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2003-02-11 Nelsons had a dog's life growing up in Catron

Binky, Ben, Brack, Judy, Cindy, Biddy, Red, Sally, Pete, Rocky, Jessie, Elsa, Purdey, Jet, Dubh, Crotchet, Mimi and Kiri were just some of the dogs we had when I was growing up in Cartron.We normally had anything up to 6 dogs at a time. There was some inter-breeding, and even now my sisters' dog Sally is the eighth generation of a dog my grandparents had in 1972!

 

Dogs are great motivation to exercise, and unsurpassed as companions, offering unconditional love and an often wacky sense of humour. By now, you will have deduced that I am a major `dog-lover', and as soon as I'm in a position where I'm at home more, I will be down that `rescue' choosing myself a `best friend'.

The simple action of stroking a dog has been proven to have therapeutic effects and dogs are being introduced more and more as a `tonic' into childrens homes, even hospices. I believe that every retired/elderly person ought to have a dog as a lifeline. Normally there is a dog to suit every home set-up. Of all the wonderful `worker dogs', we must single out the `guide dogs' helping the visually-impaired to integrate more fully and independently in society. "Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind" survives almost entirely on voluntary contributions.

 

When I moved to London I had no option other than to ask my parents to foster my wee Jack Russel - Crotchet. When my mother suffered a bad stroke Crotchet never left her side until Mum had recovered. The bond that developed between my mother and that little terrier had to be seen to be believed. The bond between `man and his dog' is in my eyes one of the most special and enduring friendships.

 

I encourage those interested in getting a dog to try the `shelters'/ `dogs homes'. Don't always go for young vibrant dogs, as these places often find themselves left with older dogs after their owners have died or moved into a home themselves. Give an older dog a chance to `go home' again, but a dog is for life, and should not be taken on lightly.

 

As long as your dog gets a measured amount of food at the same time each day (without cruel overfeeding), and fresh water in constant supply, you won't go far wrong. Bits from your own plate is no harm either.

 

There are conflicting views as to the benefits of spaying and neutering. Many used to believe a female dog ought to have one litter, but the general consensus at the moment is that it is better all round to neuter/spay.

 

At the top of my list of `Miscellaneous Dislikes' is `Animal Cruelty'. The ISPCA promotes kindness and prevents cruelty to animals as well as providing practical welfare, law enforcement and education. Man is to blame for breeds such as Rottweilers and Pitbulls getting bad press, as well as other disturbing practices such as `poodle craft'!

 

Ireland is the worlds' foremost greyhound breeding nation. Of around 20,000 greyhound pups registered here every year, about half are exported to the US, the UK and Spain. Spains' appalling record of animal rights is further blackened now by dog abuse.

 

The greyhounds are forced to race in disgusting conditions with no veterinary care, and slaughtered when they are too badly injured to continue, or sometimes simply when they lose a race. Many end up in labs for experimentation or vivisection, as greyhounds are seen to be very `tractable'. It is estimated that around 14,000 greyhounds are `disposed of' a year because they haven't made the grade. A fraction of a second in a race can often mean life or death for a greyhound. Yet again, a profitable spectator sport allows greed to win out over humanity. Owners and trainers should work together to find good homes for these so called `failures'.

 

Laws to promote `regulated breeding' of racers might also help. We need to raise awareness of the `greyhound' and if possible, adopt a greyhound - they make adorable, if lively pets. Then maybe greyhounds won't have to keep `running for their lives'. Is it any wonder Abraham Lincoln felt urged to say "I care not for the religion of a man, if his dog is treated no better for it".