Category Archives: Dogs

PORLOCK HORSE SHOW

This coming Sunday – 30 July – is the lovely Porlock Horse Show, so it seems like a good moment to re-run a story by Tony James from our summer 2016 magazine, all about the Tuckers at West Luccombe Farm and this time-honoured event. We hasten to add that, as it stands, the forecast for the 2017 show (see poster, below) is looking promising!… (Photo above shows Charmain, John and Edith in the kitchen at West Luccombe Farm, by Andrew Hobbs).

“When I looked out of the window and saw the weather, I just couldn’t believe it,” says Charmain Dascombe (née Tucker).  She
shudders at the memory.  “We’d never had anything like it. All those poor people… “.

As it proved, it would take more than appalling weather to wash out the biggest event in the West Luccombe calendar – the traditional Porlock Horse Show, which for the past 40 years has been held on one of Charmain’s dad’s fields, and which, in July 2013, blithely carried on as usual, despite unseasonable cold, torrential rain and gale-force winds.

For Charmain, secretary since 2000, it was the culmination of nearly six months’ work and not a few sleepless nights putting together a show which has more than doubled in size since the time four local farmers sat around a kitchen table in 1971 to think of a way of raising money for local good causes.  Since then, the show has only been cancelled a few times, including once during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.

“We lost the sheep classes because of foot-and-mouth and we had to fight quite hard to bring them back,” Charmain remembers. “Now they’re stronger than ever, which is as it should be, because sheep are very important around here.”

Photo by Andrew Hobbs from the 2015 show.

The show, like most things in this neck of the woods, has hardly changed in conception over the years – a classic country event with horse and pony classes, a traditional gymkhana, a parade of hounds, Exmoor Horn sheep classes, competitions for stags’ antlers and a dog show with prizes for the scruffiest ‘Doodle’ and the waggiest tail.

But make no mistake, this is a serious show, impeccably organised, with top-class competitors and stock and, while some similar rural events may have languished for lack of interest, the West Luccombe show has flourished.  It now has four rings instead of the original two and the dog show has grown to the point where it has its own field.

Charmain has no doubt about the secret of its longevity.  “The main aim is to have a really good family atmosphere and for children to have a nice day and to come away with a rosette. That’s the whole point of it really.”

Porlock Horse Show, 1981. Mrs Edith Tucker presenting the cup to Brian Palmer with Victor Stevens in the background, Tom Rook in the trailer and Mrs Lorna Robins standing on the ramp.

She’s been involved with the show since childhood and her father, John Tucker, has been chairman for the past 25 years.  Does he enjoy it?  The reply is a cautious, “I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the right word.”  But Andrew Hobbs and I saw him out there in last year’s wind and rain and he had a smile for everybody.  John’s mother Edith, 95 at the time of writing this article, always played an active part in the show and Charmain has this photo of her presenting prizes in 1981.

Not surprisingly, the show becomes the main topic of conversation over mugs of tea in the kitchen of John’s West Luccombe Farm,
a welly’s throw from the show field.  It first moved there in 1976 after five years in Old Lane, Bossington, and has been in West
Luccombe ever since.

“The access to Old Lane was difficult and so my father offered a field here,” John recalls.  “The problem was that the show was always on the last Sunday in July – it still is – and my father disagreed with that.  He was very traditional that way, but eventually we managed to persuade him.

“The show wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the dozens of local helpers who come every year. Last year was probably the worst conditions we’ve ever had but they still turned up to make the sandwiches, steward the events and put up the jumps.  The lovely thing is that
we’re now getting the grandchildren of the original helpers. That must bode well for the future.

“We don’t like meetings so we usually only have two a year – one in January about general organisation and the other to decide who will get our money!  I have to admit that Charmain is left with most of the work and that can be pretty stressful, but she does a great job.”

“I never thought I’d hear you say that,” says his daughter with a smile.

The show generates around £2,000 a year for Porlock causes, which have included the cricket and football clubs, recreation ground, the
Visitor Centre, village hall, Christmas pantomime and plants for summer flower schemes.

You’ve got to tread carefully in this tight-knit little world… Charmain’s husband, David Dascombe, is a cousin of Julian Dascombe at Burrowhayes, who got his ten-acre field from John Tucker’s father… Janet Harding, of Horner Vale Tearoom, was last year’s show president and her husband Mike is the treasurer…

Not surprisingly, West Luccombe Farm, with its massive stone barns and impressive buildings, dominates this tiny hamlet.  John Tucker has leased it from the National Trust since he was 29, after a Hardyesque turn of events combining good fortune and sadness with risk and challenge.

Since 1940, John’s father had farmed sheep on the family’s 700 acres at Lucott, high on the moor above Nutscale Water, and he was also the tenant farmer of 350 acres at West Luccombe.  John took over Lucott when his dad moved down the valley to West Luccombe in 1963.  “Then, after my father died in 1979, I approached the National Trust to take over the tenancy at West Luccombe.

“The agent asked if I would take on the ground at West Lynch as well, because the tenant, Tom Rawle, was retiring.  That meant that our National Trust acreage would double overnight – from the 150 acres at West Luccombe to a total of 300, with West Lynch.  And this was on top of the 700 acres at Lucott.  I decided to go for it.  You do these things when you’re young!”

Now responsible for 1,000 acres, John had to move fast.  “I didn’t have enough stock for the land so I started growing corn, which I had never done before. We grew as good malting barley as you could get anywhere in the country and were getting £160 a ton –
more than you can get now.

“The problem was that because the ground was so stony you could only get about two tons an acre, when it was reckoned you needed double that to make a living.  So we gave up and went back to sheep.

“I confess I got a lot more pleasure from that,” says the man who’s now a nationally-recognised judge of Exmoor Horns and whose son Dick, now running the Lucott farm, was judging sheep at the last Porlock Horse Show.

John reckons that Lucott land, much of it at 1,500ft, is ideal for his 1,300-strong flock.  It’s cooler in summer and there are fewer
flies.  “Exmoor Horns will live off very sparse vegetation and, if you cross them with a Leicester Bluefaced ram to get an Exmoor Mule, they’ll compete with any North Country breed and are easier to handle than Exmoor Horns.”

Life could be tough on the Dunkery slopes but it had its compensations.  “When I was living up at Lucott during the winter of 1962-3 the snow was so bad I didn’t go to school from Christmas to Easter,” John says.  “It was great.  The snow was higher than the hedges and I rode my pony over the tops of gates.  They brought us hay with a helicopter and I walked on the ice across Nutscale Water.”

But on this warm evening, winter seems an unreal memory.  This year’s show is approaching fast and there’s still lots to do before Charmain, John and their band of helpers can be pretty certain that, come rain or shine, it will once more be a day to remember.

See you there!

A meeter and greeter in the yard at West Luccombe Farm when we visited to interview the family. Photo by Andrew Hobbs.

EXMOOR MAGAZINE DOG BLOGS: NEW RECRUIT FOR SEARCH AND RESCUE

Hi, my name’s Lottie and I am the latest recruit to the Exmoor Search and Rescue Team! I’m a Working Golden Retriever and, along with my trainee handler Nick, I am just about to start learning the skills to become a Search and Rescue Dog with SARDA England.

I will be starting in the puppy class at my first training weekend at the beginning of August on Dartmoor and training will take us up and down the country every month to areas such as The Lake District, South Wales, The Peak District and North Yorkshire, and we will also be doing some regular training on the team patch here on Exmoor and across to the Quantocks.

Luckily, I’m not alone as there are always new puppies starting their training and also, on Exmoor, there is Poppy, who is a very experienced SARDA dog. I’m sure her handler James will be helping Nick out!

Across the country SARDA dogs provide a highly trained extra resource to mountain rescue teams, helping to look for vulnerable and missing people in all weathers, at all times of day and night.

SARDA dogs are trained primarily as ‘air scenting’ dogs, working across the wind to pick up what’s known as a ‘scent cone’ and gradually working their way into the casualty before indicating their location to their handler by returning and barking.

Once past the puppy class, which covers obedience, agility and being stock-proof, I will start working towards Stage 1 and 2 and, ultimately, Stage 3, training building up the work with ‘dogbodies’ and bigger search areas.

More information on SARDA, the dogs and their training can be found on the website at www.sardaengland.org.uk

Made up entirely of volunteers, the Exmoor Search and Rescue Team provides a Search and Rescue service across large parts of Devon and Somerset. The team assists the Police in locating lost or missing persons and recovering the injured or ill from remote locations as well as working closely with the Fire & Rescue Services and Ambulance Service in the area. Details on the team’s work and recent call outs can be found on the web at www.exmoor-SRT.org.uk and on Exmoor Search and Rescue’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

We’ll be providing an update on training and photos of progress every couple of months, so please watch this space!

Woof!

If you are a special dog living on Exmoor, the Quantocks or in North Devon and you have a story to share, just get in touch! email editor@exmoormagazine.co.uk

SHAN MILLER LIFESIZED!

Artist Shan Miller is famous for her life-size portraits of pets, rare breeds and rural life and exhibits widely both at home and abroad, most notably in Cornwall and Cumbria with her celebration of the farmyard instigated by the NFU.

Shan has family connections with a local hunt and it is in commemoration of this that she has created the huge painting of hounds illustrated. As she explains, “I would love to find a good home on Exmoor for this very evocative and powerful piece, which, at 8 feet tall, is a real talking point and would create a unique focal point.”

Based in North Devon, her studio and gallery is an imposing, three-storey former grain mill close to the renowned Tarka Trail and is available to view by appointment. Nearby, at The Puffing Billy Cafe (a restored railway station) 28 of her impressive, larger than life canine portraits are on display, demonstrating her compelling and commandingly maverick style, which highlights the muscle and power of the animals, a veritable feast of fur.

For more information about Shan and her work please go to her website at www.shanmiller.com.

QUANTOCK HILLS AONB RANGERS ASK PEOPLE TO KEEP THEIR DOGS UNDER CLOSE CONTROL THIS SPRING

Nothing is more evocative of spring than seeing new lambs by their mothers out in the countryside.

But please remember that it is at this time of year when sheep and lambs are at their most vulnerable. Quantock Rangers, local farmers and the Police would like to highlight the problems that some dogs can cause to livestock on the hills.

From 1 March to 31 July dog owners are required by law to keep their dogs on a lead when being walked across Open Access Land. In all other areas of the countryside dogs should be kept under close control. It’s not just the physical attacks that cause harm but simply allowing a dog to chase sheep may cause ewes to abort or become injured.

Owen Jones, Quantock Hills AONB Ranger, said, “We’d like to take this opportunity to remind all dog owners to please keep their dogs on leads when walking close to lambs or sheep. Even if lambs are not present in a flock, the ewes may well be in lamb and a dog chasing them could cause them to abort.”

Owen went on to say, “There have been many times when Quantock Rangers have had to deal with the aftermath of dog attacks on sheep and in all cases I believe they could have been easily avoided – it’s never easy visiting a farmer to tell them that their livestock has been injured or killed.”

Between 1 March and 31 July, keeping your dog on a lead on Open Access Land will also help protect ground-nesting birds, as dogs run about in the undergrowth, and can flush birds such as nightjars and skylarks off their nests and may cause them to abandon them.

If your dog does kill or cause harm to livestock, you can be liable for a significant fine and for the value of the livestock harmed – your pet may also be dispatched, the cost of which will also have to be borne by you.  Moreover, if your dog is actually seen in action harassing livestock it could be shot on sight.

If you actually witness an attack in progress, call 999 otherwise any incidents witnessed should be reported to the Police on 101 or directly to the Quantock Hills AONB Office on 01823 451884.

DON’T MISS THIS YEAR’S WESTCOUNTRY GAME SHOW

The historic pastime of falconry is just one of the many attractions at this year’s Game Fair.  Ben Long obtained his first kestrel in 1971, at which time there were very few falconers in Britain and he has now been involved in falconry as a professional for over 30 years and is a director of The Falconry School based near Gloucester.

Ben will be providing demonstrations and a static display at the West of England Game Fair, which takes place at the Bath & West Showground on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 March 2016. The demonstrations will focus on simulated hunting with Harris Hawks and Falcons plus stooping to the lure. Of course there will be some audience participation which will bring the audience as close as possible to the art of falconry.

The show’s other features will include an on-site clay shoot with Bristol Clay Shooting; BASC shotgun coaching; BASC air rifle coaching; fly-casting demonstrations; gundog training; archery; racing ferrets; vintage tractors and machinery; smallholders area; the Taste of Game Cookery Theatre and much more.

With the opportunity to find great show offers on guns and accessories, fishing equipment, gundog equipment, game feed, gifts, clothing, paintings, prints, food and much more in the indoor countryside shopping village, this is the perfect day out for all the family

You can keep up to date with everything happening at the show by visiting the website www.contour.uk.net or joining the Facebook group (www.facebook.com/WestCountryGameFair/) and following the Fair on Twitter (@WestGamefair).

Dog Control During Lambing & Beyond

The Quantock Hills AONB has been asking people to disseminate this message…

Nothing is more evocative of spring than seeing new lambs by their mothers out in the Quantock countryside.

But please remember that it is at this time of year when sheep and lambs are at their most vulnerable. Quantock Rangers, local farmers and the Police would like to highlight the problems that some dogs can cause to livestock on the hills.

From 1 March – 31 July dog owners are required by law to keep their dogs on a lead when being walked across Open Access land. In all other areas of the countryside dogs should be kept under close control. It’s not just the physical attacks that cause harm but simply allowing a dog to chase sheep may cause ewes to abort or become injured.

Rebekah West, Quantock Hills AONB Ranger, says, “We’d like to take this opportunity to remind all dog owners to please keep their dogs on leads when walking close to lambs or sheep. I also have to be extra careful with my dog Moss – being a lurcher there is nothing he likes more than to run, but across the common he is always on a lead, and will only be let off when I am confident it won’t be at the detriment of wildlife or livestock. Even if lambs are not present in a flock, the ewes may well be in lamb and a dog chasing them could cause them to abort.”

Rebekah goers on to say, “There have been many times when Quantock Rangers have had to deal with the aftermath of dog attacks on sheep and in all cases I believe they could have been easily avoided – it’s never easy visiting a farmer to tell them that their livestock has been injured or killed.”

Between 1 March and 31 July, keeping your dog on a lead on Open Access Land is also to protect ground-nesting birds, as dogs run about in the undergrowth, they flush birds such as Nightjars and Skylarks off their nests and may cause them to abandon them.

If your dog does kill or cause harm to livestock, you can be liable for a significant fine and for the value of the livestock harmed – your pet may also be dispatched, the cost of which will also have to be borne by you.  Moreover, if your dog is actually seen in action harassing livestock it could be shot on sight.

If you actually witness an attack in progress, call 999 otherwise any incidents witnessed should be reported to the Police on 101 or directly to the Quantock Hills AONB Office on 01823 451884.

‘Staffies’ and ‘rotties’: docile or dangerous?

From spring issue 2014
WORDS by Mary Bromiley

There is no disputing the fact that Staffordshire bull terriers and rottweilers have a reputation, in some quarters, for being both unreliable and savage.

That they are more often referred to affectionately as ‘Staffies’ and ‘rotties’, however, seems more than a little at odds with this.  Before meeting some of these infamous breeds ‘in person’, I was lucky enough to have a preparatory chat with a dog whisperer, who gave me her opinion of these controversial breeds.

The Staffie, a cross between a bulldog and terrier and originally bred to fight, is, she told me, a very different character from the rottie, and one known, due to its gentleness with children, as a ‘nanny dog’.  She had found Staffies to be a little “over courageous”, a characteristic which could sometimes lead to a tendency to “rush in without thinking”, and an “overwhelming desire to protect both owners and children”.  “Should either be threatened or hurt,” she explained, “retaliation could be instantaneous”.

The rottweiler boasts a lineage dating back to Roman times when its ancestors accompanied the legions driving their food on the hoof.   Maybe this is why the breed tends to “feel the need to do a job, to have a focus”.  I learnt that it was the protective nature of the rottie which sometimes leads to aggression, with respect for the master being the key to a well-behaved dog.

Following this enlightening conversation, I set off to meet Carol Burnett, who is joint head girl in Philip Hobbs’ racing yard at Bilbrook – and owner of two Staffies and two rotties!  My first impression?  A raft of rosettes and trophies won in obedience classes immediately suggested that this was the home of biddable dogs!

Carol came to these breeds after owning her very first dog, Tye (a Jack Russell x Patterdale), who had ‘taught her all about training’.  “He was hard-headed and stubborn, but I loved the challenge of learning to connect, followed by the elation when I got something back.  I quickly realised how necessary and important training was for both of us.”  Tye won a number of obedience classes, then, when he retired, Tikka, Carol’s first Staffie, moved into her house and heart.  A strict home routine was backed up with obedience classes with Rosemary Munday who had helped with Tye.

“Tikka was such a different character, sharp and strong-minded; any lack of concentration on my part resulted in her becoming over excited and losing focus.  I really had to persevere, but after 18 months I was winning.  Then I heard that her half-sister needed a home and Deva moved in.  She will do anything to please; I have never known a dog try so hard, she really wants to work, and she
is so driven she is sometimes OTT.”

Carol has found Staffies to be amazingly intelligent and keen to learn – and that the more they are taught the keener they are.  “They are fantastic dogs but need an owner who will be fair, firm and consistent when training; they are not a ‘we’ll go out for a walk if it’s fine’ type of dog.”  She confirmed, as I had already been told, that Staffies can rush into a fray if provoked!

Carol had also been keen to get a rottie for some time but could only do so once work flexibility and a house move combined to make this possible.  It took several months of careful research with in-depth consideration of both health and temperament before a suitable pup was found.  The new arrival, Bula, was sensitive and compliant, with ‘no difficult terrier traits’ as Carol had found in both Staffies.  However, training took considerably more time in terms of ensuring that the dog was confident and did not try to over perform in an effort to please.  “Once a lesson was learned, though, she gave her all and shines in competitions,” Carol told me, one eye straying over to Kane, her newest challenge, a male who “has to learn to focus while appreciating he must learn to control his inherent exuberance!”

Carol feels that neither breed deserves their current reputation, but emphasised that the genetic breed characteristics of Staffies can cause problems without training and education, and that this calls for dedicated owners.  The rottweiler – large, friendly, a macho symbol – is “easily trainable”, but, like the Staffie, its background has not been obliterated; untutored, it expects to herd and guard. I was pleased to have met some interesting dogs and fascinated that Carol, who did not know I had talked to a whisperer, confirmed all of her findings!

Top from left: Carol’s three competing dogs – Kane at eight months old (show name Pendley Ivanhoe), Deva (Rascals Evolution) and Bula (Thunderhead Heaven Sent). 

If you have a potential candidate to put forward for our Final Paws page which appears in every issue of the magazine then please get in touch.

STOP PRESS: After this story was published we heard the exciting news that Kane has qualified for crufts!

Voting opens for the Top Dog Walk in the West competition

Stephen Jenkinson
Stephen Jenkinson

The second annual competition to find the best dog walk along the South West Coast Path has been launched this week backed by the Kennel Club’s access adviser Stephen Jenkinson, an expert on where dog owners can go and what they can do in the countryside. The winning voter will win a holiday at one of Holiday Cottages 800 dog-friendly cottages in the region worth £400.

Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to vote for their dog’s favourite walk along this stunning 630-mile National Trail that stretches from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. With hundreds of routes to choose from that are dog-friendly throughout the year and with recommended places to eat, drink and sleep that are particularly dog-friendly, it’s not going to be easy.

Says Stephen, a columnist for Your Dog magazine, says: “I’ve always had a soft spot for the South West and its glorious coastline – it’s great for dogs with miles of golden sands to play around on as well as woodland paths and green pasture. One of my personal favourites is the walk from Padstow to Trevone, where the scenery is as delightful as the refreshments and the dog-friendly welcome you get along the way is one of the best.”

Stephen has worked alongside the South West Coast Path team to advise on dog walking issues, such as responsible dog walking through farmland, and helped to produce an introductory video for dog walkers on the Coast Path, which can be viewed on the dogs page of the South West Coast Path website.

St Michael's MountLast year’s winning dog walk, Heddon’s Mouth in Somerset, was described by Alison Moreland who nominated it, as “an easy section of the path with a great stream, a small beach for doggie paddling, and a dog-friendly pub for refreshment.”

Having dog-friendly establishments to welcome man’s best friend is one of the essentials of a good walk and, if you’re a visitor to the area, you want a really dog-friendly place to stay too. Holidaycottages.co.uk have made it their priority to ensure dog owners and their pets receive a warm welcome and enjoy a relaxing break.

Managing Director James Morris says: “We have found that more people than ever are taking their dogs on holidays within the UK and consider their pets an integral part of the family unit. Our dog-friendly cottages offer relaxation and safety for you and your pooch as many have direct access to footpaths and open countryside as well as large enclosed gardens.”

The closing date for the competition is 28 February 2014. For more information, full terms and conditions and details on how to vote, visit www.southwestcoastpath.com/dogs 

 

Those boots were made for walking festivals… The best in the West for 2014

The Coast Path at Kynance Cove. Photographer Luke Milsom, Leicester.
The Coast Path at Kynance Cove. Photographer Luke Milsom, Leicester.

Whether you’re a novice walker or an experienced hiker, fancy rounding up some friends to join you or want to go it alone and make new ones – walking festivals are a great way to set new fitness goals for the New Year and experience some spectacular scenery along the way. Here is the South West Coast Path team’s pick of the best walking festivals in the South West in 2014.

Lyme Regis Walking Festival (8-16 February) Explore the beautiful coastline and inspiring hinterland of West Dorset and East Devon during this family-friendly walking festival. Local residents share their favourite walks and organised events led by Lyme’s resident guided walk experts will help you explore the town’s fascinating fossil, wildlife, history and literary secrets. www.lymeregis.org

Boscastle Walking Week (28 March-5 April) Join a local guide on a ramble to waterfalls, climb Cornwall’s highest coastal clifftop, or meander along the country lanes and pathways that would have been familiar to Thomas Hardy, whose visit to Boscastle produced some of his finest poetry. www.visitboscastle.com

North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival (26 April-5 May) Starting in the Ilfracombe area, the festival, which has 41 guided walks to choose from, moves on to Lynton, Porlock and finally to Dunster over the May Day Bank holiday. Each area kicks off with a welcome evening in a local pub to meet the guides. www.exmoorwalkingfestival.co.uk

South East Cornwall Walking Festival (13-20 September) This week-long festival is a great way to explore South East Cornwall on foot and includes seaside locations such as the historic fishing port of Polperro, rural hamlets, the Tamar Valley, and the edge of Bodmin Moor. The walks are led by guides and range from more gentle options of two miles to the more challenging seven-mile trek. www.visitcornwall.com/whats-on

Swanage and Purbeck Walking Festival (20-28 September) Up to 50 guided walks – including Nordic, for those who want to get fit – through beautiful Purbeck countryside and Dorset clifftops for all abilities, including children and dogs on some walks. www.walkswanage.com

Great South West Walk 2014 (20-28 September) Don’t miss the opportunity to help protect the coastline with the South West Coast Path Association’s second annual event to help raise funds for improvements along the UK’s most popular National Trail. More details to follow at www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk

Fal River Autumn Walking Festival (17 October-2 November) A stunning collection of guided and self-guided walks for all the family (and dogs!), taking in areas from Falmouth to Truro, the Roseland to the Helford Passage. www.falriver.co.uk/walkingfestival

Torbridge Vets Sponsor Taff The Wonder Dog!

Bill Slee with Taff and Tracey Berridge founder of DFK.
Bill Slee with Taff and Tracey Berridge founder of DFK.

Dogs Helping Kids (DHK) is a local charity that harnesses dog power, to help children improve their literacy and social skills.  This involves highly-trained canines working in schools and libraries, often with amazing results. The dogs work on a different level to their human counterparts.  Their presence seems to disarm and engage the children, and working with the dogs alleviates the pressure some pupils can feel in education, often with amazing results.

Obviously using dogs as teachers and facilitators requires them to be trained to very special standards.  As yet only seven canny canines have passed all six assessments with flying colours, although a further dozen are are currently undergoing training.  One of these is the delightful Taff, a two year old Cavapoo (Cavalier Spaniel cross Poodle).  Taff has been on the DHK training programme for nine months and is sponsored by Torbridge Vets.

So far Taff has passed his First and Second level assessments.  This has involved basic training (heelwork, recall, wait, stay and the ‘watch me’) but in very distracting environments.  These include local shops and the town, learning how to cope with distractions such as noise, changing environments, different surfaces and lots of people.  The dogs have to learn how to do a five-minute ‘out of sight’ stay on the High Street, fun tricks to impress the children such as the snuggle; how to settle on a blanket (for the classroom), how to focus on the pages or cover of a book, and how to press the ‘Easy!’ button to let children know they have done well.

DHK was founded by Tracey Berridge, who has very hands on role in day to day proceedings, both in managing the charity and in selecting and training the dogs to do such amazing things! Tracey says: “We are delighted with the progress Taff is making and his aptitude for the task. After passing his first and second DHK assessments at the beginning of March, we are now working with Taff on reading and preparing him for working in a school environment.  We have just started helping him and the others in the same class to read single words – starting with ‘Down’ and ‘Sit’. This takes time, patience and a lot of practice, as you can imagine. However, once mastered, it is an immensely powerful tool which can bring real breakthroughs for kids who have difficulties in literacy.  Seeing a dog read can demonstrate how they can do it too!”

Torbridge Vets like to support DHK in a number of practical ways. An initiative involving vaccination donations earlier this year has just raised further funds for the cause.  Bill Slee Veterinary Director of Torbridge says:

“We are delighted to be able to donate this £772 to DHK and would like to thank all our clients who helped raised the money.  We know that a dog undertaking the intensive levels of training required by DHK will always require substantial amounts of finance and therefore we hope this will help Taff to progress to the next level.”