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WKC Dog of the Year 2004
Chow Chow top dog in the hillsides

The Welsh Kennel Club Top Dog Competition is fast becoming a highlight in the canine calendar and it is easy to see why. This, my third visit in four years, made me go for the 2005 diary immediately to book a space for next year’s competition.

The identities of the judges are kept a close guarded secret until the day arrives, this year Mr Steve Hall and Mrs Liz Stannard captivated the crowd with charisma, good humour and two hugely popular winners.

The day is split into two halves with the Top Puppy Competition starting early afternoon and then a break with the Top Dog Competition starting early evening. Some chose to come for either one of the competitions, but whatever time exhibitors and spectators arrive a warm welcome is guaranteed. Each competitor was given a Pedigree bag containing a commemorative plate kindly donated by Amy Kinsey of Sturtmoor Smooth Prints, an Our Dogs Diary and a Pedigree voucher. For younger competitors there was a Winnie the Pooh notebook - a nice personal touch.

Both competitions follow the format of a match and are split into two pools A and B. Each pairing is drawn in front of the audience and the first half make up Pool A and the second, Pool B. The judge for each pool was then decided with Mrs Stannard selecting an envelope containing either an A or a B. For the puppy competition she judged Pool A with Mr Hall judging Pool B. They then swapped, again with Mrs Stannard selecting, for the Top Dog competition.

Top Puppy was due to kick off at 12.30pm and the efficiency of the WKC Top Dog sub-committee meant we were ready to roll and still with time for a joke! The day was opened by WKC Chairman Mr Denys Simpson who then handed over to Mr Graham Hill compered the event, ably assisted by wife Ann.

Successful

Each judge had a winner from their pool so it was then a case of agreeing on the overall winner together. The room was quiet while each judge had the opportunity to assess the winner from the opposite pool. From Pool A, the Shih Tzu Daltricia Zelos, handled by owner/breeder Pat Maule.

‘Lewis’ has only just turned 12 months and has enjoyed a successful show career to date. To name a few of his wins, two open show BPIS, two RBPIS, one Limited BPIS and BPIB at Welsh Kennel Club. He is currently in sixth place overall and Top Utility in the Vitalin Pick of the Litter Competition being run in conjunction with Our Dogs, he has an impressive 150 points.

From Pool B, the Afghan Hound Khamis Seize the Day El-Krishan belonging to and handled by Jean Loyd. ‘MacGregor’ is 21 months old and has also enjoyed a successful show career to date. He took two BPIS awards at breed club championship shows the Yorkshire and Scottish Clubs and he was Best Puppy Dog at Driffield. Interestingly his half sister (same dam) Ch Khamis Politically Correct was Runner-Up at this competition in 2001.

As the judges deliberated, moments were passing and the tension was building. Despite a joke about calling the referee a decisions was made, Graham Hill was given the result and the Top Puppy Award went to the Shih Tzu Daltricia Zelos. Plenty of cheering for both the winner and the Runner-Up as they took a lap of honour. Both were presented with fabulous rosettes in the colours of the Welsh flag and beautiful crystal presented by sponsors Pedigree.

The format for those who attend the whole day tends to be that regular showing attire is worn for the Top Puppy Competition. There is then enough time to prepare adult dogs and to walk puppies. Some then chose to put on their spangly evening wear for the Top Dog Competition, others find this a little impractical for exhibiting and may opt for a quick change immediately after the competition. One way of the other, two changes tends to be the norm.

It seems appropriate at this point to impress you with the ever impeccably dressed Mrs Stannard, not to be outdone by anyone when it comes to outfit changes. During the course of the day we were impressed with not one, not two but three separate outfits, each more stylish than the previous and clearly selected with great care. Mr Hall did not disappoint either, changing from a smart suit into a dinner jacket for the Top Dog competition. It is not quite Royal Ascot but a critical eye is required for the selection of the Top Dog outfit and sometimes practicality doesn’t come into it. Personally I am glad I wasn’t exhibiting, at my most comfortable in trousers, I’m sure exhibiting in a dress would not have been one of my better ideas!

We were welcomed back by Mr Simpson who promised an appearance of Tom Jones later in the evening, which apparently is not unusual (apologies)! Mr Hall then took his pool of Top Dog Competitors through their paces. Gradually the tension was mounting with ripples of excitement passing through an eager audience. It seemed as each pairing was decided that a huge applause was gradually building for the eventual winner. Heading up Pool A was Garry and Lynne Martin’s Chow Chow Ch Foillen Finesse.

Mrs Stannard, in outfit number two, took to the ring and once again the tension was building. The winner of Pool B was the Grandfather of the WKC Top Puppy awarded his crown only hours earlier. Pat Maule was having a fabulous day with her homebred Shih Tzus, this time it was the turn of Ch. Ir, Esp, Fin Ch. Daltricia Menelaus JW Sh CM.

Only a moment to breathe before the final and the crowd were nearly bursting with excitement. Both finalists cheered into the ring and each judge given time to assess the opposite pool winner. The it was deliberation time - if only I could lip read! No need though, the result was passed to Graham Hill who didn’t delay in announcing the WKC Top Dog 2004 - the Chow Chow Ch Foillen Finesse. The applause was amazing, in fact I believe it was described later on in the evening as tumultuous, please forgive me for stealing that one!

Impressive

Lynne and Garry were absolutely delighted and I discovered that “Mollie” has had quite a year. Following a break from the show ring in 2003, she won her first CC at Crufts. That was only her first of an impressive 8 CCs this year, including 5 BOBs. Her qualifying CC was won at WELKS where she was short listed in the group. The only time she has been in a Champion Stakes Class as at Driffield where she came second and she was also short listed in the group at Darlington.

Mollie was Top Puppy in 2002 and is currently Top Chow. At themoment the Martins are current Top Breeders, Mollie’s dam is Top Brood and her sire is Top Sire. Mollie’s litter brother also gained his qualifying CC this year at Birmingham National. Lynne was telling me they have been showing Chows since 1985 following an interest in all things oriental. This year she said it feels like everything has come together. They bought their first Chow from Anita Westlake (Baytor) and have never looked back, with four at home at the moment, three of whom are homebred champions - pretty impressive! I understand that whilst Mollie is a real showgirl, she has a secret passion for Chunky Kit Kats - which I am led to believe is Dad’s fault!

Onto our Runner-Up, another homebred success for Pat Maule, with Ch. Ir, Esp, Fin Ch. Daltricia Menelaus JW Sh CM. “MacKenzie” as you can see by his name, has enjoyed huge success in this country and abroad. He has 4 CCs,1 BOB and 5 RCCs , overseas he has won 2 CACs and 5 CACIBS (4 in Ireland and 1 in Finland). He gained his British title within four weeks and he took BPIB at Crufts when he was also awarded the RCC out of 144 males. In 2002 and 2003 he won the title of South Wales Top open Show Dog of the Year. To add to his own successes he has a CC winning son and a CC winning Granddaughter. Pat tells me most off all though, he is a wonderful dog at home.

Both the winner and runner-up were then presented with rosettes and the beautiful crystal donated by Pedigree.

The proceedings didn’t end there though, with time to exercise dogs and a quick change for those who so wished, it was onto the evening celebrations. The atmosphere at this event is a real credit to the WKC, mingling prior to the meal was a pleasure with a friendly face around each corner. There had been a quick turnaround in the room where competition had taken place with tables set out for the meal. Places were taken and Mr Simpson made a short speech and we stood for a few moments silence as sadly Mr Trevor Evans was no longer with us. Glyn Griffiths then said grace and the festivities began.

Following a lovely meal presentations were made to the judges, a bouquet of flowers, a gift and a beautiful commemorative plate donated by Sturtmoor Smooth Prints. Beautiful bouquets were presented to those representing the sponsors, Dave and Claire Williams of Pedigree, Karlynne Sellstrome and Carol Ann Johnson of Dog World and myself representing Our Dogs. A beautiful bouquet was also presented to Amy Kinsey of Sturtmoor Smooth Prints for the wonderful plates she had donated. The raffle was drawn and the disco didn’t waste anytime in getting going, sadly though Tom Jones never did arrive, maybe next year!

As always it was disappointing that the WKC Top Dog Competition had to end; the WKC Officers and Committee must be congratulated on another fabulous success.