May 2009 Round-up: Talented Pets & School Visits

‘May, she will stay’ sung the legendary songsmiths Simon and Garfunkel well-over 40 years ago now, and nothing seems to have changed – May seemed to go on for ages!

 

My month started up at the Birmingham NEC (lucky me eh?) as I was working at the inaugural Ultimate Pet Show which spanned the whole first Bank Holiday Weekend. As one of the event’s supporters I had a few duties that included giving a talk every day about how best to go about choosing a pet.

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Ultimate Pet Show giving my ‘Choosing a Pet’ talk

It goes without saying that once in my stride this turned into a bit of a rant about puppy farms vs. responsible breeders and how you should never buy a puppy from a pet shop, etc., and it still amazes me how many of my listening public still were still completely unaware of the sinister side to puppy production in the UK today.

 

 

I was also asked to help judge the Britain’s Most Talented Pet Competition and to be the ‘Simon Cowell-figure’ which, being a massive fan of his, was a joy to try and recreate.

 

I even sat in the left chair of the three (looking at the stage) in true Britain’s Got Talent fashion and began to score out of ten the mixed acts that began emerging one by one from behind the red screens. To my right I was joined by fellow judges, lovely dog-training expert Carolyn Menteith and Sunday Express Environment Editor Stuart Winter.

After close to an hour of almost-show-jumping bunnies, a video of a dancing Welsh stallion and a Dandie Dinmont who was definitely the dog who most looked like his owner (although that wasn’t the category and I was booed for sharing that observation with the audience), the winner was – yes you’ve guessed it – a Border Collie.

 

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Winner of Britain’s Most Talented Pet, Sampson with his proud owner Sarah Brady.

 

One year-old Sampson and his owner Sarah Brady (pictured), 17, from Manchester easily took the talent crown and showed a fine display of heelwork to music and owner-pet bonding. Makes me wonder sometimes who would ever win these competitions if Border Collies were ever not allowed to enter?

 

My social petworking website www.ThePet.net was given a stand at the show in exchange for my varied contributions to the show and continuing our theme of ‘Year of the Rescue Pet’ we were very proud to share it with Fat Fluffs, a local rabbit rescue based down the road from the NEC in Solihull who give unwanted rabbits a safe place to recuperate before finding them loving homes.

 

Every day they bought a new set of rescue rabbits, gave talks, chatted and stuck their own branded rabbity stickers on the passing and sadly disappointing NEC footfall. What a lovely and forward-thinking charity Fat Fluffs are, and if you are ever considering getting a rescue rabbit please contact them at www.fatfluffs.com for some excellent, friendly and expert advice.

 

 

 

 

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 A baby rabbit from Fat Fluffs Rabbit Rescue

On the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon my business partner Andy and I presented our first-ever ThePet.net Awards 2009 in which we awarded the top businesses in all the categories on the site as voted for by the British pet-owning public. For a full list of winners, who coincidentally were mostly based locally in the West Midlands, visit www.ThePet.net.

 

Remember that anyone can list, rate and comment on their dog-friendly business on the www.ThePet.net for free; or even add one that isn’t yours but you and your dog use and would like to share with and recommend to other like-minded dog-lovers.  

 

It was then off back down south to Hampden Park just outside Eastbourne where I was vetting in yet another ‘old-fashioned’ practice with no computers and the good ol’ card system. I love working in these practices and it really got me thinking…

 

Both in Teddington at Bushy Park Vets in April and here at Foreman & Hanna Vets I noticed that clients are incredibly bonded, some for over 30 years or so.

 

They pop in for chats with their dogs when passing, drop in cards and gifts to the nurses and don’t hesitate for one minute to pick up the phone and ask for advice or to arrange to come down for an appointment. As a result I don’t think I’ve ever seen populations of pets that are living longer; dogs commonly 15 and 16 years old and cats easily in their 20s.

 

Could there be such a close correlation between owners who trust their vet practice implicitly with longevity of their pets? Of course it would make complete sense when slight niggles and queries are dealt with immediately, with prevention and early treatments resulting in healthier and happier older pets.

 

Another factor that was shared by both clinics was that the nurse would always add up the bill not the vet, kind of softening any potential financial blow, with greater client knowledge and sensitivity, subconsciously (and cleverly) keeping the ‘money-factor’ detached from the vet.

 

My impression of Foreman & Hanna Vets’ attitude almost went through the roof when I heard that a couple of the nurses were due to visit the local primary school Parkland Junior School at the foot of the picturesque South Downs to talk about caring for your pet, etc., of which I just had to join them.

 

We talked about how important it is to feed your pet and brush your pet’s teeth with a demonstration on the nurse’s Jack Russell, and I even got to perform a full cardiac examination on a fluffy toy warthog (pictured)!

 

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School visit: Parkland Junior School ’Is my warthog ok?’  

 

May also delivered yet another controversial dog programme on BBC Three ‘My Weapon is a Dog’, an honest and underground look into the whole dog-as-a status-symbol and deed-not-breed attitude in North London.

 

Now a dainty Tea-cup Chihuahua dressed in a pink tutu as a fashion accessory for aspiring Paris Hilton wannabees is one thing but when gang-culture is imitated so closely with dogs that were once ‘only’ good-enough to fight eachother but must now be able to fight humans we all now have an even bigger problem on our hands.

 

Sadly, and without prejudice, most of the dogs shown in the one-hour documentary seemed to be more intelligent than their keepers and looked like they were all very capable of being responsibly trained rather than deliberately trained and abused to turn them into vicious attack dogs.

 

But in run-down desperate communities where people are both unsure and unable to look after themselves properly, their questionable values are easily conveyed down their designer thick studded leather leads to their four-legged weapons, and even more tragically via their own dogs to the ‘bait dogs’ – the smaller runts of the litter mercilessly torn apart to give these fighters a taste for blood.

 

In a way it was another pop at dogs, offering very little (if there are any?) in the way of solutions to a problem that will only make Joe Public think twice when passing a Staffie, Mastiff or any other featured breed on the street if they don’t already.

 

For these are well-organized crime rings, like puppy farms, where Police and RSPCA fear to tread. Couple that with the fact that these featured pit-bulls are being bred underground with no guidelines or regulations in this country means the situation can only get (and is getting every day) much worse.

 

It’s a tough one but like most things it’s down to education of the owner/handler and so with that I arranged a school visit to Drayton Park School in Islington to see for myself if attitudes are different to animals in North London, along way from the last week’s ‘safe’ Sussex countryside.

 

Well first of all the children at Drayton Park were much more streetwise than in any other school I’ve ever been to and I had to keep pinching myself that the conversations I was having were with 5 year-olds and not with adults. We spent the morning visiting a local inner city farm and the afternoon back at school (after school-dinners – which haven’t changed in 30 years!) chatting about how animals have feelings too and briefly touched the subject of dog-fighting which some of the pupils had heard of but weren’t sure why.

 

They were very receptive to my visit and the teachers of both reception classes had helped the pupils prepare excellent questions beforehand and even set-up makeshift veterinary surgeries in the corners of their classrooms, complete with plastic stethoscopes!

 

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School visit: Drayton Park School, London

 

I left Drayton Park genuinely thinking (as I do leaving any school for that matter) that if you plant seeds in these young brains about respect for animals and indeed themselves, preferably told by a vet or vet nurse, then the future would be a lot brighter for a lot of pets that haven’t even been born yet.

 

It would not only be a great way of local practices giving something back to their communities across the land, but there now seems to be much greater and more widespread implications for  our society of just one simple school visit.

 

Finally last month I was invited to be the ‘Celebrity’ Judge at the annual Plumpton College Groomers Charity Dog Show in aid of the Lowland Search Dogs Sussex.

 

I’m sure organizing a dry spring dog show under the roof of an indoor riding centre in this country will always guarantee a full turnout and I was most impressed with the number of dogs and owners who came from all around.

 

This show, held under Kennel Club regulations, had both Pedigree classes and Novelty classes, judged by Ronnie Tanner and Pauline Water respectively. I was invited to judge two of the Novelty classes, the Best Trick and Dog the Judge Would like to Take Home, the latter always making me think that perhaps these dogs have been brought along by their fed-up owners to abandon – imagine if I did actually leave with the winner?!

 

I also ‘helped’ Ronnie Tanner judge Best in Show which went to a stunning black Newfoundland called Bertie who was clearly absolutely adored by his young handler. 

 

I also managed to squeeze in a lovely chat with Ronnie about Boston Terriers and how they seem to be such a forward-thinking breed society with regard to DNA and health testing. Thanks Ronnie for your time, you really made my day.

 

So now for June, which according to Simon and Garfunkel’s musical calendar will ‘change her tune’, but it’s not looking very likely with yet more vetting, school visits and judging novelty dog shows across the country!

 

This Saturday 6th June I’ll be up in Norwich, home of animal action children’s club Speaking Out For Animals (SOFA) based at Thorpe House School, of which I’m proud patron. I’ll be helping to kick-off National Microchipping Month 2009 together with the Kennel Club, leading microchip manufacturers Pet-ID, and dog-rehoming supporters Vets Get Scanning and Dog Theft Action. We’ll also be joined by new Lord Mayor of Norwich Councillor Eve Collishaw and will be microchipping dogs for the discounted rate of only £10; this event will take place at the Giant Pet Store, Twickenham Road from 10am-3pm.


National Microchipping Month runs throughout June and aims to encourage and promote responsible pet ownership through microchipping as the preferred method of permanent pet identification. The campaign is run by Petlog (owned and managed by the Kennel Club), and has over 3.7m pets registered, with 40,000 new pets added to the database each month. Petlog will be running further events throughout June to promote National Microchipping month – to find out more information or to get involved visit www.nationalmicrochippingmonth.org.uk.

 

I’ll also be celebrating the start of Dog’s Trust’s National Poop Scoop Week, 22nd – 28th June, at the first of the two Paws in the Park outdoor dog shows this summer on 20th-21st June in Broadlands, Hampshire, where all dogs can enjoy a host of ‘have a go’ events, games and fun competitions, including scurries, flyball, agility, and even another ‘My Dogs Got Talent’ contest.

 

I went to Paws in the Park last year and it was awesome. The best trained and working dogs are also on show and competing in agility classes, heelwork to music competition and advanced gun dog tests. 

 

With top class arena events, trade stands and shopping mall, a huge companion dog show with Scruffts heat (which yours truly will be judging!), as well as the unique and extremely popular K9 Aqua Zone featuring Dash ‘N’ Splash. There will also be another chance to meet the Nowzad Dogs (who were at Crufts), strays rescued by a group of Royal Marines in Southern Afghanistan.

 

I’ll be on my ThePet.net Stand giving away free poo-bags and giving visitors the chance to win their very own Poopod! So why not come along if you’re in the area? For more information about Paws in the Park visit www.pawsinthepark.net.

 

Finally Tuesday 30th of June sees one of the grandest and definitely poshest social doggy gatherings of the year. Macmillan Cancer Support’s Dog Day really must be seen to be believed. Set in the beautiful grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, it never fails to attract the rich and famous, models and fashionistas.

 

This year I’ve been asked to judge the ‘Best 6 Legs’ category; yes that’s right, my very brief employment’s job description says I have to look at all the legs on show both human and canine, what a nightmare job eh?

 

My fellow judges at this ‘fabulous canine social event of the year’ include Dexter Fletcher, Tara Fitzgerald, Jason Fleming, Julian Fellows, Rob Alleyne and my ol’ mate Roger Mugford.

 

If you or your company would like to get involved with Macmillan Dog Day to help raise vital funds for Macmillan’s work with people living with cancer then why not sponsor one of the nine classes or even advertize in the programme; visit www.macmillan.org.uk for more information.

 

Well that’s all from me, have a great June and I hope to see you at some of these fantastic events. Remember you can ‘follow me’ at www.twitter.com/marcthevet 

 

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