Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Touching tributes

August 11th, 2010

The degree of loyalty which dogs can display towards their owners can be truly remarkable. In Japan, near Shibuya train station, there’s a sculpture to a special dog, paid for by public donations. It is a tribute to the devotion of Hachiko, who was a Japanese Akita.

Hachiko used to walk to the station with his owner each morning, and would then return to accompany him home in the evening. Even though the professor died suddenly at Tokyo university during 1925, Hachiko continued this journey back and forth to the station every day for a further 10 years, in the hope that they would be reunited.

In its own way, this simple gravestone in an Edinburgh churchyard is just as poignant, even though the events surrounding it are not well-known, especially when compared with the case of Greyfriars Bobby – this Scottish city’s most famous canine resident.

© kyz

Commemorative stone © kyz

Commemorative stone

The engraved inscription on the stone tells of the death of an elderly shepherd in 1795, but that is only part of the story. John Foord became caught up in a fierce snowstorm on Corstorphine hill in February that year, while tending his sheep. When he was found after the blizzard, he was lying dead near a rock, with the body of his sheepdog at his side.

His friends then decided to bring the rock down the hill, and cut it to create this tombstone. They also placed the smaller stone alongside it, to commemorate the death of John Foord’s faithful canine companion, who stayed with him right to the end.

Dog Photographer of the Year

July 19th, 2010

The 2010 Dog Photographer of the Year competition has been launched, and it’s easy to take part. For full details, call 020 7518 1035/1009. Entries should be accompanied by a donation of £3.50, with all monies raised going to the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which funds a wide variety of work ranging from research into canine diseases to welfare initiatives and the promotion of support dogs which work closely alongside people.

The winning photographs will be put on display at Discover Dogs, London’s leading canine event which takes place at Earls Court in November, and the overall winner will be placed on the front cover of the Kennel Gazette, the flagship monthly publication of the Kennel Club. Winners from each category will be presented with a framed print of their photograph.

There are four categories:-
* Dogs at Work
* Dog at Play
* Dog Portrait
* Man’s Best Friend

There is also a special category for entrants under 16, simply called ‘I Love Dogs’ – entry is free in this case.

Sam the spaniel is back home again!

May 30th, 2010

After vanishing from his home on a farm in the English county of Devon over two and a half years ago, Sam the crossbred spaniel has finally been reunited with his owners, Christine and Ray Robinson. They had been devastated when their beloved pet suddenly disappeared.

Sam the cross-bred spaniel.

Sam the cross-bred spaniel.

Following many months of searching, posting hundreds of “missing” posters through the area and even visiting a psychic, Christine almost gave up hope of ever seeing Sam again, but her husband Ray was confident that they would be reunited as Sam was microchipped. Using a process similar to giving an injection, the tiny microchip – about the size of a grain of rice – is inserted under the skin in the neck. It contains a unique code, which can be read by a special reader.

Sam’s details had been logged with the UK’s largest pet reunification service, known as PetLog, which is run by the Kennel Club. Their database presently contains the details of over 4.2 million pets and their owners, with this figure growing by 40,000 each month. Welfare organisations, dog wardens, veterinary practices and similar groups can trace owners of stray dogs through this scheme, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Sam was finally discovered wandering along the side of a road several miles from where he had last been seen. He was taken to the local pub, in the hope that the landlord might recognise him. When he didn’t, the local dog warden was called and Sam was scanned to see if he had been microchipped.

Christine was amazed and delighted to be reunited with Sam. “It is really fantastic to have him back, and to think that if we hadn’t had him microchipped and his details stored with Petlog, we would never have seen him again. Everyone should have their dog microchipped – it’s such a wonderful service.

“Sam was jumping all over us when we came to pick him up and, as we were approaching the farm, he went wild, tail wagging and running around. He knew exactly where he was! The people who had taken him in had obviously cared for him and treated him well as a family pet. When he left us, he was a healthy gundog, but he has come back slightly overweight. He still enjoys going out with us, although he seems to have forgotten his gundog training.”

*For more information about Petlog, visit

Discover your dog’s ancestry!

May 9th, 2010

Do you have a cross-bred or mongrel but aren’t sure of its origins? It’s always fascinating attempting to work out which particular breeds may originally have contributed to your pet’s make-up. Several years ago, I tried to come up with a formula to identify different characteristics for this purpose. It formed the basis of The Mutt Book : Decoding Your Mutt’s Heritage, which was published in association with the Dogs Trust.

This wasn’t scientific of course, but now, for the first time, you can take the guesswork out of the equation, as a DNA test has just been launched which should reveal your dog’s true origins. All you need to do is to take a swab from your dog’s cheek, which is completely painless and easy to do, and then send it direct to the laboratory.

Within three weeks, you’ll receive your pet’s official ancestry report back. This will be based on a comparison with the DNA of over 170 breeds – the largest database of its type on the market.

Neale Fretwell, director of research and development at Mars Veterinary which has pioneered the test, points out that knowing your dog’s background is important, because there are significant breed differences, not just in terms of appearance but behaviour as well.

“It’s not just about curiosity,” he says. “The smarter you are about your dog’s past, the smarter you can be about his future”. Neale explains that by knowing the breeds which contributed to your pet’s ancestry, so you will be able to meet its feeding, training and exercise requirements more effectively.

The test itself costs £61.29 and is available through Pet-Supermarket. Just click here, visit the site and type ‘DNA Test’ in the search box.

A Spotted Dog Story

February 20th, 2010

It’s interesting how when you travel to the more remote parts of the world, you still see dogs. I remember being stuck in a raging sandstorm on the western fringes of the Sahara some years ago, and there was a recognisable family group of dogs there, whose coats were virtually the same colour as the sand. They were living on the fringes of human society, just as their ancestors would have done – scavenging for whatever food and leftovers they could find.

It’s easy to see how localised breeds would then have developed under these circumstances. There are somewhere around 400 breeds today – some ancient, others modern – and barely half of these are officially recognised for show purposes in the UK, Australia and North America. Many breeds in the world are still largely unknown therefore, outside their area of origin.

When you think about it, what sets dog breeds apart is their physique, rather than their coloration. While there are various breeds such as the Russian black terrier which can be defined by their coloration, there’s only one – the Dalmatian, which is distinguishable by its spotted patterning.

That’s what makes this particular pet dog, photographed on the streets of Kalimpong, a hill station in India’s famous tea-growing district of Darjeeling, West Bengal, so remarkable. It has a very distinctive and unique spotted patterning, but clearly isn’t of any particular breed type.

Spotted dog © Sukantho Debnath

Spotted dog © Sukantho Debnath

There’s no physical resemblance to a Dalmatian evident in its appearance, but perhaps surprisingly, I don’t think the possible influence of this breed can be ruled out entirely. Kalimpong was a town famous for its educational institutions established there during British rule, which began in the 1860s.

It became home to many expatriates, with a particularly strong Scottish representation amongst them. This unusual dog may represent an unexpected legacy from that era. A Dalmatian brought from Britain during colonial rule may well have ended up transferring its spotted patterning into the dog population of the region. This would then explain how such markings could emerge in litters of puppies today.