JILLY’S Jolly Jaunt has raised a staggering £49,000. On Tuesday the proceeds were distributed to the charities earmarked to benefit from the event. Great Ormond Street Hospital received a cheque for £29,400, DogLost benefited to the tune of £17,150 and the Kennel Club Charitable Trust received £2,450.
The jaunt was the brainchild of Gavin Robertson. Just a few weeks after he and Jilly, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen Ch Soletrader Peek A Boo, won best in show at Crufts he came up with a scheme which has brought the pedigree dog world together in a quite remarkable way.
His idea to organise a sponsored walk snowballed into an event which will be remembered by the world of pedigree dogs for years to come. The 140-mile, week-long Jilly’s Jolly Jaunt from the NEC in Birmingham – scene of their Crufts triumph – to central London has exceeded expectations.
The event was put together in just six weeks and began on June 10 when Marion Spavin dropped the flag which saw the first group of walkers put their best feet forward, led by Gavin and Amelia Siddle with Jilly and Amelia’s Pointer Flo, Sh Ch Wilchrimane Ice Maiden.
They were joined at various stages by connections of 18 previous Crufts best in show winners, the group winners from this year’s show, dogs of the 14 high-profile breeds and many individual supporters including DOG WORLD’s managing director Stuart Baillie and his Border Terrier Alfie, associate editor Simon Parsons with Pembroke Corgi Rufus, and marketing and events manager Adrian Marett with another PBGV Merlin.
"Thankfully, the weather was kind during the week, and at each checkpoint Gavin and I were greeted by the next set of walkers and their four-legged friends,” Amelia said at the time.
Every high-profile breed was represented on the walk along with a representative of all the breeds on the KC’s ‘vulnerable’ list. All seven of this year’s Crufts group winners were involved as well as the handlers, owners or breeders of 18 previous Crufts BIS winners, and last year’s runner-up Top Dog to Jilly, the Toy Poodle Ch Vanitonia You’ll See, walked as well.
Ken Sinclair, Moray Armstrong, Edward Allen and many others walked five miles and Lisa Croft Elliott slightly more – even with a cast on her foot – and Melanie Spavin completed a day. Geoff Corish, Michael Coad and many others did two legs of the walk. Crufts TV presenter Clare Balding took time out from her busy schedule to walk with her dog Archie, and KC chairman Steve Dean and his Border Terrier completed five miles.
Walkers came from right across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Jersey – some leaving home in the middle of the night to join Gavin and Amelia when they set off at 8am each day.
"It was fantastic to see so many faces turn up to support us each day,” Gavin said. "The welfare of the dogs was paramount, and at the KC launch we announced that while Jilly would walk the lion’s share with Flo, we would also be taking kennelmates along to relieve them for sections of the walk, but when Jilly did miss the odd section she was not happy being left out of the limelight.”
Stuart, who with Alfie took part in the final leg of the walk through central London, said: "Charity was what this event was about, but a clear message was being sent out that pedigree dogs are fit for function – Bulldogs, Neapolitans, Mastiffs and Pekes were all walking freely and happily.
"I joined the walk at Hyde Park on what was a beautiful day. I genuinely felt privileged to be part of such a well-executed and successful event, and it was great to see the way the general public reacted to our dogs – after all, dogs are a pretty rare sight in central London.”
Simon said: "Having been lucky enough to do a stint on Jilly’s Jaunt on the final day, I think the part that impressed me most was that so many people from so many breeds had been able to get involved. Many of these were breeds which need a bit of a boost, either suffering the indignity of being on the ‘high profile’ list, or through their lack of numbers.
"The whole event seemed to catch the imagination of the entire dog-showing community – not just in the UK but in other countries as the list of donors and sponsors indicates.”
Gavin said: "Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how big and successful Jilly’s Jaunt would become. I’m the proudest person in dogs today, and so should everyone else be who contributed in some way.”
By the end of the week, it was estimated, 248,348 steps had been taken between Monday and Friday, 584 miles were walked by the dogs, 17,917 calories burnt, 11 blisters treated and six dogs found themselves in the Grand Union Canal.