In this impromptu shot the gloriously golden Harry, who’d just been judged best of all the Sussex Spaniels at last week’s Crufts, is being lined up for a celebratory snap by a top professional photographer. A father, grandfather and a Good Citizen Dog to boot, Harry is more formally known as Belcam King’s Ransom for Glenbrows and he is both beautiful and bear-like. Straight after this, he was whisked off to the Gundog Group judging where another bonny dog won through, and so she (the only bitch in the final competition) had to hang around for the undeniable honour of taking part in the Best in Show later that evening while dear Harry could return to his latest family of puppies and their mother. Thus it is that the joy of the winning moment goes hand in hand with the even greater pleasures of the everyday to which we all return, as Harry and his proud owner were happy to recognise. In the world of Crufts, where every dog competing is by definition a winning dog, and increasing numbers are superstars from countries far far away, madness lies in thinking anything else.
Here, for example, is one of Newmie’s close relatives, Show Champion Chalksville Autumnal Storm, resting on his bench before competition in the Golden Retriever ring, and to my mind looking an awful lot like Uncle Jonny. Good luck card behind him, his smile reveals a relaxed and patient soul, inured to the waiting which is the lot of all Crufts entrants. But as 599 goldies were entered that day in the competition – yes, 599! – scores of them internationally renowned and decked with titles – Storm was prepared to be outshone, which was the fate of hundreds of them, in every class.
In another hall we found our family friend, Tomas the Dalmatian – professionally known as Dalleaf Devil’s Disciple – whom we’ve all known since childhood and who has even enjoyed staying here with us. As you can guess from his impedimenta, he’s an outstanding boy who’s won up and down the country, but that Sunday he just missed the top three in his class – that’s the way it goes! And so, at the end of the day, it was home for us all, the pretty and the proud, the decorated and the disregarded. Home, with its comfortable cushions, warm hearth, Boggis-bed, bird-bread at the bottom of the garden, and fun and frolic of the ordinary, everyday kind. Most of all, we returned within the framework of that bottomless love; the love that holds me firm as I fidget in my dreams, trying on for size the stardom which we of the Dickens clan can barely comprehend.