1974 – First First Twice
Every animal is an individual and Flappa proved to be no exception. Whereas her mother as a youngster was very lively, into everything and just a touch scatty, Flappa was quiet, amiable and unassuming. Visitors who had not previously met the dogs would be immediately drawn to Brena, and Flappa would be practically ignored. It took time for the attractive nature of her personality to become apparent to a stranger. She didn’t force herself on you. Unless it was clear that you wanted to be friendly towards her she would go away and lie down. Laying down transpired to be a fairly central theme in her life, not because we rarely wanted to be nice to her, but because she rather enjoyed doing it.
Effort was something with which Flappa had no affinity. We used to throw sticks for her and Brena, and to start with she would compete with her mother. After a while she lost interest in chasing after the sticks because her mother was quicker than she was, but she still wanted to hold the sticks in her mouth. A slight problem you might think, from her point of view, but she resolved it fairly easily. When a stick was thrown, she would slowly trot after Brena as the latter disappeared in a cloud of dust towards the horizon. Having travelled a few yards, Flappa would sit down, wait for Brena to return tired and panting with the prize in her mouth, and simply nick it. She would return the last few yards to give up the stick to the thrower and claim the praise.
Having learned that this was a much less tiring way of achieving the objective of having a stick in one’s mouth, Flappa seemed to resolve never to chase after sticks again if other dogs were available to do it for her. It was either laziness, realism or intelligence – probably a little of all of them. I expect that gundog trainers would cringe to read this story as we had made a cardinal gundog training error – not that we had the faintest idea of that at the time.
For some reason we decided that Flappa should go to obedience classes. We didn’t have a great interest in obedience competitions, but there were classes in Hinckley, about seven miles away, and Viv decided to have a go with Flappa. Off they used to go once a week in the evening and Flappa apparently did quite well. She managed to gain a basic award and was particularly commended for the speed and reliability with which she layed down on command. Typical – if only they knew! Flappa’s excursion into the world of obedience training was our only effort in that direction.
She was a darker bitch than Brena and in the sunlight her coat had a golden sheen which we found increasingly attractive.
Flappa’s show career got off to a slow start. Viv showed her from the beginning. Whilst Flappa was well constructed, her face was her misfortune. It wasn’t ugly, but neither was it everyone’s cup of tea, and as a result she would invariably not do well under judges who placed emphasis on the shape of the head. You either liked it or you didn’t. I don’t know why, but she seemed to do well in the larger classes. Put her in a class of four or five in an Open show and she would probably come third or fourth. Put her in a class of thirty five in a Championship show and rarely would she be out of the cards.
As people in the show ring got to know her, she gained a little fan club of those who liked her type.
Flappa’s first show achievement of any significance was surrounded by trauma. It was in a Championship show and the judge placed Flappa first in her class. Having done this, it was realised that another animal placed behind her was entered in the class in error and was, in fact, ineligible for it. Everyone was called back into the ring and the judge had to make the choices again. At the time, we didn’t realise that it would have no effect on Flappa’s achievement, but might affect some of those placed behind her. Viv had a vision of success being spirited away from her outstretched hand. In the event, as I said, it made no difference and Flappa gained her first Championship first.
She must surely have been amongst a select band of show dogs which have managed to win a first first twice.
Flappa gradually became a part of the family as her mother had before her. She was a well thought-of show dog who might or might not reach the top, but would likely be there or thereabouts.