Gallery: WISBECH ST MARY: Tonka the leonberger narrowly misses out on class success at Crufts
Story by: TOM JACKSON HE S big and very cuddly, but Tonka the leonberger was never expected to be challenging for awards in the show ring. However, the monster pooch proved everybody wrong – and narrowly missed out on winning his class at the world s larg
Story by: TOM JACKSON
HE'S big and very cuddly, but Tonka the leonberger was never expected to be challenging for awards in the show ring.
However, the monster pooch proved everybody wrong - and narrowly missed out on winning his class at the world's largest dog show, Crufts.
Nineteen-month-old Tonka came second in the post graduate dog class for leonbergers.
What makes the feat even more amazing is his owner Carol George, from Wisbech St Mary, is an amateur dog handler - it was her first year competing as a handler.
"I'm completely blown away by it all," said Mrs George. "I sobbed in the room like a baby afterwards because I couldn't believe Tonka did so well."
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But it was a long and winding trip for Mrs George and Tonka to get so far. Together, they travelled the length and width of the country - from Newmarket to Surrey and Leicestershire to Wales - to qualify for Crufts.
"I tried to qualify all year," Mrs George said. "But it took me until the last Kennel Club show before Crufts to get my place.
"Tonka came third in his class at a show in Wales, and that was enough to qualify."
Mrs George previously took part in dog obedience, but decided to move into dog handling last year.
She said: "I am coming up to 60 and thought obedience was getting too much, but I wanted to keep fit so thought I would try shows.
"My friends said I wouldn't be successful and, when I bought Tonka as a pup, the breeder said he is only a pet but would be suitable to take to shows and get experience."
Tonka is groomed at Lindainey's dog grooming parlour, based at Bamber's Leisure Centre in Wisbech, and Mrs George praised staff for their efforts.
"Everyone I spoke to at Crufts was commenting about Tonka's coat, he looked gorgeous," she said. "They really played their part.