Country dog show at Church Knowle is howling success

Every dog had its day at the Margaret Green Country Show, where dog show classes, training sessions, exhibitions, fund raising stalls and trade stands – and unexpectedly good weather – made it an event to remember.

Marquees for the annual show at Church Knowle near Swanage in Dorset on Sunday 6th August 2023, had been set up in advance of the big day, only to be blown away by unseasonal summer storms and there were real concerns about the weather forecast.


Hundreds of visitors and their amazing dogs made the show a delight on a sunny day

Heartwarming stories at the reunion tent

Fortunately, a break in the bad conditions on Sunday even saw the sun come out as hundreds of supporters of the animal rescue and rehoming charity brought their beloved family pets along for a fun filled day out.

Margaret Green Animal Rescue manager Lucy Hooper said:

“We care for over 1,200 animals each year across three centres. Church Knowle is also a visitor centre open seven days a week and home to the charity’s head office, but once a year we also host the Country Dog Show and always get such a wonderful response to it.

“We had set up the marquees for the show earlier in the week, but they blew away in the storms, so we had to set everything up again on Sunday morning and fortunately have had much better weather for the event itself!

“We usually raise about £13,000 for our work through the show, so we are delighted we have had such a good response and that so many people have come along with their dogs.

“One lovely addition this year is our reunion tent, where we have invited anyone who has taken a Margaret Green rescue dog over the years to visit us and tell us what a difference their rescue dog has made to their family – we have had some very heartwarming stories to share!”

Jack was the winner of the golden oldie award for boys, pictured with Tara

“An absolute softy and a joy to cuddle!”

Dog show classes through the day included prizes for the dogs with the waggiest tails, the best rescue dogs, dogs the judges would most like to take home, golden oldies, most appealing eyes, most fabulous fella, most gorgeous girl and more.

Their stories were often heartwarming, such as Jack’s, whose owner Tara from Weymouth who rescued him when he was just a year old, despite having hip and elbow dysplasia and being given a limited life expectancy by vets.

Tara said:

“He is now 10 years old and as you can see, he is smashing it! He’s also had a journey with cancer, losing half his jaw, but he is an absolute softy and a joy to cuddle!”

Les Small and Luna – winner of the golden oldies award for girls – with wife Deborah and Guinness

Guinness sensed a tumour in Les

Golden oldie in the girls’ section was won by Luna, who was at the show with her owners Les and Deborah Small of Lytchett Matravers along with their other dog Guinness – who has a remarkable talent of his own.

Les had suffered with severe headaches and noticed that Guinness would sit and stare at his head, a behavioural trait which wasn’t repeated for anyone else.

As the headaches got worse, he had them checked out and was found to have a pituitary tumour which both he and Deborah are certain that Guinness had picked up on.

Marley, winner of the most appealing eyes award, with owner Nicky from Swanage

“What amazing abilities dogs have”

Deborah said:

“We know that some dogs can be trained to detect cancers because of their incredible sense of smell, as tumours are thought to have a distinct smell which is released in breath or sweat, but Guinness has a natural ability.

“Les has been treated for his and the tumour has shrunk, though it will be there for life and we will rely on medication to keep it under control, but it does show what amazing abilities dogs have if only we listen to them.”

One star of the show on Sunday was Jeff, the Dorset Police explosives detection dog who made a special friend of US President Joe Biden at a G7 summit meeting in Cornwall

PC Sue Hillier with Jeff, explosive detector dog and friend of President Joe Biden!

Jeff searched Westminster Abbey before funeral

Handler PC Sue Hiller said:

“Jeff was gifted to us by Margaret Green after his owner moved abroad and left him with his elderly parents, who couldn’t cope with Jeff as he is just such an active dog.

“Margaret Green saw the potential in him straight away and got in touch with us, which is how Jeff ended up going on a 19 week course to learn everything about searching out explosives and has since worked with us on several high profile events.

“He helped to search Westminster Abbey the day before the Queen’s funeral, has been to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, at Poundbury when King Charles went to visit and at Newquay airport when VIPs arrived for the G7 summit.

Dorset Police dog handlers put on a display of canine skills at the show

“We got lovely gifts from the White House”

PC Sue Hillier added:

“President Biden had just finished a media conference when his secret service staff walked up to us and asked if the President could have his photo taken with Jeff as he is such a dog lover.

“I was expecting to go too, but they just wanted Jeff, although afterwards we both got lovely gifts of a Canine Marine One challenge coin from the White House, which we are very proud of!”

After a display of police dog skills in one of the two show rings at Church Knowle, PC Sue Hillier presented a surprise certificate of appreciation to Margaret Green staff Jenny Allen and Helen Ellsmore in recognition of the charity’s exceptional dedication and support of the police.

Jenny Allen and Helen Ellsmore from Margaret Green with their certificate from Dorset Police

“Your dedication is truly outstanding”

Dorset Police chief constable Amanda Pearson sent a message of thanks to the charity saying:

“Throughout the last few years, Margaret Green animal rescue has gone above and beyond in Supporting Dorset Police with dogs that have been seized during welfare offence investigations and assisting to rehome dogs who cannot cope with their living environments.

“You all work extremely hard in maintaining the very complex level of care that these dogs often require and ensure that their needs are met with such care, compassion, integrity and professionalism.

“Every member of your team should feel proud of their involvement, no matter how small – your dedication is truly outstanding.”

Best rescue dog in the girls’ section, Caramia, with Andy McMillan of Henstridge

Hamish – the dog judges most wanted to take home – with Melissa of Bournemouth

Alice and Jason of Poole with Betty, placed second in the girls’ section of dog the judges most wanted to take home

Seventh charity shop planned for Wareham

The Margaret Green animal rescue centre at Church Knowle was set up in 1965, three years after Margaret’s father Jerry had set up his own foundation as a dog charity and sanctuary in Lincolnshire.

Shortly afterwards, he was made aware that pit ponies coming to the end of their working lives were being slaughtered, but as the terms of his foundation were to help dogs only, Margaret looked to Church Knowle as a centre for horses, cats and other animals as well.

Today the centre covers 35 acres and cares for horses, donkeys, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks.

The charity also has a rescue and rehoming centre for dogs at Lincoln Farm near Bere Regis in Dorset, and a centre for cats and dogs near Tavistock in Devon.

There are also six charity shops in Dorset, including one in Swanage, with a seventh planned to open in Wareham in autumn 2023.

An obstacle course for dogs also tested the jumping skills of their owners

Most dogs took the easiest route down the hay bale jumping course …


… But one or two got the right idea, even if it meant taking their owner with them


In the heat of the afternoon, dogs cooled down in a ball pool with a difference

Further information

  • Learn more about the work of Margaret Green Animal Rescue on its website

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