Britain’s dog news this time is dominated by Crufts, a show we all look forward to with enormous anticipation. For those who, like me, attend each year for four days, and often pop in on the previous day as well, it’s an exhausting experience, but I for one love every second.
My abiding memory of the 2011 event will surely be of the show’s final moments. The grand old man of the show circuit, the 9½ year-old Flat-Coated Retriever Sh. Ch. Vbos The Kentuckian (“Jet”), stood by the Best in Show podium together with the exciting young pretender, the 16-month-old Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen Soletrader Peek A Boo, and then they did their last lap of the ring with tail action so totally typical of their respective breeds.
One couldn’t help but feel that this was the best possible image for the show scene, with Flat-Coat Jet’s happy, almost laughing, expression and superb condition the ideal advertisement for the show dog. I’m pretty certain he’s the oldest dog ever to take the top spot at Crufts.
At recent Crufts it seems to have become the pattern for Best in Show to be a climax to the show career of dogs who have been at the top for several years — remember the Vizsla, the Giant Schnauzer and the Tibetan Terrier, for example. In Jet’s case his career has followed a slightly different pattern. Although he has been successful throughout most of his life, the volume of his success has grown the older he got, with his first BIS coming as a veteran and his Top Gundog award the following year.
Many of those watching will have recalled the only other Flat-Coat to win BIS at Crufts (and indeed the only other one, post-war at least, to take the top spot at any UK all-breeds championship show), Ch. Shargleam Blackcap. His Crufts win in 1980 came as a very young dog and owner Pat Chapman continued to campaign him. As a mature chap he added many more top wins over the succeeding years. As a sire he was remarkable and he, plus two of his sisters, figure prominently in Jet’s pedigree.
Jet comes from a litter of three titleholders bred from the cream of UK Flatcoat lines. Owner-breeder Jim Irvine, who inherited the old-established Vbos kennel name established by the late Velma Ogilvy Shepherd, has only ever bred three litters, keeping just a very small number of dogs, though he has been associated with seven titleholders.
At the time the litter was born, he couldn’t keep another male, so Jet went to live with a friend in partnership. When the friend died, Jet remained with his son Iain Ross, though in Jim’s name. Iain keeps Jet in super form and often accompanies Jim and Jet on the long journeys from Scotland to the shows down south. Jet is now just one win short of equalling Blackcap’s breed record total of CCs, so it will be interesting to see whether his owner keeps him in the ring a little longer.
The runner-up must be one of Crufts’ youngest Group winners ever to take Reserve BIS, the PBGV “Jilly.” Owners and breeders Gavin and Sara Robertson are surely the UK’s most talented all-round dog people of their generation. This was their first Crufts Group win after three Group seconds, last year with Jilly’s sire UK & Dutch Ch. Cappuccino van Tum Tum’s Vriendjes, and twice before that with Jilly’s dam, the big-winning Ch. Soletrader My Aphrodisiac.
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