by Robert Killick
I was asked to judge Junior and Senior Handling at the Eurodogshow held in Kortrijk in Belgium. I chose to go the easy way, being driven by someone else. I went on one of John Wright’s ‘Coaches 2 Shows’ arrangements, a comfortable journey conducted stress free by Stanley Roberts who took such good care of all the passengers and their dogs.
This is the coach company which modified their coaches by removing some of the seats and replacing them with dog cages. No trouble with the British Customs and Immigration people except they wanted to look at our passports, the French didn’t and neither did the Belgians. We had plenty of stops to exercise both dogs and humans including the mandatory stop for the necessities of life, Belgian chocs, booze and fags.
Eight of the ‘foreign’ judges were in an hotel separated from the exhibitors, they were in the modern style Novotel and we were in a traditional old fashioned Belgian hotel, none the worse for that I assure you. Quite small, and very dignified, wood panelled reception and stairwell, heavy carved oak doors and solid furniture in the rooms, not a piece of plastic in sight. A delightful place to stay. Dinner on a long table with a Finnish lady, a Venezuelan gentleman, an American with his wife, a doctor from Indonesia with his wife, me and one other Brit. We talked long into the night about dogs. Is there another subject?
Eight o’clock in the morning saw us boarding the coach to take us to the venue known as the Meeting Center, Gruzenberg, that took ten minutes but the driver lost his way in the car park taking fifteen minutes trying to find his way and then dropped us off at the wrong entrance.
I apologise in advance for not giving a full description of the show and the details of what went on, you see I was so busy judging that I had no time to wander about. I had 152 handlers to judge on the first day and slightly fewer on the second day, that intensity of work doesn’t give one much time for anything else. I can tell you this is a very big venue consisting of huge linked halls, room enough to swallow the competitors and leave room to spare, the trade stands were there but I never got the impression of the place being crowded.
There were four of us judging the handlers, Jacquie Hurley and me with two Belgian judges. We had a huge ring which gave enough room for all four of us to judge at the same time, one in each corner; each handler was judged four times and had points awarded, the points were added in the office and positions calculated alongside the ring which was also a reception for the handlers.
The fact that many of the handlers were in the breed rings together with the dogs made it difficult for the organisers of the Handling classes to get it together but by dint of extraordinary effort they got it right resulting in a smooth and efficient competition. I was lucky enough to have a most talented interpreter who had everything at her fingertips and who looked after me like I was a precious jewel, One of the striking things about these classes was the competent way the stewards marshalled the competitors, new ones were waiting outside the rings ready to take the place of those who were judged.
I tried hard not to be biased in favour of the British Juniors but I have to say that overall, they were the best, some of them were so close in their skills I was splitting hairs in trying to choose. I like particularly a smart but not exaggerated turnout, the whole presenting an harmonious picture and I was not disappointed. The fact that the top six places in Junior Handling were taken by the British is a tribute to their commitment not only to the sport but to the dogs themselves, many were showing dogs not belonging to them and in some cases foreign dogs who didn’t understand English. Our boys and girls did it with panache.
Emilly Thornton, aged 12 years and profoundly deaf, took first place overall in the Junior Handling competition. She’s a youngster who handled several btreeds with accuracy, elegance and aplomb who deserves to be on the International stage among the best. I was very impressed with Renalda Guy from Jersey who won the Heelwork to Music class and gave a special demonstration of her talent and expertise in the Best in show ring during the presentations.
On the way home I had time to think about the previous two days, I came to the conclusion that the Kortrijk Show was one of the most efficient European shows I’ve been to in many years, it is obviously run by a group of committed people who know what’s wanted by exhibitors and dogs and who do not hesitate to provide it.