Barking Blondes: Discover Dogs, chased by owners and doggy wheelchairs

Joanne Good and Anna Webb

barking1 300x225 Barking Blondes: Discover Dogs, chased by owners and doggy wheelchairsThis weekend is Discover Dogs at London’s Earls Court and we have been asked to judge. What sounds like a great gig is in fact one of the most stressful challenges in our diary.

Along with Johnny Ball, we are choosing the best Companion Dog Club classes for boy dogs. How on earth can we make such a decision fairly? What sets one dog apart from another?

Not only are we confronted with the pleading look of the owner but also the honest and eager to please eyes of their dogs. It can be quite emotional, for many reasons.

Last year we judged alongside the actor Anthony Head (right) and after a gruelling hour the three of us all resorted to sharing a hankie. We also learned it was best to leave the building under a blanket.

A distraught but proud owner of a miniature schnauzer who, unfortunately was beaten to first place by a beagle, accosted us outside, demanding to know our reasons. After extolling the virtues of her mutt whilst trying to explain our decision, we beat a hasty retreat with dog and owner chasing after us. It was akin to all those alarming tales you hear about American child beauty pageants.

The show’s main attraction must be however, the opportunity to discover which dog is right for you. Most breeds are represented along with breeders who can discuss the dog suitable to your lifestyle. For example, if you live in a flat, a Leonberger is not for you but it’s great to pat one though. If you see us at Earls Court, please come and say hello and if you are competing and we don’t place you, please don’t chase us!

How many of us have been fascinated and amused to see a dog whizzing around town on its own set of wheels? This week on our radio show we interviewed an enterprising bloke who makes and manufactures wheel chairs for dogs. These literally give disabled dogs a second chance.

In the past, vets would have “put down” a dog whose back legs were paralysed or amputated. In fact with some species such as horses this is still the case. However, entrepreneur Jim Colla has amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience around canine disabilities and exports wheelchairs to dogs all over the world. What a wonderful business.

It began with the paralysis in his own German shepherd dogs and his determination to make their lives easier. His carts support the skeletal structure of the dogs on the pubic bones and shoulders. They are the most orthopaedic designs on the market allowing the back to stretch without stress.

The weight of the cart is borne on the wheels and the shoulders not the spine. So the padding doesn’t cause pressure or sores. The dogs can get easily into and out of them and whizz about so freely that some can even chase a football. We love the idea of British built canine carts whizzing around attached to dogs in China and India.

Jim talks enthusiastically about all the classic designs of doggy wheelchairs and their pros and cons. He is the Jeremy Clarkson of the dog world. For us, we marvel at how a dog will adapt to having only three legs or a set of wheels attached to its body or even a bonnet to prevent scratching. There is even a collar now for blind dogs. It’s quite basic in that cables are attached to the collar like whiskers and act as antennae to the animal to allow them to “feel” their way around obstacles.

Isn’t it gratifying to know that animals, who are constantly being used to assist us for conditions such diabetes, epilepsy and blindness are now being assisted themselves with these inventions? Their adaptability and philosophy of living life in the moment is gradually being rewarded.

‘Barking at the Moon’ is on every Thursday from 10pm to midnight on BBC London 94.9FM

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  • RockyAuntie

    This is fantastic – I love this blog, so interesting and fun. My Bulldog puppy listens to me reading it out to her every Sunday.

  • Peter Egan

    Morning Jo. Anna, Matilda and Molly,

    Great heartwarming blog on this bright and crisp autumn morning. You’re quite right that our best friends should be given this kind of support, enabling them to live out their lives as comfortably as possible, despite the loss of sight, legs and other incapacitating injuries. I’m always amazed by how quickly animals adapt to whatever life throws at them. Animals are inspiring.
    Judging any kind of dog event is difficult but owners must approach it with the same sang-froid as the dogs. A bit of humour, a loser’s biscuit for the dog and a glass of something you fancy for yourself. Life’s too short, particular for the dogs. (-:)

    Lovely blog as ever.


  • madgooner1

    If dogs can have wheelchairs, why can’t horses? Instead of being shot?

  • Sharon Webley

    Perhaps we should have para-agility and obedience for dogs in wheelchairs so they don’t get left out. I have a friend who has a blind Great Dane puppy. Blind from birth so he doesn’t know any different. He’s an amazing dog, so confident. He runs around the field with her other dogs, obviously using sound, smell and vibrations to know where they are. He’s not missing out on anything. Give disabled dogs a chance.

  • Ziggydog

    Showing your dog is so emotive. Everyone know their dog to be the best, so when a judge doesn’t give you a rosette, it is upsetting! But the motto is you have to be “in it to win it”, and the point is to have a fun day out with your dog.

  • 5brian5

    Hello Ladies; Once again you have evoked memories of my past, as you so often do. Since hearing you discus wheelchairs for dogs on your radio show, and seeing an advert for the local humane society on tv, which stars a three legged dog, I have been thinking about the dilemma facing injured and unwanted animals. A half century ago, my grandmother sent me to the corner shop in London Ontario Canada to get a jar of jam one morning. At an intersection that I was approaching, there was a loud screech of tires. These two young children had somehow had their large dog run out into traffic. I don’t want to upset anyone by explaining any further, but you can imagine. That memory has stayed with me my entire life. My point is that an accident can happen in the blink of an eye, as can a debilitating illness. The pleasure dogs and cats have provided for me throughout my life has been immense, and putting a friend down due the the loss of a particular body function because it may be inconvenient to me, is irrational and cruel. I hope that Jim Colla is designing wheelchairs for cats, as well as horses(referring to Magooner1’s comment), as I can’t imagine the pain of having to put a horse or any living creature down. My hat is off for Jim, as it is for the four of you for having this wonderful blog! Thank You As Always! Brian (Detroit) xxxx

  • marcbletchley

    evening jo,anna and mollie and matilda
    great reading again its been a long time since ive been to a dog show or cat show(mum bred them) of any kind.
    occasionally seen three legged dogs wandering about on leads in the past thay seem to adapt dont thay.
    cheers all
    marc in bletchley towers woof woof

  • Jim Colla

    We can and have made them for cats. Most common misconception by some vets is “Wheels don’t work for large dogs” They worked very well for Blucher a 16.5 stone St. Bernard and one needs only to look at Ruby a Doberman Deerhound Cross on You Tube as FENTON BY RUBY to see how wrong that assumption is. Ruby would have been gone for two years now had it not been for her wheels instead of standing atop of a Scottish Mountain earlier this year. I had reservations when we first set up dogswheels but not now, not when almost every week my email inbox is full of people telling me how well their dog is doing and some of them thousands of miles away.

  • Steve Furst

    A wonderful blog that perfectly encapsulates this extraordinary event. It really is all inclusive for owners, wanna-be owners and for the dogs themselves. Talking to people on stalls, and those milling around the exhibition hall one is completely absorbed by the sheer wealth of stories and love for these animals, whether they are being used by the services, by the handicapped or by those who rely on dogs as everyday companions in these harsh times. I don’t envy you having to choose any sort of winner. I must have fallen in love about 30 times yesterday. A wonderful, mood enhancing way to spend any Sunday.

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