Diesel powers into top show

HE'S anything but the archetypal dog show competitor and is more at home tending to his beloved motorbike than grooming prize pooches.But Stowmarket man Steve Airey is set to rub shoulders with the cream of the dog showing world when he displays his Rhodesian Ridgeback - aptly-named Diesel - at Crufts today.

HE'S anything but the archetypal dog show competitor and is more at home tending to his beloved motorbike than grooming prize pooches.

But Stowmarket man Steve Airey is set to rub shoulders with the cream of the dog showing world when he displays his Rhodesian Ridgeback - aptly-named Diesel - at Crufts today.

And his tail is all the more remarkable because his brush with the world's most famous canine show comes only eight months after his first experience at parading Diesel.

The 31-year-old, who was expecting to be one of the youngest owners in the ring at the NEC in Birmingham, said: “My wife Clare and I were at a fete in Old Newton last July with Diesel and there was a fun dog show taking place.

“The organisers talked us into entering Diesel and he ended up winning it. Dog showing was something that had never crossed my mind before but I thought 'why don't we see where we can go with it?'

“We started entering him into championship shows - our first one was up near Leicester. Diesel won two classes that day which meant he qualified for Crufts at his first attempt. We could hardly believe it.

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“I'm more into my motorbikes and although I've always loved animals, I never imagined I'd be doing something like this.”

Since his first major show, 20-month-old Diesel has qualified another five times by winning various contests across the country.

But even though Steve has known he and Diesel were to make their bow at Crufts for several months, preparing for today was no easy task.

Steve said: “I'm not totally sure what to expect to be honest.

“I will be in the ring with several other dogs and there will be hundreds of people watching. It's very nerve wracking.”

Despite being one of the new kids on the block in a business which has a reputation for occasional over-zealous competitiveness, Steve, Clare and Diesel have largely been welcomed into dog showing.

Steve said: “We have met some really good people. There's a lady in Manningtree who has helped us and showed us what to do.

“There are the odd few who have tended not to help, but mostly the other competitors have been great.

“This definitely isn't something you get into for the prize money. I think we have won about £10 in all and it costs something like £150 to enter a show.

“We usually stay overnight in a hotel although we only stay in hotels where Diesel is welcome too - he always sleeps on the bed with us!”

He continued: “Crufts is the biggest show in the world. We have been to watch before but to think we will be competing is amazing.

“I can't wait.”

Crufts - the numbers that matter

1891 - the year that Crufts was founded

120,000 - the number of visitors who attend the show each year

24,000 - the number of dogs which take part

180 - the number of breeds which are featured in the show

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