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What the papers say
.... not an awful lot this time round, says NICK MAYS



Photo by John D Jackson
The crowd on the final day swamps the OUR DOGS stand in Hall 3.


JOURNALISTS! NEWSPAPERS! Pah! They’re so unreliable. Time was, doing this annual review of what the wider print media made of dogdom’s premier show was guaranteed to be an exercise in apoplexy for a canine aficionado. But this year, I’ve noticed a radical change in ‘The Meejah’s’ reportage. It’s actually - how can I put this? - positive!

Instead of being able to rip apart the ignorant and arrogant opinions of bored hacks, uninformed TV vets and dog magazine Editors with a chip on both shoulders, I’m having to sift through some decent copy for a change, positive, pro-pedigree dog coverage. It’s an unusual experience, I can tell you!

All joking aside, it is very gratifying to find positive coverage about Crufts, an event all-too-often slammed as ‘elitist’ and ‘cruel’. That said, the positive coverage that there has been was largely confined to more cerebral end of the newspaper marker in 2002.

It all got off to a timely start on Friday, 8th March when several papers covered the story about miniature Papillon puppy ‘Dylan’, tipped to be the world’s smallest dog.

The most intelligent report came form Peter Foster of the Daily Telegraph who explained in five paragraphs what it took some of the others a whole page to tell. Basically, Dylan was born 10 weeks ago. He weighs just 1lb, he’s small enough to fit into a top pocket and he is owned by Barbara Jones, 65, from Barnstaple, Devon. Barbara’s been showing Paps for 17 years and feeds Dylan by teaspoon, using bowls designed for budgerigars.

There was also a nice quote from Phil Buckley, the Mr Nice Guy of the KC’s Press Office who commented: “Papillons generally grow between 20 and 28 cm (8 - 11 in) and even at ten weeks of age we would expect Dylan to be bigger - perhaps 3 lb in weight and 6 in tall.”

Mr Foster also adds some pertinent information that Dylan is still twice the size of the smallest recorded dog, a dwarf Yorkshire Terrier owned by Arthur Marples (former editor of OUR DOGS and son of Theo) from Blackburn, Lancashire. This particular minidog stood just 2 - 4 in at the shoulder when it died in 1945, just before its second birthday.

The Guardian carried a photo of Dylan, with a simple photo caption, but perhaps win the prize for the cleverest strap line; “Pup Idol Dylan is 4 in high” .

The Daily Mail, on the other hand, devoted a full page to Dylan - interestingly enough, probably bigger than Dylan himself - under the title “Beware of the Dot”.

Bill Mouland’s report conveyed more information about Dylan’s shaky start in life, the only puppy born to Barbara Jones’ normal sized Papillon bitch Caprice. Dylan weighed only 2 oz when fist born and was almost squashed to death by Caprice who accidentally laid on him.

But he survived, proving he was a spunky fighter. The link with dog shows was made in the Mail story by the fact that he will never attain the optimum height of 8 in and therefore will be unable to compete.

Bossy

The Daily Express report, by Richard Palmer re-iterated most of what the others had said about Dylan, with the added fact that he bosses Barbara’s cat Rosie Rags about.

Mr palmer linked in the obvious hook to Crufts pointing out that sadly, Dylan has little chance of competing at the show, which “is expected to draw 21,000 entries, 15,000 owners and 120,000 visitors.”

Barbara added that she was going to take Dylan along “for the novelty value”.
More pertinent coverage of the world’s premier dog show was to be found in the granddaddy of the broadsheets, The Times. A very accurate report by Oliver Wright focussed on Cruft’s youngest exhibitor, Lily Nelson from Kidderminster, who was given a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen named ‘Mabel’ by her parents a year ago. By qualifying at the Welsh KC Championship Show at only six months of age. Mabel qualified for Crufts (or C-rufts, according to the typeface). The report went on to state that Lily’s father Simon would be handling Mabel in the show ring. Her Mother, Pat explained: “We all decided that the experience might be a bit overwhelming for her, so she decided to watch for the first time, but Lily is the one who walks her, grooms her and has prepared her and she’s going to be watching as she goes out. Next year, if Mabel qualifies again, I’m sure it will be Lily who goes out there.”

(Lily also featured on the BBC’s generally excellent Crufts coverage, which eschewed its previous attempts to be a cross between Animal Hospital and Battersea which drew so much criticism in 1999, and proved herself to be no tongue-tied, shy little kiddie, but a very intelligent, confident young exhibitor.)

The report went on to give an accurate potted history of Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen breed with commented my Mrs Nelson that, despite her angelic looks, Mabel could be a handful. “They are very mischievous dogs and they take a lot of work but Lily understands this. We make sure she takes her responsibility seriously.”

The report concluded with a short overview of Crufts and led heavily on the fact that there were 343 overseas entries this year, compared to just 93 who attended the later Crufts last year.

Accompanied to two rather excellent photographs of Great Danes competing at the show -but sadly not of Lily and Mabel - the report was highly accurate and accessible.

The Independent went into the most detail about the show with a report by Julia Stewart entitled “Polished and Proud: that’s just the owners”. Stewart’s report focussed more on the foibles of the dog’s owners than poking fun at the dogs themselves, centring largely on the exhibitors’ sartorial tastes. Recruitment Consultant Julie Sheridan, 38, came in for a bit of stick for her ensemble. Stewart wrote: “Dressed in an indigo trouser suit and matching make up, she contrasted sharply with the jeans-and-jumper brigade who had turned up to enter the working and pastoral categories.

“I dress smartly every show, If you have a smart dog, you have to look smart yourself,” said Mrs Sheridan..... Not all, however, take it as seriously as Mrs Sheridan, who had removed a bib from around Merrybear Unsong hero’s neck before taking him into the ring.... The decidedly more scruffy Catherine Fuller, 24, a veterinary nurse from Three Oaks, near Hastings....”

Difficult

Stewart’s report continued in similar ‘Fashion Bitch’ mode until the final couple of paragraphs when she changed tack and centred on foreign exhibits and exhibitors. Chris Van Beirendock, 47, a teacher from Belgium was showing his Old English Sheepdog Xchyne of Snowboot Bears. Mr Van Beirendock had cause to be proud of Snowboot, who was a champion in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Poland, but was adamant that his dog would not do well. “It’s difficult for us to compete because the judges like to place their English people,” he opined, which, with hindsight, was quite amusing, given the fact that a “Johnny Foreigner” dog won best in show....

Onto ‘le weekend’ and a very interesting article about the growing passion for Heelwork to Music, this time given a whole page in The Guardian Weekend magazine’s Pets Spirit section by Joanna Hunter. Naturally, the article focussed quite heavily on the originator and most famous doyenne of heelwork to music, Mary Ray, but also giving plenty of information on the American version, Canine Freestyle.

Hunter posed the question: Why? “Patrie Ventre, president of the World Canine Freestyle Organisation says: ‘Music, dance and doggies - what more could you ask for?’ What indeed?”

The KC’s own Sara Ward is quoted, saying: ‘It’s lovely to watch... It’s quite moving - people often come away with tears in their eyes.’

And so to Monday, when several papers managed to make even a small mention in their later editions that a “Foreign Dog” had won Crufts.

The Times, which actually excels by carrying a daily list of winners from Crufts next to the Court Circulars, gave a neat boil down of the final Group Winner line-up and the success of Norwegian Standard Poodle Nor. Champion Topscore Contradiction aka ‘King’. His owner Kari Glenna was quoted as being totally bemused and befuddled by King’s historic victory: “I don’t believe it. I am very nervous. He is just a family pet, not a show dog. I never expected this.”

BIS judge Pamela Cross Stern was full of praise for King, whom she described as “a poodley poodle” (some new show term, perhaps?). She went on to say: “It was surprising to see a European dog win, but I don’t judge the dogs on where they come from.”

The Guardian carried an equally good report, withy an excellent action shot of King doing a lap of honour at Crufts with his handler. Kari Glenna’s comments were reported much as in The Times with the wonderful understatement from Kari who said of her elegantly cut, well-prepared and professionally handled family pet: “I don’t know anything about showing dogs, but I think he won because he likes to run around the ring.”

Positive coverage eh? Whatever next? Could it be that dogs are - to use Meejah parlance - “Sexy Right Now”? Maybe we’ll have The Sun, Mirror and The Star getting Simon Cowell and company giving their expert assessments of those sexy dogs at dogs.

No - that’s a horrible thought.
Let’s keep it elitist....