Delila, a two-year-old Spaniel mix owned by Francesca Cairns from Sheerness, Kent, has won the Scruffts Family Crossbreed of the Year title at the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, on Saturday 11 March.
Delila was one of four crossbreed finalists in the national Scruffts competition, which is exclusively supported by pet food makers James Wellbeloved. Hundreds of dogs competed in qualifying heats around the country in 2022, with 23 dogs and their owners taking part in the semi-finals, which also took place at Crufts earlier on Saturday.
Delila is an assistance dog for Francesca, who has autism and a heart condition, and is medically scent-trained to alert Francesca when her heart rate peaks or she has high anxiety. Delila also carries out day-to-day tasks, including taking clothes out of the washing machine and opening small drawers. The pair are now preparing to go to university in the autumn, where Francesca will study Animal Science.
Thrilled owner Francesca said: “I feel incredible, I don’t even have the right words – it’s all just a lot in the best way. It was just amazing for everyone to see how amazing Delila is. Seeing the crowd cheering for Delila made it even better, as everyone knew how wonderful a dog she is.
“I met Delila when she was a little puppy and she has been perfect. We work together and go to lots of Kennel Club training classes and we are now training to be an assistance dog team, and she helps me every day.”
Comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan, stars of “Rob and Romesh Vs” judged the four finalists, alongside dog judge Nicky Ackerley-Kemp and were looking for qualities such as good character, health and temperament with people and other dogs.
On choosing the winner, Romesh said: “It was an honour to judge Scruffts. An impossible task to pick a winner from so many amazing dogs and owners. It really was a lovely reminder of the impact dogs have on people’s lives, as well as a reminder that I need to properly train my dog Reggie.”
Rob added: “It was a privilege to be asked to judge Scruffts. It’s inspiring to see the positive effect that dogs and pets can have on people’s lives.”
The Scruffts Family Crossbreed of the Year competition is run by The Kennel Club, which organises Crufts, and caters exclusively for crossbreed dogs: dogs whose parents are of two different breeds, or a mixture of several breeds.
The four finalists were:
- Most Handsome Crossbreed Dog: Charlie the Jack Russell/Poodle cross, owned by eight-year-old Annie Johnson from Bagillt, Flintshire.
- Good Citizen Dog Scheme: Delila the Spaniel mix, owned by Francesca Cairns from Sheerness, Kent.
- Golden Oldie Crossbreed: Elton the mixed breed, owned by Gracie Henwood from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
- Prettiest Crossbreed Bitch: Luna the St Bernard/Pyrenean Mountain Dog, owned by Isabelle Collier from Cambridge
As well as the Scruffts Crossbreed Family Dog of the Year title, Delila received a year’s supply of healthy hypo-allergenic dog food from James Wellbeloved.
James Wellbeloved European brand manager, Sonja Hartomo said: "A very well done to Delila and Francesca on becoming Scruffts champions, such a fantastic achievement. James Wellbeloved is very proud to be exclusive supporters of this wonderful competition which celebrates the nation’s most fabulous crossbreed dogs.
“The bond between the pair was clear to see and we hope they enjoy every moment of being a Scruffts champion.”
To enter one of the 2023 heats, please visit the Crufts website to find one near you.Crufts takes place from 9-12 March 2023 at the NEC, Birmingham. For more information and results from the show, visit the Crufts website.