If you’re here, then I know you will be guilty of driving your non doggy friends (if you have any) mad with photos of your furry friend.
And next week there’s even more reason to share your dog snaps as it’s National Dog Photography Day on Friday July 26th.
It was created last year by pet photographer Kerry Jordan of Fur and Fables and it’s no surprise that the #nationaldogphotographyday hashtag went viral with pet owners from all over the world joining in.
Anything to celebrate the special bond we share with our dogs gets a yes from us, so we spoke to Kerry, who lives in Surrey with her husband Al and five whippets about how it came about.
Can you tell me a little about your background as a dog photographer?
I actually started photographing weddings and was shortlisted for regional awards.
After a few years I realised that I really wanted more 1-1 interaction and less hours so decided to transfer my skills to family photography and around this time we got our first dog, a whippet called Scout who completely changed my world.
He became my muse and I would take my camera on walks and photograph him in the beautiful countryside.
Our whippet family grew – we now have Scout, Boo, Shadow, Bertie and Jasper – and people started asking me if they would photograph their own dogs.
This was in 2013 when I hadn’t really seen very many dog specific photographers, but I decided to pursue it as a niche and haven’t looked back!
Kerry’s pawsome pack
How lovely! And where did the idea for national dog photography day come from?
It was actually after a live event by content specialist Janet Murray, I’d bought her content diary and was looking through the days and wondered why on earth some of them existed.
Just as an example, there’s an ugly truck day on 20thJuly in case you wanted to be part of it, and then how you do your own ‘day’.
I found a UK database specifically for registering your day called YearAhead.com so that public relations businesses and newspapers can plan content and registered my day.
It would be amazing to go viral again! But also, I have seen some ideas for raising money for charity too which would be absolutely incredible.
Kerry is hoping to celebrate the day with a trip to the pub!
Do you know what you’ll be doing on National Dog Photography Day?
I’m hoping to partner up with a couple of local dog businesses to create a fun event, current ideas is seeing how many dog portraits I can do in an hour, with money for the portraits going towards charity.
That’s a brilliant idea! How can people get involved?
If you are a dog related business, see if you can pair up with other dog businesses to create something fun!
If you are a super dog friendly shop or pub, maybe do a dog brunch and invite a photographer.
The possibilities are endless!
If you are a dog owner, Tweet, Instagram and Facebook using the #nationaldogphotographyday hashtag.
And do you have any tips to share for regular dog owners so they can take awesome photos on the day?
Get down on their level, even if that means sitting on the floor, it gives you a much better perspective.
Make sure there are no background distractions, if there’s a lamppost growing out of your dogs head, move around!
A really simple one – train them to sit and wait, it makes it so much easier when your dog isn’t moving around.
Want a cute head tilt? Try making noises that they haven’t heard before like a high pitched brrrrr or pa pa pa.
On a bright sunny day, try photographing your dog in the shade so that you get soft even light rather than harsh shadows.
You can find out more about Kerry on her website, www.furandfables.com where you’ll find her social media links.
Finally, if you’re a pet business and you’re looking for ideas for National Dog Photography Day, I have a webinar taking place on July 17th at 7pm.
I’ll be sharing ways you can celebrate, how to team up with a local photographer, plus social media post ideas and templates for pitches to local newspapers who might cover the event.
Mindfulness is something we hear so much about but did you know that we can learn to live mindfully with our dogs too?
Canine behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson from Barket Place and Clinical Psychologist Linda Blair have teamed up to create the first ever Mindfulness programme for humans and dogs.
It’s a six week programme where you can learn how be mindful alongside your furry friend while gaining a greater understanding of canine psychology and behaviour.
First though, what is ‘Mindfulness?’
According to the dictionary definition, it’s, ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.’
Mindfulness is a way of lowering stress levels, and if we’re stressed, this can have a negative impact on the relationships we have with our dogs.
We have a hormonal response and create adrenaline and cortisol which our dogs can smell and they get stressed too and feel they need to protect us.
But if we can find ways to eliminate those feelings of stress through mindfulness, the interaction we have with our dogs changes and instead we become friends.
If we want to truly learn what it means to live in the moment, taking a look at our dogs is a good place to start, so I spoke to Caroline, who lives in Bristol with her dogs Chester and Ezri, about the exciting new project.
Caroline and Linda have devised a programme to help dogs and humans embrace mindfulness
Caroline, how did the idea for the programme come about?
I was working with Linda and her dogs and found we were spending a lot of our session-time together chatting about wider subjects, as we both have a background in psychology and behaviour. Linda with people – myself with dogs.
We both recognised the emotional effects our dogs have on us, and that we, in turn, can impart our emotions over to our dogs.
If owners were suffering stress, their dogs were too. So we decided to work together on a programme that would help both ends of the lead.
Can you tell me a little about how our dogs experience this stress?
Dogs experience stress in different ways. There’s positive stress where they might be enjoying exciting play with a friend, chasing a ball or squirrel – something fun!
Then there’s negative stress, perhaps caused by a stressful interaction with another dog when high levels of adrenaline and cortisol which is the stress hormone are produced.
These stress hormones can have negative implications on their physical – as well as their mental – wellbeing.
Stress can affect our dog’s gut health – with the gut being known as the second brain – which can lead to negative effects on the brain and the dog’s emotions too.
Physically, too much stress can lead to a suppressed immune system and skin issues, amongst other things.
Behaviourally, too much stress means the dog will be more likely to be nervous and reactive.
So small things like the postman calling or a car door banging, will cause a stress reaction.
The more cortisol they have in their system, the more likely they are to be hyper-alert to these situations, which in turn leads to more reactivity.
Caroline and her dogs Chester and Ezri
What are the emotional responses our dogs might be experiencing?
There are four main emotional responses: anxiety, phobia, fear, and anger. Anxiety will be the anticipation of danger, whereas phobias might be an irrational fear-response to everyday things – such as insects or noise.
A fearful response, or anger, are often displayed by actions that we might bundle under the term that our dog is being ‘reactive’.
Learning isn’t able to take place in a stressed dog. We need to get those stress levels under control before our dogs can learn to have a different emotional response to whatever it is in the world that causes them concern.
Is it easy to tell if a dog is stressed if they aren’t showing any obvious signs?
A stressed dog will often seek safety and try to avoid people, situations and other dogs. They also may not be able to consume food when highly stressed.
A relaxed dog will be playful, happy and able to eat. They will seek social interactions and learning opportunities.
So how can we help dogs who are stressed?
It can be very upsetting having a stressed dog but the good news is that there are ways we can help our dogs to feel more comfortable in the world.
When we work with dogs, we need to use as positive methods as we can.
When we pair our dog’s challenging behaviours with a punishment from our end, we can end up ruining our relationship with our dog and ultimately our dog won’t be able to learn new ways to respond to the world.
If we can slowly get them used to being around the thing they’re scared of – feeling happier about its presence – then we can gradually help them to overcome their fears.
Caroline on a walk with her adorable dogs
How can we incorporate Mindfulness into how we are with our dogs on walks?
If you are someone who tends to over-communicate verbally with your dog on walks, you might be adding some extra tension into the situation.
In calm, quiet spaces it can be good to take the time to pause and enjoy some calm strokes of your dog. Stroking and playing with your dog increases oxytocin, the love hormone, which can be a way to lower stress.
But we need to make sure our dog enjoys it – so stroke them for three seconds, then remove your hand. If they lean into you for more, that means they enjoy it – but if they do a shake off or move away from you, then give them space.
If you have an anxious or reactive dog, calm body strokes can help them feel more physically present rather than have them fixating on the potential of a threat.
It also allows you both to focus more on the present moment – something that’s key in Mindfulness practices.
What are your key tips for helping our dogs live a calmer life?
Use calm communication – be mindful that dogs CAN understand tone and emotion behind our words. Be consistent in the words you use.
Celebrate the importance of scent – the area of our dog’s brain responsible for understanding scent information is proportionally 40 times larger than ours!
Engaging this part of their brain will enrich their lives and help them to feel calmer. For sensitive dogs, encouraging them to sniff can lead to calmer behaviour – plus it releases happy hormones in the brain.
Play a sniffing game where you place food in long grass or hide a ball for them to find.
Have rest days – dogs deal with so much sensory overload every day that can be overwhelming and scary. Rest days allow you to focus on mentally rewarding activities in the home – such as training or scent work.
Make sure they get enough sleep. Like toddlers, overtired dogs become hyper. Adult dogs need roughly 12 to 16 hours and puppies 18 to 20 hours per day.
And finally, as long as your dog is happy with it – enjoy lots of cuddles on the sofa. This will help you have a calm, relaxed bond with your dog.
The six week Mindful Living and Our Dogs course is £59. Find out more at barketplace.uk
There is a £1000 finders fee for anyone whose information leads to Angel coming home. If you know anything, call Doglost on 0844 800 3220 quoting ID 137732.
Spot is a 15-month-old female Welsh Collie who went missing after she attended a train programme at a farm in Gwynfe on Thursday 6th December 2018.
Her owner Carwyn Powell had Spot from her being a pup and planned for her to be a farm dog at their home in Llanwrda, Carmarthenshire.
Bright, friendly and inquisitive, Spot was very much a family dog, but while she was doing her working dog training, she vanished.
Carwyn said: “We received a voicemail saying Spot had run off the day before. I couldn’t believe it. She was always so loyal and obedient.
“On the day Spot went missing, she’d been taken to another area of land by the trainers. I’ve tried to piece together what happened and I can only imagine she was spooked.”
Spot was settling in to farm life
There was a sighting of her at 3pm on the 5th December at The Three Horseshoes pub but no-one knew she was missing at that point.
Carwyn and her family put out flyers, called in a tracker dog twice who picked up her scent and she was seen on January 2nd in Llanddeusant, near the Red Kite Feeding Centre.
Lots of people in the area have rallied to try to help find Spot, who is chipped and spayed, and the family are pleading with locals to leave posters up in case she’s seen.
Carwyn said: “Spot wasn’t just a farm dog, she was a family dog and we miss her terribly; she is especially missed by my mother who fed and nurtured her as a pup.”
“We’re at a loss as to how this could have happened and are always looking for and finding ways of highlighting that she is still missing.
“If you see her, please take her to a vet, or do something to contact us. No questions will be asked, we just want her home safe and will never give up.”
If anyone has any information relating to Spot’s case or knows where she is, please contact DogLost on 0844 800 3220, quoting dog ID 137849 or visit her Doglost page here.
Jack is a female Kelpie and went missing while on a walk with her family on May 1st 2017 near Ely, Cambridgeshire.
She was only 20 months old and is described as looking like a little black and tan husky and went missing near the Fish and Duck Marina around 10pm.
Her owner Iva McCartney says she is friendly and has a good recall and spent hours that night calling her and squeaking her favourite ball.
She said: “We were walking both our dogs and usually, if they didn’t come running back immediately when I called, they would always come back but our male dog came back alone.
“It was like she had literally vanished off the face of the earth. I didn’t want to move too far from the spot she was last seen though, just in case she came back.”
“The next day, I fully expected to get a call to say, ‘we’ve just found your dog’ as Jack is insanely friendly and would sidle up to anyone, but now it’s been over two years.”
Jack enjoying a walk
Iva has been told of a few possible sightings of Jack, who was wearing a red collar and tag, in the months after she went missing and hopes she is still alive.
She’s left out clothes, put out posters and even had a thermal scope and camera search to no avail.
It’s thought Jack might have been found and kept by someone who thought she was a stray having had to fend for herself but the message from Iva is that she is much loved and missed.
She said: ““At the time she went missing she was a young and perfectly fit dog, with a really confident, loving, friendly, if a bit cheeky personality. She was just coming out of her “terrible teens” and turning into an excellent dog
“The hardest thing is not knowing what happened to her. We just want to know she’s safe, or if something bad has happened, to know that too.
“We have offered a reward and if anyone knows anything about Jack, please please get in touch, there will be no questions asked.”
If anyone has any information relating to Jack’s case or knows where she is, please contact DogLost on 0844 800 3220, quoting dog ID 114568 or visit her Doglost page.
Every month I share these appeals, my heart goes out to the families who are desperate for news.
If you live close to where these treasured pets went missing, please make people aware of them.
It would be amazing if you could share their stories as the more people who read about them, the more chance there is of them being found.
Below are other appeals for missing dogs that we’ve covered this year:
When you go to a new place with your pup, how do you find out dog friendly spots to check out?
Facebook, Trip Advisor, the pub or pet shop… there’s so many places.
One dog owner is on a mission to change that and give pawrents one place where they can find all the resources they need.
Becky Baker, 35, from Halifax, and her Cockapoo Buddy are going on a 2,500 mile, two month road trip around the UK to check out a different location every day.
They’ll be scoring them on dog friendly places, walks, amenities like groomers and pet shops, pubs, cafes and how warm and welcoming residents are.
Becky will blog each day and the winning location will announced at the end of the summer.
With my journalist/PR coach hat on (more of that here www.publicityforpetbusinesses.co.uk) I’ve been helping Becky get the word out and this week we spoke to her about her trip.
Becky and Buddy all set for their trip
Can you tell us about #PawsonTour2019
Buddy and I are going to go all around the UK to check out all the different dog-friendly places, and find out what’s out there for us dog-lovers.
What kind of places are you going to be going to?
We’re looking for people living in each place to get in touch and tell us about nice walks, hidden gems you won’t find online, with beautiful scenery.
And I’m also looking at more unusual things, for example, we’re going to Cambridge to try a punting tour down the River Thames.
We’re getting a ferry over to the Isle of Wight to try out their dog lounge, then dog-friendly cafes, a hydrotherapy centre.
The world is our oyster and we’re trying to show you can involve your dog as much as you want in your everyday life. You’re not restricted to taking them for a walk in a field.
So it’s about you and you dog living your best life?
Absolutely. I didn’t get a dog to only be a companion, then leave him at home and carry on with my life. He’s a member of my family.
He’s my best mate, hence the name Buddy. And I just wanted to be able to prove to people that you can involve your dog in nearly everything you do.
Becky and Buddy’s home for the summer
And you’re going in a camper van?
Yes, I’ve never camped or been in a camper van, or a motor-home before, but I have been out and bought a little two berth motor home, so look out for the K9Nation sign and come and say hi!
Buddy and I are going to go out and park up at the different camp sites.
We’re going to some of the dog shows of the summer, to meet lots of other dog lovers and touring round, different place every day seeing who we meet.
We’re looking to find out what it’s like to live in that local area and covering it all on our social media and I’ll be blogging about our experience every day, telling it how it is, warts and all.
Some places say they’re dog friendly, but are more dog tolerant
Yes, some places, they roll out the red carpet for dogs and make a real fuss.
Others, you’re lucky to get as much as a biscuit and there’s strict signs about what they can and can’t do.
Also, sometimes our dogs are angels, sometimes they act up, so we’ll see how Buddy behaves when we go to places and give a really truthful and honest account of our adventures.
Ruff ride – Buddy takes the wheel
And the tour is to raise awareness of your website and app too?
Yes, so K9 Nation is a completely free website, and at the minute just a iOS app which is a free resource for dog owners.
There’s a social networking element to it with a newsfeed where you can find friends in your area and dogs of similar breeds.
It’s also a resource where you can find vets, groomer and so on and read reviews. I like to think of it as a bit like Facebook meets Trip Advisor for dog owners.
We don’t promote one brand or service over another, we’re completely impartial. We let you guys put your own honest reviews on there.
Where did the idea come from?
When I got Buddy at eight weeks old, I didn’t know where to go to find a vet or where was a good groomer.
I thought, ‘You know, it would be so handy if I just had something that I could say where I was based and it would tell me what was in my local area.’
Particularly when I went to visit friends in different parts of the country, if they didn’t have a dog themselves, they didn’t know where to go to walk.
So I thought I would do it myself and made a website and app.
Becky’s looking forward to lots of exploring with Buddy
What are you most looking forward to on your road trip?
The opportunity to bond with Buddy. We’re quite close but up until now, I have worked from nine to five and he goes to daycare, so it will be lovely to be able to spend that quality time with him.
There’s a lot of the UK that I haven’t explored myself and I can’t wait to go down to the South of England, Cornwall and the Isle of Wight that we’re visiting.
It will be brilliant to see what’s out there for pet parents on our doorstep so to speak, particularly with Brexit around the corner and European travel becoming harder.
How are you going to pick the most dog friendly place?
There will be various metrics that I can score against like the amount of bins around on local walks, for you to put your dog poop bags in, what the reception is like from people in the area where I’ve taken Buddy, whether when you walk down a local high street, if the majority of them are saying, ‘No dogs allowed.’
Look out for Becky’s stall if you’re at any of the events she’s attending
If people are reading and want to tell you about a brilliant place in their town, what can they do?
They can either reach out to me on social media, either by Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or if you go to the website which is www.k9nation.uk and send me an e mail.
We want to hear your individual stories, recommendations, suggestions, nothing’s off the cards for us as long as it’s in the UK.
Now she puts on two classes each week helping owners enjoy running with their pets.
Recently, she took part in a 32 mile ultra race with Tilly – with lots of breaks and water stations of course.
Here, Lara explains what Canicross is, the benefits for dogs and us humans, and how you can get involved.
Lara and her dog Tilly
Can you tell me what exactly is Canicross?
Canicross is an exciting and fast growing sport of off-road running with your dog and a fun and social way for you and your dog to get fit.
It is also the safest way to enjoy running with your dog – by using specially designed equipment so you can run hands-free and for your dog to run comfortably.
Canicross came from the origins of skijoring, where people ski with their dog pulling out in front of them.
The owner wears a waist belt, the dog wears a harness and they are attached to each other via a 2 metre bungee line. So very little equipment is required to get started.
So it’s running with your dog but while wearing specific running kit?
Yes, you can run with as many dogs as you want, and it’s about teamwork between the human and the dogs.
You’ve got to communicate with each other and understand each other, and it really is quite remarkable when it happens, and you just think, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’
You’re running as a team together. During our local Parkrun, for example, if I’m running and we’re trying to beat my personal best, I’ll keep Tilly running straight and focused, at that point it feels absolutely amazing!
Patch in his harness and lead from Trotting Dog (Image: Snicpics.com)
How much quicker are you with her running with you than you are normally?
I’m five minutes faster on a 5K. So, for every kilometre, I’m a minute faster.
I feel it, I’m running so much faster than I would if I was on my own. I’ve tried to run as fast without her, and there’s just no chance.
Where do you start if you want to get involved in Canicross?
First of all, the most important items are the three pieces of kit. Without those you’re looking at possible injury for either yourself, or for some very expensive vet bills.
The waist belt is designed to sit on your hips or the top of your bottom. This way, any pull from the dog comes through the hips and ensures there is no nasty jarring to the back.
The dog must wear a specially designed Canicross harness built for comfort and efficiency. The bungee line is very important as it helps prevent any jarring from the dog.
There’s no hand holding, it’s completely hands-free and the dog is pulling out front on the bungee line and start by going out on your own power walking or trekking off road.
Testing out our belt, lead and harness from Trotting Dog (Image: Snicpics.com)
How do you get your dog to understand they need to walk in front of you and not trip you up?
It’s about introducing things slowly and gradually so they understand what’s expected of them
It’s basically trying to make it as fun as possible, so you elevate your voice, so I say, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go! Come on, let’s go!’
As soon as I put Tilly’s harness on, she now knows what she’s going to be doing, she sees it as the work element of her day.
And that’s what will happen with most dogs. They know they have got to run forward and straight.
I keep my Canicross harness purely for that, so she knows the minute the harness is on what she’s going to be doing and she gets excited, I’d advise you do the same.
But it is a process, it can take time depending on the dog, but they do pick it up. You just need a little patience.
Once you both settle into the kit and the dog is in front, you can join a group?
The best thing to do to get started once you have your kit, is to get together with a local group or DogFit trainer.
Being with other dogs can help encourage your dog to pull and focus. Basically, they follow the leader of the pack!
Trying to encourage Patch to run out in front of me! (Image: Snicpics.com)
What are the benefits for the dogs?
One benefit is behaviour. We work a lot with rescues, so we’ve seen very, very reactive dogs become much more sociable when they are doing the job of Canicrossing.
With reactive, nervous rescue dogs, we found that it really does help them have a job to do.
In terms of fitness, it’s a great way of keeping your dog as fit as possible and of course it helps get you fit too.
When I rescued Tilly, she couldn’t look at me, she wasn’t responding to me but running helped us to bond and it’s remarkable how strong that is.
And what are the benefits for the human?
There’s the physical fitness, you don’t need to pay a gym membership, but there’s also the social side.
It’s been a huge eye-opener for me. I didn’t realise how vast the sport is, we help beginners in the sport right through to Georgie Lambert, who is competing in the Canicross World Championships!
You can take whatever you want from it. You don’t have to be competitive, or you can be. You can join a group, or you can do it solo.
Running is a time to bond with your pup (Image: Snicpics.com)
Well you have absolutely sold it to me!
If I could get everybody Canicrossing with their dog, I’d be so happy. I see some dogs and I think, ‘Oh, you don’t look very happy.’
Some people let their dogs out, and don’t even walk them, they let them off around a field and they’re sitting in the car.
I often think ‘There’s got to be more to owning a dog than that.’
When we come back from a session you can just tell, the dogs are really happy, the people feel so much better about themselves.
They might have had a bad day, or a bad week, and that run has helped.
Everybody talks about mental health or wellness right now, and there’s so much research that has proven getting outdoors and being active can really elevate your mood.
Running is ideal for ‘me time,’ and adding a dog elevates your mood and decreases any anxiety you might have.
You’re concentrating on keeping to a path with your dog in front of you. Nothing else really matters at that point.
Do you have to be really fit to do Canicross?
No. What we tend to say is, if you can walk for half an hour comfortably, then you can start a couch to 5K six week programme that’s specifically designed for Canicross.
We have people running 5K and Parkruns, then 10Ks, half marathons, through to marathons and sometimes ultras because they’ve enjoyed it so much.
What’s your advice to people who want to try it?
Get your kit and get out there. You don’t need to be uber fit. Start by walking or trekking with your dog and try to introduce some Canicross commands.
Earlier this month new figures were released on the number of dogs stolen and reported missing in the UK.
Every day five dogs are taken and this number has risen each year for the last four years according to the data from Direct Line.
Last year, 1959 dogs were reported as stolen with Staffies being the most vulnerable - 71 were taken last year compared to 53 in 2017.
The heartache this brings is every owner’s worst nightmare and it’s why we’ve teamed up with doglost.co.uk to try to help those whose dogs are missing.
This month we’re sharing the stories of Isla, Harper and Rossi.
Isla is a four-year-old German Shepherd from Gailey in Staffordshire and went missing in October 2018.
Her owner Paula had been out at a concert and her daughter Grace had been caring for Isla and their other dog Izzy.
A takeaway driver had been to the house and left the gate open after dropping off a food delivery. When the dogs went out to the loo shortly after 11pm, they escaped.
Paula said: “When we arrived home at 11:20pm, we noticed that the gate was open and Isla and Izzy weren’t there to welcome us.
“The gate was open and panic set in. We started searching and calling for the girls but the weather was horrendous that night with very strong winds and heavy rain.
“I knew they wouldn’t be able to hear us. We searched until 2am then reluctantly had to return home without them, then began searching again at 6am.”
People responded to posts on social media with sightings of the dogs, and Izzy was found at 11am the next morning but there was no sign of Isla.
The family notified the Highways Agency, Network Rail and the Canals and River Trust but have heard no news of Isla and fear she a victim of theft by finding.
Izzy pined desperately for Isla and, heartbreakingly, was diagnosed with cancer and had to be put to sleep. The family and their local community continue to hunt for Isla.
Isla with Izzy and her family
There have been two possible sightings of Isla
One was on May 14th and one on May 18th close to the High Onn canal, and between Slab Lane and Little Onn, and also on Broad Lane, Church Eaton.
Paula said: “We’re devastated that Isla is still missing and losing Izzy as well has been unbearable. No-one has come forward to say it was their dog so we have a little hope.
“Isla is such a massive part of our family and we all are suffering so much without her.”
“Please if you have her or have any information, please think of me and my family and let us know where she is – no questions will be asked, we just want her back home”
Isla is spayed and microchipped and her chip has been updated to lost/stolen. She was wearing a red collar with beige bones on it on the night she disappeared and you can visit the Facebook Group Find Isla here.
If anyone has any information relating to Isla’s case or knows where she is, please contact DogLost on 0844 800 3220, quoting dog ID 135622 or view Isla's profile online here.
Harper is a nine-month-old golden Cocker Spaniel and went missing from her home on March 28th 2019.
Her owners James Howatson and Fiona Anderson live on a farm in Lanark, Scotland and had let her out at 8pm to go to the loo.
When they called her in moments later, she’d vanished. They searched the whole farm on foot and on their motorbikes and couldn’t see her.
The frantic couple were told by a neighbour a white van had been hanging around just before she went missing. They have put up a reward of £6,000.
Fiona said: “He’d seen it at end of our property at roughly the same time she went out and a plumber also saw a white van 15 minutes before we let her out.
“It all made sense, Harper wouldn’t just run and even if she did – she wouldn’t have managed to get far in the time. I absolutely believe that she was picked up and stolen.”
Harper and owner Fiona
Sadly, the registration plate has never been seen
James and Fiona stayed up all night searching then told the police but as they didn’t have a registration number, they couldn’t report it as a suspected theft.
They started a social media campaign to make Harper ‘too hot to handle,’ put posters all around the area and visited every shop, pub and home that had CCTV - one caught the van leaving but not the registration plate.
The couple are convinced Harper was stolen and her microchip has a lost/stolen alert. Earlier that day a man was seen trying to pick up dogs on walks just 600 yards from their farm.
Fiona said: “There is an empty hole there that can’t be filled until Harper returns. It literally feels like my soul has been destroyed.”
“We miss her so much. Even everyday things like cleaning are so painful as Harper would normally follow me around the house making a mess behind me.
“I just want to say to anyone who has her, please just bring her back, there will be questions raised about how you came across her.
“If you can bring her back to us, safe and unharmed there is a finder’s fee of £6,000. We need her home as it is destroying our lives.”
DogLost urge people to be vigilant across the UK and if you spot a dog that looks very similar to Harper and has recently been re-homed in your area to contact her owners.
It’s something close to my heart. When I lost my dad in January 2016, it was at St Rocco’s hospice in Warrington, and I remember the staff telling me how pets would visit.
I thought about what comfort having a wet nose and waggy tail must bring to patients, and everyone around them including the hospice staff.
I contacted Claire and was so pleased when she agreed to talk about Rolo’s remarkable role.
Rolo the Therapy Dog at home with Claire (Image: RSPCA)
Can you tell me a little about your family and life before Rolo?
Yes, I’m Claire, I’m 54, a copywriter and I live in Essex although we are soon to be moving to Suffolk with my husband Mark, 57, and our boys Oliver, 20, and Robin, 14.
We always wanted to have a dog of our own but because Mark and I were out working full time up until shortly before Rolo came into our lives, we didn’t feel it was fair.
I’ve always loved dogs. When I was 12, I did a school project on Guide Dogs. I wanted a dog of my own but my parents were at work, so it wouldn’t be fair, so I would volunteer to walk dogs whenever I could.
We support Guide Dogs and I’ve volunteered for more than ten years, exercising puppies and boarding them whenever we could, then I went freelance and it meant we could have a dog of our own.
Fantastic, so how did Rolo come into your lives?
I knew one of the local RSPCA volunteers, Kathy, from working with Guide Dogs so I asked if she knew of any dogs who were needing a home.
She said she had just rehomed the last of 30 Springerpoos rescued from a puppy farm.
Their inspectors saved three mums and three litters, so 30 dogs in total, from a house in Essex after a tip off from a member of the public.
The dogs had been bred for the Christmas market. It just breaks your heart. One of the mums had been found and two of her puppies had died, and another was very poorly with E. coli.
Kathy explained he was at the vets and someone had said they were interested in adopting him, and she said she would let me know if things changed. I couldn’t keep him out of my mind.
Then we had a call to say he had recovered and Kathy said, ‘He’s yours if you would like him.’ I was ecstatic.
Rolo as a tiny puppy
And what was it like when you first met?
We collected him from Kathy on January 2nd 2014. He was a tiny bundle of fluff and just sat at my feet and straight away we all fell in love.
He was around 12 weeks old and weighed two and a half kg. It was like a dream come true, I was so overcome with emotion to finally have a dog of my own.
Rolo getting up to mischief
What was he like as a puppy?
So funny, he was into everything, putting everything in his mouth, and full of energy as all puppies are. We named him Rolo as he was the colour of chocolate, so sweet, and the ‘last Rolo’ – the last pup in his litter to find a home.
Possibly because of his start in life, it did take him a while to settle at night but, once he was in a routine, he gained confidence and that was no longer a problem.
Rolo was so affectionate with my boys and would sit on their laps as they read to him. We took him for puppy training and he was really responsive.
He loved learning new things. We did two years with a voluntary training group and he had so much fun. He was a playful puppy and still is, but adapts appropriately to different situations.
Rolo enjoying the snow!
How did you get involved with Pets as Therapy?
I had always wanted to do Pets As Therapy if we ever had a dog of our own. To be lucky enough to look after and care for a dog is such a joy and it would be lovely to share that joy.
I asked about volunteering after his first six week training programme as the trainer was an assessor and she explained we needed to bring Rolo back when he was around a year old.
He did brilliantly and passed his assessment so we started by visiting a local care home, Kathryn Court, in January 2015 which we still visit every four weeks.
Rolo the Therapy Dog reporting for duty
And you volunteer at Southend hospital?
Yes, I really wanted to go to our local hospital at Southend. I had been in the hospital myself and so had my late mother and father, and I didn’t ever remember seeing a dog.
Before Rolo came into our lives, I had breast cancer and was a patient in the cancer ward twice, and recognised how beneficial it would be for people going through treatment.
I knew how much of a lift seeing a dog would bring them. Throughout my life, being close to a dog, seeing them happy, always made me smile and I wanted to do the same for others.
The patients are really pleased to see a dog, as it’s a little normality. They can stroke him and take photos of him, and even those who may get a little sad at first say it’s a happy sadness.
Some like to talk about their own dog and show us photos as they pet Rolo and it can be very emotional and we build relationships with people and their families.
Occasionally, people are surprised that a dog is allowed in a ward where people are very poorly and having chemotherapy but they do bring something so very special.
Rolo helps with rehabilitation too in the stroke ward, encouraging people with movement and his presence helps with speech. Most of all, Rolo lifts everyone’s mood, visitors and staff included.
Rolo at work on the Stroke ward (Image: RSPCA)
You were also very keen for Rolo to visit the children’s ward too?
Yes, when I started visiting the hospital, I realised dogs weren’t able to visit the children’s ward, and to me it felt like a shame as dogs bring so much joy to little ones.
It was something I wanted to change, so one day I knocked on the door and explained that I would be happy to go with Rolo to any meeting so they could see him and get a little insight of what he was like and how it could possibly work with him spending time with children if it might help.
Shortly afterwards, I had a call from the volunteer manager saying they were ready to trial it and that Rolo had been chosen to be the guinea pig.
That was three years ago and since then we’ve been almost every week.
Rolo being petted on the Children’s Ward (Image: RSPCA)
That’s fantastic, how do the children respond to Rolo?
The children are there for all kinds of reason. Some may have a broken arm or leg and others may be receiving treatment for cancer.
When Rolo comes in the room, their faces light up. They just love him. Of course, not every child can see him, but he has helped a lot of people overcome their fear of dogs.
Often, the children have dogs of their own who can’t come into the hospital, so it’s nice for them to have time with a dog.
I share funny stories about what Rolo has been up too, or we might laugh about his latest haircut as we clip him ourselves and it’s not always perfect.
I might ask a patient to check if I’ve missed a bit, as a distraction whilst they are having a needle put in their arm. He’s even dressed up as Santa Paws.
In delicate and emotional situations he is a comfort. One little boy had to take lots of medicine which wasn’t very nice, so Rolo sat with him.
From nowhere, Rolo did a massive burp and it made the boy laugh. His father asked if Rolo could be in his room later when he had to take more medicine as he’d been such a welcome distraction.
He’s sat with other children when they have been having canulas put in or taken out – used when they need intravenous treatment. It can be distressing so it’s soothing for them to stroke him.
Rolo as Santa Paws with Elizabeth Thrussell who has Juvenile Arthritis and a condition named Uveitis causing inflammation of the eye cells. It means she needs treatment every few weeks but she looks forward to hospital visits when Rolo is there. She said: “I can concentrate on Rolo when they are doing my infusion, forget about what’s happening and just cuddle him.”
During Dying Matters Week, you told how Rolo supports those at the end of their lives too?
Yes, this has something that has evolved as we have been volunteering for a few years and inevitably, you build relationships with people.
One evening, the volunteer manager called me at home about a patient, a man aged only 38 with two young children who had colorectal cancer, who asked if Rolo could go to see him.
He had two dogs at home, but they were boisterous and weren’t able to visit, but he knew Rolo and wanted some time with a dog.
I got Rolo in the car and went to the hospital. In the room were his mum and his wife. I put Rolo on my lap and the man gave him lots of strokes and cuddles.
He saw him on the Thursday and passed away on the Saturday. His wife told me seeing Rolo was one of the last things that made him happy.
We visited another lady in her 60s who suffered a stroke and a brain tumour, leaving her blind and deaf. Her speech had been affected and she couldn’t articulate what she wanted to say.
The nurse asked me to put Rolo on the bed and the lady stroked him and all of a sudden, making perfect sense, she said, ‘It’s a dog, it’s a real dog.’
It was the first time she’d said anything coherent and all the nurses were cheering. She would call him her ‘prayer dog,’ and each week he would sit on her lap or my lap.
Later, her daughter asked if he would visit her at the hospice which we did and when she passed away, Rolo and I went to her funeral.
It’s humbling and it truly is privilege to be asked to go somewhere so intimate and private. Even in dying he tries to give comfort to friends family and patients and staff.
Rolo knows how to behave whatever the situation
You must be so proud of him?
Rolo is somehow able to bring light and happiness in the most upsetting of times.
There are times we’ve walked past the bereavement suite where families go in the moments just after they’ve lost a loved one and people have come out to see him.
When he’s at home with us, Rolo is like any other dog, but when he is at work, he just changes, it’s like he knows what he’s doing.
He’s completely calm, walks at my heel and stands quietly wagging his tail as people say hello.
Rolo knows how long to stay with patients, you don’t want to move too quickly but you don’t want him to stay too long and for people to feel uncomfortable.
We are so proud of our lovely Rolo and the joy he brings.
We love to go away with Patch and our latest staycation was to Bowland Fell, a holiday park in North Yorkshire.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve stayed at a holiday park but it went far beyond our expectations – things have changed a LOT since the 1980s!
Bowland Fell is ideal for families but it was just Patch and I who stayed in one of their luxury holiday lodges for the weekend to sample their dog friendly package.
About Bowland Fell Park
Bowland Fell Park is close to Tosside, on the edge Forest of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales, and set in 130 acres of countryside.
It’s a large holiday park, with its own indoor swimming pool, games room and outdoor play area for children and perfectly placed for walking and cycling enthusiasts.
On site is the Crowtrees Inn, a 17th Century pub filled with character, offering a selection of real ales and a beer garden, and Pipers restaurant for traditional pub grub.
Patch outside the Crowtrees Inn at Bowland Fell Park
There’s a gorgeous farm shop selling everything you need for a break away plus lots of lovely locally sourced produce – every ice cream flavour you can think of – so you really get a taste of Yorkshire.
What really struck me was how tranquil it is. For miles, all you can see is farmland and while I was there at a weekend when families were around, it was still so peaceful.
Even if you don’t want to travel to far, you can walk for miles in the surrounding fields so there’s everything and your pet need.
Patch had his own welcome pack with treats, bowls, poo bags and bed.
Accommodation at Bowland Fell Park
Each lodge is self catering, with wi-fi, a cooker, tv, fridge-freezer and eating area and we had a breakfast welcome pack with cereals, fresh bread, locally sourced jam and milk.
Patch and I stayed in a three bedroomed luxury, pet friendly caravan that sleeps up to eight people.
Two the rooms were twin and one a double, and each had a wardrobe. There was also a loo and a shower room with a loo, so plenty of room for families.
Outside was a balcony and many people had brought along barbecues – guests are of course asked to tidy up afterwards.
The Bowland Fell Park doggy welcome pack
What we did on our stay at Bowland Fell Park
As I was travelling alone, I can’t give you the list of pubs I visited on my trip like I usually do, but I did go on some stunning walks.
When we arrived, I was pleased to find a guide with a selection of mapped out walks, ranging from 1.5 miles to eight miles, mostly because I am USELESS at navigating!
On the first night, we had a walk around the grounds to stretch Patch’s legs, then settled into our lodge.
Patch in the grounds of Bowland Fell Park
Clapham Circular Walk
The next day I filled my backpack with a packed lunch for us both and set off to Clapham Village, which is about a half hour drive away.
The Clapham Circular was one of the walks we had in our pack covering four miles of the Clapham Moor, and most of it was off road, across farmland, woodland and alongside pretty streams.
On the whole walk, Patch and I didn’t see a single person. It was fantastic and he absolutely loved all the new smells, sights and nibbling sheep poo!
Patch’s new friends and natural treat providers on the Clapham Circular Walk
Switching off is something I struggle with. But being on my own with Patch and trying to navigate meant I could enjoy being in the moment and take in the views.
Plus I could stop and take as many photos of Patch as I wanted. Usually, my walking companions get fed up!
I only got slightly lost and Patch only a teeny bit muddy so I was pretty pleased with our first outing!
On the way home, we went into nearby Settle, a village with plenty of independent shops, many of which let in dogs.
We popped to Booths to pick up some supplies for the evening and crashed out back at Bowland Fell Park.
Patch taking in the view on the Clapham Circular Walk
Gisburn Forest and Stocks Reservoir
The following day, thrilled at being able to follow a map, I decided I wanted more of a challenge so set off to Gisburn Forest which is only a 15 minute drive away.
It’s next to Stocks Reservoir, and you can take an eight mile walk around the water, but as it was quite hot, I chose the more shaded forest route.
Are you thinking about getting a puppy? You might already be a puppy owner or know someone who is.
If so, I think you’ll find this interview with dog trainer Dominic Hodgson really helpful as it’s about his new book, the Perfect Puppy Project.
Bringing a new puppy into your home is a huge responsibility and the more prepared you are, the better.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a puppy in my world. My parents got our gorgeous Cocker Spaniel Charlie when I was 18 and away at uni.
I would go home and giving him cuddles and enjoy walks but never was involved in any of the training – although I remember being peed on a lot.
Since, I’ve always had older dogs, so I’ve never been a full on puppy mum.
I’ve always found the thought of it so daunting, so it was really interesting to chat to Dominic about his advice on how best to cope.
Dominic and puppy client Frankie
Why did you decide to write a book about puppies?
A lot of my previous books have been written to help fix common problems that exasperated dog owners suffer from, but with the The Perfect Puppy Project I wanted to do something preventative, that would help new puppy parents to prevent problems before they start!
When it comes to puppies there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there, and not all of it is helpful to new owners, in fact some of it is downright dangerous, so I wanted to put my common sense stamp on the subject of puppy training, and help reassure and guide the petrified first time puppy owner.
You’ve done other training books, what is the difference with the puppy book?
I guess the main difference is this book is more prescriptive than my other books.
With The Perfect Puppy Project I’ve tried to lay out a fool-proof strategy that takes new owners by the hand, and guides them from the minute they bring the puppy home until the puppy is around six months old.
Let’s be honest, raising a puppy is difficult, and it doesn’t matter what kind of puppy you get, or even if you’ve owned a dog in the past, it’s still difficult.
I think when it comes to bringing a puppy into your home, where you may have young children, new owners want to know exactly what they need to do to avoid the minefield of mistakes.
Dom’s dog Sidney as a pup and his pal Chaz
Can you give a brief overview of the steps you cover?
Everything in the book is designed to make life as easy and as enjoyable as possible for the first time puppy owner. Key phrase being ‘first time’.
So I teach them how to get the puppy settled in his crate the ‘first night’, how to handle the ‘first’ introductions with kids and any other pets you might own, what to do with your puppy on his ‘first full day’, how to teach your puppy his ‘first’ trick, how to make sure the ‘first’ vets visit is a success and how to handle the ‘first’ socialisation walks with your new puppy. It’s all designed to ensure the inexperienced owner is confident and feels capable of providing lots of safe and enjoyable experiences for their new puppy.
With puppies, what would you say are the most crucial things that owners need to get right at the beginning?
So, the book starts from the moment you bring the puppy home. Actually, let’s back it up a bit, because it really starts just before that point.
I encourage the reader to really think about what kind of dog they want their puppy to grow into, because that will have a huge impact on what behaviours they allow their puppies to practise.
As an example, I’m not a fan of modern day ‘puppy parties’ which usually involve the puppies wrestling and play fighting on the floor of the training hall or the vets surgery.
These puppies parties often progress to dog park raves and often you can end up with a dog who is obsessed with running off to play with other dogs all because they were allowed (and even encouraged) to play with other dogs when they were puppies.
This can lead to the many recall and reactivity problems that you need a dog trainer to help you fix.
Ideally, I think most owners want a puppy who is going to be easy to look after, and that’s what this book will give them.
We mustn’t forget too, that lots of dogs are give up for rescue at around 8-10 months old which is usually when they stop becoming cute balls of fluff and enter the teenage tearaway stage of their lives.
That tricky period is going to come round a lot quicker than you think, and doing the things I talk about in the book will mean you avoid ending up with a dog who is too difficult for you to control.
Enrichment toys are a way of puppies gaining confidence like this one Stuey the Pug is playing with
And what are the things lots of new puppy owners get wrong?
The classic mistakes are not using a crate or a pen to enforce some rest time, AND downtime for the new puppies.
Puppies need a lot of sleep and they also need to learn that it’s ok to be left alone, and they will learn that if you use a crate.
Some people still wrongly think crates are cruel, but they really provide a safe space for the puppy to relax, chill and sleep in. Most dogs learn to love the crate.
My cocker spaniel Sidney still sleeps in his crate and he’s 8! He actually prefers it.
Crates also help prevent separation anxiety problems in the future, and more immediately they help new owners to quickly house train their puppy, and prevent a lot of unwanted chewing of slippers, television controls and handbags.
In the book I give the reader a simple ‘Play, Eat, Sleep, Repeat’ formula that shows them how to use the the crate to prevent separation anxiety, weeing in the house, unwanted chewing and jumping up.
The other big mistake that owners make is not taking the puppy outside early enough.
You have a very small window of opportunity to get your puppy used to seeing all the different sights, smells and sounds in your neighbourhood.
It’s literally just a few weeks. This means you need to get your puppy outside, experiencing everything your community has to offer.
Now then, your vet will correctly tell you not to walk your puppy on the floor until his injections have inoculated him against diseases, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take him out at all, and you can (and you SHOULD) carry your puppy around and let him observe the world safely inside of your coat.
There’s so much information out there and it can be confusing. As the Canine King of Common Sense, what does your book give the reader?
I think it gives them a simple, straight-forward, jargon free guide that will (if followed closely) eliminate all the major problems that sadly lead to owners spending a fortune on dog trainers, or worse, sometimes lead to the puppy being given up for rescue.
If you want a happy dog who is easy to look after on and off lead then this book will give you that.
Dominic’s guide to raising a puppy the right way
What are your top five tips for puppy parents?
1 Get outside with your puppy from day one – The owners who make the effort to get outside with their puppies, and show them that the big bad world isn’t so scary after all…usually end up with calm, confident dogs who are happy in any situation.
2 Don’t allow your puppy to enjoy doing anything you don’t want him to do as an older dog – It might be cute when your 10 week old puppy jumps up to greet you, or funny when he runs away with something he’s stolen from you, but fast forward a few months and you’ll find trips to the park will be a nightmare if he’s jumping up at strangers or you can’t get him back on lead. Think long game with everything you allow your puppy to do.
3 Use a crate – They are the best invention ever, and WILL prevent a ton of problems like house-training and separation anxiety.
4 Throw away the bowl – You should be using your puppies food to bond, connect and build a relationship with him. Food can be used to train tricks, to teach your dog to walk to heel, to reward for doing a recall, for scent game and for stuffing in Kongs to keep your puppy entertained while you get on with other jobs.
5 Finally, just enjoy your puppy. Puppies are hardwired to enjoy playing, and you’ll become your puppies best friend if you teach him to enjoy playing with (and being with) you!
Thanks so much Dominic, where can readers find you?
You can find me almost everywhere. Just google Dominic Hodgson Dog Trainer and you’ll find a ton of content out there.
Newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations will be focusing on the impact of pets being stolen in the hope of bringing them home.
Since January, we have been sharing a monthly appeal for Doglost, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people whose dogs have gone missing.
It’s a terrifying thought and a scenario every dog owner dreads, but the more people are aware of missing dogs, the more chance there is of them being found.
This month we’re sharing the cases of Dixie, Louie and Nala, and if you have any information on them, please contact Doglost on the links given.
Have you seen terrier Dixie?
Dixie is a five-year-old female Jack Russell, feared stolen.
She went missing from the front garden of her owner’s house in Dormansland, Surrey, on 22nd July 2018.
Dixie has never ran off or wandered from home causing concern that she has been taken from the garden.
She is tricoloured but mainly white and black and has a distinct round black mark at the bottom of her back above her tail. She has brown eyebrows and wired hair.
Dixie’s owner’s daughter, Carla, said: “Dixie is my mother’s main companion as she lived with only Dixie after my dad passed away. Dixie was originally my dad’s dog too so is a great comfort to my mother.
“Following her disappearance, we’ve all been distraught. Dixie and my mother used to cuddle every night on the sofa and she would rarely leave my mum’s side.
“My mother is devastated beyond words.
“Dixie loves playing in the garden with the grandchildren and she adores each of them. They miss being able to play with her.
“To anyone who knows where she is please report it to us or to DogLost. You can do it anonymously if you want to.
“If you have Dixie please let her come home to her owner who misses her so much.”
Dixie is microchipped and neutered and was wearing a purple collar at the time of her disappearance.
If you know anything about Dixie please call Doglost on 0844 800 3220 quoting dog ID 132173 or visit her profile here
French bulldog Louie
Louie, a young male French Bulldog, was stolen from his owner’s Will Dunford’s car in Costco car park in Chingford on 27th February 2019.
Louie’s owners were in the Chingford area for work and, unusually, had needed to take Louie along with them after their dog sitter was unable to look after him that day.
Louie is microchipped and is chocolate and light tan coloured.
Following his disappearance his owners have been making the two and a half hour journey from their home in Stratford-upon-Avon to search for him.
They have also been putting up posters and have an active Facebook group for Louie.
Will said: “Louie has still not been found. I am desperate to get him back in my life as things haven’t been the same without him as is my partner Mally.
“I have decided to double the reward for anyone who can get him back to me. It is now £5000 cash with no questions asked.”
The police are also investigating Louie’s disappearance.
If anyone has Louie or has information on him, please contact DogLost on 0844 800 3220 quoting dog ID 140978 or to visit his Dog Lost profile here .