Thursday, 20 October 2011

A walk in the park

Early in the morning each day I’m lucky enough to speak to some amazing people. Like me, they’re out walking their dogs, and as we make our way around the park we stop to chat and let our dogs play together. A walk in the park shows me many facets of dog-ownership. Some are positive, some not so. But all of them emphasise the importance of responsible dog ownership.

Among the park regulars are many owners of rescue dogs with heart-warming tales to tell. A beautiful sleek Rottweiler ran past me the other day, with a lovely long waggy tail. I spoke to his owner and she told me she’d got him from the RSPCA in May. He’d arrived at the kennels horribly underweight and, although he had put on some weight in the rehoming centre, he was still thin and lacking muscle when the lady took him home. Some six months later, he has been transformed into a healthy, well-muscled and very well-behaved dog. He’s four years old and, although the lady has only had him since May, he’s so very much her dog that you’d swear she’d owned him since he was a pup.

Another lady has a history of taking on ‘difficult’ dogs that, under her care, become well socialised angels. She tells me that she’s only ever taken one dog from a rehoming centre because the rest have been given to her by people who can’t cope with them. Sadly, the dog that she’d rehomed from rescue died earlier this week when it was found that he had inoperable gastric tumours. But his life story is inspiring. He was four years old when the lady took him on and he was thought to have vicious tendencies that meant he had to be muzzled on walks. But all that changed in his new life and you couldn’t have met a calmer, happier, more good-natured dog. He didn’t need muzzling at all, he appeared to glow with health and at 12 years old, he looked like a much younger dog. His owner had the comfort that, as she says, his good life was twice as long as the bad life he had before it. His canine companion is missing him, and I’m glad that the lady is going to give a home to another rescue dog in the near future.

For the most part, whether the dogs are from rescue or bought as pups, they’re lucky enough to live with responsible people who give them all the love and care they need. People who spoke to breeders and breed organisations before making an informed choice about the type of dog they can happily share their life with. But the park also shows me the other end of the dog-ownership spectrum; dogs that have been bought in haste, without proper research into their needs, and whose owners can’t or won’t cope with them.

One Husky I know is exercised in the tennis courts with the gate shut because that’s the only way her owner can let her off the lead without her running off. Not ideal, you might think, but then at least he’s trying to make sure she gets a good run. But the real problems start when he cycles through the park with her on a lead. She approaches other dogs and sniffs noses in what seems a friendly way before attacking them without warning. She’s done it to my own Billy the Whippet, who was just touching noses with her when she suddenly went for his neck. Her owner says sorry, she’s usually friendly with other dogs, but after speaking to other dog-owners on the park it’s clear that she isn’t. She does this a lot and her owner is neither coping well with her behaviour nor seeking help from a qualified behaviourist.

For me, this dog highlights the first and most crucial step in becoming a responsible dog owner: do your research before you make a commitment. I know a few people have reported the dog already and I’d hate to see her put to sleep because of her behaviour. But I can’t help thinking that at the very best she’ll end up in a rescue centre needing a very special type of new owner who can give her the training and exercise she needs. I hope she finds that owner.

Hope comes in the form of the rescuers – and especially the dogs themselves – who underline the importance of rehoming centres and of those people who give not just a home, but a whole new life to unwanted dogs. But with the number of dogs abandoned in the UK at an 11-year high, there’s a clear need not only for more people to offer a home to a dog, but also for more responsible dog-ownership so that fewer dogs are abandoned.

The Pedigree Adoption Drive seeks not only to raise funds vital to rescue centres, but also to spread the word about the importance of responsible dog ownership. Pedigree will donate £1 towards the £100,000 target every time you take Ripley for a walk across the web – just click on the Pedigree Adoption Drive logo.

You can also make a donation through the Pedigree Adoption Drive JustGiving page, or treat your favourite Fido with a gift from the Pedigree Adoption Drive eBay shop.

1 comment:

  1. I have just discovered this blog and I am so glad I did. You have literally taken the words right out of my mouth! I have my own blog and I was wondering if you would be happy for me to share your post on it next week? I will obviously credit you to the post and link to this blog. I will send you a personal message with the link to my blog rather than post it on here in case it looks like I am shamefully trying to plug my own blog!