Walking the Walk: Putting pooches first
In celebration of National Pet Month, Happiful explores the unconditional love between humans and dogs, and the ways in which we can help protect our canine community
I knew the moment I laid eyes on him that we had to be together. It was something about the way he stood, his head at an angle and his tongue poking out from the side of his mouth. I called my husband and told him that I’d found the one.
A month later, after getting to know each other through trips out to the park, I bought Pip home. A 10-year-old, toothless Yorkshire Terrier, who quickly became the love of my life.
Strange things happened after giving Pip a home. Walking him around the park, we’d find ourselves in conversation with strangers about our dog, their dog, places to walk, as well as times groups met locally to socialise with their pooches. We started getting up earlier, walking for longer and having the kind of conversations about dog poo I would never have imagined would become commonplace.
Pip brought us so much joy and we did everything to give him a happy home for his later years. He was so loved. Sadly, three and a half years after he came home, Pip left us. We were heartbroken by his death, yet grateful to have had our pint-sized, slightly aloof but totally brilliant bundle of a dog in our lives.
Eighteen months after he passed away, Zac arrived, also a rescue and much younger than Pip at just two when he burst through our front door. Zac takes us on long investigative walks, chases mean-looking birds, rolls in muddy puddles and acts like we are rock stars every time we come home. He is a mad mess of energy and affection, and I’m never happier than when I’m outdoors walking with him, seeing the world from his excitable viewpoint.
That is my tale of my two rescues. From childhood, I have always had rescue dogs in my life and I believe that adopting is the way to go, if you can. It’s not always easy – you may not know the full range of a dog’s behaviours or experiences – but adopting through a reputable animal home or charity means that you can be sure that they will put in place the measures needed to ensure you, your family, and your new dog, are happy and safe.
Dogs can bring you a lot of happiness, not to mention opportunities for greater access to the outdoors (which is good for physical and mental health), they can help reduce feelings of isolation and provide unconditional affection – if you treat them with love, care and respect, which is what we all deserve, right?
To coincide with National Pet Month, Happiful celebrates the stories of unconditional love, respect and support that exist between humans and their canine counterparts, as well as the issues we all need to be aware of.
Musician and documentary-maker Professor Green lives with his three dogs, Arthur (an Old Tyme Bulldog), Ethel (a Presa Canario) and puppy Frank (an American Bulldog), who all make regular appearances on his Instagram accounts. His adoration for them is obvious with plenty of Insta Stories depicting early morning walks, obedience training, and sofa time.
As part of a series of documentaries for BBC Three, Professor Green made Dangerous Dogs, examining dogs currently banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act, speaking with both owners of illegal breeds and the victims of dog attacks, challenging stereotypes and the existing law. His conclusion? “Rather than focusing on a breed, shouldn’t the law instead be focused on bad dogs and bad owners? A lot of people get dogs because of what they give them, but it’s important that you give the dog what it needs too. If you’re going to have a pitbull, or a bully breed – any large dog – you need to be aware of its capabilities, you need to be sensible. People need to be smarter about how they look after their animals and remember that they are animals.”
Professor Green continues to be a huge advocate for responsible ownership, proper canine care, training and nutrition, recently working with Benyfit Natural, visiting and talking to the media at Crufts.
After losing her beloved beagle Pickle, comedian, writer and presenter Sue Perkins penned a beautiful and heartbreaking open letter to her pooch, detailing their life, adventures and love. She wrote: “You were my longest relationship, although I think any decent psychologist would have deemed us irredeemably co-dependent. You were the engine of my life, the metronome of my day… You were the peg on which I hung all the baggage that couldn’t be named. You were the pure, innocent joy of grass and sky and wind and sun. It was a love beyond the limits of patience and sense and commensuration. It was as nonsensical as it was boundless… Thank you for walking alongside me during the hardest, weirdest, most extreme times of my life, and never loving me less for the poor choices I made and the ridiculous roads I took us down. Thank you, little Pickle. I love you.”
Beloved, always x pic.twitter.com/lBC5bSRliq— Sue Perkins (@sueperkins) January 14, 2015
The letter was shared widely online, with thousands of people offering condolences to Sue in her time of need.
Sue continues to be a huge dog lover, speaking openly about her adoration for her canine companions on Desert Island Discs and subsequently working with Battersea Dogs Home to highlight the need for stronger animal cruelty sentencing.
He may be better known at present for his role on reality TV, but it’s the reality of puppy farming and unregulated breeding that Pete Wicks wants to place firmly in the spotlight.
Pete’s new book, For the Love of Frenchies (written in association with PupAid, the charity that campaigns against puppy farming) tells the story of his love for his French Bulldogs, Eric and Ernest, and his devastation when he lost Ernest at only three years of age. Ernest’s premature death triggered a need for Pete to understand why he had died so young and any issues that may yet surface with Eric. Pete subsequently began working with animal charities to speak out about the widespread problem of unregulated breeding and illegal importation.
Pete’s passion for dogs was obvious when he spoke with Happiful: “I am a huge dog lover and, to be honest, I prefer dogs to people. Dogs don’t judge you; they aren’t interested in your past, where you’ve been and what you look like. Dogs gravitate to good energy and are good judges of character.”
His passion extends far beyond the companionship of dogs. He’s keen to make sure that people really consider the reality of having dogs in their lives. “Owning a dog is a massive responsibility, and that’s the most common thing that people don’t realise,” says Pete.
Proper consideration of the breed is Pete’s first piece of advice: “The main thing is researching dog breeds. So many people like the look of a certain breed, then get the dog home and realise it doesn’t fit into their lifestyle, it needs three walks a day, it needs grooming on a daily basis, it needs more food than expected, which they can’t afford, and so they have to give the dog up. It’s incredibly sad and very common. Owning a dog is not something that should be decided overnight.”
The horrors of puppy farming is something Pete is keen to impress upon anyone considering bringing a dog into their family. “Knowing where your dog has ‘come from’ is such a key message to get across,” he says. “It’s all well and good getting a new dog, but if you don’t know it’s history, it can be a very different story. A dog from a puppy farm may have health issues and is going to need medical care and attention, which is going to be financially costly.
You need to meet the mum and dad and know their past. It’s so important for people to understand about the cruel ways that dogs are bred too. Every dog deserves a loving start and home and I really want to get that message across.”
Pete’s work with animal charities has cemented his opinion of dog ownership forever. “I know it’s very much down to where you get your dog from, and from that, I will only ever have a rescue dog in the future,” Pete notes.
This is just the beginning for Pete in terms of campaigning. Moving forwards, he’s dedicated to raising awareness of the issues he’s seen first-hand, continuing to support PupAid and campaigning for Lucy’s Law. He finishes our conversation with a challenge for us all: “The more people who know about the horrendous issues of unhealthy breeding and puppy farming, the closer we can get to putting a stop to it.”
Thank you Pete, for the voice you are giving to the fight against puppy farming, and the promotion of adoption.
‘For the Love of Frenchies: The Dogs That Changed My Life’ is available in all good bookshops now.
Make A Difference
Support Lucy’s Law:
Sign the online petition calling for “a ban on third party sales for profit. There are no welfare advantages in selling puppies through commercial dealers, which keep breeding dogs hidden from the public.” The petition needs 100,000 signatures to be considered for debate in Parliament.
Contact a good animal home or charity and take your time – responsible organisations will want you to do this, too. Ideally, you should visit the dog a number of times before adopting, and take family members and other pets to meet the dog. There should also be a home visit to assess suitability. RSPCA, Battersea Dogs Home, DogsTrust and Blue Cross all have extensive information about adopting on their websites.
Many animal homes run volunteer schemes for people to help with walking, cleaning or supporting the rehoming of dogs, though you should be prepared to undergo training and commit to a number of hours every week. The Cinnamon Trust is a terrific charity that supports older members of the community who may not be able to walk their dogs because of illness or an operation, by finding them a local willing volunteer dog walker or foster carer.
Pass Up A Present:
Many animal homes have Amazon wish lists to help them provide not just the essentials for their residents, but also comforts such as toys, chews and blankets, which help to relieve stress symptoms and boredom. Instead of making your own birthday, Christmas, or even wedding list, send your friends and family a link to these. Feel good factor all around!
National Pet Month runs from 1 April to 7 May 2018, but every day of the year is a good one for responsible pet ownership and kindness. Visit nationalpetmonth.org.uk