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Contest of Champions 2003
Willy tops the ‘charity champions’!

For some years now I have tried to attend the Canine Supporters’ Charity, famous 'Contest of Champion Show Dogs' event but other commitments took precedent. This year I was determined and despite a last minute problem at home late on Friday night I made it to the Thistle Hotel, Longford, Heathrow by 3pm just in time to get changed and ready for the evening's festivities which were due to start at 4 pm.

On entering the reception area all the guests were greeted by Stella Clark and her band of happy helpers, manning the most superb Tombola stall with all sorts of lovely prizes on offer, all of which had been donated from well wishers all over dogdom and beyond. As everyone partook of pre dinner drinks the competing dogs were settled into their benches, some of which were being busily decorated for the 'best dressed bench' competition to be judged during dinner. As we were ushered into our suite for dinner familiar faces I spied at various tables included Valerie Foss, Angela and David Cavill, Roger Stone and Patsy Hollings to name a few.

Encouraged

Grace was read by David 'To The Rescue' Spencer and as we all tucked in to our meal we were encouraged to sign £5.00 notes and place them in pint pots placed on every table. At the end of the meal these were drawn for an all expenses paid trip to the Amsterdam Winners show. As the canine press eagerly waited for the winner to go up to the podium to claim their prize, it dawned on the Dog World snapper that he in fact was the recipient and his camera was handed on to an eager helper to have his own picture taken! The Loyal Toast was given by Kevan Forrest, and a toast to The Canine Supporters Charity was given by Vince Hogan MD of Our Dogs and the response by Peter Purves who is president of the charity.

The competition for the Best Dressed bench was judged during dinner by Mr Purves, who awarded 1st to the Shar Pei Ch Forgevalley Pause and Pose for Chequerpei, 2nd to the Bulldog Ch Iceglint I'm Alfred and 3rd to the Duck Toller Narod the Impossible Dream, the prizes being much welcomed champagne. Next the Auction took place with several items on offer autographed by famous sports stars plus designer items, I know of one young lady who spent her housekeeping money on a pair of D & G sunglasses! They were a bargain, she informed me.

Then it was time for the serious event of the evening, the judging of the dogs. The three judges, whose identity had been kept secret until the evening were introduced to the eager hordes. They were Angel Garach who had kindly replaced a fellow countryman from Spain at the last minute. Gitty Schwab from Luxembourg and Vilmos Kardos from Hungary. All three had given their time and travelling expenses free to the event so even more money could be raised for charity. The top 64 dogs from all breeds including rare breeds and import register are invited to take part. For various reasons not all could make it at the last minute so fifty seven dogs started off in round one, giving some a bye into the next round. The event is judged on a match system with the three judges taking turns until they had all judged a section. The Show Manager Glynn Payne and his stewarding team consisting of Mac McMillan, Gert Nielsen, Jim Peach Dave Elliott and Sue Glennon worked very hard trying to find all the pairs and get them in the ring on cue. Glynn had to venture into the ladies loos on several occasions to retrieve nervous handlers! As each exhibit was judged their very impressive résumé's were read out.

Space precludes me from mentioning every dog present by name, but suffice to say every dog was a credit to his/her breed, they showed and behaved as per the top dogs they are and it was no disgrace not to go forward into the next round. They all had tremendous support from the ringside and with clear favourites being Jayne & Wally Holligan’s Australian Shepherd Am Ch Thornapple Climate Controlled, Liz Dunhill's Rottweiler Ch Fantasa Gingerbread Man and Sue Garside's Bulldog Ch Iceglint I'm Alfred.

Patriotic

There was particular patriotic fervour in the Bulldog camp as one of their invited guests had been unable to attend at the last minute as her husband was called up to serve in the Iraq war.

I just have to mention both Chihuahuas, the smallest contestants, the Longcoat Ch Bramerita Naughty But Nice owned by Kevin and Shelda Hornby and the Smoothcoat Ch Dachidas Master Angel owned by the Davies family, the more the audience clapped and cheered the more they showed their hearts out. However, the three very experienced judges did not let the exuberant crowd influence them and soon we were down to our eight 5th round finalists.

These were the Golden Retriever Ch Xanthos Tom Foolery owned by Mrs Morss; the Tibetan Terrier Ch Araki Fabulous Willy owned by Messrs Smith & Cocozza; the PBGV Ch Afterglow Woody Woodpecker owned by Gavin Robertson and Sara Pettit; the Bouvier Ch Nikolaev Wesley with Doganodogs owned by Mr & Mrs Wadsworth; Akita Ch Redwitch Play Misty for Me owned by Arlene Clure; Greyhound Ch Mistweave Making Waves owned by Hargreaves-Savage & Olsen; Giant Schnauzer Ch Zamoranos Picasso owned by Mr & Mrs Alvarez and the Smooth Chihuahua.

From these, four finalists made it through into the final round, the Bouvier, Akita, PBGV and Tibetan Terrier.

A short break ensued during which time young cousins Stevi Boyall and Lucy Cook entertained us with a heel work to music display with the help of Collies Brookie and Lucy. A special presentation of champagne and flowers was made to Mrs Ridley owner the Havanese Paloma De Chaponay of Tammylan who has attended every year without fail for seven years, the only dog to do so, she certainly does not look like the 11 year old she is, another who played to the crowd.

Then to the apt music 'We Are The Champions' and thunderous applause the four finalists entered the ring. The Bouvier Ch Nikolaev Wesley with Doganodogs has 5 CCs, 4 with BOB, a group 1 and a group 3. The PBGV Ch Afterglow Woody Woodpecker has 10 CCs 7 groups and a BIS. The Akita Ch Redwitch Play Misty For Me has 11 CCs, 7 with BOB, a group 1 and group 3. The Tibetan Terrier Ch Araki Fabulous Willy has 7 CCs and a group 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The judges gave each dog a final look over before handing over their results to David Spencer on the microphone. A huge roar went up as Fabulous Willy was confirmed the winner, bred by Ken Sinclair and handled by a thrilled Mark Cocozza. The prizes were then presented by Peter Purves and Secretary Karina Le Mare. The final prize of the evening to be given out was the Sweepstake ticket, which was won by Betty Peach.

At 11.30 pm the night was young and so the dancing began and continued without rest until 2am. Liz Dunhill, Lisa Bridges and Pauline Reynolds were amongst a few hardy dog folk with real staying power. Last year the Contest of Champions event raised £15000 for various canine charities, hopefully this year it will be able to do likewise. Thanks to its hard working Committee who give their time and effort free, the main sponsors, Our Dogs, Fosse Data Systems and Arden Grange, the exhibitors and their friends and of course the cream of our show dogs, this excellent event continues to be the ultimate fund raising experience and long may it be so.