‘I found my path in life because of this dog’

I remember exactly where I was when I first met her. My partner in crime, confidant and great teacher. I’d heard she’d been tied to a burger van just off the A3 and needed a home.


The first thing I thought when I heard that was, “are you sure she wants rescuing from a burger van?”, writes Jon Garstang.

Winnie is a Rottweiler/Staffy mix with a smile as wide as the Thames and a curly Rottie tail that rotates like a propeller. The first time we met she barrelled towards me and as I greeted her she dived flat on the floor with the classic Staffy frog’s legs and smiled at me as if to say “I found you, you’re my human.”

I was four years into professional work with dogs and Winnie was to arrive in my world at the time we needed one another most. She was homeless and I was partying a little too much having no responsibilities to speak of.

We were inseparable, sleeping in millionaire mansions one night as house-sitters and in my van the next, much to her chagrin. I was just delving into the animal behaviour world and having Winnie taught me so much about my levels of patience and empathy as well as body language and triggers in other dogs as my skill as a trainer developed.

We had a genius way of attracting new clients. Based in Wimbledon village, a leafy district well out of my pay grade but full of wealthy dog owners and beautiful old English pubs with roaring fires, I would sit at the end of the bar in any number of these pubs with Winnie at my feet and every time someone walked by Winnie would get the propeller/smile combo going and the conversation tended to start like this.

“Wow what a gorgeous dog. I wish my dog was as well behaved as this…”. As if by magic I would explain my business and produce a business card. On a good night, I could reel in five or more clients, thanks to my girl’s charisma and love of people.

Over the next year as my business grew, I was given a chance to work as a trainer and advisor in a dog shelter in Zambia in southern Africa. The shelter was hugely oversubscribed and had no plan to get out of the situation. They really needed my help as up to that point no dog trainers had ever been to the shelter in the capital Lusaka.

I thought about Winnie and the chance I’d been given by her to learn and grow so, with her in mind, I left for Zambia for four months leaving Winnie with family and friends.

Needless to say, since that trip, my shelter work has gone from strength to strength leading to work in other countries as an advisor and training handlers.

Much like adopting Winnie and being a father for the first time, we’re essentially improvising through life no matter what our credentials. These experiences are never the same so one’s adaptability becomes a virtue and then a superpower!

Just over three years ago I moved to the Greek island of Rhodes taking Winnie and her daughter Rhubarb with me. Like many ageing English ladies, she is retiring in the Mediterranean, taking daily swims and now chasing lizards instead of squirrels. She doesn’t have the same power nor speed anymore, but her charm has not waned. She watches and inspires me daily.

My education outreach work takes me into communities, working with police forces, government departments, vets and everything in between. The problems I deal with are as much about the fabric of the places I work in as the animals themselves.

Here in Greece, I offer free training for new adopters. I’m planning to go to Mexico in the next few months to help a shelter to create new protocols, help train handlers and assist in community projects to improve conditions and educate the next generation on animal welfare and responsible dog ownership.

Because of Winnie, I’ve found my path and I thank her every day for what she has taught me.

(Story source: K9) 

Homeless people ‘should be allowed to stay with their dogs’

Homeless people need to be able to stay with their dogs, according to guidance being issued for housing providers.

homeless people

BBC News reports that homelessness charity Simon Community Scotland is working with Dogs Trust to help direct the response to homeless people and their pets.

Their Paws for Thought guidance highlights the positive role dogs can play in people’s lives.

It aims to raise awareness of the value of the pets among housing and support service providers.

The document consists of several pieces of advice such as how to provide dog-friendly communal rooms in temporary shelters and create risk assessments to ensure there are no issues with staff members being allergic to, or afraid of, pets.

Lorraine McGrath, from Simon Community Scotland, said: “No-one should ever be placed in a position where they have to choose between a safe place to stay or their pet.

“What makes this choice even harder is the trauma and loss many of the people we support have experienced.

“Being asked to give up the only constant in their lives that gives them company, purpose, security and love simply adds more trauma and loss to an already awful journey.

“The great thing is it doesn’t have to be like that, being dog and pet friendly isn’t that hard. This document shares the experiences and opportunities to provide that approach.”

‘Source of comfort’

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, who is launching the document in Edinburgh, welcomed the “positive” recommendations in the report.

“It clearly sets out why pets matter and provides practical steps to support social landlords in helping people experiencing homelessness to maintain their relationships with their pets,” he said.

Respecting people’s relationships with their pets was an important element of the “person-centred approach” in the government’s Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, Mr Stewart added.

“For someone facing homelessness, it is already an extremely difficult time,” he said. “Being forced to choose between their pets and a safe place to live is a choice no-one should have to make.

Clare Kivlehan, from Dogs Trust, said only about 10% of hostels were dog-friendly.

“When we say a dog is for life, we mean it,” she said. “Every effort should be made to keep homeless people and their pets together as they are often their only source of comfort and support.”

(Story source: BBC News) 

Corwen pet owner takes paw-trait with 17 cats and dogs

A pet owner took the perfect family paw-trait after spending days trying to get her 17 dogs and cats to sit still.


BBC News reports that the effort was worth it, as the final result shows her eight pooches and nine felines gazing stoically into the camera.

Kathy Smith, 30, from Corwen, called her home “quite chaotic”.

However, she managed to get her 17-strong pack perfectly lined up for a split second before they ran off to play again.

“I was so thrilled when I realised I’d captured this shot – it’s like a little family photo,” she said. “I love all of my pets so much, so I was really happy when I managed to get them all posing together – despite it not being easy to do. “I kept trying to get photos of the cats and dogs all together but some of them were always out of frame.”

Her dogs were happy posing, as Ms Smith held a handful of treats to keep their attention. However, the cats were a bit more tricky.

“I now know the real meaning behind herding cats – I had to just keep picking them up and putting them back until they stayed,” she said. “It took about three attempts but in the end I managed to keep them there for a couple of seconds and get the photo before they were off again,” Ms Smith added. “We live in quite a chaotic house but you get used to it.”

Her three-bedroom semi-detached home has become a sanctuary for pets and other wildlife she has rescued. As well as the cats and dogs, she also has four budgies, fish and a baby hedgehog.

(Story source: BBC News) 

Birmingham ‘cat whisperer’ rescues 15th trapped pet in a year

A firefighter has been nicknamed “the cat whisperer” because he has rescued so many pets.

Cat Whisperer
Birmingham ‘cat whisperer’ rescues 15th trapped pet in a year

BBC News reports that Darran Gough freed his 15th cat in 12 months on Monday, after it got stuck under a bath at its home in Birmingham.

The pet was scared and had been moved to the property in Moseley just hours earlier, the fire service said. Mr Gough, from Billesley Community Fire Station, said recent cat rescues included one trapped behind a toilet and another in a sewer pipe.

He said he had rescued a number of cats who had become scared “within 24 hours” of their arrival at new homes. He said of the latest rescue: “It’s my 15th cat within 12 months, I am being called the cat whisperer.”

On Monday, a camera was put behind the bath so fire crews could monitor the cat’s progress as they worked to make a hole for him to escape. They then waited in another room until the cat made his way out. Other rescues have included releasing pets from sewer pipes and one that was trapped behind a toilet.

(Story source: BBC News) 

Dog starts house fire in Essex by turning on microwave

A dog started a house fire when it managed to turn the microwave on, a fire service said.

microwave fire

BBC News reports that the husky-type animal, which was left on its own in the house in Stanford-le-Hope, turned on the appliance, which was on a worktop in the kitchen.

A packet of bread rolls, which had been placed inside, began to burn and caused a small fire, Essex Fire Service said.

The owner, who was not at home at the time, was alerted to the fire by an app on their mobile phone. The fire service said the owner’s device allowed them to view live feeds from a camera that was set up in their house on Kingsman Road.

Geoff Wheal, watch manager at Corringham Fire Station, called it a “very strange incident” and said firefighters found the kitchen filled with smoke, but they made sure the flames did not spread to the rest of the house.

“It demonstrates that microwaves shouldn’t be used to store food when they aren’t in use,” he said. “Always keep your microwave clean and free of clutter or food and any packaging. “Animals or children can turn them on more easily than you might think – so please don’t run the risk.” The dog was not hurt, the service added.

(Story source: BBC News) 

Cats are securely bonded to their people, too

Cats have a reputation for being aloof and independent. But a study of the way domestic cats respond to their caregivers suggests that their socio-cognitive abilities and the depth of their human attachments have been underestimated.

Cat Bond

Science Daily reports that the findings reported in the journal Current Biology on September 23 show that, much like children and dogs, pet cats form secure and insecure bonds with their human caretakers. The findings suggest that this bonding ability across species must be explained by traits that aren’t specific to canines, the researchers say.

“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans,” said Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University. “The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

One revealing way to study human attachment behaviour is to observe an infant’s response to a reunion with their caregiver following a brief absence in a novel environment. When a caregiver returns, secure infants quickly return to relaxed exploration while insecure individuals engage in excessive clinging or avoidance behaviour.

Similar tests had been run before with primates and dogs, so Vitale and her colleagues decided to run the same test, only this time with cats.

During the test, an adult cat or kitten spent two minutes in a novel room with their caregiver followed by two minutes alone. Then, they had a two-minute reunion. The cats’ responses to seeing their owners again were classified into attachment styles.

The results show that cats bond in a way that’s surprisingly similar to infants. In humans, 65 percent of infants are securely attached to their caregiver.

“Domestic cats mirrored this very closely,” Vitale says. In fact, they classified about 65 percent of both cats and kittens as securely bonded to their people.

The findings show that cats’ human attachments are stable and present in adulthood. This social flexibility may have helped facilitate the success of the species in human homes, Vitale says.

The researchers are now exploring the importance of this work in relation to the thousands of kittens and cats that wind up in animal shelters.

“We’re currently looking at several aspects of cat attachment behaviour, including whether socialization and fostering opportunities impact attachment security in shelter cats,” Vitale said.

This work was supported through a Nestlé Purina sponsorship for studies in cat and dog emotional well-being and by the National Science Foundation.

(Story source: Science Daily) 

7 reasons to keep your dog’s booster vaccinations up to date

Vaccinations for dogs are designed to help your dog to stay fit and healthy for life, and to greatly reduce the chances of them catching any one of a number of contagious and potentially lethal canine health conditions that are found within the UK.

Dog With Vet

Vaccinations can actively stop your dog from catching the health conditions that they’re designed to protect against outright, but one common dog vaccination misconception is that vaccinations will always prevent such illnesses entirely.

It is certainly true that vaccination greatly reduces the chances of your dog catching one of the illnesses they’re protected from, but this is not fool proof; however, a dog that does catch a condition that they are vaccinated against still benefits from their vaccine, as this is apt to greatly reduce the severity of the illness in question. Most first-time dog owners and puppy buyers get their dogs vaccinated, or will find that this has been taken care of by the breeder, shelter or seller providing the pet in question.

However, as the years go by, many dog owners become somewhat lax about ensuring that their dogs get their booster shots as required, and forgetting or neglecting to get boosters given becomes more and more common as each year passes.

Whilst it used to be the norm for dogs to be given booster vaccinations every twelve months, this is not always the case today, and many vets follow a different booster schedule, which sees more than a year between doses for some shots after dogs reach a certain age. However, whatever booster schedule your own vet recommends for your dog, it is really important to follow it to keep your dog safe – and for several other good reasons too, which might not have occurred to you.

Protection from preventable diseases

The first, foremost and most obvious reason for keeping your dog’s boosters up to date is of course to ensure that you’ve done everything possible to protect them from preventable contagious diseases that can spread quickly from dog to dog, and that can be very serious.

Most vaccinations will prevent your dog from catching vaccinatable conditions that are doing the rounds entirely, and will lessen the impact of those that they might catch. However, your dog won’t benefit if they don’t get their booster shots when needed.

General health and immune strength

Catching a contagious illness isn’t just dangerous to your dog in and of itself; even if your dog recovers and suffers no long-term effects of the condition, fighting it off and even the medications and other forms of treatments used by your vet to resolve it all have an impact on your dog too.

Illness generates an immune response from your dog’s body in order to fight off the invader, which takes resources and causes the immune system to weaken for a while until the body builds up strength to recover; and medications like antibiotics can further weaken the immune system too.

This means that during a period of recovery from illness, your dog is actually at higher risk from catching or developing another illness than they would be if in full health, and you can lessen or negate this risk by keeping your dog’s boosters current.

Herd immunity

Herd immunity is a simple but fascinating principle that helps to protect the potentially weaker and more vulnerable members of any species; or for the purposes of this explanation, “herd.”

Not all dogs can be vaccinated; puppies have to be a certain age before they get their first shots, and a small number of other dogs react badly to vaccines, or cannot be vaccinated themselves for other legitimate reasons.

However, the risks for such un-vaccinated dogs of catching diseases is greatly reduced if the vast majority of other dogs that they come into contact with – the “herd” – are themselves vaccinated.

This is because the vaccinated dogs or herd members are unlikely to contract, carry or pass on the disease in question to other dogs, limiting its spread and helping to protect the whole herd, as long as the majority of the herd is vaccinated.

Protecting the health of your future dogs and puppies!

As most dog owners know, puppies cannot meet with strange dogs or even be taken out walking on their own in public safely until they have had their initial vaccinations and waited for the appropriate period of time for them to take effect.

This is to ensure that they’re not exposed to potentially dangerous and contagious conditions like parvo virus; which is commonly lethal to puppies.

The viral load of some very dangerous contagious conditions like parvo can lie dormant in the environment awaiting a host (a vulnerable dog), such as within the soil in your garden where a dog carrying the virus pooped, for months or even years in some cases.

This means that they could potentially infect a future dog or puppy that you might get some time in the future. If your current dog is vaccinated and up to date with their boosters, however, this risk is negated!

Dog insurance coverage caveats

If your dog is insured and becomes ill with a health condition that they could have been vaccinated against and weren’t, your insurer probably won’t pay out on your claim for veterinary fees. Check your policy terms; virtually all pet insurance policies have a caveat stating that they don’t cover conditions that could have been prevented with vaccination.

Annual health checks

Booster vaccinations aren’t just about the shots; they also give your vet the chance to give your dog a thorough health check and physical examination too.

If you’re missing booster shots, you’re probably missing your dog’s annual health check as well. Even if your dog’s boosters are administered less regularly than every twelve months, they should still see the vet once a year for a check-up!

Kennels, doggy daycare and other services

Kennels, doggy daycare facilities and dog walking groups will almost always insist that attending dogs are fully vaccinated and up to date with their boosters in order to be permitted to join in.

This is in order to protect the health of all of the dogs involved, and so if your dog’s boosters are out of date, you might find that your holiday will need to be cancelled at the last minute too, or that your dog will be turned away from their play-date!

(Article source: Pets 4 Homes) 

Clever canines: Has living with the human race affected how canine intelligence has evolved?

The canine and human species have lived side by side successfully for millennia, and our evolution side by side is inextricably linked together as a result.

Smart Dog

What started as a relationship of convenience to enhance both species’ chances of ultimate survival has today moved far beyond the realms of logistical necessity, into a symbiotic relationship of mutual companionship and appreciation that has endured far beyond its term of necessity for either species.

Close contact and association with humans has had a direct and sometimes deliberate and acute influence on the canine species as a whole; and in some breeds in particular, like the French bulldog and English bulldog. The flat faces and large heads of both breeds results from deliberate selective breeding on the part of humans; to the point that around 80% of all dogs of both breeds need to deliver young by caesarean section, and some dogs of these breeds require assistance to mate too.

This means that certain dog breeds like these would be highly unlikely to survive in the wild today if humans were eradicated entirely; and even the very concept of dog breeds and selective breeding is a human creation itself!

The impact and influence that humanity has had over the evolution of dogs and dog breeds goes much further than just the physical, however, and from an evolutionary perspective, the influence that living with humans has had on canine intelligence is truly fascinating in and of itself.

Dogs are one of the most commonly used species in research and study into mental processes like cognition, awareness, memory, perception, and the ability to learn, and dogs have been hugely integral in many studies that are today, accepted and taught worldwide as the basis of our understanding the psyche; like those now-famous Pavlovian dogs!

However, whilst most research into the mind that used dogs as its test subjects was designed to return results that could be applied to humans, a number of interesting results that pertain exclusively or particularly to dogs have occurred along the way – some of which were a huge surprise to the researchers undertaking the studies in question, and which may well be a surprise to you too!

With this in mind, this article will look at a couple of the ways in which living side by side with people has directly impacted upon canine intelligence, and how canine intelligence has evolved as a result of this. Read on to learn more.

Lost intelligence

As mentioned earlier on, some of today’s domestic dog breeds would find it virtually impossible to survive in the wild, or in a world without humans, as a result of the way humans have impacted upon their physical traits and inadvertently compromised their evolutionary fitness.

However, living in close quarters with humans for millennia may well also have resulted in other and more subtle changes in how this might affect domestic dogs in the wild – and over time, some of their historical cognitive skills may have become eroded as a result of living with and alongside of humans for so long.

This is an evolutionary process that sees traits that a species no longer needs or benefits from gradually being eroded over millennia – and is why humans have tailbones, but no tails!

When it comes to dogs, they have certainly gained some additional skills and intelligence along the course of their exposure to us, like the social-cognitive skills mentioned above, but they’ve also lost out in some respects too.

The Dingo, for instance – a wild canine species, Canis dingo in contrast to the domestic dog’s Canis lupus familairis – is better at problem solving and working things through alone than our own pet dogs are when you remove them from a social setting. When it comes to working out social problems, domestic dogs beat dingoes.

Additional studies also showed the difference between wolves and dogs in terms of the type of problem-solving abilities they display and their reliance on humans. Both species were trained to solve a simple task, then presented with an apparently identical task that was rigged to be impossible to complete.

The dogs in the experiment looked to the people nearly for direction and help, whilst the wolves, of course, did not! This indicates that the dog relies upon humans to fix things, resolve issues and ultimately, provide solutions for them, and expects humans to have all the answers – whilst wolves would not even thing of doing this, nor imagine that humans might be either able or willing to help them.

Dogs still retain their survival instincts

In terms of the standalone chances of a species’ survival in an evolutionary sense, being as reliant on humans as dogs are is not a good thing. That looking to humans for solutions, inability of some domestic dog species to survive and thrive without humans, and better communication skills with people than with other closely related species are all in many ways a bad thing for dogs in terms of the species’ standalone ability to care for itself alone in the wild.

However, even given this fact, a 2014 genome study to identify the differences between dogs and wolves on a DNA level indicated that dogs and wolves have just as acute theoretical fear responses – a vital trait for evolutionary survival – but that dogs also showed a greater level of synaptic plasticity.

Synaptic plasticity, put simply, is thought to be the physical cellular expression of the process of learning and retaining memories, and indicates that dogs are more adaptive in this respect than wolves, and that as a species, they can mentally adapt faster in evolutionary terms than their other close relatives. However, the fact that dogs diverge from wolves in terms of synaptic plasticity at all indicates that the ability dogs have to learn and remember things itself has irrevocably changed and evolved as a direct result of their relationships with humans.

These are the top 10 smartest dog breeds, according to experts

While all dogs make for best friends, some are, um, more lovably clueless than others. But when it comes to working intelligence (i.e. following commands), certain types stand out from the pack. After surveying almost 200 dog-obedience judges, psychologist Stanley Coren named these breeds as the best of the bunch in his book The Intelligence of Dogs.

And, if you’re curious, we’ve answered some FAQs about dogs’ IQ’s that may blow your mind:

What makes a dog “smart?”

Coren evaluated breeds’ levels of intelligence based on instincts, obedience, and ability to adapt. But pet behaviour specialist Sarah Hodgson says it’s all relative. “Some are social and emotionally dependent on people, so they are easier to train and far more receptive to our vision of what they should do,” she says. “But they have little intuitive smarts.”

One example is a hound, because although they’re not receptive, they have superior senses of sight and smell. Similarly, terriers might not take direction well, but they have excellent hearing.

Do dogs have an IQ?

Not exactly. Like Hodgson explained, “IQ” really depends on the quality you’re observing. In Coren’s book, you can have your dog take an IQ test he created based on his analyses.

Are bigger dogs smarter than small dogs?

It hasn’t been confirmed as a fact, but research suggests that bigger dogs could be smarter. If you look at this list, you’ll find that the only tiny pup is the papillon. Coren recently posed this question in a post for Psychology Today, aptly titled “Are Big Dogs Smarter Than Small Dogs?” Looking at a study from earlier this year, Coren shared, “Data were obtained from 1,888 dogs, and the results were unambiguous. There was a clear trend indicating that larger dogs were able to accurately remember over a longer period of time than were their smaller counterparts.”

Keep in mind, however, that some companion dogs were bred to have particular traits, like being calm and non-confrontational. Hodgson adds that many small breeds are bred down from larger breeds, and thus have similar drives, instincts, and yes, smarts. Now, let’s talk about our BFFs.

These are the smartest dog breeds, according to Coren:

1. Border Collie

The valedictorians of the dog world, these herders took the top spot in Stanley Coren’s intelligence rankings, meaning most can learn a new command in under five seconds and follow it at least 95% of the time. Related: The 20 Best Dogs for Kids and Families

2. Poodle

Nowadays you can adopt cockapoos, whoodles and goldendoodles, to name a few, but breeders love regular ol’ poodles for more than just their hypoallergenic qualities. The curly coated cuties also took the silver medal for working intelligence in Coren’s survey. Related: 40 Top Medium-Sized Dogs

3. German Shepherd

German Shepherds happily serve as police dogs, seeing eye dogs, medical assistance dogs, and therapy dogs, so it’s no surprise that consistent obedience comes standard with this breed. Related: 13 Best Guard Dogs to Protect Your Family and Home

4. Golden Retriever

That’s right. One of the nation’s most beloved family pets also took home straight A’s in this intelligence survey. While the breed originated in hunting, Goldens also enjoy acting like straight-up goofballs once in awhile too. Related: A Definitive Ranking of the 25 Absolute Cutest Dog Breeds

5. Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans got their start in the late 19th century, when a German tax collector named Louis Dobermann wanted a medium-sized pet to act as both a guard dog and companion. Translation: These fearless protectors can hold their own, and hang with kids. Related: 35 Best Large Dog Breeds

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Smaller than collies, these adorable fluff-balls hold their own in herding, agility, and obedience trials. Consequently, Shelties do tend to bark, chase, and herd, but their affectionate nature and love for cuddles will erase any hard feelings. Related: 100+ Unique Dog Names for Every Kind of Pup

7. Labrador Retriever

Labs love to please, whether it’s as guide dogs, narcotic detection dogs, or just everyday family pets. Americans have accordingly made them the most popular breed in the country for a whopping 27 years in a row. Related: 20 Most Popular Dog Breeds in the U.S.

8. Papillon

The first toy breed to crack the top 10, papillons aren’t your average lap dogs. The 5-pound wonders often take home top prizes at competitive agility trials, according to the American Kennel Club. Their name – French for “butterfly” – alludes to their tall, pointed ears. Related: 15 Miniature Dog Breeds That Are Just Too Cute

9. Rottweiler

Rottweilers likely descended from drover dogs in Ancient Rome, with the rugged, dependable temperament to boot. An engaged Rottweiler owner will take care to train and exercise their pooch thoroughly – with the reward of a loving and loyal friend. Related: The 25 Largest, Most Lovable Dog Breeds

10. Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog sits outside of the top 50 in AKC’s popularity rankings, but don’t miss out on this smart breed. Alert, curious and pleasant, the high-energy herders do best with a job. Related: 22 Healthiest Dog Breeds With the Least Health Problems

(Article source: Various) 

Older dogs: The 6 most important life lessons they teach us

I am an independent wolf researcher and have been observing wild wolves in America for over 30 years. Several times a year I flew to Yellowstone National Park to participate in the wolf project. During that time my Labrador Shira remained in the care of my parents. I’ve missed her painfully every time, writes Elli Radinger.

older dogs

On her 11th birthday, it suddenly became clear to me that I wouldn’t have much time left with her. The thought that she was dying and I was 10,000 km away on the other side of the world was unbearable for me. Our time together was running out. I did not want to be without my dog anymore. My priorities had changed. My dog was more important to me than the wolves, more important than anything.

So I gave up my wolf research to be with Shira. I now feel blessed that the two of us can grow old together. Every day she shows me her love and teaches me new life-lessons.

Lesson 1: Adapt

Living with an old dog can be can be exhausting and expensive. He may need a special diet, medication, special medical care. Shira is now approaching her 15th year. I have adapted my life to Shira. She regularly receives physiotherapy and there are orthopaedic dog beds in every room.

I have moved my bedroom from the first floor to the ground floor so that she no longer has to climb stairs and I can let her out more easily at night. She is walking much slower than before, our daily rounds are getting shorter. Sometimes she just wants to lay in the sun for a while instead of going for a walk, or she doesn’t want to “play” with other dogs, especially stormy young puppies.

My Golden Girl is deaf and I communicate with her in sign language – something we can teach even young dogs, and which will make our life easier in old age. We are both more relaxed and don’t take everything so seriously anymore. Recently Shira stole a sausage from the kitchen table for the first time in her long life – and I was delighted. We adjust to our old companions. To their quirks, infirmities and peculiarities. To their stubbornness and their weaknesses. And we love them just for that.

Lesson 2: Accept the things you cannot change

The way dogs deal with their ailments or changes in their lives is particularly exemplary. Shira accepts the inevitable, such as the occasional joint pain, or limitations to her quality of life. She does not fight against it, but simply enjoys her life in every moment.

Lesson 3: Age is a question of attitude

We humans try to escape age in one way or another. Is there a secret formula, a recipe for a long life? I haven’t found one. You can do everything right – healthy food, sport, positive attitude to life – and then you walk out the door and get run over by a truck.

I’ve learned not to drive myself crazy anymore – or let myself drive others crazy. Why should I? We’re all getting old, that’s the way it is. Let’s make the best of the rest of our lives.

Lesson 4: You don’t have to be perfect

Dogs couldn’t care less about their appearance. They don’t compare themselves to other animals. Imagine how much time and money we humans spend to look good and how hard we work for self-improvement. And when it doesn’t work, we become frustrated and unhappy.

We even want our dogs to be perfect: beautiful, obeying our every command, the perfect creatures in the world. What heavy burden are we putting on them – and us. Old dogs teach us to accept our own shortcomings. They are not worried about gaining weight or doing more exercise. The world is beautiful as it is, we don’t need to change it.

Lesson 5: Life is here and now

If Shira was to design a calendar, on every page she would write “Now”, because that’s all that counts for her. “Later” is a word that doesn’t exist. Dogs live in the here and now. Not in the five minutes just gone, not in the future. In the present. They interact with the world fully and directly. They are happy where they are.

Lesson 6: The greatest gift

Old dogs make us realise how precious the time is that we spend together. When an animal that has lived with us for many years grows older, we learn to deal with change, to accept the inevitable and to live consciously in every moment. Shira makes me aware of the limited time we have and makes me enjoy every moment of our lives.

What a gift life is. Everything happens exactly as it is meant to happen. Our old dogs are wise to the secret of happiness: ‘give me a bone and I will be happy; give me place in your heart and you will be happy’.

(Article source: K9) 

What’s Schnauzerfest? Here about the Schnauzer loving fundraisers

Schnauzerfest began life in 2014 as a social media based network of Schnauzer loving people getting together for a series of fundraising dog walks around the UK.


That first year, all walks were held over one autumn weekend and it was thought that around one or two thousand pounds might be raised – the fund closed at almost £8000!

Since then, every year Schnauzerfest has grown, both in terms of the money raised and in awareness of pet rescue and puppy farming. Through grassroots support, Schnauzerfest has raised over £206,000 in just six years.

Many dogs’ lives have been immeasurably improved and, in some cases, saved by this phenomenal fundraising.

The money goes towards paying veterinary bills for dogs in rescue. In the main, they’ve been saved from puppy farms and other bad breeding backgrounds.

Schnauzerfest fundraising has restored the eyesight of many Schnauzers blinded by cataracts. Cataract surgery can cost upwards of £2000 per eye which puts it out of financial reach for many rescues.

The majority of the money raised by Schnauzerfest has been given to the Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre (DBARC), an independent rescue which every year takes in many animals including saved breeding dogs.

They often have complex physical and psychological problems and it can be many months with lots of veterinary treatment and rehabilitation before they are well enough to be adopted. Schnauzerfest fundraising takes away much of the financial worry for DBARC.

This enables the dogs to receive all necessary care, so they begin their new lives with the best chance possible at good health and in those cases where it’s possible, with restored eyesight.

I began Schnauzerfest after adopting Susie-Belle, my first rescue dog after she’d spent six months in the care of DBARC. She’d survived eight years in a puppy farm being forced to supply the lucrative trade in puppies. It nearly killed her.

She had multiple health problems when rescued including a prolapsed, infected womb, dreadful skin, eye, ear and mouth infections; she had cataracts in both eyes, was emaciated, almost bald and had no trust of humans nor recognition of kindness, having experienced a lifetime of neglect and cruelty.

DBARC gave her all the treatment she needed, including cataract surgery so that by the time she came to me, she was a dog well on the way to living a far more normal life. One with sight and reasonably good health for the four years we shared before she died in 2015.

‘Schnauzerfest is Susie-Belle’s legacy, everything we do, we do in her memory’

Schnauzerfest is very much a collective effort. It’s a simple idea executed by many people every year.

Volunteers organise walks in their local areas in October and December, following a simple model. We keep everything straightforward for hosts and those taking part in the walks – the aim is to have fun being out walking with our dogs, something puppy farm dogs are denied.

For Susie-Belle her happiest moments in our early months together when everything was alien to her, were when she was out walking.

She could be herself, a normal dog, using her senses, enjoying fresh air, with the freedom to potter about and do as she wanted. Schnauzerfest walks celebrate this simple pleasure which dogs bring us and which we share with them.

With the level of success and fundraising which Schnauzerfest has achieved comes a serious responsibility. We must ensure that what we’ve created together with Schnauzerfest continues to do what we always set out to achieve: to support and facilitate excellent rescue work and to educate on puppy farming.

So it was decided earlier this year that the time had come for us to apply to the Charity Commission of England and Wales to register Schnauzerfest as a charity.

We’re delighted that after months of work and patiently waiting to hear, at the end of October it was confirmed that the application was approved and Schnauzerfest became a registered charity.

This is brilliant news for everyone who supports our aims and what Schnauzerfest does every year for dogs. Being a registered charity means that everything we’ve done so far will continue, but with new avenues being open to us, even greater things will now happen.

Our steadfast commitment to supporting the work of the Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre will remain and strengthen as plans we’re working on become reality.

We will also be in the position to help others which meet our requirements to receive a Schnauzerfest Grant. The fundraising which every supporter of Schnauzerfest makes possible will continue to pay for the veterinary treatment of dogs saved from puppy farms and other bad backgrounds.

Each of the five Founding Trustees of Schnauzerfest have personal experience of adopting dogs. The ‘Schnauzerfest Constitution’ makes clear that our objectives include educating the public on puppy farming and animal welfare and all Trustees feel strongly that this must go alongside fundraising.

Camilla Kinton, Trustee explains more:

“I have a lifelong love of dogs and Archie was my first Schnauzer, after losing a Standard Poodle and a Welsh Terrier in the same week. After watching a shocking TV programme on puppy farming, the details of which stayed with me and really brought home how horrific the industry is, I adopted Isla, one of the fortunate few who get out of puppy farms. Sharing our life with her, I recognised first-hand how deeply harmful puppy farming is for dogs and wanted to get more involved in doing something more to raise awareness.

“I got to know Janetta Harvey and adopted Mabel in Susie-Belle’s memory. Following years of neglect in a puppy farm, Mabel was in a dreadful state when rescued, both physical and emotional, including losing an eye and having poor sight in her remaining one.

“The financial support that Schnauzerfest offers those rescuing and caring for dogs like Mabel and Isla is life-changing and I am honoured to be a Trustee.”

The Charity will continue to run on a fully voluntary basis with every penny going to help the dogs. Being a registered charity helps to protect the money, the nationwide nature of Schnauzerfest and what we do, and gives us even more opportunity to push forward with educating the public.

While the level of fundraising which Schnauzerfest brings each year is substantial, so are the veterinary bills which rescues face today. Especially those like DBARC which take in dogs with complex problems, the extent of which are often not initially known.

River, a Miniature Schnauzer saved from a puppy farm in October 2017 illustrates this. As well as the typical infections, skin, dental and psychological problems which DBARC are familiar with when dogs come out of puppy farms, River had even more complicated issues. It was to be several weeks before they were fully identified by specialists.

It turned out, after extensive – and expensive – investigations which included a CT and MRI scan, that River was born with a condition which affected the bones in her neck. The atlantoaxial subluxation (AAI) causes neck pain, an abnormal holding of the head position, weakness in the limbs or inability to use them.

The problem in the bones had been compressing her spinal cord and could at any time have caused a catastrophic event ending in paralysis. For a dog who had lived a number of years in the stark, lonely world of a puppy farm, it must have been horrific.

Surgery was the only option for River. The odds given for her surviving the surgery were scarily low. For a dog like River, in rescue, with no possible insurance in place, the only option, if donated funds weren’t available, would be to put her to sleep.

What Schnauzerfest fundraising offers a rescue like DBARC is support when it is really needed. River’s treatment went ahead, followed by months of rehabilitation. The final bill to save her life came to around £10,000. This is what Schnauzerfest makes possible and with its charitable status will continue to do in greater ways for years to come.

Alongside me from the start with Schnauzerfest has been Kate Mitchell, now a Trustee and Treasurer. She adopted Darla, foster sister of River in 2018.

Kate explains her role and why Schnauzerfest is important:

“A Credit Manager by profession, I took a step back to less full-on roles after redundancy which enabled me to get my longed-for first Schnauzer, Rodders, in 2011. We’ve since added to our family with Creggan in 2013 and Darla who was given the gift of sight by Schnauzerfest 2017 funding.

“At our very first social Schnauzer walk, Rodders and I met Susie-Belle. Through her and Janetta, I’ve learnt so much more about the horrors of puppy farming, the need to spread awareness and raise funds to deal with the aftermath.

“I came on board the day Janetta decided to set up Schnauzerfest in 2014, when we thought it would be a one-off, perhaps raising a grand or two! People loved the idea and we were asked to repeat it.

“I beaver away behind the scenes, with my many spreadsheets, keeping track and making things work and ensuring we’re always accountable. Schnauzerfest has grown year on year and I’m excited by the opportunities offered by it being a registered charity.”

While the main fundraising walks are held over an October weekend, by popular demand we also have walks during our fun Schnauzerfestive Season which runs from December 1st through to January 6th.

Now in its second year, walks will be taking part around the country, hosted by volunteers. We always welcome new hosts who want to get involved either with our Schnauzerfestives or our main October walks. Being a Schnauzerfest Host is fun and makes Schnauzerfest possible, hosts return year after year, everyone loves it!

Schnauzerfest 2020 will take place over 10th – 11th October.

For more ways to help Schnauzerfest and get involved, please visit our website, you’ll also fund us across social media platforms. SchnauzerfestUK on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

(Article source: K9)