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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Holy mackerel! Lorry ploughs off road and overturns spilling 20 TONNES of fish across farmer's field

By Ted Thornhill

Fishy business: The lorry load of mackerel spilled across farmer Gordon Flinn's field

A farmer was understandably left fed up to the gills by the sight of fish after a staggering 20 tonnes of mackerel spilled onto his land from an overturned lorry.

It was travelling towards Ardglass in County Down, Northern Ireland, last week when it appeared to have caught a grass verge, ploughed through 30 yards of hedge and fallen into a field belonging to Gordon Flinn, 71.

A digger and a crane were called in as 12 men worked for seven hours straight in a ‘large scale’ clean-up operation following the accident.

Fin on the ground: The fish measured two-feet deep in places

Mr Flinn, a sheep and cattle farmer, said the fish were piled up to two feet deep in places.

He said: ‘We had a call from the police about 3pm, saying there had been an accident down by my land and that there were fish everywhere.

‘The driver had hit a verge and the fish had come down on the hedge, destroying it and spilling them all into my field.

‘When I got down there I expected to see boxes of fish fingers or something - but there was a 20 tonne silver sea of fish. It was quite a sight.

‘There were thousands of the things all over my land. It was a bit of a shock to say the least.

‘It took them from about 7pm to 2am just to clear it all up. It was about ten metres in diameter - they were all over the place.

Sea of mackerel: It took seven hours to clean the fish up

‘The one really bizarre thing was though, is that there wasn’t a smell of fish. I think there was more than enough to feed the 5,000. We could have fed the 5,000 five thousand times over.

‘I didn’t take some for dinner - I don’t think I could look another fish in the eyes for a long time.’

Gordon’s daughter Louise, a 27-year-old civil servant, who took several incredible images of the fish, added: ‘It was like a catastrophe, as though the fish had fallen out of the sky.

‘We really couldn’t believe it until we saw it. It really was like something out of the Bible.’

Louise- who ironically doesn’t like fish - said that the family was taking it all in their stride, as a bit of fun - although it could have been a very different situation had the driver been hurt.

The man was initially taken to hospital, but seems to have had a lucky escape and later returned to the scene uninjured to drive the digger and help the rescue operation.


We're not kidding - this goat can surf! Pet rides the waves in a surfing safari

By Emily Allen

When it comes to surfing - this goat is no kid.

Goatee loves the water so much she has been riding the waves like a pro at Pismo Beach in California.

The four-legged water baby is often seen balancing on a surfboard as she catches the waves to glide effortlessly on to the beach - much to the delight of sunbathers.


Surfin' safari: Goatee surfs the waves in Pismo Beach, California in her distinctive yellow life jacket

With safety a number one priority she always dons a fetching yellow life-jacket.

Owner Dayna McGregor, who took Goatee surfing to celebrate his birthday recently, said: 'She did pretty well, she got up on a couple of waves. I say got up - we put her on a couple of waves.

'She was pretty successful.'

Mr McGregor helped Goatee on to the board and beamed with pride as she rode the surf to the shore using her four legs to balance.

The soggy beach bum didn't look at all phased by the wet and wild experience - even sharing a hug with Mr McGregor at the end of the afternoon.

Wipeout! A soggy Goatee hits the surf and runs to the beach after riding a wave

Mr McGregor bought Goatee to eat weeds in his garden but soon became fond of her and kept her as a pet.

The pair now share a special bond.

And, after realising her watery talents Goatee, now two, has become an internet sensation.

Good vibrations: Dana McGregor holds on to Goatee as the pair perform a dual balancing act on the surf board

As well as surfing, she accompanies Mr McGregor almost everywhere - to the shops, in a trailer attached to the back of his bike, shopping and even nights out.

But he said fame hasn't gone to her head.

He said: 'You know it hasn't gotten to her head yet. She doesn't even know it and that's probably a good thing.

Love to surf: Surfer Dana McGregor poses on a surf board with his pet surfing goat Goatee


Why your dog really DOES love you (and it's not just because of all the treats you give it!)

By Bruce Fogle

Some years ago I wrote an article for this newspaper about my feelings on having to put down my golden retriever, Macy.

Your response was overwhelming, with many letters and emails expressing gratitude that an old vet like me, and a man at that, had talked openly about the personal pain I felt when my pet’s life ended.

One of those who had clearly read my musings was my client Michael, the owner of Molly, a collie-cross who suffered irreversible kidney failure last autumn.

‘You know how I feel, Bruce,’ he said when I arrived at the family home to give Molly a lethal injection. His wife Tricia stayed in the next room and Michael stayed with me — the opposite of what usually happens when I end an animal’s life. In my experience, men find it more unbearable to see their pets die.

As Michael bent over his old girl and I injected the overdose of barbiturate, his tears dropped like tiny pearls on her still face and he said something which got me thinking. ‘You know Bruce, she loved us as much as we loved her.’

Scientists find this idea hard to handle. They say only animals with ‘higher emotions’ — humans — are capable of love.

But Michael’s words came back to me this week when I read newspaper reports claiming the dog has been man’s best friend for far longer than anyone imagined. They described how archaeologists digging in Siberia and Belgium found two canine skulls dating back 33,000 years.

Unlike their wolf ancestors, who had long narrow jaws and large teeth, perfectly suited for grabbing their prey and tearing its meat off the bone, these creatures had far more blunted features with smaller teeth.

A dog's life: Amanda Craig (pictured with her children Leonora and William) spoke about how a dog changes family life

This indicated they were domesticated long before the archaeologists’ previous estimate of 15,000 years ago. The researchers suggest that, apart from using these early dogs as an emergency food source or to follow animal scent trails, our ancestors also valued them as companions — just as we do today.

And I believe the bond between our two species has been so enduring because dogs are as capable of loving us as we are of loving them.

This is not the wishful thinking of a sentimental old dog-lover. Studies have shown that when dogs are in physical contact with their owners, their brains release the ‘pleasure chemical’ dopamine in exactly the same way as our human brains do when we feel happy and relaxed.

Of course, scientists argue that dogs learn to use all their ‘cute’ emotional displays — including wagging tails, dropped ears and lips drawn back in a ‘smile’ — simply to get rewards such as attention, treats and access to the great outdoors.

The proof, they say, is that if our dogs were handed over to new owners they’d use exactly the same techniques on them. I find this argument rather silly.

Love for the Queen: Elizabeth is pictured walking her corgis

Like all dog owners, I have been subjected to the big brown eyes routine. But the fact that dogs exhibit cupboard love in the hunt for a biscuit, doesn’t mean that they are not capable of purer forms of that emotion, too.

After all, scientists are happy to recognise different types of aggression in dogs: sex-related, territorial, pain-induced and so on.

So why shouldn’t they recognise dogs also feel different kinds of love — such as love of games, love of possessions, love of family, love of us?

One emotion which dogs certainly demonstrate is that inner calm and contentment we humans experience in the company of our loved ones, regardless of what they can provide for us in material terms.

This is something I have seen in all the golden retrievers I have been lucky enough to share homes with over the years, starting with Honey, a wonderful companion who belonged to my wife Julia before we married 40 years ago.

It was Honey who brought us together. I was working at a veterinary practice in Central London when Julia brought her in for treatment for an upset stomach.

Even after Honey had recovered, Julia kept popping into the surgery and I eventually twigged she was interested in me when she invited me out!

Oddly enough my son, the TV presenter Ben Fogle, also met his wife Marina through their shared love of animals.

They were walking their respective dogs in a local park when their labradors, Inca and Maggi, introduced themselves to each other.

Special bond: Humans feel love for their pets and one another, but do dogs have the same feelings?

Before long their owners were talking, too, which leads me to wonder whether dogs cannot only feel love themselves, but sense where it might blossom in their human counterparts!

I digress. When I first began spending time with Honey, I became aware of the strong feeling of affiliation and attachment she felt towards Julia and then me, something I later saw in her successors Liberty, Lexington and Macy, and our latest golden retriever, Bean.

When I return from work, Bean wags her tail, drops her ears, nuzzles against me and brings me her favourite toy.

She’s honest with her emotions; overjoyed to see me as one of the people she has developed an affectionate attachment to, whether I have food for her or not.

If I sit on a chair, she comes to make physical contact with my legs. If I am on the sofa, she hops up and nestles beside me (as I get older I seem to let my dogs get away with more than I used to).

This intimacy is reserved for Julia and me, the two humans she allows to share her home. And her love for us is just as obvious when I walk her in Hyde Park near our London home.

Like her predecessor Macy, she takes it upon herself to enforce a park regulation, unfamiliar to humans. This stipulates that: ‘All squirrels must return to their trees before 7am and remain in their trees until dusk.’

She disappears for ages in her pursuit of these poor creatures, now and then bounding back to me to lift her head and touch my hand before running off again. It’s as if this brief contact reassures her.

And although my wife won’t thank me for making the comparison, she does something very similar. Even after all these years of marriage, we will casually be walking along and then I’ll feel Julia’s hand in mine. It stays until Julia is distracted, by something in a shop or seeing someone she knows, and then it will be gone again.

Emotions: Perhaps dogs can grow to love their owners just as much as their owners love them?

I’ve never asked her why she does this but I suspect her behaviour, her emotional feeling, is a version of that experienced by Bean. ‘I’ve made contact with my human and I feel better. Now I’ll go off again.’

When you think about it, this makes sense in evolutionary terms. Like humans, dogs are gregarious animals, and love is an important emotion in a sociable species, helping us to live and work well together.

Not that all dogs are equally affectionate. Golden retrievers like Bean are working animals, specially bred over the centuries to help humans retrieve prey.

In developing these and similar breeds, including spaniels and German shepherds, to work with people, we have selectively bred into them traits such as vulnerability and dependence.

And, in doing so, it seems that we have also unwittingly encouraged in them a capacity for love.

Interestingly, the DNA of breeds whose behaviour is the least dependent and vulnerable — including the chow chow, shar pei and Afghans — much more closely resembles that of the original and more independent Asian wolves from which all dogs are believed to be descended.

As with cats, which have evolved as solitary creatures, it’s perfectly possible for the dependency of such breeds to be increased through early learning.

But it’s not already there, perfectly formed, as it is in dogs like my much-loved golden retrievers, or Molly the collie-cross whose story I mentioned earlier.

Her passing, and the words of her owner, had quite an effect on me. At the time I was updating my clinic’s website, and I wanted to have a memory of Molly tucked away somewhere within it.

I decided to include a section called ‘In Memory Of’ where clients can leave pictures of dogs that loved their humans as much as they were loved by us.

Molly was the first of what I know will be many more.


Hot-headed stag gets the ultimate cold shower as he plummets down a waterfall protecting his harem of females

Rescuers winch animal to safety after he gets stranded in freezing river

By Kerry Mcqueeney

A rescuer risks his life by lying on the ice as he attaches the winch rope to the stag

When this hot-headed stag tried to protect his harem of females in the Austrian Alps, he didn't bank on getting the ultimate cold shower treatment.

The beast was patrolling the banks of a river when he took a tumble and fell down a waterfall.

Stranded and exhausted, the animal was eventually spotted by skiers close to the mountain resort of Dienten am Hochkonig.

Rescue operation: Fire fighters were among those who helped winch the stag from the foot of the waterfall

Trapped: The stag had been protecting his harem when he fell down the waterfall

Freezing temperatures: Mountain rescue experts, firemen, and vets helped winch the stag to safety

A rescue operation was then mounted to get the stag back up to the riverbank - and back to his harem of females.

One rescue worker said: 'He'd been patrolling his territory and became trapped in the river at the top of the waterfall. Then he broke free only to fall to the bottom of the waterfall.

'He was very tired but not badly hurt.'

Mountain rescue experts, firemen, and vets helped winch the stag to safety to prevent him from dying of exposure.

A fire fighter added: 'He was very cold and a bit sorry for himself but will soon be back to his old self.'

Safe and sound: The stag was cold and 'a bit sorry for himself' but is expected to make a full recovery

Precarious: The stag had been patrolling his territory only to fall to the bottom of the waterfall


Is this the bunny version of Babe? Meet the rabbit who has become the resident sheep dog on his farm

Champis the dwarf rabbit proves he is just as good as any sheep dog

By Kerry Mcqueeney

He means business: Champis the dwarf rabbit peers out from inside the enclosure, preparing himself for the task ahead

When it comes to delaying the inevitable, one quick-thinking, fast-moving rabbit has hit on a sure-fire way to avoid his fate in a simmering stewing pot.

Champis the dwarf rabbit has made himself indispensable around the farm he lives on - by taking on the role of resident sheep dog.

In what resembles the plot from the 1995 film Babe, in which a pig avoids the slaughterhouse by herding sheep on his owner's farm, the adorable rabbit shows a surprising flair for the role.

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Honing in: The unsuspecting sheep are oblivious to the rabbit's approach, as Champis gets ready to round them up

He might be an unlikely choice for the job, but the tiny rabbit proves he can hop to it, just as well as any sheep dog.

His impressive feat was captured on video and the footage has become a hit on YouTube since it was first posted six days ago.

Champis regularly gives the sheep the runaround on a farm near Käl, in Sweden, where he is now kept as a pet.

In the video, the sheep are seen obeying the rabbit's every command while Champis appears to be revelling in his new role.

So effective is Champis, that he only needs to take a few steps towards the herd to make them move.

At one point they appear to fall into line, in perfect formation.

Again, this mirrors a scene in the film Babe, where the pig herds sheep into a perfect formation line during a competition.

Let the herding begin: The presence of Champis seems to unsettle the sheep, who start to shift

Just like Babe: The antics of Champis (left) mirrors the plot of the 1995 film Babe (pictured), in which a pig take on the role of sheep dog on the farm

In formation: The sheep hop to it as Champis round them up, proving it's not just dogs who can carry out the job


Monday, January 30, 2012

Forgotten victims of the recession: Can you offer an abandoned puppy a home?

By Liz Hull

Fresh start: Staffordshire bull terrier crossbreed Ashley has been taken in by the rescue centre

Dumped on roadsides or abandoned in cardboard boxes, these puppies have one thing in common – they are looking for new homes.

Staff at one rescue centre have taken in a record 16 puppies in only five days as Christmas presents lose their novelty and breeders struggle to sell their litters.

The arrivals include Sam, a 12-week-old springer spaniel who is being nursed back to health after being found suffering from the painful skin condition mange, and Sky, a ten-week-old Staffordshire bull terrier who came in with a broken leg and had been kept in a cupboard all of her life.

Recession: These seven Staffordshire Bull Terriers are among a growing number of animals to be looked after at the rescue as owners struggle to afford the cost during tough economic times

Nicky Owen from North Clwyd Animal Rescue, near Holywell, north Wales, said many of the pets had been bred for sale over Christmas but were abandoned after nobody bought them.

She added: ‘Getting 16 puppies in five days is a record for our centre after Christmas. People have been breeding pups and just not being able to sell them.

‘I think it has something to do with the recession. People think they can sell puppies for £500 each, but they don’t realise that they will only get that sort of money for pure breeds.

‘We’ve had all sorts of weird crosses brought in, probably due to the success of dogs like the labradoodle, but they simply haven’t been attractive to buyers.

Recovering well: Sam, a 12-week-old springer spaniel, had mange

Dumped: Shih tzu crosses Jim and Jane with pups Jade, Jess and Jack

‘It’s really sad, but the puppies are adorable. They are really cheeky, playful little things, so I’m hopeful we should be able to find good homes for them.’

Two adult shih tzu crossbreeds and their three scruffy puppies melted the hearts of staff at the centre after they were found dumped in a cardboard box close to a main road two weeks ago.

The parents have been named Jane and Jim, and their four-week-old puppies have been called Jade, Jess and Jack.

‘It is lucky that a member of the public found them, they couldn’t have survived the night,’ Miss Owen said. The centre has also taken an eight-strong litter of eight-week-old Jack Russell crosses and a Staffordshire bull terrier crossbreed called Ashley.


'Who are you calling Big Ears?': Rabbit Grand National attracts the fluffy best of Britain's bunnies

By Kerry Mcqueeney

Big ears: An English lop-eared rabbit sits patently on the judging table at the event

Groomed and poised for victory, when it comes to showjumping, these bunnies certainly know how to hop to it.

These are the furry competitors of the Rabbit Grand National, which was staged in Harrogate, Yorkshire.

The popular showjumping rabbit race is part of the larger Burgess Premier Small Animal Show, which attracted more than 3,000 contenders.

Measuring up: Judges ensure another competitor's dimensions meet the strict criteria as other bunnies wait their turn

Established in 1921, the event is the longest-running and biggest small animal show in the UK.

It is open to cavies, gerbils, hamsters, mice, rabbits and rats - with some breeders travelling from as far afield as Sweden to compete.

According to the organisers, breeders - also known as fanciers - hold the event in high esteem and, along with their pets, descended on Harrogate in Yorkshire to participate in the 2012 competition this weekend.

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Run, rabbit, run: Flora, a lop-eared rabbit from Sweden, clears the final jump in the Rabbit Grand National

Hop to it: One young bunny practices its jumps on the Rabbit Grand National track (left) while Dilba, a competitor from Sweden, is put through his paces (right)

Tense wait: The competitors do their best to be patient as they prepare to be assessed by the judges

Dressing room: Any contender worth their salt knows the importance of rest and relaxation before a big event

This year saw the biggest and best competition in the show's 90-year history, with hundreds of spectators descending on the Yorkshire Events Centre to catch a glimpse of the four-legged competitors.

The show is dedicated solely to the promotion and exhibition of many species of small animals, organised by a dedicated committee on a not-for-profit basis.

Founded in 1921, it is the oldest event of its kind i

The event originally started life as the Bradford Championship Show and its inception is linked with Fur and Feather magazine, a publication dedicated to rabbits and other small animals.

Two's company: A pair of white rabbits are scrutinised by the judges. The event attracts competitors from as far afield as Sweden

The heat is on: An Angora (left) and English lop eared rabbit (right) wait to hear how they've fared in the contest

Well-groomed: White rabbits look proud and preened as they line up next to each other

Four-legged opponent: One Satin rabbit surveys his furry rivals as judges check the contenders meet the competition's standards

The magazine, which has been running since the 1880s, was owned and published by Bradford-based J.E. Watmough.

Mr Watmough wanted to bring together the specialist cavy, hamster, mouse, rabbit and rat groups under one roof and put on an animal show encompassing all of the different species.

The first show was staged in 1921, at Manningham Barracks in Bradford, and was such a success it went on to become an annual event.

A specialist committee of volunteers was formed in 1929 - called the Bradford Small Livestock Society - which still exists and organises the event to this date.

Happy bunny: A red-eyed white Polish rabbit peers out from between the bars of its cage

Under scrutiny: Antonia Galloway, 7, assists with the judging of this contender (left) while a Satin rabbit is given the once-over by the judges

Fluffy friend: Antonia Galloway with Emeranthus, a four-month-old Angora rabbit who won best fancy in the under fives show

This year the event officially changed its name to the Burgess Premier Small Animal Show, to reflect the show's primary sponsor from 2012 to 2015, Burgess Pet Care.

Other rabbit racing competitions include the European Kanin Hop Championships, the first of which was staged in Switzerland in October last year.

Breeders from a number of countries across Europe brought their showjumping bunnies to compete in the race in Wollerau.

In recent years the sport has spread far from its Scandinavian homeland and clubs have now sprung up in several other European countries, the U.S., Canada and even Japan.

The Swedish Federation of Rabbit Jumping was established in 1995.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ozzy, the collie who never wobbles! The MoS tracks down the four-legged superstar whose astonishing balancing tricks took YouTube by storm

By Emily Hill

Nick Johnson and his dog Ossy have taken the internet by storm

It's the latest video to become a YouTube sensation. Showing a truly astonishing sense of balance, a dog perches on a thin metal chain before standing up on his hind legs.

While other dogs are more content to chase cats or gnaw old bones, this canine is capable of incredible acrobatic feats.

Filmed by an amazed passer-by on his mobile phone, the footage was then uploaded to YouTube where it attracted more than 80,000 hits in just one day.

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It has proved so popular since being posted two weeks ago that it was highlighted by ITV chat show host Jonathan Ross last weekend. Ross told viewers that the sight of the balancing dog would help banish their winter blues.

Until now the identity of the dog and his owner have remained a mystery – but The Mail on Sunday has tracked them down. They are carpenter Nick Johnson, 50, from Norwich, and Ozzy, his three-year-old chocolate border collie-kelpie cross.

Nick devotes up to five hours a day to training his pet, who was born on a farm in Anglesey, North Wales.

Ozzy is now recognised wherever he goes, and his repertoire of tricks includes balancing on Nick’s shoulders as he rides a bike, fetching his owner’s mobile phone, and ‘surfing’ on a street sign.


Ozzy has plenty of energy so every day Nick takes him on a long walk around their home city, Norwich. It was during one of these walks that Nick decided to see if his dog could balance on a street sign.

Of his training style, Nick says: ‘Old-style dog-trainers say you should never look at the dog, but if a dog is looking at you he is giving you his full attention.

‘I bring him into my eyes and that helps him balance. I use a lot of sign language with him. I use my eyebrows to encourage him, but the most powerful command is me wagging my little finger.

‘That means “Come on” when he is right on the edge of what he can do.’

‘I was a bit scared initially because I had never had my own dog before and many people said that puppy-training was really hard,’ says Nick. ‘But Ozzy was beautiful. He was so easy.’

Nick bought a book called Puppies For Dummies before he took his pet – full name Osbert Humperdinck Pumpernickle – on a six-week training course.

He also became a fan of the Dog Whisperer – behavioural expert Cesar Millan – and Zak George, a dog-trainer who teaches animals unusual tricks on his show Who Let The Dogs Out?, which is broadcast on children’s channel CBBC.

Nick was keen to try out some simple tasks first. Ozzy quickly mastered offering his paw for Nick to shake, and soon he was saluting his owner while on his hind legs, before being tested to the limit with his chain trick.


When some dogs hear the postman arrive, they bark loudly and hurtle towards the front door. But Ozzy is too well trained for that. And when a newspaper is popped through the letterbox each morning, he retrieves it up from the mat and brings it back to Nick – in one piece.


After Ozzy had managed his street sign trick, Nick got him to balance on a metal chain attached to two posts. Nick looks into his eyes and uses hand gestures, which has led some people to suggest that he is capable of mind-control methods – and to jokingly liken him to Jedi Master

Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. ‘Once Ozzy is focused on me he is locked in. It’s funny that I have been compared to a Jedi. That would explain the strange looks I get,’ he says.


Always eager to please, Ozzy fetches and carries too. When Nick’s phone rings, Ozzy picks it up with his teeth and returns it to his grateful owner. ‘Ozzy understands what I say,’ says Nick.

‘If I tell him to get my white trainers, he gets them. I can also tell him to get my other trainers – he understands the difference. People say dogs cannot understand language but there’s a dog in America that can understand 3,000 words.’


As a puppy, Ozzy demonstrated a talent for jumping high to catch balls and Frisbees.
Now he combines that athleticism with his extraordinary balancing skills to leap up on to awkward spaces, such as this window ledge. Incredibly, Ozzy performs all his tricks without inducements.

Nick does not reward him with treats or punish him for failure. Ozzy has so much energy he can concentrate for long periods. Nick says: ‘It is never a question of him lacking energy, but it is important to keep up his morale.’


Simon Cowell has already said he is desperate to find an entertaining dog act when his show Britain’s Got Talent returns to our screens later this year – well look no further.

When Nick decides to ride his bike into town, Ozzy is happy to tag along – just not on his lead. Instead, as Nick sits in the saddle, Ozzy hops up on to his owner’s shoulders and hitches a lift.


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