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A Decade of Discover Dogs

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Discover Dogs had an extra reason to celebrate last week when it was announced that the tenth hosting of the show at Earls Court 2, London, had seen a record crowd attendance figure. A bumper crowd of 23,912 poured through the doors of the event on Saturday, 12 November and Sunday, 13 November, beating last yearís previous record of 22,732 by over a thousand.

Those present at the show were treated to a feast of canine excitement and endeavour, including a variety of hotly contested competitions. The Scruffts Family Crossbreed Dog of the Year competition was judged by Wendy Richard from East Enders, and the award went to Scampie, owned by Laura Moreno-Chamorro from Plymouth.

Also taking place at the event were the Semi finals of the Kennel Gazette Junior Warrant Winner of the Year competition, which saw ten young dogs go through to the Grand Final at Crufts, which takes place from 9Ė12 March 2006. Other competitions at Discover Dogs included the semi finals of the YKC Grooming Competition and the finals of the Companion Dog Club Competition.

Discover Dogs celebrates all that is good about manís best friend and all that is beneficial and special about our relationship with them. One of the main themes of this yearís show was the invaluable work of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which helps make a difference for dogs. The Trust was formed in 1987 and has distributed funds totalling around £2million since its inception, with almost £300,000 awarded in grants last year alone.

Said Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, 'We are delighted to have welcomed another record crowd to Discover Dogs, proving once again what a wonderful show it is for anyone with an interest in dogs. It is great news that the work of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust could be showcased to so many people and we will now begin working to ensure that next yearís show is even more successful.'

Special Report: The Alternative Handlers (TAH) Display
by Angela Lucas

A little while ago, Rowena Beall sent out a message aimed at agility handlers who might not be in the full fitness of health to begin a specialist group. Subsequently she was asked to arrange a team to demonstrate at Discover Dogs in November at Earlís Court London. What excitement!

So there we all were last Saturday, 12 November - all wearing our Discover Dogs polo shirts -  meeting up for the first time.  There had been a little discussion via email about a suitable name. The final answer came as The Alternative Handlers, and I will go into the whys later. So TAH (The Alternative Handlers) had their first meeting and public debut in one day!

Personally Iím glad it was Discover Dogs.
Not having attended the show before, the show struck me as a scaled down and relaxed Crufts. The emphasis was on allowing the public to meet many different and rare breeds. Together with displays, I felt it was aimed at making people think ''yeah, I can do that.'

The main ring had a lot of agility  for Saturday, and there was a different programme for Sunday. The Saturday programme also had demonstrations of Heelwork to Music by two of the best in the field, Mary Ray and Richard Curtis. 

Despite the large agility content, there were lots of different themes. Mini/Midi agility, rescued dog agility, mini agility knockout (which proved to be very popular!) and, of course, our own rounds.

Graham Partridge was our judge and Iím sure he must have stood there not knowing what to expect as we started. The course had been planned for us and we were allowed a few minutes to walk around it. It was the first time for many of us to run on an artificial surface, and it was a strange feeling as we felt we were walking on sponges! As it turned out, the dogs all looked extremely comfortable running on it and even the more excitable ones sobered up enough to keep their footing. Our dogs arenít daft!

Now the purpose of our slot was to demonstrate that agility includes everyone and it does not mean you have to be super fit - legs to the armpits - or be able to run like the wind to join in. In actual fact, my impression was that we demonstrated the control of our dogs not only close up, but at a distance.  We showed an 'alternative' approach to agility handling that hopefully the audience could relate to, and feel that they could go home and try with their own dogs.

The Team
We came from all over the country. We ran Minis, Midi and Standard dogs. And we all have different difficulties including arthritis, heart disease and breathing difficulties. Some were recovering from serious operations or treatments. Some needed an additional aid like a stick or crutch. One of us Christina, showed the audience that wheelchair or not, you can teach your dog agility. She ran her GSD Oscar round the whole course and they had only been training since the summer.

All in all, our slot went well. Our supporters, planted in the audience, said they got great responses from the people around them. We also learnt a few lessons. One was to make sure that, in future, we briefed organisers about our access needs. Another was to ask for just a couple of chairs for those who cannot stand for long periods.

Now the fact is that we donít look upon ourselves as having disabilities and Iím sure I speak for most of us when I say we only use 'that' word for want of a better one. However, as the person who lives with a particular disadvantage lifelong, we each take responsibility to take precautions or extra care at events. This may be in the form of special shoe wear, extra meds or someone who can administer back up. Some of the handlers have a hidden illness which cannot be seen. They look healthy on the outside but may be having to cope with a life threatening illness every day. A day like at Discover Dogs helps us to support each other

What we hadnít realised was it would be organised as a competition, and we were running for placings. Linda came first and second with her dogs Toby and Chip, closely followed by Helen, Neville, Fran and Sue. There were crystal trophies for first and second places, and we all were given large commemorative rosettes  by Maurice Cooke.

Afterwards Rowena said, 'It was a big gamble for the kennel club and the alternative handlers as to how well we all could run and how the audience would respond to it. It was well received and the arena was full up hardly a empty seat left.'

Overall the day went very well, and there was a positive feel as we finished. It was a good day out and we look forward to another chance to get together.

Thank you
The people organising the main arena and their team were great.  We had people like John Gilbert and Dave Ray keeping us in line as we waited. Thanks to the arena team who worked like well oiled machines all day and were so helpful and polite. 

Thank you to Maurice Cooke, Director of Agility. Obedience and Events, who extended the invite to us and also to Catherine Choules Events Manager the Kennel Club for arranging all agility at Discover Dogs for The Alternative Handlers.

Special thanks go to Steve Beall and to Sue White for her help on the Saturday, making sure that we were in the right place at the right time. Without them, I could never have done it.

The full team was:-

  • Cathy Brown with Scooby (Lab X Springer) from Wiltshire

  • Fran Griffin with Tallulah (Red Setter) from Milton Keynes

  • Angela Lucas with Boz (Border Collie) from East Sussex,

  • Sue White with Mercury (Border Collie) and Bug (JR X) from Middlesex

  • Helen with Chaos (Golden Retriever) from Devon

  • Christina Candey with Oscar (GSD) from Surrey

  • Linda Boyce with Toby & Chip (Border Collies) from East Sussex

  • Marion Macherene with Amy (BSD) from Surrey

  • Neville Todd with Remy (Cocker Spaniel) from Essex

  • Sheila Partridge with Smokey (Papillion) from East Sussex

  • Kate Philpot with Kali (Spaniel X) from Hampshire

  • Rowena Beall with Louie (Shih Tzu) from West Sussex

Would YOU be interested in joining TAH

Rowena and Steve Beall are planning a website which should be completed shortly. As I have said before, while we donít consider ourselves to have disabilities, it means we have to be more 'creative' in training our dogs.

If you are experience difficulties in training your dog because of a physical problem or a medical condition, it could be that being in contact with us will start off a new chain of thought or alternative approach to the objective. Would you be interested in training together, so that you can use or try the training methods you never get to practice at regular classes?  What would be  good aim/objectives for the Alternative Handlers?  How do you feel about the whole aspect of it?

For more information, email Rowena.

Photos: Sue White