Tuesday 30 October 2007

And the Fido goes to...

Stephen Frears' hugely successful film The Queen has won more than its fair share of top awards, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that even the dogs featured as the monarch's faithful companions have picked up a gong. The five corgis, who played the Queen's pets, were the main winners at the inaugural Fido Film Awards – part of the British Film Institute's 51st London Film Festival, which has decided to emulate the Palm Dog Awards, a popular fixture at Cannes for the last seven years.
And the winners are.... Alice, Poppy, Megan, Anna and Oliver.
At the world's first international awards for canine film stars, given out at a ceremony at the London Film Festival on sunday, the corgis were named as the Best Historical Hounds as well as picking up a Best in the World prize.
The awards are the brainchild of Toby Rose, the creator of the Palm Dog Award, which is part of the Cannes Film Festival.
"Dogs are key, pivotal characters on the big screen, but they never get any recognition for their work," he explained.
The corgis, standing in for the Queen's pets in the film, also won praise from Dame Helen Mirren. She said they were a joy to work with. Their owner and trainer, Liz Smith from Suffolk told reporters that there was a lot of work involved in their performance and further said: "No one was allowed to make a fuss of them because we had to make sure they had no distractions," she said. Despite all the work, however, the corgis enjoyed their stint on camera. According to Smith, the dogs "got on very well" with their on-screen queen, Mirren.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Belgo - Japanese relations

Every day Japanese tourists visit the cathedral in Antwerp. In front of Rubens The Elevation of the Cross many cry. Why? Nobody in Flanders cries. So why do the Japanese? Furthermore at the initial influx of Japanese tourists, city and cathedral officials could not understand why they wanted to visit the cathedral on Christmas Eve and why they all asked about the dog. What dog? Well, it’s all to do with a book. A Dog of Flanders is a novel about a boy Nello and his dog Patrache written in English by Marie Louise de la Ramée under the pseudonym Ouida in 1872. The book is widely read in Japan and has been adapted for Japanese television twice and for the cinema three times. The animation series was broadcast on Japanese national television and was watched by thousands of children and is being shown over and over again. Apparently any Japanese person can sing the theme song in Dutch or can hum or whistle the theme tune. The story is little known in Belgium and has been Flanders’s secret ambassador for more than 100 years. There is a commemorative plaque in front of the Antwerp Cathedral donated by Toyota.The Dutch translation was only published in 1985.

So here is the story: In the 19th century, a boy named Nello became an orphan at the age of two when his mother died in the Ardennes. His grandfather, Johan Daas, who lived in a small village, Hoboken, near the city of Antwerp, took him in. One day, Nello found a dog, who was almost beaten to death, and named him Patrasche. Due to Johan’s good care, the dog recovered from his wounds and from then on Nello and Patrasche were inseparable. Since they were very poor, Nello had to help his grandfather financially by selling milk. Patrasche helped him pull the milk cart which Nello used to sell milk in the town. Nello made friends with, Aloise, the daughter of a well-off man in the village. The father didn't want his daughter to befriend a pauper. Although Nello was illiterate, he was very talented at drawing. He took part in a junior drawing contest in Antwerp, hoping to win the first prize of 200 francs per year. However, the jury selected somebody else. Afterhis grandfather’s death his life became desperate. Being homeless and orphaned, Nello wanted to go to the cathedral of Antwerp and see Rubens The Elevation of the Cross. But he didn't have enough money to enter. On Christmas Eve, he went to the cathedral with Patrasche and, by chance, the door to the church was open, and he found the painting he loved. The next morning the villagers came looking for the boy and found him with his dog frozen to death in front of the triptych.

Sunday 21 October 2007

Nearer, my God, to thee.

First class passengers would have participated in an informal dog show on RMS Titanic on 12th April 1915 if the ship had not gone down. Quite a number of dogs were on board and a few survived.
Since the first lifeboats to be launched were not full, no one objected to dogs being carried in them. It is recorded that a Pomeranian belonging to Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild, 54, wife of leather magnate Martin Rothschild was lucky. Martin went down with the ship but Elizabeth and her pet survived. They were on the lifeboat 6.
Margaret Hays, 24, travelling alone, managed to carry her Pomeranian to Lifeboat 7.
Henry Sleeper Harper of the publishing company, 48, and his Pekinese went to the Lifeboat 3 and managed to escape unharmed.
As for the other dogs they drowned like their owners even though someone took pity on the dogs and let them out of their kennels, unable to bear the thought of them drowning while being trapped in there.
A canary, it would seem, also survived to the sinking!
Ann Isham, 50, refused to enter in the lifeboat without her large Great Dane. She was found in the water two days after the sinking of the ship embracing her dog.
One dog however was a real hero! The first officer's large black Newfoundland, Rigel, stayed behind with the ship. He treaded the icy waters after the sinking, desperate to find his master. At the same time, the SS Carpathia was speeding to the scene to search for survivors. In the darkness, no one saw that a lifeboat was in its path and the passengers were too weak to shout or signal their presence. Reports say Rigel swam between the lifeboat and the SS Carpathia, barking continuously. Finally, the Captain heard Rigel and ordered to stop all engines. The dog swam in front of the lifeboat and guided it to safety. Once on board, Rigel seemed physically unaffected by his ordeal. He stood with paws on the rail barking in futility for his lost master until he was taken below for food and medical attention. Jonas Brigg, one of the Carpathia’s sailors adopted Rigel.

Thursday 18 October 2007

Politicians take note

American Congress bestowed its highest civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal, on the Dalai Lama yesterday in Washington. The award is in recognition of the Dalai Lama's advocacy of religious harmony, non -violence, human rights and for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue.
"If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them"

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Eat your heart out.

Dogs smell other dogs faeces as a way of learning about them. From this, the dog can tell the sex of the dog who left it. If it’s a male’s it will tell it how masculine he was and if it’s a female’s whether she is coming into season or is on heat. So vital information is passed on this way. However some dogs eat other dogs’ stools which is not so pleasant. This is know as coprophagy from the Greek copros meaning faeces and from phagein meaning to eat.
There are many theories why dogs do this:
-To get attention from their owners.
-From anxiety, stress, or having been punished for bad behaviour.
-From boredom.
-Because puppies taste everything and discover that faeces are edible and, perhaps, tasty.
-Because dogs are, by nature, scavengers, and this is within the range of scavenger behaviour.
-Because the texture and temperature of fresh faeces approximates that of regurgitated food, which is how canine mothers in the wild would provide solid food.
-Because of the protein content of the faeces, or over-feeding, leading to large concentrations of undigested matter in the faeces.
-Due to assorted health problems
-Because they are hungry, such as when eating routines are changed, food is withheld, or nutrients are not properly absorbed.
-Carnivores may sometimes eat or roll in the faeces of their prey to ingest and exude scents which camouflage their own.

Dr Bruce Fogle, a Canadian vet and author of many books, writes that dogs as they grow up may suffer from a lack of digestive enzymes. He recommends feeding dogs enzyme-containing food such as pineapple, pumpkin or papaya fruit. Sounds exotic to me as dogs are basically carnivores.

I could not find an appropriate photograph.

Saturday 13 October 2007

Crystal clear

Rosley’s Rock and Gems, a Chicago based holistic rock and gems shop, now also offers crystals for dogs as they argue animals are able to receive the healing benefits of crystals as well as humans. Various stones produce different effects shown through the animal's behaviour. The extensive line of crystals on offer are artfully wire wrapped with stays for easy attachment to the pet’s collar.
Crystals have been known to have healing powers for centuries. Not only is quartz used in our watches and lodestone for magnets, past cultures show evidence of belief in crystals as far back as Neolithic man, whose remains have been found carrying pieces of amber. Delving into the properties of all the stones of our planet, calming, rejuvenating, and strengthening qualities can be found; a distinct "personality" for each kind of stone. Now dogs, cats, birds, fish and even iguanas, can benefit from stones.
Here is the list of crystals and their healing properties.

AMBER: This soothing stone will calm nerves and enliven the stick-in-the-mud pet to be a bit cheerier, while calming a hyper-active one.
AMETHYST: Amethyst is a powerful all-around healer, improving hearing and the nervous and skeletal systems predominately. It is a great help if your pet must battle arthritis.
AVENTURINE: As it helps to strengthen your blood, lungs, heart and adrenal glands, it will also strengthen your desire to explore and get out.
CARNELIAN: Releases sorrow, envy, fear, apathy, and rage.
JADE: Held to increase one's life-span, and facilitate comfort when the end is near. Assists the immune system, kidneys and heart.
LAPIS: Strengthens the throat, and immune system, also relieves dizziness and occasional insomnia. Lapis is the strongest stone you can find to relieve the pain of leukaemia and bone cancer.
QUARTZ CRYSTAL: An excellent training stone. Quartz crystal amplifies communication between humans and animals, and strengthens mental clarity.
ROSE QUARTZ: Use a rose quartz for your pet when it has been wounded, or recently operated upon. If your pet is aloof, lonely or isolated, the rose quartz will help him learn the powers of love and gentleness..
SMOKY QUARTZ: The powerful smoky quartz helps to heal disorders in paws, claws, and fins. If your pet doesn't always win the fight, the smoky quartz helps heighten survival instincts. This wonderful grounding stone works slowly to eradicate negative energy and hostility..
TURQUOISE: The turquoise stone will protect your pet from the dangers and pollutants of city life. This powerful healing stone is an amazing boost of confidence for your shy pet or new-born litter. Turquoise also offers peace of mind and strong grounding qualities for your somewhat nervous pet.

I quite like the sound of this. For Belle I would need something to calm anxieties. Turquoise or amber perhaps. Is it worth spending 20 US dollars per stone, I wonder?

Thursday 11 October 2007

Love me, love my dog

Now you might find the fact that Leona Helmsley left her fortune to her dog shocking but the act of leaving billions to a dog is less surprising in light of new findings about the importance of the human/dog bond. Relationships between people and their pets can be so strong, in fact, that in some cases they work better than partnerships between two people.A new study led by Lisa Cavanaugh, a researcher at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University ( North Carolina ) is one of the first to apply methods used to analyze human relationships to human/dog pairs and reveals clues as to what makes the best pooch-to-person match. One surprising find is that a dog’s personality helps shape the relationship more than the person's does. Two dog qualities are usually predicted a successful match. "A canine's openness to new experience and agreeableness are the strongest predictors of relationship satisfaction," explained Cavanaugh. She and her team suspect that "dogs' generally trusting, non-judgmental, empathetic and curious nature enables them to blend into their owners' family and home, and bring comfort and enjoyment into their lives."Another, somewhat surprising, find is that while people tend to dislike neuroticism in other people, they frequently like that quality in their dogs.The researchers also noted that while human relationships often falter over time, thereby contributing less to a person's overall well-being, human/dog bonds frequently strengthen over time.Cavanaugh goes on to suggest that some people might be more satisfied with their dog friendships than with their human ones.
"Dogs provide unconditional love. You could be the worst scoundrel in the world and everyone else may hate you, but a loyal dog will always love you."

Sunday 7 October 2007

Queen of Mean

Leona Helmsley died last week at the age of 87. Her dog Trouble will continue to live an opulent life after being left a $12 million (£6m) trust fund in her owner's will. She will eventually be buried with her in the Helmsley mausoleum in Connecticut. Helsmley ordered in her will that: “The mausoleum must be washed or steam-cleaned at least once a year.” She left behind $3 million for the upkeep of her final resting place in Westchester County, where she is buried with her husband Harry.A hatter's daughter from Brooklyn, Leona became the second wife of Harry Helmsley, the "King Kong of Big Apple real estate", in 1972 and upon his death inherited his billion dollar fortune. She became known as a symbol of 1980s greed and earned the nickname "the Queen of Mean" after her 1988 indictment and subsequent conviction for tax evasion. One employee had quoted her as snarling, "Only the little people pay taxes." She left two of her four grand children out of her will but her chauffeur was left $100,000. But no one made out better than Trouble, who once appeared in ads for the Helmsley Hotels, and lived up to her name by biting housekeepers and members of Leona’s staff. Trouble made their lives miserable. One housekeeper quoted : "Leona wanted everybody to love her, but she knew nobody did. This dog replaced that love." Helmsley even shared her double king-size bed with Trouble who was often dressed in pricey outfits and sported a diamond collar. The dog's chef prepared meals of steamed vegetables and steamed or grilled chicken and fish which were served in porcelain bowls on a silver tray. Helmsley had a minimum of 12 pictures of herself with Trouble in every room and she believed her late husband, Harry, communicated with her through the dog.

Thursday 4 October 2007

The Queen

This picture of Princess Elizabeth with her beloved Corgi, Dookie, is just one of a series of never-before-seen snaps which appear in a new book entitled Noble Hounds And Dear Companions, written by Sophie Gordon, Curator of the Royal Photograph Collection. It details the much-loved animals who have shared their lives with the Royal Family. This charming publication celebrates the important role played by dogs in the public and private lives of the Royal Family. It brings together over 200 affectionate, amusing and often poignant images of canine companions – from Dash, Queen Victoria’s beloved King Charles spaniel and Eos, Prince Albert’s elegant greyhound, to the famous corgis of the House of Windsor. Over the 150 years covered by the book, dogs appear centre stage in both formal studio portraits and as part of relaxed family groups. Most of the photographs come from private family albums and have never been published before. Dogs are seen riding in carriages, on board the royal yacht, on guard duty at Windsor Castle and in the arms of monarchs, consorts, princes and princesses.

Her Majesty The Queen is among the world’s leading breeders of Pembroke corgis. The first royal corgis, Dookie and Jane, were bought for the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose by their parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. A series of charming photographs taken at Windsor and in London in 1936 shows Princess Elizabeth’s affectionate relationship with the dogs. All of The Queen's corgis are descendants of Susan, who was given to the Princess as an 18th-birthday present in 1944. Her Majesty currently has nine dogs: five corgis and four dorgis (a dachshund and corgi cross). Photographs reveal the deep devotion shared by generations of dogs and their royal owners. Queen Victoria’s spaniel, Dash, was buried at Windsor with an epitaph that read: "His attachment was without selfishness, His playfulness without malice, His fidelity without deceit. READER, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example of DASH." In a particularly tender image from 1863, Boy, the Queen’s favourite dachshund, is shown a few days before his death, watched over by a concerned housekeeper. King Edward VII’s terrier, Caesar, accompanied his master everywhere. He wore a collar with the inscription ‘I am Caesar. I belong to the King’ and was even immortalised in a tiny sculpture by the famous Russian jeweller, Carl Fabergé. Caesar achieved widespread fame on the King’s death in 1910, when the inconsolable dog walked behind his master’s coffin in the funeral procession.

Thank you Winchester Whisperer for bringing this to my attention.

Monday 1 October 2007

Shocking in pink

This picture was taken at the Milan summer 2008 womenswear week which ended on Saturday. Bold colours, high heels and an artist’s touch were the key themes and predominant colours were jade, yellow, turquoise and of course, pink.One reads about dogs being fashion accessories but this is ridiculous. In a recent survey of 80 dogs the poodle came second after the Border Collie as the most intelligent dog. The Afghan came last!Poodles come in various sizes ( miniature, toy, standard ) and colours. These range from black, white, red, apricot, silver, and brown. They also appear in parti-colour or multi-colours.Their country of origin is France although poodles can be traced to the times of ancient Egyptians. Poodles are retrievers or gun dogs and this explains the complex grooming. Show clips evolved from working clips which provided warmth and protection for major joints during duck hunts in cold water. The rest of the body is shaved for less drag in the water. They are elegant in the show ring, having taken top honours in many shows in Europe and the US. The poodle coat is dense and requires extensive care and a lot of grooming.The name poodle comes from the German word Pudel and is related to the English word puddle. This reflects the breed’s use as a water dog.