February 18, 2023 8.00 am This story is over 14 months old

Meet Pepper: The 14-year-old dog hoping for Crufts success

“Pepper has made my life like a movie, and this feels like the final scene”

By Local Democracy Reporter

A 14-year-old dog in Sleaford has made his owner’s childhood dreams come true, by qualifying for the most prestigious dog competition in the world – Crufts.

Crufts is an international dog show celebrating all things pooches. It is an annual competition that is the largest of its kind in the world, serving as an honour to any human (or dog) that sets foot (or paw) on the green carpet.

It has been a lifelong dream for Sally Hurren, a 57-year-old veterinary receptionist in Sleaford, to enter into Crufts, having spent most of her life attending the show as a spectator – and that dream is now set to be a reality.

Sally has always had a deep affection for animals, and has worked across various veterinary practices for over 25 years now.

Sally and her three bundles of joy: Dotty (left), Pepper (middle) and Ash (right). | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

She has three dogs of her own, 14-year-old border collie/poodle cross Pepper and his two offspring, Dotty and Ash.

Pepper has been with Sally since he was a puppy, and they have developed a special bond that has seen him become a rock in the family during difficult times.

Sally is a single mother of three, and isn’t shy to let you know just how special Pepper is to her.

The adorable Pepper roaming around his garden in Sleaford. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

“Being on my own bringing up the boys by myself has been hard, but Pepper is an absolute constant through it all,” she said. “He’s already given me more than I could ever have hoped for, and now I am pinching myself that we can finally get our chance at Crufts.”

Many would suggest that 14 is too old for a dog to enter Crufts – by the human years metric he is almost 100 years old – but Sally says Pepper is still full of energy despite his age.

He earned his place at Crufts after winning a Golden Oldies award in Best Family Cross-Breed category at a dog show in Newark last year.

After impressing in Newark, Pepper is now ready for the big stage of Crufts. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Sally said: “When he won in Newark he was nearly 14 and I knew we had almost a year to wait, so we naturally worried about his age. It’s been a very long ten months and we’ve had to keep our feet on the ground.

“But I knew he wouldn’t let me down. He still charges round the beach and has all of his energy, though thankfully at Crufts he will only need to sit there and look cute – which he is very good at!”

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Sally gave us some insight into the cheeky and adorable personality of Pepper, as well as the intelligence he showed to look after his family.

“His life has always been a tennis ball”, Sally recalls. “He comes to all of my son’s youth football games and drops his tennis ball at the feet of the other parents – he just loves to play and be friendly.”

Pepper also came to the aid of Sally’s previous dog Tag, a border collie that she adopted after the RSPCA brought him into the vets she worked at.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Tag was blind, struggled walking and suffered with epilepsy, meaning he needed high-alert care at all times. Enter Pepper and the much-discussed sixth sense that dogs seem to have.

Pepper developed a way of knowing when Tag was about to enter into an epileptic fit, so he would wake Sally up in the middle of the night or nudge her when he saw it happening.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

After a lifetime of happiness, Sally is now preparing for what she feels could be the curtain call for Pepper – a final memory to cherish forever.

She concluded: “Pepper has made my life feel like a movie, and this feels like the final scene. If it weren’t for him we wouldn’t have been on all the amazing adventures we have over the years.

“We’ve been on holidays all over England, from camping in tents to sleeping at chalets, catching steam trains to sledging down snowy hills, now we get to go into the Crufts arena together.”

Pepper has an inseparable bond with his offspring. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Pepper will be one of over 20,000 dogs across the globe to take part in Crufts this year, which will be held at Birmingham’s NEC Arena between March 9-12, 2023.

Crufts, run by The Kennel Club, is a unique celebration of happy, healthy dogs and of the loving relationship that they enjoy with their owners.

Viewers can follow all the action and highlights on Channel 4 and More4, and for further information and tickets visit crufts.org.uk.

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