Monday, April 30, 2007

Pet Food Recall - Will We Ever Know The Truth?

Producers of animal feed all over China have been secretly supplementing their pig, poultry and fish feed with melamine and then selling it to unsuspecting farmers for years. It is used as a cheap filler that disguises itself as protein in tests but provides no nutritional value. Melamine is prohibited in any food in the US. The FDA has banned all shipments of wheat gluten from China after about 14,000 reports of animals sickened by the tainted product.

China's food safety regulations have come into question for years. Scandals have involved everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair to instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their color and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim.

No one knows how the melamine got into the wheat gluten and it is not believed to be paticularly toxic, so the question is how it became so fatal in the pet food.

Dog Food Secrets

Pet food Recall - Absolute Craziness!!!!

What is going on? The latest twist is that the pet food that was recalled and removed from store shelves was marked as "salvage" and that is the food that was passed along to the hog farms and fed to the hogs that are now quarantined! The hogs will be destroyed, said the US Government, and the owners will be compensated.

Now for the really scary part...
Wilbur-Ellis began importing rice protein from China in August 2006. The company did not become aware of the contamination until April 2007. The FDA determined that the rice protein was used to produce pet food and a portion of that pet food was used to produce animal feed. At this time the FDA has said that their is no evidence of harm to humans associated with the processed pork products...but if any evidence surfaces they will take appropriate action. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Why not make your own : 245 Healthy Recipes For Homemade Dog Foods

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Pet Food Recall - Harmony Farms Joins Recall - Finally!

American Nutrition Inc. became the final of the five pet food companies that Wilbur-Ellis supplied with tainted rice protein to join the FDA pet food recall on friday."It appears that ANI had been adding the unauthorized rice protein concentrate to Harmony Farms products for some time and only told the company when the FDA was about to conclude that some of ANI's rice protein concentrate (supplied by Wilber-Ellis) was contaminated with melamine," said a statement on the Harmony Farms site.

Dog Food Secrets (Includes Recipes For Homemade Dog Foods)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Get The Facts: What's Really In Pet Food

Have you seen the article at The Animal Protection Institute ? The facts are eye-opening, to say the least! The report explores the differences between what consumers think they are buying and what they are actually getting. Here are a few tidbits:

"What most consumers don't know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a convenient way for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered 'unfit for human consumption,' and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, heads, hooves, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts."

"Dogs and cats are carnivores, and do best on a meat-based diet."

"Most dry foods contain a large amount of cereal grain or starchy vegetables to provide texture. These high-carbohydrate plant products also provide a cheap source of 'energy' - the rest of us call it 'calories'. Gluten meals are high-protein extracts from which most of the carbohydrate has been removed. They are often used to boost protein percentages without expensive animal-source ingredients. Corn gluten meal is the most commonly used for this purpose. Wheat gluten is also used to create shapes like cuts, bites, chunks, flakes, and slices, and as a thickener for gravy. In most cases, foods containing vegetable proteins are among the poorer quality foods."

"Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the variable meat-based diets their ancestors ate. The unpleasant results of grain-based, processed, year-in and year-out diets are common. Health problems associated with diet include: Urinary tract disease, Kidney disease, dental disease, obesity, chronic digestive problems, bloat, heart disease, and hyperthyroidism."

"Many nutritional problems appeared with the popularity of cereal based commercial pet foods. Some have occured because the diet was incomplete. Although several ingredients are now supplemented, we do not know what future researchers may discover that should have been supplemented in pet foods all along."

If you think that your pets' food is not cereal based because of the ingredients and the order in which they are listed.....think again. You NEED to read this report.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pet Food Recall - Some Answers?

By Andrew Bridges
The Associated Press

First, cats and dogs were sickened and died after they ate pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical. Then, it was disclosed that hogs were fed the same pet food, raising concerns that the chemical had entered the human food supply.Some questions and answers about the contamination, the massive recall that followed and the risks to people and animals:

Q: What chemical tainted the food?
A: Traces of melamine, a nitrogen-rich chemical used in a variety of industrial processes, were found in the pet food. Its most common use is to make resins, which in turn can be molded into products like counter tops and kitchen utensils, including plastic dinnerware sold as Melmac. It also is both a contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides, including cyromazine, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Q: Is melamine toxic to animals?
A: Melamine appears to have caused acute kidney failure in animals that have died or been sickened after eating foods laced with the chemical. Previously, the only known risk was to rodents. When fed to male rats in high doses, melamine indirectly caused tumors by forming stones that irritated the lining of the bladder, according to a 2002 United Nations Environmental Program report. The report concluded its toxicity to mammals is low.

Q: How many pets have died after eating contaminated food?
A: No one knows. Estimates run from a few dozen to several thousand dogs and cats. The FDA has confirmed only about 15 pet deaths.

Q: What about people?
A: The 2002 UN report concluded the potential risk posed by melamine is low. However, the UN based that conclusion on the slim chance that consumers would even come into contact with the chemical.

Q: Has melamine been found in any human foods?
A: No. However, the FDA is beginning to test wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate and at least four other vegetable proteins imported for use by firms that make human food, including pizza dough and infant formula, and those that manufacture animal feed.

Q: What's the connection to human food?
A: State and federal investigators are looking at hog farms in at least six states that were supplied with salvaged pet food distributed before it was known to be contaminated with melamine. It wasn't immediately clear which farms had hogs that actually ate the contaminated pet food, though the urine of animals has tested positive for the chemical in California, North Carolina and South Carolina. Some hog farms have been placed under quarantine. A poultry farm in Missouri also may have received some tainted food.

Q: How many brands of pet food were recalled?
A: Companies have recalled more than 5,500 varieties of pet food and treats, sold under more than 100 brands.

Q: What advice has FDA given pet owners?
A: The agency recommends checking if a pet's food has been recalled. Any recalled food should not be used. A complete, searchable list is available on the FDA's Web site . If a pet suffers a loss of appetite, lethargy or vomiting, the FDA suggests owners contact a veterinarian.

Q: How did the melamine get into the pet food in the first place?
A: Two vegetable proteins tainted with melamine were imported from China and used in pet foods sold in North America, while a third was used in southern Africa. In the United States, melamine has shown up in wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate. The protein-rich ingredients were used to produce the now-recalled brands of pet foods and treats by U.S. and Canadian companies. And in pet products sold in South Africa and Namibia, the third vegetable protein ingredient, corn gluten, also has been found to be contaminated.

Q: Why would melamine show up in those ingredients?
A: The Food and Drug Administration suspects melamine was used to spike the vegetable proteins to make them appear to have more protein than they actually did. Adding a nitrogen-rich contaminant like melamine would skew the results of tests to make an ingredient register as more protein-rich than it really is -- and allow it to sell for more money.

Q: Who imported the tainted ingredients and where did they go?
A: All three vegetable proteins tainted with melamine were imported from China. Two companies are known to have imported tainted ingredients: ChemNutra Inc. of Las Vegas bought wheat gluten, and Wilbur-Ellis Co. of San Francisco purchased the rice protein concentrate. Both companies in turn sold the wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate to pet food manufacturers or distributors that supply such companies. The FDA does not believe either ingredient went directly to any company that used them to make human food.

Q: Why weren't the ingredients tested for melamine?
A: Until the recent and ongoing recalls, regulators did not consider melamine a likely contaminant of food meant for either people or animals. Nor were the vegetable proteins considered at risk for contamination. The FDA is now testing a variety of vegetable proteins, used to make everything from infant formula to energy bars, for the chemical.

Q: What else is the government doing to ensure the safety of the food people and pets eat?
A: The FDA is inspecting factories and warehouses and analyzing both raw ingredients and finished pet foods as part of its efforts to track down all the contaminated product. Agency inspectors also plan to visit plants in China where the suspect ingredients were made. Along with the USDA and state officials, the FDA is investigating cases where contaminated pet food was fed to hogs and poultry. The FDA is also fielding consumer complaints as well as calls from veterinarians. And agency criminal investigators continue to monitor the situation.

Q: What about Congress?
A: Lawmakers have begun a series of investigations into how the FDA polices the safety of the nation's food supply. Legislative proposals include the creation of a single food agency. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has called for an audit of the nation's food safety system. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has said that unless the FDA improves how it handles food safety investigations she would seek to withhold the paychecks of top agency officials.

Source: Food and Drug Administration, federal and state departments of agriculture, Congress, Environmental Protection Agency, various companies.

245 Recipes for Homemade Dog Foods

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sign The PETition

The Proposition
“I support effective regulation of the manufacturing, testing, labeling and marketing of all pet food. I call upon all governments to act on all aspects of this issue IMMEDIATELY and to keep the public informed.”

Pet Food Recall; Melamine Enters Human Food Supply

Melamine may have found it's way into the human food supply through hogs that were fed melamine-contaminated pet food. Hog farms in California, North Carolina, New York and South Carolina have been identified and an additional farm in Ohio is being investigated. All of these farms received "salvaged" pet food containing melamine.

The farm in California caters to individuals buying entire hogs and all of those consumers have been alerted. According to the FDA, the farms in the other states had not yet distributed any of the tainted pork. All of the animals are being quarantined and are being tested.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

PRESS RELEASE - April 24, 2007

Tom McPheron Phone: 847-285-6781 Cell: 773-494-5419

April 24, 2007

LiveSmart Weight Management Chicken and Brown Rice Dog Food Recalled Due to Potential Melamine Contamination

LiveSmart Weight Management Chicken and Brown Rice dog food was recalled by its manufacturer SmartPak on Friday, April 20. SmartPak is the fourth of five manufacturers that received potentially contaminated rice protein concentrate supplied by distributor Wilbur-Ellis. According to the SmartPak Web site, less than 1,200 pounds of product had left the company's facility prior to the recall and SmartPark notified every affected pet owner via telephone and email (see the SmartPak Web site).

The other pet food manufacturers that received potentially contaminated rice protein concentrate imported from China by the Wilbur-Ellis company included: Blue Buffalo Company, Natural Balance Pet Foods, and Royal Canin. Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, said that FDA tests were positive for melamine in a product by a fifth pet food manufacturer, but that manufacturer has elected to conduct private tests prior to recalling its product. Results are expected to be known within a day.
Melamine-contaminated wheat gluten was the source of the initial pet food recall issued on March 16, 2007. That recall has resulted in the recall of hundreds of dog and cat foods produced by Menu Foods.

In the wake of these recalls, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reminds pet owners to continue to consult the AVMA listing of recalled pet food and discontinue feeding pets any food that has been recalled. The AVMA advices that any animal that is showing symptoms such as loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in urination—common symptoms after consumption of recalled pet foods—should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

A comprehensive AVMA Pet Food Recall List is available at the AVMA Pet Food Recall Website. This list contains all recall information that has come to the attention of the AVMA, but it is not guaranteed to be complete. The AVMA encourages all concerned to contact the specific manufacturer regarding the status of any particular pet food or treat.

Veterinarians should report all cases of illness and death linked to a recalled pet food by calling the FDA's State Consumer Complaint Coordinator. A list of these coordinators is available at the FDA Consumer Complaint Website. For more information, please visit the AVMA web site.

Pet Food Recall - It's Time We Act...

It's been more than a month since the massive pet food recall began and dog and cat owners are even more confused than ever. The FDA began recalling more than 60 million cat and dog food products on March 17th and the list seems to be growing every couple of days! Brand name and cost don't seem to factors in keeping your pet safe.

The ingredient list now includes wheat gluten, rice protein and corn gluten!

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner asking (?) him to identify the companies that recieved the tainted rice protein shipments from China. The companies have, as of yet, refused to institute a recall. They are asking (?) the FDA to require them to trace and recall any pet food that may have been contaminated with the rice protein product.

In the U.S. alone, estimates are, there are 68 Million dog owners and 73 Million cat owners. Maybe we all need to Contact our Senator and Congressional Representative and DEMAND that something be done to protect our Pets!

In the meantime, I, personally, am afraid to buy any commercial pet foods. I have included a few recipes for homemade dog foods on this site but if you would like some more, Healthy Food For Dogs - Homemade Recipes , contains 245 recipes!

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Most Devastating Pet Food Recall In History!

The largest and quite possibly the most devastating pet food recall in history contains both wet and dry pet foods. Procter & Gamble, Nestle', Hill's Pet Nutrition, Del-Monte, Natural Balance, Royal Canin USA, Store Brands (including Ahold, Kroger, Safeway, Wal-Mart, PetSmart, Pet Valu, and many, many, more), are only some of the companies involved in this voluntary recall. Estimates as of April 10th, are 39,000 cats and dogs have been affected (I'm sure this is a very conservative figure!)!

The tainted wheat gluten was apparently imported between November 3, 2006 and January 23, 2007.

U.S. Health officials are warning pet owners that the contaminated pet foods are still being sold in some stores! FDA officials conducted approximately 400 checks of retail stores and discovered some companies have not removed all of the recalled products.

I have listed several recipes for homemade dog foods below. If you would like more recipes, I have found this ebooks to be very helpful : Dog Food Secrets Revealed

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Keeping Your Dog Safe - Free Recipes For Homemade Dog Foods

So now they are saying that it may have been INTENTIONAL! Can you believe it! Imported ingredients may have been intentionally spiked with an industrial chemical to boost their apparent protein content (what some people won't do for a buck!). The FDA is investigating this theory among others as to how melamine, contaminated in at least two ingredients used to make over 100 brands of cat and dog food, could have gotten into the foods. It has been found, so far, in wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate from China. The FDA is planning to go to China to inspect 3 plants where the melamine got into the products.

A third U.S. Company has recalled pet foods made with the tainted ingredients. Problem is this list is changing daily and they are not telling consumers until it's too late for many pet owners!

The only way to keep your dog safe with the way the pet food recall is being updated daily is to make your own dog food. I have been fortunate enough to find several ebooks containing healthy recipes for homemade dog foods. You can't just feed your baby "table scraps" because they don't necessarily contain the needed vitamins and minerals for your dog and not all dogs can eat the rich foods that many of our recipes contain.

Here are a few recipes for homemade dog food that you might find useful:

Apple Crunch Pupcakes

2 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 medium egg
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup apple, dried
1 tablespoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix water, applesauce, honey,egg and vanilla in a small bowl. Combine flour, dried apple and baking powder in another bowl. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Pour into greased muffin pan. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container. Makes 12-14 pupcakes.

Basenji Stew

4 small parsnip
2 whole yellow squash—cubed
2 whole Sweet potatoes—peeled and cubed
2 whole Zucchini—cubed
5 whole tomatoes—canned
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans
1/2 cup Couscous
1/4 cup shredded Carrots
1 teaspoon Ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon Ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Ground cumin
3 cups Water or chicken stock
2 cups cooked chicken

Combine all the ingredients (except chicken) in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Add chicken. Place over cook brown rice or barley.

Boo's Biscuits

3 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 cup Quaker oats
1 cup milk
1/2 cup hot water
2 beef or chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 cup meat drippings

Dissolve bouillon cubes in hot water. Add milk and drippings and beat. In a separate bowl, mix flour and oatmeal. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well. Press onto an ungreased cookie sheet and cut into shapes desired. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour. Turn off heat and leave in the oven to harden. Refrigerate after baking.

Bulldog Banana Bites

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup powdered non-fat milk
1 egg
1/3 cup ripe, mashed banana
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 beef bouillon cube
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Mix all ingredients until will blended. Knead for 2 minutes on a floured surface. Roll to 1/4 “ thickness. Use a 2 1/2” bone shaped cookie cutter (or any one you prefer). Bake for 30 minutes in a 300 degrees oven on ungreased cookie pans.

Cheesy Carrot Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup Shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated carrot
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or line it with paper baking cups. Combine the flours and baking powder and mix well. Add the cheese and carrots and use your fingers to mix them into the flour until they are well-distributed. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Then whisk in the milk and vegetable oil. Pour this over the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined. Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full with the mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins feel springy. Be sure to let the muffins cool before letting your dog do any taste testing! One muffin for medium to large dog, half a muffin for a toy or small dog.

Puppy Formula

4 ounces Carnation EVAPORATED milk
4 ounces FULL FAT natural, plain yogurt
1 tablespoon Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1 dropper full of human baby pediatric liquid vitamin, no fluoride

Blend together!

Shih Tzu Sushi

1 can salmon, canned, pink—reserve liquid
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water—plus salmon liquid
1 whole egg, hard-boiled—chopped
1/2 cup peas and carrots, frozen—or more if desired
1 tablespoon fresh parsley—chopped
2 tablespoons cod liver oil
1 package Nori Sheets -- *see Note

Drain salmon, reserve liquid for rice. do not remove bones or skin, flake with fork.Defrost peas and carrots.In a sauce pan add salmon liquid, water, brown rice, cook. let cool to touch. In a mixing bowl add salmon, brown rice, chopped egg, peas and carrots, and parsley, cod liver oil. Mix well. place one nori sheet on a flat surface and spread mixture 1/4 inch over nori, leave 1/4 inch edge of nori and dampen with water. And roll. repeat till nori sheets are used, or mixture is gone.Individually wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate till ready to serve.Cut rolls into size for your doggie.
Note: Nori Sheets is dried seaweed found in the oriental section of your grocery store or specialty shop. This recipe freezes well also.

Hope you find these recipes for homemade dog foods useful!

More recipes like these can be found at: Homemade Dog Treat Recipes

Friday, April 20, 2007

Circles of Life - 2

Why do we choose the breed of dog we do? – part 2. You can read the first part here.

Poppy and Scruff

About a year after Poppy, the poodle, came into our lives, Peter and I stood entranced outside a pet shop in Ealing. A small white fluffy puppy was doing its best to attract our attention – and succeeding. We’d seen a Sunday Times photograph of a dog we admired in the arms of a well-known actress, an actress whose name I now forget. Was this the same breed? Those were the early days of The Drama Studio in Ealing: a life of students and teachers and the day-to-day running of the school. Naturally we lived and breathed acting and actors so it was natural we’d notice what dogs they owned. [To digress, I was chuffed to see that Forest Whitaker, who’d been a student at The Drama Studio many years after Peter and I split up, won the 2007 Oscar for his amazing portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.] Peter and I, happily, are still great friends.

Back to the puppy in the pet shop. The owner of the shop told us it was a West Highland white terrier. He agreed to keep it whilst we went home and found the photograph in the newspaper. We always kept back copies of the Sunday papers - doesn’t everyone? Could we find it? Of course we couldn’t. Regardless, we went back, bought the puppy and named her Scruff. A week later we found the newspaper, found the photograph of the famous actress and discovered that the puppy we’d admired was a Maltese terrier. Wrong breed! Duh! No matter, Scruff was adorable and she and Poppy played together. Our doggy family was happy and so were we.

So why did we get those two breeds? Well, Poppy was bought for someone else, Scruff was bought because, I’m ashamed to say, we were influenced by the newspapers. A bit like people now buy a Chihuahua because they’ve seen Paris Hilton holding her dog, Tinkerbelle, as if it were a fashion accessory. Not necessarily a reason to choose a dog.

Time passed and by then Peter and I were, I suppose, what were called Yuppies in those days. Young, Upwardly Mobile …I forget the rest. Habitat furniture, a Volvo, the Good Food Guide and visits to trendy London restaurants. Always though, I noticed dogs. Once we saw a sports car with two people in front and then realised that the passenger wasn’t a person but a large fluffy dog. We were both captivated and recognised it as a dog we’d seen in the Dulux paint advertisement, an Old English Sheepdog. Sometimes I can’t believe that the breed that was to become the ‘breed of my life’ was chosen because of a paint advertisement. Maybe that’s not a bad thing – it certainly wasn’t in my case - but often people do buy a breed because it’s fashionable and then lose interest when they realise it’s all in the too hard basket. I was lucky - I fell in love with this breed and it’s been that way ever since.

Sloopy, the first Old English Sheepdog

The habit of looking at the pet section of the Evening Standard continued from the time we found Poppy and so, one day, what should I see but an advertisement, again way out in the East End of London, for a six month old Old English Sheepdog who’d apparently outgrown her apartment. This time, rather than taking the tube, I drove and some hours later returned with an enormous grey and white dog who’d been sick all over the back of the car. We called her Sloopy. We thought her perfect and it wasn’t until I got to know more about the breed, that I realised she was anything but – she was long in body with cow hocks, she had a narrow head and her coat was thin and tended to brown. To us though she was perfection, she was the first and she had that beautiful Old English temperament.

But it wasn’t to finish there. Suddenly three were a crowd. Two would play and one would be left out. Logical to get a fourth? Of course. But this time we decided we’d give a home to a refuge dog so long as it was female and large and fluffy. We didn’t mind what. The refuge, somewhere north of London, had dogs tied to trees, stuck in pens, not a good situation but the man who ran it wouldn’t let us have a dog. He told us that we had three young well-adjusted females and that he didn’t have another who was suitable for us. He told us they all had histories and problems and needed a one-person home, so we left somewhat dejected but looking back, he was right.

So, sometime later, again via the Evening Standard, I saw an advertisement for 10-month-old female Old English at Chalfont St. Giles, in Buckinghamshire. Off we went - I knew nothing about puppy farms in those days but that’s what it was. There were puppies of every imaginable breed. Most were in large clean dustbins – you peered down and in the gloom at the bottom would be three or four puppies looking up, crying for attention.

We were shown an enormous run containing around 15 or so adult Old English Sheepdogs. We wondered which of these was the 10-month old bitch we’d come to see. The dogs bounded back and forth, throwing themselves against the wire fence. I’d have been happy with any one of them. Then I noticed a shy little bitch in the far corner who didn’t move. Yes, you guessed it - she was the one for sale - Tara. We changed her name to Muffin. As luck would have it, Muffin had been bred by Colonel Bury Perkins, the Chairman of Bath Championship Show. She was a beautifully made bitch with an excellent pedigree who was to pass on her good qualities to her offspring.

Muffin and her daughter, Peggotty, my first showdog

So there we were with our four dogs: a crossbred poodle, a Westie, who should have been a Maltese terrier, and two Old English Sheepdogs. Twice a day, Peter and I (or just me) walked the dogs in the park alongside Ealing Studios until one day something happened that changed my life. I met Maria, who was walking her three Old English in the same park. We became friends and she taught me how to groom and care for an Old English Sheepdog and then, one day told me she was going to a dog show and asked if I’d like to go with her. I told her I thought it was cruel as ‘didn’t they walk the dogs round and round in circles?’ Well I went and the Old English Sheepdogs I saw at the show that day didn’t resemble my two scruffy bundles in the least. These dogs were immaculate, they were stars. You know how a good football match can be a theatrical experience – well so was this dog show. I was stunned by the beautiful bitch who won that day. She stood there, head in the air, saying to the judge, ‘Me, look at me, I’m the best.’ And she was. I went to two more dog shows after that, the last of which was Crufts, the biggest and most prestigious dog show in the world. At this show, that same bitch won and on that day I vowed that one day I’d breed a dog good enough to win at Crufts. And nine learning years later, I did when Champion Pelajilo Milly Mistletoe won Best Bitch at Crufts, 1981.

Champion Pelajilo Milly Mistletoe

I won’t fill this posting with stories of the Old English Sheepdog part of my life as it went on for years and it continues to this day, as I still judge the breed from time to time. Indeed last year it was my tremendous honour to stand in the middle of the ring at Crufts and judge the Old English Sheepdogs. Circles of life.

Judging Crufts 2006

When Peter and I split up, I moved to Wales, where I lived for six years. Slowly my kennel of Old English increased in numbers – and quality. More Westies got added to the mix. My wedding present to Micky (yes, another husband) was an Irish Wolfhound from the Irish Wolfhound Rescue Scheme. Zelda. What did I say in the last posting – that I knew nothing about hounds? I’d forgotten sweet Zelda, a wonderful creature, more a person than a dog.

And later, living alone in Australia, when Mistletoe, the last of my precious Old English Sheepdogs died, I went to a refuge in Cairns and came home with a mutt – probably more hound than anything else – what is it about a hound? She didn’t last long as she continually jumped the fence when I was out attempting to sell Real Estate. The police got fed up with this dog and suggested I find a more secure home for her. Luckily I did and she lived happily for years on Holloway’s Beach with an old lady and behind a higher fence than I had. At least she was out of the refuge.

UK & Australian Champion Bumblebarn Scramble of Pelajilo on Bondi Beach, Sydney, 1985

So many wonderful dogs, so many doggy love stories but the dog of my life wasn’t an Old English Sheepdog at all but an American cocker spaniel called Milou. And I didn’t choose him. The chauffeur of the lady who owned him brought him to Pension Milou (later named for Milou) when he was three years old. She was sick and eventually died and he became my dog and lived with me for 12 wonderful years. I still miss him and I always will. You can read his story here.

Milou, aged 4 when we lived in Roquebrune

Flavia, a Labrador and a retired guide dog for the blind, came to Pension Milou too and never left, but again I didn’t choose her. I’ll write her story another time. She lived with me for about 6 years and when she died, soon after Milou, I vowed no more dogs. Milou’s death in particular had knocked me for six. And then, there I was last year, driving home with a needy hound in the back of the car. So why?

The truth is I don’t know the answer. I can only think it has something to do with the soulful look in a hound’s eye that appeals to something deep within me but then, not all hounds, just particular ones – mine! You see I can’t answer the question I posed. It probably has nothing at all to do with the dog being a hound or any other breed, come to that – more a connection between an individual dog and me. His soul reaches out and I’m there. We fill a need in each other.


Isn’t that why you chose your dog – or he chose you?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Circles of life

Boots and me (aged 8 or 9)

Have you ever wondered why, of all the dogs in the world – of all the breeds and mongrels available – we choose a particular type of dog? Do we choose? Maybe we are chosen.

Often, of course, once we’ve had a particular breed, we stick with it forever. If you had a dog in childhood, the choice was made for you. Having said that, I’ve heard people say when their much-loved dog has died that they’ll never have another dog of the same breed because it would remind them too much of the one they just lost. I always advise people that if it’s the characteristics of a breed they love so much, then they shouldn’t change. Another dog of the same breed won’t be exactly the same (it will be like having a second child) but having the same breed, at least you know how a little of what to expect. If you knew and loved a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, you might not feel the same about a high-energy terrier and even less if you chose a crazy, albeit beautiful, Weimaraner.

I got to ponder the question of why we choose a breed after I returned from the Refuge de Flassans last year with a hound and a mutt. And the second time, a couple of months later, with another hound. I’ve never had a hound in my life before. I don’t even know much about them except that of all the hounds I’ve cared for at Pension Milou, all had good temperaments. But that’s not why I chose them. There were eighty plus dogs to choose from at the refuge, so why two hounds?

All this got me to thinking about the dogs I’ve owned – or who have owned me.

My mother had no time for dogs – she actively disliked them - which is strange when I think how important they are to my life. There’s a childhood photograph of me, aged 5, with a West Highland white terrier who belonged to an aunt. We seem comfortable with each other although I barely remember the dog.

Then, when I was about 8 or 9 years old my mother allowed us to have a cocker spaniel and Boots, a black puppy with white face and feet arrived. Our mother didn’t look after him though as she was never home – we saw her on weekends. The housekeeper, Elsie, more our mother than our mother, cared for us and our dog. One day, when Boots was about a year old, I came home from school and he’d gone. Elsie told us that our mother had sent him away to the country because he brought too much mud into the house. I try to remember Boots but there’s an image, somewhere out of reach, of a happy, playful dog. Sometimes, in my mind, I see him flying, floating in the air – do I remember him? I don’t know. What I do remember is the total horror and loss when I walked in from school (even young children walked home from school alone in those safer days) to find Boots had gone. I think a brick wall to feeling went up that day and perhaps I blocked out a visual memory of him too.

Just now I found a photograph of Boots and me. I’d completely forgotten this photograph. I must have blocked even the photograph from my memory. Funny to think, all these years later, that a cocker spaniel, Tasha, one of my doggy clients, and looking not so very different to Boots, is featured on the first page of the Pension Milou website. I didn’t think about that till this very moment.

The next dog, some years later, was Nicky, a chocolate coloured miniature poodle. Why a poodle, I don’t know. Perhaps Elsie chose him. Nicky was never well and had to be put to sleep soon after he arrived. After Nicky came Nicky 2 and he was run over and killed by a car. I remember that day. He was not much more than a puppy when he saw a dog on the other side of the road, ran across and that was that. I remember his warm lifeless little body sticking out from under the wheel of the car. From then on I closed my heart to a dog - until much later in life, that is.

There was another childhood dog, again a chocolate poodle but called Brumas this time. Two dogs called Nicky and both dying so young - Nicky 3 would have been tempting fate and anyway, perhaps all children called their dogs Brumas at the time? Brumas was the first polar bear to be born and successfully reared in London zoo and he (although really he was a she) got a lot of publicity at the time. Brumas, the dog, lived till old age but he was far more my sister Sally’s dog than mine as I left home very young and would only see him when I came back to visit.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was married to Peter and living in Ealing that we got to thinking about a dog. But not for us. We used to visit Peter’s godmother on occasion. She lived by the sea in Kent and had recently been widowed.. She’d always had a dog, either a dachshund or a poodle, and Peter thought it might be an idea for her to have a dog to help her get over her husband’s death, get her out of the house, be a companion for her – all the usual things. So I made a habit of looking in the pet section of the London Evening Standard but every time a dachshund or a poodle was advertised, they were always far too expensive for us. We had little money in those days.

The day arrived though, when it all changed. On that day, I found an advert for poodle puppies in Plaistow and the price was only £6. That was more like it! I took the tube all the way to the East End of London. The puppies looked like poodles to me – white – although some seemed to have little brown patches. Of course they weren’t purebred. The breeder offered half a pedigree but I declined as I left with my chosen furry bundle.

That night I discovered in myself unknown maternal instincts – I worried about this little puppy, tried to settle her, cuddled her, endlessly got up to tend her in the night. Next day, off we went to Kent to present our gift to Peter’s godmother. She tooked at the puppy and said, ‘Oh goodness, no. I don’t want a dog. I wouldn’t be able to walk her. At my age I’d be frightened I’d slip and fall on a wet pavement.’ We tried to persuade her, of course, but there was no persuading.

So that was how Poppy arrived in our lives and how I fell in love with a dog again.

I'll post the second part of this next week and tell you how Old English Sheepdogs came into my life and how I met the dog of my life, Milou, an American cocker spaniel. And perhaps I’ll answer the question of why we choose a particular breed and there again, perhaps I won’t.

Why did you choose your breed of dog?