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Around the World with Dave Ray
Part 4 - New Zealand

A view of the National Show

We had a good flight to New Zealand from Australia but unfortunately there was a delay on leaving which meant that we were an hour late arriving. But all was well until we got to customs when they x-rayed our luggage before entering the country and disaster struck – they found a tangerine! Well, it appears that this is a criminal offence. Even though the same sorts of laws are used in Australia and it was actually a tangerine from Australia, it was hidden in the bottom of our bag and had not been noticed.

Mary was hauled off to the Customs Office and given a lecture about importing foodstuffs. Then we were absolutely stunned to be told that Mary was to be fined $200! Well, Mary was not amused. I did get my credit card out to pay and she told me not to pay it, so they gave us a statutory notice saying that we had to pay within fourteen days and the Customs Officer removed the offending piece of fruit (I think that was after he put on gloves). We left customs with Mary mumbling something about "I’m not paying $200 for a tangerine!"

The original intention had been for Mary to take a training day in New Zealand as well as judging, but that was before we realised she would be judging for three days which means three days walking around an Obedience Ring on her feet. Also I had forgotten that the first day’s judging was to be on the Thursday and we only arrived on Wednesday evening, so when we were met at the airport we really just wanted to get to the motel after all the delays.

The motel we stayed in was just round the corner from the venue which was a brand new one built by Waitakere Council called the Trusts Stadium. It was a huge single-span rectangular building with five breed rings, followed by a grooming/benching area and then on the other side of the partition wall were two Obedience Rings. Finally, on the grassed area outside were two Agility Rings for the one-day agility competition which was to be held on the Saturday.

It was a nice comfortable motel with a good sized room and we were informed on arrival that there was to be a pre-show meal with all the judges and officials at 8:00 pm that evening which, due to our late arrival, was going to be a bit of a rush. But nonetheless we made it into the private dining room for 8 o’clock. There followed a little bit of uncertainty as we were informed that we could not get our meal unless we had our meal tickets and the lady who had them was not there. But in due course they turned up.

Although all the food was laid out in a hot buffet, we then had to wait until the show officials came back from the venue and unfortunately by the time they did arrive back, the food was not quite as hot as it could have been, Diane, the lady in charge of Obedience and Agility, did come to speak to us but we never actually spoke to anyone official from the New Zealand Kennel Club; in fact, that really set the tone for the whole show.

It was quite interesting to see how the New Zealand Kennel Club made use of the facilities they had hired. At the close of the show each afternoon, a breed society moved in and held an evening show in the venue. They call these Associated Shows, so on the Wednesday evening before the New Zealand Kennel Club Show started, there was a Pekinese National Show, on the Thursday evening shows were held by the Schipperke/ Collie/Auckland Working Club and there were more shows held on the Friday evening. It’s a bit like Crufts finishing, then instead of the halls and rings staying empty for the evening, a single breed society could move in to hold their Open Show which certainly seemed a good idea to make use of all the facilities there.

On Thursday morning, the first morning of the show, Mary was due in the Obedience Ring to judge Test ‘A’. She had 50 dogs to judge and in the adjacent ring a local judge, Mr Bobby Brown, was judging Novice. Mary had judged in New Zealand before and was impressed with the improvement since her last visit but still thought that, like the last time, there was a lot of hesitant handling which in turn makes the dogs lag in the lower classes, and she did pass comment that perhaps some of the exaggerated movements of the handlers seemed to be more acceptable over there than they would in the UK.

Her Caller Steward for all three days was to be Ted Willis. We have known Ted and his wife Sue for a long time and Ted was an absolute first-class steward who also arranged scent cloths, sendaways and retrieves to save Mary having to carry it all in her luggage. Her Scribe on the Thursday was Ray Murray.

Apart from being an excellent scribe Ray is a Maori so a few bright sparks took great pleasure in announcing that "Maori Ray was stewarding for Mary Ray"!

The winner of Mary’s Test ‘A’ was Karuz with Caddo owned and handled by Karen Sadler who we have actually known for many years. She is an excellent handler and also trains dogs for films and television work. Cruz was a GSD crossed with a Siberian, a stunning worker! In second place was Sue Willis with Torquins Dancing Queen, a cracking young dog imported from the UK from a litter bred by Lyn White, a previous Crufts Obedience Championship judge. And Mary could only split the first and second places after a run-off.

On the Friday, Mary judged Special Beginners and in first place was Tara Sweet Pea, a soft coated Tibetan Terrier, owned and handled by Miss K Magorian. Then in second place, by just half a mark, was Todd, a New Zealand Handy Dog.

On the Saturday, it was time for me to do some work as I was going to judge Novice Part 1 and Part 2 and the Senior class with Mini, Midi and Maxi in each class. My co-judges in the other agility ring would be Bernadette Thompson and Alan McClumpha. The last time I judged in New Zealand, I did feel that I had made the courses a little too difficult so this time I did make them much more open and at the same time there is no doubt that the standard had improved.

But in saying that, I still had quite a number of eliminations and faults although I was well satisfied with the number of dogs who went round clear. In fact, I have to say there were some absolutely superb agility dogs but the major problem the dogs had was the handlers. In almost every case of elimination, it was the handler at fault and not the dog, through not giving a command, commanding at the wrong time, not being in the right spot or giving out the wrong body language. But, as I said, the standard had improved and I was really pleased with the placed dogs in my classes.

The winner of Novice Part 1 was Pico Santa Bear, a Toy Poodle handled by Mrs C Bennett. Almost two seconds behind her in second place was Huntersfarm Hez Nico, a Jack Russell Terrier owned by Mrs K Wheaton and seven seconds behind her was third placed Titian, a Staffie Cross handled by Miss R Baker. In fourth and fifth places were a Miniature Poodle and a Golden Retriever.

In Novice Part 2, in 30.98 seconds clear, I had Neva Dee Question, a Border Collie owned by Miss C Marriner, and in second place was Highland Breeze, a Herding Dog also owned by Miss C Marriner. We had the opportunity to meet Miss Marriner again the following week and she is quite an exceptional young lady. I say young because she is only 14 years old and she is already one of the top agility handlers in New Zealand. I think they had all better watch out though as she is now also starting to train for Heelwork to Music! In third place in Novice Part 2 was Jodi AD with Mr E Hamster and that was a Labrador Cross. A Sheltie was in fourth place and a Golden Retriever in fifth.

The last class I was to judge was Senior. Again, I tried to make the course challenging but not difficult and of course the same thing happened – the handlers found their own faults but I was very pleased with my placed dogs which were all clear. The winner in 34.48 seconds was Agility GR CH Ace in the Hole ADX, a New Zealand Herding Dog handled by Mrs D Jackson. In second place and in 36.52 seconds was Kiss Me Quick, a New Zealand Herding Dog handled by Mr Rhode and in third place in 36.77 seconds was Karamea Bell ADX, a Kelpie/Border Collie handled by Mr B Ireland. In fourth place was a Border Collie and fifth was a Dalmatian.

While I was getting wet outside, Mary was judging inside in the dry and it was Test ‘C’ for her that day. She had 44 dogs to judge and as with all Obedience, it was in a complete running order so they had to work in their correct place. Again, she was very pleased with the standard and in first place was OB GR CH Castaways Just a Hussy CDX, a Working Sheepdog handled by Mrs L Ferguson, losing just 3.5 points. This is exactly the type of handling that Mary was looking for.

She was a smart handler, with no-fuss handling and just got on with the job and her dog is super - this pair would do well in the Championships at Crufts. Close behind her in second place and losing just 4 points was OB CH True Blue of Milton CDX, another Working Sheepdog handled by Mrs J MacInnes. Then in third place, after winning a run-off was OB & AG CH Jalain Deal Me In ADX, losing 4 points, a Border Collie handled by Mr J Muir. In fourth place, also losing just 4 points in the original round was OB CH Oquido Van De Badhoeve CDX, a German Shepherd Dog handled by Mrs E Farrell and in fifth place was a Working Sheepdog called OB.GR.CH. Forever Magic Silver Fern CDX handled by Graham Hawkyard and this was another dog bred in the UK, this time by Pat Evans.

Well, we both enjoyed our judging. Mary was exhausted after three full days and I was still a bit damp and muddy from standing outside in the rain but someone had mentioned re-presenting the winners’ trophies in the Best in Show Ring and as I walked past this ring I saw the other two Agility Judges presenting trophies but I really was in no state to go into the ring to present them and had not been asked officially. When I got to Mary, who was just preparing to leave the venue, no-one had told her at all that the trophies were to be re-presented so we just left without seeing or speaking to anyone official, We did hear that there was an after show dinner for the judges and officials but due to the long journey ahead we had to leave.

Mary’s ring steward Ted Willis and his wife Sue had invited us down to Taupo for a couple of days before our onward journey to South Korea on the Wednesday. They had very kindly picked up all our luggage when we checked out of the hotel that morning so when we left the venue we joined Ted in his vehicle for three hour journey to Taupo, Sue having left three hours earlier in a separate vehicle. It was a fairly long journey although in miles it probably didn’t deserve to be three hours but once you get away from Auckland where the majority of New Zealanders appear to live, it is extremely rural including the roads.

And I think that is part of the attraction of New Zealand to me; if I had to choose anywhere to live other than the UK, New Zealand would be very high on my list (sorry Australia, but they don’t have spiders and snakes!) Once you are away from Auckland, the scenery is absolutely stunning. We had one stop on the way down and in fact that was the very place they filmed the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies, or I should say the town adjacent to the site. And this small town, in common with a lot of places is New Zealand, is a bit like thirty years ago in the UK and I mean that in the best possible way.

If you visit New Zealand, part of your tour has to be Taupo. It has a lake the size of an ocean, hot springs, stunning rivers and waterfalls – in fact as a tourist it has everything you want. And if you live there, you just haven’t got the pressures that we have on land at home. So for a very reasonable price and within minutes of the town centre, you can own a home on between one and two acres of land. Ted and Sue have a large detached house with a wonderful view over the town and lake and with their own training paddock. We didn’t need to do much sightseeing as we had been there before but they did take us for a look round and we did do all the usual tourist things but it was just lovely for Mary, after three days of hard work judging, to have a couple of days to relax and do what she enjoys most, which is training dogs. So Sue invited a few friends round for some training with them.

Mary with test A winner Karen Sadler

One young lady who came to see Mary and do a spot of training was especially memorable. She had actually won first and second place in my Novice Agility class and won first place in Starters Agility. But her talents didn’t end there because she is also a competent competitor in Obedience and the reason she wanted to see Mary is that she is also doing Heelwork to Music. She is extremely talented, fully supported by her parents and is destined to be one of the most talented working competitors in New Zealand – and she is only 13 years old, so definitely a candidate for the YKC if she lived in this country! I did ask her if she would be interested in competing in the International Agility at Crufts but unfortunately I think cost may be a limiting factor unless she can get a wealthy sponsor.

We had a lovely couple of days with some smashing people at Ted and Sue’s and as with dog training people throughout the world they are so hospitable. But on the Wednesday it was back up to Auckland Airport for Mary to face the music, or I should say to face the Customs people to pay her fine for the offending tangerine! We had persuaded Mary to pay her fine for two reasons - mainly because Mary has had several invitations to go back and take some training seminars in 2006 but also because we didn’t want Interpol turning up on our doorstep! So we paid the fine in cash and got ready for our flight to South Korea. It was very nice of Diane who was in charge of the Obedience and Agility at the NZ KC Show to come to the airport to say goodbye and we did appreciate that gesture. And finally, I would have to say that the hospitality of Ted and Sue, and the pleasantness of some of the other people we met again, made it a very enjoyable visit.

The Novice Agility line up; overall winner was Chelsea Mariner