Our Dogs – January 2009 Review

I always seem to be on the move when I write to you guys, and today really is no exception, currently en route to Harrogate to attend my first ever Small Animal Show – kind of a mini-Crufts.

But these judges will be awarding a few Best in Show’s to a handful of the 3000 rabbit, guinea pigs, mice and hamsters who have all travelled to this annual Yorkshire rodent extravaganza.

I’ve been invited by Burgess Pet Care and am looking forward to discovering whether these passionate small animal owners are indeed as competitive as all you pedigree dog owners out there.

This year’s animal-related activities are clearly already in full swing, but to be honest they did in fact start two days before New Year’s Eve when I made my debut on BBC One’s Breakfast News.

A short interview was filmed the week before in dog-walking paradise Battersea Park and then I was invited into the studio to discuss the highly controversial topic of puppy-farming.

To watch my BBC Breakfast News debut click here.

I know the vast majority of you reading this will be responsible breeders but after spending a good 3 days researching the subject, I’m surprised that this cruel and often barbaric way of earning a living is still allowed to take place quite freely, and even worse, seems to be becoming more widespread.

Our country’s current desperate state of credit crunch really isn’t helping matters either with exhausted bitches, nationwide and beyond, continuing to be crammed into tiny pens and cages, repeatedly mated, fed badly and not offered any preventative veterinary care or compassionate thought at all – easy money indeed for those evil enough to exploit these poor animals for quick profit. So it was great to be invited on to the BBC News and to help educate the waking public about what to look for when choosing a puppy.

And the public really does need a lot more education on this serious matter, as my last few weeks have been working as a vet (yes I do still practice occasionally!!) at Hamilton Vets down in affluent St John’s Wood, London; and witnessed the two ‘extremes of puppy’ within my first morning of consulting there.

The tiny skinny Westie with pneumonia, only eight weeks-old and needing to use every one of his wasted abdominal muscles just to breathe – a guarded prognosis already.

But what made matters predictably worse is when I asked the owner where the pup came from, the old classic ‘I rescued him from a pet shop’ came straight back, and as if seeking some form of congratulation.

Brilliant.

After being admitted straightaway into the hospital, dripped, and requiring two painful weeks of intensive care and pumped full of intravenous antibiotics, he did actually make it – but he very nearly didn’t.

On the flip-side however was the Miniature Schnauzer pup that arrived ten minutes later all bright-eyed, already primarily vaccinated and bursting with a normal healthy well-bred two-month-old’s energy levels. Her beaming owner had completed two six-hour round trips to the breeder – first to view, then to buy.

I love it when these role-model owners come bounding in with their new fluffy arrival, clutching their shiny folder of papers containing all their valuable new information on insurance, feeding plans, vaccination certificate, and whatever other puppy paraphernalia they proudly feel like thrusting in front of me.

The psychology of cute puppy-choosing is fascinating, any high street wall-calendar shop will tell you that, and in a time when rescue centres are overloaded with unwanted pets, we should all be making sure that every puppy that is bought justifies the owner’s choice and reasons not to ‘go rescue’.

As fellow doggy-lovers/influencers we must always ensure that these dogs’ needs come first and should be spreading the word about puppy farming as much as we can.

January was of course the end of an era for the iconic British Bulldog; but happily the start of a brand new much healthier one. As you’ll all be aware the Kennel Club’s radical changes to the Bulldog’s breed standards is part of their obvious continuing and proud commitment to the future health and welfare of all dogs.

Improvements include a smaller head, less facial skin-folds, longer legs and a leaner body. With time these changes will deliver less classic breed-specific problems such as difficulties in the animals’ breathing coupled with exercise and heat tolerance, which are all directly affected by an elongated soft palate, narrowed nostrils and a flattened face.

The greatest change however will simply be the reduced number of caesarian sections required to actually bring them into our world.

With their new slim-line design featuring shrunken head, bitches will simply require fewer general anaesthetics with major abdominal surgery – just to deliver them – and this can’t be bad news for the breed.

Sadly this practice is still common with Belgian Blue cattle – they are just too big to be born naturally and as a result one cow can have upto nine caesarians in her lifetime, and usually every year until they’re culled.

Many other popular breeds, like the German Shepherd and Bloodhound are also due exciting new re-vamps. So it’s all change in the Pedigree Dog World, and if Obama, the States and our human world is anything to go by, change can only mean good news for all of us two- and four-legged animals.

I also met up with the Kennel Club in January and it was widely agreed that this years Crufts will certainly prove the most interesting to attend, and I’m keen to see what effect this controversial build-up has on the actual event itself, especially ringside.

I have already started writing the official blog for the Kennel Club and will be taking a close look at the individuals, pet-businesses, dog-products, charities that bother to show up and of course the dogs themselves from now until and including the show itself.

For all of us Crufts is sometimes the only chance to hook-up and meet with our like-minded dog friends and business contacts, and I especially look forward to spending time with the dudes from Dog Theft Action, Petlog and Vets Get Scanning. Please take time to visit them all at stands 4, 6, & 8 in hall 2 to discuss all issues relating to dog theft, microchipping and scanning in the UK.

I’ll be based mainly on my ThePet.net stand which is stand 10 in hall 3. Please come and say hi, especially if you’ve got bored kids that could do with some entertaining as we’ll be showing the further adventures of Mr Weenie the dachshund in the latest animated Sony Motion Picture ‘Open Season 2’; as well as giving you – and your dog – the chance to win a four-day break in the Cotswolds courtesy of Sony.

We’ve also just launched our ThePet.net 2009 Awards in order to celebrate and share the UK’s favourite dog-friendly businesses, as rated by the public, including:

Favourite Dog Breeder (sponsored by Yumega Dog)
Favourite Groomer (sponsored by Pet Care Trust)
Favourite Dog Trainer (sponsored by Company of Animals)
Favourite Boarding Kennels (sponsored by Pooch & Mutt)
Favourite Pet Store (sponsored by Burgess Pet Care)
Favourite Vet (sponsored by www.petprescription.co.uk)
Favourite Caravan Site or Holiday Park (sponsored by Our Dogs Newspaper)
Favourite Dog-Friendly Holiday Cottage (sponsor yet to be finalized)
Favourite Dog –Friendly Pub or Restaurant (sponsor yet to be finalized)
Favourite Pet Friendly Hotel or B&B (sponsor yet to be finalized)

All categories are free to enter, as well as inviting your favourite (own?) businesses onto the site too; and to then of course vote for.

Winners will be announced at this year’s Ultimate Pet Show at the Birmingham NEC on May 4th. It’s so easy, and if you are a dog breeder for example, why not ask all your friends to vote for you too?

For more information visit www.ThePet.net where you’ll also find the a chance to win a romantic Valentine’s Day luxury break with you, your partner, your dog and your partner’s dogs too, on Saturday i4th February at the world-famous Clivedon Spa Retreat in Berkshire.

February also proves to be a very exciting month. I’ll be once again at the House of Commons with representatives of the lovely SOFA (Speaking out for Animals) group from Thorpe House School in Norwich discussing microchipping laws, and I’ll also be filming a rather interesting television programme that I’ll be able to tell you more about next month.

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