Well, Crufts has been and gone for another year. On Friday I really wasn't sure if we were going to make it. I was still feeling unwell and Abbey was really not good at all. I took her to the vet on Friday morning and he gave her antibiotics to help with her bladder problems. We are both of the view that she has cystitis. I got home from the vet and Abbey was sick twice and then had an accident from the other end. In all cases she missed the hard floors and managed to target the rugs. It took me the whole morning to clear up and get her settled. Andy was out on site so he wasn't there to help. I felt really ill by the end of the morning.
Mac was due to look after the dogs on Saturday and we just didn't think it fair that she should have to look after Abbey if she was being sick etc. When Andy got home he rang Mac and explained the situation. In her usual unflappable way Mac said it wasn't a problem and that there was no way she wanted me to miss going to Crufts. If necessary she said she'd come and sit with Abbey all day. Thank you Mac, not sure what we'd do without you. As it happened, Abbey improved and it wasn't as bad after all. Phew!
So, once that conversation had taken place it was all systems go to get packed and ready for the early start on Saturday morning. Our event was scheduled for 10.20 am and so I wanted to be up there by 8.00 am at the latest, that meant leaving home soon after 5.30 am. We got a decent night's sleep for once as Abbey actually went right through the night without getting us up.
The journey up was good and we were parked by about 7.50 am. We found the arena and benching area without too much trouble (first time I've been to Crufts since they took the extra space). The benching area is much bigger and more peaceful for the dogs but you do feel a bit cut off from the rest of the show.
I took Niamh down to the collecting area at about 9.30 am to get her used to the atmosphere. It's a nice big area (you've probably seen it on the television as it's where they collect for Best in Show prior to the big event.) They had a practise jump set up in the collecting area and so we did some start line waits and a few jumps just to get to grips with the surface.
Niamh took it all in her stride. I was really pleased because sometimes she can fret at different situations when faced with them for the first time. However, she was great and just got straight into training mode and wanted to play and offer tricks so that gave me a lot of confidence prior to the event.
I felt quite ill on the day as my ears were hurting and my glands were swollen and painful but once in the arena good old adrenalin took over and I forgot all about it!
Kizzy came along for the day and we were lucky to be able to take her into the collecting area. In her usual fashion she just got on with it. Actually she spent most of the time barking at the dogs using the practise jump and also barking at Niamh's tub of sausage which was sitting on the floor.
Johanna came to find us and was a great support. She looked after Kizzy and Niamh when I was walking the course and kept Kizzy during the event so that Andy could go into the stands to video the competition. Johanna also gave us the lovely red "good luck" blanket which you can see in some of the photos on Niamh's bench. It's a lovely present and a lovely keepsake which I'm grateful for as you'll realise why later!
So far I didn't have any nerve janglings which was a bit of a worry as I do like a certain amount of nerves to surface before an important run. That soon ended when I went up to book in and look at the course plan pinned on the wall. As soon as I looked at the course my stomach churned and the old familiar feelings of anxiety, anticipation, fear and excitement were coming to the fore. Hurrah, things were looking up!
The course looked quite tricky in a couple of places but in fact it was gentler when set out in the arena. It was, in my opinion, a really nice course. There was plenty to work on and it certainly wasn't a blast. There were a couple of places you might come unstuck and there were choices of how to handle these sequences. Exactly what I like. Not a fast blast with no handling or thought.
We had five or six minutes to walk the course and I spent most of that time looking at the sequence from the seesaw to the jump after the weaves. I really couldn't make up my mind how to handle that sequence. In the end I made my decision and stuck to it. The only trouble was I didn't get to look at a couple of other areas which I should have paid a little more attention to.
On two turns I failed completely to break Niamh's stride and as a consequence didn't have the nice tight turns she is so capable of. My "steady" command deserted me completely! This was on the jump before the seesaw and the jump before the A-Frame. Her contacts weren't quite what I'd hoped for when I look back on the video but the main thing is I never had any doubts that she'd get them. Video is a wonderful thing because it allowed me to hear myself double commanding the A-Frame and that is what slowed her on both her contacts without a doubt. I let her down as I didn't let her get on with her job. Despite me she gave a wonderful performance and I am very very proud of her. She is such an honest dog who gives her all and doesn't question anything I ask of her. I really love her to bits.
I should say that this critique of my round comes only after viewing the video; on the day I was absolutely delighted with our performance and was and still am thrilled to bits with our 2nd place. To me my little dog was the best on the day!
This brings me to my red blanket. Thank you Johanna for this lovely pressie, I am so pleased to have it as a reminder of our wonderful day. Sadly, for the rest of us, only the winner got a piece of crystal. Really mean for a show of this magnitude. When we qualified at the KC Festival back in August of last year each height category got crystal 1st-3rd place. I think it should have been the same at the grand final of the same event but as the saying goes - there you go! Andy is going to our local jeweller to choose a piece of glassware and get Terry (the jeweller) to engrave it for us. In the meantime, my red blanket is a lovely memento!
We were so lucky to have lots of friends there watching and cheering us on (and just as many back home sending good luck texts). It really made the day special. Karen, Jan, Leah, Manda, Arthur, Michelle thanks for cheering us so loudly. I'm sorry I couldn't look round when you cheered: I'd have burst into tears with pride! Sara - not sure if you managed to get to the arena in time, I didn't see you but hope you might have made it! Nat, sorry you couldn't get to see us but your positive thoughts worked!
Andy and Johanna provided great support in the background, thanks guys for helping make mine and Naughty Niamh's day so special!
Here a little film of the day! I will post some pictures later at the moment Blogger's server is being stubborn!