Britain’s 2012 Top Dog and 2013 Crufts Best in Show winner, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen Ch. Soletrader Peek a Boo, will be going for a walk starting on Monday next week with breeder/owner-handler Gavin Robertson along England’s Grand Union Canal to raise contributions and awareness for several dog-related charities. The planned promenade, dubbed “Jilly’s Jolly Jaunt,” will be more than a mere stroll for the man and his dog.
The pair is expected to travel approximately 140 miles on foot from the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham to the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London during a five-day walk that’s intended to raise money for several charities, including the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. Along their journey they’ll be joined by friends of both the two- and four-legged kind, including artist Amelia Siddle, and representatives of Britain’s vulnerable and high profile breeds.
Several villages along the towpath have been designated “meet and greet” areas where local dog lovers can have an audience with the reigning queen of dogdom.
In the wake of the PBGV’s spectacular show career, Gavin told Best In Show Daily that he understood they had been given a wonderful platform for promoting happy, healthy dogs. “I felt with all the publicity Jilly received after winning Crufts that we should do something with it and try to give pedigree dogs some positive publicity for a change,” says Gavin. “So [we] came up with the walk idea. I then thought that each walker taking part had to raise £100 minimum to help the cause, the children’s charity [Great Ormond Street Hospital] being the main recipient along with DogLost, a very worthy cause.”
Retirement from the show ring hasn’t slowed Jilly and Gavin one bit, and the two are well prepared for next week’s walk. “We walk five miles daily anyway, but in the last five weeks we have done a few 10- and 14-mile walks – but not a 20-mile-plus one!!! So, fingers crossed.”
Jilly’s Jolly Jaunt will be a very public demonstration on behalf of the nation’s dogs and dog breeders, and Gavin says that he and his partner are ready, come what may. “Never in my life have I done anything like this and walked for as long in a week! But I like a challenge, and it’s all for charity.”
Gavin quickly points out that he and Jilly are only part of a larger team. “The main thing is we have so much support behind the event and will be meeting new walkers every few hours which will help wear the miles down!” Plans are in place for every eventuality, including fatigue and boredom. “We have a support vehicle following to drive walkers back to their cars and give us drinks along the way. Holiday Inn has given us accommodations for each night, and we have local TV and radio [crews] covering the event.”
Social media will also be implemented throughout the walk, providing daily coverage from Monday through Friday. “We will also be doing a daily YouTube video, so people can see how the day has gone,” promises Gavin. “And Jilly will be wearing a GPS collar so people can track us each day along the walk.”
As of press time, more than 60 walkers had pledged to take part during various legs of the journey.
Gavin hopes that Jilly’s Jolly Jaunt will encourage other fanciers to become more active in their own communities. “All of us dog show people need to start looking at the bigger picture to promote pedigree dogs in a positive manner, or else governments and politicians will be dictating how our sport is governed. We need to prove to people that we all have happy, healthy dogs and that we are responsible owners and breeders. There is more to life and dogs than just winning a pretty ribbon. Our sport is changing fast these days, and we can’t sit back and watch things disappear.”
Gavin’s team has so far raised £12,300 with a target of £25,000. “We need everyone to donate, to help us achieve our target,” encourages Gavin. “Many U.S. judges, breeders and handlers have already donated, which is fantastic.”