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Celebrating life ...

Last August marked Alan and Jayne Bray's 10th wedding anniversary. Having been given the news that Jayne had less than six months to live, they decided that they wanted to renew their vows surrounded by their friends and family. One year later, thanks to the skills of the surgeons at Milton Keynes and Harfield and the wonder drugs prescribed by the Royal Marsden, she is still here now battling on! This is an article about their big celebration, a day they honestly thought they would never see together!

Rather than wait until Dogs in Need to celebrate our wedding anniversary, we decided to bring it forward to just after Crufts, just in case Jayne’s health took a turn for the worse. So we organised the do at double speed and managed to book the beautiful Horwood House, near Milton Keynes. We then invited over 200 agility friends, civilian friends and even the family to come along! We are really sorry if we missed you off the invite list - it wasn't deliberate. There wasn't anyone we didn't want to come. We just arranged this at such short notice that we couldn't remember whom we had invited and whom we hadn't!

Horwood House is a wonderful country house with a long tree-lined drive, gardens and a pond. It has a nice restaurant, a huge lounge / dance function room and several bars so it was ideal for agility folk! However, we did arrange for free tea and coffee to be available all night so Lesley Olden and all the other old dears were happy. At the other end of the age spectrum, a games room equipped with a pool and snooker table and a full-size bar football table kept the kids entertained. It also had all the overnight accommodation we needed.

The day actually started the night before when lots of us stayed over. We ate in the restaurant together and had a game of pool. Next morning we had a hearty breakfast together, went swimming, played bar football and had a few photos taken.

The ceremony began at lunchtime. Paul Moore, looking very dapper in his tuxedo, and Kate Smith stunning in her black and white dress had the running order sheet and did the calling in for us. Though there were a few problems with the usual suspects trying to run early or hanging back to the end, Paul and Kate managed to sort them all out in the end. It was hard to recognise some people as we were all dressed in our Sunday best instead of paw-marked running gear. Lorna Peachy even wore high heels!

Everyone enjoyed a welcome drink – or two in Virginia Harry's case! Then we went in for the ceremony. The room sat everyone – at a squeeze! Hayley and our grandson Joseph gave Jayne away. There were speeches and lessons read from several family members and friends including Lisa Gantly who recited all the DIY disasters that have befell Alan over the years. We wanted the day to be light and fun and not a sad occasion, and everyone obliged with people joining in as they do in the agility fraternity. There was plenty of dry humour and wit throughout the day!

We then had more refreshments with two bars on the go at the same time. The official photos were a great laugh especially as our photographers are also the Upanova Tigers club adopted pub barmaids. They made this so much fun, getting all the relevant groups by agility clubs and groups, friends and families. For some unexplained reason, Paul Moore seemed to be in every photo! There were calls for Mary Ray to do an impromptu exhibition display, but she declined having consumed far too much wine!

Then onto the evening do, complete with hog roast and two lovely cakes which had been made for us by our youngest Tigers member Charlotte Gardner. The disco that went onto 0200 in the morning with the dance floor packed from the beginning to the end despite Alan's worst ever display of granddad dancing in his slippers! The DJ said it was the best gig he had ever played at!

And just for the record, Beacon club was the last to leave - eventually! How Fiona Vaughan, Jackie Gardner and Kate Howard got back to their rooms is anyone's guess!

The best way to describe the night would be to say that it was a just like a Thames Show disco night as the photos from those who were there will show - especially those of David Munnings with Cat Harvey and Sian Illingworth dancing with Alan's sons Brett's naval uniform hat on! Brett had made it to our do despite being on 12 hours notice to go to Libya so this was a real bonus for us. He was sent out immediately when he got back on Monday morning so we timed this just right!

Hayley and Natalie made Jayne two lovely photo collages of all our dogs, past and present, that we now have hung on the walls at home. That was a lovely personal touch that we really appreciated – made Jayne cry!

While most of us got up okay the next morning, neither Alan, Karen Stanbrook nor Virginia could face a fried breakfast! We think it was having too much cake!

We want to thank everyone for coming and making this a fantastic occasion for us - something we will treasure forever. We have a lovely photo album of the day which we often look at and still laugh at the antics of everyone on the day!

We also want to say a big thank you for the donations made to Milton Keynes MacMillan. If anyone wants to do something more, then please make a donation to them in Jayne's name. We didn't fancy 200 toasters anyway! And just to show how generous agility folk can be, an astonishing £800 was donated by various people. Fiona Vaughan, for example, donated her judging expenses and the Beacon Club donated the proceeds of their club raffle which was then doubled by the club. We can't thank you enough, guys.

When we rounded this up to £1000, MacMillan couldn't believe their luck. They organised for the local Milton Keynes press to cover the story. They did us a lovely article about Jayne including a photo of Tayla jumping over a large cardboard £1000 cheque that we had especially made. Since then a woman's magazine have been in touch to cover Jayne's story which will be published later this year. (Hello or Woman's Weekly or something similar).

On top of all of this - and unbeknown to us - Hayley and Nikki Keeler then arranged a pay-on-the day training ring at the Den and Nikki Keeler's fantastic Barking Mad winter shows where a further £320 was raised. People were so generous, giving us far more than the £1 per minute they needed. Helen and Andy Brown raised another £320 from one of their training days, donating it towards the cause. This has been presently separately to Milton Keynes MacMillans who have been amazed at the generosity of agility fraternity. This is a godsend - thanks everyone.

We would also like a special mention for all the Upanova Tigers members for their close day-to-day support without which we wouldn't have got through last year. And also to thank everyone in agility all for your support over the last five years of Jayne's fight against cancer. You may think it's nothing, but letting us camp near the rings etc has made the difference of going to shows or not as Jayne has just not got the energy due to the effects of drugs which tire her out very quickly now. So thanks everyone. Your help and support is immense and makes us feel very humble!

About the author...
Jayne Bray has been a top agility trainer and handler since 1993 when she started out with a Standard Poodle. She has bred her Poodles, Collies and Shelties with her own Upanova Affix, all of which have done very well in agility with their high drive work ethic and have worked at the highest level (Advanced Grade 7) in agility. Her best known dog Portia was a triple Agility Champion and she has won Championship Certificates with her Border Collie along with many finals at Olympia and Crufts during this time including the Team Final at Crufts two years running.

She is also co trainer with Alan of the famous Upanova Tiger Club who have won the Premier League title for five of the ten years its been running.

Jayne has been fighting cancer for the past five years which has severely restricted her competing at shows, but she now has a young Sirensong Miniature black Poodle called Bling who is coming along absolutely brilliantly. Anyone who knows Jayne will know that all her dogs wear diamond collars so it was inevitable that one would be called Bling. Bling gives Jayne another reason for getting up and out there everyday.

Jayne says, 'Bling is a little ray of sunshine even if she is a very spoilt little madam! She is my world and my goal is to make it to July so I can be the one to share her first run. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Yvette Dumont and Angela Gadenne for trusting one of their fabulous babies to me.'

First published 11 February 2012