This November seemed started with slightly less of a bang than in previous years as the annual back-garden drizzly mid-week firework displays competed across garden-fences nationwide and were all then eclipsed by the big council-organized bad-boy displays on the weekend.
I don’t know if it was due to the credit crunch or just solely down to the damp weather, but the dogs in and around Brighton seemed alot happier and less-stressed than normal which was refreshing.
After morning consults on November 5th I popped along to Seaford Primary School to give my little clients-of-the-future tips on how to look after their pets and local wildlife, including hibernating hedgehogs, and of course, seagulls.
They were one of the most polite groups of kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of chatting with, and my visit was made even more special with special guest star ‘Betty Boop’ who regular readers will recall from last month’s review (pictured).
Betty Boop, the brave Italian Greyhound who sadly fractured her spine running full-speed into a metal railing that was carelessly left in a ditch she was running through, now uses a doggy wheelchair; and judging by her first school-visit ever – she is well on the way to becoming a fantastic PAT Dog.
As well as being ever-so-gentle with the kids, Betty Boop proved a great inspiration to them all as a perfect example of how dogs or people shouldn’t be judged or treated differently just because of their disability or appearance.
A couple of days later and it was from one extreme example of animals helping humans to the other as I one-again attended the moving annual Animals in War Memorial Service at the dedicated memorial on Park Lane in London.
The well-attended service which is open to anyone of any (or lack of) faith explained how animals ranging from glow-worms to pigeons, cats to dogs, horses to oxen, and even elephants have all played a major part in our freedom, and how many are still employed in warfare to this very day.
So after paying my respects, followed by a brief chat with Animal Padre James Thompson (pictured) who comes down from North Wales every year to give the service, purple poppies, and the two 2-minute silences (the first at 10.58am for the animals) it was straight back down to Brighton for a small doggy event that had ‘Brighton’ written all over it.
I’ll explain. My good friend Julie-Anne Gilburt is an artist and 18 months ago bought a black Chug (yeah a Chihuahua x Pug) puppy and named her Bella (pictured). Well unsurprisingly 18 months later Bella’s still not that big and as a result was mistaken for a Staffie pup and stolen from Brighton seafront – just outside Julie-Anne’s gallery in fact.
After two weeks of sheer panic from the Gilburt family, including frantic online Facebook and Twitter Lost Dog campaigns she received a phone call from a lady along the coast in Littlehampton who claimed to have ‘found’ Bella.
It turns out that as soon as Bella was identified as the chug that she really was and not a potential money-making/fighting machine she was basically useless so they wanted rid ASAP.
But what made this reunification so even-more special was that Bella wasn’t microchipped so the chances of her ever getting back to Julie-Anne were incredibly remote indeed.
So a ‘Welcome Home Bella’ party was clearly in order – a ‘Fizz & Chips Party’ to be precise – in which local dog-owners were invited down to the art gallery to have their dogs chipped whilst sipping from a coupe of chilled Champagne. As I said, all very ‘Brighton’!
Microchipping was only £10 and once again the lovely team from microchip-suppliers Pet-ID gave up their Sunday to support and raise awareness for the benefits of microchipping with Bella of course being the star of the show. The event was well attended with local celebrities like Chris Ellison from The Bill (pictured) popping down with their dogs for a glass of fizz and a chip too.
The following weekend it was all systems go again with the second shiniest jewel in the Kennel Club’s canine crown – Discover Dogs. And, for the first time ever, in it’s new home of Earls Court One Discover Dogs 2009 really was bigger, better and busier than ever before – and deservedly so.
With much more space for dogs and humans to stretch their various pairs of legs and mingle their way around the many happy, trading tradestands, display areas and of course the different individual breeds, Discover Dogs really is a show like no other.
This year’s highlight for me without a doubt was the arrival of the representatives of anti-puppy farming charity Pro Dogs Direct, complete with four of their rescued ‘girls’ – a Bichon, Shih Tzu, Westie and Cocker Spaniel (pictured).
I’d met the Pro Dogs Direct team only once at my Puppy Farm Awareness Day back in September, and they impressed me that day too with their 110% commitment to rescue and campaigning and that day brought rescued bitches along; and were responsible for the tear-jerking and rather poignant ‘Parade of the ex-Breeding Bitches’ in the middle of the day’s activities.
This time they were attending Discover Dogs to take part in a photocall at the Equafleece stand because Mary (who owns Equafleece) had rather generously decided to donate some doggy fleeces to ‘the girls’ to help with their rehabilitation and recovery from their horrific ordeals.
Pro Dogs Direct is such an incredible charity and I urge you all to check out their website and even donate something if you can. They rescue, re-home, foster, neuter, feed, vaccinate, supply veterinary care and generally do whatever they can for unwanted and sadly, usually ill-treated dogs.
Like most charities over the last year, their resources have been stretched beyond belief, as they are taking in a lot more dogs from various “death row” scenarios, and also lots (far too many!) puppy farm bitches that are in the most appalling condition both physically and mentally.
Pro Dogs Direct have been doing their very best to highlight the plight of the puppy farm girls, and to once and for all get this terrible trade banned. Pro Dogs have no income other than donations (which are very few and far between nowadays) to include rehoming fees and as a general rule these donations do not even cover their vet’s bills.
As you can imagine, with the rescued puppy farm girls they have never been given any medical treatment and are always in a poorly state, hence they have astronomical vet bills each month.
Medical problems Pro Dogs have recently encountered include an undetected broken leg, glass embedded in a cornea, numerous heart conditions, arthritis, mammary problems, a hernia the size of a football, most have dry eye, and almost all need dental treatment – sadly the list is endless.
Needless to say each and every puppy farm bitch has to be spayed, vaccinated, flea and worm treated – just for these basics the cost is in excess of £180 per dog.
Pro Dogs Direct are therefore in desperate need of sponsors to help carry on their incredible work; and not only do they need monetary help, but they are also looking for help with all manner of pet goodies – food, treats, bedding, medicines, harnesses, brushes, toys, etc.
So if you own any extra doggy bowls, leads, toys, or anything that can help in any way to make these ex-breeding bitches new lives even happier, please contact them today. Pro Dogs want to be able to take in and look after many more puppy farm girls.
After the Equafleece photocall the Kennel Club invited Pro Dogs Direct and their girls upto VIP for a posh lunch before they were whisked around the exhibition by pet-PR legend Anna Webb for a kind of Supermarket Sweep of doggy Christmas presents, and all for the girls – thanks Anna!
It was then back downstairs for a photocall with Shadow Home Affairs Minister for Animal Welfare Mr Andrew Rosindell MP (pictured) and a few media interviews too; all in all a very productive weekend indeed and further raising much-needed awareness.
To round the year off I’m off to Iquitos, deep in the Peruvian Amazon, to volunteer with the charity AmazonCARES.org.
I’ll be mainly neutering stray dogs to help control overpopulation, as well as treating routine health problems in pet dogs and also visiting local schools to talk with children about looking after pets.
AmazonCARES (which stands for Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety) addresses vital topics important to a healthy community environment in Peru’s remote Amazon 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.
I’ll be blogging & tweeting from Iquitos and writing a full report on my return so make sure you keep an eye on this site and www.twitter.com/marcthevet respectively.
2009 has been a very interesting year. I’ve met some more phenomenal people in the world of dogs and have become even closer with like-minded campaigners, dog-lovers, and personalities who are all keen to continue to work together to create positive change in canine welfare and to ensure the future of dogs in the UK continues to become a healthy and happy one.
And with regard to ending puppy farming, we can all play a major part in this. Through awareness, education and most-importantly teamwork, we will get there.
Thanks to all of you who’ve read this column over the year and taken time to chat to me at the various dog shows across the land.
Happy Christmas and New Year to you all, and of course your dogs, and I look forward to seeing you all again in 2010.