Livewire by Irene Horner of Thornton - March 9, 2011

Irene Horner and Paddy
Irene Horner and Paddy
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I have owned dogs for as long as I can remember, and my first trip to Crufts was in 1975 at Earls Court in London.

We travelled down on a “doggy” coach, normal mode of transport to shows in those days. We set off at an unearthly hour to arrive with thousands of other excited dogs and owners for our classes.

It was thrilling to see stands filled with everything “doggyfied”, as well as the many overseas visitors. When the show was over, tired but exhilarated, we trudged out into the cold to find our coaches, everyone too hyped to sleep, talking about our wins, how our dogs behaved, who we had met, and how much we had spent.

Years later I still get that feeling when ready to depart now by car, a gentle drive to the NEC the day before, good sleep and 10-minute drive to the centre – well, I am a wrinkly crinkly so have earned my comfort, and early starts are for the young.

Crufts, the 120th anniversary show, televised, starting tomorrow, has changed too. It is billed the Greatest Dog Show in the World.

It is really a Festival of Dogs because, although there are more than 21,000 entered for Best In Show, there is more.

This year it is also concentrating on assistance dogs. The canine heroes that assist the blind, deaf, disabled, as well as autistic and diabetic children; search and rescue; therapy dogs; sniffer dogs saving our soldiers’ lives by detecting bombs and weapons in conflicts; companion dogs; herding dogs, along with police dog displays, obedience, agility, fly ball, and dancing with dogs.

Discover Dogs gives families chance to see all the breeds and get advice on which would suit. Junior Handling features youngsters from all over the world. There are also charities that rescue and rehome dogs; train people to educate children in schools about dogs; another that encourages PAT dogs that go into rest homes; the Green Dog Walkers scheme, encouraging dog owners to sign a pledge of responsible ownership; and loads more. It really is a festival of dogs and I can’t wait.

I find it sad these days to see dogs vilified and maligned through no fault of their own, when the evidence is there for all to see – and was underlined by the recent death of a young soldier, and his dog, on active service – that dog IS man’s best friend.

At Crufts, we can see everything that is good about dogs. It is televised 7pm-9pm tomorrow to Sunday on MORE 4, presented by Clare Balding, and can also be viewed on the Crufts TV website.