Monday, September 6, 2010

Orla is a star!

This is a shot of Orla who has just moved from Grade 3 (where she pretty much swept the board everywhere she went) to Grade 4. She has, as you can see, star quality and - naturally - she wouldn't be on my blog if she wasn't one of our very satisfied Darlings.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Look how well Pop is doing on Darling's!





This gorgeous puppy, Pop, has been growing in leaps and bounds thanks - I like to think - to Darling's. Please, please remember that we LOVE to receive regular photographs of all the dogs we feed as we make everything to order and it is so nice in the kitchen to be able to see who are food is going to. Thank you, too, to Nigel for sending me these shots of Pop.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taurine issues for cats

A growing number of our customers are using the Darling's vegetable-free dog food to feed their cats.

This makes sense because it is pretty much the purrrfect (sorry, I can never resist a pun) recipe and although we aren't actually promoting it we have set up a special page for it at Darling's Real Cat Food.

One issue that is coming up a lot is that of taurine levels. Is there enough taurine in our food? And - just as importantly - will it survive freezing?

The second question is easily answered. We have done an analysis of our food and the taurine levels after freezing for a month come in at:

Lamb 1260 mg/kg
Beef 638 mg/kg
Rabbit 376 mg/kg

Which is pretty reassuring.

Logic would say that this should be sufficient. Our food replicates what cats would eat if they lived in the wild - that is to say a raw food diet of meat, offal and bone. This was what they thrived on for the six or seven million years before processed cat food was invented and it is reasonable to assume that it contains sufficient taurine.

Anyway, the whole taurine issue only arose after it became clear that modern, processed cat food was short of the stuff and that it is vital to feline health. No one really knows, however, exactly how much taurine cats should be absorbing. The levels set by the various pet food manufacturers strike me as incredibly arbitrary.

I mean, a cat living on a mouse diet would only be getting 240mg of taurine per kilo. Rather less than a cat being fed on Darling's.

This, in turn, leads to the concern that cats could be overdosing on taurine. There is no research on this that I am aware of. Tom, our Chief Veterinary Surgeon, is having a think about this whole issue. In the meantime, our food is 100% natural and an analysis shows it has plenty of taurine in it. Therefore, we don't believe that this is an issue for cats eating Darling's. Moreover, we do not recommend adding taurine unless there is a clear reason to do so. Nature, we feel, knows best.











Saturday, August 7, 2010

Halloween Dog Walk for a good cause


A nice email just arrived from Heather Armstrong who helps to run the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (although it should really be the Gambia Horse, Donkey & Dog Trust as they look after a lot of dogs, too) saying that they hope to organise a national dog walk in aid of the charity on 31st October. She is looking for volunteers to help set up local walks and has designed some posters to help publicise each local event. Visit the Trust's website or email Heather (heather@gambiahorseanddonkey.org.uk) for more information.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh! Hurrah for Bucket Boy

A hamper of Darling's Real Dog Food is about to wing its way to this adorable puppy - Miguel - winner of the photo competition organised by Bull Breeds Online - a news forum for lovers of all the different Bull breeds. Miguel lives with the Taylors and - so far as I can tell - about a thousand other Staffords.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A remedy of homeopathic vets...

As we drove back from the Quantock Hills in Somerset last Sunday night Vicky and I agreed it was the only time in our lives that we had ever been to a conference where we felt we really had to send a personal 'thank you for having us' note to the organisers. Attending the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons' (BAHVS) annual get together was like being invited to a family reunion. And a happy family at that. Even when delegates disagreed with each other during a session - and it didn't seem to occur very often - not a word was spoken in anger.

I am not quite sure what the collective noun for homeopathic vets should be. A remedy of homeopathic vets sounds good. A commune? A cure? A nest? A tincture? At any rate, they are an impressive bunch because homeopathy, unlike conventional medicine, has a strong psychological element built into it. The practitioner places great emphasis not just on the symptoms but also on the personality of the patient. This seems to attract professionals who are especially open-minded and inquiring. I can't remember when I last spent a weekend with such an interesting, lively and warm-hearted group of people.

As I follow a 'there are more things in heaven and earth...than are dreamt of in your philosophy' approach to life I have never had any trouble believing in homeopathy. The core concept, that it is possible to alleviate and cure symptoms by using a tiny quantity of the correct substance (a sort of 'hair of the dog that bit you' approach) seems perfectly logical to me. In life it is often the tiniest change or adjustment in something that brings the greatest results. Why should this not be true of our mental and physical health?

Although I may be open to homeopathy there are plenty of people who aren't. Several friends became quite worked up when I told them how I was spending last weekend and I had to endure quite a bit of 'it is all unproven and not based on science' ranting. I don't really know enough to counter these arguments effectively - but over the next few months I intend to learn more. I do have some of the answers, though. One of the charges against homeopathy is that it is really a placebo and that patients imagine themselves better. This line rather falls down when one considers homeopathic treatment of animals. (Unless one believes in animal communication, of course, which I do, but which anti-homeopaths most certainly don't.) No, to my mind successful homeopathic treatment of animals has to be accepted as evidence that there is something in this branch of medicine.

The idea that it is unscientific doesn't bear close scrutiny, either. It is ridiculous to imagine that the highly qualified vets at last weekend's event have thrown logic out of the window. For one thing, they spent most of the conference discussing research, trials, reference sources and - to my mind of greatest interest - case histories. Also, homeopathy's critics tend to be against it on principle: 'This shouldn't work, so it can't.' There are plenty of people who have experienced positive results from homeopathy - and I am amongst them - who believe otherwise.

One final thought. I am rather against conspiracy theories but it has to be said that the pharmaceutical industry does not like competition. For decades it has been attacking any form of medicine that doesn't require vast expenditure on the part of the patient. In particular, the industry has lobbied the EU and other major governments to restrict the practice of medicinal herbalism and homeopathy. The fact that both these branches of medicine offer inexpensive and effective treatment options must play a role in this. At Darling's we are currently experiencing low level harassment which we know must originate with a large pet food manufacturer (we know because the nature of the harassment is such that only someone within the industry could be behind it). So, I don't find it at all hard to believe that the pharmaceutical industry are out to get homeopathy. Part of this campaign is - undoubtedly - the spreading of misinformation. In a nutshell, one can't believe everything one hears or reads but should take the time to look at the facts.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Maisie and Blondie are absolute winners!

Well, I know I am hopelessly biased towards Pointers but even so at nine months Maisie (proper name Jilony Heaven Can Wait For Fyldefair) is shaping up to be a national champion. She has already qualified for Crufts 2011 and last weekend scooped another prize - this time Best Puppy in Show at Bowood House Dog Show. Heartiest congratulations to Maisie who, as part of her prize, won a hamper of Darling's. Hopefully she will share her prize with her sister (well, not literally, but I am not sure what else to call her), Blondie, who won second place in the AV Gundog class. Let me just say, by the way, that the classes at Bowood House were all on the giant size this year, reflecting the huge popularity of this annual, fund raising event. If you want to see more photos of Maisie, and who wouldn't, then visit the Fyldefair website.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The most beautiful Irish Water Spaniels in the world?

Could there be six more beautiful Irish Water Spaniel puppies in the whole world? Born to Liberty - a Darling's diner, naturally - around five weeks ago. From left to right they are Pink girl, Red girl, Turquoise boy, Blue boy (sitting in the front), Lilac girl and Green boy. Or, Pinky, Reddy etc. This is according to their collar colour, not that you can see their collars now their hair is getting so long. Anyway, heartiest congratulations to Liberty!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Please read this important message about bloat.

I've just received an email from Gill Arney who has started a much-needed campaign to increase awareness of bloat which is, apparently, the second leading killer of dogs after cancer. She has created a facebook page and also a free poster that you can download from Baloo.co.uk or send away for (info@safedog.co.uk)

Bloat is a very serious, potentially fatal problem and I wrote about it at considerable length on 15th February 2010 if you care to look at my archived posts. How do you know if your dog has it? Here are the things to look for:
  • Your dog retches from the throat but nothing is produced other than small amounts of frothy mucus
  • Your dog tries to defaecate unsuccessfully
  • Your dog adopts the 'Sphinx' position
  • Your dog's tummy goes hard and/or swells up like a balloon and is as taut as drumskin
  • Trying to bite, or worry, the abdomen
  • Your dog is very unsettled

CONTACT YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY. Bloat is a true emergency - be prepared to drive to the surgery straightaway. The chance of survival decreases alarmingly if you delay getting the dog to the surgery more than 60-90 minutes after the first signs.

What causes bloat? Bloat in dogs is likely caused by a multitude of factors, but in all cases the immediate prerequisite is a dysfunction of the sphinctyer between the esophagus and stomach and an obstruction of outflow through the pylorus. Some of the more widely acknowledged factors for developing bloat include increased age, breed, having a deep and narrow chest, stress, eating foods such as kibble that expand in the stomach, overfeeding, too much water consumption in a small period of time; before or after exercise and other causes of gastrointestinal disease and distress. Studies have indicated that the risk of bloat in dogs perceived as happy by their owners is decreased, and increased in dogs perceived as fearful.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

SOS Dog Walk. 24th July. Hampstead Heath.

If you live in the London area then why not join the SOS Animals Sponsored Walk on Saturday 24th July? I have blogged about SOS Animals before so I won't repeat myself. They do fantastic work rescuing abandoned dogs in Spain and elsewhere. What I especially like about them is the fact that the organisation is run by volunteers and operates on a shoestring budget. That means that every penny you can help them raise goes to help the needy animals and not on administration or marketing. The walk itself will be 8 miles and I am sure it will be a lot of fun. The minimum sum you have to raise to participate is £15. Contact details on their website or call 07939 025485

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Raw food and fertility...

When Dr. Francis Pottenger conducted his famous experiments with cats (he fed, roughly, 450 on a raw food diet and 450 on a cooked food diet using the same ingredients) he found that after three generations the cats on the cooked food diet became infertile. We don't know if the same holds true for dogs and cooked food BUT we given that fertility is a growing problem we can guess that it might be so. (Incidentally, processed cat food now has various additives put into it to counter the effect of the cooking, which is why the domestic cat hasn't become extinct in the last 50 years). So, how can a raw food diet aid fertility? The first thing to remember is that it takes two to tango. Dogs are just as likely to suffer from fertility issues as bitches if fed on processed food. Basically most manufactured dog food offers a narrow spectrum of nutrients, damaged fats and proteins, high chemical and grain levels, high levels of artificial calcium, salt and sugar mixed with low levels of natural anti-oxidants, enzymes, available micro nutrients and phytochemicals and…but you get the idea. One of the effects of feeding processed food to several generations of dog, according to Dr. Ian Billinghurst in his book Grow Your Pups With Bones is substantially reduced fertility. He points out that: ‘the best way to certain of low to non-existent fertility…is to feed a dry food starting from when they are puppies.’ Billinghurst then goes on to explain why the different elements (essential fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, anti-oxidants and so forth) in a raw food diet boost fertility. For males he lays great stress on the need for zinc, which occurs naturally in lamb, beef, chicken, eggs, and carrots as well as methionine (found in eggs), magnesium (found in green vegetables), manganese (again found in green vegetables), selenium (again found in eggs) and other important nutrients. Billinghurst feels that it is always better for dogs to obtain all these nutrients from their food and warns against overdosing with supplements. Where supplements may be required it is vital to get professional advice as it is possible to overdose a dog on ingredients such as zinc. If you have a fertility issue with your dog we would be pleased to offer advice.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Extreme raw food...


I make no apologies for posting this photo. I am not sure whether the hand (and the roll it is holding) belong to a giant or this is a very, very small puppy BUT either way I defy you not to smile at the expression on the dog's face.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For dog's sake we must stop cutting down trees

I know. It is very silly. Sent to me by my gorgeous friend, Helen, in NY. Thank you, Helen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The ultimate dog lover's holiday

Rather like Jerome K Jerome, I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. One result of this is that I never take a proper holiday. A few days here, a few days there, but never more than 48 hours without some work by my side. This does not stop me, however, from planning trips of every conceivable length and nature. At the moment I am obsessed with the idea of signing up for one of the dog training holidays organised by Philippa Williams' Dogs for Life. Phillipa has been running these events for over 16 years and she seems to have hit on a perfect formula: really fantastic, rural locations...plenty of space...positively luxurious accommodation...delicious food...and days packed with dog training and dog walks. Let me give you a couple of examples. In June she has organised two six day gundog training holidays on the Novar Estate in Scotland. There's one for novices and one for advanced. In July there is an Activity Week including Agility training to be held at Riverdale Hall Hotel in Northumberland. The prices are jolly reasonable, too. If you spend £20 joining Dogs for Life then a whole week starts at £570 and even the most expensive 6 day break for everything (en suite bedroom, three meals a day, all training but not drinks) is only £850. Speaking of training Philippa has demonstrated at Crufts for the last six years. Need I say more? Of course, I may be convinced but I still have to talk on of my so-called working dogs into it. Honey? Darling?


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Are some genetic problems caused by food?

Much has been said in the media and elsewhere about how over breeding has caused all sorts of genetic health conditions in dogs. While this is true, it masks something equally disturbing. The majority of dog owners in the developed world have been feeding their dogs processed food for decades. Processed food has two potential drawbacks. Firstly, it can be seriously deficient in the ingredients dogs need to maintain good health. Secondly, it can contain ingredients that actually damage a dog’s health. When experts describe a health issue as being ‘genetic’ they may be overlooking something more obvious: the effect of feeding processed food to generation upon generation of dogs. A good example of this is skeletal disease. Almost unheard of before processed food, bone disease is now widespread in the west. For dogs to have healthy bones they need the calcium and other vital bone-building nutrients that are only found in raw bones. Each generation that doesn’t receive these vital bone-building nutrients is weaker than the last. Modern solutions to bone disease – involving various treatments as well as culling and selective breeding - are never going to solve the problem. What has to happen is a re-building of healthy ‘stock’ by means of the correct diet.

Well, that's what I think.

Gambian Dog Rescue!

More Gambian news. I have just been sent this great shot of the 'guard dogs' at the Gambian Horse and Donkey Trust. Apparently, it isn't just an equine charity, after all! The team who run it have taken in various waifs and strays...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Transform a horse's life for just £20

If anyone contacts us to ask for a free draw or raffle prize we almost always say 'yes' because although giving away a hamper of food costs us between £50 and £75 in real terms, it is easier to justify than cash and will - hopefully - help to raise an even larger sum. So far this year I think we have given away about 20 such hampers - all to deserving canine causes. With one exception. We've just agreed to donate one to something called the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust. As its name suggests this small but highly effective charity was: 'established to reduce rural poverty in Gambia by increasing productivity of working horses and donkeys through animal welfare and management education.' Gambia is, of course, one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa.

The horse and donkey population has never been accurately measured, but the best estimate is 25,000 to 40,000. It won't surprise you to learn that they suffer appalling treatment and conditions, by and large because their carers have never been trained in equine management. Although, having said this, it must also be pointed out that there is a terrible shortage of food (leading to malnutrition and disease) and equipment.

The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust has been making steady progress in its fight to improve the lives of these unfortunate creatures. One of the things I like about the charity is that it can do so much with so little. I've just sponsored two horses for a whole year. Not as generous as it sounds, I am afraid. The cost? Just £20 each.

I know money is too tight to mention at the moment, but if you can spare anything at all I am sure that the Trust will make good use of it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hurrah. We have a winner.

I am thrilled to announce, somewhat belatedly (ahem, least said about this the better), the winner of our Crufts Free Prize Draw. Nel, a three year old smooth coated border collie, has won free Darling's dog food for a whole year. She lives, by the way, with Nikki Goddard who runs the Whiskers and Wet Noses Canine Beauticians in Bridgwater (07812 840288). We are all rather keen on Whiskers and Wet Noses because they only use environmentally friendly, organic, herbal preparations something which cannot be said of many similar businesses. Nikki, by the way, rescued Nel at seven months and has always fed her a raw diet. As you can see Nel is keen on agility training and we are delighted to be feeding such a talented dog.

Congratulations to Malindi (Super Mum)!


Sigh. Malindi (who we feed) has just had four totally adorable puppies and I couldn't resist posting the photograph. This very happy Bernese Mountain Dog family live with Sue Small. Sue has never bred before but judging by the very cheery email I just received she is more than qualified for it. She has, after all, done the Canine Behaviour and Training course at Moreton Morrell Agricultural College and also runs a boarding and walking service. Sue first fell in love with Bernese Mountain Dogs when her Dad took her to a dog show in...well, I won't say when but she was terrifically young...only for various reasons (she kept taking in rescue dogs I suspect) it was 37 years before she realised her dream of owning one. What a dog, though! Malindi has already done incredibly well at Crufts and now these little angels come along. Anyway, heartiest congratulations from all of us at Darling's...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cavalier Matters

Thanks to the BBC documentary ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ there has been some (but by no means enough) publicity about the way in which breeders have caused countless dogs to suffer from genetic diseases and conditions that could easily have been avoided.

The problem is the ruthless desire to create dogs that look a certain way for showing with no thought for the consequences or, for that matter, the ‘rejects’. Obsessive breeders thought nothing of culling dogs that did not meet their desired look nor of using mother-to-son, father-to-daughter and brother-to-sister matings to achieve their ends.

Thankfully, as a direct result of the programme, which was produced by Jemima Harrison, things are starting to change. Nevertheless, it is going to take decades of responsible breeding and vigorous health screening to solve the problem.

In the meantime, caring owners are working to make life better for the poor dogs caught up in this dreadful situation. One such person is Tania Ledger who has created a fantastic site for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lovers.

Cavalier Matters describes itself as offering ‘simple advice for potential and existing owners…including hereditary health issues’. Tragically, although there are plenty of general tips, lots of delightful photographs and some amusing cartoons, the bulk of the site focuses – one way or another – on hereditary health issues. So, while it manages to celebrate this adorable breed it does make for rather chilling reading.

The core problem the dogs face is called Syringomyelia (SM)/ Chiara Malformation (CM). If a dog is described as ‘CM’ it means that its brain is too large for its skull. If a dog is described as ‘SM’ it means that a genetic defect in its skull is destroying its spinal cord. There is no cure for either condition, both of which can be exceedingly painful for the dog. When I tell you that the site recommends allowing £1000 a year for vet bills you will get an idea of how serious these conditions are.

There are several other serious hereditary health issues, too, including: Mitral Valve Disease, Idiopathic Asymptomatic Thrombocytopenia (a blood clotting disorder), Eposodic Falling Syndrome (a type of seizure), Chronic Pancreatitis, Hip Dysplasia, Luxating Patella (knee joint problems), hallucinations, deafness and various eye, skin and coat disorders.

Each of these conditions causes the dogs to suffer and what is so frustrating about it is THE SUFFERING IS UNNECESSARY. If breeders would follow basic, proven protocol the problems could be solved.

Anyway, I strongly recommend a visit to Cavalier Matters if only to look at the first cartoon which shows someone rushing up to a scaffold and saying: ‘Great news your majesty. The Kennel Club is thinking of naming a spaniel after you.’ It is both sad and infuriating that this gorgeous breed should suffer as much as the man it is named for.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Four absolute Darling's

The black eared one is RJ (after her mum Ruby Junior), the little Brindle one Little Em but in her new home she will be called Hettie, the white one with the dot in her ear is Dottie at the moment but will soon be Phoebe and the other white one is Crystal. They were bred by Jane Foster and they are PROUDLY fed by Darling's. Sigh. Aren't they beautiful?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Raw Dolphins!!!!

I don't really take holidays. Some days I work 18 hours, other days one hour (recently it has been more the former than the latter) and as I love the different things I do this suits me well. But - or rather BUT - if I was going to take a holiday I think I might be jolly tempted to sign up for a Raw Dolphins holiday. Raw Dolphins? Well, yes. Run by a darling Darling customer called Yemaya (who is also a pal of a pal) they offer an opportunity to swim with dolphins in locations that look (to my jaded northern European eyes) pretty close to paradise. Think gorgeous, empty, sunny, sandy beaches. It is also possible to take a yoga class every day on the beach. Yemaya is a huge proponent of raw food and eats an entirely raw vegan diet. Having tried this myself I can vouch for just how great one feels not eating meat and not eating anything cooked. Anyway, the 'raw' bit of Raw Dolphins refers to the food on offer. Whether you treat the holiday as an opportunity to detox or whether you end up changing to a raw diet on a permanent basis if my experience is anything to go by you won't regret it. Hey ho. Marianne and I are just back from four days on Culebra which, as you know, but I didn't, is off Puerto Rica (I relied on the pilots to find it for us...and they did) and so I am rather overflowing with enthusiasm for exactly the sort of place that Raw Dolphins will take you. Also, I note from their website that they do food demonstrations as part of the holiday. As I say, if holidays were my style I'd be booking now. Yemaya can be reached on 07884 438758 or email rawdolphins@live.com

This always makes me laugh, too!

This advertisement reputedly appeared in the Atlanta Journal. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn't!

SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I'm a very good girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I'll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me... Call (404) 875-6420 and ask for Annie, I'll be waiting.....

Callers supposedly found themselves connected to the Atlanta Humane Society who were looking to re-home a black Labrador. I would love to think the story is true!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

This always makes me laugh...

My colleague Ruth just sent me this photograph and although I have seen it half a dozen times IT always makes me laugh. HAPPY EASTER!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Why we were over the moon when Banrigh won at Crufts...


Vicky, Ruth and I were THRILLED when Banrigh (or Ch Drawing Down the Moon to Cusidh) won 1st Open Bitch, Bitch Championship Certificate and Best of Breed at Crufts this year. Why? Because Banrigh is one of our canine customers. It happened by accident, really. My wife, Marianne, and I both have a bad Internet habit. She spends hours online looking at sites with names like HorseDeals.com and I spend hours online looking at dogs. I have a huge yearning for a hound (actually, I have a huge yearning for almost any dog you care to mention) and several months ago I had become obsessed with Scottish Deerhounds, as one does. More by accident than design I came across a site (www.scottish-deerhound.com) devoted to the breed run by Elise and Rob Horsfield. So taken was I by the site that I wrote and offered them a sample box of Darling's for no other reason than...well...I could. Anyway, one thing led to another and the Horsfields have become much valued customers. So, as I say, their win thrilled us.

If you don't know anything about Scottish Deerhounds they repay study. This is what it says on Wikipedia about them: "The Scottish Deerhound is believed by some to have existed back to a time before recorded history. Its antecedents may have been kept by the Scots and Picts, and would have been used to help in providing part of their dietary requirements, namely from hoofed game (archaeological evidence supports this in the form of Roman pottery from around 1st Century AD found in Argyll which depicts the deerhunt using large rough hounds (these can be viewed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh). Other evidence can be found on standing stones from around the 7th century AD reflecting a hunt using hounds, such as the Hilton of Cadboll Stone. In outward appearance, the Scottish Deerhound is similar to the Greyhound, but larger and more heavily boned. However Deerhounds have a number of characteristics that set them apart. While not as fast as a Greyhound on a smooth, firm surface, once the going gets rough or heavy they can out run a Greyhound. The environment in which they worked, the cool, often wet, and hilly Scottish Highland Glens, contributed to the larger, rough-coated appearance of the breed. The Deerhound is closely related to the Irish Wolfhound and was the main contributor to the recovery of that breed when it was re-created at the end of the 19th century."

Heartiest congratulations to the Horsfields and to
Banrigh, too, of course.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The use of drugs to control aggression in dogs

One of the most interesting conversations I had at Crufts was with a behaviourist with a canine customer (patient?) on medication to control aggressive behaviour. She spoke airily of the Amino Acid Manipulation Diet as if everyone knew what that was. I didn’t and so the first thing I did that night was look it up online. Nothing. Not a sausage. I wrote to our vet, Tom, about it and in a moment I will explain what he said.

Dog on Prozac

First, an interesting study relating to behaviour and drugs that I found in a site dedicated to English Springer Spaniels. In it the author explains that Ilana Riesner DVM, formerly of Cornell University (NY), did quite a bit of research into aggressive dogs and discovered that many of the dogs studied by Dr. Reisner had abnormally low amounts of serotonin metabolites in their urine and cerebral spinal fluid. This suggested that the dominance aggression was associated with abnormally low levels of serotonin in the brain which corresponded with findings in violent mental patients and prison inmates!

Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters or brain chemicals that has a calming effect. In most mammals, it seems to decrease the amount of aggression associated with dominance. While it doesn’t necessarily change the social status of an animal, higher serotonin levels decrease the likelihood aggressive displays will be used to maintain that social position. Based on these findings, Dr. Riesner used drugs that increase serotonin levels to treat dominance aggression in dogs. We’re talking here of drugs such as Prozac!

Anyway, about 50% of the dominant aggressive dogs respond to these drugs, with a decrease in aggressive displays. The drugs don’t solve the problem, but they made it safer and easier for owners to use behaviour modification techniques to change the dog’s social status in the home. This indicates that dominance aggression may, at least in some individuals, result from a brain abnormality on the chemical level.

So what about the Amino Acid Manipulation Diet?

So, where does this diet come in? Here are the key points Tom made:

“It is believed that some behavioural problems in dogs are due to genetics that lead to low serotonin levels. However, these may well be 'normal' dogs who are getting the wrong diet which is inadequate in serotonin's precursor tryptophan, due to cooking.”

“The highest sources of tryptophan are what dogs eat in the wild red meat, eggs, chicken &c”.

“If you want more serotonin and a calmer dog feed a raw meat diet - you couldn't get a better Amino Acid Manipulation Diet except that there is no manipulation.”

I am still not 100% sure

I am still not quite sure what the Amino Acid Manipulation Diet actually is. Does it only mean a change of diet? Or is it achieved by using processed foods? All help gratefully received. In the meantime I have to say that I do think drugging dogs with behaviour issues is madness when there may well be a much more natural and effective solution viz. a raw food diet. There has been quite a bit written on the connection between raw food and better behaviour and I will return to it again in the future.

From wolf to wealth

How old is the dog? Where do they come from? The latest evidence, reported in the NY Times last week in an article entitled New Finding Puts Origins of Dogs in Middle East, suggests that the dog became domesticated at the same time human settlement occurred, some 15,000 years ago, and that it took place not in Asia (as previously claimed) but in the Middle East. The theory is the result of a massive new DNA testing programme undertaken by Bridgett M. vonHoldt and Dr. Robert Wayne of the University of California. Dr. Wayne believes that wolves began following hunter-gatherer bands to feed on the wounded prey, carcasses or other refuse. At some stage a group of wolves, who happened to be smaller and less threatening than most, developed a dependency on human groups, and may in return have provided a warning system. Supporting this theory Dr. Carlos Driscoll of the National Cancer Institute (what they have to do with dogs is a bit of a mystery) suggested that dogs could have been the sentries that let hunter gatherers settle without fear of surprise attack. They may also have been the first major item of inherited wealth, preceding cattle, and so could have laid the foundations for the gradations of wealth and social hierarchy that differentiated settled groups from the egalitarianism of their hunter-gatherer predecessors. 'Notions of inheritance and ownership,' Dr. Driscoll said, 'may have been prompted by the first dogs to permeate human society, laying an unexpected track from wolf to wealth.'

Great source of dog walks and information...

A day barely seems to pass without someone launching yet another website featuring dog friendly walks, pubs, beaches &c. &c. &c. The problem is that most of the people behind these sites are thinking about how they can make money from them rather than whether the information they are providing is useful and accurate. One exception to this is Driving with Dogs

What I love about this site is that it has been started by dog lovers for dog lovers. The founders, David and Lezli Rees, launched it in 2005 after sitting in traffic for an hour
on the M40 with their Border Collie (Jem) and realising that there must be some fantastic walks just off the motorway if they only knew where they were. So they set out to do the research covering 1000 miles on foot and visiting just about every motorway junction in the country.

As if this wasn't enough they then set about adding other walks as well dog-friendly beaches, pubs, accommodation and campsites. What's more, they included other useful information such as access for those with disabilities and so forth. All in all an incredible labour of love done with no thought of profit, only of service.

Lezli came to visit us on our stand at Crufts and showed me the printed version of their website: Motorway Walks. Short Walks for Drivers and Dogs. This is available from the Border Collie Trust.

Anyway, I can't recommend their website enough and - now I have found it - look forward to trying some of the walks! Driving with Dogs.

How a raw diet can help purine problems in Dalmations and other breeds…

If you have a Dalmation, Beagle, Bulldog, Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniel, Bichon Frise, Miniature Schnauzer, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Yorkshire Terrier, Dachshund, Newfoundland, Irish Terrier, Scottish Terrier or Irish Setter then you are probably only too aware that these breeds can have purine metabolism problems.

In this short article – and with the considerable help of our Chief Veterinary Surgeon, Tom Farrington – I will try and explain how diet can help.

What are purines?

Purines are natural substances found in plant and animal cells and they are vital to the chemical structure of genes. (Don’t ask me any more about the gene angle because I am already in over my head!). High levels of purine can be found in any food group - that is to say vegetables, fruit, meat and fish. Certain foods such as kidneys, game, yeast,
mackerel, herring, sardines and mussels are particularly high. Others, such as chicken, beef, lamb and non-acidic fruit contain lower levels of purine.

When cells die and get recycled in a dog’s body the purines in their genetic material also get broken down. Once completely broken down they turn into uric acid, which is important to good health because it serves as an antioxidant that protects blood vessels.

However, sometimes uric acid levels in the blood and other parts of the body can become too high. This happens, for instance, when the kidney isn’t functioning properly (as it is the kidney that helps keep blood levels of uric acid balanced) or where there is excessive breakdown of cells. Although kidneys regulate the amount of purine (excreting what isn't required) it is worth remembering that the cause of the problem lies in the liver where purine metabolism is done.

OK enough biology.

The purine problems in dogs…

The breeds already mentioned above metabolise purine in a unique way ending up with excess uric acid. This in turn leads to urate stones. Worse, if treated with Allopurinol to block enzyme-producing urates, dogs can end up with xanthine stones instead of urate stones. This is what Tom has to say about the problem:

“From my experience in treating these cases it should be pointed out that urate stones are radio-lucent and thus can easily be missed especially when in the kidneys as x-rays pass right through them leaving no shadow unlike other stones. It takes air contrast x-rays to show them up! But this cannot be done in the kidney and the stone cannot be felt in the kidney, either. Even ultrasounds can miss them but CT (Computerised Tomography) can pick them up."

The Dalmation question

Dalmations are one breed that has been particularly prone to urinary stones and if you have a Dalmation or are interested in why then this site will be of interest:
www.thedca.org/stonecharts.html.

How can diet help?

A raw food diet without organ meat and with none of the high purine vegetables (such as cauliflower, peas, spinach, mushrooms and legumes) is generally excellent as a diet for all breeds with a purine metabolism problem.

Tom says: “There will be dogs that are severely compromised genetically and some dogs who, due to various commercial diets including some commercial and home-made low-purine diets, have already suffered severe stones.”

He also points out that in compromised dogs a high fat diet can add to the problems by increasing urate formation especially in the kidneys. So if you have a thin dog with a purine problem consider increasing the frequency and size of meals rather than the fat level and check for hidden stones.

Bear in mind that plenty of pure water is also important. The word ‘pure’ must be emphasised as some additions to water for purification and sterilization purposes can change the urine pH or entire body chemistry triggering crystal formation.

What else? ‘Table foods’ are out and so is anything with salt in it. With regard to diet, incidentally, this may require the addition of potassium citrates (for preventing calcium oxalate crystals) and sodium bicarbonate (for preventing cystine crystals). Always ensure that the diet does not have large amounts of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) added as it acidifies urine decreasing the risk of the most common forms of stones but increasing the risk of urates.

Finally, do remember to arrange regular urine checks to ensure the pH stays alkaline and for the presence of either urate or xanthine crystals.

Remember, we make all our food to order

If you want to switch your dog to a low-purine, raw food diet but don’t know where to start we can help. All our food is made to order and we don't charge anything extra for adding or altering the basic ingredients. Please call or email for more information.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Perhaps the most impressive dog trainers in London

I have very specific ideas about how dogs should be trained and, candidly, most trainers fail to impress me. My own education was received from a wonderful, Australian woman called Alison Morgan who, though now in her eighties, is still passionate about dogs and obedience training. I watched her work with her own champion dogs almost every day throughout through my childhood (I should explain that she brought me up), attended her classes and also went to many of the dog shows where she appeared. Her philosophy is straightforward: positive reinforcement of good behaviour and what I would describe as mild disapproval of bad behaviour. Anyway, the result is that although I like lots of dog trainers I meet, there are few that I really admire.

Two that I am more than happy to recommend, however, are
Phillip Gazzard and Craig Steiff. Phillip runs Bark Busters for North, South and Central London and Craig runs Bark Busters for West London, Croydon and Sutton. Recently I chose them to look after my sister-in-law Kate’s new lurcher, Jackson, (photos to follow) and my business partner Vicky is actually getting them to help her with her Labradoodle, Rudi. In other words, they are so good we are using them ourselves.

What makes them special? They follow the Bark Busters training philosophy designed in the 1980s by Sylvia and Danny Wilson and which has since become the most popular training method in the world. Indeed, Bark Busters have trained more than 500,000 dogs since it was founded in Australia.
Anyway, I am rambling (first day back at blogging and all that). My real point is that if you are looking for a trainer anywhere in the London area I would definitely recommend Phillip and Craig. They have their own website Dog Training London or you can call them on 0808 100 4071.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crufts here we come!

Only a week now until Crufts. You will find us in Hall 1 on Stand 100. Please, please, pretty please come and say hello if you are an existing customer. And, of course, if you aren't.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Free hamper of Darling's raw food

We have 20 hampers of Darling's Real Dog Food to give away to dog clubs as free draw or competition prizes. Just drop me an email jonathan@darlingsrealdogfood.com if you want to apply. Also, while I am about it if you run a canine website of any description we have some excellent articles on raw feeding that we will be happy for you to post.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Save a Westie!

Isn't this photo FANTASTIC? It was sent to me by Robert Woods of Westie ReHoming in Wiltshire. They are his family's family, as it were, of West Highland Terriers photographed on their summer hols on the Isle of Mull. Westie ReHoming is, as the name suggests, involved in finding new homes for Westies. What I like about the organisation is that they are scrupulously careful about choosing new homes for the dogs in their care. The same cannot be said of all such organisations. Anyway, if you are a Westie lover then you could do worse than send a few bob to support its work. And if you are looking for a Westie to love - and you are serious about it - they may be able to help.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pets Allowed! Great new site.

Looking for somewhere to stay that will let you bring your dog or cat? Searching for an interesting pet-friendly place to visit? A new site, Pets Allowed, aims to provide users with a free list of suitable accommodation and visitor attractions. It has launched with a good selection (my test searches all came up with a reasonable selection) and I imagine that over time it will get even better as they build up their database. Anyway, Pets Allowed is definitely worth bookmarking.

An urgent call for action


Every year millions of British dogs and cats - possibly your own - are being put at risk. How? Let me explain. Canine Health Concern has just launched a much needed campaign to try and change the unnecessary and potentially fatal vaccination of dogs and cats. The core element of the campaign is an open letter to Professor Dean of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), the government body responsible for vaccination guidelines and regulation. The nature of the problem is summed up at the beginning of this letter:
"Despite repeated requests over many years, the VMD – a government department - has failed to take action to ensure that veterinary vaccines are administered no more frequently than is necessary, or to warn and protect the public from spurious claims on the part of veterinary vaccine manufacturers and veterinary surgeons. Independent duration of immunity studies have been available since the 1970s to show that immunity to viral disease in dogs and cats persists for years or the life of the animal, and that annual vaccination is not required."
The thing that I found really shocking as I read the rest of the letter was the fact that equivalent bodies in other parts of the world have woken up to the risks and have stopped allowing pharmaceutical companies to promote regular boosters. Why not the British? Hard to say. For a nation of pet lovers we are not shining here and it is important that this issue is brought to the attention of parliament so that pressure can be put on the VMD to make these much needed changes to the regulations.

If you would like to know more about this issue visit the resource area of the Canine Health Concern website and click on books/publications and then look for press releases/letters. It is an eye opener and if you feel inclined (as I did) to take action I hope you will decide to write to your MP.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Proof that canned pet food is dangerous


The BBC reported that this poor stray cat walked into the Scottish SPCA's Wildlife Rescue Centre in Middlebank on Sunday with her head wedged in an empty pet food tin. After the can was carefully removed she was checked over. She has now been taken to the Edinburgh and Lothians Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Balerno, Edinburgh. Colin Seddon, Scottish SPCA Wildlife Rescue Centre manager, said: "Luckily no damage was done and the little cat was very pleased to be freed from the discomfort that comes with having your head stuck inside a tin can." Proof that canned pet food is dangerous. A reminder that litter is a terrible threat to animals. And a good excuse for me to say that Darling's is as good for cats as it is for dogs. Indeed, we already have some feline customers and we are planning to re-package and slightly re-formulate our recipes shortly with a view to launching Darling's Real Cat Food. In the meantime if you have a cat then please don't hesitate to contact us on 0844 656 1566.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gastric Torsion and how to deal with it…


I had never heard of Gastric Torsion until this week when a prospective customer asked us whether our food would be OK for a Great Dane who had had his spleen removed due to ‘bloat’ – which is another name for the same thing.

The first thing we did was ask our Chief Veterinary Surgeon, Tom Farrington, what he thought and he began his answer by referring us to a fantastic article on the subject by an American vet called Ron Hines. If you want to read the full article click here. Anyway, here is how Ron describes the actual problem:

“Gastric dilatation is a life-threatening condition that occurs in mature large dogs. I do not see many of these cases but when I do I have work diligently if I am to save the animal. Another term for the condition is gastric dilatation/volvulus or GDV. Volvulus is a twisting of an organ along its long axis. In this disease, the stomach flips over on itself and expands with trapped swallowed air and fermentation gases. Circulation to the stomach and spleen are cut off to the point where the dog may go into shock and die. A startling finding is that the incidence of bloat has increased by more than 1500% over the past 30 years.”

He goes on to say that the cause is abnormal muscular contractions in the stomach and that: “Lack of normal motility and circulation in the stomach cause the body to become too acidic (metabolic acidosis).” He goes on to point out that dogs who eat from elevated dishes are more likely to become bloated and to explain that there does seem to be a genetic link.

There is then quite a bit of interesting information about a study carried out by Purdue University which, basically, points out that dogs who eat dried food seem to be up to four times more likely to suffer bloat. So, not feeding your dog dried food and not raising the bowl would both seem to help.

So, what did our vet, Tom, say?

Well he started by emphasising that dried food was dangerous and that:

“It is important to ensure the dog puts on weight as this is one of the factors that reduces the risk, but too much fat increases the risk of recurrence so it means feeding often till the dog gains weight. A raw food diet is clinically proven to improve the chances of preventing a recurrence. In my experience this can be any of the Darling’s formulations, but many Great Dane breeders prefer a tripe diet. This is basically where a portion of the diet is replaced with raw tripe (tripe is normally treated before sale) and owners can do this themselves or it can be supplied with the food from Darling’s. The weight of the dog should be monitored carefully.”

Note, we are always happy to help anyone with diet and health issues whether or not they end up becoming a customer. Anyway, I digress. Tom continued with an extremely interesting piece of advice:

“A more important factor in my opinion is to address why the dog is upset. Most dogs who get bloat do not do so around feeding time but rather late at night - ask almost any vet when he has had to do the surgery and it is usually 9pm to 2am ish., it is rarely ever a day time procedure.

I find many of these dogs are upset in some way.

Just to give one example was a Rottweiler on it's 3rd Gastric Torsion and it happened to end up with me. In a quick conversation with the owner I asked if any thing had triggered and they said no he had tried to chase the cat before it had started, but they had stopped him as usual. A little further questioning revealed that this had happened before each episode of bloat. Treatment with a (homeopathic) remedy for anger promptly caused the dog to belch for a very prolonged period nearly suffocating us all.

The owner reported that each time the symptoms occurred giving the remedy brought it to a prompt conclusion. At this point I suggested that they let the dog chase the cat next time it teased the dog (I had checked about the possibility of the dog over doing it with the cat and was assured the cat was far the fleeter). After one chase the cat stopped teasing the dog and there was never another episode of bloat, so the condition is not as simple as many indicated it is. Dogs who are happy do not seem to get it - unhappy is a very wide term including things from grief to vexation and anger.”

All of which is very interesting.

If your dogs have any serious medical issues I really can’t recommend Tom enough. He has been my personal vet for over a decade and has treated our pigs, horses, chickens and dogs with great success. Here are his contact details:

e-mail farrington.vet@gmail.com - anytime
web: http://sites.google.com/site/farringtonvet/home
Mobile 087 2494059 International ++353 87 2494059
Phone 023 8848811 International ++353 23 8848811
Fax 023 8848805 International ++353 23 8848805

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Super dog! What we like about Pet Plus


One of the questions we wrestled with when we were formulating the original Darling's recipes was what to do about supplements. In particular, Tom (Farrington) our Chief Veterinary Surgeon (jolly impressive title, isn't it?) suggested that we consider adding a powdered supplement called Pet Plus. In the end we decided not to bother because the ingredients we use actually meet all (and more) of a dog's nutritional requirements.

But, and that should be a big BUT, we really like what goes into Pet Plus and believe that there are plenty of instances where it makes sense to use it, such as when a dog is elderly, unwell, lacking in energy or where the effects of processed food need to be counterbalanced.

What makes us keen on Pet Plus? Here is how they describe the ingredients on their UK website:

The probiotics in Pet Plus, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum, have been chosen as the two most important Lactobacillus species for dogs. Naturally found throughout the gastrointestinal tracts of healthy animals, these micro-organisms help to defend the body against invading pathogenic bacteria. Probiotic organisms produce lactic acid and keep the colon environment slightly acid to prevent the growth of harmful organisms; furthermore, lactobacilli are known to produce several antibiotic compounds to further inhibit the growth of pathogenic organisms. Due to the prevalence of broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment which kills the beneficial organisms as well as harmful bacteria, healthy intestinal flora may be lacking. Supplemental replenishment of probiotics quickly returns the flora balances to normal. In addition, Lactobacillus organisms have been found to significantly contribute to the reduction of lactose intolerance symptoms. Yet another benefit of probiotics is their ability to regulate bowel movements and halt diarrhoea.

Alfalfa is considered highly nourishing and is a rich source of many trace minerals in addition to providing magnesium, iron, B vitamins, chromium, vitamin C and b-carotene. It is also a prebiotic, supporting the all important gut flora. Chlorophyll has been shown to have a cleansing action on the body, detoxifying and preventing odours.

Barley and wheat grass are important cereal grasses. When harvested during their early growth, they not only function as prebiotics to maintain the health of the probiotics, but also they supply vitamins and minerals at levels comparable to the green leafy vegetables.

Flax seed and safflower petals are rich natural sources of the essential fatty acids, which play a critical role in the maintenance of a healthy skin and coat.

The following digestive enzymes are also present in Pet Plus to aid the digestion of the food.

Protease digests proteins to produce amino acids and since dogs do not synthesise essential amino acids, it is of utmost importance that the diet be digestible. Amino acids are important building blocks, being used by the dog’s body to build muscles, metabolic enzymes, neuro-transmitters and many other biochemicals. Amino acids supply nitrogen for the synthesis of all other nitrogenous compounds, as well as a back-up supply of energy.

Amylase, glucoamylase and cellulase digest starches and cellulose, respectively, to produce free glucose and break down the plant cell walls to release their nutrients. Dogs require glucose to supply energy for all life functions. This is provided by the pulverised raw vegetables which form an essential part of our dogs’ daily diet. Although fibre digestion is not considered essential for canine health, the break-down of some fibre has been shown to be beneficial, supplying a source of supplemental energy.

Lipase digests dietary fats, releasing free fatty acids and glycerol. Dietary fat is a concentrated source of energy supplying four times as much energy as either protein or glucose. Fats are important to canine health. Fats act as a carrier for fat soluble vitamins (e.g. A, D and K), build cell membranes, form prostaglandins, leukotrienes and hormones. Proper assimilation of fats is also important for a healthy skin and coat.

The following two ingredients help the body to repel parasites.

Brewer’s yeast in the dog formulation is a rich source of the B-complex vitamins and is high in the minerals magnesium and phosphorous. Combinations of brewer’s yeast and garlic have also been found to be effective in reducing flea infestations on dogs. In addition, brewer’s yeast has a pleasant taste that supports compliance.

Garlic is naturally high in iodine, sulphur, phosphorous, iron, potassium and selenium, as well as the vitamins B1 and B3. This herb/vegetable is well known for its beneficial effects on both the immune and cardiovascular systems. Garlic has been shown to kill worms and repel fleas.
Pet Plus is only available in the UK through a vet called Susanna Mcintyre who also specialises, by the way, in canine dentistry.

Catherine O’Driscoll Complementary Healthcare


Dogs clearly experience the same range of emotions as humans. They may not be as well hidden (if a dog is, for example, jealous he or she tends to express it more directly) but they are, in essence, identical. More than this it seems pretty clear to me that our own dogs pick up on our emotional state in the same way that another human might. But with one major difference. Companion dogs don’t have the same range of options that humans have. They are trapped. Where am I going with this? Well, if you agree with me then you may be interested in the work being done by Catherine O’Driscoll.

Catherine may be better known to you as the founder of the not-for-profit organisation Canine Health Concern which is particularly keen to get the message over that vaccines could be causing your dog considerably more harm than good.

However, she also practices as a canine complementary healthcare professional and she has lots to say about the way in which canine emotions and thus canine behaviour is strongly linked to our own emotions and behaviour. Put another way, your dog may be mirroring or reacting to you in a much more sophisticated and complicated way than you imagine.

He or she may also be suffering in ways you don’t realise.

Catherine believes that one solution to this whole problem is Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT. On her website she describes this as:

‘A fast-track tool for personal growth, bringing peace and harmony into our lives in direct proportion to the amount we use it. From personal experience of using EFT, I know that when we use EFT on ourselves, we are taking care of ourselves and the animals in our care. After all, we can’t give our dogs anything that we ourselves do not have.’

Sounds a bit airy-fairy? Well, it isn’t. This is a practical technique ‘similar to acupuncture, but instead of using needles, you stimulate energy points on your body by tapping them with your fingertips. The process is easy to memorise and you can do it anywhere.’

It involves telepathic communication. Only a fool would scoff at this. Many years ago I had some dealings with Yuri Geller and at one point he bent all my tea spoons by stroking them gently once or twice and it stopped me from ever doubting that people can have powers that science does not yet understand. There is ample evidence that human telepathy works so why shouldn’t it work with animals?

Incidentally, one side benefit of learning about EFT is that it may lead to you becoming happier and more fulfilled.

The other day Pippa Ducat (the really lovely animal behaviourist from Kent that we rather adore at Darling’s) was pointing out to me how all the training techniques she advocates for dealing with dogs work with people. Well, I gather the same is true of EFT.

Catherine has a great video on her site and lots and lots of additional information. If you are genuinely interested in dogs and their welfare then I can’t recommend strongly enough discovering more. The site is: http://odriscollhealthcare.weebly.com

The dog we're helping to feed...


You remember (of course you do) how the winner of our Prize Draw was the canine rescue charity SOS? Well, this is Paddy, the dog we are helping to feed. Isn't he gorgeous? If you are looking for a really worthwile canine charity to support please remember SOS Animals UK.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Barking Mayhem 2010


If you live within easy distance of Stevenage in Hertfordshire then can I recommend putting 3rd May in your diary? That’s the date of the second ‘Barking Mayhem’ dog show. The organisers clearly have a penchant for German Shepherds because there is to be a rally just for them…but it isn’t all about Shepherds. Last year – the first year the organisers have planned the show – attendance was a stunning 1,500 and this year they are hoping for more. Whoops. I should have mentioned that the show is in aid of charity and is organised with the help of the Barking Mad Dog Training School. Anyway, it all looks great fun. Vicky and I are hoping to be there if we can, incidentally, but even if we can’t we are planning to donate a bumper Darling’s hamper as a prize.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dicky Bags...the No.1 answer to No.2s


Why my oldest son, Nat, set up his dog walking, babysitting and errand business, which he rather cleverly called WalkSitRun his younger brother, Jack, secretly referred to the enterprise as WalkSh!tScoop. It is certainly true that Nat developed, albeit briefly, an obsessive interest with different scooping and storage methods and when you visited him he was inclined to wave the latest device under your nose and ask: 'What do you think of this?'

Anyway, I am sure that Nat would heartily approve of Dicky Bags, the trendy new scooper accessory, that bills itself as 'the No.1 answer for dogs' No.2s'. Basically the Dicky Bags kit consists of a) the bag itself...a zip-up container in a range of colours that you can clip to the dog's lead or your belt b) biodegradable pick up bags c) a freshner thingy (they don't actually call it this) that fits in the zip up container.

So, what you do is scoop and bag as per usual and - instead of then having to spend your whole walk holding the offending plastic bag in your hand - you pop it in the neat little container and - um - Bob is your uncle (which in my case actually happens to be true, Hello, Uncle Bob).

Anyway, if you live in an area where scooping is de rigueur then the Dicky Bag has to be the way to go.

PS They are very good value for money!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

‘Save Our Strays’ deserves our support…


I am in slight disgrace with my business partner, Vicky, for not mentioning the winner of our Discover Dogs free draw sooner. It was Tania at Save Our Strays (SOS) Animals UK and, not surprisingly, she has decided to donate the prize – a whole year of Darling’s Real Dog Food – to feeding one of the rescue dogs in her care.

SOS is a small, specialised rescue charity that really deserves our support because they do work that no one else is really interested in. In a nutshell, half the stray dogs (and cats) in rescue centres on the Costa Del Sol are left there by ex-pat Brits who have decided to chuck in the good life and return to Blighty leaving their pets behind them. SOS works to re-house these poor animals.

Of course, the problem with strays in Spain goes much deeper. The country has one of the largest stray populations of dogs & cats in Europe. Furthermore, horrific cases of animal cruelty have been extensively documented, specifically directed towards the working dogs. It is not rare for the Podencos (Pharaoh Hounds) and Galgos (Greyhounds) to be hung when they have finished their working life, or to have their legs broken and be left to die. Neutering is not common, either, and few dogs are vaccinated. Basically, it is a pretty rough life.

Anyway, SOS Animals UK works with Spanish rescue centres providing volunteers, cash, medical supplies, bedding and – crucially – bringing dogs back to the UK where they can be re-homed.

Fantastic and important work that deserves to be supported.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seven glorious moments with Pluto

Bored? Why not waste a happy 7 minutes watching this 1932 Disney cartoon of Mickey Mouse washing Pluto?