Success for young dog lovers at Crufts

THERE was fantastic success for locals at this year’s Crufts competition, with several young dog lovers taking top prizes at the prestigious event.

Dromara teenager Christopher Aiken represented Ireland in the International Handler of the Year category, where he finished first in the Junior Special Bitch Class and fifth in the Open Dog Class.

Meanwhile, five young people from Ulster, three of whom, Crawford McCartney, Robyn Coulter and Emma Willis are from Lisburn, managed to beat off stiff competition to secure Gold in the YKC (Young Kennel Club) Team Agility final.

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Christopher, who handled his own dog Lexi in the Best of Breed category on Saturday, as well as swap dog’s in the final on Sunday, handling a Scottish Terrier and an English Pointer gun dog in the second round.

Christopher was recognised for his achievements at the St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Winners Championship show in Dublin last Thursday, where he received a watch for representing Ireland at Crufts and for being the 2010 Junior Handler of the Year.

Christopher said: “What an experience in the Best In Show ring at Crufts, it was fantastic. The lady whose kennel, Glenheath, that I handled for in the International final was really delighted with the response I got from her Scottie dog Pippa. Sue Baker from the Midlands, is Secretary of the Scottish Terrier Club of England, and she sent an email to the Secretary of the Scottish Terrier Club Of Ireland to say, ‘Christopher handled my Scottish Terrier with perfection and my dog just fell in love with him, I was so proud of the pair of them when they were in Best In Show at Crufts’, so this has been a great achievement for me.”

Christopher added: “From I have started showing dogs I have met a lot of folk from all over the world who have invited me to their country. It is a great hobby and I would recommend it to anyone.”

Meanwhile, the team of Lisburn’s Crawford McCartney, 13, Robyn Coulter, 13, and Emma Willis, 17, alongside Jenny Nixon, 14 and Rebecca McMullen, 17, who competed under the name The Ulster Dogs, claimed Gold in the Team Agility Final, banishing memories of the final two years ago when Robyn, Crawford and Emma were part of a team who claimed silver in the event.

The team, who proudly represented the local area with red paws, rather than red hands of Ulster, on their specially made fleeces, competed against teams from across the UK in the event which was judged by Andrew Dicker, one of the top agility coaches in the UK.

The team were well supported at the popular event, during which they had to complete 20 obstacles, such as jumps, tunnels, see-saw’s etc in the fastest clear round.

Michael McCartney of City of Glen-Craig Canine Training in Lisburn, of which Crawford, Robyn and Emma are members, said: “Everybody is just so proud of them. It’s such a prestigious event. They all received a crystal memento to take home with them. You can join the Young Kennel Club from 7-19 and some of the kids they were up against were 17 or 18, who are competing with adults all the time so to win this was brilliant.”

Michael, who is Crawford’s father, was delighted for his son’s success. He stated: “It was just so emotional. Crawford was the last to go and he got the fastest clear round out of 50 competitors, I was over the moon.”