Seve is big, boisterous and very hairy. He’s a handsome young champion and he knows it. His proud owners know it too. That’s if you accept they own him… it’s a debatable point.He runs where he wants, lounges on sofas when he feels like it, races across the lawn at will, has more squeaky things than Toys “R” Us and loves nothing better than to leap on and lick his visitors to heart’s content. If you didn’t know better, you’d suspect he had a permanent smile on his face – and a cheeky glint in his eye. But then why wouldn’t he? Seve – full name Adios de Selva Molino at Bobbington – is master of all he surveys.
Seve is a 16-month-old Catalan sheepdog and the love of Alex and David Little’s lives – or one of them. He won best of breed at Crufts last week, so he’s entitled to show off a bit. His pal Anna is adored too. She’s a six-year-old Old English Sheepdog. But Anna couldn’t have her photo taken because she hadn’t had the time to get her hair done.
Get the picture? David, 67, and Alex, 62, are potty – as only committed dog people can be potty. They don’t mind it being said. In fact, they quite like it. “Oh yes, we live for our dogs,” Alex said, accepting another big wet kiss on the face from Seve. “We ’re so proud of him. It’s practically unheard of for a 16-month-old to win Crufts Best of Breed. But he’s a pet first and foremost. Showing is secondary. “All our dogs always have been at the centre of our lives. They’re our family.”
The walls of their smart home in Capon Tree Road, Brampton are full of framed paintings – oil, watercolour and pastel works – and photographs of sheepdogs. There’s a sculpted shee pdog’s head too – cast from the face of their much-loved, late Wyllie (Champion Bobbington Latin Lover). Alex’s car bears the registration C4 PAW, David’s key ring has a sheepdog model hanging from it. David retired from his career as an architect in August last year. He realised there had to be more to life than work, so made the decision to call it a day. “I wanted to spend more time with Alex and my dogs,” he said.
They have no children but Alex is quick to avoid anyone jumping to the wrong conclusions. Her dogs aren’t compensating for lack of babies. They’re much more important than that. They are her babies. “That was the choice. A deliberate choice we both made. We love them to pieces. I have bred a little in the past and slept on the floor next to the puppies in the whelping basket in a spare bedroom for a fortnight. “Dogs love you no matter what. First thing in the morning, when your hair’s a mess and you’ve no face on; late in the evening when you’re exhausted and maybe feeling a little low, they love you – unconditionally.
“Our dogs cost us a fortune. We wouldn’t dream of trying to make money out of them. They stay with us all of their lives, whether they are being shown or not. Some people move on their dogs when their showing days are over. We simply couldn’t.” Seve, who is the family star right now, is basking in the glory of his sudden fame. He is ruling the roost and grabbing all the attention. A sweet-natured dog, ridiculously friendly and devilishly attractive, he has everything a pampered pet could ask for – his own bath with shower and non-slip mat, three walks a day, the best food – and rugs on the polished wooden floors to prevent him from slipping and hurting himself. Alex and David travelled far and wide to find him. A trip to Finland, to trawl for exactly the right new member of their family, saw them coming home disappointed and empty handed.
They wanted a Catalan – a Spanish breed – and since they have a second home in Spain on the Costa Blanca, it might have made sense to find a puppy there. “No, Spanish dogs tend not to be socialised sufficiently to be pets,” Alex said. “The culture in Spain is different. Dogs tend to live outdoors and aren’t required or expected to be house pets or be friends with people. “Catalans are wary dogs an they need to be socialised very early. There’s a narrow window for socialising any dog. If it hasn’t happened by the time they’re 18 weeks old, it’s unlikely to happen at all. “We wanted our dog to be happy, to be petted by strangers when out on walks. We needed him to be gentle with children and welcoming to visitors. ” And so it was to Germany the couple travelled to find the perfect addition to their family. Happy they had found a social, gentle, loving young pup, they drove him home to
Brampton. He was called Seve – after Seve Ballesteros – because David is partial to a round of golf in Spain. “Seve is a product of having been well socialised,” said Alex. “He thinks everybody is his pal. He has the loveliest nature.” David accepts the blame for beginning the doggie obsession that has ruled their life since shortly after they were married more than 40 years a go.
“I used to play in a pop group,” he said. “That involved me being away from home quite a bit, weekends and evenings and the odd few days. “I thought, ‘Crikey, she’ll leave me if I keep leaving her on her own’… so I bought her a sheepdog. That was it. We both fell in love with dogs and ithas been that way ever since.” And the music? “Well, let’s just say I still have the guitar. ” Alex is very well known across international dog show circuits. She was a judge at Australia’s national Millennium Show in 2000. “I carried the bags,” her husband said. “I know I’m obsessive,” she said. “People at the shows say exactly the same of me. They come up to me and call me Guru. It’s quite funny. I don’t mind at all. “I love my dogs with a passion. Doggie people are like that – they can’t help it. I dote on sheepdogs and Seve is such a sweetheart.” He drapes himself across her lap, knowing he’s being praised and relying on being indulged.
The star of the show and the man of the moment, he’s not missing out on any of the treats that go with having done exceptionally well at the world’s biggest show. T here’s that secret doggie smile again. Is he feeling smug? Could be. He stretches and lolls again against his mum on the sofa. It’s a dog’s life in Brampton – and boy, is he loving it.
By Anna Pickles