James Reed AN ENGLISH Springer Spaniel called Buster received a top dog award as the world's largest canine show opened its doors yesterday.
The Royal Army Veterinary Corps search dog appeared at the 101st Crufts dog show in Birmingham and was awarded the canine equivalent of the Victoria Cross for bravery in Iraq.
The six-year-old, who was with his handler Sgt Danny Morgan, received the PDSA Dickin Medal for "outstanding gallantry" for his work while assigned to the Duke of Wellington's Regiment in the southern town of Safwan.
Following three failed searches of a property believed to be the headquarters of extremists responsible for attacks on British forces, Buster was called in.
Within minutes he found a cache which included AK47 assault rifles, a pistol, six primed grenades, grenade fuses, ammunition, cash, drugs and literature.
The citation read: "Buster is responsible for having saved the lives of countless troops and civilians, and prevented untold misery for thousands of people should the weapons and drugs
have been used or put into circulation."
Organisers are hoping for a record 130,000 visitors to the four-day
Several new breeds – including the Azawakh, Eurasier and the Portuguese Podengo – will be among the 24,000 dogs taking part.
Crufts culminates on Sunday with the contest to find the dog judged Best-in-Show.
The event will also see dogs striving to gain awards in disciplines such as obedience, agility and flyball.
A Kennel Club spokesman said: "We are expecting more visitors than last year and the event just gets bigger and bigger.
"We take up five halls of the NEC covering about 80,000 square feet, and 963 overseas dogs will be attending from 22 different countries.
"These sort of statistics affirm Crufts as the world's largest dog show."
Some of the dogs may be lucky enough to have a Petmobil, billed as the canine equivalent of the Popemobile.
It features a machine-washable dog bed and cushion-padded walls in a ventilated frame, mounted on wheels equipped with shock absorbers.
Designer Jackie Clover said: "The Petmobil provides a totally roomy, stress-free environment which is both cosy and weatherproof.
"This means you can protect your dog or cat on cold days or if he or she is of a shy nature. On warm days the door and hard-top lid can easily be secured back in the open position so they can have a proper nose around and investigate the latest smells."