Mary Dejevsky: Nice words and a soft toy won't be enough to save this dog's reputation



It's a pity the furore about over-breeding led the BBC to give up its coverage of Crufts. I find it hard to keep track, now it's been exiled to More4. In fact, the only reason I realised it was that time of year again was a poster that appeared on the bus stop at Kensington Gardens with a picture of a winsome knitted puppy – pattern available from the website – and the slogan: "Staffies. They're softer than you think."

Anyway, what struck me most about the Kennel Club's annual bone-feast was how international it has become over a couple of decades. This year's reserve Best in Show was a Newfoundland from Slovakia, with a Pomeranian from Sweden and an Old English sheepdog from Hungary in the final line-up. Candidates for Best in Group came from all over, including the US, Russia, Hungary and Italy. It just shows what can happen when easier travel coincides with a liberalisation of the UK's quarantine regulations and the end of the Cold War. Globalisation is for dogs, too.

Back to a very local issue, though. The reason for the Staffies campaign, being run by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and promoted at Crufts, is that Staffordshire terriers or cross-breeds accounted for more than one in three of all dogs that ended up at Battersea last year. This is also – something that may not be unconnected – the breed (or, more likely, cross) you will most frequently encounter on the meaner city streets, snarling at you from the end of a short lead or cowering for fear of a beating.

It seems to me that these so-called "weapon dogs" used to be bigger, but perhaps feeding and exercise, along with controllability, became a problem, along with the outlawing of pit-bulls. So nice-sized, legal and eminently trainable Staffies filled the gap. One result has been an exponential rise in the number being bred, leading directly to the scandalous number now being abandoned. But the difficulty in finding them new homes is not just how many there are, but their reputation. A Staffy may, as the Battersea Dogs Home advert says, be a "great family pet", a natural "nanny" dog, "loving, loyal and reliable", but its advocates, in protesting so much, accept that this is a dog with a very bad name.

The rehabilitation campaign was first launched in November. But it's been revived because March is the peak month for dogs to be abandoned, as – so one theory goes – new owners tire of their Christmas presents. There were Staffies aplenty at Crufts, their devoted owners showing the breed at its best. But I suspect the only way to stop the slaughter – there comes a time when putting an unwanted dog to sleep is the only answer – is for legitimate breeders to diversify into something furrier and friendlier, and wait for the wrong sort of Staffy fashion to fade.

A master in tune with his keyboard

Roger, they said, would sort me out. We finally fixed on a day and a time for him to come – not easy, as this is a man who knows something about work-life balance and doesn't travel in the rush hour. His task was to tune, and teach me to tune, my clavichord – a uniquely quiet keyboard instrument that you can safely play in a flat without annoying or advertising your incompetence to your neighbours.

On the first, he was completely successful. On the second, only marginally so. I quailed at the risk of slipping the little felt pads under the wrong string, turning the tuning handle too heavily (to snapping point), and not identifying when the correct pitch had been reached. Mostly, though, he failed because I was content to watch.

It's a pleasure to see someone doing something quite different from what you do all day, and doing it with such satisfaction and accomplishment. With my clavichord came a new wooden-handled tuner; Roger's was worn down so it fitted his hand. In a way, that said all anyone needed to know.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam