Disabled dogs show their heartache appeal

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The arenas of the dog show world have long reverberated with discreet cries of "heel" and "walkies". Soon, it seems, they will be filled with cries of "wheelies" and special access ramps.

Just as it seemed the political correctness bandwagon could roll no further, it emerges that the Kennel Club has approved a new class - for disabled dogs.

Diabetic dobermanns and spaniels who have lost their spring can finally match up to more able-bodied canines at a Kennel-Club approved show in Eastbourne next weekend.

"We're looking for dogs with diabetes, breathing problems and blindness, along with some of the more obvious afflictions such as missing limbs," said Jeanie Thompson, the show's organiser and a breeder of whippets. She added that there was "no limit" to the extent of the disability, and that they were hoping for a "good cross-section".

And no dog will be turned away. The class will even include opportunities for the pedically-challenged "canine carters" - "Amputees with cart wheels attached to their rears," Ms Thompson explained.

The organisers expect next Sunday's event to attract owners who have to date been unable to show off their disadvantaged pets.

Just to ensure that the dogs will not feel inferior to their able-bodied cousins, the "exemption" dog show will be presided over by a former Cruft's judge, Bob Brampton.

"The disability class is a great idea and will give the dogs a chance to take part in the fun and games that they would normally miss out on," he said.

And the judging criteria will involve more than looks.

"I will be taking a lot of things into account for the judging," said Mr Brampton. "including heartache appeal - how much I am moved by the dog's disability and how it copes with it."