Sketch: Fraud at Holyrood Dog of the Year?!
Scandal has rocked the canine political world as accusations of a sham are levied at the annual Holyrood Dog of the Year competition.
The winner of the 2022 contest was German shorthaired pointer Mabel, handled ably by veteran MSP and former deputy presiding officer, Christine Grahame. She knows a things or two about keeping order.
But – bombshell – it turns out Grahame is not the dog’s owner. Mabel actually belongs to Grahame’s office manager, Emma.
“As Mr Smokey, my beloved cat, wouldn’t take kindly to a canine companion of my own, I have borrowed my office manager’s dog, the marvellous Mabel,” admitted the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP when confronted with the accusations.
Rumours first started circulating that Mabel did not belong to Grahame after the SNP MSP was seen being dragged to and fro across the Scottish Parliament Gardens. Mabel clearly had no respect for Grahame, 77, who struggled to control the hound throughout the morning.
Indeed, Grahame had only just handed the lead back to the real owner when judges called everyone over to announce the winners. Upon hearing Mabel was top dog, Grahame was heard to shout “oh no!” as it became clear she’d have to take back the excitable animal.
Getting Mabel onto the number-one podium proved no problem at all. Keeping her there, on the other hand…
“Is there any way Mabel will sit?” asked photographers as they snapped the winner and fake owner. Mabel did not want to sit, and no coaxing by Grahame would encourage her to do so. In fact, it was taking all of Grahame’s concentration and strength to prevent Mabel from simply leaping off the podium. No one dared press a squeaky toy.
First runner-up Tony, a cockapoo, looked on bemused. He had spent the morning barking at all the other dogs and would only be soothed when Pam Duncan-Glancy – his actual owner – allowed him to sit on her lap.
It turns out Tony may have simply been trying to warn the judges of fraud, as one of the few participants entered by his real owner. Much like opposition politicians everywhere, Tony soon realised barking from the sidelines gets you nowhere.
Meanwhile, the winner of the public vote, Bluesy, was entered by Mark Ruskell – but in fact the greyhound belonged to his researcher, Ioanna.
Ruskell previously won the public vote with his own greyhound Bert in 2017. But not content with one victory, the Green MSP cast around for another dog to enter. Poor Bert. Bluesy did not seem all that interested in the victory herself, initially refusing to move – or even stand up – when called over for the announcement.
The whole episode raises questions about the lack of background checks for the show. Indeed, of the 14 MSPs who took part in the competition, only half of them owned the pooches they entered.
Owen Sharp of the Dogs Trust, responding to the allegations, insisted Holyrood Dog of the Year was “not just about MSPs’ dogs but about dogs which are part of the team”.
Jeremy Balfour, sponsor of the event and one of the judges, was unbothered by such concerns. Immediately after he’d finished his job announcing the winners, he was spotted grabbing as many free pastries as he could carry.
Maree Todd’s labrador, Cooper, was put out by failing to place in the competition. He was later seen trying to pull one of the Todd bairns into the ponds outside parliament as revenge – and nearly succeeded.
Jim, Jenni Minto’s border collie, was sadly unable to participate in the obstacle course having suffered an injury to his back leg the week before. He was quite content sitting on the sidelines, unsure what to make of the spectacle in front of him.
A friendly Alfie – the Hungarian vizsla owned by Sue Webber – came sniffing up to Jim. “Is it a girl?” asked Minto. “No, a boy,” replied Webber, adding nervously, “is that ok?” “We’ll see,” came the reply. The grip on Jim’s leash was tightened.
Not perturbed, puppy Alfie took the show jumps like a champ, though Webber struggled to look as gracious. Meanwhile, mixed-breed Tómas – entered by Miles Briggs – shyly put his head in the plastic tunnel before deciding, quite rightly, the better route to the other side was to simply bound alongside it with Briggs, also bounding.
Briggs had warned before the competition that “Tómas is very much his own man/dog” and he was proving it. Worryingly, Tómas wasn’t the only mutt causing concerns about human-dog transmogrification, like a fluffier version of The Fly. “I often suspect [Mabel] may be a human stuck in a dog’s body,” Grahame’s entry form had warned. An investigation must be launched into where exactly MSPs are borrowing dogs from – family and friends, or Bartok Industries?
The group picture proved challenging as photographers tried desperately to capture the attention of all 14 excitable creatures – and the dogs they had brought along.
It all proved a bit much for Gillian Mackay’s companion, Alfie, who preferred belly rubs to posing for the photo.
“Good boy,” Mackay exclaimed as she provided treats to her furry friend. No doubt that is also how she keeps her Green colleagues in line.