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CRUFTS 2004: What the papers said

ONE THING that you can always guarantee about Crufts is that it generates good newspaper copy. This year has been no exception, although, refreshingly, most of the coverage has been positive, if not necessarily 100% accurate.

What could have been ‘the’ Crufts story was, of course, the scurrilous anonymous press release some weeks ago alleging puppy farming practices in the 1960s and 70s on the part of the 2004 Crufts BIS judge Joyce Mann. A few papers – notably the Daily Mail - tried to resurrect the Mann affair in the run-up to Crufts, but by then it was old news, particularly as the so-called ‘guilty parties’ were no longer involved in the show.

So, despite a few ‘rent-a-quote’ comments on the so-called ‘win-all world of dogs’ from luminaries such as ex-KC employee turned magazine editor Beverley Cuddy coverage was, for the most part, positive. Anything that might be termed remotely ‘anti-dog’ were a few reports being critical of the growing number of imported foreign breeds that might displace the good, honest, sturdy old British Bulldog and his kin; the same kin that, any other time, the meejah deride as inbred, unsightly, ungainly, unhealthy and elitist.

So, what nuggets were there to be gleaned from what was generally quite inoffensive newspaper coverage of our favourite dog show?

Several of the local newspapers led on the infamous ‘Gridlock Chaos’ that attended the show on the Thursday night and again on the Saturday morning, largely as a combination of faulty traffic lights at Junction 6 of the M42 and an extremely high volume of extra traffic caused by the NEC staging The National Homebuilding and Renovation Show alongside Crufts (see report elsewhere in this issue).

THE MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS put quite a different spin on matters canine by drawing attention to an exhibition of LS Lowry’s dog art.

Neal Keeling wrote: "WHILE pedigree pooches are paraded at Crufts this week, the owners of scruffier dogs can enter their own show for "Lowry" dogs.

Artist LS Lowry often put dogs in his crowd scenes - usually scrawny, spindly-legged mutts or feisty terrier-like creations.

Now, the Lowry Arts Centre, which is currently staging the exhibition, A City's Pride - a collection of more than 350 Lowry paintings and drawings - is inviting owners to enter their pets in a competition to find the best Lowry dog.

The winner will be honoured as the Lowry's first official mascot."

Meanwhile, Crufts TV coverage itself became news when THE GUARDIAN revealed that Saturday night’s hour-long coverage of the show, stating: "BBC2 was pleased to discover that people are more interested in their dogs than their status, with 2.5 million watching the canine action at Crufts between 8pm and 9pm."

One somewhat less complimentary item came from The Independent on March 1st referring to the ‘Dog Eat Dog’ World of Showing, with the oft-quoted inference that dog showing was ideal for people less-than-straightforward characters:

The psychologist Keith Evans says that for those with obsessive personalities, dog showing can become addictive. ‘Just like alcoholics or drug-takers, the desire to win can take over their lives. If one of the dogs doesn't win, or is too old to be bred from, a sufferer will not feel guilty about neglecting that dog or even killing it,’ he says.

"But the winning urge can also be expressed in more subtle ways on show day. According to Ms (Beverley) Cuddy, some show-dog owners pretend to be gay in order to appeal to ‘judges of a certain persuasion’. "Maybe, if it's a hot day, they will try and change into shorts at the side of the ring very flamboyantly and will affect a boyfriend for the show. On the surface it all looks quite middle-class and jolly, but passions run very high and people just lose the plot," she says. Some women abandon their bras."

The Indy report certainly raised a laugh here, if not any eyebrows….

The Scotsman cast its dour but analytical eye over the influx of new breeds to the show on the first day of the show, with its precise, but not very punchy heading: ‘New Breeds on Display at 113th Crufts’:

"Several new breeds – including the Azawakh, Eurasier and the Portuguese Podengo – were on show at Crufts today as the world’s biggest dog show entered its 113th year.

More than 24,000 canines were set to descend on the National Exhibition Centre for the four-day extravaganza, which organisers hope will pull in more than 130,000 people….

Dog trainer Stacey Watkins, 19, was making her first visit to Crufts with her two Eurasiers, Tinu-Viel and Undo’miel.

The rare dogs – just ten of which are registered with the Kennel Club – are bred as "companion" animals and were imported from France.

‘It’s been a great day so far – there’s been a great deal of international interest in the dogs,’ Miss Watkins said. ‘I was looking for an ideal house pet and I found these on the Internet and started talking to different breeders in other countries. They are ideal for people who work shifts or who have families. They are good with kids and they will take as little or as much exercise as they are given.’

A heart-warming story came on Monday of this week from the BIRMINGHAM EVENING MAIL that, along with many of its fellow Black Country counterparts gave excellent coverage to the show:

"John Cottrell and his toy terrier Enya are all smiles after scooping the best of breed award at Crufts.

And the victory is all the sweeter since it is only two months since his other champion contender, Bea, suffered a broken leg at the hands of burglars.

Two-year-old Enya showed perfect poise to impress the judges and beat dozens of rivals from all over the world to be the champion English Toy Terrier."

Of course, most of the nationals, regionals and locals led on the runaway success of Deedee the whippet, who won best in show in great style whilst making a muted reference to the animal rights protest in the BIS judging ring, which, interestingly, was largely ignored except for a passing mention by other newspapers.

In the best ‘top drawer’ style, The Times reported:

"A WHIPPET called Deedee was named last night as Best in Show at Crufts. The four-year-old bitch, kennel name Cobyco Call The Tune, beat nearly 22,000 other hopefuls at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Dee dee’s owner, Lynne Yacoby-Wright from Stockport, Cheshire, described winning as unbelievable and a dream come true.

She said: ‘Being in the final ring was the biggest thrill of my life but to actually win is just amazing. Deedee is a pet first and foremost. She has lots of cuddly toys at home. Her favourite is a big cuddly dog that’s even bigger than she is.

More than 120,000 people visited the four-day show organised by the Kennel Club. The final judging was marred by four animal rights protesters who marched across the ring waving "Stop Animal Testing" posters.

Reserve Best in Show was a Scottish Terrier called Puzzle owned by Jane Miller from Bracknell."

So there you have it – from gridlock to greed, from Lowry matchstalk dogs to winning whippet: the Meejah on Crufts, 2004!

Don’t you just love it?

If you have a favourite or most hated Crufts news story from your local newspaper, let Nick Mays know about it. Please send it to the usual editorial address or e-mail him at: ChiefReporter@aol.com