Crufts dog show is the biggest dog show in the world with over 22000 pooches on parade, over 200 breeds. For four nights my other half sits and stares at the tele muttering 'Look at the state of that ...'
This year's winner was a mop headed rug rat ( a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen to be precise). Second place went to a lab with a weight problem. I'm sure all lab owners can identify with that.
Like most mongrel fans - sorry 'mixed breed' is now the correct technical term - I've always been a bit ambivalent about all that shampooing and backcombing nonsense. What is the point of a baldy dog?
My own canine companion is a ‘pit bull type’ (as defined by the law in GB) but is still a mixed breed of - in varying degrees - Pit Bull, German Shepard, haggis, duffle coat, collie and crime fiction critic. The result is very like an Australian Heeler. She has a sensible arrangement of legs at the corners and a tummy high off the ground so it doesn't pick up dirt.
Crufts has always concentrated on excellence of breed standard, and breeding towards the extreme definition of that standard. And most people thought that was fine but nobody asked the dogs.
The tide turned in 2008 with the airing of a TV show which had filmed dogs suffering from genetic illnesses going onto win "best in breed". The programme was harrowing to watch. Prize-winning cavalier King Charles spaniel staggering around, suffering from syringomyelia, a condition which occurs when the skull is too small for the brain. Boxers having epileptic convulsions. Short faces, wrinkly skin, ridge backs, screw-tails and dwarfism all have inherent health problems. As well as the mechanical issues of having a body way too long for stumpy legs.
This dog looks much the same standing up or sitting down, or half and half.
Even Canine atopic dermatitis which is present in nearly 50% of Labradors and Golden retrievers, is an inherited condition. The deliberate mating of close relatives was common practice and the Kennel Club would allow registration of mother-to-son and brother-to-sister matings. “Scientists at Imperial College, London, recently found that pugs in the UK are so inbred that although there are 10,000 of them, it is the equivalent of just 50 distinct individuals.”
In 2009 the Kennel Club responded by introducing an online dating service for dogs 'Select a Mate.' Not quite 'fluffy tailed but lonely WLTM N/S GSOH' more a determination of the impact of any pairing on the gene pool. So far so good.
This does not help with fashion and the current nonsense of the Porki, Puggle, CockerPoo, Jackawawa etc They are sold on the falsehood that they do not cast. 50% of the puppies will. You will not know what 50%. Why not buy a poodle in the first place if you can't stand hoovering.
The story of pedigree snobbery at Crufts is interesting. In 1955 they allowed working sheepdogs in the Obedience Championship Show. Since they are part wily collie, part nuclear physicist they soon became a main attraction - for their brains. Like Miss World ;)
In 1974 Cruft’s was rebranded and lost the apostrophe. 1978 saw Agility first demonstrated, the first competition was in 1980. The atmosphere changed at that point with cheering and non stuffy happiness of mad dogs running and jumping for the sheer joy of doing things that dogs do. In 1985 the Kennel Club Junior Organisation started to run competitions for junior handlers where the handling of the dog is judged, not the dog itself. 1990 saw the introduction of fly ball and monochrome missiles of border collies flying for the greatest treasure they can ever posses; a tennis ball. Then, in 1992 Mary Ray did her dancing dog stuff. Not my thing. Dogs wearing pants and jigging about to Beyonce might say more about the owner than the dog. Or am I just saying that as my dog would vote with its teeth? Much better to celebrate this Newfie doing this.... rescuing folk.
A good pub quiz fact is that Newfies can swim breaststroke.
In 2000, the world saw sense and Rescue Dog Agility was introduced (for rescued dogs not dogs that perform rescue but one has often lead to the other!) showing what fun rescue dogs can be. In 2004 Friends for Life/ hero dogs appeared for canine companions with bravery, support and companionship. These have included disability aid dogs, bomb detection dogs, human search and rescue dogs etc.
In 2006 Caro Ramsay, dog loving crime author was appointed a judge at Scrufts, the proper dog show for proper dogs. It was my job to judge waggiest tail and happiest smile.
In 2009 Judges were given the power to remove unhealthy dogs from the show ring. As a follow up to that, 2012 saw all the Best of Breed winners and champions in the 15 high profile breeds ( by that read 'dodgy') needing to be vet checked before their awards are confirmed.
My vet said words of great wisdom. Dogs are descended directly from wolves. As you move away from those proportions, you get trouble.
My next book has these chappies in it. The Ovcharka. They do a fair bit of the following in the book....
My dog showing pal says that in Europe they are shown with two handlers, only three in the ring at one time and the judge does not touch them. He walks past and doesn't say anything rude until well out of earshot. The American readers may recognize them as the latest drug dealer protection dog. They are slowly making their way off the Caucasious mountains into the streets of Glasgow where they will be force fed chips.
a border collie having a day off from MENSA. I think he might suspect the photographer of having a tennis ball about his person.
So much is wrong with this picture. I will refrain from comment.
Caro and Pit Bull dog Team GB 15/02/2013