The day of Crufts is an early start. We only live 30 minutes from the NEC but like to get to the show before the rush hour traffic so set off at 6:30am with Tiegan’s exercise being a 20-minute jog on our doggy treadmill and having her normal light breakfast of a handful of Fish4Dogs Salmon Complete kibble. We arrive at the NEC car park at around 7am to still find many cars and vans already parked up.
We then walk slowly up to the arena hoping Tiegan will go to the toilet. We always take with us a dog cage, her favourite bedding, and a blanket to cover the cage once she is settled. All this is loaded along with two seats for me and Karen (another team member) onto a sack truck. Entering the Halls is normally straight forward now we know the drill and present the correct tickets at the right time.
We then go down to the benches allocated to our competition, these are generally in the hall before the arena. we unpack our gear set up the cage in our bench area and Karen looks after Tiegan to either make her comfortable in her cage or use the doggy toilet area. This is the time to relax and drink a strong coffee as I greet our team members on arrival and make sure they and their dogs are in good health.
At 08:30 my job as team captain is to go up to the show booking in area and submit the details of the four dogs we will run at Crufts. In the agility team event, you name six dogs and handlers, but only four pairs get to run in the class. We always run the four who qualified for Crufts, unless a dog is injured as has been the case a few times in the past. This year it was simple all four pairings were fit and healthy on the day so the team is confirmed and we are given the course plan for our class.
The team then spend the next hour looking at the course and discussing running options. The agility programme started at 08:45 with Novice Jumping. I left Karen to look after Tiegan, whilst I went up to the arena stands to watch some agility and get acclimatised with the arena and surrounds. Just before 10am, the team and grooms meet at the benches and we all walk up to the arena, showing our access passes to get in the Collecting Area. I firstly check if the classes are running to schedule and we all wait with the other teams for the course to be built. At 10:15 we are given permission to walk the course. Although we have seen it on paper this is where we decide how we will run the course which had been set by Cathy Keith. This is a time when each team member does their own thing to work out what is best for them and their dog and remember the sequence. Its the only time you get to look for friends and family in the stands as I know when we run I wont see anything above the green carpet and my trusted dog and team members. This walking phase is always over far too quickly and we are moved quickly back to the green room.
Kidderminster are drawn to run 8th of 9 teams, so we have a wait and watch the other teams run on the large screen in the Collecting Area. Once team 6 are running we are asked to get ready by the super efficient ring party. When team 7 enter the ring, we move into the waiting area and its time to wish each other luck and get ready to do our runs. We know all the ring party as they are all agility people and now its our turn so we are led into the ring by Amanda whose final words are to wish us the best of luck.
We get announced and our friends make some noise to cheer us on. Karen and Willow run first, followed by Sue and Spice. As I see them three obstacles from home, I know its soon my turn to run and the butterflies and adrenalin kick in. Its a baton exchange and its important to get it right as this sets the tone for my run. Tiegan sets off with me giving commands and although each run is about 35 seconds it is over in a flash as I take the baton from Liz who is running the fourth and final leg. Once we have all run we congratulate each other and leave the ring.
Its over for this year, we ran well, but it was someone else's destiny to win and we take comfort in we qualified and finished 5th no one got eliminated so we are all content with our mornings work. We go back to our benches where we are met by friends who have watched us and get the chance to watch our runs again as Laura had recorded it on my iPad.
We then go up to the Fish4Dogs stand and meet Dom and Theresa and the gang and this is the bit our dogs love as they get spoilt with lots of tasty treats. We don't like to leave Tiegan on her own so I do the gallant deed of staying with her at the benches catching up with agility and flyballers and checking Facebook whilst Karen does some shopping.
We leave the NEC at 3:30 to beat the rush hour traffic and are home by 4pm. We all sleep well that night and my last words to Tiegan before I go to bed are to thank her for giving me a lovely day at Crufts, the best dog show on earth.