the years, this year the recipient was Peter Newman famous for his Risepark Min Schnauzers.
His first champion was in 1955 and he has had six POTY qualifiers although his first in 1975 was a Sealyham. Listening to the applause a well deserved honour, if ill health had not curtailed his active life I am sure he would have been well known as a judge.
It only remained for Phil Humphreys to thank his team and offer the invitation to Feffie to return every year and another pleasant day was over. I am sure Pingu like many of the others would sleep soundly on the long journey home and those of us who were driving back perhaps took a Penguin of our own for company, one of those in silver foil!