OK so I genuinely don’t think there’s been a month quite like July 2009. Talk about an emotional, physical and exhausting rollercoaster from start to finish…
It all started on a most-definite high as I was a ‘celeb’ judge at this years’ prestigious Macmillan Dog Day where the most-chic of Chelsea’s fashionista canines and owners came out to strut their stuff and say “Daaarling” a lot under a blazing sun, and all for a great cause – The Macmillan Cancer Trust – a wonderful charity that helps to alleviate the suffering of terminal cancer sufferers via the work of amazing nurses, doctors and palliative care. Macmillan is now famous for this annual dog day which helps to raise much needed funds and help bring joy where there is often sadness.
As a big self-confessed fan of both ladies and dogs, I was in 7th heaven when invited to judge the ‘Best Six Legs’ category and found myself suddenly immersed in a sea of Chanel sunglasses, Manolo heels and glamorous pooches, struggling to think straight alongside friend and fellow leg-and-dog-expert Dr Roger Mugford.
The contest was made even more interesting when a competing 3-legged dog entered the ring, and was eventually won by the lovely fully six-legged Diana and her black Labrador ‘Banker’ (pictured)!
‘Best Six Legs’ Diana and Banker, and I at Macmillan Dog Day (see I do have other clothes!!)
Dog-loving celebs present on this incredibly hot summer’s day included Felicity Kendall, Trinny Woodall, Dexter Fletcher, Bruce Fogle and wildlife presenter Anneka Svenska; with over an incredible £28K raised from all the various dog classes as well as face painting, bouncy castle, dog paraphernalia, etc.
For more information on The Macmillan Trust, please visit www.macmillan.org.uk
It was then off back ‘down south’ to do a week’s vetting at Foreman & Hanna Vets in Hailsham, East Sussex, where my case of the week was undoubtedly Harvey the Border Collie. Whilst out on a regular walk, Harvey must’ve run onto a piece of glass or flint and lacerated just behind his left carpus (or wrist for those of you less anatomically aware).
Luckily the accident happened a short distance from the surgery because when Harvey arrived with very conscientious owners applying pressure to a makeshift dressing, there was blood everywhere. Ever since I stopped working emergency shifts at my night clinic, I sometimes miss my regular emergencies but this case really made up for it and thanks to the phenomenal anticipation of my every move by my nurse Julie, we managed to apply a tourniquet, adrenaline-soaked swabs and tie-off all three spurting arteries before neatly stitching Harvey up.
The following weekend I was back in the show ring up in Princes Risborough judging and helping to raise money for Claire Guest’s ground-breaking charity Cancer and Biodetection Dogs; another great day out underneath an impressive feathered aerial display from representatives of Buckinghamshire’s gliding and swooping Red Kites (as in the actual birds!)
Best in Show was awarded to a super-timid rescue Springer spaniel cross (pictured) who’d been so badly abused but still managed to gently raise a paw and say hello. Really stole my heart and made the toughest decision of the day just that little bit easier.
Best in Show at Princes Risborough Cancer & Biodetection Dog Show
My second week of vetting back in Hailsham was about to become one of my most interesting ever when I was contacted by a representative from anti-puppy farming campaign group Puppy Love, and asked if I would examine a Bichon Frise breeding bitch rescued only 24 hours earlier from a puppy farm in Wales.
Obviously I jumped at the chance so the following morning I met little Dolly (pictured) and heard all about the amazing undercover operation that Puppy Love had organized with Channel Five to get her out and at the same time film some priceless undercover footage to show the world what’s going on 24/7 behind closed doors in these places.
As predicted Dolly was in a very bad way; suffering conjunctivitis in both eyes, dental and gum problems, complete with a huge well-healed Caesarian scar surrounded by enlarged teats -red and swollen with a painful and likely untreated mastitis (mammary gland infection).
Dolly and I at her initial examination.
After prescribing treatment for all Dolly’s ailments I recommended she was spayed and had a dental at the earliest and safest opportunity which was carried out a week later and filmed by Channel Five News; the exact same cameraman who’d a week ago filmed the secret footage which many of you can see on Tuesday evening’s Channel 5 News at 5pm & 7pm (August 4th).
This was followed up by an interview and my observations on their undercover filming efforts too – in which I witnessed bitches with huge mammary tumours, corneal ulcers, severe behavioural problems; all allowed to suffer in the darkness with their food bowls full of faeces and their water bowls empty.
Dolly is definitely one of the lucky ones. She has been successfully re-homed via Bichon Rescue and is now living on the South Coast, but this whole episode made me even more determined to educate the public and make them aware of what’s happening on the sinister side of our British dog breeding industry.
So I’m thrilled to tell you that my social petworking site www.thepet.net ‘World’s Biggest Puppy Party’ on Puppy Farm Awareness Day in Brighton, Saturday 19th September is really gaining momentum now, with a lot of media and dog-loving personalities confirmed (including Our Dogs!), all enthusiastic about finally being a part of something fun to help end this non-stop demand for farmed pups.
If you’d like to come along (and I really hope as many of you do make the effort), book a stand or even just spread the word on breed society/rescue shelter/pet forums, websites or newsletters then please visit www.thepet.net. If you are a responsible dog breeder then you can all of course add your business details to www.thepet.net for free so new-puppy buyers can read recommendations from your own customers and contact you rather than any other source.
My vision on the 19th September is to get a photo of a ‘Sea of Puppies’ which I hope will then be on every newspaper’s front page the next day, accompanied by the message ‘Don’t Buy Puppies From Pet Shops/Websites because… etc’.
My then faltering faith in humans-who-breed-dogs was thankfully well and truly restored the following week when I was vetting at Beechwood Vets in Seaford, East Sussex, and had the great pleasure of meeting a newly appointed KC Accredited Breeder Mrs Margaret Hatley and her 5 American Cocker pups.
Margaret’s love for her dogs (as I’m sure the vast majority of breeders out there) was a joy to witness first hand and the quality and health of her shiny black well-bred stock totally made my week and brought home once again the work we all must do by working together to achieve greater welfare standards for all our dogs nationwide – I’m convinced we can really do this one.
The next Saturday I was on-call answering the public’s questions as the Kennel Club’s veterinary advisor at the ‘Best of British’ dog show in the least likely (but perfectly named) venue for a dog show, London’s Isle of Dogs. Surrounded by the City’s handful of clinically reflective skyscrapers, the small show ring on West India Quay was well-attended with the particular highlight being the parade of the British endangered breeds accompanied by their owners in traditional costume (pictured).
Best of British Festival (left to right) Chris Page with Clumbers, Dave Southwell with Norwich Terrier, me and one Dandie Dinmont and John Charlton with the other. (Photo: Victoria Brown, The Kennel Club)
This unique gathering of rare-breeds which included Dandie Dinmonts, Norwich and Norfolk Terriers, Clumber Spaniels, and English Toy Terriers was cleverly put together to celebrate 150 years of dog showing in Britain; and proved a great way for the general public to have-a-go at showing and also to meet and ask questions about pedigree breeds – all accompanied by the velvet tones of ring commentator Mr Bill Lambert.
My last two weeks of vetting in July were spent back at Bushy Park Vets in the now Ring-necked Parakeet paradise of tropical Teddington. Since I worked here in Easter my eyes and ears are much more open and aware of the whole puppy farming issue and I realized I was in fact working only a mile-and-a-half from the notorious sick puppy-selling pet shop ‘Petsville’, just along the river in Kingston-upon-Thames.
So I went along to Petsville one morning with a pre-prepared list of questions pretending to be a first-time puppy buyer. I was taken enthusiastically to the rear of the shop where low-and- behold were cages of pups including Shih Tzu’s, Cavalier King Charles’, and a Boxer and a Siberian Husky slumped in their cages way beyond the ‘Do Not Cross’ chain.
I quizzed the shop assistant about the mothers being absent, and was there a possibility that these puppies were a result of something I’d heard of called ‘Doggy Farming’ (clever eh?) and I was amazed by how convincing they were at telling me what he thought a prospective buyer would like to hear.
For example, he explained that “Normally in order to buy a decent healthy well-bred pedigree puppy, you would have to travel across the length of the whole country so we’ve just made it easier for you by bringing them here – which is of course why mum’s not with them”.
After careful probing I was eventually told that these pups (who couldn’t have been more that 8 weeks old at a push – I was told they were 11 weeks) were bred in Ireland but the exact details of the breeders were unknown, just the breeder’s initials?!
The puppies themselves looked unsurprisingly depressed and unsocialized and it was clear that any member of public setting eyes on them would blatantly feel the need to ‘rescue them’ which is tragically nearly always the case. In full view of the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames Council’s pet shop licence proudly pinned on the wall were also ferrets, birds and a sad lonesome kitten in a tiny cage, with not one of its own pet shop home’s thousands of fun and colourful cat toys to play with.
The start of a long list of breeds for sale at Petsville Pet Shop, Kingston-upon-Thames.
A thoroughly depressing place and just one of over 700 pet shops in the UK granted a licence to sell pups – keeping the puppy farming industry ticking over nicely with the resultant reputation and health of our dog-breeding world suffering on so many levels – it’s so shocking.
The month did finish on a high however as I judged at Paws in the Park in Cheltenham last weekend with Victor Nairn (who runs Cheltenham Animal Shelter); which was possibly one of the friendliest, most well-attended and best organized dog shows I’ve ever been to; complete with goat (yes goat) demonstrations, pony rides, heelwork to music demos and of course the novelty fun dog show.
Best in Show 20-year-old Freddie with owners Chloe & Emily Unwin-Lamb and I at Paws in the Park Cheltenham (Photo: Clive Evans)
Best in Show was won by a 20-year-old Jack Russell Terrier called Frankie (pictured) who was dearly loved and cared for by his owners and thoroughly deserved his big bag of doggy goodies. I think what struck me most about Paws in the Park Cheltenham, was the number of children that were so confident around their (and other owners’) dogs, and how well looked after all the dogs were – I don’t even think I saw one overweight pooch and there were hundreds.
What a month eh? So looking forward to August I’m hoping to make it down to the Bournemouth Championship Show this Sunday and also planning to check out this years’ Kennel Club’s International Agility Festival taking place next weekend, 14-16th August, at their new venue, Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire, chosen to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of visitors.
I’ve never actually been to a proper agility festival before so I thought I’d try this one as I’ve heard that it never fails to attract thousands of competitors from throughout the UK and across the world – this year expecting some 2,500 dogs of all types, sizes and experience levels amounting to over 18,000 class entries over all three days of the festival.
A particular attraction of this prestigious annual knees (and elbows) up is that it is open to any dog, as long as it is registered on one of the Kennel Club’s registers – Breed or Activity – making it the only world-class agility competition to be open to pedigrees, rescue dogs and crossbreeds alike. Everyone gets a chance to compete, and for the best there is the opportunity of securing a place at Crufts 2010.
I am also planning a couple of working holidays in the latter half of this year too. Firstly I’m incredibly privileged to have been invited by the Toby Project in October, a charity mobile neutering clinic based in New York City’s notoriously dangerous Bronx district who’s mission is to end the killing of tens of thousands of adoptable dogs and cats each year in New York City’s municipal animal shelters by preventing the births of unwanted dogs and cats.
Secondly, I’ll be volunteering with another neutering clinic in December based in– wait for it – the Peruvian Amazon – with Amazon Cares who work tirelessly to address vital topics important to a healthy community environment in this remote Amazonian region. These topics include animal welfare, human health, domestic violence prevention, humane education, conservation, environmental issues, respect for wildlife in their natural habitat, safety, responsible pet ownership and assisted animal therapy.
Since volunteering in post-tsunami Thailand in 2004 I’m a firm believer (and almost a preacher!) that animals have the power to bring some communities together, and better still, both New York and the Amazon have special places in my heart so it’s an absolute double-dream to return to both places and actually give something back.
So see you next month and don’t forget, you can follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/marcthevet.