Saturday, 28 February 2015

Crufts 2015 - The list (part of it)

It's less than a week to go for Crufts and I'm busy prepping for the whole heap of things I want to do and explore there. As explained in my post a little while ago - my blogs will focus on some of the other aspects of Crufts away from the show and agility rings. I'll link to blogs that will give you all that information too though - and of course Channel 4 and More4 will be showing highlights from each day (I'll add the times at the end of the blog) you can also watch highlights on Crufts' own YouTube channel.

Here's just a few of the things I've already planned for my never-ending list!

Friends for Life

There is a dog I'm so very much looking forward to is meeting - Miracle.

Miracle is a finalist in the Friends for Life competition. Miracle's picture led me to learn more about dogs from the Dog Meat Trade. The image of him hanging out of a crate in dreadful condition went viral online - I remember it hitting my heart so hard, it hurt. But Miracle was rescued, and now lives with his forever family in the UK. He will be at Crufts with his human brother Kyle and his Mum Amanda and I can't wait to go and see his beautiful face for real and tell him all about Willow - he'll likely be too busy for the full story I reckon, but I'll give it a go.

You can go and vote for your chosen Friends for Life finalist here.


Another dog I'm looking forward to meeting is Nowzad's Wylie. Nowzad rescues stray and abandoned animals in Afghanistan - Wylie was one of these rescue dogs. He suffered "horrific cruelty" with terrible injuries before being rescued by British soldiers. Wylie won Scrufts (Best Cross Breed) at Crufts last year and will be there again this year, pawtographing a book all about his lovely self: Wylie - The Brave Street Dog Who Didn't Give Up by Pen Farthing. I shall be getting a copy for that paw print.

Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme

I'm also really interested to find out more about the Kennel Club's Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme. Whilst not all of us want to go on and work on further obedience and other kinds of training with our dogs - those basic commands are worth their weight in gravy bones - especially a good recall (are you listening Harvey?) The scheme most definitely promotes this. It is a non-competitive, relaxed and informal activity to do with your dog and open to all dogs (no matter what breed or cross-breed) and all ages. 

Pets as Therapy (PAT Dog) of the Year

One of my photography doggy clients became a PAT Dog not so long ago - and the work these dogs do is priceless to those whose lives they enhance. As well as visiting people of all ages in hospitals, hospices and care homes - PAT dogs also work with children in schools, to increase the child's confidence and aid their learning. The PAT Dog of the Year parade will be on Friday 6th.

I'm not sure how I'm going to fit in all I've planned over the three days I'll be there, but I'll have a blimmin' good go! Please do say hi if you see me - as said before, I'll be the tall blonde covered in slobber with a massive smile on her face!

If you'd like to visit Crufts too, you can purchase tickets here.

Crufts is being televised on:

Thursday 6th March 2015 - More4 - 6:30-9pm
Friday 7th March 2015 - More4 6:30 -7:30pm
Saturday 8th March 2015 - Channel 4 - 7:30pm-9:30pm
Sunday 9th March 2015 - Channel 4 - 7pm-9pm

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The New Forest

The New Forest is one of my all-time favourite places in the UK. Of course, it might well be the presence of about a gerjillion ponies that has me jumping for joy each time I visit – Ok, it is…it is the ponies. I'm aware that I'm stretching the realms of the remit of this blog – New Forest ponies aren’t officially pets – but…can we just overlook the semi-feral-ness of them so I can post some of the pictures I've just rediscovered?  

Pure bred New Forest Ponies come in a range of colours, mainly chestnut, bay and grey - but they can also be roan and black. Piebald, skewbald and blue eyed cream are not permitted. 

One of my plans for this year is to work on a study of the New Forest Pony. I hope to visit every season and photograph them in all weathers and all times of day just for the sheer heck of it. This morning I started on the planning, which meant research - and, because you know I love a bit of history, I had to include it here.

The pictures in this post are all from my trip to the New Forest last August for my birthday. I had planned a whole day of photography but it rained so hard that day the range of pictures didn't happen. We did get some sunny moments though, where we mostly ate too much and lounged about among the trees. It was actually bliss – rainy wet bliss!

The New Forest 

Of course, throughout history horses and ponies have roamed wild around Europe, and there is evidence of wild equines in the New Forest area since the end of the Ice Age.

The New Forest isn't actually new or a forest. The land is ancient heath, and the term ‘forest’ was first used in the English language to describe ‘land for hunting’. Land of course often comes with trees, and so the word evolved, and we all now use it to describe land that is covered in trees.

The New Forest was in fact created by William the Conqueror in 1079 as his own Royal Hunting Ground. During its development, the people of the area (commoners) were allowed to turn their livestock out to graze. Don’t be fooled into thinking that William was a kind man; he was actually a bit of a shitbag who the English despised. But this isn't really about William (although it is largely thanks to him we've got this beautiful area to coo about).

Often used as pit ponies in the past, the New Forest Pony is a sturdy worker. Nowadays, due to their calm nature they make great ponies for children.

The New Forest pony is a recognised native breed of the British Isles and is now listed as a Minority Breed with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. There are about 4500 of them grazing the Forest. They’re known for their hardiness and versatility, along with intelligence and gentle nature.

New Forest ponies aren't wild, they are all owned by commoners who have rights of common pasture – however they are predominantly left out to graze in the forest, and on the commons year round and are affectionately known as the ‘Architects of the Forest’ – their existence being essential to the ecological balance of the forest and vice versa.

Whilst the New Forest Ponies are often very tolerant of humans, they should not be fed or touched at all by visitors - not only can feeding cause digestive problems and illness, it also encourages them to move towards roads and villages which puts them in danger of being hit by cars.

All ponies must be branded with their owners mark and are overseen by five Agisters who charge a nominal fee each year to check their health and worm them. Each pony then has their tail marked with their relative Agister’s unique cut, to show fees have been paid.

The ponies are mostly females - mares, with of course their foals, and a few geldings to add to the mix. Stallions aren't permitted to roam free, but are run out during the early Summer months to do their thing; ensuring foals are born when there is enough food for them to thrive.

I sheltered with this group of four during a heavy rainfall, we were all under this tree, and they just accepted me as one of them. Absolutely lovely - a forever memory.

Later in the year the ponies are subject to ‘Autumn Drifts’, where the herds are “thinned out” removing mainly colts and some fillies (which are sold on), and those in poor health.

During the mid-1800s the quality of New Forest Pony stock was on the decline. Better quality stock was being sold on, leaving those who weren't necessarily the healthiest of specimens to continue breeding. Queen Victoria herself loaned an Arab stallion to improve the breed, but still things didn't go well.

A pregnant mare. Whilst taking this photograph I could see the outline of her baby move around inside her tummy. Wonderful experience to be accepted by her and she posed for many shots!

In 1891 the Society for Improvement of the New Forest Pony was created and encouraged the use of good quality stallions to run the forest – numbers began to grow. By 1905 the New Forest Pony Stud Book was set up - a concerted effort was made to improve bloodlines further, and by 1930 all stallions sent out for shenanigans were pure New Forest Ponies.

All went well until World War II.

The Forest was instrumental to British Operations during the War. Much of the area was taken over by allied forces for training and exercise, and ponies were requested to be removed for safety reasons. Due to rationing, areas of the forest were ploughed to produce food and 400,000 tons of timber was felled. It wasn't a good time for the Architects of the Forest. Numbers dropped again.

Nowadays stock numbers aren’t at their highest – as we remain in economic difficulty, the knock on effect to livelihoods of commoners using the forest has grown; less sales equal less ponies being produced. However, a programme initiated by Verderers (officers of the forest) to concentrate on quality and not quantity of ponies, ensures that efforts are continuously made to improve bloodlines, helping the New Forest remain one of the most beautiful and important, both scientifically and ecologically, areas of Great Britain.

Camera shy - not everyone likes having their pictures taken

To find out more about the New Forest Pony and their breed specifics, visit the New Forest Pony Breeding & Cattle Society website.

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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Black & White Sunday - Young and Old

"Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog."

This old boy is beautiful Duke. His eyes reflect a lifetime of being adored - he sits and watches his young brother Barney shoot around the garden full of the joys of Spring. 

But Duke isn't sad, he's still a puppy at heart. He knows he can't run as fast as Barney any more - but he's still got a whole lot of playing to do.

Barney loves his big brother too. He copies him, and follows his lead, and wants to be just like Duke when he grows up.

"And they call it puppy love."

Happy Sunday all!

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Saturday, 21 February 2015

Give me Space.

For reasons explained in my last post, I took a couple of days away from social media, just to get a grip on myself, and regroup - sometimes that's what's needed isn't it? A little space does everyone good every now and again.

What I have been doing the past couple of days though is beginning to learn how to drive. OK, I know, I'm 41 years old and I should have learned a lot sooner - but you see, I have this horrible crazy fear of it. So much so that it's stopped me learning. I lived in London for a long time, and I just didn't need to drive, what with the underground and awesome bus services there - but, living here on the Island, you're pretty scuppered if you don't. Bus fares are so expensive and, some of the places I want to go the bus doesn't go - a bit silly that. I promised myself at the start of the year to do the things I had been putting off. Regardless of the fear factor!

My lovely little car - he's called Moby and he's a good boy :)

I have to say, I'm not really enjoying it. I'm doing it because I have to - and whilst I have an amazing Mum who joined me in my business and takes me anywhere I need to go for work - it's not right is it?A middle-aged woman relying on her Mum to get her everywhere! It's finally time I bit the bullet.

Learning from Willow

Willow has actually helped me loads with figuring out how to deal with this crazy fear. Observing her and her fear, I saw that whilst so much sends her into a meltdown, she also pushes herself to overcome it. If at first she's not sure of something, she'll back away - but then she'll go back to it, and if she backs off again, she'll go back to it again until she's overcome it - and...if my dog can blimmin' well do it, so can I! 

We're helping each other - she's teaching me how to trust myself and know I can do these things, and I'm doing the same for her. It's a perfect match.

Whilst we're on the subject of fear:

Last week I ordered Willow a special hi-viz vest. I have several times tried to get through to some people that she just doesn't want to be petted, or approached by dogs or their owners. I'm quite a forceful character when I want to be (and especially so when it comes to my dogs) - but, it seems that when it comes to dogs, some people take leave of their senses and ignore what they're asked to do around her - this made me so angry the other day that I lost my temper with one man who refused to call his big overly confident rotty away from her. 

Willow was in such a state, she was backing away into the sea with the waves lapping over her in dreadful fear and nothing I said to this chap would convince him that his dog was causing more damage than good (he said it was "Just what she needed" without knowing anything about her). I got so mad I might have sworn a bit - and whilst this man is very much the exception rather than the rule - after a couple of other incidents where people ignored my "Please don't approach her, she's scared." request, I thought I'd get her a jacket that makes it immediately obvious.

We used it for the first time today - and it really helped. Instead of people approaching, they still spoke to her, but kept their distance. She needs to know that people aren't a threat, but we need to make sure that that is done in a controlled way until she's ready for the cuddles.

Willow is so 'different' looking to most dogs on the Island that she gets a lot of attention - and of course, her missing story got a lot of exposure with so many people searching for her, that of course when they see her want to stop and say hello and give her a squidge - and whilst I wish that more than anything for her and for them, they worked so hard on her search - she's just not ready for that right now. One day, but not yet.

I'm thinking of getting one of the hi-viz jackets for the car when I'm out driving. What do you think? ;) 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Rant

Public Information Announcement: This post is one big moan. I can’t make an apology, as I do believe this world is mildy scattered with some complete and utter dingbats that sometimes, when I let my guard down, press all my irky buttons – that happened today.

As I sit here, it’s 11:30am. I'm at my big old dining table looking at various ephemera that Willow has bought me over the past 24 hours. Three…no four, stones from the garden, something that looks suspiciously like what might have been part of a wicker basket that I must go and investigate, a paper heart she found in my Room of Doom (sometimes known as the Studio) that I used for my Valentine’s photo-shoot with gorgeous Buttons, and a pair of headphones from my bedside table that she felt I needed urgently. Maybe she’s not so into the 70s/80s music I've been belting out this morning? Note to Self: Educate Willow on the joys of the The Clash.

Harvey is busy staring at me. He’s already been tutored (tortured?) in my taste in music. He’s staring at me because the plate that held my late morning peanut butter on toast breakfast is still sat on my big old dining table, and he thinks there’s still some on it. I'm not falling for his ‘poor and starving dog’ look - because of course he’s not, he had an altogether far more substantially nutritional breakfast than I did. He’s being typical spaniel, all ears and eyes and cripes I do love him, and I love these moments, just me and the dogs.

But I'm feeling a little…well, underwhelmed with life today. Which isn't really like me.

I chose to immerse myself in the world of animals – companion animals to be more specific. It’s where I feel safe and the only part of life where I feel I excel. Always loving animals, I never got a chance to concentrate on a career with them in my younger days. I had to get a job, any job, to pay the bills. So I did and I've been on many wonderful journeys and experienced some massive highs and lows throughout my early career – all things that build character and help you learn – but it’s only now, later in life (I'm 41) that I've been given the fantastic opportunity to do just what I've always wanted to do; work with animals – and I'm truly thankful for that. But for me, working with animals, also means working for them. If I'm going to do it, I want to do it right, and as with all things there two sides. Where there’s good, there’s bad – and I do feel that both need to be tackled equally.

I'm one of those all or nothing people. Either commit or walk away – and the very act of committing myself to my chosen lifestyle creates a constant battle within me. One that, at times…just like today – leave me deflated.

Because, it’s not all filled with fluffy bums and playful slobber. Being part of the animal world, especially when Animal Rights are high on your agenda, is sad. It’s heart-breaking. It hurts. For those who truly respect animals it’s a difficult road to walk. Because, every single day you see incredible stories of people saving lives; tiny precious lives that some would just walk past…but equally you see people just wiping those lives out with no thought.

But I'm just a pet photographer who writes about pet related things you might say. Why am I getting my knickers in a twist? Yes, I am just a photographer and blogger – and much of my time is spent with animals who are truly adored. The very reason someone commissions me to take pictures of their animals is because those animals are loved.  And, being a writer, I suppose I could choose to only write about the soft and fluffy, and ignore all the horror that goes on. But, I can’t. I cannot ignore the destruction of life.

Today my mood on waking up shifted from “Gawds, look at this glorious day, intit lovely!” to bleurgh in the space of about three minutes, and it was due to one singular comment someone made with such authority and force – that frankly, had I not known better, I’d have believed. For this rant, it doesn't really matter about what the comment was about – it’s more about the principle. This comment came from such a blinkered and uneducated stance that I felt all the hard work that was done by many people to highlight the issue, had been undone in one swoop of misguided ignorance…
…and the cycle continues.

There are those that are fighting ‘the cause’, some are truly horrific causes that many people just want to turn a blind eye to and ignore, because it creates too much heartache to see, to witness – if we blinker ourselves we don’t feel the pain – and I understand that, I truly understand why some people do that. We all have enough going on in our loves that we can’t possibly take on any more or we’d just implode.

But, there are people who will take it upon themselves to see it, to witness it and then fight against it with every ounce of their being. They inform themselves, make sure they know the facts, and some will go on and campaign about it, raise money for it, work hands on with it, write about it, or photograph it in a bid to help end such horrors.

And then there are those who will come in and destroy the very foundations of good work with one flippant fanatic comment, and it’s that which has today sparked my down mood.

What gives anyone the right to walk over others in any capacity? Opinion is great, debate is crucial – but to openly and without being armed with the right and proper information make critical comment with no understanding of the issue truly, truly irks me – because it’s these people who actually cause real damage, put roadblocks in the way, and make those who want to make a positive difference have to jump through unnecessary hoops and do back-flips, when what they’re doing is already hard enough without added needless pressure.

There’ll always be good and bad in every single walk of life, I do know that. That’s how the world turns I suppose. But sometimes (OK, quite often) it flicks my switch and I want to kick against it. There is nothing more precious than life – all life. There is no argument,  in my very humble opinion and I find it so difficult to interact with, or even give breathing space to those who believe we have a god-given right to hurt, destroy and abuse it. "It's only a dog." Really? I'm sorry 'sir' but I really don't have time for you.

Tomorrow’s another day – and I’ll wake to my mad dogs, their waggy tails and I'll likely write some sort of drivel to illustrate just how much I bloody well love them, and put today behind me – time wasted on fools is wasted time after all, isn't it?

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Doggy Pancake Treats

It's only blimmin' Pancake Day!

So, strictly speaking, I don't really wait for Pancake Day to treat myself - I love me a pancake I do. I know that over the pond they are an often eaten meal (the American ones seem to be a lot smaller and thicker than our ones here - but do they taste any different?) Whilst of course we're not in a pancake drought in the UK - they're not really quite as common - I wonder why that is?

When I was a kid, we only ever had them one day a year on Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day). My brother and I would fight for the first one out of the frying pan and we'd sit and scoff as many as we could until our bellies burst. Nowadays I'm more refined (I eat them in secret until my belly bursts) - and what almost never ever happens is me giving the dogs any. Even though their glistening and expectant chocolate-brown eyes implore me to - they get none (cos I'm greedy like that).

But, for today, and today only - my poor neglected pooches will have their wish - and, as I was searching for the perfect recipe for them, I found these three, so I thought I'd share:

Here's a great basic recipe from Sweet Paul. You can add all sorts to it to make it extra tasty for your pooch.

Or this banana based one which is Paleo friendly from Kol's Notes.

Or how about a gluten free coconut pancake from the Two Little Cavaliers blog.

Please Note:. These recipes are for treat purposes only. Only feed very small amounts to your dog. Many dogs cannot tolerate milk very well - you know your dog better than anyone, so please to use the common sense! Please do make sure that whatever you put into your pancakes is safe for dogs to eat. No-nos include: chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocado and macademia nuts.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Dog Theft in the UK

Living on a teeny Island in the South of England, it was probably na├»ve of me to believe that the crime of dog theft hadn't yet reached our shores. But, a couple of recent incidents of dogs going missing with no sightings has sparked a panic in me. If indeed dog thieves are lurking – the Island has to be the worst place within the Great Britain to commit such crime – we have, thankfully, an impressive tight-knit dog community here, who will fight dog theft very loudly and actively.

Dog theft is on the rise in the UK. It’s a little known fact that legally, the worth of our dogs is exactly the same as any other possession – so, if your dog gets stolen, it will be treated with no more or less importance than the theft of, for example, a laptop. This clearly undervalues what our dogs mean to us and goes no way towards acknowledging the terrible emotional and psychological trauma an owner of a stolen pet experiences because of the crime.

Dog thieves are sly and use all sorts of schemes and scams to get to the dogs they need. Some are stolen to order, with many taken by highly organised gangs of thieves. Some, of course, are opportunistic thefts to make a quick buck.  It’s an enormous worry, and as incidents of theft increase, it’s down to us as dog owners to make sure we do all we can to keep them safe.

Most Commonly Stolen Breeds
Based on 2013 statistics, the top ten most commonly stolen breeds were:

- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Border Collie
- Cocker Spaniel
- Jack Russel
- Chihauhau
- Lurcher
- Labrador
- British Bull Dog
- Japanese Akita

Some of these dogs are stolen as bait for dog fighting, some are valuable gun dogs who've been highly trained and can earn their thieves lots of money, some are simply stolen to sell straight on (whether stolen by order, or put on an internet site), and others are stolen to breed.

52% of dogs are stolen from gardens
19% as a result of burglary
16% whilst out on a walk
7% taken whilst tied up outside of shops
5% taken whilst left unattended in cars

It is estimated that over 30% of thefts are never reported, so the statistics we are working with aren’t a true reflection of the scale of crime. With micro-chipping not legally being proof of ownership, many reports are not even pursued by the police – unless the owner has proof that the dog has been stolen and is not simply missing, a Crime Report Number will not be issued. Only 5% of reported dog thefts led to prosecution in 2013 with just 1.5% of those actually being convicted.

Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance

They are campaigning for:

- Compulsory scanning of microchips by vets, rescues and dog wardens
- Compulsory scanning of deceased pets by the Highways Agency and Network Rail
- Proof of ownership through the microchip
- Reclassification of dog theft
- Stronger pet theft legislation

We can also play our part in fighting against these crimes by contacting our local MP and letting them know we want change. You can find contact details for your local MP here.

So, practically, what can we do to help keep our dogs safe?

Collar and tags. By law, all dogs in a public space should have a collar, with a tag with the owner’s name, address and post code on it. A telephone number is not statutory, but is advised.

Micro-chip and keep the details of the micro-chip updated. Get your vet to scan periodically to ensure everything is as should be. Micro-chipping of dogs will be compulsory by April 2016.

Take precautions during your walk. Vary where and when you walk – dog thieves are known to strike whilst the dog is being walked by luring them away or literally snatching them. Make sure your dog isn’t out of your sight and has a good recall. Attach a bell to their collar so you can hear them.
Never give any information out about your dog. Some thieves will approach an owner asking questions like what breed the dog is? Is it neutered? How old is it? Sometimes they will play with the dog and look at the address on the tag. Never allow a stranger to take a picture of your dog.

Never tie a dog up outside a shop. You might only be in there for two minutes, but it takes seconds for thieves to strike.

Avoid leaving your dog unattended in a car

Ensure your garden is secure and don’t leave your dog out unattended. Security lights and locks on gates can be a deterrent.

Check your property for marks that could be left by a thief. Some thieves draw symbols on walls, gates, etc to let others know the kind of dog that lives in the house and whether they are worth stealing. An example of symbols used are below - but, keep in mind, different groups of thieves will have different marks.

Dogs that are stolen to breed can’t breed if they've been neutered.

Should your dog be stolen, you will need to prove ownership – remember the chip doesn't legally prove your ownership of the dog. To help you prove ownership, take pictures of all angles, any unique markings and keep all paperwork (Micro-chip, vet records and pictures) together.

The only way change will happen is if we ask for it. Please do get in contact with your local MP and let them know that you want to see change happening. If you support the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance manifesto, let your MP know, and ask what they are going to do about it.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Crufts Tickets Winners

Thank you all so much for entering the Crufts ticket competition. After much scrabbling around this morning (I was trying to get Willow to choose two entries by picking them out of a dog bowl - I had these visions of wonderful images to go with the announcement, but then Harvey swooped in thinking it was food and stole an entry, knocked the rest over the floor and it all went into pandemonium!)

So, with my amazing powers of deduction I managed to figure out that Harvey's choice (which he'd slobbered all over!) is: 

Bethan John

Willow's choice...which she had her paw on after the whole fiasco is:

Jen Huntley

I love that this was Willow's choice as it is because of Jen I have Willow in my life! Serendipity at its best I say!

Congrats you guys, you've won tickets for you and a friend to visit Crufts for any two days of your choice. I will be in touch for addresses to send to. 

If you would like to buy tickets for the Biggest Dog Show in the World, please click here.

Black & White Sunday - Love Cats

I thought I'd continue the cat theme from this week for Black & White Sunday, and as it's been Love Weekend, what better than a picture of Orion and Athena sharing ze smoochees!

The Love Cats 
(Finally managed to get a The Cure reference into the blog!) 

And...I had to re-share Buttons, the chocolate Cocker Spaniel's black and white version of his Valentine's photoshoot with me from yesterday's Love Letter to my Dogs post - only because he's all the kewts rolled into one - look at him!

Happy Sunday all!

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Saturday, 14 February 2015

A love letter to my dog

Happy Valentines Day! 

Have some chocolatey-caramel love goodness from Buttons the Cocker Spaniel. 

As it's all about the love today, giving me every single excuse I don't necessarily need to wax lyrical about how blimmin' much I love my dogs - here goes:

A Love Letter to my Dogs

Dear Dogs

When you poke me in the eye with your wet nose at five in the morning, demanding your breakfast, whilst I’m snoozily cocooned in my Duvet of Lush (which, incidentally, I've had to steal back from you countless times during the night) - and when you head-butt me with your tatty teddy in your gob, demanding I play with you, just as the thing in my head is The Most Important Thing I Ever Had To Remember for work...

...even when someone knocks on the door and you scare the living bejeezus out of me with the shrillness of your relentless barking; or when I'm cooking and you wrap yourself round my feet guaranteeing I will trip over you and fall flat on my face whilst having to fight you off when I’m on the floor, crumpled and hurt, because you think it’s The Best Game Ever...

...even when it’s raining so hard that the ducks have donned wellies, and are chanting the sunshine song, but you still want a walk...

...even when we go for that walk and you manage to get your muddy paws on my literally just-out- of-the-laundry jeans within a nano-second of leaving the house...

...even when you never, ever let me forget when your dinnertime is and insist you are given it on time, every time (5:30pm) even though I might have a (5:30pm) deadline to keep to for the work that earns the money to buy your food...

...even when your fur dominates the bed, the carpet, my clothes, my world - and that I haven’t had a social life that doesn't include you in it for the whole of your life because you don’t want me to leave you (or is it that I don’t want to leave you?)...

...even though my holidays are never anywhere I really want to go to because I can’t take you…

…I wouldn't change any of it.

I wouldn't swap you for the longest lay-in, the cleanest jeans, or the whitest sheets. I happily forfeit the wildest social life and the most amazing holidays, just to have you in my life.

Your head-butts asking me to play, remind me that there’s more to life than work; and we, just sometimes, have to seize the moment and be silly.

Feeling you next to me when I'm sleeping reminds me I'm never alone, and that comforts me more than your beautiful doggy minds could comprehend.  And those walks in the rain? They are some of the most enjoyable times I've ever had, because I'm with you, watching you have the time of your life.

One day I will look back at all those moments and wish with all my heart to have just one of them with you again. When that time comes, I don’t want to look at a photo of you and regret I hadn't spent more time doing the things you wanted to do.

So, even though sometimes, all of those things frustrate the hell out of me (could you at least let me have some of the duvet at night?) I will always try to live in your moment whenever I can, and cherish each and every one of them with you.

I love you.

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Friday, 13 February 2015

Dog Photographer of the Year Winners Announced

Winners of the Kennel Club’s Dog Photographer of the Year were announced this week. As a pet photographer myself I was really interested to see the winning entries (this of course has nothing to do with me entering and not being placed – I was robbed guvnor!) Seriously, with all joking aside – the winning images are just stunning.

This year there were 13,000 participants from over 60 countries entering images to the seven categories; Man’s Best Friend, Portrait, Puppy, Dogs at Play, Assistance Dogs & Dog Charities, Dogs at Work, and the Under 18 category “I love dogs because…”

Overall winner, and winner of the Dogs at Work category was photographer Steph Gibson from Australia. Her image was of her own working dog Hullaboo Swing Rider, or just Swing to his friends. Swing is a Texas born Australian Shepherd and the winning image shows him working his sheep at Sunset. Simply beautiful!

© Steph Gibson/The Kennel Club

Steph, who’s two great loves are both dogs and photography says:

“To have one’s passions collide together like this is truly one of life’s wonderful moments.”

The Puppy category’s winning image was taken by Cat Race (love that name) from Lancashire with her picture of a Great Dane puppy having the time of his life.

© Cat Race/The Kennel Club

The Dog Portrait winner was Grzegorz Gebik from Poland with his gorgeous black and white close-up of a Whippet.

© Grzegorz Gebik/The Kennel Club

Other category winners were Brazil’s Carlos Aliperti, whose heart-melting image of his wife embracing their collie is just beautiful.  Art Burasz from London and his fun image of a boxer and friends making the most of their time with a football. Ruud Lauritson from the Netherlands with his touching image of a neighbours chocolate Labrador taking some time-out from duties in the Assistance Dogs & Charities Category, and last (but not least) 16 year old Abbie Lee from Bristol who won the Under 18s category with a picture of her Airedale Terrier waiting patiently for a big juicy sausage!

Thoroughly deserved winners I say. You can see the rest of the winning images by clicking here.

Better luck next year for me - there are so many wonderful photographers, it's always fun to take part in these competitions, if nothing else, they inspire the heck out of you! 

These were my entries this year:

Dogs at Play


Man's Best Friend


Assistance Dogs & Charities

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Cat Wednesday

It’s been a bit of a catty week so far. On Monday I was booked to photograph three cats for a client, yesterday I photographed sixteen for our local re-homing centre and of course Cats Protection launched their General Election Cat Manifesto at the House of Commons this week too (more about that in a mo.)

Whilst the shelter work I do isn't ‘work work’ (as in pay my bills), it’s the voluntary side of what I do; it's still just as important to me. Spending time with the cats, learning their stories and feeling joy when they've found their forever homes; weeping for them when I hear of what some have been through, and being able to show them a little love for the short time I spend with them, is all unquestionably worth the time taken.

What I get back from these sessions is infinitely more than what I give. I live really close to our local centre, so I walk. Often on my way there I'm a bit angsty. I have a busy head, there is no off-switch with me – so my mind’s full of chores and deadlines and problems and projects I have to do – but when I'm with the cats, it all disappears – and that’s not me being squishy about it. 

I don’t get to spend a lot of time the cats; minutes each, if that - there’s often lots to photograph in a short space of time. But with each one, another issue, another worry falls away. I get to look into their eyes, scritch behind their ears, and talk to them whilst taking their pictures. It makes me feel utterly comfortable in my skin and my walk back home is always a content one. I thoroughly recommend going to help out at an animal shelter for the sake of your well-being! 

So, what’s this Cat Manifesto all about then?

Cats Protection have consulted with the public and compiled a list of ten important changes that can be made at government level to create better welfare  for cats. The Manifesto for Cats was launched during an afternoon reception at the House of Commons yesterday. It asks for:

1. Tighter regulations on the use of airguns. 
2. Updated laws on the breeding of cats.
3. Clearer labelling for poisons.
4. Animal Welfare to be added to the National Curriculum.
5. Introduction of compulsory micro-chipping of cats.
6. Changes to the Dangerous Dog acts to ensure that owners of dogs that attack cats are held responsible.
7. Encourage landlords and housing providers to introduce pet friendly tenancy agreements.
8. Acknowledge that cats (and other companion animals) benefit the health and well-being of people.
9. Stop illegal imports of kittens and cats
10. Complete ban on the use of snares

All of these points were unanimously supported by those who participated in the public consultation organised by Cats Protection. Whilst of course many would be deemed by most of us as no-brainers (like the ban on snares - why these barbaric contraptions are still allowed to be used in this day and age is an absolute mystery to me) it is so good to see that there are recommendations for introducing education about animal welfare to school children. This I feel is the key. If we can teach children about the importance of all animals, and how we treat them, we stand a better chance of future generations wanting to fight the horror that is animal cruelty the world over. 

Wouldn't that be wonderful.

You can read the full Cat Manifesto here


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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Tuesday's Tails: Sled Dog Support Network (SSN)

Following on from yesterday’s Malamute breed history I wanted to highlight for Tuesday’s Tail, the work of the Sled Dog Support Network.

Often it is the looks of sled type dogs (also known as Northern breeds) that draw people in to buy them. Of course, looks alone are not a good reason to purchase any animal. Many Northern breeds end up in rescue due to owners not understanding their dog’s basic needs, and more are euthanised through no fault of their own because of this lack of understanding.

A sled dog by nature is an active dog. They were originally bred to work and were the ‘right hand man’ to their people – aiding them to exist in some of the most extreme environments man can endure.

Miro, one of the many dogs helped by SSN

Sled Dog Support Network (SSN) are a small South West based rescue that operates throughout the UK. Their objectives are to raise awareness of, and educate people on Northern Breeds, whilst offering advice where needed. They highlight dogs requiring rescue back-up, arrange transportation, re-home and support all of their adopters and fosterers for the remainder of the dog’s life. 

SSN believe that the key to reducing numbers in rescue is to highlight issues such as irresponsible breeding, whilst promoting lifetime commitment to pets.

Barney, another one of SSN's success stories

SSN are entirely volunteer run, relying on donations from the public to continue the work they do – all funds raised go directly back into the rescue. They are also committed to assisting other rescues by working collaboratively for the benefit of all dogs needing help.

Chrissy Buck, Co-founder of SSN says “We welcome new members and volunteers so that we may continue to help the vast quantities of abandoned, abused and unwanted Northern Breed dogs, and their mixes, in the UK, and to secure them happy homes for the future.”

If you’d like to find out more about SSN, or see the dogs they have in the care looking for new homes, pop over to their Facebook page.

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With thanks to Dogs n Paws and Talking Dogs for hosting this Blog Hop.

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