Crufts 2009 Show Report – Day 1

It’s the first weekend in March, the sun is shining and thousands of dogs are descending on the NEC in Birmingham. It can only mean one thing…Crufts is back!

Good evening from day one of the world’s greatest dog show. Crufts 2009 is a wonderful celebration of happy, healthy dogs and the Kennel Club is proud to be able to showcase all of the significant work being done to safeguard the health and welfare of pedigree dogs.

Health is at the very heart of Crufts 2009. A new designated Health Zone has been introduced at the show, where experts from the Kennel Club, the Animal Health Trust and those involved in the Kennel Club/British Veterinary Association canine health schemes, are present to talk to dog enthusiasts about various health initiatives and a wide range of dog health topics to help them ensure that their dogs’ lives are as healthy as they can be.

The Health Zone today hosted the official launch of the new Kennel Club Canine Genetics Centre, which will be based at the Animal Health Trust’s headquarters in Suffolk. The centre will conduct research aimed at eradicating a significant number of inherited canine diseases and is just the latest initiative in the Kennel Club’s mission to make a difference for dogs.

Another big step towards improving the health of dogs will be taken in the show ring, with all judges at Crufts 2009 carefully briefed to make sure that only healthy dogs win prizes.

The first two groups to enjoy their day in the sun – quite literally given the fine weather that has accompanied the show’s opening day – were the Terrier and Hound groups. Over 5,500 dogs have been striving to impress the judges today, but just two have been chosen to go forward to Sunday’s prestigious Best in Show final.

Harry O’Donoghue from Dundalk, Ireland, had the difficult decision of selecting the winner of the Terrier group from the many Best of Breed dogs on display. Harry picked the Sealyham Terrier, Am/Can/Su Ch Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice, owned by M Good and S Middlebrooks from Pennsylvania, USA.

Shortly afterwards, Ann Macdonald from Glasgow continued the celtic theme to the first day’s group judging when she cast her eye over the breed winners from the Hound group. After careful deliberation, Ann chose Int Ch Northgate’s As You Like It, a Pharaoh Hound owned by Miss J Hall from Alvesta, Sweden.

Before the group judging closed proceedings, there was a wealth of other great entertainment for visitors to enjoy in the NEC Arena. Agility dogs of all shapes and sizes weaved through poles, raced through tunnels and jumped hurdles aplenty in a feast of fast and furious fun. The crowd were also wowed by some great displays of the special bond between dogs and their owners in the Freestyle Heelwork to Music competition.

Immediately prior to the group judging, the canine stars of the future took centre stage in the final of the Kennel Club Junior Warrant Winner of the Year final. This competition is exclusively for young dogs aged between 6 and 18 months old inclusively, and judge David Guy picked Coldasice Cebalrai JW, a Siberian Husky owned by Mr M Patrick from Stanley, Co Durham.

Elsewhere around the show, there was a host of other competition taking place. The Obedience Ring played host to the Inter-Regional Obedience Competition, which was won by the Southern team, who pipped the Western team by just a single point. On such fine margins, Crufts memories and magic are made.

Away from the heat of the competition, Crufts offers the opportunity for a large number of canine organisations to showcase the many other wonderful things which dogs can do. Uppermost among these are the assistance dog charities, which welcomed some big personalities onto their stands to promote their invaluable work.

When it comes to personalities, they don’t come much bigger than the larger than life presence of Brian Blessed. Brian came to Crufts today to cut a special cake celebrating Dogs for the Disabled’s 21st birthday. Contrary to wicked rumour, I can confirm that he didn’t eat it all himself!

Another star of the small screen to lend a helping hand today was Pam St Clement aka Pat from EastEnders. Pam made appearances with both Pets as Therapy and Hearing Dogs for the Disabled to help draw the crowds to their stands.

If you weren’t here to enjoy it in person then don’t forget that you can catch lots of action online courtesy of our live internet stream. There you can also catch up with some of the best of the day’s action via the video on demand service, which offers replays of the action from just £1.99.

And so a successful first day of Crufts 2009 draws to a close. Tomorrow sees the Toy and Utility groups under the spotlight in the show rings and plenty of action throughout the show. We hope to see you here at the NEC or at home logging in for all the latest news. Goodnight dog lovers.