Saturday, 29 September 2007

Dog Lady responds....

A few days ago I wrote to the internet doggie agony aunt about Oscar's unwanted garden relocation service. Her reply follows and I love the idea of having a foyer in our home. Perhaps that is what we need - an extra decontamination area - where Oscar can be searched for dead animals etc!

Dear Beverley,
Thank you so much for writing to "Ask Dog Lady." The simple answer is this: Oscars filth is fantastic. Dog Lady loves to see dogs getting down -- as it were -- to revel in the muck and mayhem they love so dearly. They are dogs. They are not porcelain figurines and they must be allowed to wallow with the best of them -- in this case, doggie friend Tess.
The more complex answer? Oscar, the garden weasle, can be helped to shed less filth and create more harmony in your home if you monitor his play dates with Tess. He doesn't have roll in the mud every day. You can control his activity, of course, by keeping him on a leash, walking him vigorously so he enjoys the sniff time he craves, and stopping him before he gets down and dirty. And after he's been a pristine little angel for a day or two, allow Oscar his mud time. You might keep some doggy Wet-Naps -- available at larger pet supply stores or through catalogues on line -- to wipe him down outside or in the foyer before he shakes off the dead frogs, nettles and bits of bushes on hubby.
Hope this helps. Best to you and Oscar, Dog Lady

I don't think Dog Lady can have met many Beardies like Oscar. His coat texture could be patented by Vileda as it would make a much better mop than they've ever managed!
I know the breed standard says weather proof and all that, and at skin level he's warm and dry so it kind of is, but that almost white fluffy stuff that he's encased in could have sucked up all the water in our recent office flood! And should any fleas dare to try to navigate their way around him they'd die of fright at the other things already lurking in there...
And Wet-Naps hmmm...... is Dog Lady having a little joke with us Brits? Isn't that something normally associated with adolescent boys?

Friday, 28 September 2007

A Dog about Town

Julie Hill host of DogCast Radio has very speedily read the book I sent her! Here's her review... I wonder how long it will take me to get through it! There just doesn't seem to be a spare minute between the alarm going off and my head hitting the pillow at night.

"I have just read Jonathan Englert’s novel A Dog about Town – and I may be the only person in the UK lucky enough to say this, as the book in not for sale here – yet. If and when it is offered to the British public, I suspect they will love it.

"The book is written in first person – or rather first dog – because Randolph the Labrador is the narrator. If I was set the task of writing a mystery novel with a dog as the main character I suspect I would struggle, yet Englert makes it seem easy. According to J.F., the character of the doggy detective came to him fully formed, and the first five pages flowed freely.

"Jonathon Englert shares his life with a Ladrador – Ruby – and it shows in his writing. Here is a man who has considered life from a canine point of view thoroughly. As Randolph shares his opinions on differing types of dogs - from Squat-and-droppers to Foliage-Finders (which is your dog?) - to the nuances of scents, to his reading preferences, somehow it rings true. Dog lovers, particularly Lab owners, will enjoy the novel.

"Randolph is certainly a one-off, and not like any Labrador you are likely to meet in real life, but he is an appealing hero. We see other characters through his eyes and nose, and a new dimension is added to amateur sleuthing. The relationship between the two males – Randolph the dog, and Harry the master - is unconventional but endearing. Randolph’s attempts to comfort his grieving master are recognisable to those of us who share our lives with a four legged best friend.

"Randolph is also a Manhattan dog; definitely at home in the city. The poshest of New York boroughs makes a brilliant backdrop for the action; who knows what dangers lurk amongst its freezing streets? Although one or two references will go over the head of the average British reader (well mine anyway!) most readers will be sufficiently familiar with New York, whether from holiday visits, television or movies, to conjure a mental image of the scenes described.

"In his blog (I did say this is a dog like no other) Randoplph asserts that A Dog about Town includes but is not limited to a mystery, a romance, a tragedy, a comedy, a tragico-comedy, as well as an anthropological and animal behaviourist study of Manhattan, and he does not over-sell it that much. Like most busy mums, I have to work to find time to read, and yet I gladly found it for this book. During the irritating interruptions such as cooking tea, I found myself mulling over the characters and story, and itching to get back to them.

"The only problem is that Randolph is so much better read than me – so right now I’m off to the library to request some books……one of which will be the next Bull Moose Dog Run Mystery starring Randolph and Harry, due out from Dell next year. Can’t wait!"

Thanks Julie, great review!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Your mission should you choose to accept it is...

Now I get asked all sorts of weird stuff, and as I'm at home today with a child snuffling I'm not placed to do them all.
We've already discovered that through this blog we can achieve great things.
But can we also look stuff up?
There will be prizes for those who come up with nuggety facts... how good are you at Googling?
Here's what I've been asked to discover ...
"We would like to pinpoint things like when dogs were first used for guide dogs, police dogs, 1st dog in space, change from working to domestic dog, first dog clothes shop etc? First doggie swimming pool? First skateboarding dog? First sniffer dog? First Hearing Dog? First Pet Passport."
Plus I guess they'd like any other milestones in dog history - first dog in Downing Street for eg?
Be very grateful for any facts you can uncover - dates and details really would be superb! Consumable doggie gifts for the best ones and/or free magazines for those further flung who can't be sent food.
Hope you can help! Deadline looming......!

It's a beautiful day

This blog is indeed read by pet food moguls!
I got this lovely email late last night...
Give me a shout I'm happy to help, as a fellow women, being a dog lover, owning a petfood company ( and having not had a salary myself for one year I understand to some degree her money worries!!!)
Wow! And when I clicked on to Liz's website I began to realise that Harry was going to be a very, very lucky Tibetan Terrier!
Liz has launched OrganiPets. And over the next few emails I got the full story...
"Our dog Raffy was diagnosed with terminal cancer five years ago and given 3-6 months, we wanted her to have a good rest of her life and as we eat organically it made sense to swap her to organic as well. Couldn’t find anything that I considered to be good enough (meat derivatives and soya filled formulas which I knew weren’t good) so I made my own. Although an old girl, Raffy has been in remission for nearly four years now. So far I've had four independent nutritionists saying it’s the best formula they have come across. Which I'm so pleased about, because although this is now a business we truly only want to make proper food!"
Now as if finding one really lovely pet food mogul via the blog wasn't enough, the lovely folk on the Labradoodle forum had contacted Burns Nutrition, too.
And they have been really sweet and have given us a wonderful back-up offer should this original one fall through for any reason! Bless them!
Not all good news today though - my little boy's off school sick so I'm not able to go to work to get the contact details for Caroline to give her the great news.
Perhaps if I wrap him up really warm I could do it - but don't you just know with my luck I'd run into the head teacher or the infamous Mrs X!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Food for thought

When I got a letter in from a worker at a housing project telling me a very sad story, I thought I was going to be able to help. It didn't sound that difficult...
The letter told me about Caroline, a lady who had fled terrible domestic violence with just her clothes and her beloved dog - a Tibetan Terrier.
She had been very depressed as she'd been living a nightmare, but now she was very depressed and homeless.
Caroline spent some considerable time on the streets - but the worker in the housing project said everyone had been amazed by how well Caroline had cared for her dog and how much the dog meant to her. So much so that the project had decided to change their policy and allow Caroline to have a place with her dog - a test case to maybe make the halfway house available to other homeless dog owners.
There was only one problem. To stay in the project Caroline has to pay a chunky service charge (elec/gas etc) and she's only getting £59 a week income support. It leaves precious little for food for Caroline never mind her dog.
The very sympathetic project worker asked, "Is there any way we can help Caroline get her dog fed while she's getting back on her feet and hopefully getting a job?"
I'd have thought it was easy, that it would just take one call - call me naive! How much can it cost to feed a Tibetan Terrier?
But so far, my begging to one or two of the smaller pet food companies have returned a big fat zero response. They think I'm asking them to advertise!!!
Anyone got any contacts in pet food companies who would like some really lovely publicity in exchange for a little bit of food?
Any other ideas?
My back up idea is just to buy the food myself and send it to her - now I've told the care worker I'd sort it out, I feel obliged. (I got the letter as I'm Chairman of Tailwaggers - but in reality I've probably got more money than they do - the poor old charity is strapped for cash.)
It could take Caroline 18 months before she's ready to leave the project, she's getting counselling and lots of help - and apparently if times are hard the dog eats and Caroline doesn't. You just know those two mean the world to one another and when her life's back on track everything will be fine.
Wonder who reads this blog? Any kindly pet food moguls by any chance?

Ask the Dog Lady...

Julie from DogCast Radio (the Internet radio station for dog lovers) just told me about the Dog Lady, an Internet Agony Aunt. I've just asked her what to do about Oscar and his coat of many disgusting things (see earlier blog about the dead frog). I'll let you know what she says!
Wonder if she could help me with anything else...?
I'm having one of those days were if you can mess something up, you do. On a mercy dash to the shops everything possible went wrong and I forgot one of the most vital things I set out to buy. I picked the wrong queue in the supermarket (behind an old lady who had lost her credit card), got beeped by a dangerous driver in the car park, even though he nearly hit me - not the other way around! And the lift was broken and I had to walk up at least 10 flights with heavy bags full of stuff. But I did remember to order my stepson's birthday cake - only to realise afterwards I got the year wrong on the icing (I know, I'm the wicked stepmother for not getting that right - how embarrassing!) It was probably because I was distracted, because I knew my car park ticket had just run out thanks to the time-consuming drama at the check out! Then when I phoned to change the cake the M&S call centre in Liverpool had computer problems.... grrrrrr.
And then when I went to school to do the pick up it was a lovely sunny day - until it bucketed down at 3.25pm as the children emerged. After the sprint to the car I did something really, really dumb!
I put my son in the front passenger seat out of the rain, while I jumped in the back to check his bags to make sure he'd not forgotten anything vital before we drove away. As the door clicked shut in the wind I remembered about the child proof locks!
How much fun did I have climbing through to the front seats wearing my soaking wet floor length winter coat.
Relax, have a cup of peppermint tea - take two M&S jaffa cakes and blog. Everything will be okay. If you say it often enough, it will be!
If I was the Dog Lady agony aunt I'm sure jaffa cakes would feature a lot in my advice.

Mallorca zoo update

Just got an email back from the Born Free Foundation. For those new to the blog, when I was on holiday with the family in Mallorca we stumbled across a dreadful place - part safari park/part zoo and part circus and I had felt moved to report it to someone. (Click here to read the original post.)
Apparently Safari Zoo is one of the 'Top 10 most complained about animal attractions' in the world! Pity they don't put that on their marketing literature!
Born Free suggested, "if you have the time, we think it would be very beneficial for you to write a polite letter of concern to the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of St. James, making clear the feelings you experienced. I have included the relevant address for you below. If you booked your holiday through a tour operator, you can also write a letter to them stating your distress and concern.

His Excellency Senor Don Carlos Miranda, Count of Casa Miranda
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Spanish Embassy
39, Chesham Place

The Born Free Foundation would be very grateful to obtain copies of any replies you may receive following your letter."

The email goes on to tell of some action in the pipeline:

"It’s clear from the amount of reports we receive about animals in Spain that it is a huge cause for concern. Joining forces with colleagues at Spanish animal welfare organisations, to form InfoZoos (Born Free, ANDA & Depana), we have investigated conditions in zoos throughout different regions on the mainland and compared these to the requirements of the EU Directive on zoos. This law was introduced a few years ago to ensure higher standards in welfare and conservation. Spain should have complied with these standards by October 2004. Our research, however, has revealed this is far from the case – the law has not been implemented, and conditions in many zoos fall below the minimum requirements. These zoos should be shut down and the animals re-homed.

"This evidence was sent to the European Commission, together with information collected from the Regional Governments confirming the true number of zoos in Spain is actually not known, in the hope that Spain would be taken to European Court of Justice for non-compliance. In March 2007, we received the fantastic news that the European Commission has filed an infraction procedure against Spain for not complying with the requirements of the European Zoos Directive.

"Spain only has a short time to respond to the legal challenge and provide detail as to how the Spanish Government will ensure that all zoos in the country will meet the standards by a deadline that expires in just two and a half years. If they fail to respond, Spain will face further legal proceedings. Hopefully this will lead to improvements in the lives of all zoo animals in Spain."

So it seems it's always worth having a moan, as Sarah at Born Free says, "These zoos should be shut down and the animals re-homed." Couldn't happen sooner for me, I still can see those poor animals sad faces if I close my eyes.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Another good book!

Just when you think it's unusual to hear from one American author, a second email pings into my inbox! This time from Melisa Wells who has just published a book that I think is going to be a huge help to doggie families at a very difficult time.

Here's an extract from her email:
"I was at the local bookstore the other night, looking at the dog magazine titles just to make sure that, in promoting my book, I try to reach everyone. I found Dogs Today and was thrilled to find out that it's a UK magazine. I went to the website this morning to find contact information for the editor (you!) so that I could figure out who to send a copy of my book to...and the magazine site led me to your blog which, ironically, currently spotlights your post about American author Jonathan Englert.
"How strange that another American author looked for you TODAY, right? Anyway, my book is newly published (as of 9/11) and I am planning on--as soon as I get my "truckload" of copies--sending one across the Atlantic to you, even though I have just discovered that I am apparently a "copycat". I assure you, I have no connection whatsoever to Jonathan Englert!
"During the difficult time after our Beagle Bijoux died in April 2003, I was unable to find a book on pet loss that our family could share. That summer, I wrote a book on the subject–geared towards families with young children–after it occurred to me that writing our story would be therapeutic while also helping other families going through the same thing.
"As of last week, my book "Remembering Ruby: For Families Living Beyond the Loss of a Pet" was officially published!
"The story, told from my son's point of view, is accompanied by black and white photographs. Because losing a pet is often the first time that children have to cope with death, I thought it important to include suggestions on helping children grieve in their own way, which you’ll find at the back of the book in the "Guide for Parents” section.
"Speaking with many people about the process of publishing my book during the past year has reinforced my belief that “Remembering Ruby” fills a void in an often overlooked subject matter, and I hope that our family's story can help comfort other families that are dealing with the sadness of losing a pet."
Sounds a great idea to me - and delighted to hear you can pick up a copy of the mag so easily in the US - sometimes people can't find it that easily in the UK! I remember the first time I saw it on sale in New York - I nearly fainted!
I'm target market for this book. My poor son has had to cope with a lot of death already even at just six. He's only got one grandparent left - two out of the four dying since he was born - one being my mum who helped me so much with him when he was a baby. (Couldn't get anyone to do maternity cover and ended up not being able to take any time off and just working at home when he was sleeping - even had meetings around my bed in hospital! Mum was amazing, couldn't have coped without her.) Cleo, the Beardie who was around when my son was learning to walk died suddenly and then all his stick insects died in swift succession. He's now somewhat fatalistic!
Sounds like "Remembering Ruby" will be well read here.

Melisa has written a blog about getting published.
Isn't the world getting smaller!Link

Must love dogs

This blog is inspired by a comment on Graham's blog (regulars will remember that Graham gave up work to nurse his dog Prince, who was battling cancer). Graham was saying on his latest post how much he was dreading going back to work.
I mentioned that sometimes doing what you love is worth taking a lower wage and that the last 17 years had just flown by for me!
(I've done 'proper' jobs in the past where even though you're paid a brilliant hourly rate - the time just drags.)
Anyway, we've just paid to put an ad in the local paper and then I thought - why not use the blog to see if there's anyone out there who would enjoy working on a dog mag as much as I do?
We're looking for a new member of staff. It's an admin/editorial assistant - and that's big on the admin, but it's what gets the magazine out every month.
Ideally we want someone who will enjoy talking to the readers when they phone up, be a team player, be conscientious and meticulous (so no one ever misses their mag due to a typing error!) and basically just mucks in, has a real pride in their work and really cares about what we do. We're based in Chobham in Surrey. We're an increasingly small crew in the office (so many of us have opted for home working that we are now scattered far and wide) and need one more person to man the office and be there for the postman!
This is a full time position. If it sounds of interest or if you know someone it may suit then please pass the word on!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Black and white and read all over - but not here!

Jonathan with his real dog Ruby

I love getting parcels. On Saturday I had an interesting one all the way from New York. Enclosed were some copies of "A Dog About Town" a new novel you can't buy here. It's a detective story with a twist. The central character is a Labrador called Randolph who has taught himself to read using the newspapers intended to house train him. He's kept his intellect a secret from the people around him, but when his owner Imogen disappears Randolph decides to help hapless boyfriend Harry solve the mystery.
I've read a few chapters - which with my hectic schedule means this book is quite a page turner. (I haven't read a book all the way through for six years - other working mum's will probably empathise... no long baths in that time either, these are the real sacrifices we make to repopulate the planet.)
Through reading this blog, Jonathan Englert the author of the books had figured out I like to stick up for the underdog, and its seems Randolph could be seen as just that. The book is selling very well in the States - getting great reviews. Randolph is obviously very much an Anglophile - yet the publishers are doing the next editions in Italy, Germany and Japan. Britain doesn't seem to figure in their plans and that troubles Jonathan as I expect he's a bit of an Anglophile, too!
So are we really still considered a nation of dog lovers? Or is it that we're no longer a nation of book readers?
Would you buy this book if it was on sale?
I have one copy to give away to anyone who might read it relatively quickly and then tell me what they think of it!
Jonathan is digging out an email address of who to complain to so that Randolph can get his passport and come to England. As soon as I have it I'll let you know.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

A coat of many cullers?

Oscar, my beautiful Beardie, is very high maintenance. He is eighteen months old now and fully grown. His enormous fluffy pale cream puppy coat is slowly being replaced by a darker grown up jacket. But even if I do say so myself, he is drop dead gorgeous by anyone's standards. He is a big gentle lion with the softest eyes and an impressive turn of speed.
Luckily for me Anita Bax, former International Dog Groomer of the Year, rather handily lives just around the corner. So every two weeks he goes in to her home-based hi-tech salon at 9am and she beavers away sometimes to 6.30pm to restore him to gorgeousness. One day in fourteen he looks like a stuffed toy, well for a good half an hour of it at least. People who don't even like dogs want to pat him in that brief window. The rest of the time only immediate family members can stand the muddy paws and the stinky beard.
I could probably stop him getting filthy by stopping him mixing with Tess, our madcap Springer Spaniel. But life would be very dull if we did that. The two have such adventures together. But I have to say, much of what they get up to is not witnessed and we can only piece it together from the forensic evidence.
Anita recalled her assistant complaining when she got stung by a nettle secreted in Oscar's undercarriage. "That's nothing," she retorted. "I found a dead frog in his coat last time!"
A dead frog! In a dog? Is this a first? It was for Anita.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

When do you stop being scared of teachers?

Yesterday I felt like a kid again. But not in a good way.
My little boy has started at a posh new school. The first week was disastrous - they lost him, he nearly missed lunch. When he did find lunch he only ate potato claiming that was all they ever put on his plate.
He kept smiling though, while those around him cried. I was an emotional wreck, but he seemed to be coping with change and a truly eccentric school uniform. He did really well in all his lessons and his homework. And, huge sigh of relief, he started to make friends.
Then yesterday, I go to pick him up and he greets me with a big hug. "I love this school Mummy," he said beaming.
I asked how he did in his spelling test - no response. I hunt in his bag - no test book. I suggest I should ask his teacher. He grabs my arm and says "no!" vigorously - which makes me much more keen to ask the teacher.
Let me describe her. Imagine Mrs Thatcher's more assertive sister, wearing glasses, Dustin Hoffman's voice in Tootsie (and his wardrobe). Add in a touch of menace. I'll call her Mrs X for fear of reprisals.
Mrs X had already frightened the pants off me in the parent's information evening. "If Henrietta won't do her homework, just write a note in her homework diary and I'll take care of it. She won't ever give you any trouble again, believe me."
Mrs X went on to describe,"her wiggerly, waggerly finger that can get very itchy". Behind her on the board were a scribbled list of children - some were "stars" others were ominously "spots". My son's new best friends were all in the blemished department of course.
Anyway, yesterday I bravely asked Mrs X about the missing spelling test while my lovely angelic six-year-old attempted elongating my cardigan sleeve and getting it to stretch to the car.
She appeared sinisterly backlit now I relive my humiliation - I was having flashbacks all night.
"We're changing the timetable, so no spellings today. But it was a very, very bad day today wasn't it?"
I could have sworn her rodent-like eyes glinted as if enhanced by the same CGI people who did the scary titles for Marco on Hell's Kitchen.
I'll cut to the chase. My son had been looking up girl's skirts, pulling their hair and playing a very rough version of Star Wars with his new mates.
And Mrs X said, "His behaviour is not up to an acceptable standard."
Guilt and parenthood have always been best mates.
All those hours blogging about Poodles. All those years doing dog magazines. I've raised a hooligan. I might as well have been out binge drinking!
I felt my bottom lip going, my son however was nonchalant and seemed totally unaffected by Mrs X's menacing stare.
I know, he's six. He's a boy. But I still felt like I'd raised a Kray twin at that point.
The other morning my recidivist son said to me as he was cleaning his teeth, "When you were little mummy, did you want to save the world?"
Before I could answer, he said, "What happened?"
Makes it all worthwhile somehow!

Monday, 17 September 2007

Freedom - sort of...

Today the Two Poodle Martyr case came to court. It was promptly adjourned, at the request of the defence. But there is some very good news just in from Jill. I quote from her email just received...
"Well, they are home!! Totally fantastic!!"
Prior to the hearing Jill and Peter had a visit at home from a police dog handler who had spent some time with the dogs in kennels and he'd checked out their repaired fence etc. He spoke up at the hearing and said the Poodles weren't dangerous and shouldn't be held any longer. Which led to the dogs being let out on bail.
Jill continues..."They have set bail conditions - not allowed out of the garden, and on walks they must be kept on leads, but hey ho - I think we can cope with that. They are home!
"Can't describe how it feels to have the whole family back together. Sorry, to be so swift, but we are going to take them for a walk - on leads! They are really filthy, their coats are very greasy, and really need some attention, but who cares, they are HOME!!!
"Peter is still being charged - so we still have that hanging over us.
"The Magistrate wasn't very nice, and as Peter said, he felt like a murderer, rapist, you name it. She said that she wanted to proceed quickly, but we can't because of our solicitor not being available, and not having been granted legal aid yet - because Peter's accountant is still on holiday!
"It is so good having our girls home!"
I'm sure we're all delighted to hear this news, but why did it take all this time for sense to prevail? Think how much tax payer's money has already been wasted keeping these two family pets locked up.
We're still working on the wording for the petition. The Prime Minister's office rejected our first one, so its back to the drawing board.

Friday, 14 September 2007

It's been a while!

Sorry there's been no blogs for a while. My son just started a new school and to be honest I think it was more stressful for me than him! All that being new and not knowing the rules. His teacher is terrifying - she has a wiggly waggly finger that she uses on the naughty children. She frightens the life out of me - never mind the poor six years olds.
Normal service will be resumed shortly!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Research shows 9 out of 10 researchers are a waste of space!

I've done a couple of radio interviews today on the story about the new research that shows the startling news that birds are frightened of dogs - click here to see the BBC version of the story.
I have to say the scientist who convinced someone to fund this research must be one hell of a salesman.
Could I get a research grant to discover if mice are frightened of cats? Or to see if bears poo in the woods? Or to discover if the pope is a catholic?
With all the worries about climate change, don't you think these scientists could find something a little more worthy to occupy their time?
Dogs have been being walked by people for arguably up to 100,000 years.
The fall in the numbers of sparrows in recent years can hardly be attributed to birds suddenly becoming much more scared of dogs! For a start there's far fewer dogs now than 20 years ago and thanks to loony anti-dog feelings these poor remaining dogs have hardly got anywhere left to walk in any case!
Anyone fancy researching how pointless the last year has been for these silly scientists?
Dog lovers are usually animal lovers. If we are told to keep our dogs on lead - or to avoid a conservation area we will. But this sort of research gives pseudo statistics for anti-dog bodies to use to make it more and more difficult to own a dog.
If only more of the population would get off the sofa and take some exercise!
Isn't it time someone funded research to show how much poorer our lives would be without dogs in it?

Can you help Tailwaggers?

Tailwaggers Trust is an ancient, tiny charity that does a huge amount of good. It is often the only charity to provide significant help when a pet owner gets into crisis. Every case is assessed individually by a human being - no hiding behind guidelines, or fax machines like the big boys - or only talking via a vet. Our charity takes time to look at every case on its merits and tries to help keep pets and their owners together through financial problems, divorce - you name it.
Sadly - even though the charity does vital work - it is struggling to survive. Each year it pays out many thousands of pounds more than it raises and inevitably that can't go on for much longer!
I became Chairman a while ago and we are trying to raise funds so it can keep going. You just wouldn't believe some of the harrowing cases we deal with, it breaks my heart to think that no one will be around in the future to help these very desperate and deserving people and pets.
This month we have launched the Miles for Smiles campaign - a fund-raising sponsored walk. It is primarily aimed at junior and infant schools and allows the school to keep 25% of everything they raise. But if you'd like to do a sponsored walk to help benefit your dog club or organisation - the forms would work just as well.
Please take a look at the Tailwaggers website - there's a special page on Miles for Smiles and if you can raise us some funds that would really be wonderful!
Email direct if you want to do a walk and if you have kids at school please encourage your headteacher to take part.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Any more tales of injustice?

I've just been speaking to a nice researcher called Carla who is working on a new TV documentary. I said I'd post her appeal for more stories of doggie injustice... please help her if you can. They will hopefully be following the case of the Two poodle Martyrs.

"Raw TV are making a one-hour documentary about dogs and the law. We are interested in talking to anyone who has dogs that have been affected by any current legislation.
"This film will chart the process of law as we follow cases through to court, and will give an insight into how it can affect the owners and families of these dogs as they wait for the outcome of the trial.
"We are keen to speak to people whose dog is under threat (for example because of it's type) or it's behaviour. We are particularly interested in hearing from people who think their pet is no threat to the public, and are worried for their dog's future.
"If you have found yourself in a situation like this, or know someone who has, please get in touch with me: Carla on 0207 284 6880 or email
Many thanks

Do cc me on your replies to Carla as we are always keen to help.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

The Two Poodle Martyrs charged... the madness continues

Jill has emailed me the latest on the Two Poodle martyrs.

“Peter has now returned from Crawley Police Station, and has been charged, and I quote 'On 1st June 2007 at Warninglid, in the county of Sussex, where the owner of a dog which worried livestock, namely sheep, on agricultural land situation at The Grange, Warninglid Lane. Contrary to section 1 (1) and (6) of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953'.
“Peter is due in court on 17th September, and the Bulldog has advised to get the hearing postponed
“We are still not allowed the girls home, as they are evidence. What evidence, I say again, and why not? What good is it doing? Having read the latest free handout by the Sussex police, under the heading 'Best Use of Resources', they state that their current estimates are that they could have shortfall of up to £10 million over the next couple of years. I think we can all guess that perhaps they are not utilising their resources properly, but who am I to say? Having caught the end of that really disturbing documentary about fighting dogs the other night, I think that their pennies would be better spent on trying to prosecute those offenders. Mind you, after having watched a bit of it, I would rather subject the dogs’ owners to the punishment that they inflict on their dogs. That would be justice. Sorry, but I really can’t stand the thought of those poor dogs suffering.
“We had, individually, got our hopes that the girls may be coming home, Peter even cleared out the back of the tip that he calls a car!
“The only thing is that you have to think - 'Bring it on!' In a way, at least we have some idea where we are going now. Sorry, but I am trying to sound positive, and upbeat. I just wish that the girls were here; we all miss them so much.”

If you are unfamiliar with the story so far here’s a catch-up that takes you up to just before Peter was charged…. an online petition is hopefully coming soon to hopefully stop this happening to others. Watch this space for news.

The Curious Tale of the Two Poodle Martyrs

Peter and Jill had a seemingly idyllic life. They live in a pretty, rented farmhouse in rural Sussex, which, until 1st June, they shared with Jill's children and their beloved four Standard Poodles, Jenni, Minki, William and Milli.
The Poodles are much-loved pets, not show dogs. Jenni, now seven, is Mum, and the rest are her pups. Minki is four, and William and Milli are just six months old. Jenni is loving and protective of the human and canine family. She brings a ball to visitors, and drops it in their laps, expecting to play and be stroked. Minki has a lot of love to give, but Jill admits she isn't all that bright! They are both 'people' dogs, following Jill everywhere. Minki likes water, and has earned the name Stinky Minki on occasions.
Peter is a riding instructor and saddler; Jill is an air stewardess. They help organise dressage at Hickstead in their spare time, and their children are doing very well. These are not the kind of people used to being the wrong side of the law, and the nearby village is totally unused to such events.
At 3pm on Thursday 31st May, Jill came back from Hickstead. Son Justin was in his room revising. Jill opened the back door to let the dogs out for a toilet break. The two pups weren't keen to go out, as the weather was deteriorating, so Jill had to encourage them. When she looked up, she realised that the fence was down and that Jenni and Minki had escaped. The cows in the next field had broken the fence. It has happened before, but the dogs had always been recovered quickly. The dogs love the local herdsman, who has found them previously.
Jill thought that the dogs couldn't have gone far, so she told Justin to keep studying, and she went off in search of Jenni and Minki. She found the herdsman, and he kept his eyes open for the girls. When Peter came home, he also joined the search. They looked everywhere. One thing they didn't know was that a nearby field had recently been rented out to a farmer who had put some of his sheep in it. They didn't know the farmer. The fields surrounding their home are bordered by trees, hedges, ditches and bushes. On one side there is a very busy road, and Jill was frightened that the dogs may have been run over and that they were lying somewhere injured.
The light was fading, and by now there was a howling gale, and torrential rain.
At 1am, everyone stopped searching and tried to get some rest. Jill couldn't. She kept waking and calling to the dogs from the garden. She was due to fly to LA the next day, and had to be at Heathrow at 7am. Peter and Jill got up at 4am and resumed the search. She was worried sick when she had to head off to work, and Peter continued looking.
When her flight landed, she got a very welcome text from Justin. Peter had found Minki at 8am, and Jenni not long after. It was odd, as they normally stick together on walks. The dogs were tired, damp, cold and muddy - but otherwise fine. Everyone was so relieved. Peter rushed off to work and left the dogs at home, with the central heating on high, so the girls could dry out.
Peter came home at 7pm, and there was a knock on the door. Three policemen were on the doorstep. They said that Jenni and Minki were being seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) for attacking sheep. It seemed fate accompli. Peter was in shock, but he offered to drive the dogs to the police station, rather than have them distressed further by being taken off in a police vehicle with strangers.
When he got to the station, he was arrested - he was fingerprinted, and DNA-tested. He was eventually bailed and allowed to leave the police station at 2am. At some point in the evening, they changed the charges from the DDA to the Livestock Act.
Peter didn't tell Jill; he waited for her to come home. He didn't want to worry her when there was nothing she could do. She was completely devastated, as he had expected.
In 24 hours, life had gone from near perfect to a living nightmare.
It was at this point that I heard about their dilemma. They needed legal advice quickly, and after putting Jill in touch with all the experts I knew, I was sure a happy ending would soon result. Dog law expert Trevor Cooper said that the dogs should not be held, and Peter shouldn't have been arrested. Sadly, Trevor had pretty much retired from dog law and he couldn't take the case on.
Jill started searching for someone who understood dog law, and basically they went from pillar to post. Justice for Dogs' advice was to get the best criminal lawyer they could. Eventually, they found Nigel Weller, a specialist in animal law. He totally understood what they were going through.
Despite constant pleas and visits, Jill and Peter couldn't elicit a response from anyone at the police station. Jill escalated things and contacted her MP. He was very sympathetic, but with any step forward there was a step back. The police said that they were doing forensic tests on the dogs, and 10 days after the incident, were waiting to see if they excreted a sheep's ear tag. Over the following weeks and months, it transpired that the dogs were now being held under the Police Evidence Act. They had the same rights as an inanimate object. Just as the police might seize a knife and keep it indefinitely, so the two Poodles seemed to have no rights. The dogs were not groomed for six weeks, they had not received any veterinary attention, and Jill and Peter were not allowed to visit.
Peter was still on bail. The local press printed distressing stories - it is a small village, and while they didn’t name Peter and Jill, everyone knew who was being implicated. So much for innocent until proven guilty!
Then the letters and phone calls started coming from the farmer's solicitor. If Jill and Peter would just pay £5k, everything would go away, and they'd get their dogs back. But they are ex-directory - how did they get Peter's home and mobile numbers?
Peter was called in for further questioning. The police suggested that he had tampered with the evidence, saying that he had washed the dogs. But he hadn't; he'd just left them to dry. There was no trace of blood on either dog. All forensic tests should still have been able to find traces of blood, even if the dogs had been washed. There was no wool in their teeth, and no sheep meat in their stools.
Things started to get surreal when the police held a doggie ID parade. One villager thought that she might have seen something through a bush, in the middle of a very dark night, with torrential rain, and howling winds. She said that she couldn't identify the animal, and didn't believe it to be Jenni or Minki, so refused to attend the ID parade. Another witness, who it transpires is the sheep farmer, allegedly saw (from a distance of 400 yards) a black dog with a long tail in the same field as the sheep, but not attacking them. Jill and Peter weren't told about the ID parade until afterwards, so they weren't able to attend or check out what the other dogs in the parade looked like. It wasn't videoed either, so it couldn't be used in court in any case.
Peter is still on bail. The police still consider it to be a criminal matter. The dogs are still incarcerated, and the police are planning another ludicrous ID parade. One good thing is that they have now been allowed to see their girls on two occasions.
There appears to be no evidence to link the dogs to the sheep-worrying incident. It's true that they were missing on the night of the incident, but surely they weren't the only dogs at large in Sussex that night? I'm sure that the police don't usually arrest the first people they find who don't have an alibi when they investigate crimes.
Poor Jenni had her seventh birthday in jail. They've both now spent over a doggie year of their lives behind bars.
The police aren't allowed to keep terrorist suspects for this long. Why do this to two Poodles who can't be linked with any crime?
Something very odd is going on in Sussex.
Could this happen to you?
Please sign the petition as soon as it is available, and let's try to make sure that it doesn't.