~ by Linda Laidlaw Pringle

Jean (above) and Terry Mansell (Teejay Kennel) have spent over a decade perfecting The Lowchen (Little Lion Dog) Club Discover Dogs booth at Crufts.

Hate to admit an inconvenient truth...but! When March rolls around, this celebrant of Canada's diverse seasons sometimes secretly yearns for a spring tonic!

The urge to find an antidote usually flares up as Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show draws to a close. Thoughts turn to the largest show of its kind in the world, as declared by Guinness World Records: Crufts in Birmingham, UK!

A few years ago, we pulled Crufts from our bucket list and headed across the pond. Social media interactions provided a certainty that fresh experiences and a circle of Lowchen focused individuals would await!

Sure enough, a handful of breeders, representing kennels in the UK, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway were warm and welcoming, as we enjoyed dinner, while excitedly discussing the main event, Lowchen breed judging, just a sleep away.

Our guests, front row: Karen Wagenaar (Kidero's), Zoe Ann Gibson (Hollinsclose) Back row: Dawn Richardson (Hollinsclose), Nina Kjaergard (Ninkja's) and Marina Gross (Belgross)

The following morning, the occasional yip of hotel guest dogs served as a most familiar and comforting wake-up for us, as we thought of our own Lowchen vacationing with family. Before long, we were off to the show site, next door.

The Lowchen ring was easy to find, as Dawn Richardson (Hollinsclose Kennel) waved us over to seats beside, her. Although we have attended North American conformation shows, it was such a plus to have Dawn brief us on what was transpiring in the ring, as entrants entered and left with ribbons.

Next, it was off to the area assigned to Lowchen. Here, tiny post show parties were breaking out. Familiar faces kept popping by. What a thrill it was to spot Eileen Spavin Harrison (Sholeen Kennel), a UK breeder, whom we met when Eileen judged the Lowchen Club of America Nationals! Next, Kay Sergeant (Grestean Kennel), complete with her archives, was introduced. This veteran of the breed proudly showed us historical Lowchen papers that she has diligently preserved from what appeared to be the beginning of time! What a treasure trove!

Above, Eileen Spavin Harrison (Sholeen Kennel) introduces me to Kay Sergeant (Grestean Kennel).

Suddenly, breeders started to scatter. Crufts is a rich hunting ground for Lowchen collectibles. We were not immune to the siren calls!

Soon, it became clear that we must refocus. Yes, it was well past time to cut the commerce and track down our key interest, Lowchen as companions, complete with a refresher on their spot in history.

There is no better place to learn more about specific breeds than the Discover Dogs booths at Crufts. The passion exhibited by experts at presenting Lowchen at this event, Jean and Terry Mansell, is contagious! A volunteer, Andy Beech, described the experience this way:

"The 4 days proved to be busy with the peak days being Saturday and Sunday.

During this time many visitors accessed the booth, interest was high in this curious little fluffy breed. We had a range of people, some lifetime Lowchen lovers and breeders, some had heard of them, but knew little about them, and some who had never heard of them!

Regardless of their knowledge, little could be done to hide the adoration that the public showed towards them, male, female and child alike, resulting in some members of the public returning several times throughout their visit to Crufts!!!"

Andy added, "All of the dogs did their owners proud and were only too happy to accept the affection and attention shown to them, showing that this breed truly is everything you could possibly want in your furry companion."

What better way to share the experience of visiting The Lowchen (Little Lion Dog) Club booth at Crufts, than through photos:

Setting up the display at Crufts takes place prior to the four day show opening. Here, panels are ready for a speedy installation. Slowly, the display takes shape. Each year, the Mansells enjoy developing fresh ideas. Often, their tiny team of volunteers joins in the fun!

Discover Dogs Lowchen volunteers remain safe, as their owners prepare the space for the onslaught of visitors. The comfort of both little lions and their families is taken into account, as the compact stall demands that every inch be accountable! A quiet moment with family is always appreciated by our companion breed.

A crowd begins to gather! If beautiful Lowchen have not caught attention and moved people in to take a look, I can guess who did! Yes, Terry Mansell certainly knows how to draw a crowd to the Lowchen/Little Lion Dog booth! He drew a group while we were visiting by announcing that there was a celebrity visiting the Lowchen. I was face down, playing with lions, with butt up to the crowd, so swirled to look. Looking at the group, I saw no flashy movie stars....and then the prankster announced that The Queen of Lowchenstein was in their midst! Oh my...Terry can get away with it, as his heart is in the right place! Mr. Mansell reserves a precious week of holiday time each year to volunteer at Crufts, representing The Lowchen (Little Lion Dogs) Club.

With a wealth of Lowchen breed experience from decades at the highest and most respected international level, Jean Mansell is always ready to answer questions regarding life with Lowchen. How many times has she been asked if the Lowchen has a coat that just naturally grows in the silhouette of a lion...??? Her charming answer is that she really wishes it were so! Mrs. Mansell adds, " Pet people ask if the dog is born with a lion trim and if the one in a puppy trim is the same breed. But the puppy trim remains the favourite for pet people ." Jean and Terry Mansell bring proud Lowchen volunteer owners to Crufts to assist, each year. This gives the public a chance to see coats of many colours and clip styles, while petting and chatting about this captivating companion breed.

The comforts of home are provided for the stars of the Lowchen exhibit. Rumble, in a pet clip, enjoyed his role as Lowchen Lion King at Discover Dogs. The Mansells make certain that both the most popular Lowchen trim, the pet clip (above) and show coat are presented to those interested in the breed.

From their red carpet platform, Sydney, Magic and Missie greet visitors. With several Lowchen in attendance, there is always a chance for some time out!

Indisputably, sharing Lowchen with others has become a passion for Terry and Jean Mansell. This seemingly tireless couple are stellar ambassadors of our favourite breed, the Lowchen.

There is no disguising that Jean Mansell has found the volunteer "job" of her dreams, introducing and sharing her favourite breed, on behalf of The Lowchen (Little Lion Dog) Club Discover Dogs booth at Crufts. Even when bone weary, she keeps on smiling! On the final day of Discover Dogs, Jean admits to feeling a bit sad, as the display is dismantled and packed away for the following year.

Our quick visit clearly culminated at the Crufts closing ceremony featuring Best in Show. Once again, we were invited to join the Hollinsclose ladies, Dawn Richardson and Zoe Ann Gibson. Although earlier in the day, they were keen competitors in the Best in Breed event, there was no doubt that both were excited, as Finland's Ilpo Ojala and "Pertti" entered the big ring to a huge crowd of spectators. As the Best in Group (Toy) entrants, Ilpo and "Pertti" brought recognition to our relatively rare breed. What a thrill it was to witness a Lowchen in this most prestigious event of the four day show!

Indeed, we made international friends at Crufts and managed to have good times with some very special Lowchen/Little Lion Dogs. Sure, it is the largest show of its kind. But! As first time visitors, we returned home with fond memories of Crufts as being the best show of its kind for Lowchen lovers who enjoy both meeting the breed and the dedicated people who serve as its representatives.

~Thanks are extended to Jean and Terry Mansell, Rowena and Stephen Beall, Andy and Richard Beech and Peter Pringle for their generosity in sharing both photos and tales.