x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dogs have their day in Dubai

A report from the 24th Dubai Pet Show, which welcomed the city's canine chums, their eager owners and close to 35,000 fans.

Participants during the pet show at the Sevens grounds in Dubai on Friday. Photos by Satish Kumar / The National
Participants during the pet show at the Sevens grounds in Dubai on Friday. Photos by Satish Kumar / The National

"As it is getting quite hot, we do advise that competitors remove clothes," merrily announced one of the judges on the speakers. "But it is OK to leave on a hat or bandanna."

Unfortunately, few were taking heed of the advice. Under the midday sun on Friday at the Dubai Sevens Stadium, most of the entries strutting their stuff around the main ring were sporting some degree of attire, from colourful tutu dresses to Victorian bonnets. One, a diminutive chap, was risking it all with a pair of daring jeans, T-shirt, baseball cap and sunglasses. And it wasn't even the fancy dress competition.

It's probably important to stress at this point that it wasn't actual people who were being encouraged to strip, but dogs. The chap in jeans and T-shirt was a little Yorkshire terrier. And yes, the jeans did have a little hole in them for his waggly tail.

They say every dog has his day and that day for Dubai's four-legged faithful companions was Friday. The Dubai Pet Show - now into its 24th year - welcomed the city's canine chums, their owners, and Arts & Life journalists on more unusual assignments through its doors for a day of competitions, displays, pooper-scoopers and trying not to trip over thousands of leashes.

They descended (usually via the back seat of a four-wheel drive) in their thousands, and in all shapes and sizes. There were tiny chihuahuas you could lose in a sandwich, gigantic Great Danes you'd struggle to squeeze into a shipping container, obedient poodles with their fluffy white hair groomed seemingly as if they'd just stepped out of a bubble bath, and huskies doing their hypnotic "look into my piercing blue eyes" routine.

As is the nature of pet ownership, most dogs were of the cute "lookadisliddleface" variety, but there were several who weren't so instantly cuddlable. "Yes, it is a pit bull. And yes, he is friendly," was the statement on the T-shirt of one owner clearly sick of answering the same question over and over again. Just to underline the affable nature of his pooch - which was indeed a ferocious-looking pit bull - it was wearing a cheery muzzle.

Over in the Agility Ring, the UAE Police gave several demonstrations as to why you should always want a specially trained Alsatian on your side. While they might not have been wearing little police outfits (Alsatians are surely too serious for dressing up?), they did manage to disarm gun-toting bad guys, sniff out explosives hidden in boxes and leap into moving cars driven by those pesky ne'er-do-wells. A suggestion for next year might be for police dogs to help sniff out lost car keys.

Fancy tricks may be indeed impressive, but most cameras were pointed towards the fancy dresses, which came together for competition having sat through the slightly more sober rounds regarding handling and crossbreeds. And up they came, a veritable kaleidoscope of ridiculousness. A pug in a marching band outfit (including hat). A chihuahua in a flamenco dress. A cocker spaniel dressed as a burger (complete with owners as fries). Pirates, princesses, mermaids, eye patches, school ties, glasses; they were all there, and almost all with headgear that was in danger of falling off.

This competition was followed by the fiercely competitive "Best Waggy Tail" prize and the "Cutest Rescue", the latter not - as some at first believed - involving a Jack Russell in a fireman's uniform saving a child from a burning building (it was actually the cutest rescue dog).

Unfortunately, amid the colour, doggy cuddles and loud "awwwws", there was a moment of tragedy, when an American Staffordshire terrier attacked and killed a poodle. "We are greatly saddened at the loss of the family's pet dog and extend our sympathy to them all," said the event organisers, who claimed both dogs had been on leashes at the time.

The day may have ended badly for a couple of owners, but for the majority of the 35,000 or so there, together with their waggly tailed friends (including pugs, whose tails don't really waggle so much), it was a canine carnival (OK, so there were some cats there, but they were mainly in cages and not up for doing tricks), and the chance to see the work of local pet charities such as K9 Friends.

Curiously, the venue hosts another annual event festooned in fancy dress - the Rugby Sevens tournament held each December. One guest suggested that, given the behaviour of some of the rugby fans, the stadium might want to keep the free plastic bags available on each corner to "clean up after your pets".

aritman@thenational.ae

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