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In loving memory of a loyal friend.

So, I’ve thought long and hard about whether to share this — a very intimate moment in my life — but ultimately, I feel I can make good of it, with your help…

Last Sunday I said goodbye to our family dog. Leaving my parents house after a Mother’s Day visit, I knew the next time I visited home he would be gone. At 16 and half years old he was beginning to suffer and the obvious choice was for him to put to sleep.

Kate on Conservation with dog, Chaz

What could have been a more fitting day than Mother’s Day, to bid farewell to my first baby?

During those 16 years he’d shared so many of my adventures and milestones — from my first year of high school to my first year of motherhood — and although we lived apart in his final years (as I moved to London and he stayed in his comfortable home with my parents), I cherished the evenings back home where he would rest on my lap in front of the TV, or sleep on my bed at night.

Kate on Conservation with dog, Chaz as a puppy

The day we bought our boy home, 21st November 2001 — I was 11 years old, and it seemed reasonable to suggest naming him after a character in The Rugrats!

Though I will miss his presence, I’m so glad that he had a long and happy life surrounded by love and family in a comfortable home.

Not all dogs are so lucky. Which is why I’m hoping to raise money in his memory for the brilliant charity Wetnose Animal Aid. Based in my home county of Norfolk, Wetnose Animal Aid help small shelters across the UK, including dog rescue centres.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Wetnose team, as they launched their annual Wetnose Day fundraiser last year, and they welcomed me like family. I really believe in what they do, and would love to use this as a chance to support them,

Andrea Gamby-Boulger at wetnose day

Wetnose Animal Aid founder Andrea Gamby-Boulger at Wetnose Day 2017 launch

I’ve opened up a JustGiving page in Chaz’s memory (https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/wetnose-for-chaz), to help with raising much needed funds.

If you have a spare pound, please consider a donation. I want to spread the love in my heart that my little dog has given me, and do something good with it.

I made the above video 11 years ago, and I never would have dreamed I would have still had that crazy little guy this long. We truly have been lucky!

So please don’t feel sad, and know that no sympathy is needed here. I had a good friend for a long time, and his life was filled with love and comfort and family. There are so many dogs who don’t have this, and those are the ones we should feel sad for.

Kate on Conservation with dog, Chaz on mothers day

Saying our goodbyes last Sunday

It was not a sad goodbye, the story in the photo is true. I said goodbye with a smile — because, hey, 16 is pretty good age for a dog — and I know he’s had a good life.

kate on conservation logo

Want to pledge a donation?

 

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Wetnose Day 2017: A good reason to get tongues and tails wagging!

September holds a very special event on the animal lover’s calendar… I’d like to tell you all about Wetnose Day.

In support of animals in desperate need in the UK, Wetnose Day is the animal-focussed equivalent of Red Nose Day, and sees fundraising events and crazy challenges taking place up and down the country on September 29th – October 1st 2017 — as well as plenty of ‘poses with noses‘!

Posing with noses at the PR launch of Wetnose Day 2017

Wetnose Day was established in the year 2000, to help promote the issue of animal welfare and to raise much needed funds to cover essential food and medical treatments for animals in desperate need in the UK.

It serves as an annual event to draw attention to the year-round work of Wetnose Animal Aid; which helps the lesser well known rescue centres and small groups are the country that get little publicity.

Sir Paul McCartney lends his support to Wetnose Animal Aid

Wetnose Day aims to encourage schools, workplaces, vets, groomers, dog clubs, riding schools (in fact everyone!), to pose with a nose and raise over £100,000 for dedicated rescue centres nationwide and the animals they care for.

Celebrating Wetnose Day 2017 with dog rescuer Gary Edwards, author of ‘Tales of an underdog

Many of these vital rescue centres need support, as there is no government aid, or lottery grants or any other financial assistance, and many do not have £5,000 worth of funds to be become Registered Charity.

Andrea and Gavin Gamby-Boulger set up the unique not for profit organisation having themselves run a boarding/dog rescue centre for 13 years in Norfolk; they sold the kennels to set up Wetnose Animal Aid.

Founder Andrea Gamby-Boulger speaks at the PR launch of Wetnose Day 2017.

Since then Wetnose Animal Aid has raised close to £50,000 and given to small animal rescues centres all over the UK, as well as organising award events to celebrate those otherwise unsung heroes across the UK who dedicate their lives to care for abused, sick and unwanted animals.

“Our team is committed to raising funds to help the animal rescue centres who do wonderful work caring for sick animals, including wildlife, but never get the recognition they truly deserve,” Wetnose Day Founder Andrea Gamby-Boulger says.

“As an ex-kennel owner, I know how stressful it is to care and rescue animals and work 24/7 with no holidays — and to be called out at a moment’s notice.”

The cause has received strong support from leading celebrity and animal campaigners, such as Paul McCartneyBrian May, Tom Hardy, Chris Packham, Paul O’Grady and Amanda Holden, which enabled them to raise thousands of pounds for small and medium-sized animal sanctuaries; ensuring food costs were covered and veterinary treatment went ahead for animals in desperate need.

Britain’s Got Talent’s Pippa Langhorne and her sing-a-long pooch, Buddy, performing to promote Wetnose Day

“Society in general has, for a number of years, been under severe financial stress, which in turn has seen animal welfare suffer as some people may no longer be able to afford to look after their pets,” Andrea explains.

“Wetnose Day plays its part in highlighting animal welfare in the UK and providing vital help and financial support for small animal welfare groups who are at the forefront of animal rescue and care. The knowledge and skills these animal rescue teams have is phenomenal and now is the time to help them.”

Find out how you can get on board to help fundraise — or buy your very own ‘wet nose’ by clicking here.

Like this? Read more about dog rescues here.

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Eating man’s best friend

When I was 11 years old, my mum collected my older brother and I from school and announced we were going on ‘a magical mystery tour’. With a vague recollection that this was the name of a Beatles album, I was completely clueless about what on earth she meant. It turns out, at the end of this ‘tour’, there was a little dog that we would be taking home with us! I named him Chaz, after a character from Rugrats.

Kate and Chaz

For almost 15 years now, this little man has stolen my heart. I wrote in a diary entry on the 21st November 2001: “Today is the best day of my life! We got a puppy!” And whilst most of that diary is quite comical to look back over now, I still stand by my enthusiasm on the day we bought home a flea-ridden, wormy little puppy that was so unclean I thought his fur was blond (until a long soapy rinse revealed the area around his neck was actually white!). It took a bit of work to get him tidied up, but he’s lived a happy, cosy and loving life ever since!

It’s no secret that I love and respect all animals – but none have a place as close to my heart as ‘man’s best friend’. In the years that I’ve had Chaz in my life, I’ve gone through the entirety of high school, watched all three of my brothers get married, completed my A-Levels, become an Auntie (five times over), travelled to South Africa on my gap year (and spent three months working at the incredible Shamwari Game Reserve), achieved a first class degree (with a year’s study in Australia!), gone through countless loves (and heart breaks!), moved to London and begun forging a career here, met my wonderful partner and accepted a marriage proposal! It really is true to say, my loyal little dog has been there through every milestone in my life, and I can’t imagine what it will be like when he’s gone!

So, I completely empathised with every word that Gary Edwards said about losing his beloved pet dog Norton at the beginning of his book Tales of an ‘underdog’ and how it inspired him to dedicate his life to rescuing dogs.tales of an underdog

“Norton was more than just a dog… to me anyway,” Gary writes. “He had been my faithful little friend for 13 years, and although I have always had dogs in my life, I guess that there are always those ‘special ones’, who touch our very souls”.

I don’t know whether it’s true what they say about ‘only those who have owned a dog will truly understand’; I hesitate to agree with a sentiment that seems to be excluding to many – I, afterall, have never been in close proximity with, say, a dolphin, but I can certainly appreciate their intelligence, their complex social bonds and their sentient ways.

But those who have had the privilege of sharing in the life of a dog will know how aware these creatures are: how they can pick their master out in a crowd; how they know what time of day you get home from work; how they can be protective in an unusual circumstance, such as when you’re home alone for the first time in a while; how they can display something akin to empathy when tragedy strikes or they find you crying.

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Like many people, I’ve heard of the dog meat trade that takes place in countries such as China. But before I delved too much into the facts and figures, I was curious to know just what people thought about the idea of dog meat as a delicacy, and tested the waters on my Facebook page with an image of meat-based meal identified as dog.

I must admit, I was a little surprised to find the only reaction I received (which gained some support), was that it was wrong to assume that one may be repulsed by eating dog meat. Setting aside how emotionally charged I can sometimes feel in conversations, such as this (it’s very important to me to take emotion out of it and try and understand different viewpoints so that I can attempt to debunk any myths, and perhaps more importantly, question myself!), I asked why the person I was talking to held that view point. A very fair response was that I was ‘confusing how something is killed, with whether or not it’s ok to eat it.’

Can we separate how something is killed with whether or not we should eat it?
1000-yulin-dogs-in-cages

So, can the two be separated? My initial response in this conversation was that the morality of whether or not to eat an animal is intrinsically linked to how it is killed, as it is the deciding factor in whether it is killed. [For the record, I don’t eat meat and I only buy dairy free milk and cheese, etc.!]

If the demand for dog meat creates a trade in which these animals are subjected to terrible abuse and even torture, is it not the demand that’s creating the problem? China (home to Yulin Dog & Cat Eating Festival) does not have any animal welfare laws and so animals are routinely abused in slaughtering practices. As Gary explains in his book, from the moment of being captured, dogs destined for the meat trade —often pets stolen off of the streets, some even make it to market with their collars still on! — are kept in cruel conditions.

“Many dogs that are rescued from the meat traders suffer the most appalling abuse, often with hacked off limbs, and other injuries. During transport, the dogs are hidden in the back of lorries, and even in three wheel tricycles in hidden compartments. The heat, even during the night, is horrendous, and many dogs die even before reaching their final destination. The dog traders tie their mouths so tightly, using twine, rope or ligatures, that they are unable to pant in order to regulate their body heat.”

Perhaps focussing on their suffering is still perceived as ‘irrelevant’ to the question of whether or not we should eat them, but there should at least be room for the thought that dogs are domesticated at the hands of man, and so have evolved to trust us, to serve as a companion.

As Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy point out in their book When Elephants Weep – The Emotional Lives of Animals:

“Evidence of emotion in captive animals and pets is often discounted as irrelevant. The argument goes that these animals are in unnatural situations, or that what domesticated animals do is irrelevant to what animals are really like… That captive and domestic animals are in an unnatural situation is not a valid objection to taking observations of them seriously, for humans are in just as unnatural a situation. We did not evolve in the world in which we now live, with its deferred rewards and strange demands (sitting in classrooms or punching time clocks). All the same, we do not dismiss our emotions as not existing or authentic to us human beings because they do not take place in small groups of hunter-gatherers on an African savannah where human life is thought to have begun.”

Returning again to my entry point for studying the dog meat trade, the book Tales of an ‘underdog’ goes on to reference a fundraising event for dogs that had been victims of the dog meat trade, organised by Angels for the Innocent Foundation. The event, a comedy night organised by Anneka Svenska and hosted by Bill Oddie, is one that I’d attended last year.

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Anneka has rescued and re-homed dogs from all over the world, including more than 15 dogs rescued from the meat trade in Thailand. Earlier this year, she joined Humane Society International’s #STOPYULIN Campaign alongside Ricky Gervais, Chris Packham, Professor Green and many other celebrities.

Humane Society International rescue dogs from the meat trade in Asia, especially in Korea, where The Boknal dog meat trade takes place. This week, Anneka Svenska presented a short film by GreenWorldTV in association with Angels for the Innocent Foundation, to bring an exclusive (and shocking) preview of the dog meat industry in Korea. ‘EATING FRIENDS’ features Humane Society International Wildlife Presenter Nigel Marven, Born Free Foundation‘s Policy Advisor Dominic Dyer, and other campaigners across the world to uncover some of the truths about the world of Korean dog meat slaughter…