We had an amazing day at Crufts and couldn’t be more pleased. Jo and I went along without any high expectations of awards (this is our first competitive visit to Crufts, after all) but determined to enjoy the day. We thought Alfie might bounce around the ring as he often does – he sits around as docile as you like all day but when we hit the ring he seems to think it’s time to play and more than once we have witnessed the handler with his dog’s front paws on his shoulders! We were also aware that it may turn into a very long day. Championship shows in the lead-up to Crufts have all put on the Import Register classes at the end of the day, there is invariably a delay in the running order at some point, and there are reports from previous years of the Bergamascos not getting to strut their stuff until after 5pm.

So we set off in good time in the morning more in hope than expectation. My local knowledge allowed us to skirt around the reported one-hour hold-up on the motorway by the back-roads and we arrived at the NEC in relatively good time. Alfie was resplendent in his raincoat and new boots (absolutely priceless in the damp conditions) and we very quickly found our stall and settled down for the day. And we met other Berg owners at a show! Janie and Steve Poole arrived at around the same time as us with their beautiful Fiore and Dancing Trees arrived a little later with the venerable Dolce – oh, and Chris and Alasdair came along to offer their support too! This was a new experience for us as in our months of showing Alfie, we had never yet seen another Berg in the ring.

And suddenly we were on. Alfie’s first class, Junior Dog, started at around 12.30pm, an hour or so after the published time but still earlier than we had anticipated. Having only one competitor did nothing to ease the nerves and, true enough, on his first trot across the ring Alfie decided it was time to play. Luckily I managed to get him back on track promptly and he finished his routine without further incident. All our practice is obviously starting to pay off as Alfie seems to be improving with every show. He was awarded First Place and nobody was more surprised than me, our own harshest critic.

Next came the Post Graduate Dog class, in which Alfie behaved impeccably and placed Third, Open Dog (Reserve) and Good Citizen Guide Dog (First). Four consecutive classes (and didn’t I know it? “That’s a lot of running in a big ring!”) entered for experience and an award from each of them – and we were hoping for a placing in one! We were (and still are) left in a state of shock. We were watching other successful competitors proudly parading around with their rosette and we had four of them! Wow!

We watched Fiore compete in her classes before wandering off into the crowds to peruse the stalls for a couple of hours and then braving the rush-hour traffic to return home, arriving eleven hours after we’d left. We had a fabulous day but all overslept in the morning – including the dog!