CELEBRATION is in the air for one Sussex dog lover after scooping not one – but two top prizes at Crufts.
Hayley Telling and her three-year-old Shetland sheepdog Teal won first prize in two agility competitions at Britain’s biggest dog show.
Teal raced around the obstacle course in front of judges and an audience of hundreds of people.
The pressure was on as he was judged on how well he cleared up to 21 jumps and the speed he made it around the course.
But he came out on top – being named top dog in both the British open finals and the ABC (‘anything but a collie’) competitions for medium-sized dogs – beating nine other hounds for each prize.
The pair qualified for the two competitions after coming first in the International Agility Festival in Northamptonshire in August, and then achieved a podium finish at the agility semi-finals at Eukanuba Discover Dogs show in London in November.
Hayley, who works for assistance dog charity Canine Partners, has been competing in agility competitions for five years, mostly with her other dog Barney, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, but it was the first time she had taken part in an event in Crufts’ main arena.
The 27-year-old from Yapton, West Sussex, said: “I was quite nervous. I had never been in the main arena before and neither had Teal so I didn’t know how he would handle the crowds.
“But as soon as we got out there and I shouted go he just went and the nerves disappeared. He loved it and when the crowds shouted he went even faster.
“He knew it was different to a practice run. Some dogs struggle with that and they go a bit slower but he rose to the occasion. He absolutely loved it.
“We were running last so I knew we had won instantly.
“You never think this is going to happen. I couldn’t believe it. It was like I was going to wake up from a dream. I just went for the experience.
“I’m so proud of him achieving so much so young.
“I spent a lot of money on him this weekend after the competition. He got lots of nice treats, new chew toys and a new bed and we went for a nice walk on the beach on Sunday.”
Now Hayley and Teal are preparing to take part in the tryouts for agility FCI World Champions in Lincoln in April. If they’re successful in this, they could be competing as part of Team GB in the competition in the Czech Republic in October.
They also hope to return to Crufts again next year.
Hayley works as Canine Partners’ dog health and insurance officer as part of their aftercare team, supporting the charity’s 376 working assistance dogs and their disabled partners.
Canine Partners are trained to support disabled adults with a range of everyday tasks including picking up dropped items, opening doors, undressing and even using a washing machine. The dogs help boost disabled people’s independence and confidence.
For more information on Canine Partners, including volunteering opportunities, visit caninepartners.org.uk.