Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Why I forgot to cook the dinner tonight...

I started writing this and couldn't stop.
I have only just seen this great article and it's made me feel bad. I could have done much more to help Craig. I've been busy, but what he's doing makes everything I do seem trivial by comparison. Surely we can find a few minutes to read this? Open up your heart....
Before you read it, here's a few words from me on why I am prepared to beg you to help this little charity get bigger.
Please adopt it this year as your own, nurture it, care about it - because you will be making a MASSIVE difference.
Have a raffle (ask me for a prize, it's the least I can do). Anything you can do will be so appreciated.
Craig is naturally a VERY, very shy and humble person, talking to the press does not come easily.
He HATES talking about himself.
It is an indication of how really brave he is that he has forced himself to do this interview.
Craig knows he has to talk about things that are so personal, so painful to make you care enough to spread the word about this very special charity he started.
Not because he wanted a job or to create an empire or get an OBE. It wasn't a hobby, it was something he felt compelled to do.
If he doesn't tell you about why it's so important, you'd never know it was there.
He has been very quietly, thoroughly asking for help and advice from the best experts in every field - doing everything properly and carefully and progressively just putting his head down and gently, effectively making it the best it can be. And at the same time, on no tangible funding and just committed passionate volunteers like the excellent Kirsten Dillon - already quietly starting to really help people with PTSD.
No fancy PR fizz, no stunts - because Craig knows that most returning troops with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder like things to be really calm. Discreet. Reliable. Safe. Predictable.
These brave people got so badly damaged because they put their lives on the line for us - we might not agree with the conflicts, but you have to admire these heroes who risked everything. You don't see the damage when you first look. There's no obvious wound in many cases, no visible disability. Yet they have come home so altered that they are much more likely to die back home than they would ever have done on a battlefield.
PTSD kills more of our troops than any hostile enemy ever will. There are no new sparkly drugs on the horizon that will make them magically all better, no Noel Fitzpatrick of the mind able to reassemble them with a gadget. This is a very serious, complex mental illness that can kill you and others if mishandled. It's not something you want to dabble in, would you contemplate learning how to diffuse a bomb by reading a book? You really shouldn't ever underestimate the skills of the experts.
Craig's beloved dog somehow helped find the way out when he was really lost, that dog (and Combat Stress) brought him safely back to his family - made him want to live. The dog was a brilliant ingredient in helping him and others undergoing treatment - but Craig knows and appreciates that you need to tackle PTSD on all fronts. There's not quick and easy fits all solutions. You underestimate this condition at your peril. Your mistakes could cost lives, so you prepare, you plan, you work with the best experts in every field.
Craig has found a route out of the minefield he had in his mind - and he wants to be given the chance to show some of his comrades how they too could safely navigate their way out, too.
Not in a starry, idealistic, shiny, unrealistic way. Craig is not like that.
He knows the grim reality of what this devastating condition can do to a family. He has the insight only someone who has lived through this condition can bring.
He is THE man for this job.
Let him do it.
Please support him in this mission.
You might have read between the lines here, but I really, really want Craig to succeed - I will push him forward as I know he will not. I want him to be able to make some sense out of what happened to him. For him to feel thoroughly supported in what he is doing - to cheer him on and help him make a huge positive out of a ghastly negative.
Combat Stress helped Craig get better and they have helped him with starting this charity and they are working closely with him every step of the way. He has reached out and collaborated. He has asked existing charities for help every step of the way and listened to experts in every field.
He has found the best people to help him and his appreciates their expertise and that's what will make this charity great, teamwork.
And this team needs you! Because what Craig is not good at is asking for money!
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is easily reduced to a four letter abbreviation (PTSD), but another four letter word comes to mind when you realise how very hard it is to shake it and how if you underestimate it, you do so at your peril.
Please help him reach his goal. His motivation has absolutely nothing to do with sending anyone's ego on a trip, he's a real proper hero and he really needs your help. Please pass this on, join in, don't let something this special linger in the shade. Let's put the spotlight on this very reluctant hero and help him.
Thank you for reading
Beverley Cuddy, Editor Dogs Today
Here's the article in One Media....
Craig is the founder of the charity, Veterans With Dogs, which trains Assistance Dogs to increase independence and improve quality of life for British ex-servicemen and women with mental health conditions.
When was Veterans With Dogs founded and what was your initial inspiration?
I founded the charity in 2012 after witnessing the effect of Labrador, Fudge’s, presence during a six-week residential treatment programme for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, where she assumed the role of matriarch for all 16 ex-servicemen.
She gave herself her own jobs and took it upon herself to keep an eye on everyone attending treatment, and to provide a sense of comfort and relief for many of those that found the day emotionally difficult.
Seeing these behaviours led to some long conversations about the need for further development of this kind of work, to bring the positive benefits of dog ownership to a wider audience whose needs were based on mental health conditions resulting from trauma. So Fudge was my inspiration!
How many British ex-servicemen and women do you think you have helped over this time?
We have worked with over 200 veterans since then, providing various activities including workshops, residential training, open days, meet-and-greet events and educational initiatives. We’re pleased with what we’ve done so far, but we want to do so much more.
Can you tell us about one of your proudest moments?
We were delighted to receive an award from Dogs Today magazine in recognition of the work Fudge had done. But the best moments are always those times when we get to see results. When those light bulb moments happen, witnessing the tangible difference that a dog can make to someone’s well being, it is an amazing feeling.
Where do you find the dogs that you go on to train? Do you ever work with rescue dogs?
Our dogs can be sourced from anywhere – from breeders to rescue centres, provided that they are assessed as suitable for the work that is intended, and that they are of a suitable age and temperament to train and work with.
Do you match the dogs to the people or do you train the dogs when you encounter a person with a specific need?
Dogs are trained specifically for each individual, as needs are very different from person to person. The earlier we begin the process the more pronounced the results, which is why we prefer to start with puppies rather than a mature dog as a great deal depends on the bond that is developed between the two in order to cement a working partnership.
Can you tell us a bit more about your Assistance Dog programme and what it focuses on?
The programme is the first of its kind in the UK – specifically training dogs for the mental health needs of trauma resulting from military service. The dogs are trained in task-work unique to each individual and their needs. This can be from medication reminders and retrieval, grounding techniques and calming measures for panic attacks or heightened anxiety, turning lights on during nightmares, waking up the handler and motivation, guiding to a safe place, focus work to reduce hyper vigilance – the list goes on.
What are your aspirations for the future?
We wish to provide more partnerships and increase our capacity to meet the ever growing demand for our work. Longer term we are looking to establish a centre of excellence with our own facilities capable of providing even more support combining clinical professional services and animal behavioural training.
Being a non profit organisation, relying on fundraising and donations, how do people get in touch if they wish to contribute?
All donations are very gratefully received and as a small charity donations make a very big difference. People can donate or just contact us for more information or help through the website – www.veteranswithdogs.org.uk
PLEASE SHARE

Monday, 6 October 2014

Paws for reflection before jerking the knee


In France a couple of years ago a baby was tragically killed by a German Shepherd. The adult in charge was arrested for not properly supervising and the dog was taken away for assessment. How revolutionary.
During the Napoleonic Wars there was a fear of a French invasion of Britain and much public concern about the possibility of French infiltrators and spies.
In the wreckage of a French boat the fishermen of Hartlepool found a ship’s pet monkey - dressed to amuse in a military style uniform.
Unfamiliar with what the French looked like, they thought this monkey was a French spy - so they hung it.
We appear not to have progressed much since this time.
When there is a human tragedy involving a dog we routinely kill the dogs first and ask questions afterwards.
Vet and expert witness on fatal dog bites Kendal Shepherd would really like us to stop doing this.
With every tragedy we still seem to learn nothing.
Emotions take over and fill the fact void.
And there follows a witch hunt against this particular type of dog - or just dogs generally if it is a breed for which the picture desk hasn’t got a ‘good’ snarling photo.
Virtually no one seems to ever speak the uncomfortable truth that it is responsible adults that should be keeping babies safe around dogs.
That these deaths are rare, but not so unheard of for people not to know it is a possibility.
It has been reported by all news outlets that the Police said they ‘could not yet confirm the breed of dog. Experts will carry out tests early next week to determine what kind it was.’
Vet Kendal Shepherd pasted this comment on my Facebook wall almost immediately, “Sickening yet again. As for 'vets trying to identify the breed of dog' ...it's the behaviour of the dog that matters and as far as I know, this cannot be determined post-mortem. But will we ever be told what really happened? One over-whelming factor in baby/child deaths is present already = baby being cared for by a relative. But was the baby in her own home? Whose dog was it? Was the dog familiar with the child? Was the relative the primary carer of the dog? How obedient was the dog? How was it trained? Was it trained at all? How often exercised? And ultimately, how did the dog gain access to the baby? The questions go on and on. But until the questions are answered and the answers, however unpalatable, make as big headlines as the news of the baby death in the first place, we will be no further forward.”
Finding out the breed of the dog is almost as irrelevant as asking what everyone’s horoscope sign is or if they had eaten cheese recently.
If it is discovered that the dog was of the Pit Bull type, what will that prove?
I believe it shows that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was a complete failure on every level.
The Government singled out one type of dog particularly and pretty much tried to ban it to ‘protect the public’.
The Act was meant to ensure that all Pit Bulls would die out in a generation as all were to be neutered or killed. Yet we have very many more than we ever had in 1991.
Why? Because no matter what the Government said, the public still wanted to own these dogs.
If the Government couldn’t achieve even this simple measurable effect with the DDA – what use was it? How did it protect this innocent child?
And what use further legislation if the people we seek to protect are choosing (with eyes wide open to media vilification of these dogs) to live alongside them in their homes and even breed more of them?
We wouldn’t tolerate human legislation that relied purely on looks or race?
Yet every talking head, on every media outlet, is now baying for even more knee jerk legislation to further restrict these devilish dogs from tricking us into thinking that they are really children’s nannies.
In my opinion, the only way to make babies safer is for us to be a bit more French and stop hanging monkeys.
Accept the uncomfortable fact that it was probably Disney that tricked us into thinking that all dogs are pre-programmed to be child-friendly. We need a wake up call that it is responsible adults that have a duty of care to keep everyone safe in our homes – not ineffective government legislation.
And it is every dog owner that needs to be aware of what needs doing to keep babies and children safe around their dogs. Not just mums and dads.
And that is owners of all dogs.
Big, small, fluffy, ugly or cute.
There are brilliant resources that can help you make your dog and your home more child safe and coping strategies to adopt before a baby is born that changes your routines to ones that are logical even when you are tired and stressed.
How about we give this important life-saving information to GPs and antenatal classes? Teach it in school so the next generation know.
Wouldn’t that save a lot more lives than even more ineffective legislation that no one can apply and our unhealthy media obsession with canine racism?
Great advice here: http://familypaws.com and
We could always just keep hanging monkeys of course, if it makes us sleep more soundly – or muzzle them and license them.
Yes, that's obviously the answer - a national monkey license!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Filming Dog Tech for Sky News Swipe

Our review of doggie tech got picked up by Sky News show #Swipe... here's what the presenter said about her day out filming the show!



Gemma Morris presents Swipe for Sky News.

There are so many things that can go wrong when you're out filming. There's bad weather, logistical mishaps, non-compliant guests, forgetting important scripts or props, breaking things....the list goes on. So what an absolute pleasure it was to turn up in leafy Chobham for a packed morning of filming for our Sky News technology show Swipe, and have everything fall into place wonderfully.



One of our producers, Angela Barnes (seen above with Oscar!), had come up with the great idea of delving into the world of 'pet tech' for an episode of Swipe, and as I began my research for the programme, it suddenly dawned on me what a huge and constantly growing area this was. As Beverley put it so perfectly- while I interviewed her in her gorgeously spacious garden- the pet tech market is "going ballistic" right now.

There are all kinds of PAWsome tech out there including games consoles for cats and dogs, wearable trackers, harness cameras, and apps that enable you to health screen your pet's urine using an app on your iPhone!



Angela, cameraman Pete and I had a great time filming Beverley's pooches Tess, Betty and Oscar. Tess did a particularly sterling job of demonstrating a GoPro Fetch (and it's durability with a leap in the pond!), a device that lets you record video from a camera attached your dog.


The sun was shining, we didn't break anything (I hope that's right Beverley?!) and all of our guests - furry or not - were a treat to talk to. Beverley's interview turned out to be my favourite part of the show.

I've never been lucky enough to own a dog, but after this episode -  I want one! And some tech to play with too!

Thanks again Beverley.

Swipe airs on Fridays at 9.45pm and Sundays at 8.45pm on the Sky News channel. It can also be seen on Catch Up TV, SkyNews.com, the Sky News for iPad & smartphone apps, YouTubeand Apple TV.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Where's Mum? Or rather - where was my MP yesterday?

Did you ask your MP to speak up and attend yesterday's debate on puppy and kitten farming?
I know I did (still no reply from Mr Gove or his assistant....).
According to Hansard, only 54 MPs out of the 650 we elected spoke - and by the looks of this photo, everyone who was there said something as I can't see 54 people in this photo! 

And one of those MPs only said two sentences - one of which was to say that his own dogs didn't love him! 

Here is a photo of the streaming of the debate... can you spot your MP? 



At least some MPs understood that this was something of major significance - that their constituents really cared about.

Conservative Justin Tomlinson said: "Interestingly, my Facebook page with the article on the campaign attracted over 60,000 views and 534 shares, which is 10 times more than for anything I have done before."

(Isn't that a depressing revelation! Any decent post on our Facebook page gets many more views, shares and likes. How disenfranchised are we? Have we given up on our politicians?)

Why did so few MPs turn out?
While it was sweet to hear some of the MPs telling us the names of their dogs and one begging his Pugs to be judged kindly at the next Westminster Dog of the Year show, it was all rather patronising really when dogs and cats are dying and owners are suffering. 
And the van loads of underage, illegal puppies roll in unchecked from Eastern Europe -pouring into our ports and into our pet shops and on to the Internet.

A small group of MPs saying 'we really must do something and lets talk about this some more' didn't help me sleep better at nights, how about you?

A few had bothered to do some research, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party was very impressive... but maybe almost everyone else was just terrified that if they said something meaningful they may actually end up in position where they might actually have to implement something...!

A few issues ago I wrote about forming our own Puppy Party and fielding some candidates at the next election. Coming up with a proper Dogifesto that at the very least would give those MPs with an appetite for tackling the dog problems in society a clear vision of what to do. Let's do a UKIP and get a much-ignored policy higher up the political agenda so everyone wants to get involved.

If you are keen for change and would either like to stand as a candidate or to help canvas support and join the party, do email me with all your details as I fear even with a massive petition delivered to Downing Street, and this parliamentary debate, any real progress on dog issues still seems a very, very distant dream. 

Put 'Puppy Party' in the subject and email beverley@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

Listening to that debate was at times almost as excruciating as it must have been for the poor person who marked my Chemistry mock O level all those years ago. 

I confess I had done no revision as I knew I was going to be bunking off to go to Crufts.
But the teachers (who saw Crufts on the TV and had had long ago spotted I took days off sick at this time every year) had surprised me by making me sit the exam on my own the first morning I returned to school. 

I was in trouble, I had no residual interest in the subject at all so had to cram if I was ever to pass. 

Faced with a blank page I just peppered my paper with chemical sounding things. 

I just felt that several of those MPs were standing up doing just as I had... filling in the dead space by telling us anecdotes about their pets in a similar unprepared way to the way I had waffled through that exam... 

It was not good enough for my mock O level and it certainly was not good enough for the dogs (and cats) of Britain.

Here's who spoke by party:
31 Conservatives
16 Labour
3 Lib Dems
2 Labour/Co-op
1 Green
1 Plaid Cymru

Can you find your MP? Do drop them a line if not and encourage those that did turn up.


Albert Owen
(Ynys Môn)
Labour
Alec Shelbrooke
(Elmet and Rothwell)
Conservative
AlisonSeabeck
(Plymouth,MoorView)
Labour
Angela Smith
(Penistone and Stocksbridge)
Labour
Bill Wiggin
(North Herefordshire)
Conservative
Bob Stewart
(Beckenham)
Conservative
Caroline Lucas
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Green
Daniel Kawczynski
(Shrewsbury and Atcham)
Conservative
Derek Twigg
(Halton)
Labour
Dr Julian Lewis
(New Forest East)
Conservative
Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) Conservative
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
(The Cotswolds)
Conservative
Guy Opperman
(Hexham)
Conservative
Heather Wheeler
(South Derbyshire)
Conservative
Ian Lucas
(Wrexham)
Labour
Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen Conservative
Jeremy Corbyn
(Islington North)
Labour
Jim Fitzpatrick
(Poplar and Limehouse)
Labour
John McDonnell
(Hayes and Harlington)
Labour
Jonathan Edwards
(Carmarthen East and Dinefwr)
PC
Jonathan Reynolds
(Stalybridge and Hyde)
Labour/co op
Justin Tomlinson
(North Swindon
Conservative
Kerry McCarthy
(Bristol East)
Labour
Kevin Brennan
(Cardiff West)
Labour
Mark Pritchard
(The Wrekin)
Conservative
Meg Munn
(Sheffield, Heeley)
Labour/co op
Michael Fabricant
(Lichfield
Conservative
Miss Anne McIntosh
(Thirsk and Malton)
Conservative
Mr Andrew Turner
(Isle of Wight)
Conservative
Mr David Amess
(Southend West)
Conservative
Mr David Burrowes
(Enfield, Southgate)
Conservative
Mr Dominic Raab
(Esher and Walton)
Conservative
Mr Geoffrey Robinson
(Coventry North West)
Labour
Mr George Howarth
(Knowsley)
Labour
Mr Henry Bellingham
(North West Norfolk)
Conservative
Mr John Redwood
(Wokingham)
Conservative
Mrs Sharon Hodgson
(Washington and Sunderland West)
Labour
Neil Parish
(Tiverton and Honiton)
Conservative
Nicola Blackwood
(Oxford West and Abingdon)
Conservative
Oliver Colvile
(Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport)
Conservative
Pat Glass
(North West Durham)
Labour
Paul Burstow
(Sutton and Cheam)
LD
Richard Graham
(Gloucester)
Conservative
Richard Harrington
(Watford
Conservative
Robert Flello
(Stoke-on-Trent South)
Labour
Robert Neill
(Bromley and Chislehurst
Conservative
Roger Williams
(Brecon and Radnorshire)
LD
Simon Kirby
(Brighton, Kemptown)
Conservative
Sir Edward Leigh
(Gainsborough)
Conservative
Sir Roger Gale
(North Thanet)
Conservative
Stephen Lloyd
(Eastbourne
LD
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) Labour
Tim Loughton
(East Worthing and Shoreham)
Conservative
Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) Conservative

by ward:
(Beckenham)
Conservative
Bob Stewart
(Birmingham, Selly Oak) Labour Steve McCabe
(Brecon and Radnorshire)
LD
Roger Williams
(Brighton, Kemptown)
Conservative
Simon Kirby
(Brighton, Pavilion)
Green
Caroline Lucas
(Bristol East)
Labour
Kerry McCarthy
(Bromley and Chislehurst
Conservative
Robert Neill
(Cardiff West)
Labour
Kevin Brennan
(Carmarthen East and Dinefwr)
PC
Jonathan Edwards
(Coventry North West)
Labour
Mr Geoffrey Robinson
(East Worthing and Shoreham)
Conservative
Tim Loughton
(Eastbourne
LD
Stephen Lloyd
(Elmet and Rothwell)
Conservative
Alec Shelbrooke
(Enfield, Southgate)
Conservative
Mr David Burrowes
(Esher and Walton)
Conservative
Mr Dominic Raab
(Gainsborough)
Conservative
Sir Edward Leigh
(Gloucester)
Conservative
Richard Graham
(Halton)
Labour
Derek Twigg
(Hayes and Harlington)
Labour
John McDonnell
(Hendon) Conservative Dr Matthew Offord
(Hexham)
Conservative
Guy Opperman
(Isle of Wight)
Conservative
Mr Andrew Turner
(Islington North)
Labour
Jeremy Corbyn
(Knowsley)
Labour
Mr George Howarth
(Lichfield
Conservative
Michael Fabricant
(New Forest East)
Conservative
Dr Julian Lewis
(North Herefordshire)
Conservative
Bill Wiggin
(North Swindon
Conservative
Justin Tomlinson
(North Thanet)
Conservative
Sir Roger Gale
(North West Durham)
Labour
Pat Glass
(North West Norfolk)
Conservative
Mr Henry Bellingham
(Oxford West and Abingdon)
Conservative
Nicola Blackwood
(Penistone and Stocksbridge)
Labour
Angela Smith
(Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport)
Conservative
Oliver Colvile
(Plymouth,MoorView)
Labour
AlisonSeabeck
(Poplar and Limehouse)
Labour
Jim Fitzpatrick
(Richmond Park) Conservative Zac Goldsmith
(Rossendale and Darwen Conservative Jake Berry
(Sheffield, Heeley)
Labour/co op
Meg Munn
(Shrewsbury and Atcham)
Conservative
Daniel Kawczynski
(South Derbyshire)
Conservative
Heather Wheeler
(Southend West)
Conservative
Mr David Amess
(Stalybridge and Hyde)
Labour/co op
Jonathan Reynolds
(Stoke-on-Trent South)
Labour
Robert Flello
(Sutton and Cheam)
LD
Paul Burstow
(The Cotswolds)
Conservative
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
(The Wrekin)
Conservative
Mark Pritchard
(Thirsk and Malton)
Conservative
Miss Anne McIntosh
(Tiverton and Honiton)
Conservative
Neil Parish
(Washington and Sunderland West)
Labour
Mrs Sharon Hodgson
(Watford
Conservative
Richard Harrington
(Wokingham)
Conservative
Mr John Redwood
(Wrexham)
Labour
Ian Lucas
(Ynys Môn)
Labour
Albert Owen

Have a read of the transcript here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/chan32.pdf (page 23 onwards).