Can you spare time for a puppy?

With this autumn’s mild weather and still no hint of the approach of winter, it has been easy to pretend that Christmas is a long way off.

I tend to put all festive thoughts aside until something forces me to realise that Santa is once again on his way, and this year it was the receipt of a poster for a very Christmassy event that made me accept the inevitable.

If you need to get into the Spirit of Christmas, then you should visit the Grand Christmas Hollyfest Fair which will be held in the Ravenswood Country Club, Banchory, from 11am to 3.30pm on Sunday, December 4.

This event is put on by members of the Scottish SPCA Deeside supporters group who have staged it in various venues for a number of years. This time, by kind permission of the Royal British Legion Scotland, you will be able to browse in comfort, as all the sales stalls and refreshments and all the family fun will be shielded from the weather.

The hall is in Ramsay Road and both car parking and entry are free.

All profit from the event will go to the SSPCA, which is why I am promoting it in this column.

As I look back over the summer – as near as we got to a summer – the most important event for animal people was the opening of the brand new animal rehoming and welfare centre at Drumoak.

Such a project had been spoken about for a very long time – indeed it was one of the objects of the board of directors of the old Aberdeen Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, when they decided to merge with the SSPCA.

I had been a board member for some time and I knew how difficult it could be to get suitable urgent treatment for animals, despite the great helpfulness of Aberdeen’s veterinary practices.

An unexpected legacy to the charity made it possible to re-think the provision of a welfare centre and the rest – as they say – is history.

Aberdeen already had the cat and dog home and also DAWGS besides various smaller charities, but all of these swim desperately against a tide of unwanted pets.

The new centre will take in all sorts of needy animals, though, sadly, many are not unwanted but are offered for re-homing because of any of a wide range of problems.

But still people are breeding litters of puppies, which fill the pages of the local papers.

Gorgeous puppies, adorable puppies, rare puppies (generally these are some of the weirder interbreeds), pedigree puppies and even wolf crosses – whose existence I find difficult to justify - are there week after week as the sellers become increasingly worried as the pups grow bigger, eat more and get nearer to the need for expensive vaccination.

So, before you succumb to the pleadings of the family for a puppy for Christmas, here are a few thoughts worth thinking:

Do you have plenty of spare finance, spare time, spare space, spare patience. Do you have a safe garden and are you sure that everyone in the family really wants a dog; because puppies do grow into dogs.

Most puppies look just too good to be true, and, as you mop up the mud and hoover up the shed hair, you will remember that what looks that way, probably is that way.

Putting Christmas smiles on faces

Christmas is a time for children and to see a child smile is always heartwarming.

To enable a sad child to smile is a real privilege.

Recently, the Dogability team visited a centre for pre-school children, most of whom had some degree of learning or physical disability.

The day was bright and dry so we were able to meet the children in their playground, where the dogs displayed the sort of tricks which we hoped would be fun for them and perhaps therapeutic as well.

One little girl sat in her pushchair and did not seem to react at all as we slowly walked by to introduce ourselves and the dogs. Star sat close to the child and I said: “Starry will make you smile.” The carer shook her head and I moved on, but later, as another team dog ran to retrieve one of her many furry toy articles, chosen by the children, I looked back to see the little girl smiling broadly and – helped by kindly hands, she was clapping along with the others.

The team has visited both nurseries and care homes this summer and, of all the things that I have done with dogs, this is probably the most enjoyable and certainly gives the most job satisfaction.

Dog fouling

The problem of dog fouling is ever with us, but at the moment I am getting reports of bags of dog dirt being deliberately left, even in such awful places as a training hall. What possible excuse can there be for anyone not to clear up after their dog?

Another nasty habit is to bag the offending substance and then to leave the bag for somebody else to pick up.

The one case for leaving such a bag at the side of a path is that the owner is starting out on a walk and fully intends to collect it on the way back.

Recently, I passed a wrecked car by the roadside which had a sticker on it stating ‘Police Aware’. How about someone printing a few labels which say, ‘Owner Aware’ so that other, responsible people do not feel so offended by this unattractive sight.

Inevitably, we shall have snow this winter and I would remind dog walkers that when the snow goes, it does not take dog dirt away with it.

Most dogs love snow and happily dash about in the drifts.

It can be awkward to step off the path to pick up, but it is worse to step off the path and to discover that some dog was there before you.

Nobody any longer thinks it is funny or disgusting to see an owner clean up after their dog..