A dog show veteran has told how the support of canine-lovers helped her get over cancer and the suicide of her husband.
Linda Richardson, 65, has been to ten championship dog shows up and down the country with Irish Setters Thai and Mahli in the last year.
Naughty, fun-loving Thai, two-and-a-half, came second in his ‘post-graduate class’ - meaning he has qualified to enter the elite Crufts championship next year.
Linda, of Broadfield, said: “The people I know through the dog world got me through everything. They offered to look after the dogs because they were worried I wouldn’t be able to walk them. They all came to the funeral.
“It was very hard. My husband had a mental breakdown but we didn’t expect him to turn to suicide. He left a big hole but the people have been fantastic.”
Linda made the trip to Birmingham at the weekend despite a nasty fall in Tilgate Forest on Thursday (March 7) which knocked her unconscious and injured her back.
She fell head-over-heels down a bank onto a tree stump in pre-dawn pitch darkness and came around firmly holding her lead and with a friend’s dog licking her face.
Friend Claire helped her up but Linda was too preoccupied with Crufts to go to hospital.
She said: “It could have happened further into the woods and if Claire hadn’t been there I don’t know what would have happened. My son told me ‘you’re too old to be out there in the dark’. It was pretty bad. It’s absolute agony and I was on some pretty strong pain-killers at Crufts. But it’s the first time I’ve fallen in 40 years.”
Thefts have left Linda and friends worried about their prized pets. She said: “They are priceless. They’re not my babies but I suppose they’re my furry babies. God forbid if anyone tried to hurt them or steal them, I think I would end up in a mental institution.”
Entering competitions for more than 35 years Linda was forced to leave her job at Eaton & Ferguson vets after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
She said: “They say it’s the silent killer. I still go for checkups but I’ve been in remission ever since.”
Also a retired dog groomer Linda believes young Thai, full name Kirkavagh Hernando Fh CM, has a great future due to his pedigree.
His grandfather Kohdi, who died in September 2012 aged twelve-and-a-half, was a show champion and had 13 challenge certificates.
Linda said: “Thai is young and doing really well but I think his granddad has been my most successful. I hope Thai becomes a show champion too. Now he’s two-and-a-half he’s up with the big boys.
“It’s very competitive but I really enjoy it and you always bring the best dog home!”