The butterflies in my stomach turned into GRASSHOPPERS as the days led up to my first trip to Crufts. Not only was it my first time flying with a dog (in cabin), but it was also my first time overseas. What dog competitor doesn’t dream of showing at Crufts, right? It’s only THE WORLD’S BIGGEST DOG SHOW. Holy Cow! I’m really going to do this… EEEP!
Qualifying, Preparing, Booking—and Packing
To qualify to show a dog at Crufts, Americans have to win a BOB, BOS, SD, SB, AOM, WD, WB, Best BBE or Best Veteran at either a breed’s National Specialty or at the AKC National Championship Show in Orlando. Each country has different qualifying requirements.
I was entered, prepared, flights booked, and packed. My Italian Greyhound, “Vibes,” was trained to be comfortable in her airline carrier (aka, the “Bye Bye Bag“) and had been examined by the vet for her USDA health papers for overseas travel. I overpacked, as usual. My suitcase weighed exactly 50 lbs. (too heavy); I’d need to leave space to bring home souvenirs! Do I really need 16 pairs of underwear for seven days? Only four pairs of shoes? The weather forecast for the UK is SNOW?!!!
Planes, Trains & Automobiles—and a Boat
Flying direct into England is complicated with a dog, so most American competitors fly into Paris, France, or our destination, Dublin, Ireland, then make their way to England.
On Tuesday, Vibes and I departed from our nearby airport in Greenville, South Carolina, and flew to Toronto, Canada, to meet my best friend, Dini, and her dog, “Mojo.” Fortunately for me, Dini is a world traveler and attended Crufts last year, so I was in good hands. Vibes handled the first flight well, despite a BUTT CLENCHING 30 minutes of really rough turbulence from strong winds as our plane
We went to baggage claim and found my shiny new blue suitcase, then followed the herd through Canadian customs and declarations. Hard to hustle while pushing my suitcase, pulling the rolling dog carrier, negotiating escalators, and keeping track of my passport, all while trying to find the International Departures checkpoint to meet Dini for our next flight. (We made the gate time by the skin of our teeth.) Our 8-hour red-eye flight departed over two hours late. It was packed and too uncomfortable for me to sleep. Next time, I’ll spend a bit more money on a roomier seat.
Wednesday morning, 25 hours into the journey, Vibes was perfectly content throughout just chilling in her carrier. We took a taxi to the ferry (which was actually a SHIP) and we sailed for four hours across the Irish Sea to Wales. We rented a car, then drove “on the wrong side of the road” to Ruthin Castle Hotel (yes, it’s a real castle) in Denbighshire, North Wales, where, after 36 hours of traveling, I could finally sleep in a bed.
Snow, Spas, Shopping— and a Sidenote
On Thursday, we awoke to a 4-inch blanket of snow, which shut down all the roads in the UK (just like when Georgia gets snow). The hotel clerk said that it hadn’t snowed that much in 25 years! So, what do you do when you get snowed in? You have high tea and a castle spa day, of course!
On Friday, the snow had melted from the roads and it was time to drive through the scenic mountains and sheep-covered countryside to Birmingham, England, where Crufts is held. We stayed three nights there at the Bromwich Castle (because castles are cool and they allow dogs). A 15-minute taxi ride to and from the show site was cheaper than paying for parking and the long walk.
On Saturday, nothing could have prepared me for the IMMENSITY of this place. To help give perspective, many of us have been to the AKC National Championship Show in Orlando, Florida, right?
The AKCNC is America’s largest show, with 5,000 to 6,000 individual dogs and 30-plus rings. Crufts had 19,000-plus dogs entered, with the breeds spread out over four days—ALL BENCHED—with six to 12 huge rings in each of the five giant halls. And each hall was packed to the gills with SHOPPING HEAVEN! What torture it was to restrain myself by limiting my purchases to what I could somehow squish into my suitcases without going over the weight limit!
SIDENOTE: If you are a “foodie,” the UK’s cuisine will be mighty disappointing unless you want to eat fish and chips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Fans & Friends, and a Father-Daughter Showdown
It’s Show Time!
Sunday morning, we made our way to our assigned benching area where many people came by to greet us and talk. I would introduce myself and they’d say, “Oh, we know who you are. We know Vibes, too. Dezi is looking good. When is “V” having puppies again?” It was pretty “neato” to travel over the ocean and meet some fans. Meeting all kinds of nice people is the best part of dog showing for me.
At 9 a.m., the show began. My friend’s dog, “Mojo,” won the Dog Challenge Certificate (kind of like our Winners Dog)! Then my girl, Vibes, won the Bitch Challenge Certificate. WOO-HOOOO! In the UK’s show system, just the two CC winners compete for Best of Breed. So, our two North American Italian Greyhounds were center stage in a father-daughter showdown. SURREAL! I felt like a proud mom as I cheered and cried tears of joy watching my friend represent our beautiful breed in the Toy Group ring.
We flew back home ON CLOUD NINE!
I’m already hoping to compete next year with a different dog. Going to Crufts only once in a lifetime just isn’t enough for me.
Featured photo: ‘Mojo’ (left), Crufts BOB Winner, and ‘Vibes’ (right), Crufts Bitch CC Winner
Photos by: Lynn Partridge
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