Dogs waiting to be inspected by the judges Picture: Adrian Butler
IT WAS like walking onto the set of an expensive shampoo ad, except the hair was softer and more bouffant.
The dogs parading at Limerick’s 88th annual All Breed International Championship Dog Show – organised by Limerick & District Canine Club – possessed a beauty that us mere humans can only aspire to.
It was the culmination of days and weeks spent preparing for the shows. Some of the more than 200 breeds just need a bath and their nails trimmed. Some need a much more rigorous beauty regime.
“It’s some sight to see it really, when you see the people in the field, and all the tents, and all the rings and the activity – it’s an incredible place,” said Limerick club chairman, Anthony Kelly.
Even as a casual spectator, the annual day out is a true delight for anyone who likes dogs. There are almost 1600 dogs in total, truly of all shapes and sizes.
While walking the field at Adare’s Woodlands House Hotel, this reporter spots a woman hard at work in the mouth of her miniature schnauzer, seemingly flossing its teeth. The dog is a perfect model, patiently accepting the dental treatment.
Lively terrier puppies – inexperienced in the ring – wriggle and writhe while being inspected. They call to mind junior infants struggling to stay in their seats, but the babies will one day become some of the finest examples of their breed – and learn how to stay still for a photograph.
In an enclosure towards the corner of the field, peppy poodles prance around the ring, seeming lighter than air, while a judge watches intently.
“A lot of the judges would be booked three and four years in advance, because they are very sought after,” said Mr Kelly.
“In our case now, we have our judges booked up as far as 2020. That’s how far in advance they are booked, because it’s so difficult to get people from Europe. There has to be a lot of planning involved because these judges judge all over the world.”
North Circular Road man Michael Kirby got best in breed with his Norfolk terrier, named Sive. The former chairman of the club bought the now 14-month-old from a well-known kennel in England when she was 12 weeks old.
John Hartigan from Adare also got best in breed, for his smooth fox terrier called Jack. “I’m into them all my life, I keep labradors and smooth fox terriers,” he said, after explaining how he recently imported Jack all the way from Australia. Long-time club member John travels to shows all over Ireland and the UK to compete, and also judges around the world.
Parish priest of St Patrick’s-St Brigid’s, Fr David Gibson, went to show with a beautifully elegant Saluki.
These sighthounds are similar to greyhounds with their long legs and deep chests, but with longer, silky coats, and ears resembling perfectly fluffy pigtails.
Fr Gibson’s three-year-old Saluki named Aisha was at the edge of the ring when this reporter approached, unfazed, despite being only moments away from her glamorous entrance for the breed-specific round.
Mark Troy, from Corbally, was proud as punch of his three-year-old American Staffordshire terrier, Del Boy.
“He just won best male, and it’s his third year in a row winning best male,” he said about his dog, who is also an Irish champion.
Del Boy was bred by his owner in Limerick. Mark got into American Staffordshire terriers after he brought in a female from Serbia around five years ago.
There are canine enthusiasts in Adare for the show from all over Europe, including from Sweden, Poland, Russia and the UK.
Kildare native Martin Bailey, who became well-known after appearing on RTE series Pet Island, could be seen doing the rounds with his old English sheepdog, Guapo, who was imported from Greece.
Children point and look – “it’s the Dulux dog!” – and Martin can officially say that it is. The dog regularly performs advertising gigs for the paint company – and is well used to posing for pictures with children.
It was a special day for Pennywell man Jim Byrnes, a Staffordshire bull terrier man, who had the high honour of judging best in show. A member of the Limerick canine club, Jim is a well-renowned judge globally, and started his judging career exactly 30 years ago at the Limerick show.
“He judged under the Irish Kennel Club banner 30 years ago to the day, it was his very first time to judge,” said Mr Kelly.
“Then to be judging best in show in Limerick 30 years later – it is the pinnacle of judging, it’s like judging the finals.”
And the best dog in show of 2017? An affectionate English Springer Spaniel, whose owners hailed from the UK.