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I just had to check the house to make sure Ralphie is still here. Because for a minute there I thought he’d upped sticks and moved in with Kate and Wills. Headlines report the Royal pair have just adopted a black cocker spaniel puppy and this picture suggested Ralphie has been enjoying strolls on the beach with the Duke and Duchess. The cheek! Just kidding, it’s a Ralphie lookalike and there seem to be a lot of them.
I saw a Ralphie being walked by someone in Newport Pagnell the other day, he was in today’s Daily Mail and he features in a framed photo in Ikea, Milton Keynes. Honestly, what he gets up to while we’re at work, God only knows.
Posted in Blog on January 9, 2012
Ralphie’s granny has requested that we give a shout out to two worthwhile charities as our good deed for 2012 – and we can’t really argue. And hopefully there will be more good deeds to come!
We’ve already mentioned the Retired Greyhound Trust which relies on donations to help rehome thousands of greyhounds each year, each in need of a home once their racing career ends, and at such an early age.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind charity has been breeding and training guide dogs for more than 75 years, providing many thousands to blind and partially-sighted across the country.
I know first hand how valuable a guide dog is as last year I met Tim Musson, a lovely chap who lives in Nottingham with his guide dog Summer. Tim lives alone and is completely self sufficient, with the help of Summer who goes to work with him and helps him cross roads, warns him about steps and plenty more to boot. Such an intelligent dog, Summer was also playful and keen on a bit of fuss when I met her – just like any other dog. And Ralphie gave me a good sniff when I got home, looking at me as if to say “have you been with another dog!?”
Registered blind as a small child, following an illness which took his sight, Tim was the youngest in the country to get a guide dog and can explain first hand how important they are to the blind and visually impaired. You can find out more about Tim in this audio interview – in which you can hear Summer snoring! And you can follow his bird watching antics on his blog.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a national charity and trains dogs to alert deaf people to everyday sounds and danger signals in the home, at work or in public.
Both charities rely on volunteers and fundraising to offer what can only described as life-saving services to help the deaf and the blind live as comfortably as possible.
So, whether you make a donation, sponsor a puppy or organise a fundraising event, perhaps think of doing it for one of the above?
Dogs MK duo Jackie and Georgia run a dog walking and sitting service and who better to suggest good walkies than those who do it for a living! So huge thanks to Georgia for submitting her top five dog walks in Milton Keynes, in no particular order.
1. Middleton and Woolstone
Here you can follow the river along and it’s very safe road wise ( you go under Brickhill Street, but dogs can be off lead most of the time). Free parking at the little car park Woodall Close (very handy for Willen) or by the allotments, Newport Road. Sometimes there are cattle or sheep in the fields on the Woolstone side of the river but not on the Monkston side. River lovely and clean if the dogs like a dip, or get muddy.
2. Shenley Wood and Oakhill Wood
(Behind Prison), through to the North Bucks Way if you want a really long trek. If you cross the footbridge over V3 from Shenley Wood to ’the Toot’ , that’s a really good hilly site the dogs love, though again is sometimes occupied by sheep.
3. Ouzel Valley Park
Park at Manor Fields, Bletchley, and follow river or canal towards Stoke Hammond. Nice safe stretch, no livestock or roads.
4 Grand Union Canal at Great Linford
Marsh Drive, Millennium Orchard, great for dogs that like snuffling around in the rough but beware, plenty of smelly stuff to roll in! Follow the canal past the Black Horse to the huge field on the right, I often take a group of dogs there for a big, safe runaround.
5. Woughton on the Green
The field opposite St Mary’s Church, (no livestock there at the moment but often there is), especially good for dogs that tend to run off as it’s enclosed. From there you can continue to Woolstone, along the canal or across the big playing field to join the river or Walton Lake.
And yet more places to walk your dogs…
Some walkies have also been recommended by Emily Stritser via the ‘submit‘ section on this website. She says: “OMG, MK and surrounding areas are so great for dog walking, there is no way I could name all the places I walk my dogs but here are a few good ones: Waterhall Park, Shenley Woods, Howe Park Woods, Simpson, Woughton on the Green, Bow Brickhill Woods, Harrold County Park, Emberton Park, Willen Lake, Blue Lagoon, Teardrop Lakes, Furzton Lake, Emerson Valley, Tattenhoe, Caldecotte Lake, Ouzel Valley Park, Stockgrove Park, Linford Wood…. there is no way anyone could get bored walking at all these places!!”
Thanks to MK Dogs and to Emily, all these walks have now been added to the walkies map. And don’t forget, if you can suggest a good walk or dog friendly attraction in the area – or can add some information about the ones already included, please let us know. You can get in touch by emailing us at email@example.com, using the submit form or commenting at the bottom of this, or any other, article.
Taking on a dog is a big decision and one the whole family needs to be on board with. And it’s often not as easy as you might think. Here, mum of three Ali Varty, from Shenley, talks about the ups and downs of picking ‘the right dog’ and persuading the husband…
When I was growing up as a child we had a family dog called Patch who was given to us by some friends of the family who were emmigrating to Canada. I was about three and so don’t remember my childhood without a dog. I loved having a dog and therefore thought it would be great for our family to welcome one into the home.
I’d been trying to persuade my husband for a number of years that a dog would be a lovely addition to the family. Our three children were very much behind the idea but unfortunately the husband was not keen and was quick to point out all the disadvantages of having a dog. He did once say that if we tidied all the rooms in the house and kept them that way for three months we could have a dog. Unfortunately we were unable to keep our side of the bargain! So we continued to look after the hamsters and guinea pigs.
‘The idea of starting off with a puppy didn’t even enter my head’
Funnily enough a few years later, after reading a novel which was based around a rehoming centre and coming into contact with friends who owned dogs I began to rethink my plan of having a dog. I came up with a list of advantages and began to think very seriously about whether we were ready to make a good family home for a dog.
My first thoughts were to look into rehoming a rescue dog, mainly because it didn’t seem fair for these poor dogs to be on their own when they could be looked after and bring pleasure to others. The idea of starting off with a puppy didn’t even enter my head.
I spoke to friends who had carefully explored rehoming centres locally and a little further afield. I then spent hours trawling the internet (when I should have been tidying those rooms) looking at ones they had recommended and others too. We really liked the look of the Wood Green Animal Shelter, the website was easy to navigate and friends had got their dog from there and couldn’t speak highly enough of the centre, its staff and the way they looked after the animals. We were able to view the dogs online where there were pictures and very honest descriptions of the dogs along with the type of people they would suit.
After looking on the website the night before, we arrived one Saturday morning but, to our dismay, several of the ones we had identified had already been reserved and were very disappointed.
‘Prepared to wait for the right dog’
We walked a dog called Sophie who looked lovely and the children liked her. I did not want to pick the first dog we saw just because we wanted a dog and I know it sounds funny but I didn’t feel she wanted to be with us, she just wanted to be with anyone. I was prepared to wait for the right dog.
We went again the following Saturday, this time taking my mum with us. My mum visits us and stays frequently and I felt it was important for the dog to be right for her too. This time we walked Poppy who sat beautifully in the kennel but when we walked her she was very hyperactive and jumped up all the time. The handlers said this was an issue but they were trying to work with her to get it sorted out. Poor Poppy was not the dog for us.
We went a further time during the school holidays but kept coming up against barriers, for example the dogs we liked could not go with small furries (Jimbob the guinea pig) or could not go with children under 11 and my youngest was eight at the time.
We were all getting disappointed (except the husband who had not come with us due to work commitments) and were wondering if we were going to remain dogless when a friend text me from Salcey Forest to say there was a number on a piece of paper with the words border x puppies for sale. This is not normally the sort of thing I would do but rang the number and spoke to a very nice lady from Northampton who said due to an accidental breeding her Jack Russell x border collie had given birth to five puppies and the father was her sister’s Lurcher x poodle!!!! Still not being put off we arranged to go to Northampton two days later to visit.
In the meantime I was on the internet finding out all I could about the breeds, looking after a puppy and all sorts of other dog things. I also rang a dog trainer and found out what questions to ask and what characteristics to look for then I phoned a vet to find out the initial cost of puppies and dogs – although I felt I had done my homework, my head was in a spin and I still couldn’t imagine what these puppies would look like.
‘Jim, Joe, Mo, Flo or Susan?’
We were all in the car, husband included, and off we went. I had given strict instructions that we were not going to make any decisions today and that we would have a family discussion in the car on the way home. All I can say is that as soon as we saw the eight-week-old puppies our hearts melted and we all gushed, husband included; now we had the awful decision of which puppy to have: Jim, Joe, Mo, Flo or Susan. Although they were all lovely Joe was the dog for us and who was it who decided he would cancel his badminton to go back to Northampton the next evening to up Joe? You’ve guessed it – the husband!
It is now 19 months since we picked up Joe and I can’t imagine our lives without him. Maybe it was meant to be that we didn’t get a rescue dog but we still got a dog who needed to be loved, looked after and has definitely brought lots of pleasure to us all, husband and mum included.
‘Don’t rush in, do your homework, ask advice’
My advice would be to not rush in, do your homework, ask advice from as many people as possible – friends and professionals and make sure that the whole family are prepared to help look after your dog. It’s not always easy, especially at the beginning but with the right help and advice having a dog is truly rewarding.
Each year up to 10,000 greyhounds retire from the track in need of a loving home. These dogs, bred to race, can find themselves homeless as young as three or four-years-old. Fran Griffin, from Bedfordshire, is keen to dispel the myths about greyhounds and promote them as loving pets…
Almost a decade ago, Rosie the greyhound was a successful racing dog – winning 16 of her 63 races – but her last run out was in 2004, aged just four. But no one knew it would be her last race as she was involved in a freak accident shortly afterwards.
Now aged 11, Rosie – whose racing name is Regis Rose – is retired and living a happy existence with her loving owner Fran.
“I’m really proud of her. She only ran low grade races, she was no money winner and while I never actually saw her race I think that’s a pretty good record,” says Fran.
“Rosie had to come out of racing… she was in her kennel one day and then just couldn’t get up, she’d somehow injured her back and was unable to race. Rosie had nerve damage and, luckily, with rest she was able to walk again but she never raced after that freak accident. I took her on two years later in 2006.”
Rosie raced for just under two years but a greyhound would usually race for two or three years, depending on ability or injury, and from the age of around one. But at the age of three or four they could find themselves without a home.
‘It’s sad, some of these dogs are bred to race yet have incredibly short careers’
According to Northants Greyhound Rescue Centre, it’s estimated that each year around 10,000 greyhounds retire from the track or are unwanted for racing due to injury or their inability or reluctance to chase. And in 2010, the Retired Greyhound Trust, a national charity dedicated to finding loving homes for greyhounds, rehomed its 50,000th dog.
“Dogs are bred to race and the owners are in it for the money, in it for the sport, and if the dog is not fast enough they get passed on, and at such a young age,” adds Fran.
“The trainers have to make a living and while they do care, if the owner isn’t prepared to pay for a slow or injured dog they end up being rehomed, and it’s a sad fact that some are simply put down.”
But what about the greyhounds that never make it onto the track?
“Some are just useless at it,” says Fran, who’s been a greyhound lover for many years and is a registered kennel hand, so she knows the industry well. “They just don’t want to run. Others who turn their head during a race are passed on because this is seen as ‘fighting’, they’re not concentrating on the hare and are distracted by the other dogs so therefore a ‘fight’ risk. It’s sad, some of these dogs are bred to race yet have incredibly short careers.”
Is it cruel to race dogs?
“It’s what they’re bred to do, they rely on their natural prey, drive and chase instincts, albeit some aren’t very good at it. My old dog Sasha only raced twice but years later when she was back at a race course she yammered, she recognised where she was and was excited about it. If they’re bred for a purpose, to race, then they should show an aptitude for it.”
‘There’s a misconception that greyhounds need a lot of exercise because they’re racers but in fact this isn’t true’
And when a greyhound is forced into early retirement…?
“Well, they make excellent pets,” says animal lover Fran who also shares her home with two rabbits, two cats and two horses. Her previous dogs have been a greyhound and a greyhound-lurcher. She describes Rosie as a “love sponge” and is keen to dispel myths about greyhounds.
“There’s a misconception that greyhounds need a lot of exercise because they’re racers but in fact this isn’t true. These dogs are bred to between about 250m for a sprint to about 550m for an ordinary race, depending on the track. A sprint will be over in 15 to 18 seconds a 550 takes about 28 to 30 seconds, so they have the muscles of a sprinter; they don’t like 10-mile hikes. 20 minutes twice a day is all they need and they love to be let off the lead.
“Rosie gets very grumpy about formal lead walking so she spends most of her exercise time in self directed ambling around the horse field. It saves me a lot of time, and she actually gets more exercise than she would if I took her for a ‘proper’ walk.”
A good citizen
Another greyhound myth is that they cannot sit. Because they stand for racing so they can start quicker, greyhounds aren’t taught to sit. “But it doesn’t mean they can’t,” say Fran, “You just have to train them, to train their muscles.”
“There’s so much rubbish written about greyhounds and what they can and can’t do as a breed. Having raced, Rosie has then passed all three Good Citizen tests and now lives quite happily with cats and rabbits.”
A spokesman for the Northants Greyhound Trust added: “Nearly every rescue centre has greyhounds looking for homes and it’s often the case that the greyhounds remain in the kennels for longer than many of the other dogs. The public perception of this breed is usually the reason they are not chosen.
Addicted to the breed
“People are usually astonished at how easy greyhounds are to have in the home and many of those who adopt a greyhound return to adopt another and become totally addicted to this wonderful breed.”
“The Retired Greyhound Trust’s primary objective is to help find homes for retired racing greyhounds and strives for the day when no ex-racing greyhound is without a good home,” added RGT Chief Executive Peter Laurie.
A Greyhound Gala is held at Towcester Racecourse each year and anyone interested should keep an eye on the Northants Greyhound Trust website.