|Jilly... and not Jilly... Click to enlarge|
"Jilly's Jolly Jaunt" is being hailed as a triumph for pedigree dogs... proof positive that they are more than just a pretty face. The event is also raising money for charity with £27,000 raised so far.
But I can reveal that they have cheated.
Owner Gavin Robertson has walked the whole walk and has the blisters to prove it. All credit to him for that.
But Crufts' winner Jilly has not.
For much of the walk, they've used a ringer, while precious Jilly has been quietly transported in a van.
The event has trumpeted the fact that a showdog is capable of walking the distance.
Jilly's owner Gavin Robertson told the Kennel Club recently: "I am so proud of Jilly for winning Crufts and wanted to use the profile that her win gave us to do something for deserving causes. Outside of the show ring Jilly is such an active dog, so I know she'll have no problem walking 130 miles."
The Kennel Club too has sung the event's praises: "We are so proud of Gavin and Jilly for undertaking this challenge and for raising money for good causes, including the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.The dogs that compete at Crufts have to be in great shape so she will be well-prepared for this challenge."
The fraud was spotted by a photographer on the Stoke Hammond leg of the walk.
"Everyone was waiting for Gavin and the team to arrive at the Three Locks Pub at Stoke Hammond," he says. "They were all waiting outside the pub. But I had parked in the canal car park on the other side of the road and as I walked out of it I saw a blue van parked up the road. The door was open and outside on the blind side of the van there was a dog on a lead that I thought looked like Jilly.
"To be honest, I didn't think much of it. It was only later when I looked at the pictures that I and others had taken along the route that I realised they were using a ringer. The dog Gavin Robertson is walking in many of the photographs is clearly not Jilly.
"I think it's a real shame. No one would really have minded if they'd been more upfront about it - the walk is in aid of three worthy charities and over 30 miles a day is a lot for any dog. But this is cheating."
The two top left pictures on this montage are of the real three-year-old Jilly, showing her markings on both sides. The other pictures have been taken at various times during the walk and are on the event's Facebook page. They are clearly not Jilly, but nothing has been said to make that obvious. The "double" is the same colour, but the markings are different. None of the pictures of the event show more than one Petit in the picture and the whole impression given is that Jilly herself has done the walk.
The event's Twitter feed too, explicitly mentions several times that it is the Crufts winner doing the 130-mile walk.
Astonishingly, no one seems to have noticed - or are keeping quiet about the ringer. Several people must be in on it. But then the show-world is and always has been more about appearance than reality.
"We are so proud of you Gavin - and all the others who walked with you, raising the profile of pedigree dogs in such a positive way," wrote dog-breeder Sheila Atter on the event's Facebook page, which is being followed all over the world. The comment echoes the views of many in the show world.
Jilly's walking companion, a top show Pointer called Flo (Sh Ch Ch Wilchrimane Ice Maiden), has also not walked the whole route. And yet photographs of the event featuring a completely different Pointer have captioned the dog as Flo.
The event has been sponsored or supported by Royal Canin, Agria, Holiday Inn and Tesco's, among others, and many dog-lovers have donated. It is in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, DogLost and the KC Charitable Trust. The money has been given in good faith and surely everyone must have thought that Jilly herself was doing the 130 mile walk given the official announcements.
When the walk was announced three months ago, I thought it was a great idea; an excellent bit of positive PR for pedigree dogs (see my previous post about the walk here). It was certainly a stark contrast to the 2012 winner, a Lhasa Apso called Elizabeth who never got to go for a walk for fear of ruining her show-winning coat.
|Amelia and Gavin with the real Flo and the real Jilly outside the Kennel Club this afternoon|
And if anyone believes it is reasonable because it would be unfair to expect any dog to walk 130 miles in four days, here's my offer:
If 50 or more people email me to agree to sponsor me to the tune of at least £10 each, I will do exactly the same walk with my 10-yr-old GSD x Jake later this summer - all the way, definitely him, and I will also donate the money raised to Great Ormond St, Dog Lost and the KC Charitable Trust.
Jemima and Jake's Jolly Jaunt.
Please add your pledge below - and make sure to email me privately so I can contact you: firstname.lastname@example.org
|The real Jake|
|Also the real Jake|
|Yep, this is him, too.|