A TOTAL of 210 of the UK’s 216 breeds took part in Gavin and Sara Robertson’s Pedigree Paws Unite (PPU), the mammoth charity walk across Britain which ended triumphantly at Darlington championship show last week.

  The massive fundraising drive has already produced £68,000 from walkers and supporters and another £4,000 is yet to come with possibly more besides, which means Gavin’s target of £70,000 has been easily smashed.

Adam Chappell’s Selmalda Zizi’s Journey gets a Dane’s eye view over the canal. photo Chappell

The walk succeeded in bringing the show world together to work towards common goals – raising money for charities while showing the public that there is a dog breed out there for everyone and that show dogs are fit for function.

  Hundreds of walkers – owners, breeders, judges and exhibitors – took part in PPU which started on September 12, finished six days later and comprised a series of sponsored walks totalling 160 miles, the equivalent of six marathons.

  Meeting points were arranged for each section where people could leave their vehicles and start or finish their route. Gavin wore a tracking device so people could follow him online each day, and each of the native breeds of dog took part in their home countries at the same time. All who took part were supported by a legion of voluntary helpers from the show world who provided food, drink and encouragement along the route.

  It was the largest variety of pedigree dogs to take part in a UK event and, in addition to raising money for the charities it succeeded in raising the profile of the breeds involved and educating the public on what they all have to offer.

  Gavin, his wife Sara and Phil and Dianne Reid all completed the full 160 miles while others were allotted five-mile stretches but often covered far more. Each walker was asked to raise a minimum of £150 but some have collected donations amounting to thousands.

  Quite a few of the dogs who completed their section of the walk went on to compete at Darlington – and a few on the same day. Those who did included Sam Dyer with the Pointer, the breed record holder Sh Ch Sharnphilly Juici Cuture, who walked 25 miles on Thursday and went on to win the champion stakes heat on Sunday.

  Others were Sue Breeze’s Skye Terrier Salena The Magnificent One, who was BOB; Sarah Corbett’s English Springer Spaniel Sh Ch Trimere Teresa Green who won the BCC, Louise Bermingham and the Pyrenean Ch Charibere Simply Special at Chezanna who won BOB, Fran and Emily Mitchell with the Longhaired Dachshund Ch Bronia Lotario who won BOB from veteran, group 4 and veteran group 2; Thaddeus Jhudd’s Yorkshire Terrier Mygord Duque at Queenslake – also BOB and group 4; Kim Slater with the Neapolitan Mastiff Freddo del Mastini della Rupe who was BOB and group 4; Louise Stafford’s Bichon Frisé Ch Louisianna Troublemaker who won his 17th CC; and Adam Chappell and the Great Dane Selmalda Zizi’s Journey who won her second CC.

  Adam Chappell and Glenn Robb of the Gleniren Papillons between them raised more than £5,000. Adam took S Zizi’s Journey. On Monday he said he was tired and his feet blistered but that Zizi was in fine shape.

Photo right: Fran and Emily Mitchell and Longhaired Dachshund Ch Bronia Lotario.

“We walked the entire stretch along the Lancaster canal – about 24 and a half miles – and she did extremely well, certainly proving she was fit for function,” he said. “We always walk our dogs a lot and give them freedom in the paddock so they are used to exercise. We also managed to raise a lot of money, so far about £2,800 which with Gift Aid amounts to £3,285.

  “It was a really phenomenal event and I’m very proud to have taken part in it with my Great Dane friends, colleagues and others. I was walking with about 80 other people – it was overwhelming really. And then Zizi went on to win her second CC at Darlington.”

  Glenn was celebrating his 33rd birthday on the day of his walk. He took Papillons Gleniren Stardustmaker and G For Your Eyes Only who both completed their five and a half mile stint along the canal.

  “It was a really lovely day,” he said. “I think it’s really important that people see pedigree dogs and are educated about them, so they know they’re fit for function and to help them choose a breed which suits them. One lady we passed said she’d never seen so many dogs being walked together before. 

  “I think that thanks to Travis’ (Ch G Shootin Starmaker Sunshoo) success people are becoming more aware of the breed. He has given Papillons a real platform as he was the first to be in the top ten and was Top Dog all breeds last year.

  “I think it’s amazing what Gavin and Sara have done, bringing us all together, pulling towards a common goal. My target was to raise £500 and now it’s nearer £2,000.”

  The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen Ch Soletrader Beek A Boo, ‘Jilly’, won Crufts in 2013, and on the back of this triumph Gavin organised Jilly’s Jolly Jaunt, a sponsored walk from Birmingham to London in the summer of 2013, which raised £49,000 which was split between Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, DogLost and the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. This year’s walk was also organised by the Peek A Boo Trust. 

Thaddeus Jhudd and Yorkshire Terrier Mygord Duque.

 Gavin’s aim, in addition to raising money for charity, was to promote pedigree dogs and show them in a good light, while also showcasing the lesser-known breeds. Speaking from his home the day after the walk ended, he said everyone had pulled together to make the event an overwhelming success and smash the fundraising target. 

  In the run-up to the event he admitted that organising it was a full time job, but his efforts certainly paid off as it appears everything went like clockwork. He said many people had played their part – too many to mention – but his key helpers were Heather Simper and Liz Scoates of the Clydum and Wellbarn kennel of Tibetan Spaniels.

  “They spent the last few months organising meeting points and the logistics of it all, the support and health and safety,” he said. “Apart from a miscalculation of mileage on the first day, everybody was in the right place at the right time, and if they were delayed due to traffic they simply went on to the next point.

  “Every day I expected something to go wrong, but even on the last day everyone was on time. So many took part, no matter where they were or what they were doing. One lady left her holiday to walk with us and then drove back again. People were taking days off work and members of the charities we were helping joined us every day. 

  “I think a total of 245 people walked and we could easily have had 345. From novice exhibitors right through to the most experienced – all aspects of the show world were represented.

  “One of the key things I took from the walk apart from raising money for charity and seeing everyone pull together was proving that show dogs can do two things; they don’t just sit around at home. They are fit for function. Look at Adam Chappell and his Great Dane: they walked for miles with that dog on a loose lead, just in front of him, and he never had to pull him. He just kept going.

A dog for everyone

“I’m of the firm belief that with 216 breeds there is a dog for anyone out there without people having to buy the new designer, manufactured crossbreeds which have no history of health, temperament, size and background. My other aim was to raise as much as we could in a week, the target being £70,000. Some of these charities aren’t so well known and now I know that they can each get £10,000 each, which will make a huge difference to them.”

  The Thursday of the walk was the busiest, he said.

  “We had about 50 breeds that day, and in the end only six of the UK’s breeds did not take part, which isn’t bad,” he said. “I was a bit panicky at first and wondered if I had promised too much, but to be honest, after the first two days, I realised the plan was totally achievable.

  “The last day at Darlington was brilliant and a lovely way to finish with a ten-mile walk around the showground and a lap of honour in the best in show ring, with the West Highland White Crufts BIS and Crufts RBIS Whippet joining us. Everybody has been positive about what we’ve done and they’ve been no doubters. People were saying that this is the sort of thing we need to do more of. 

Louise Stafford and the Bichon Frise Ch Louisianna Troublemaker.

  “The walk has had plenty of positive publicity and that’s what the show world needs to show we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet. It was a truly great event.”

  The money raised will be split between the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children; PACT Sheffield; Make a Wish; Ty Hafan; Dog Aid; Cinnamon Trust; and the Search and Rescue Dog Association.

  The seven walks took place in all corners of the UK – Fleam Dyke, near Cambridge; Kennet and Avon Canal, near Bath; Monmouth and Brecon Canal, near Abergavenny; Lancaster Canal, near Preston; the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, Lisburn to Jordanstown; Union Canal, near Edinburgh; and at Darlington ch show, Ripon Racecourse when the huge effort came to a close and participants took part in laps around the showground.

  Praise came from the Kennel Club too. Secretary Caroline Kisko said: “It’s wonderful to hear that PPU has raised such a super sum of money for children’s and dog charities. When Gavin Robertson and his supporters raised £49,000 in 2013 we all thought it was a huge feat, but this year they have collected an even larger amount, which just goes to prove what pedigree dog breeders, owners and judges can do when they get together on such a positive endeavour as this one. 

  “The KC sends many congratulations to all those who took part – getting all 216 recognised breeds involved was such a huge task and one which has well and truly thrown the spotlight on the diverse world of pedigree dogs and the pleasure it brings to so many people.”

Gavin has asked that funds raised during PPU are paid in within 28 days.