THIS YEAR the TV coverage for Crufts was generous timewise so I was looking forward to how the new-look programmes would work. Having spent a few days writing articles and uploading photographs, I settled down to viewing the programmes on catchup.
The opening scene was of Clare Balding, who I greatly admire for her expertise and manner, and Alan Carr who I usually find irritating at best. Minutes into the two-hander my irritation was confirmed! I’m not quite sure who Iwan Thomas is but his promotion of the French Bulldog as ‘the most popular breed in the UK’ would have had the puppy farmers rubbing their hands with glee I’m sure. I could have lived without the ‘objectifying dogs’ spot which discussed the pros and cons of dressing up dogs which led into ‘The Pooch Price Is Right’ – well, one mention of the P word makes me squirm – which made us suffer several more valuable minutes of silliness.
Next came the viewers’ ‘dogalike’ slot where viewers sent in photographs of their dogs who their owners claimed looked like ‘celebrities’… clearly some viewers are visually challenged. Jessica Holm was joined by Nim Patel, a veterinary nurse, to discuss nutrition which was fairly constructive (apart from the tasting session when Messrs Carr and Thomas had to decide which of the food samples were manufactured for human consumption and which for dogs).
With Alan Carr on board the Fabulous Willy jokes were all too predictable but it was good to have a reminder of past BIS winners. The visit to ‘Supervet’ Noel Fitzpatrick’s establishment which specialises in orthopaedics and neurology was very impressive… then more trivia when Mr Carr had to match four breeds with their rightful owners where he failed miserably.
I can’t think that the naturally modest Frank Kane was too happy with his ‘Crufts Legend’ label and felt sorry for him when he had to tutor the Chatty Man on the logistics of judging dogs. Richard and his Border Terrier were very patient subjects as the celebrity listened to Frank explaining the judging process. He then expressed a desire to ‘walk a dog’ on the green carpet of Crufts whereupon he was presented with a Bedlington Terrier; I was just waiting for Frank to mention the ‘mincing gait’. We then had the embarrassment of him attempting to ‘judge’ (dressed like Frank complete with the Kane moustache) two Irish Wolfhounds. After the hands-on I can’t imagine we’re likely to see the name Alan Carr on any C lists for a while. Frank as ever talked common sense but I’m sure would have been better offjust with Clare.
At 6.30pm there was another programme on Thursday when Clare Balding discussed why we love dogs. She introduced us to the Sloughi, giving the breed rare publicity. Gaius the Irish Wolfhound did a great job on behalf of Teesside Recovery Adocates and Consultants, an organisation that does sterling work with recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. Iwan Thomas expressed a wish to be the best possible dog owner, focussing on his new French Bulldog puppy.
We had some time at the Eukanuba World Challenge semi-finals and an uplifting interview with Marie Burns who always shines as a well-informed and passionate dog breeder second to none. Another terrier person who impressed was first-time dog owner David Dixon with his Lakeland, another breed that doesn’t get the publicity it deserves. Kate Beavan spoke up well for the vulnerable breeds but since when was the Irish Setter considered vulnerable?
Geoff Corish highlighted the arrival of the Jack Russell at Crufts while Natasha Baker, Paralympic equestrian Gold Medallist, proved a pleasant and intelligent first-time Crufter at Discover Dogs, stressing how wheelchair-friendly the show was. Flyball of course figured and the speed and enthusiasm of these dogs always amazes me. KC advisor Nick Blayney was now on the couch with Clare and Nim who dealt with a variety of viewers’ questions which proved very helpful. Agility came up next displaying lots of fit dogs and equally fit handlers.
We then had coverage of the terrier and hound groups where thankfully we had experienced and informed commentators and sensible interviews with the winners. In between times I wondered why Iwan Thomas chose to go to an animal shelter to check that he had chosen the right breed for him in Frank the fawn Frenchie!
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