Suffolk Dog Day 2016
The ‘Majestic’ and moated Helmingham Hall in Suffolk – with its glorious expanse of parkland – was once again the setting for the annual Suffolk Dog Day. It’s an extremely well-organised event on all fronts, which always results in a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, despite the presence of hundreds of dogs of all colours, shapes and sizes – thrown together in the midst of all manner of exciting distractions and expected to behave themselves …
Feeling rather overwhelmed by the excitement of it all – it was me, rather than Rusty, who wasn’t sure what to look at first or which direction to head in. It had been a long-anticipated day for me, as Rusty was convalescing last year after his ankle operation and we had to miss out on our visit.
Our first port of call was a small lake, where a retrieving competition was taking place against the clock. Despite being Rusty’s favourite playtime game, as well as recent practising with a dummy to speed up retrieving – Rusty swam around the water aimlessly, totally missing the whole point of the exercise ! The lady timing the competition was very kind – and let Rusty have a second chance. The winning time at that stage was 16 seconds – I definitely think more practice is in order before next year …
Our initial disappointment was followed by many highlights – such as the impromptu gathering of Fox Red Labrador owners (including local breeders from Yoxford); meeting a gorgeous and rarely seen ‘Dark’ Golden Retriever in the queue for the portaloos and having Rusty’s lunchtime treat of a cold sausage stolen from under my nose by an extremely cheeky Dachshund – living up to his ‘sausage dog’ nickname !!
After lunch, we wandered over to the trade stands and we were lucky enough to meet a lovely Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever called Axel. He was 8 years old and had a lovely temperament – obediently sitting for his owner whilst I took some photos.
We took Rusty for a free massage consultation at the ‘Born to Run’ trade stand, to ascertain how his ankle injury has affected his range of movement – and it was very interesting to discover how his muscles and myofascial tissue have become tight through compensating for his weak leg. I am very tempted to take him for some massage sessions… It was also very amusing to see how much hair he left behind on the poor lady’s T Shirt and consulting couch !!
Next, we took him to try out a fun agility course – with Happi Days, who run a Dog Day Care Centre in Rendlesham, Suffolk (www.happidayscentre.co.uk). He fared much better at this and was surprisingly good. The course involved several low jumps and an extremely high walk plank with steep ramps. He tended to be rather fast and over-enthusiastic, which led him to lose concentration and run past a few of the hurdles – no surprise there – but I was so proud of him when he scrambled up and across the high plank without any bidding ! I really believe that he could be a very good agility dog with some proper training.
Whilst there, we once again met Rusty’s perfectly ‘colour-matched’ lady friend – the beautiful ‘Dark’ Golden Retriever, Amber. Amazingly, her owner had got talking to another lady with the same breed, same colour – and discovered that the 2 dogs were in fact sisters ! They had both been asked lots of questions about their dogs – who people seemed to think were Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers – although it seemed obvious to me that they weren’t … They are smaller than the standard Golden Retrievers, with a shorter coat than we are used to seeing. They really didn’t look that different to Rusty. Like him, they are from working dog stock – and so they are very similar in stature – as well as matching his colour. Here are my favourite images of sisters Amber and Bonnie…who had been racing about and were rather hot ..!
I seemed to be following a theme of russet-coloured dogs, as next I met Biscuit and her mother – 2 extremely cute Irish Terriers – with wiry coats and endearing inquisitive expressions. Biscuit did some lovely posing for the camera – and I was really impressed with how sensible her young owner was, as she described what training she had been doing with Biscuit so far …
The owners running the Happi Days stand had a delightful young working springer called Daisy. Affectionate and well-behaved with an angelic face and black & white ticked markings; I just had to capture a few images of this beautiful dog – who was apparently being trained to locate broken electricity cables underground ..!
She really had to be voted the most ‘photogenic dog of the day’ – so very pretty …
After finally breaking my habit of only photographing dogs of the same colour as Rusty, we headed for a shaded patch to sit with a well-earned drink. The parkland echoed with the comforting tones of Peter Purves – as he commentated, as usual, on the dogs in the show rings. I had entered a Rusty in every possible class on my previous dog day visit, however, I have learned the form and realised that despite how traditionally handsome your dog seems, the judges will always give the top prizes to Staffies or Bulldogs – French being extremely fashionable at present ( with one winning the most handsome male small dog class).
Whilst we sat relaxing, a friendly lady with a Staffie walked by with a first prize rosette on his collar. Dexter had won the most handsome large male dog category – and my predictions were proved correct. He looked totally unmoved by the experience, wondering what all the fuss was about – as I took some photos of this rising star of the ‘show ring’.
The lure of the wonderful Helmingham Hall itself, surrounded by its moat and amazing gardens, drew us to take Rusty for a proper walk around. It was great (but surprising) that dogs were allowed to wander with their owners around the gardens – which were pristinely kept and exquisitely beautiful.
Here’s my favourite doggy shot from the Walled Garden – 2 Retrievers who had just caught sight of Rusty from the opposite end of the central path…
The show was reaching its final half hour and we were all feeling tired, so we made our way back to the car – after a thoroughly enjoyable day. We had met some lovely people and wonderful dogs and surprisingly lots of Fox-Red Labs…even though I must add that Rusty was the most handsome of them all (of course !)
On our way, I spotted a ‘spotty dog’ – unusual in that he was brown & white, instead of the traditional black & white … What a lovely expression !
I had been surrounded and overwhelmed by the most gorgeous collection of dogs that you could ever hope to see in one place – and yet only managed to capture a tiny percentage on camera… I had wanted the day to last for ever – but I guess there’s always next year …
… Roll on Suffolk a Dog Day 2017 !