Much to my surprise (and slight disappointment) Crufts is decidedly pleasant. I half expected to capture malicious owners that looked fully like their pets. But the impression is of a prosaic middle-England gathering of weekend enthusiasts. The dog owners are friendly and, dare I say it, normal. Although they trim their dogs’ heads into perfect spheres and their tails into cascades of pure silk they couldn’t be more down to earth. They remind me of Sunday gardeners who trim their hedges into the shape of leaping dolphins and then go inside to watch Antiques Roadshow on TV. The vast halls, despite being full of thousands of different breeds are strangely quiet and more surprising than this – almost turd-free. The merchandising stalls, which sit around the perimeter of the space and sell marginally tasteless doggy-tat (buy two bottles of ‘Urine-off’ and receive a free 100% fish-based dog chew) are harmless enough. And amongst this the dogs themselves seem to be willing, as if they too have read the convention guide and know they must wait their turn to appear on the green carpet.
There is little doubt that this pursuit of perfection has led to various inbred conditions and ailments particular to pedigrees. And while I did see the occasional dog burdened by excessive haircurlers, inbred folds of skin and weighty eyebrows I didn’t sense any overt maliciousness. What is unusual about Crufts is just how normal the people are. If the dogs suffer unnecessarily then that is very sad and wrong. But on the surface at least I saw care – even if was professed through some deeply strange haircuts.”