Diesel's date at Crufts

FOR Suffolk dog fans this week brings a real highlight in the form of Crufts. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING hears how one family is preparing for the greatest dog show on earthHE'S had his nails manicured, his shiny coat soaked in the bath, and tomorrow Diesel's immaculate paws will be among the 100,000 on parade at Crufts 2007.

FOR Suffolk dog fans this week brings a real highlight in the form of Crufts. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING hears how one family is preparing for the greatest dog show on earth

HE'S had his nails manicured, his shiny coat soaked in the bath, and tomorrow Diesel's immaculate paws will be among the 100,000 on parade at Crufts 2007.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback's owners Steven and Clare Airey from Stowmarket are busy preparing the canine star who returned from Crufts last year with a rosette for third place, for a return appearance.

This time last year Diesel was like any other family pet, and the Aireys had no ambition to enter the doggie show ring. But when they entered a fun dog show at Old Newton he started winning, and soon qualified for the world famous event, at his first championship show.


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Steven, 32, said: “Everyone's very competitive, they all want their dog to do the best but we've just gone into it lightheartedly. Everything he does is a bonus to us.

“I don't know how he will get on tomorrow, but he's a handsome looking chap.”

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He said Diesel had a bath - last week! - and had endured a manicure to make sure his nails were in tip top form.

He added: “We haven't had chance to do many shows this year as we had our daughter Antonia, and moved house, but we're going to try to do a lot more this year. I've started hard training with him, and we'll be doing some last minute training before he gets to Crufts.”

Steven admitted his nerves are jangling as he plans to enter the big ring at Birmingham's NEC Arena with two-year-old Diesel, in a class hosting the best Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the world.

“I don't think the fact that we've done it before, makes it any easier,” he laughed.

They will compete in front of up to 6,000 spectators and tv crews broadcasting worldwide.

Crufts attracted 143,000 visitors over the four days of the show in 2006, easily keeping the annual extravaganza's place in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest dog show in the world.

Also watching from the ringside will be wife Clare, 27, with four-month-old Antonia, as the family are spending the weekend in Birmingham.

For the first time, you can vote online for your favourite dog to get the title of Virtually Best In Show.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club secretary said: “This is the first time since Crufts began in 1891 that we can give viewers the opportunity of participating.”

Online judging will begin at 12noon on Monday and closes 12noon Monday March 19 when the 'virtual' Best in Show winner will be announced. Register your vote at www.crufts.org.uk

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If your dog wins an award at Crufts, call the Star Newsdesk on 01473 324798 or e-mail us a picture at eveningstarnews@eveningstar.co.uk.

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See Crufts today on BBC2 at 8pm and Best in Show will be broadcast live from 10.30pm on Sunday.

1891 is the year of the first Crufts, held in Islington. It was the brainchild of founder Charles Cruft, who sold "dog cakes" in Holborn, London, then promoted the canine section of the Paris Exhibition in the 1880s, and was manager of the Allied Terrier Club Show at Westminster in 1886.

25,000 pedigree dogs are competing this year, to achieve the title of "Best In Show".

500 trade stands also draw visitors, plus exhibitions of art devoted to man's best friend, celebrity speakers and demonstrations of dog agility and obedience.

26 countries were represented at last year's Crufts resulting in a record number of overseas competitors.

4 days see the competition divided into working and pastoral breeds, terrier and hound, toy and utility and gundog categories. Then there is the grand finale - the Best in Show.

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