Crufts is the world’s largest dog show, with more than 19,000 dogs from around the world competing to win the highly coveted Best in Show award, and in 2016, the title was claimed by West Highland Terrier Devon and owner Marie Burns. Organized by the Kennel Club and held each year at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, England, this year’s event takes place from March 9 to 12 and will be the 126th annual edition of Crufts. Named after its founder, Charles Cruft, a general manager for a dog biscuit manufacturer, the event has expanded to include a huge trade show of mainly dog-related goods and services as well as competitions in dog agility, obedience, flyball and heelwork to music. Leading up to the show, Crufts has announced the four finalists of this year’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition, which celebrates the human-dog bond.
Judges from the Kennel Club and Eukanuba selected four finalists to go forward for the public vote with the winner due to receive £5,000 for their chosen charity and the runners up receiving £1,500 each, according to Pippa Field of Sportsbeat. Below is more information about three of them, written by Field.
Finalist Joel Sayer
A Newquay schoolboy who previously found it difficult to leave the house can’t wait to see his four-legged best friend enjoy his moment in the spotlight after making the final of the Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition at Crufts 2017.
When he was 7, Joel Sayer was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, sensory disorder, speech and language impediment, self-harm and a sleep disorder – all of which left him unable to communicate fully with those around him and difficulties for his whole family as a result.
However, thanks to the introduction of 6-year-old Labrador golden retriever cross Caddie through the Dogs for Good charity, Sayer’s world has now been opened up with the dog calming the 13 year old in times of heightened stress, letting others know he has a hidden disability and giving him confidence for everyday tasks.
It’s a relationship that has been recognized [throughout England] after Caddie was chosen as one of four finalists in the Eukanuba Friends for Life competition at the world’s largest dog show.
The pair, along with members of Sayer’s family, will now head to Birmingham’s NEC for the final in the Main Arena on Sunday March 12, and the Newquay Tretherras School pupil was in no doubt how special Caddie was.
“He’s the best friend ever,” he said. “He came into my life about four years ago and for the first time I was actually able to go outside and to play with the ball and lots of other stuff. If he wasn’t here, I don’t know where I would be right now. He changed my life. My life was hard before. Normally I will be on my tablet doing something and he will come and lie on my feet like a feet warmer.
“I’m really excited for Crufts,” Sayer continued. “I’m not going to be mad if I don’t win. Hopefully my story will help other people in the country if they know someone or someone with a child, they can find out about Dogs for Good and hopefully get a dog for them.”
But whatever the outcome, Sayer’s mother Janet insisted the impact of Caddie on her son’s life was immeasurable.
“Caddie came along and completely changed our lives. We could go outside again, we could walk about,” said the mother of five. “It keeps him calm when he’s got Caddie there and he keeps him safe too. He’s attached to him, he can’t just bolt or skip into the road.
“I know I can walk down the road now, I know I can look in a shop window now because I know that Joel’s not going to go and get run over,” she continued. “It was hard, everything was focused on Joel, where was he? How was he doing? We needed help being a normal family. Caddie was almost like a light at the end of the tunnel. Wherever Joel goes, Caddie goes. They’re attached but Joel is calmer. The difference in four years is unbelievable. Joel can connect with the world better.”
Finalist Sally Deegan
A Scunthorpe dog owner admits she can’t wait to see her beloved companion get his moment in the spotlight after making the final of the Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition at Crufts 2017.
Sally Deegan of Brambling Way and her English bull terrier, Bowser, are preparing to make the trip to Birmingham’s NEC for the world’s largest dog show.
It comes after 3-year-old Bowser was named as one of four finalists for the prestigious Eukanuba Friends for Life competition, which celebrates the unique relationship between humans and dogs–where the latter has truly earned the title of man’s best friend.
That is certainly the case for Deegan, after the 27 year old had to cope with being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis back in October 2014, a
discovery that turned her life upside down before the arrival of Bowser from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home at Brands Hatch helped get her back on track.
This included saving her life just three months later, alerting Deegan’s husband, Ciaron, to return from the garden after she had fallen ill and passed out inside the house.
And with a trip to Crufts for the final in the Main Arena on Sunday, March 12, to come for the duo, Deegan could not be prouder of her dog and all that he has brought to her life.
“It’s just incredible that he’s got the recognition for the work that he does, especially with him being a bull breed, which often isn’t recognized for how caring and emotionally supportive they are,” she said. “I started with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis in October 2014. I withdrew into myself because it is a terminal illness, it’s a progressive illness and you don’t know when you’re life is going to change for the worse.
“You just have to make the best of it. At 24, getting that diagnosis was just gut wrenching and soul destroying,” Deegan continued. “Between October and February, I nearly lost everything: my life, my marriage, my home. I knew straight away that Bowser was my dog. Since then it’s just been a love story. He just seems to know what I need when I need it.
“He’s so important, he licks my hands to say it’s starting, we need to get to the hospital before it even really gets bad,” she continued. “Bowser has saved my life not only emotionally and mentally, but also physically. He’s just incredible for a dog who has never had any training.”
For Deegan, the trip to Crufts will represent her first to the dog show, although she has been an avid fan for years.
But whatever the outcome Deegan, who is no longer able to work due to her diagnosis, believes just reaching the final shows how special Bowser is.
“I’ve never been to Crufts, but I’ve watched it every single year on the TV. I sit there with my mum and dad and watch the full four days,” she added. “It makes me nervous to think people are going to be hearing about us. It isn’t a normal story. I’ve not become ill and gone to a trained society who have given me a trainer dog. He’s just a dog who has learnt it by himself, he’s had no guidance from a trained medical professional. I suppose that finalist winner is reliant on people saying we like your story but it is really enough for me that he is getting this recognition nationally for being an amazing dog. And that’s all that matters.”
Finalist Nathan Edge
A Mansfield guide dog owner admits he can’t wait to see his beloved companion get the recognition he deserves after making the final of the Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition at Crufts 2017.
Nathan Edge, of Claymoor Close, and his Labrador cross golden retriever, Hudson, are preparing to make a trip to Birmingham’s NEC for the world’s largest dog show.
Hudson helped turn 22-year-old Edge’s life around after he lost his sight due to the effects of juvenile arthritis.
“It was amazing to find out that we’d been nominated in the first place, it was actually my partner who made the nomination and I had no idea,” Edge said. “And then to find out that we were actually finalists as well – I didn’t expect anything like that. I’m very proud and it’s exactly what Hudson deserves.
“We’re all incredibly excited to be attending Crufts this year, it’s just such a massive competition. It will be amazing just to be a part of that,” Edge continued. “I feel really privileged, I know Hudson is going to be
excited with so many dogs around. We appreciate the fact people are going to be voting for us, we’ve met so many people over our three and a half year journey.
“That’s going to continue. I’m really grateful to people who have supported us previously and people are who going to support us in the future,” he said. “We just hope we do everyone proud.”
Edge was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of 6 with the inflammation spreading to the back of his eyes, resulting in the deterioration of his sight.
He was paired with Hudson when he was 19, before losing his sight just a few months later, and seemingly being left facing a world of darkness.
But thanks to his dog, Edge was gradually able to move forward and three and a half years later, he has raised over £16,000 and counting for Guide Dogs and is training in Hereford at the Royal National College for the Blind in the England Development Squad where he is working toward a full-time contract.
“I’ve always regarded myself to be quite lucky because throughout that time I had Hudson by my side. With his help, I picked myself up and started to move forward with my life,” he added. “That was three years ago and I’ve actually probably done more with my life in the last three years than I probably ever would have done and that’s all thanks to him.
“I was in a very difficult place, I was losing all my sight and he came into my life and rescued me from not having a life really,” Edge continued. “I’ve been able to get back into sport. When I did lose my sight it was just a massive part of my life that was ripped away from me. Having Hudson gave me the freedom to go out an express myself, he gave me the confidence to try new things. I’m setting my sights on one day being a Paralympian, Tokyo 2020 is the aim really.”
Crufts will be screened live on More4 in the UK, while a livestream of all four days is available at www.youtube.com/crufts.