Best in Show


This weekend, I watched Crufts*. I don't mean I watched it in a "it came on while I was doing the ironing and I was too lazy to change the channel" kind of way, or a "had it on in the background while I wasted hours of my life on Pinterest" kind of way. I mean I sat down on my couch and, quite deliberately, watched it. I checked what time it was coming on and watched the clock compulsively until it started. I perused the programme of events online to see when the hounds were being shown. I expressed opinions on obscure dog breeds about which I know precisely nothing. I even, in a brief spurt of enthusiasm, followed Clare Balding on Twitter. All of which led me to ponder the following question:

What the f*ck has happened to me?


I've never been a dog person. The only dog I had regular exposure to as a kid was my friend's springer spaniel. She would bark hysterically every morning when I appeared at the back gate to collect my friend for our walk to school. What I initially mistook for joyful exuberance turned out to be a post-traumatic reaction to being tripped over and trodden on by me one too many times (accidentally, I hasten to add). She would scrabble frantically at the kitchen door in a vain attempt to evade me and my clumsy hooves, the fact that I had been present in the house when she first arrived from the breeder completely overshadowed by my subsequent inadvertent trampling. 

Coincidentally, this is pretty much the reaction I receive from infants too (I have a bad habit of dropping them on their heads. WHOOPSIE) and so throughout my adult life I have always proclaimed, with a breezy indifference, that animals and children "just don't like me."


I can't explain the mysterious transformation that culminated in us acquiring Smidgen; the process was so incremental that it's impossible to point and say, "there, that's it - that's the moment I became a dog person." It's a bit like falling in love. You're merrily bumping along, skimming the surface like a stone, until one day you look down and realise you're actually waist-deep, and sinking fast.

So now, for better or worse, I'm officially a dog person: boring friends to tears with tales of sleeping patterns and gastric worms; befriending strange and slightly shifty rottweilers on buses; conducting in-depth research on different brands of dog food; and, yes, watching Crufts. (This fundamental personality shift doesn't bode well for if we ever have children. Am I suddenly going to start finding breast pumps and Supernanny terribly fascinating? File under: Worrying.)

And even while part of me is despairing at what I've become, another part is screaming, "where has this been all my life???" Because - and I don't know if you know this - Crufts is actually AMAZING.


As well as the almost deadly levels of cuteness on display - the pomeranians! the dachshunds! I die! - there is just something so wonderfully bonkers about the whole thing. People travelling from all over the world to have their dog fondled in front of thousands of people. Lengthy features on the history and preservation of otterhounds. Animals who experience more grooming in a single day than I have in the last month. A dog wearing an actual RAF cloak with actual medals.

And oh lordy, the heelwork to music. Heelwork to music! The ice dancing of the dog world! Who knew such a thing existed? When Mary Ray strode out into the arena clad in her M&S dungarees and ill-advised headscarf, I had a feeling it would make uncomfortable viewing, and I was right. The dog was clearly some kind of genius, but surely even he was cringing as Mary swept away the last shreds of his dignity with her patriotically-striped broom. I could just picture his wolf ancestors shaking their heads sadly, wondering how it had all come to this. You know, if they were watching it on TV.


But despite the nonsense, there is a genuine sense of pride underlying the whole affair. It's impossible to remain scathing in the face of such passion and commitment. Frankly, I would rather live in world where people care so deeply about something, even if that something is training their dog to dance around a broom. I would rather be the kind of person who high-fives her husband when the greyhound makes the cut in the hound group, and then goes in the huff when the borzoi wins (the borzoi? I mean come on, that thing looks like a greyhound and a retriever welded together). What it comes down to, I suppose, is that I'd rather be a dog person than not.

Pretty sure kids still kind of hate me, though.

What about you? Are you a dog person? Or - *shudder* - a cat person?



*Random fact: Did you know that it used to be called Cruft's, before the Kennel Club "rebranded" the show in 1974? The Waterstones apostrophe's got NOTHING on the Crufts apostrophe. I like to imagine it slumped in the corner of a bar somewhere, pickled in gin and yelling "dachshund" and "kooikerhondje" at random.


All images © onEdition via the Kennel Club flickr stream

27 boats moored :

  1. I have always been a dog person, and then all of a sudden I fell in love with a man who was a cat person. I thought I would hate cats - in fact, always had hated them. Then, all of a sudden, I like Granville. Then I loved him. Now we have two cats, and I am obsessed. It is highly boring for everyone who knows me.

    Px

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    1. I'm a dog person and am beyond desperately broody for a puppy, no idea when we'll have the money/space/time for one though. Boo.

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  2. Oh Kirsty, I want a dog SO badly. A puppy is top of my Amazon wish list. I grew up in a house full of animals - dogs, cats, guinea pigs, everything. So being a grown-up and not having a four-legged friend feels sorely lacking. But acquiring such beings doesn't feel sensible in a tiny flat in London with no garden. I can still go home to see the original furries though, so at least there's that.

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  3. Dogs are basically the best thing ever. I always thought they were alright, until I met my girlfriend and her wonder-dog, and became a card-carrying dog person. We live together now and got a puppy last year. Sitting on the sofa with a dog's head on your lap is pure contentment. I could go on forever.

    I recorded Crufts this year, only watched a bit of it so far. I love the agility stuff and flyball where the mutts are allowed to compete but find all the purebred (inbred?) stuff a bit creepy. It weirds me out that you can win awards for purebred dogs and stuff, especially with the problems they can end up with (the things that manifest themselves long after the dog is past its Crufts prime). I always wonder what will happen to the old show dogs that get arthritis and stuff because of their pure breeding and feel bad for the rest of a prizewinner's litter; the ones that didn't happen to come out perfect and manifest some of the nastier side effects of the process.

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    1. Oh totally - there was a documentary on a while ago (and I think it was repeated recently?) about this. It's very sad, and more than a little creepy. This year at Crufts, for the first time they had each Best of Breed winner checked by an independent vet and if it displayed any of the health issues associated with overbreeding then it didn't go through to the Best in Group round. It seems like the Kennel Club is finally starting to take it seriously - there were quite a few dogs eliminated for that very reason. Thankfully greyhounds, even though they're technically pedigree, are relatively free from genetic issues.

      And yes, they basically are the best thing ever :)

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    2. Our old dog was a Crufts winner's grandson, rejected because he wasn't "right". He had a string of eye conditions and ended up blind and having a very sad last year of his life. He was the most wonderful animal - it still breaks my heart thinking about it. Didn't the BBC refuse to show Crufts in the end because of it?

      Px

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    3. Aww P, that's so sad. I had wondered why it wasn't on the BBC - that makes sense. It's definitely a bit of a weird thing, all this breeding stuff.

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    4. Yeah, I heard about that documentary. I think there are 2. The original was the one that made the BBC pull its coverage, and the second was on a couple of weeks ago as a follow up. Apparently things are slowly getting better. It's good to hear they're being stricter about it.

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  4. Sorry, but I'm a fully paid up, card carrying member of the cat fan club.I've always been a cat person and I've got even soppier since we adopted Olivia.

    I think dogs can be lovely (and Smidgen in particular is very cute) but I can't ever see myself having one. Despite my 'mehness' to dogs, though, whenever we're out and see a dog, it always makes a beeline for me. To the extent that one ran across the park at top speed once, just to put its paws up on me and wag its tail in ecstasy. Maybe I'm a dog whisperer but just don't know it?

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    1. It's okay, I forgive you. Mainly because you said Smidgen was cute ;)

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  5. I am definitely a dog person - I adore my mother's soppy labradors - as long as they're Cocker Spaniel or bigger (no toy rat-dogs thanks) and can't wait to have two one day.

    But Crufts always give the prize to some over-primped stupid wussy dog and miss all the gorgeous ones - Brutus the Newfie was ROBBED! Okay, he was actually a bear masquerading as a dog but he was GORGEOUS.

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    1. He so was! Did you see the big cuddle he gave his owner when they came second? So adorable. He looked like the cuddliest dog EVER. As lovely as Smidgen is, cuddliness isn't exactly one of her major traits.

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    2. Having two dogs is fantastic. Watching the way they play and look out for eachother adds a whole new layer to my "squeeeeeeeee-dogs-are-awesome!" geekiness.

      Newfoundlands are amazing. Byron wrote a poem about his which is ace if you like poems and stuff:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epitaph_to_a_Dog

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    3. Um, hello? My blog is named after a poem! I love poems and stuff! And dogs, I love dogs! Thanks so much for sharing it, I love it!

      (Think that's me exhausted my exclamation mark quota for the day.)

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    4. Not always true - did you see Jet the flat-coated retriever who won last year? The only one on the parade who dared to look cheerful and wag his tail and he still won the prize! My dog Max was a flattie, I sobbed when Jet won!

      Px

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    5. @Penny - Love a flat-coated retriever - will check it out. Nice that a dog that didn't look like it had had topiary performed and/or own its own pair of GHDs.

      @Lud - read poem. Blubbed discreetly (I hope) at my desk.

      @Kirsty - I did see that hug! Surely the very embodiment of a bear hug?! My mum really wants a chocolate Newfie and I am unabashedly egging her on (Newfie by proxy)

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  6. I am a dog person. I have the puppy fever. I've told Aidan that he HAS to get me a puppy this year or else.

    & wow. Crufts. I never knew.

    Also you make me laugh. Loads.

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  7. I've always been a cat person. Well, up until recently. I still adore my cat, but am finding my passive desire for a dog becoming a desperate need for a greyhound.

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  8. Funny how most people tend to be a dog person or a cat person. I happen to adore dogs & cats! Although we only have a pup at the moment.

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  9. You MUST watch the movie "Best in Show" - it is a mockumentary about, you guessed it, a dog show and its participants. A lot of the dialogue is actually semi-improvised by an incredibly talented cast and it is hilarious. One of my favourite movies!

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    1. I was just about to make this exact comment! it might actually be my #1 favorite movie..

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    2. Thirded - it's absolutely hilarious.

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  10. I never wanted a pet. Now I am with M and we have a hamster and would like one day to have a dog and get excited about cats in our garden rather than annoyed that they are peeing on the grass. Neither of us liked animals particularly before we got together. I don't understand it.

    Smidgen is gorgeous though. Meeting Smidgen made me want a dog even more.

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  11. I'm a massive dog person! So much so, I started taking pictures of strangers' dogs on my commute, and thus, Dogs on Trains was born. It's a relief to see I'm not the only person crazy enough to do this, judging by the number of submissions I get. Dogs put a smile on your face! Well, if you're a dog person.

    I've never actually had a dog though and spend most of my time day dreaming about the miniature dachshund I'd like to one day own - his name would be Colin and he'd be a smooth haired red one. Ooo but maybe I'd have another little wire haired one to keep him company too. What with renting, commuting and working in London, Colin is out of my reach for the moment. One day, one day.

    Oh, I love that photo of the little dachshund sniffing the tall fella! Brilliant.

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  12. Yay! Not only did we watch Crufts - we recorded it (all four nights) and fruitlessly tried to avoid spoiling the Best in Show until we managed to watch it yesterday evening. I even had a small tantrum when BBC Breakfast REVEALED the Best in Show winner without even a cursory 'look away now'. How could they be so callous?!

    We'd love to get a dog but we're just not in enough to be fair to one. Also, we rent which makes it a bit tricky. We've chosen the type of dog we're going to get though - terrier. Big, brash dogs in small bodies. Hilarious.
    We are very much looking forward to watching Crufts with our terrier, hopefully not too far in the future!

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  13. I used to be a dog person until I had children. I can't quite see expending the emotional energy on a dog now.... Plus Rebecca is allergic and despite all the well-intentioned lectures we've had about poodles and various hypo-allergenic dogs, just no.

    Also, unlike Crufts, wherein the appeal is watching well-trained attractive dogs, the appeal of Supernanny is to reassure yourself that whatever crappy thing you may have done today in the realm of parenting, there are people out there who are so completely atrocious at it that you're parent of the year by comparison,

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