Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Paws for thought

Crufts winner Araki Fabulous Willy

Well, it was a first for me. Over the years I've interviewed countless newsmakers and celebrities. One of the great things about my job is that I get to meet some very high profile personalities. A few weeks ago it was Oscar winner Helen Mirren. And last week Peter Hain, the UK's Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Until today though I’d never been called upon to interview a dog, albeit a very special one.

Araki Fabulous Willy is a six-year-old Tibetan Terrier who beat 25,000 other canines to win the prestigious "Best in Show" award at the 116th annual Crufts show.

The British are potty when it comes to dogs. Nearly 150,000 of them made their way to the huge National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham for the four-day event and millions more watched the dog world's answer to the Oscars on TV.

But I have to admit that I don’t really share the passion ... at least not for show dogs. There's something about all those odd looking breeds, fluffed and manicured, flouncing around the arena with their handlers that makes me uncomfortable. Give me a real dog any day –- one that will chase sticks, play rough and tumble with the kids and isn't afraid to get wet.

Willy is a top dog. A pampered pooch who has made a career out of posing for an adoring public. He's not then the sort of dog I'd warm to. Or so I thought.

It's always refreshing to find that someone in the public eye is actually quite "normal" and down to earth. I'd presumed that "Willy," as he’s known to his friends, would be the stereotypical demanding starlet. But he's really just a regular guy.

Okay, so he didn't say very much during our live tv "chat" ... he left all the talking to his co-owner Neil Smith. But I could tell from his relaxed demeanor that he's not had his head turned by fame, is happy to go with the flow and just isn't the sort to throw a celebrity tantrum. A bit like George Clooney, really.

Okay, so he left whisps of blonde hair all over the studio which stuck to my suit (how do I explain that to Mrs F?), but I liked him. And so did everyone else in the London newsroom. I can't remember a human guest ever having so many people wanting to "shake paws." I won't, however, be attempting to acquire my own Tibetan Terrier anytime soon. The two hours daily grooming required to keep that wonderful coat in good shape would drive me mad.

Click here to watch the full interview

-- From Adrian Finighan, CNN International Anchor
Give you a 'real dog'?? We have two Dobermans, both show dogs: one is a champion, the other is just starting out.

I can assure you that they are real. Just try sneaking up to my house sometime.
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