St Mary’s School Holding Shaftesbury’s Answer To Crufts This Weekend

Beverley Roberts is a dog owner and she’s looking forward to the St Mary’s School Dog Show on Sunday 23rd September. It will attract dog lovers from around Shaftesbury, The Vale and Chase.

“I have a beautiful Great Dane and a Caucasian Shepherd. They are both enormous. They take up more room in the house than we do. They are both puppies, only 18 months old, so they’ll be coming to the dog show – and hopefully behaving!” Beverley laughed.

Beverley has another reason for attending the dog show. As a housemistress at St Mary’s School in Shaftesbury, it was her idea to start the competition in the first place. Many of the school’s pupils are boarders, which means they are separated from their own pets during term time. “We’ve got a lot of dogs that live on site. Many of the staff who live there have their dogs. I often bring my dogs in. But the girls’ dogs are at home with their parents,” said Beverley.

Beverley Roberts

The dog show gives the girls a chance to spend time with their animals and an opportunity to introduce their dogs to their friends. “It’s an ideal way for the girls to show them off really. And they can see their parents, guardians, grandparents or family.”

The event is open to everyone in the Shaftesbury area. You can enter your dog into the competition or just come along as a spectator. Beverley says its probably the largest dog show in our area now. “This is our eighth year. We’ve had over 100 dogs entered some years. It’s a lovely event because we offer so much more than a dog show,” Beverley added.

There are nine different classes. “We have the Most Handsome Dog, the Most Beautiful Bitch, the Cutest Puppy, the Waggiest Tail, the Child’s Best Friend, the Headmistress’ Favourite, the Dog That Is Most Like Its Owner, Best Golden Oldie and the Best In Show. That will win the owner an elite prize,” said Beverley.

And there are prizes worth winning. “Local doggy places have given gifts. We have sponsorship for most of the classes. Dog Togs, just down the road, have been very generous. So has Paws And Claws. The first five in each class will have a certificate produced by Julia Walterton, our school receptionist. The textiles department make lovely rosettes for people to take home, made by Julie Hodge, our textiles teacher.”

So what does Beverley think the judges are looking for? Has a much-loved but scruffy mongrel got any real chance of winning against the well-turned out pedigree pets? “Oh definitely. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder, really,” said Beverley. “Everybody has got their favourite dog and what they like best. They are looking for nice form, a nice fluffy coat and shine – just a healthy, happy looking dog. And a very cheery looking person with them, I would imagine.”

The event, on Sunday afternoon, offers a number of additional activities and attractions. “We have a dog agility course with a dog behaviourist, Colin Spence. He heard about our dog show and wanted to come along. I know he is a very busy man but he’s there for the agility course. If he sees dogs with a little problem I hope he will be able to help them. He is giving his time, which is very generous.”

“We have stalls, games and our own ‘shutter babes’ school photography group is there. They will be taking photographs for people. There will be a food catering van, as well as cream teas and cakes made by the staff of St Mary’s.”

The dog show is being held as a school fundraiser. “We are raising money for a café for the girls and for parents when they come in for matches. The public will also be able to use it when they come to our swimming pool,” said Beverley.

What do owners need to do if they want to enter the contest? “They need to arrive at approximately 2.15pm. They will go to the registration tent, register and receive a number to put around their necks. They can enjoy the whole of the campus area. We are working in our walled garden, which is very beautiful. They can have a go on one of the games or enjoy the side stalls. Then the competition begins at 2.45pm.”

St Mary’s School can be found just to the east of Shaftesbury, with an access lane off the A30.