WITH LAST year’s Best in Show coming from the Gundog category, all eyes were on the class of 2012 as day two of Crufts continued its fast flowing pace.
And it was Merlin’s time to shine this time around, the two-year-old Irish Water Spaniel one of 26,000 healthy, happy dogs at Birmingham's NEC, fighting off competition from the rest of the group to pick up the Best in Group prize for owner Judith Carruthers.
Mrs Carruthers, a 56-year-old dog groomer from Carlisle, now heads into Sunday’s Best in Show final, looking to follow in the footsteps of Jet, a flat-coated retriever, who went all the way last year.
But before she can think about that Mrs Carruthers must first calm her nerves after admitting to shock at hearing her name called out by the judge
“I am in complete shock,” she said. “I feel absolutely warn out after winning Best in Group, it has been very surprising.
“During the performance I was making sure he looked right for the display because that is obviously important if you are going to get the win.
“He has been showing in the ring since he was very young so he is used to everything like this. But it is the first time he has done it in a show as big as Crufts.
“He was thrashing around all over the place at first and I was a bit worried but we got it together in the end and I am absolutely thrilled.
“I still haven’t got over winning Best in Group yet but I am really looking forward to coming back Sunday and hopefully we can go all the way.”
Also soaking in the atmosphere in the West Midlands was Great Britain Paralympian and London 2012 hopeful Lee Greatbatch and his guidedog Darby.
Greatbatch, who represented Team GB at Paralympic football in Beijing in 2008, only teamed up with his Labrador-Retriever cross last October but has already felt the change Darby has made in his life as he goes for silverware on home soil this summer.
“Darby and I haven’t been a team for all that long but without him I wouldn’t be able to even make it to training,” he said.
“The squad announcement for the 2012 squad is coming up soon so Darby has been a real boost in my bid to make the team.
“We’re here at Crufts for the first time and it’s all been pretty crazy thus far but I'm enjoying myself immensely, events like these show what a difference a dog can make in someone’s life and it’s great that it’s being celebrated.”