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Wiccaweys shows the way

And the winners are.... Best In Show (on the left) was 16 year-old Grace, also known as "The Grand Duchess Grace" with her propud owner Vicki Howe. Reserve Best In Show (on the right) is Poppy, almost blind but loving life, owned by Sarah McVicar, with Sarah Carey

SOMETIMES I really love my job, because it brings me into contact with so many interesting people and wonderful dogs. Sometimes, because of my job, I get asked to officiate at various events and this, too, allows me to meet and mingle with dogs and dog lovers.

It goes without saying, then, that when Sarah Carey of Wiccaweys Border Collie Rescue got in touch and asked me if I'd be interested in judging at Wiccawey's very first Autumn Show and Collie Day Out I responded with a very strong affirmative! I've know Sarah for some years now - we first met via the Internet - and I've followed her progress when, together with her equally dedicated partner Paul Gill, she founded Wiccaweys and I've followed and reported on their work with great interest. So I was more than pleased to help out, and it sounded like a great day was being promised. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed!

The show was held on Sunday (September 10th) in a friend's field near the village of Welton, Northants and things just couldn't have been better. There looked to be well over a hundred dogs - many of them ex-Wiccaweys residents - in attendance with their proud owners, lots of different charity and rescue stalls, a truly delicious range of refreshments, including homemade cakes and barbequed food, all thanks to Wiccaweys volunteers and plenty of displays to interest all comers, including agility, obedience, heelwork to music, KC Bronze Good Citizens award judged by Marisa Spurgon and a display by Fire Service Search and Rescue Team dogs. The latter included 'Bonnie', a Wiccaweys rescue Collie who is in training with the Lincolnshire FSSART and whose training is due to be followed by Animal Planet for a future TV programme.

I attended with my partner Sheena and son Ben and we all had a great time in our different ways. Whilst Sheena was busy helping me in the judging ring as my steward, Ben was helping me get rid of all that annoying, heavy change in my pockets by buying lots of goodies from stalls and winning several tombola prizes. Mind you, I was a bit worried when he wandered into the ring between classes with a pop-up book and asked if he could have it as he'd run out of money and I thought that a dog came with the book!

Me: “How much is it?”

Ben: “Lady said Dalmatian.”

Me: “What? There's no Dalmatians here are there?”

Ben: “No, lady said give me a Dalmatian.”

Me: “Do what? We can't have another dog! I asked how much is the book?”

Ben (loudly): “The lady said give her a Dalmatian!!!!”

Me (the light finally dawning): “Oh. You mean a donation!”

Ben (exasperated): “That's what I said!”

Children eh? At least you know where you are with dogs. No chance of verbal misunderstandings there!

Well, needless to say, I had a great afternoon judging. The weather was sunny and warm, but not excessively so, and everyone was in good spirits and the dogs all put up with a lot of attention from the weird bloke in the baseball hat who kept looking at them. There were plenty of different ways to get to know them too, such as the Lickiest, Snoggiest Dog class. I can honestly say that I haven't had such a good, hard was since I was about seven years old and my mum gave me a handkerchief spit wash outside the Co-Op because I had chocolate on my face. After the attentions of some of those lovely dogs, I don't think I'll need to shave for a week!

Quite simply, it was a great day. There are far too many fantastic dogs to mention and they all deserved prizes, as did their owners for rescuing them and giving them a second (or sometimes third or fourth) chance. In the end though, I had to settle on two overall winners. Best in Show was Grace, a very distinguished old lady Border Collie who is about 14 years old and is owned by Vicki Howe. Vicki is also the 'mum to Dory, the 15 year old collie who did the sponsored walk of the Pembrokeshire Coast to raise funds for Wiccaweys last year. She'd been fostering Grace for almost a year, and she and her partner Julian just recently gave in and adopted her outright. The Grand Duchess Grace, as she is known, had no intention of leaving Vicki and Julian!

Grace came to Wiccaweys after being abandoned to a pound when her elderly owner died. When she arrived, she didn't understand English, as her owner was Hungarian. She is now bi-lingual!
Vicki is a marine biologist and they live near Raglan in Wales, with 2 other collies, Drum (a Wiccaweys boy) and Dab. Apart from Grace, all the dogs are named after fish. As if that wasn't enough, Vicki and Adrian also have a couple of pet sheep.

Reserve Best In Show was Poppy, a nearly blind rescued Border Collie, owned by Sarah McVicar. Sarah is a vet who works with Rochdale Dog Rescue. She is currently hand-rearing a litter of collie puppies who will be coming to Wiccaweys when they are old enough.

There was one sad note that cast a long shadow over the day. Earlier in the week, Border Collie 'Brynn', Sarah and Paul's oldest Wiccaweys resident passed to the Rainbow Bridge at the grand old age of 22. Brynn had been a working sheepdog in Wales and had been abandoned by his original owner when he was too old to work. He was taken into a local rescue and sent onto Wiccaweys where he became the head honcho and was affectionately known as 'Granddad Bryn'. The award for Best Veteran class was dedicated in his honour by Sarah.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the fact that three of us came to the show but four of us (well, technically) came home. Sheena had been looking for a dog for some months and wanted to take on a rescue. Whilst at the show she looked at some photographs of the dogs currently living at Wiccaweys and seeking new homes. One of these was 'Piper', a two-year-old English Setter bitch who came to Wiccaweys via a rescue in Oban, Ireland. Piper had been trained as a gundog but wasn't very good at it as she is afraid of loud bangs. Her owner's reaction to this was to beat her to make her a better gundog. Thankfully, Piper ended up at Wiccaweys and was being fostered by Alexa, one of the Rescue's volunteers. She was at the show and duly met Sheena. I think the phrase is “love at first sight” - the two bonded immediately.

Sheena has now adopted Piper and, a few days later, Piper, now renamed 'Willow', which suits her willowy build better, came to live with Sheena. Reports are that she's settled in very well. She is yet another wonderful dog who has been given a second chance in life, thanks to the dedicated of Sarah and Paul, and all the volunteers at Wiccaweys.

My thanks to Sheena for being such an excellent steward, to Liz Clarke of Wiccaweys for being such a brilliant MC, providing just the right amount of interesting and very entertaining commentary without going OTT and, of course, to Sarah, Paul, all at Wiccaweys to all the dogs and their owners who took part.

Next year's show will be a two-day event, most likely held over the same weekend. I can thoroughly recommend it to everyone. But be warned - you may lose your heart to a very special dog. But hey - what's wrong with that?

Like I said, sometimes I love my job!

Love is like, a butterfly... and it's also dog shaped too. Jasmine flits gracefully, complete with wings and bobbing antenna in the Fancy Dress class with owner Vicky Gaillard

Please be patient! Winner of the Fancy Dress class Clayton gets plastered for young vet Ashley Gill (5)

"Granddad" Bryn, Wiccawey's oldest rescued Collie who sadly passed away on the Tuesday before the show at the grand old age of 22. Bryn was remembered and honoured at the show, and needless to say, will never be forgotten by all who knew him.

OUR DOGS Chief Reporter Nick Mays, who was the judge of the Fun Dog Show, together with BIS winner Grace and her owner Vicki Howe and Reserve Best In Show with her owner Sarah McVicar.