Good evening dog lovers and welcome to Crufts 2012. Has it really been a year since we all last gathered here at the NEC in Birmingham for the ultimate celebration of dogs? The time has certainly flown by so we must all have been having fun!
There's certainly been plenty of fun on day one of the world's greatest dog show, with canine competitions and doggy displays galore to entertain the thousands who have flocked through the doors on a delightfully sunny spring day.
Over 5,000 dogs have been battling it out for just two places in Sunday's prestigious Best in Show final, as the Toy and Utility groups opened proceedings at this year's show. Following a day of great competition all around the show, the two group finals took place this evening in the Main Arena.
First up was the Utility group, and renowned dog handler and judge Geoff Corish had the tricky task of selecting his winner from the day's Best of Breeds. Geoff chose a seven year-old Lhasa Apso called Ch Zentarr Elizabeth owned by Mrs M Anderson from Coventry, meaning that they will have one of the shortest journeys possible to come back and compete in the final on Sunday.
Next in the ring were the Toy group winners from the day, to be judged by Annette Oliver. After casting a studious eye over the competitors, Annette chose the aptly named Pomeranian, Belliver Unexpected Dream, owned by Mr F Nilsson and Mrs K Bertilsson from Skane in Sweden – a somewhat less local winner than the Utility group! Mr Nilsson is no stranger to success at Crufts, having handled the Best in Show winning Standard Poodle ten years ago.
Earlier in the evening, young handlers and dogs both had their chance to shine in the Arena. After a keenly contested YKC Agility final, it was the turn of ten of the country's best young dogs aged 6-18 months as they competed in the final of the Kennel Gazette Junior Warrant Winner of the Year. Norwegian judge Espen Engh judged the first of two major finals he will oversee at this year's show and selected the Samoyed, Nikara Diamond Dancer JW owned by Mesdames V Freer and S A Smith.
Away from the competitive side of the show there was lots more to enjoy on day one of Crufts 2012. There was a wide range of events taking place on the hundreds of trade stands around the show, ranging from serious to celebratory and the possibly just a little bit silly – Cornish pasties and ice cream sounds like a thoroughly delicious dinner to me and now your dog can enjoy it too it seems.
On a celebratory note, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust marked passing the £6 million milestone of its grants to help canine good causes across the UK, with a special photocall on the stand. I don't know if the champagne corks were popping there but they certainly were on the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People stand as they held a reception to mark their 30th anniversary.
For those of you feeling a bit podgy after all this talk of food and drink, then inspiration was on hand today in the form of fitness guru Rosemary Conley who appeared in the Dog Activities Ring to promote fitness for people and dogs alike.
Writing this report is making me feel hungry though, so with all the action done and dusted for today, I'll sign off and head off for dinner if that's okay with you all. Rather than having to wait for this report to find out all about the day's activity at Crufts, why not come down and join us over the next three days and join in the fun for yourselves. You know where we are – just follow the dogs!