Going to the Dogs

This week my city is holding the Royal Show, an event that began as the annual ‘Fair and Cattle Show’ and has since ballooned into the year’s best opportunity to ride rollercoasters, eat junk-food at buy cheap stuff. It still has a fairly big agricultural component though, along with petting zoos, equestrian events and various animal shows. This year I decided to volunteer at the Royal Show and tomorrow I have been assigned to the Dog Pavilion, which is where the dog show is held. I’m fairly excited about this, given I’ve had a long interest in dogs and dog breeds. My duties will include marshalling people and handing out prize certificates, and I’m hoping that I’ll have some time to make a note of all the breeds represented there. On that note, I’d like to introduce my own family’s canine companion, Villy.

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Villy is an Airedale Terrier – my dad’s favourite breed. The Airedale was created in the 19th century, by working class people in the dale of the River Aire, in Yorkshire. Bull-and-Terrier dogs and Black-and-Tan Terriers were crossed with the Otter Hound to produce the largest terrier in existence. The Airedale was bred to be a sporting dog, with particular mind to pursuing otters in the water. It turned out to excel not only at this but also hunting many other kinds of quarry, from rabbits and fowls to big game. It also made a loyal family companion and a formidable guard-dog. This impressive breed with the intelligence and courage of a terrier and the strength and scenting-ability of a hound was very appropriately nicknamed ‘King of the Terriers’. Not long after it became a popular working companion, the Airedale commended itself on the battlefields of both World Wars, and later in police work and as a guide dog. All told, a fairly remarkable breed.

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Two Airedales serving in WWII.

Although our Villy-boy hasn’t done anything more exciting than scaring off would-be intruders, and once capturing an oblong turtle at a local lake (he let it go unharmed after dad and I swore at him), he’s been a much-loved family member and my ‘little brother’ since I was seven years old. He’s twelve now, and mostly blind and has bad hips, but he’s as affectionate as ever, and still has a fair amount of energy. Our family’s first Airedale, Gus, lived to eleven, and we’ve been very lucky with Vill so far, in that he’s recovered from several health scares. But this is why I want to dedicate this blog to him, because although I may not be the best owner, he’s certainly the best dog.

So here it is, the Dog Blog.

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