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Thursday, 16 April 2020

Crufts calling Canada!

Featured Written by Our Dogs - 17//04/20
 Richard Paquette, CKC Junior Handling Chairperson, Isaac Clark, Canada’s              Representative, with Nova Scotia Duck Toller “Izzy” Tivalake Easy to Love with Owner Miss Nicky Nevers Richard Paquette, CKC Junior Handling Chairperson, Isaac Clark, Canada’s Representative, with Nova Scotia Duck Toller “Izzy” Tivalake Easy to Love with Owner Miss Nicky Nevers

Junior handler Isaac Clark recounts his memorable trip to Crufts 2020  - In March every year, Birmingham in the UK hosts the world famous Crufts Dog Show.

March 2020 in particular is of a special importance to me, Isaac Clark, as this year I had the truly humbling honour of representing Canada as a Junior Handler at the International Junior Handling Competition. 

Crufts, if you were unaware, is widely renowned as the “World’s Greatest Dog Show”, and from my experience, I agree. There is never a shortage of things to do! There is a lot of shopping to be done, lots of demonstrations to see and most certainly lots and lots of dogs, of which there is a huge variety.

It was a load of fun to wander the many halls of the show and see the grand scale of it all; it was also very interesting to see breeds that we don’t necessarily see a lot here in Canada, not to mention how some of the breeds are differently groomed or otherwise maintained in the UK compared to Canada and America One section of the show in particular that appealed to me was the “Discover Dogs” area, where each breed registered under the Kennel Club had a booth equipped with a dog or two as an example of the breed and their owners whom all had knowledge of the breed


The journey of qualifying to compete at the International Junior Handling Competition is a journey indeed. Long story, extremely short, Canada is divided into “Zones”, with each Zone each year sending a representative to the Canadian National Junior Handling Competition (quite the mouthful).

Who the representative would be depended entirely on who won that Zone’s “Zone Final”; to compete in a Zone Final you must be in the top 4 score-wise for your class, within your Zone. Assuming you win your Zone you move onwards to the National level where each Zone’s representative compete for who is to represent Canada at Crufts.  Following the Canadian Nationals, I prepared for Crufts by practicing establishing a quick rapport with a variety of breeds, as well as studying the breed rings at dog show to help myself get a better understanding of how different breeds were showed.

I also watched the previous competitions to get an idea of how the competition was conducted.  


The night before we competed all of the Junior Handlers from each country participating gathered for official photos before heading off to the arena for a dress rehearsal of the procedure the competition would follow, an important thing to note is that none of the Juniors, including myself, had a dog to practice with, meaning we all had to use our imaginations. I must admit, seeing everybody running with and stacking their “air dogs” was an absolute joy, and it was even more hilarious to act it out myself.  Following the dress rehearsal all of the juniors gathered for an enjoyable dinner with the organisers. And following supper, each junior gave a short speech about themselves, mentioning details such as their native country and how they got into dogs.

With everyone wishing everyone the best of luck and pushing the fact that we’d already won and to just have fun on the big day. This stood out to me hugely, just the sense of camaraderie among us; I think I speak for everyone when I say that it never felt like we were competing for something, and so there wasn’t any tension between us, we talked, joked, and laughed as easily as the pesky language barriers would allow. Speeches were concluded and then the gift exchange began, with every country’s Junior giving everyone else a gift that symbolized their country and culture; which was both fun and chaotic.


And then it was off to bed for some rest before the big day. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous, as when we’d done the dress rehearsal it’d been without a crowd of 10,000 people and cameras, not to mention without a dog. My mind wouldn’t stop jumping to the worst-case scenarios. Apparently I wasn’t alone, as every junior the next day seemed at least a little bit stressed when we all gathered in the collecting ring to meet our dogs for the first round.

My mom and I then went to the area reserved for Canada to meet the dog I would show for the first round, whom I requested to be a Nova Scotia Duck Toller. The majority of dogs are provided by UK owners and breeders organized by Liz Cartledge who co-ordinates the competition. Each junior requests the breed they would like to handle and a great debt of appreciation is due their support of this event. And upon meeting the dog I was going to show along with her owner and handler, I could have sworn there was some sort of divine intervention, as she was essentially perfect; she loved to work, moved herself well, and was both loveable and love giving. And we had an immediate connection between us.


And after about 30 minutes of working with her and her handler and owner, getting advice and trying out different tactics with her.

It was time to begin, this time was probably when my nervousness had soared past any of my previous records, we all lined up just outside the ring in alphabetical order of our countries, I was fifth in line. The music began, and Australia was the first to enter the ring. 3 people ahead of me, now 2 people ahead of me, 1 person, and then it was my turn to enter. And as soon as I stepped onto the green carpet and started to move, my worries seemed to melt away, and I stopped noticing the cameras and the audience, and I was just there working Izzy (the Toller I showed). And after watching myself afterwards I was incredibly glad I chose a Toller. 

After the first round quickly came the second round, where I switched dogs and got an American Cocker Spaniel to show; and while we didn’t quite get along as well as I had with Izzy (as he was a little bit mom-oriented), he still moved very nicely and after my turn we had a little bit of a cuddle. Overall I’d say that the second round was a little bit more stressful as I was handling a little bit more challenging dog, however the nerves weren’t nearly as bad as pre-first round. And looking back I’m very happy with our performance.  Following the second round was the third round (no surprises there!) where I once again took Izzy into the ring and primarily watched the final stage of the Worlds Junior Handling Competition.

Overall Crufts was an absolutely amazing and extremely humbling honour to participate. I want to extend a huge thank you to everybody who supported me in any and every way, shape, and form, from sending generous donations to wishing me luck, it means the world to me.


Read 1465 times Last modified on Friday, 17 April 2020

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