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Top Leonberger dies at Crufts

A LEONBERGER bitch belonging to the UK’s foremost breeder collapsed and died by her bench on Day 2 of Crufts. The cause of death was later discovered to be a faulty heart valve.

Two year-old Rossnick Fancy Pants, pet name ‘Dolly’ was bred and exhibited by Celia Peters from Kent, who imported the first Leonbergers into the UK in 1978. Dolly was being handled at the show by Mrs Peters’ friend Jan Marshall, and lived with Mrs Peters’ daughter Clare Osbourne, where she was a much-loved family pet for the whole family.

Dolly had just been taken for a walk by Mrs Peters’ foster-grandson and had returned to the benching area when the tragedy struck. Mrs Peters told OUR DOGS: ‘She had a spat with her half sister who was benched next to her. It wasn’t serious, more of a ‘handbags at dawn’ kind of thing. They both reared up on their hind legs, as the breed often do when they’re squaring up to each other, and Jan pulled her back. At this point Dolly simply collapsed onto the floor. Jan felt her throat and noticed there was a kind of growling noise coming from her, which may have been what set her sister off, thinking she was being growled at in aggression.

‘Jan screamed for help and a wonderful off-duty vet named Clare – I don’t know her surname – came straight over within seconds and worked on Dolly, giving her heart massage, but it was too late – Dolly had died almost the instant she fell to the floor.’

The Crufts veterinary team were on the scene within two minutes, although there was nothing they could do. Dolly’s body was removed and taken to a nearby veterinary surgery used by Crufts, where the vet performed a post mortem to determine the cause of death. He telephoned Mrs Peters with the results at 6.00pm when she was driving home from the show.

The cause of death was found to be a faulty heart valve, which the vet was at pains to point out was NOT an hereditary condition, but had possibly been caused when Dolly was younger, maybe being caused by an undetected viral infection, or simply by being deformed from birth.

‘She’d been a wonderfully healthy, active dog all her life,’ added Mrs Peters. ‘She was running and playing all the time, jumping fences, charging around with my grandchildren – she loved life and she loved being shown. She was a dog that absolutely loved showing, she was a total diva, so if there was a good time for her to go, it was at a show, doing what she loved best. I miss her terribly.

Mrs Peters paid tribute to Clare, the off duty vet who attended Dolly and to the Crufts veterinary team who came to the scene. ‘I can’t fault the Crufts vets and vet nurses at all,’ she said. ‘The only thing I would say is that there are no obvious signs in any of the halls as to where the veterinary Centre is situated. We were in Hall 5 and my daughter ran off frantically looking for the vets. It may not be practical, but it might be a good idea if there was some sort of veterinary first aid box in each hall, just in case of emergencies like this. Having said that, of course, it wouldn’t have helped Dolly as she died within seconds.

‘I’m so grateful to everyone for all they did,’ added Mrs Peters. ‘Although Leonbergers are a numerically strong breed now, we are still an intimate group and all the exhibitors there rallied around and almost cordoned off the benches from anybody else, whilst they gave us all so much help. I had so many offers of being driven home by other exhibitors. I’d like to say a very big Thank You to them all, and, of course, to Clare and the Crufts vets.

‘Dolly was a wonderful dog. I know I’ll never recreate her, but I will breed from her mother again in the hope that there’ll be another dog similar to her.’