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 Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday June 23, 2003

MAN'S BEST FRIEND

Dog being groomed
Britain is a nation of dog lovers

From prize winning pooches to lovable scruffy mongrels - Britain's love affair with its four legged friends is unparalleled. Inside Out goes behind the scenes at the world famous Crufts to find out more.

Heather Downes is a self confessed dog lover and the owner of three beautiful Afghan Hounds. We join Heather and the hounds in the final stages of their Crufts preparation.

It's a dog's life

Crufts is the most important event in the dog world and attracts over 120,000 visitors to the NEC in March each year.

Whilst some are there to peruse and purchase the latest in doggy couture and accessories, others go to watch the famous show in which 22,000 dogs are entered.

All eyes will be on the dog's presentation and performance in the ring which takes months of painstaking preparation.

Afghan hound - grooming preparations
Three hours later and Angel is show standard

With pride and highly sought after prizes at stake, Heather makes the final preparations.

It's bath time in the Downes house and for each Afghan the process takes a staggering three hours.

Heather is keen to stress that the dog's coats must be natural for showing - that means no added bows or perfume - we kid you not!

Pampered pooch

DOGS

* There are 701 types of pure breed dogs

* The common belief that dogs are colour blind is false. Dogs can see color but it is not as vivid a color scheme as we see. It is much like our vision at twilight

* Irish Wolfhounds rank as the largest dog, Chihuahuas as the smallest

* The United States and France have the most pet dogs. Almost one in three families in these countries own a dog

* All dogs are probably descended from an animal called Tomarctus.
This animal lived approximately 15 million years ago

* The earliest "fossil" finds of dogs date back to 10,000 BC

It is not only show dogs that get treated to a day of beauty and pampering. Margaret Campbell runs Grooming on the Green - a grooming parlour for dogs.

"Everyone loves going to the hairdressers to be pampered," explains Margaret.

"These dogs are pampered for about two hours. Once they're ready to go, we dust them with a perfume or aftershave, pop a bow on them, then they are ready."

But before you go reaching for a bottle of your favourite perfume - Margaret assures us that these are special doggy scents.

According to Margaret many people are spending more time and money on their dogs appearance than there own.

A devoted dog owner at the NEC agrees: "I spend a lot of time and effort on my dog. I think money is no object when you love something like you do a dog."

I'd like to thank my owner…

Not all competitions in the doggy world are based on appearance alone and although Bobby may be handsome, his award is for exceptional behaviour.

Bobby the greyhound
Bobby is a single parent to a litter of puppies

The Golden Bonio Awards is the doggie world's answer to the Oscars and Bobby faces stiff competition from around the country.

Bobby was nominated for the award after he took on the role of single parent to a litter of puppies when their mother died.

It is fairly unusual for a male dog to take on a maternal role, but Bobby rose to the challenge admirably.

"I really think he deserves to win," says Bobby's owner Mary McGarry. "It is so unusual for a dog to look after puppies. I'm really proud of him."

And the winner is…

Judging time at Crufts is always fraught with anxiety and nerves - and that is just the owners!

"A lot of exhibitors get very nervous," explains Crufts judge Terry Thorne. "When you are going over the dog, you can feel them (the owner) shaking like a leaf."

Gabby Roslin presenting Bobby's award
Bobby receives a special award from Gabby Roslin

Heather's Afghan Angel performs well but no winning trophy here. Instead Angel receives a 'very highly recommended' certificate.

Bobby is also piped to the post by Rio, a Siberian husky who scoops the first prize.

Bobby's exceptional behaviour does not go unrecognised though and he receives a special award along with celebrity praise.

"Bobby is very unique and a beautiful dog," says Anthea Turner. "I only wish there were more people like some of these dogs."

Our two award winning dogs may not have made it to the top spot this time, but in the eyes of their owners - they will always be top dog!

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
BBC: News - 'Life-saving' husky named top dog

On the rest of the web
Crufts 2003
The Kennel Club UK
National Canine Defence League

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