WHEN Garth Smith and Jumble triumphed in the ring at Crufts on Friday, it marked a big step in fulfilling a long-held promise.
Eighteen months earlier, Mr Smith's wife of 40 years, and dog show competing partner for more than 20 of those, had died of a sudden illness.
"It was my wife's ambition to own a champion and I promised her before she died that we would make sure we made one of the dogs up to champion," said Mr Smith.
"When they handed me the card [to show he had won], I nearly fell head over heels."
Jumble, a three-year-old Affenpinscher, came first in his Best in Breed contest, triumphing over prized competitors whose journey to Birmingham was much longer than Mr Smith's.
"The American lady got the reserve certificate," added Mr Smith, 66, of New Addington.
"She was very, very polite about it."
The win at the prestigious international dog show also marked a personal milestone for Mr Smith, having stepped into the limelight after wife Beryl died when she was 64.
He said: "We started showing back in the late 80s. She was the one who did all the showing and I would work them. I was [also] the chef, cook and chief chauffeur getting her to all the shows.
"You have got to know how to handle the dogs, how not to keep the lead too tight so you don't lift its feet off the ground, how to show the dog to the best of your ability to the judge."
That was not a problem in the ring on Friday, where Jumble was "on fire – no two ways about it," added Mr Smith, a retired bus engineer and blacksmith.
"I would like to think my missus was looking down at him, I would like to think that," he said. "I spoke to others and they said he was showing perfectly."
By Monday, Jumble – show name CH Kilbarchan Schwarz Edition at Jolakada – was curled up in Mr Smith's living room in Shaxton Crescent.
While his breed is often compared to the terrier in appearance and personality, individually Jumble is "an absolute scream," said Mr Smith.
"He will sit up like a meerkat and say, 'Is everybody looking at me now?,' he added.
"He puts his front paws together as if he is saying his prayers but it is not really what you are meant to do."
Mr Smith's other dogs also performed well at Crufts, including Justa, named in honour of Beryl. He explained. "She would say 'Do you want a tea or coffee' and nothing would arrive. Just as I had finished making it my wife would appear and say 'I was just-a going to do that."