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

Notebook

Share

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.

m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste