I was very busy in the few days leading up to the weekend so recorded the Crufts programmes to watch later, at my ease. On Saturday I took Naïcha to her first show, at Périgueux. Having seen on my exhibitor’s pass that her class wasn’t due to start until 13:00 I didn’t need to leave too early and got to the showground at about 10:30. By that time the people at the gate distributing the catalogues were no longer there, so I went to the secretaries’ desk. Both Aline and Lynda, who is not only the local delegate for the Cavalier King Charles club but the deputy secretary of this show society were there. They said, almost in unison “Jane! What are you doing here today?” I presented my pass and asked if I could please have my catalogue. Aline said “Oh! You’re showing the new arrival!” and came round to have a look at her. Naïcha licked her through the bars of her crate and Aline said “She is very elegant!” Lynda’s husband Nicolas then appeared and I asked if he would be there Sunday and if so, would he be kind enough to handle Hula as I had two in open bitch. He smiled «As usual, yes, OK » and offered to handle Naïcha but I said for her first show I’d really like to handle her myself, even if she didn’t behave well.

I found the ring and a convenient place to park the crate and thought to take her for a little walk around to get used to the noise and the other dogs. She was not happy, bounced around on her lead and tried to get back to the crate. Trying to get her to trot nicely on the lead has been a losing battle on my part. The methods I use for Cavaliers don’t work – titbits or toys she just lunges for. When it was our turn to go into the ring she did the circuit mostly jumping up at my back, but she did stand nicely for the judge to go over. The straight up and down and triangle though, were a complete disaster: she tried to go in every direction other than straight ahead with me. The judge gave her 1st excellent and said “Please, she needs to be trained to move!” and she was also Best Junior. Talking to other exhibitors later I asked if the collar I had was suitable: it’s a thin but very soft rolled leather martingale collar in orange. I also had her beautiful wide embroidered collar with me. One woman said better to have the embroidered collar for normal walks but the orange collar was perfect for showing: the colour complemented her coat colour and it also allowed one to see her beautiful long neck. Needless to say, in the group, which consisted of just 4 Junior sighthounds: dogs, Naïcha, a Borzoi, a Galgo Espagnol, and a Whippet, she was the one who wasn’t placed.

I saw a woman with a lovely GSD of the “old style”, not a banana shape and spoke to her owner, saying how much I liked her. The owner said “you can speak in English” she’d lived in the UK for thirty years. I told her a bit about my mother’s dog and him being, initially, scared of the waves when he first encountered the sea and she said hers had loved swimming in the sea: she had lived in Margate and I laughed and said the beach where Saba had his first encounter had been Viking Bay in Broadstairs, which she knew well. Small world. Her dog, who was a lovely character too, was British bred: she’d been delighted to find that there were still a few UK breeders who preferred the upright type
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When we got home I was moderately surprised to see that Naïcha was shattered: must have been mental exhaustion! She curled up on the sofa and slept all evening. On Sunday morning she seemed a bit miffed that I left with three of the Cavaliers but left her at home, not alone! She had Melody and Lettie for company.

I was in plenty of time for my classes, and able to take the dogs for a walk round the showground. Max was fascinated by a Border Collie herding sheep in one of the outside demonstrations, but I’m glad to say he didn’t emulate a dog at the edge of the ring who was barking furiously at them. At one point two Rhodesian Ridgebacks greeted me, tugging on their leads. Their owner turned and said ‘Oh: hello, they recognise you” I’d seen them at another show and the dogs, after just one encounter, remembered me.

There were only two in Maxim's class, and he was second excellent and did get the reserve CAC. Open bitch had four entrants. Hula won and was awarded the CAC, a granddaughter of my old Vincent was second and after a run off with the winner of the intermediate class won the reserve CAC and Madrigal was third. The judge gave them all the excellent grade, and the fourth was also related to mine: she is a granddaughter of Cedric. Hula was really up against it for the CACIB: Lynda and Nicolas’ Just So de la Fieffe au Songeur, a lovely Blenheim, was the reserve winner but the CACIB and Best of breed went to the tricolour, Endemik Lay Gesir Lay, bred and owned by Joris Mirabel. Best Puppy was a pretty German bred Blenheim, Royal Romance kiss me and she was in the last five, all breeds, for best puppy in Show. Her owners are English people who have been breeding and exhibiting Springers for some years and fancied a more cuddly breed. They sensibly did some good research before buying. Kiss me has been Best Baby then Best Puppy at every shows she's been entered.

Someone asked why the show hadn’t been a breed specialty, as it usually is, and Lynda said “because everyone else was going to Crufts.” Certainly there had been a lot of Facebook posts from French exhibitors or just visitors ”on their way to Birmingham”. I was moderately surprised to see Pascal Douis at the show: he is a professional handler who also breeds good quality Irish Wolfhounds and he usually goes to Crufts, sometimes to handle but, he once told me, on “buying missions” for clients. It had seemed a busy morning and I was a bit peckish and saw someone with a container of chips and sked where they’d bought them: apparently the restaurant was selling some “fast food” as well as the menu of the day, which was a bit more than I fancied. I bought chips with two slices of ventreche: thin slices of belly pork grilled in a manner I have not been able to imitate and very flavoursome I think maybe they are marinated in something. As I ate them another exhibitor gave me a glass of wine; well, a plastic goblet “put it in the recycling when you’ve finished” he said, and I did. The dogs begrudged me every mouthful so I shared the rind between them telling them pork wasn’t really any better for dogs than for people.

I was home earlier than on Saturday and settled down with a cup of tea to watch Crufts. Naïcha curled up beside me and when I’d got to the hound group she was clearly watching the screen. “Take note! “ I told her, “That is how you should have behaved”

Of the finalists I really liked the Papillon and the Pointer, so was pleased when the Pointer was RBIS but admit I had wondered if there might be a “political” winner in the Scottie, naughty of me! I was intrigued that the BOB King Charles had come from Russia and the BOB Cavalier from Poland, albeit with a lot of British ancestors, Clopsville, Aranel, Pascavale. Only one French bred dog that I knew about was placed. Onitshas Monopoly was bred by a friend of mine and sold to Germany where he’s had quite a good show career.

One of Naïcha’s half-brothers was VHC in Open Dog: Maybe not quite the best result for a Champion I was surprised at how many Irish Wolfhound class winner came from overseas, in fact, it seemed that there were a large number of foreign dogs who did well in many breeds.


Jane