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Whoever said that lightning doesn’t strike twice was lying! Last year when I judged in Jyväskylä in Finland KLM didn’t load my hold bag in Birmingham and it was eventually delivered to my hotel in the small hours of Monday morning just before I left! This year things improved slightly; the bag made it to Amsterdam but there it spent the night and eventually arrived in Jyväskylä on Saturday evening. However my travel irritations didn’t compare to those of poor Mary Deats who missed her flight at Heathrow thanks to unspeakable disruptions on the M25 and was unable to secure alternative arrangements so spent the weekend at home.
Jarmo Hilpinen always tries to put together a truly international judging panel for Jyväskylä, often introducing new judges to Finland for the first time. From the UK those who got to the show apart from myself were Lee Cox, Ronnie Irving, Tom Isherwood, Martin Phillips and Andreas Schemel. Obviously there were lots of Finnish judges officiating and other countries represented were Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
This year for the first time the judging in the big ring on both days was broadcast with live streaming via YouTube and Jarmo had invited me to join Paula Heikkinen-Lehkonen and provide a commentary for the streaming. This proved to be an interesting exercise which produced some excellent feedback. Having an FCI all-breeds judge alongside was very helpful when some of the lesser known breeds that we never see in the UK appeared in the groups. Paula was also able to provide a lot of information on some of the big winning Finnish dogs that came through and all in all it seemed to work well.
Lots of the breeds at Jyväskylä pulled large entries. My Sunday assignment was Labrador Retrievers where I was still left with 100 dogs (and 100 critiques!) after the puppies had been taken away from me. Saturday wasn’t quite as heavy a day with 49 Rough Collies, six Briards and just one Bouvier des Flandres.
The Rough Collies were mixed in quality but I liked very much the BOB winner, a champion bitch, Marcol Flash Out Of Blue, who had lots of breed type and quality, quite pleasing balance and moved so freely. In Briards I could not get past the black bitch who won the open class for her type and wonderful movement. She was not handled or presented as well as some of the competition but I felt on overall merit Zhamanen La Perla was a comfortable BOB winner. The solitary Bouvier was a young male just past his first birthday, Mörrimöykyn Cuimpalhiano, who showed much promise but was understandably immature. Nonetheless he was graded excellent with certificate quality.
The big ring programme began with the finals of the day’s junior handling competition where the two age group winners, both talented girls, battled it out for best on the day.
We then began the groups where Ruth Wagner’s choice was a White Swiss Shepherd as the winner of group 1. Massimo Inzoli’s group 2 winner was a Boxer, in group 3 Martin Phillips chose a Smooth Fox Terrier, Tibor Kis’ Dachshund group winner was a Smooth, Lothar Mende pointed to an American Akita in group 5, group 6 saw a Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen winning under Anita Foley-Duggan, Harri Lehkonen’s winner of group 7 was a Spinone, an American Cocker won group 8 under Per Iversen, group 9 was won by a Longcoat Chihuahua under Elisabetta de Luca and finally group 10 saw an Azawakh win under Pietro Bottagisio.
The veteran and breeders finals in Finland are always spectacular and both competitions filled the vast ring. Annukka Paloheimo chose a Golden Retriever as best veteran while best of the breeders under Pedro Sanches Delerue was theAdamant’s English Springer group and Paula was able to tell me that they will be this year’s Breeder of the Year.
The much travelled Tamas Jakkel from Hungary was BIS judge elect on Saturday and having assessed all ten group winners individually they left the ring and awaited Kirsi Nummela’s announcements for BIS4, 3, 2 and 1. Fourth was the Spinone, third the Longcoat Chihhuahua, second the Smooth Fox Terrier and to great applause BIS went to the Boxer male,Calvin Klein della Cappastorta, bred in Serbia but living in Finland.
Tamas responded to Jarmo Hilpinen’s speech at the as-always relaxed formal dinner on Saturday evening, as did fellow Hungarian András Korózs, and all present enjoyed the generous hospitality.
I had a 9am start with my Labradors on Sunday where quality was very mixed. I had two very large working classes and these were something of a nightmare. I was always under the impression that grading a dog ‘good’ really meant anything but, and most of the dogs in these classes had that grading for lack of merit. I was therefore perplexed to hear these gradings being greeted with great applause by the ringside, only to learn afterwards that working champions need to be graded good or higher at a conformation show to be able to claim their title, so they were thrilled with their result! However some dogs were so wholly untypical that I gave them the lower grading of ‘sufficient’, which again is something of a misnomer.
I did however have some excellent dogs in contention and my BOB turned out to be – ironically – the winner of the working bitch class, Lab’s PB Best in Black who had travelled from Russia. She excelled in profile movement, was well bodied and had an excellent coat. However her handler explained afterwards that they would not be able to stay for the group as they had more than a 24-hour drive to Moscow.
In the big ring on Sunday the running order was reversed to ring the changes so we began our livestreaming with the judging of best veteran in show where Tino Pehar chose a Welsh Springer Spaniel. Next Paavo Mattila judged the never-ending breeders groups where his winners were the Wave Seeker’s Newfoundlands who just edged ahead of the Adamant’s English Springers. We then began the groups proper with group 10 which was judged by Valerio Nataletti whose winner was a Whippet. Group 9, judged by Céline Bottussi-Jocquel, was won by the Tibetan Spaniel, group 8 was won by a different American Cocker from the previous night, this being judged by Tiina Taulos. Laurent Pichard (who had coincidentally bred the winner of group 8 – a son of former Pup of the Year Sh Ch Afterglow Dragonquest) had an Irish Setter winning group 7, Karl-Erik Johansoon put up a Finnish Hound in group 6, group 5 was judged by Stephanie Walsh whose winner was a Samoyed, Michael Allerup Nielsen’s winner of group 4 was the Miniature Wirehaired Dachshund, ex-pat Kevin Brown chose an Australian Silky Terrier to win his group 3, group 2 saw the first repeat group win when the Boxer scored under Eduoarda Bertolla (who is not only a Boxer breeder but a vet who numbers Victor Malzoni among his clients) which just left Kari Järvinen to judge group 1 which was won by the Old English Sheepdog.
So András Korózs took centre stage to judge BIS at the second show of the weekend and the same procedure was followed, all ten dogs leaving the ring after András having relayed his decisions to Kirsi. Fourth was the Whippet, third was the Silky Terrier, second was the previous night’s BIS-winning Boxer and BIS went to the young American Cocker male,Very Vigie Look At Me, who actually lives in Jyväskylä so he was one dog certain of a very short journey home.