Show Handlers & Heelwork to Music
Having been invited to take dogs and their owners, the senior and junior handlers, to this year’s Eurodogshow, Kortrijk, Belgium, I again organised two coaches. John Wright’s Coaches to Shows, full of dogs and handlers, left Swansea in the early hours of Friday morning under the care of Stan Roberts and Garry Hurley who took such good care of both passengers and dogs.
The Tour Hotel was comfortable and one we have stayed at for a number of years now. On the Friday evening the Secretary, Treasurer and President of Eurodogshow joined us for dinner to welcome everyone to the Eurodogshow and to present the prizes for the Tour Quiz and Raffle winners.
Eurodogshow is proud of the fact that for a number of years it has attracted competitors and Judges from many different countries and this year was no exception with over 25 countries represented. One dog even travelled from Japan to the show. On the morning of the show arrangements ran smoothly and we were able to get all the dogs through the vetting system smoothly.
On the first day we had about 152 handlers to Judge and slightly fewer on the second. This is a very big venue consisting on six huge, linked Halls full of show rings and trade stands where there is anything and everything for the dog owner but I never got the impression of overcrowding even though the Show attracts more than 30,000 visiting spectators.
Arrangements ran smoothly the next day and again there were four of us judging the handlers, Robert Killick and I together with two Belgian judges. We had a huge ring which provided enough room for all of us to Judge at the same time. Each Handler was first assessed by two Judges and those reaching the finals then met the other two Judges. We awarded each handler points for the skills presented and these were added in the office which doubled as a welcoming reception area and checking in point. Many of the handlers, including those from the U.K. this year, were also showing their dogs in the breed ring which made timing critical but all coped and most did well in the breed.
My winners in all sections were excellent and a credit to the training and hard work both they and their parents have obviously put in. The fact that most of the top places in both the Junior and Senior sections were taken by the British is also a tribute to their training and commitment not only to their sport but to the dogs themselves.
Many were showing dogs belonging to European owners that they had met only moments before competition and the dogs did not respond to English commands but our Handlers showed their expertise with or without language. 12 year old Emily Thornton took the overall title, Eurodogshow Handler of the Year beating all the Juniors and Seniors. This was an exceptional win as she is also profoundly deaf and has to cope by visual cues. Over the years she has handled several breeds with accuracy, including my Bedlingtons which I would entrust to her at any time.
This year she took the Toy Poodle, not only in the Handling competition but in to the Breed Ring taking the Best Junior Title with it at just 10 months of age (puppies in Europe are up to 9 months).
In the Final Emily narrowly beat another of the U.K’s top Handlers, Jaxson Manser, who as always, put on an accomplished performance and in third place was one of Belgian’s top handlers, Kathleen Roosens whose quiet unassuming handling captivates. Jodie Harrison, a very elegant and skilful handler was placed fourth. In fifth and sixth places were Stephanie Lansdell and Jodie Allen who both regularly do well on the European scene and worked hard to achieve their places in the final from such a large entry. Both are very skilful Handlers with experience beyond their years. To those Handlers who did not make a final this year can I say how proud of you I am and how delighted I was to have you with us. Your work was good and remember, that with the Handling competitions, you can mess up one competition but still learn from the experience and come back in the next so I hope to see you with us again. If you need to check anything out you only have to ask.
Amongst this year’s successes was a new stage for our Tour to Eurodogshow. We were fortunate enough to be accompanied by a longtime friend of mine from Jersey, Donelda Guy. Over the years when setting up and working with the Jersey Juniors Handlers in Jersey she and Marcel were my great mentors for the obedience and agility sections. I was thrilled to see her work in the Advanced Heelwork to music competition and absolutely delighted to see her easily take the Advanced section and crowned as this years Eurodogshow Heelwork to Music Champion. She was then invited to give the display in the main ring just before Best in Show and what a routine - wow!
Donelda is always so supportive of the work with young people and dogs and this year  she has very kindly offered to do an introductory session on Heelwork to Music for both adults and Juniors at Southern Counties Championship Show subject to approval by the Society. Details later through the Junior columns.
On the way home having checked all the dogs through customs and with the chance to reflect on the previous two days I have to agree with my co judge Robert Killick that ‘the Eurodogshow, Kortrijk, is one of the most exciting and efficiently run European Shows that I have ever been to in many years. Obviously it is run by a group of committed people who know what’s wanted by exhibitors and dogs and who do not hesitate to provide it.’