I was delighted to be invited to report for Our Dogs at the inaugural Welsh Junior of the Year event held under the auspices of Cardiff Canine Society. The idea for this event was the brain child of Martin and Carol Sanders and Gordon and Jan Rual who are well known dog folk both in Wales and beyond, and who describe it as a ‘special’ event run for dog people by dog people. It was held on Sunday 3rd February at The Holiday Inn Newport, where in the past there have been many a great ‘do’ hosted by the various Welsh Canine Societies. Of course every event needs a sponsor nowadays and it was refreshing or perhaps a sign of things to come that none of the sponsors make dog food! Those kindly offering generous support were Our Dogs, Fosse Data Systems Ltd, Mrs Olive Thomas (Sparkles), Celebration Rosettes, Cromessol and Bob Jude Flooring. In addition The Working and Pastoral Breeds Association of Wales donated commemorative gifts for each competitor and the judges which was a gesture much appreciated by all. To qualify for the event dogs must have won a Junior class at either an open or championship show during 2007 and they also had to reside in Wales. Based on the sixty four dog match format the entry was quickly achieved along with a reserve list with some exhibits based as far away as Holyhead and Camarthen.

Secretary Martin Sanders very kindly invited Malcolm Presland to come along with me and we arrived at 10.00 am in time coffee, croissants and the draw for the first round. The room was well laid out with a good size ring in the centre partitioned off with American show fencing (who brought that home in their suitcase?) with plenty of seating and tables around and was decorated in the green and white colours the event has chosen. There was already a party atmosphere which prevailed all day and a happy buzz in the air. Gordon Rual was in charge of the draw and he zoomed round the room inviting as many different people as possible to draw the numbers out you couldn’t be fairer than that! Les Portlock was in charge of collecting ring duties and did a very good job at keeping the exhibits flowing all day. Jan and Gordon Rual and Lisa Stock assisted in the ring with Martin Sanders in charge of the commentary and Carol Sanders keeping up with the paperwork. Martin told me that it had been Carol’s birthday on Friday 1st but they had been so busy putting the last minute organisation into place to do much but he will be making it up to her later!

Just before 10.30 both the judges were introduced to everyone by Martin as two of the ‘finest from Wales’, they being Mr Bryn Cadogan (Dogan) and Mr Clive Davies (Sundalea) and they were greeted with warm applause from the packed ringside. They then had to choose a blank envelope each which decreed who would judge the first round and that honour went to Clive Davies. The first round dogs all paraded and were given their Commemorative gifts and Our Dog’s goody bags, they had already received their rosettes on registration. Clive set about his task with his usual proficiency although his cold hands did rather make the lovely smooth coated Saluki Badhdad Smooth Operator jump when he checked for two normally descended! As each exhibit moved for the judge, commentator Martin read out a piece on the dog giving some behind the scenes information plus the dog’s pet name. It was heartening to learn that many of the gundogs either had their shooting certificates or were working towards them. In the later rounds the decisions became more difficult and Clive jokingly called for the referee at one point! His final two were Mr and Mrs Hallow’s Benclutha Fortune’s Angel, Bouvier Des Flanders, bred by Eddie Laing and Ch Veltuds Conspiracy, Pomeranian owned by John Powell, Gary Medcraft and Ann Samuels and bred by Powell and Medcraft. Another close look at them both and another move out and the nod went to the Pom. During the rounds as each dog left the ring owners also collected a diploma signed by the relevant judge. Before lunch the draw for the afternoons round was made with Gordon Rual once again ensuring a fair and square draw. That done it was time to find the all important winner of the ‘name the teddy bear’ competition which was won by Mandy Jenkins, co–owner with Chris Bithell of the Briard Gilcoru Ghost D’Brie of Bourntwyn. The winning name was of course Dozy!!

The event was running like clock work so round two began on time with a parade of the next thirty two dogs with all three of the reserve dogs taking part. Bill Browne-Cole (Travella) had dashed across the Severn bridge to catch the second half of proceedings to take his mind off wife Sue’s shopping trip to Oxford! Mr Bryn Cadogan took centre stage with his keen eye and efficient hands settling down to the important task ahead. Nine year old Libby Jones impressed us all with her faultless handling of the Sealyham Tommarv Ruby Sunday, known as Ruby her favourite song is Ruby Ruby Ruby by the Kaiser Chiefs, Libby tells us. There were no secrets safe in the hands of Martin on the mike and he revealed that Labrador exhibitor Linda Harvey-Major was Miss April in this year’s Labrador Rescue Calendar Girls calendar. Bryn Cadogan’s final two were Mrs Olive Thomas’ Ch Aivlys Black Bonnie At Leashkan, Tibetan Terrier, bred by Mrs Sue Garner. Olive was ably assisted on the day by friend Bridget Croucher and it’s always worth bringing along someone to help brush that coat out between rounds. Lujesa Speciosa, Spaniel (Cocker) owned by Ian and Susan Hillier and bred by the Kettles was the judge’s other semi-finalist and again another careful look and the merry Cocker was through to meet the .Ch Veltuds Conspiracy, Pomeranian , is known at home as ‘Connor’ and he loves to get up for a breakfast of tea and toast before going back to bed and he qualified for this event at UK Toy Dog championship show. Lujesa Speciosa, Spaniel (Cocker) or Poppy to her friends, is also handled at shows by the Hillier’s daughter Emily and her favourite past time, in true Cocker tradition is walking in the countryside, she qualified at Monmouth open show. It was time then for both judges to judge each others finalist, then a quick chat before declaring the cheeky Pom the winner to much appreciation from the still well filled hall. A look at the clock and as per the itinerary it was spot on 3 o’clock, and as the winners were photographed and the judges the received their gifts it was clear that for a first event everything had run wonderfully well, so well indeed how will Martin and Carol, Gordon and Jan be able to better this event? There is one way to find out and that is to take part next year and anyone interested either as a contestant or a guest can contact Martin Sanders on 02920 813402, email martin.dog@hotmail.co.uk to find out how. I for one am all ready looking forward to the next one.

Mel Vincent