The National Pet Show, held each year at the NEC Birmingham, is one of those events that everyone really should attend at least once in their lifetime. It is huge and although no pet pooches are permitted to attend, there is not shortage of dogs in the ‘discover dogs’ area. For other pet lovers, there is a championship cat show, and areas for all manner of creatures great and small. From reptiles to horses, it is surprising how many species can be seen in just one hall at the NEC.
Animals truly are wonderful, and contribute so much to the lives of their human families, so the education area provides a space in which to learn about your chosen pets and to hear some amazing stories about them.
This fantastic show also includes display rings where visitors can witness experts at work with their various pets. If you are very lucky, you might meet people you’ve seen on TV. With so much to see and to do, it was up to me to make the most of my two days at the National Pet Show.
Each day, I adopted my usual practice of arriving early, so I could check where everything was before the crowds arrived. It is a great plan because the hall is very quiet early in the day, but as the noise levels gradually rise, you hardly notice it.
Being just three weeks post-IVDD rehabilitation, I spent most of my time riding on the footplate of Mum’s scooter, with a memory foam cushion for extra comfort, if you please!
Most people reckon I am a chilled out individual and rarely react to anyone or anything, so early on Sunday, when I was quite sleepy, we had a quick tour of the other animal areas, although not in the cat village. Boy, are those moggies scary when in a group!
At one point I listened to a talk about reptiles and met a snake! I had never seen anything like it before, and was a bit wary of him so kept well clear. Of course, in expert hands we were perfectly safe.
Close by was an African Spurred Tortoise, named Mike, who I really admired for his appetite. There he was with some chunky food and a great pile of salad, and boy, did he know how to eat! What a splendid chap! I bet he enjoyed having a lovely lamp above his pen to keep him warm or maybe to top up his tan!
Our next port of call was the horse and pony enclosure. They clearly loved meeting people and eating hay! Their space at the show smelled almost like a mini farm yard.
Not far away were exotic birds, but the only one I actually met was a highly coloured parakeet sitting on a fence. I wouldn’t have gone near him if he had not been a balloon! Getting too near to the real thing might well spook them, so best to stay well away.
I did not really expect to see fish at the show, but there they were, swimming round a coral seascape within a large tank. I had never seen yellow fish before, but now I have I considered them to be my ‘catch of the day’ in terms of special things to see.
Nearby was a large area dedicated to bees and honey production. Yum! I thought of my Auntie Kirsty who has bees, and took some photos to show her. Within the stand was a gazebo containing huge moving pictures of bees buzzing away at their work. Not very comfortable tor Mum who is allergic to bees, so we moved through quickly. The beekeepers themselves told us eabout their charges in great detail, and I left feeling fully educated!
Although we did not actually meet guinea pigs, hamsters etc., I did see the palatial dwellings to which they can aspire. These look more like London's prestigious Park Lane homes than guinea pig abodes and I am now protesting because my own quarters are not half so grand by comparison.
Talking of living conditions, the rabbits had pretty neat quarters too. I expected to see the Tellytubbies! This area was called the Secret Rabbit Garden, and I bet it was fun in there, running up, down, inside and out of their lovely grass mound. The live bunnies seemed quite unaware of the crowd as they munched away at the grass all day. I learned that they were on a break from a rabbit rescue organisation, and hope they get new forever homes soon.
Of course, most of my time was spent around the Dog Village, where I met lots of people and swear I got patted and admired a million times.
There were a lot of trade stands that I enjoyed seeing lots of goods. However, I wanted to track down new and innovative products.
One of the first stands I came across was Sleepeezee. Hang on, I thought, aren’t they a bed company…. I mean for humans? Well yes, and they supply beds to HRH the Prince of Wales, no less. However at the National Pet Show they launched their new dog bed range. Now I have heard humans complaining that their dogs claim at least half of their beds. Maybe Sleepzee have solved the problem by seizing the market with a dog bed that humans would also be happy to sleep in. Such bed swapping could be real fun!
Certainly they look good with well filled sides and back, and the mattress…. Oh the mattress looked really comfortable. So many dog beds have cushions that very quickly flatten with use, but not this one! I longed to lie in one of those beds but was beaten to it by a handsome Dachshund named Charle, Sleepeezee’s resident model. Charlie and I had a chat and he reckoned I should persuade my human to get me one. Sadly, we left without one, and I am still miffed about that! One day, Mother, one day you will notice my transaction on your credit card!
If you are anything like me, you are not too keen on bathing, so I was rather surprised to see a very brave Rhodesian Ridgeback modelling for a company called Kleen Dog. I would rather my human had not enquired further about this product… a bath adaptation that makes it easier to shampoo your favourite pooch. The bright yellow towels were inviting, but I reckon they were just a cover for a plastic fixture, placed half way along the bath to provide both a wet and a dry area. Our photos are limited but you can see for yourself how it works in the gallery section of their web site. www.kleendog.co.uk
After seeing the dog bath, I was keen to get back to luxury! That meant more beds, and I was delighted to see a brand I have long admired. Ivy & Duke make upmarket luxury beds with matching cushions and blankets, surely the choice of the most discerning dogs in the land. With nice full sides and generously upholstered mattresses I reckon a good night’s sleep can be guaranteed. Covers can be fabric or waterproof, with spare mattresses if, God forbid, you should chew one! This company’s Den Bed is remarkable and unlike anything I have seen before. With specially arranged memory foam cushions it looks a little like a fortress, where a dog would feel safe and warm whatever the weather and whoever was visiting your home. With a choice of classy fabrics, I would say this bed is suitable for canine nobility! Ivy & Duke currently have a great offer, so if you “purchase any Bed, Blanket & Pillow together you will receive the blanket & pillow @ 50% off! *Offer Ends 22nd November.”
The Den Bed
Credit: Ivy & Duke
This company also caters for dogs going out for the day, and have manufactured travel mats in both waterproof and fabric covers. With a memory foam inner cushion, the removable covers makes them easy to launder. I had a long chat with one of their staff about these mats, and their possible use at outdoor summer shows. Sometimes the grass is damp and anyway, the ground is hard, so imagine my surprise when he gave me a waterproof model to try out next year. If you see us at a dog event, I will happy to show you the travel mat and even let you try it out. I think they are great, and would also be amazing if you travel in a crate, which can be a bit hard on the old bones.
At one point as we were getting around the show we saw a familiar lady coming towards us. “Hello”, I thought , “I’m sure that’s Autumn and Spring Watch's presenter, Michaela Strachan”. Well I was right, introduced myself and we chatted for a while. Michaela was lovely and very happy to be photographed with me. Being the gentleman that I am, I got up into Mum’s scooter seat for the picture. As ever, Michaela smiled beautifully before going off to take part in an event in the main arena. I now consider her to be my best celebrity friend.
This year, I planned to see some of the displays, which is not easy because the rings are invariable surrounded by crowds of people two or three deep. However, my clever PA found a tiny space from which to make a video of Hoopers, which is an exercise sport for both humans and animals to enjoy together.
Participation in agility is not possible for everyone, like my human and both of my ancient sisters, but Hoopers would suit them fine. Although there seems to be a course to follow, I did not see anyone rush to get around. I liked the look of this because from what I could see, ‘anything goes’! I believe that the social element of Hoopers is equally important, so if you are interested there are Hoopers clubs around the country. I hope my video, taken at the National Pet Show will encourage you to have a go.
At the School 4 Dogs ring, several displays could be seen throughout the day. We arrived as our friend Lucy Heath was demonstrating her training methods. We think Trip Hazard was watching from the side while Lucy worked with a much larger dog, who was a brilliant student.
I was really excited to see former Detective Inspector Colin Butcher with his dog Molly, who is a cute little spaniel. With no airs and graces, you would not immediately realise she is the first scent-detecting, crime solving, cat-tracking dog in the world. Together with Colin she solves missing cat and dog cases nationwide. Not bad for a rescue dog, I think!
It is wonderful that when former police office Colin set up his own pet detective agency to find missing cats, he chose an unloved rescue dog to be his workplace buddy. Spaniels are particularly gifted in the sniffing department, so Molly was a perfect fit for him. With a lot of kindly training, the pair were soon solving missing moggy mysteries, and other things too.
Watching Colin talking about his work, the bond he and Molly share was clear to see . You can read their story in their book “Molly the Pet Detective Dog”. For those who would like to hear their story straight from Colin, then You Tube is the place to go. Colin butcher and Molly the detective dog. Make sure you also view the You Tube video from the This Morning programme where Colin gives some excellent advice regarding dog theft.
During our tour of the National Pet Show on Sunday, we came across an extraordinarily big dog… must have been 8-9 metre high! He was working with the charity Blue Cross, and was happy to give hugs or handshakes on request. I covered my eyes as my human made the most of this chance encounter. His attempt to make friends with me was fruitless as I was having none of it!
For me, huge dogs are scary, but introduce me to a hound and I am a happy man. Of my breed group buddies, none is more gentle, elegant and dignified than the greyhound. I was thrilled to see the parade by Greyhound Rescue, all of the dogs coming from a racing background. At the end of the parade they and their dedicated minders were available to the public for a chat and maybe even a pat or two.
I was greatly moved by a beautiful greyhound named Judy, who came along for the ride in a wheelchair which was topped with a lovely comfortable bed. I must say she looked extremely happy and totally chilled. Although Judy cannot walk much, she still brings much joy to other people through her work as a therapy dog. This little lass is a lesson to us all in that whatever our limitations, we can still play our part in bringing happiness and peace to those we meet every day.
Most pet dogs are not permitted to attend the National Pet Show, which is very wise. There simply would be no room for them all with so much is packed into just one hall at the NEC. I was privileged to be there as a journalist, and enjoyed a bit of people watching. Now the best place for this activity is in the café area, which was consistently full of diners. Young and old, lone visitors and families, able bodied, and those not quite so agile these days. And talk! Can humans talk!!! And they have the nerve to tell us off for barking! Still, it was nice to see everyone being well fed and watered with great coffee and cakes etc. from the counter. I sat near the aisle, and lots of people stopped by to talk to me.
A really important feature of National Pet Show is the ‘discover dogs’ area, allowing visitors to learn about the various breeds. This is always a very crowded area, so my opportunities to see lots of dogs were limited. However, I did come across my larger counterparts, the fantastic Basset Hounds. Wow, some people say I am big boy, but these babies are huge by long-low-hound standards! And those ears… I love them! Like us, they were originally bred to be working dogs, which some people do not realise. With acute smelling ability, I imagine they never take a short walk, with so many blades of grass to sniff and wee-mails to read. Humans should never complain about this trait as it is what comes naturally to Bassets. The same goes for dachshunds of course.
Further along I was thrilled to see the wolf dogs again. Now while they might appear scary to some people, at the show these lovely soft, gentle dogs are invariably lying down, completely unfazed by all the activity and noise around them. Despite that, I have a sense that they do not miss a thing.
At these events, I always try to find a breed I have not encountered before. This year it was the Bergamesco Shepherd Dog, originating from Italy. This baby’s height is circa 24 inches (male), 22 inches (female), and it weighs in at 70-84 lbs (male) 57-71lbs (female), with a life expectancy of 13-15 years.
The UK Kennel Club tells us that the numbers of Bergamescos registered with them are very low. In fact records show only 15 last year, and just 5 in the first half of 2019. I think that makes them pretty rare. More information can be found at: bergamasco-owners.co.uk
On a more personal level it was important for me to spend a little time each day on th Dachshund Breed Stand. On Saturday, personnel from Dachshund Rescue arrived unexpectedly, leaving me free to complete my mission as a journalist. From time to time, I popped by to see if I could help but they had everything in hand. However, I was asked, on behalf of the Long Haired Dachshund breed, to appear on the cat walk. Maybe it was my magnificent fur coat that did it. I wonder, does this make me fashion icon? Phew! Was I glad my groomer did his best job on me on Thursday!
On the catwalk I was asked a lot of questions about my breed and my own personal life. I explained that of all the dachshund breeds, we were the most laid back, easy going, and ideal family pets for calm households. I told the humans to remember we are working dogs who ideally need to have a ‘job’. I explained that we go trailing, which make us think and work. We also do some simple ground based agility moves, etc. My human observed that a bored dog can be a stupid dog, whereas I am very bright and sometimes naughty. Trust her!
On Sunday, there were more dachshunds and helpers on the stand, so everyone got lots of attention, especially Andy the Dachshund Rescue mascot dog. This little chap is wonderful, with many physical problems and the heart of a lion. He loves people and invariably throws himself at them, usually upside down, demanding extended belly rubs. What a little cutie he is!
My final duty at this year’s show was to strut my stuff the catwalk again, which was great, I only answered a few questions this time, to give the others the opportunity to have their say but I think I made an impression anyway.
By the end of our second day, I was a very tired dog and just wanted to get back to my hotel, for some dinner and a good long sleep. However, before leaving I noticed that Santa Paws had left his post box at the NEC and invited visitors to post their Christmas lists/requests. Pen in paw, I had no hesitation in asking for a few simple things. It read like this: “Dear Santa Paws, I don’t want huge gifts for myself… give those to dogs who really need them. I’d like loving forever homes for rescue animals. Kind and sensible humans to care for for all creatures. A world full of love for everyone. Health and happiness for my little old sisters, Emma and Dolly. And for me, just to come to the National Pet Show again next year. Thank you kindly Sir, With love from Oscar. xx
9th November 2019