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.