Herewith Amy Kiefer's report from Crufts 2017
The period in the run-up to Crufts 2017 has been very emotional time for me. The realisation that this would be my last time representing my country at Crufts in the International Handling Competition left a bittersweet taste.
On Wednesday, my mom and I went to the NEC to collect our Handling pack from James Skinner. His face spread into the broadest smile as we walked into the press room and he quickly ran through all the information with us before sending us on our way.
Thursday (Terriers and Hounds):
Organised by a good friend, Liz Millward, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to handle an Afghan Hound named Bella in the breed ring. Before the judging began, we sprinted from Hall 5 to Hall 1 to go and see Kao Miichi and Hiroshi Tsuyuki, with whom I had just spent three months in Japan. We were all so excited to see each other again and they were thrilled to finally meet my mom. Hiroshi ran through a quick "what to remember when handling an Afghan" and we went back to Hall 5. Bella was placed 4th in the Yearling Class and her owner was so excited!
After the Afghan Hounds, we returned to Hall 1 to watch Kao and Hiroshi show their Jack Russell Terriers. I helped them with the preparation of their dogs and also to change dogs ringside. It felt incredible to be part of their team again!
Later in the day, we watched the Greyhound judging where I met Lainie Knox (Gracie's breeder) and her family. We spoke about how well Grace had turned out and about her brother and the future possibilities for her. Then it was time for the groups.
Friday (Utility and Toys):
First things was first - saving space at the Standard Poodle ring. Then we went over to say hello to Toshi and Yassu. Toshi was kind enough to offer help should I need it for the Handling the following day.
We wandered around the stalls waiting for the judging of Poodles to start. When it started, we took our seats and spotted my mom’s good friend, Kirsten Nielsen, sitting with Mikael Nilsson and Gunnar Nymann. Kirsten came around to say hello and then it was time for me to go and meet the commentator for the Handling at the press office. Jonathan asked me a few questions and Liz Cartledge wished me luck and handed me a medal confirming that I had qualified for the International Junior Handling event, together with a hand-written card wishing me luck.
Shortly after returning to the Poodle ring, Kao and Hiroshi joined us. We discreetly discussed the conformation of the dogs in the ring and which one we though was the better in each class. After the Standards had finished, we went to see how Toshi had done and then also spoke with Mikeal Nilsson.
We had another look around the stalls before watching the groups. During the judging, I went to speak to Gunnar Nymann, since he used to breed PBVGs and had told Kirsten that he would give me some tips for the Handling. He was incredibly sweet and helped me so much.
After the groups, we had a Handling dinner where we all got to make a speech. I was very happy to be sitting with Azis and his aunt, who knew Hiroshi well. We spoke about the judging so far and how many dogs they had brought. They told me they had come by bus from Russia, travelling with twenty-five dogs and nine people! It took them three days!
Saturday (Gundogs and, of course, the Handling):
We woke up at a stupid hour to go and meet our dog. I, of course, got myself in an absolute state about anything that I decided was not right until my mom told me to pull myself together. We saw Azis and he told us that he had been up till 3:00am bathing Italian Spinones!!
When my dog arrived, I was delighted. Plum was the sweetest PBGV and, after a little practice, she was more than happy to be with me. She showed like an absolute dream and did everything she was supposed to. For round two I swapped with the girl behind me and got handed a Pointer. He was an equally sweet boy that wanted nothing more than to be told how handsome he was. He showed so well for me and I left the ring feeling pleased and satisfied with my performance.
Lainie and her family had come to watch, as did Gunnar, and they all congratulated me on an awesome job. My mom, of course, was just super proud. After we had sorted out everything with Plum and her owner, we went to watch the American Cocker Spaniels.
Later I ambled over to the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever ring to see Edwin Leanarts. I wasn’t able to speak to him immediately, so I decided to stand at watch the judging until he went in. After about ten minutes someone came up behind me and said "Hello, Miss South Africa" and it was Edwin. We spoke for a bit and I met his dog. He showed me some pictures of the new dogs he and Jessica were planning to show. My mom joined us for a while and then it was time to say our goodbyes.
We then went to the Weimaraner ring and spoke with Lainie again about the dogs in the ring and about the Weimaraner Nationals in Australia. Then it was time for me to go and get ready for the Handling finals. Plum and I unfortunately did not make the short list, but this year I really felt proud of how I has acquitted myself of the task of handling my two charges. I don’t think I could have done anything differently.
Sunday (Working and Pastoral):
Liz Millward had also organised for me to handle a Bearded Collie in the breed. His name was Sampo and he was in the Open Class with twenty-seven entered. Sampo knew what was required of him and showed his heart out. He had no shortage of titles and his dad was very proud to show me that they didn't all fit in the catalogue! I was very humbled to discover that I was in the ring with not only a Eukanuba qualifier, but also a World Winner and the previous Crufts BOB winner. We were shortlisted to the top ten and his dad couldn't believe how well he had showed for me. He then asked if I would be going to the World Show, since Sampo would be entered. Being considered as a possible handler for Sampo at this prestigious event was a huge honour for me.
Before the groups, we ran around like headless chickens trying to finish the last of our shopping. When the dogs went in for the groups and Best in Show, the security was incredibly tight, with muscular security officers standing around everywhere. As always, the ceremony which preceded the judging was magnificent, as were the dogs.
Then it was all over; my last year representing South Africa at Crufts had come to an end and, I suppose, I can be forgiven for leaving the UK feeling just a little deflated.
KUSA National Junior Handler 2016