Meet our (not-so) pedigree chums

Laura McMullan with Brody and LucyLaura McMullan with Brody and Lucy
Laura McMullan with Brody and Lucy
It’s best paws forward as Crufts continues this weekend - and here at the News Letter and sister titles, our journalists love their dogs, so let us introduce our news hounds......

Dog lovers across Northern Ireland will be glued to Crufts this weekend, as the annual canine carnival delights television viewers with its prize pooches and proud owners.

We’ll marvel at the rat-sized dogs, the ones that look like mops, the walking pom-poms, like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, the grumpy-looking bulldogs, the puggles and bogles, chugs and dorgies, the labradoodles and spoodles - in fact every breed you could ever imagine, and many you couldn’t.

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Crufts may never be far from controversy, but it doesn’t seem to have dented its popularity.

Kathyrn McKenna and DougalKathyrn McKenna and Dougal
Kathyrn McKenna and Dougal

We watch transfixed as owners brush and preen their pets to perfection; we are amazed by the agility shows and blown away by the dog-and-owner dance routines (heelwork to music).

So, to celebrate Crufts and all things canine, a few of our staff, who are dotty about their dogs, have shared their pictures and stories of their beloved pets.

Helen McGurk, 
features editor.

I often daydream of parading my dog Barney in front of gasping judges at Crufts; me running at his side wearing a pair of comfortable beige slacks, Barney, a beast of pure physical perfection, running through tunnels, over see-saws and around poles.

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Helen McGurk and BarneyHelen McGurk and Barney
Helen McGurk and Barney

It’ll never happen, of course, unless Barney ups his game beyond giving a paw and giving dirty looks (he honestly does). Nevertheless, I still love him.

Barney’s parentage is questionable. I met his mother and she is definitely a collie, but his father (he did a runner apparently), is anyone’s guess...a greyhound, a lurcher, a retriever, a sailor? Who knows.

One thing’s for certain, Barney is a smart dog. He has almond-shaped eyes that seem to see into your soul and he loves learning new tricks.

When I’m at work I often imagine him at home doing the crossword. Cryptic, of course.

Darryl Armitage and FreddieDarryl Armitage and Freddie
Darryl Armitage and Freddie

Laura McMullan, deputy community content editor

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A first glance at my delectable duo might fool you into thinking they’re mirror image of each other in terms of character as well as looks.

But my two Miniature Schnauzers Brody, four, and his seven-year-old mummy Lucy are as different as day and night - or in their case, salt and pepper.

As is typical of most females, Lucy is the manipulator, the thinker, the observer, and the one who’ll casually play every human she meets off each other when it comes to seeking out cuddles and attention.

Clint Aiken with Jess and JacobClint Aiken with Jess and Jacob
Clint Aiken with Jess and Jacob

But she’s also the one whose eyes, dark as the night sky, constantly search for our ‘pack of four’, making sure we’re all together, and she’ll never stray far on her off-lead walks, rounding up her family as she walks, even chasing my husband to bed at night if she thinks he’s spent too much time in front of Match of the Day.

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Her impish son has literally two settings to his personality; go - and sleep.

Since we adopted him as an eight-week old pup back in October 2014, he’s chewed, barked, played, chased and charged his way through life, seeking out the fun in every situation, causing us to shriek ‘Brodeeeeeee!’ on a daily basis, creating mischief and mayhem wherever he goes.

Kathryn McKenna, 
commercial editor

It is crazy to think our golden haired, mischievous Working Cocker Spaniel ‘Dougal the Dog’ is three already. But as they say, time truly does fly when you are having fun.

With his teddy bear good looks and having nailed ‘puppy eyes’ down to a ‘t’ since the day we brought him home, Dougal knows what he wants in life - and how to get it.

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Ruth Rodgers and SophieRuth Rodgers and Sophie
Ruth Rodgers and Sophie

We didn’t realise just how smart he was until we were calling our suddenly conveniently deaf puppy in an attempt to get him to sleep in his own ‘dog bed’ - as opposed to our comfortable kingsize he prefers upstairs. ‘’Should we give him some ham?’’ whispered my husband naively (having naturally not realised he knew this three-letter word). Suddenly, we heard the thunderous sound of thudding paws as he landed on all fours before crashing down the stairs to wait expectantly. And thus we began our Dougal-imposed bedtime regiment of ‘supper’ before bed. To this day, bed-time means treats for our cunning boy.

Indeed I’ve lost count of the number of words he knows, from ‘ham’ to ‘fish’, ‘dinner’ and ‘chicken,’ to every one of his toys; ‘walk’ and ‘bed’ plus everything in between. I am sure from the way he looks at us ‘hoomans’ sometimes he knows everything we are saying - especially when he is the subject matter - and is at times deeply bemused by our silly antics such as leaving the house to go to work.

Ruth Rodgers, 
Farming Life editor

Our dog is Sophie (although her official registered name is Leapoges Lass).

She is a King Charles Cavalier (tricolour) and we have had her for around nine years.

We bought her from a breeder outside Castlewellan.

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Sophie has the sweetest nature - and she loves cats. When she came to our home as a puppy one of our cats mothered her and now she seems to think that when we get a new kitten it’s hers. Sophie is hard of hearing now so when she is outside she can’t hear us calling her - yet every time you drop something into her bowl she is straight over!

We have a new grandson who will be one next week and she has already learned to linger around his high chair for tit bits.

Clint Aiken, 
deputy weeklies editor

Jess is a Collie/Jack Russell cross, is completely ball obsessed and the gentlest soul I have ever encountered, She is also a complete diva.

Jacob - who I call ‘the smallest dog in the house’ - is a handful both literally and figuratively. He has the most manic little grin when he’s not grumping. Both are rescues and my pride and joy.

Darryl Armitage, 
Farming Life journalist

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Freddie, an 11-month-old golden cockapoo, came to us last June after we lost our 16-year-old cross breed collie dog Scout.

I grew up with poodles and golden retrievers, so I was keen on bigger dogs, while my wife Liz was more inclined to more medium sized dogs, so we had to find something that was in between, I knew that I didn’t have a chance of getting a Newfoundland or a Dogue de Bordeaux.

It was then that Liz came across the cockapoo, which is also a cross breed with cocker spaniel and poodle.

We chose Freddie on our first visit to view a cockapoo litter, mainly because he chose us, he fell asleep in Liz’s arms and then fell asleep on my foot.

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He came to live with us when he was nine weeks old and has grown up into a fantastic dog, he has his quirks but they are what make him Freddie.

l If you are proud of your pooch and would like him/her to be featured in the News Letter, please send a pic, some words and a daytime telephone number to [email protected] or post to Helen McGurk, features editor, News Letter, 6-9 Donegall Square South, Belfast, BT5 1JA.

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