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An interview with Marie Burns (Best in Show Winner 2016)

Devon winning Best in Show at Crufts 2016

When and how did you get into dog showing?

I attended a fun dog show with my pet Rottweiler by chance and after winning three rosettes in the novelty classes I just had the bug to show dogs. I started showing West Highland White Terriers more seriously in 1992.

Do you remember the first time you went to Crufts?

I visited Crufts for the first time in 1991. I went with the lady I had my first Westie from. I remember asking her how they tell the Westies apart because they all looked the same to me!

Tell us something no one else might know about you and Devon…

On the way home the night we won Crufts the Kennel Club rang and asked us if we could be in Manchester to appear on BBC Breakfast the next morning. We said yes, so after one and a half hours sleep me, Devon and my sister in law Catherine set off in plenty of time down to Manchester. We did not expect the major traffic delays on the M62 and we were soon running late. Breakfast time producers kept ringing us for an update on how our journey was going as we were supposed to be there for 8am. Every 10 mins I called them or they called me for updates. Eventually around 8.45 still sitting bumper to bumper in traffic and around one mile away from the studio I decided it would be quicker to get out and run. So me and Devon jogged the last mile through the lines of traffic to arrive at the studio just in time to be interviewed on the last few minutes of the program. You could say we went that extra mile for pedigree dogs!

What did you do to celebrate your Best in Show win?

The best celebration was a buffet party we had at National Terrier. I felt like all my fellow exhibitors got the chance to join in the celebration with us and I wanted everyone to feel part of it. I really enjoyed that day as I wasn't showing dogs and got to chat with everyone, then later in the day I got roped into showing Burneze Billie on Air in the challenge for best puppy in show and was delighted to win Reserve with her. A great end to what was already a wonderful day.

Devon winning Best in Show at Crufts 2016What’s the secret for winning Crufts? Did you know Devon had the potential to win?

The secret is teamwork. Me and my mother work as a team. I do the training and grooming and she sees to the day to day up keep of the dogs. I loved Devon as a very young puppy and believed she was possibly the best we had ever bred. However I never thought in my wildest dreams we would win Crufts. The secret is to never give up, work hard, put in the time and dedication and anything is possible – I’m testament to that.

Who is your all time Crufts Best In Show favourite (other than Devon of course!)

This is a hard one as over the years we have seen some outstanding dogs win BIS at Crufts, however two that stand out for me are Ch. Montravia Tommy-Gun the Poodle who won BIS in 1985. I watched him win on TV when I was a teenager I remember turning to my mother and saying that I was going to go there one day. Little did she know then that she would be part of this amazing journey too. The other one is the Norfolk Terrier Ch Cracknor Cause Celebre who was BIS in 2005. Anyone who knows me will tell you I have a soft spot for a Norfolk Terrier. I own a 10 year old Norfolk Terrier bitch called Keira who is my constant companion.

What is it that you love the most about Westies?

I love dogs with character and Westies are great little characters. They are full of their own self-importance, bold and fearless yet very friendly.

How did winning Crufts feel and what did you do to celebrate? How did you reward Devon?

I still can't find the words to explain how winning Crufts felt. It was very emotional although I managed to fight back the tears (tears of joy). I felt so proud, proud of Devon and her performance, proud to have represented the breed and the terrier group well and proud to have done my breed and group judges well. These two judges chose me as their representative and I was as thrilled for them that Devon won as I was for myself.

We have had many celebrations and gatherings at dog shows and local clubs. The celebrations have gone on all year. Devon loves attention and she has had lots of that this year, she probably enjoys the attention more than anything. She loves kids so the school visits we have made would be her biggest reward.

Devon winning Best in Show at Crufts 2016Other than Crufts, what is your favourite show to exhibit at?

Before I choose just one show I would like to say that most shows are very good with the exhibitors. They listen to exhibitor feedback and make changes each year to make their shows great. However one show that has always been a favourite for me is the Northern Ireland West Highland White Terrier club show. I remember going there many years ago when I first started showing dogs. Everyone was made welcome no matter whether you were a top winning kennel or a new starter, the show always had a great atmosphere and in 2013 I had the honour of judging this show.

Marie’s top tips for dog showing newcomers:

The first thing would be to be patient – there is a lot to learn about dogs and it takes time to gain knowledge regarding training, handling, grooming and breeding. Find a good ring craft class. I learnt so much from fellow exhibitors at our local club. I’ve been going for 25 years and rarely miss a class. It's a nice relaxed environment for both handler and dog and most people who attend will be more than happy to give advice on handling, trimming and dog showing in general. Last but not least have fun! Dog showing is a great hobby so just enjoy it.