Aug 202017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

A North-east bike ride is to cater to those of the four-legged variety, with the launch of a new ‘doggy daycare’ service.

Furry visitors to this year’s Chapelton Bike Ride, which takes place on Sunday, September 3, will have access to a ‘doggy pit stop’, thanks to a local dog walker.

Chapelton resident, Jenna Smith, who runs Long Dog Walkies, will be providing complimentary treats, toys and water to weary pooches on the day of the bike ride.

She will also be running a raffle, giving one lucky dog owner the chance to win a hamper of doggy treats.

Owners can choose to stay with their pets, or leave them with Jenna for a short period of time, whilst they browse the full range of stalls and activities on offer.

The 28-year-old came up with the idea of the doggy pit stop after noticing the high number of dogs in attendance at last year’s bike ride, prompting her to contact the organisers of the event to offer her services.

Held in aid of North East Sensory Services (NESS), a charity that supports over 6,500 people with sensory impairments across the North-east, the inaugural Chapelton Bike Ride welcomed over 250 cyclists and hundreds of other spectators to the village of Chapelton last year.

Jenna said:

“I wanted to give something back to my local community by getting involved with this year’s bike ride, as I noticed there were a lot of doggy companions at last year’s event. As a dog owner myself, I felt it was important to provide a peaceful area where dogs could rest away from large crowds of people.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of new furry friends and soaking up the atmosphere on the day. NESS provides invaluable support to many people across the North-east, so it is great that everyone is coming together to raise as much funds as possible.”

Neil Skene, fundraising co-ordinator at NESS, said:

“It is great to see the huge increase in the number of local businesses getting involved with this year’s bike ride. We’re very thankful to Jenna for offering a complimentary dog minding service, as this will encourage more people to come along to enjoy the wide range of activities on offer.

“Money raised from the Chapelton Bike Ride enables NESS to continuing supporting people with sensory impairments achieve independence, as well as helping them overcome any challenges they may face in day-to-day life. These services make such a big difference to the lives of so many people, so we are extremely grateful to everyone who is taking part and helping to fundraise.”

The Chapelton Bike Ride takes place on Sunday, September 3. Participants have the choice of a 42-mile bike ride, a 12-mile bike ride or a 5K walk.  

Registration costs £15 per person for the 42-mile route, £5 per person for the 12-mile route, or £15 for a team of four for the 12-mile cycle. The 5K walk is free to enter, but all participants must register via the website. Register for the Chapelton Bike Ride at www.chapeltonbikeride.co.uk

Sep 052014
 

Elaine Pirie is involved with numerous issues concerning animal welfare, more often than not centring on canines. Her dogged determination across a host of initiatives and issues is impressive. By Suzanne Kelly.

elaine dogs 1Elaine and I meet appropriately at BrewDog; she arrives with two marvellous rescued pooches, which are well received. Her knowledge of dogs is only surpassed by her clear passion for them. She is involved and has been for many years with charities, campaigns, welfare issues. After we yapped for a while, several themes, issues and organisations came to the fore.

The Dog Walkers Association:

Aberdeen Dog Walkers Association is a collective of dog walking professionals who seek to implement standards of care, in order to safeguard the well-being of dogs, and let pet owners know what service and level of care they should be getting when entrusting a beloved animal to a relative stranger. Elaine has been involved with Pamela Rutherford to get the association up and running.

Elaine said:

“We have also recently been contacted by another group, the Scottish Dog Walkers Association and we hope to really get things moving now with their help and involvement. Pamela also runs the Pets Info North east Facebook page.”

More can be learnt about this organisation, events, shows, talks and more here.

Walking The Dog:

People who can’t leave work, people with health or mobility problems, busy people need to know they can rely on a professional, reliable dog walker to take care of their pet when they can’t do so. Elaine told me about the Aberdeen Dog Walkers Association, which has a code of ethics for dog walkers.

This includes any van having separate crates/kennels/spaces for individual dogs should a walker take out more than one animal at a time. Elaine explained an unfortunate story of a weak dog left in the back of a van with other dogs. The outcome was fatal. If you are going to use a service, make certain they are insured at the very least; dog walkers in this scheme will not take more than 6 dogs out at a time, and will look after their welfare.

As an aside, walking your dog should be a chance for you and your pet to enjoy each other’s company, to exercise, to spend time together. When a dog wants to stop and sniff something, why not let it do so. When a dog is doing its business, wait patiently until it has finished – don’t start dragging it away. And by all means, obey the law and clean up after your dog.

Don’t leave your dog alone in a vehicle:

Elaine is among other things a professional dog walker, and while you might think that must be a simple thing to do, it requires knowledge and attention to detail as well as an overriding dedication to animal welfare. (I mentioned a tragic case from Canada – a dog walker who would take multiple dogs for walks reported them stolen one day. After a while she confessed: she forgot about her charges, left them in her van – and as dogs do in vehicles which may not seem hot to you – all of them died).

elaine dogs 3Like so many other people, she was only going to leave the dogs for a little bit of time: she got involved with other things; she forgot them. She didn’t think it was too hot: it was for animals that do not sweat and therefore can’t cool down any car, however comfortable to you or to me, can be a killer.

She didn’t think a few minutes (which turned into a few hours) could do any harm.

Every person who winds up killing their pet dog when it dies in a car has the same story.

This is one of the reasons that the Scottish SPCA has issued the advice: do not leave your dog alone in a car, truck or van. End of. There is another worrying reason not to leave your dog unattended in public, a reason that is increasing in frequency.

Dog theft:

Elaine and I discussed many anecdotes, including the guide dog ‘Tess’ which ‘went missing’ in Nairn. Coincidentally, a leading animal charity informed me that at the same time in the same area, 3 horses were stolen.

Dog thefts are a reality and they are increasingly frequent. In our area, dogs have mysteriously disappeared from back gardens (police theorise the garden gates weren’t shut or the dogs opened them – claims owners disagree with). The Police did issue a warning about thefts of dogs tied up in front of stores, malls and supermarkets. Tess is a curly coated black retriever and is micro chipped.

If she just went missing, she will still have her guide dog collar and harness on. If you see the dog or have any ideas where she might be, call 0800 6888 409.

On Aberdeen Beach a man was letting his dog run around without being on a lead; a stranger appeared from a sand dune, and started waving food at the dog; the dog went for it.

When the owner finally got to the scene, the stranger was trying to take the dog, using the excuse he somehow thought it was his dog. The owner got a description of the man who quickly made off. Going to the local police, you might have thought there would have been an investigation or even a report made. The police told the owner since nothing was stolen, they were not interested.

If anyone knows anything about animal theft, please get in touch with the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999 – and do let Aberdeen Voice know as well.

Lost or stolen dog? Act immediately:

If you lose your dog – let’s hope it’s not been stolen, and let’s hope it is micro chipped – call your vet and local vets, and let them know. I found a dog a month ago at the Cove Bay roundabout; while I put details of it on the Lost and Found pets Aberdeen City and Shire Facebook page, my colleague called the two nearest vets: one of them had just been called by the frantic owners.

Dog and owners were soon reunited. Micro chipping does help reunite lost pets and owners. Leave flyers in the area where the animal went missing; conduct thorough searches – cats especially wander into buildings/sheds which are then locked behind them.

elaine dogs 2Stolen pets wind up in a variety of situations –some are used for breeding – and illegal puppy mills mean money for unscrupulous people and lots of suffering for bitches and puppies. Exhausted, badly treated bitches are kept pregnant; the pups are sold as soon as they can be for large sums in some cases.
Some stolen animals are sold on websites such as Gum tree (which should know better, but that’s another story).

And some have a far worse fate.

If you see any lost or stray animals, try and rescue them if you can do so safely. If not, call the Scottish SPCA. Animals are being abandoned by people who simply get tired of them, who have no idea how to cope with illnesses or behaviour issues, or who have problems continuing to afford pets.

There is no excuse for dumping a pet at a roadside, in a box, in a park: domestic animals do not fend for themselves; they will be cold, hungry and frightened – and nothing good can come of it. Call someone to get help with your problems – don’t make your pet suffer for your lack of ability to cope.

Help is again available from many sources; start with some of the Facebook links in this article, or call the Scottish SPCA. Do not leave your animal alone to fend for itself.

Dog Fighting:

Dog fighting is real, it is increasing, and it happens in Aberdeen city and shire.

Dog fighting is – obviously barbaric and illegal. It is also a means for some dangerous, cruel people to make a quick bit of money. The dogs are forced to fight against their nature by torture. They are forced to exercise until they drop; bitches are used for breeding and then discarded / killed when exhausted. Smaller dogs, cats and other animals are fed to starved would-be fighting dogs to give them a blood lust.

A woman approached a man in Kincorth some years back; he had been walking a Staffordshire pit bull terrier. She told him he could make good money by fighting his dog. An anti dog-fighting campaign led to a tip off that dog fighting not only takes place in ‘the Gramps’ in Aberdeen, but indoors in parts of Torry.

If you know anything and do nothing about it, you are guilty of serious cruelty. If you think dogs like to fight, they most definitely do not. If you hear any dogs or animals crying in pain anywhere, please call the Scottish SPCA.

To avoid your animal getting caught up in this horrendous crime, do not leave them alone in public, get them micro chipped, keep an eye on cats, and report any suspicious activities.

Let’s not forget that a few years ago, two men in the north part of the city held down a girl’s pet cat, and encouraged a dog with them to savage it. Let’s not forget that a dead dog was found inside a suitcase in Torry which had been badly treated and starved. Let’s not forget that a dog with injuries was found in the city.

they want to and need to fit into your family to be well adjusted

It would be nice if the police led the way with an awareness campaign, but that’s not happening. If you want to distribute flyers in your area, get in touch with Aberdeen Voice, and we will send you some.

And if you want a pet? Please don’t contribute to the suffering involved in puppy mills; please take an animal that is already here – adopt.

Dog Rescue Charities:

Elaine Pirie supports and volunteers with ‘Friends of Bianca’ a Portuguese charity caring for and rehoming strays. Strays are a huge problem the world over; Elaine’s advice for every pet owner? ‘Fix your dog!’ Neutering your animal can help the growing problem of strays.

Elaine’s charity in Portugal is careful about rehoming animals, but she is concerned that so many foreign dog rehoming charities do no follow up. In fact, Elaine advises that many dogs rescued from overseas charities wind up unwanted and abandoned in the UK.

“People receive animals from abroad and then are dumping them here – or are not given a support network in the UK.”

The idea of owning a dog (or any pet for that matter) may be appealing – but if you don’t have the time and patience to make sure it is well trained, that you will feed it adequate portions of dog food, that you will exercise it and make it part of your family, then don’t get one. Dogs are pack animals; they want to and need to fit into your family to be well adjusted.

Studies have shown that dogs left along for long periods of time in a house spend most of that time by the door, awaiting the return of the owner.

If you are one of those people who think that you get a dog, chain it in your back yard and leave it alone, please think twice about doing anything so cruel and, well, nasty. Why get one if you don’t want to be with it? The Scottish SPCA is constantly rescuing neglected animals who are treated this way; again if you know of a dog which is neglected, underfed, badly treated, the Scottish SPCA wants to know about it.

Training:

Dogs require patient, kind and consistent training. There is never, ever a need to hit any animal. Your tone of voice, your commands will be all that a dog needs to know it has behaved badly – if you use one of the area’s excellent dog training services.

We unfortunately have a problem of people owning dogs, often status symbol powerful breeds, which have no idea how to control or train them: the many stories of children and adults mauled by dogs will often have bad training at the root.

This is not training; this is cruel bullying

We also have cases of dogs attacking other dogs in Aberdeen city parks. Guide dogs have even been attacked.

Avoid gimmicky trainers. The so-called ‘Mexican dog whisperer’ has been outed: he uses cruel electric shocks and spike chokers to get his ‘magical results’. The electrical shock devices are the same thing used by dog fighting gangs to get the dogs to attack other dogs.

The spike chokers consist of having two metal rods jab your dog in their throat every time you pull the leash. Neither item has any purpose other than to hurt and make a dog obey out of pain and fear. This is not training; this is cruel bullying. Campaigns are being waged to stop the sale of all such torture devices.

But enough of the bad stuff, back to the happy side of having a dog.

Dog Events:

Having a dog might be work – but it is also potentially a great way to have fun and keep fit. There are many charity walks, obedience competitions and dog and owner days out to be found in the city and shire. Next month there will be a fly ball event in Seaton Park. Dogs train to jump over hurdles and retrieve balls; it’s competitive – but the emphasis is on fun.

Friends of Bianca (a registered Scottish Charity) will have a fun walk on 28 September From Westburn Park on the Deeside Railway line.

Pet Information North East is another resource for information about dogs, dog-related events and talks, and to communicate with other dog owners.

Elaine’s two dogs are ready for home; another dog has entered BrewDog, and the excitement is just too much for this pair. Elaine takes her leave.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Aug 152013
 

By Bob Smith.

Sunshine floodin throwe the windas
Fillin rooms wi its golden glow
Memories o the fairmhoose kitchen
Ma mither workin tae and fro’
Birdsong burstin fae the hedges
Cocks crowin at the open doors
Yet peace an quairt  wis aa aroon
As wi wint aboot oor chores
Faint ripplin fae the dam weir
As its watters spill’t intae the burn
The Ord  jined wi the Leuchar
Alang  its banks I kent each turn
A still can smell the new mown hey
An surroonded bi the clover
A lay and listen’t tae the laverock
As heich abeen me it did hover
Stirks’ breath in November frosts
Content in the coort they stey
Jist slowly stirrin fae their rest
Fin aetin their neeps and hey
Collies barkin at the merest soond
Their alert sinses at the ready
Thae sentinels faa kept ye safe
Faa’s devotion wis ayewis steady

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image:  Hay Stacks© Taseret | Dreamstime Stock Photos
http://www.dreamstime.com/hay-stacks-free-stock-image-imagefree206796

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May 092013
 

The Scottish SPCA is appealing for information after an emaciated and wounded dog was found collapsed on a Stonehaven street.

Scotland’s animal welfare charity was called to help the two year old lurcher after a member of the public discovered him lying on the ground at Carron Gardens on Sunday afternoon (5 May).
The dog was dehydrated, starving, covered in painful wounds and suffering from a skin infection.

Animal Rescue Officer Karen Hogg collected the dog and took him to a local vet for treatment before transporting him to the Scottish SPCA’s Aberdeenshire Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre at Drumoak, where he has been given the name Conan.

Assistant Manager Debbie Innes said:

“We don’t know whether Conan has escaped from home or been abandoned by his previous owner, but it’s clear he has been severely neglected. A dog of Conan’s size and type should weigh around 28kgs but he’s only just 20kgs.

“He was very hungry and thirsty when he first arrived but we’ve been giving him small, regular meals and he’s eating well. His skin is red and inflamed and his wounds are painful to touch indicating he is likely to have been kept in dirty living conditions and on hard ground.

“Conan is responding well to treatment and painkillers are keeping him comfortable.  We can’t understand why anyone would treat an animal in this way, it’s heartbreaking.

 “Despite everything he’s been through Conan is a sweet-natured and gentle dog who has lots of love inside him and, once he’s recovered from this awful ordeal, we’ll be looking to find him a loving new home.”

Causing an animal unnecessary suffering is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. Anyone found guilty of doing so can expect to be banned from keeping animals for a fixed period or life. Anyone with information is being urged to contact the Scottish SPCA Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999.

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Apr 052013
 

Elaine Pirie of the Au-Pair Pet Centre has long been involved in animal issues, and now brings the Yellow Dog Project to the attention of Aberdeen Voice Readers.

I would like to highlight the importance of the Yellow Dog project UK. This is a global project which originated in Sweden and now involves around 20 different countries.

The idea is to make every one aware that some dogs need space, this can be signified by a yellow ribbon on the dog’s lead or the dog may be wearing a yellow bandana or vest.

Dogs need space for a variety of different reasons, they may be elderly and frail, recovering from illness or surgery, some may be in training, while others may be fearful and or reactive.

Aggressive dogs should always be muzzled in public but the yellow ribbon may help with this also, there are many reasons that a dog may be aggressive.  The world can be a very scary place for these dogs.

If any of you should see a dog wearing a yellow ribbon, bandana or vest, please recall your dogs and respect that some dogs need space.  Parents and schools could be of great help to raise the awareness, educating children not to run up to dogs, especially if they see the yellow ribbon.

Any one interested in knowing more about the Yellow Dog Project should visit www.yellowdoguk.co.uk. This is a non-profitable organisation with free posters which you can print off and post in your work place, school, community centre or park.

Those of us who own or walk yellow dogs thank you for your help and respect.

Nov 092012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s event’s in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly. 

Tally Ho!  This past week has been an exciting one on several counts.  The fireworks were amazing – when Nick Clegg tried to handle Question Time in Parliament, the poor man could not open his mouth without the Opposition attacking him.  Sadly, his friend(s) must have been confused, because they jeered him just as much as Labour did.

The speaker tried to calm the explosive situation to little avail.  Alas, going down in history for being heckled by both sides is possibly not what Mr Clegg intended.  (I recall he was helping Kate Dean with her image; that doesn’t seem to have worked out as intended, either).

It’s almost as if breaking one or two election pledges is not doing the LibDems any favours.  If things get any worse for Clegg, he’ll have to ask Kate to give him some popularity pointers.

On Sunday I ran into someone from the Scottish SPCA; there had been reports of an injured seal near Torry Harbour.  The Scottish SPCA couldn’t find the seal, nor could I.

Still, if anyone comes across any animals in distress, do call the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.  (The leaflet to combat dog fighting will be ready for distribution from Saturday, and anyone who wants to help give these out should get in touch with Aberdeen Voice).

There were delicious canapés at Malmaison, lots of delicious eats at Café 52, and BrewDog has some particularly gorgeous craft beers on tap.  Moreover, the Dog has re-released ‘Ghost Deer’ – a strong, amazing beer in brilliant packaging. Perhaps I’m drawn to the Deer-themed artwork for some inexplicable reason.

I’m told a t-shirt will be produced soon; it seems a chief BrewDog artist works in the Aberdeen BrewDog bar – do check out the shirts on offer; they are a good example of locally-created, wearable artwork.

This Friday night I look forward to some pampering at Lush, and then heading to the Masked Ball in Union Terrace Gardens.  It sounds like a very creative and elegant affair, and the Balmoral Group organisers are holding this event in aid of Friends of Anchor.  This charity seeks to buy equipment and improve things at the ARI for cancer patients; a most worthy cause.  Pictures to follow.

Also this week artist Nicky Cairney got in touch to share some haunting artwork on the theme of Tullos Hill; she found the Hill’s story very moving and inspired this artwork.  More of her work can be found at www.nickycairney.co.uk.

I am sure that despite the rocky ground, visible waste everywhere, ploughed up gorse, resultant smaller wildlife numbers, dead deer and a fraction of the 89,000 trees planted, this great project alone will help our eventual city of culture bid.

Perhaps the Turners and Constables of the future will flock to the hill to paint pictures of rusty metal and tainted earth.

Limousine Bull is re-grouping.  If you weren’t aware, this art resource was forced to leave its premises in Torry a few months back over a funding crisis – a crisis that any one of our great and good self-proclaimed patrons of the arts or culture-loving former city administration could have stepped in and solved for a four-figure sum.

I guess they had more important things to fund instead of supporting a gallery space, a teaching space, and affordable studios for up-and-coming artists in Aberdeen to work in, which brought people to Torry, and brought artists together.  After all, we have to prove we’re a city of culture.

Closer to home, despite non-stop editorialising in the City Garden Project Press, aka ‘The Aberdeen Press & Journal’, Labour are sticking to their election pledge and aren’t going to build the web.

Never a news organ to let beautiful artwork sit idle, the P&J have trotted out the luridly coloured concept drawings from the doomed CGP several times this week.  (I really must start forcing myself to look at all the old P&Js, and seeing if there has been a single issue over the past 2 years which didn’t have a web story on the first few pages – but I just can’t bear the thought of it).

Granite web supporters (i.e. Scottish Enterprise and its sprog ‘Visit Scotland’, ACSEF, and the construction industry) would have you believe that the web should still be the salvation of Aberdeen and the reason no one wants to lead our city of culture bid is that we didn’t turn our only city centre green space into a granite-clad spaghetti junction and we didn’t mulch our ancient trees.

Perhaps by building the theatre in front of the theatre they were trying to do for performing arts what they did for high street shops by building Union Square Mall?

What kind of youth culture exactly is going on here?

Should we be the City of Culture?  While I did address this with a definition a while ago, it seems timely to do it again.   As people try to make a living in the Arts in Aberdeen with or without government support (such as Limousine Bull), let’s take another look at the great expense – sorry – benefits of becoming a City of Culture..

Youth Culture: (compound noun; English) A given collection of style, behavioural, ideological characteristics shared by a given group of young adults.

Well, we do have youth culture in Aberdeen, and not just the long-running international youth festival.  During Bonfire events, a group of young people in Seaton decided to throw burning pieces of wood at fire-fighters, and shoot fireworks in the firemen’s directions.  A group of young people assaulted two men as well.  What kind of youth culture exactly is going on here?

I think the problem lies in there not being a granite web.  You build your web, create 6,500 jobs, and then there will be no further problems.

Skateboarding, graffiti, hanging around smoking  and underage drinking can all be centralised in the web, perhaps in a ‘youth culture zone’.  This will please everyone who insists Union Terrace Gardens are filled with old drunks and druggies – we’ll get in a better class of sub-culture.  Younger drunks.  This indeed will help our city of culture bid.

Perhaps these violent outbursts are because we have too many affordable, exciting things for young people to do, too many arts and music programmes, too many places for them to socialise and have fun.  I think there is room for further cuts to library opening hours, music tuition, art and craft provision and so on.

City of Culture: (compound noun, English)  A European designation given to a city for one year; the city is meant to then put out a varied programme of performing and visual arts.

Right, we are all agreed (apparently) – we want to bid for and win the coveted (?) City of Culture title.  As described in Old Susannah No. 82, this might mean spending a few million here and there on things like giant spiders (nice fit with the web) which Liverpool spent £2 million on.  It will definitely mean building lots of new structures!  Result!

The unhappy millionaire builders we have locally will get to give us more ground breaking (probably greenbelt breaking) glass box buildings, malls and parking spaces.

Of course we have lots of buildings in the public and private sectors which we could put back into use (via tax incentives, improvement notices, discount rents to arts groups and social projects), but there’s little in it on the building front, and that’s what the City of Culture is all about – building new stuff.

Since the City of Culture bid for Aberdeen is being linked to the web, it is in the news nearly as much as those lovely drawings of the flower-covered, sunny web design.  It is prompting much discussion and speculation.

A friend of mine asked me:

 “why can’t we just have lots of events like we do anyway, and give more support to our local up-and-coming artists without spending money on the City of Culture Bid?”

I guess some people just can’t grasp the concept.

Unexpected: (adjective) An event or result which could not have reasonably been projected or forseen.

Here’s a coincidence for you.  Liverpool spent millions on its 2008 bid to successfully become the City of Culture.  Then there was a little coincidence in 2009, totally unrelated to this wonderful honour.

According to the Liverpool Echo newspaper of 29 December 2009:-

“Row brewing over £11m budget cuts proposal by Liverpool city council

“SCRAPPING school uniform grants for needy children, closing children’s respite homes and swimming baths and slashing culture spending are among cuts proposed by cash-strapped city bosses.

 “They have also put forward the closure of the Park Road swimming baths in Toxteth and cutting culture funding by £400,000.

“The options have been put forward by officers as they try to plug an unexpected £11m gap in next year’s budget.”

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2009/12/29/row-brewing-over-11m-budget-cuts-proposal-by-liverpool-city-council-100252-25484325/

I suppose you couldn’t have expected that spending £2,000,000 on a giant spider, and spending  hundreds of thousands of pounds on the culture bid, and unknown quantities on management companies, events, building projects and so on in 2008 could have led to any financial hardships in 2009.  Who could have seen that coming??

The City of Culture was supposed to make everyone rich after all.  This promise of wealth has a bit of a familiar ring to it; I’m sure I’ve heard about some project somewhere in Aberdeen like that.

Old Susannah must write to Liverpool and ask them if they use the services of PriceWaterhouse Cooper when they make their financial forecasts.

Synthetic: (Adjective) something which has been artificially fabricated, as opposed to something that naturally grows.

Whether or not we get the City of Culture award, we can be glad we’re in a city which nurtures local talent, allows creative movements to grow, and encourages experimentation within the arts to occur organically.

Sure, there may not be any money for school music, arts programmes like Limousine Bull are being allowed to die, and talented fashion designers and video artists (like the unique Fraser Denholm) are leaving the city at an alarming pace to live and work elsewhere (heaven knows why they head to London and Glasgow).

Furthermore, the more cynical are asking whether no one wanted to take on the role of City of Culture director because we don’t retain our talent, because we don’t support the artists we do have enough, because we kicked Peacock in the teeth, because we don’t encourage children to take up art and music in school to a greater degree, and because there is no natural flowering of art in all the unused shops we have – which other cities manage to rent to artists on affordable bases.

No – the reason no one wanted the job is because we didn’t build the web.

But more importantly, we’ve got a couple of city council suits who are helping to sort our culture out.

These people have decided what ‘quarters’ parts of Aberdeen are.  We have the ‘merchant quarter’ on the green.  Sure, half of the shops are closed or closing, crippled by business rates, but we’ve put up signs saying ‘merchant quarter’ – so merchant quarter it is.

We must all rejoice in the arbitrary designating of ‘cultural quarters’, ‘merchant quarters’ ‘civic quarters’ and so on.  You can practically feel the difference when you step from the civic quarter into the merchant quarter can’t you?

In case you doubt Aberdeen City’s and ACSEF’s abilities to create awe-inspiring artwork and prose, here is a little something to keep you going until next week:   http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/nmsruntime/saveasdialog.asp?lID=38444&sID=14302

As you can appreciate, if you just let things happen, you wind up with places like Notting Hill Gate, Brick Lane and so on – areas that are a bit edgy and filled with unwashed artist and musician types.  Down with that sort of thing.  Remember to know what quarter of the city you’re in, and be glad someone more creative than you or I thought to slap labels on them.

Next week:  No quarter.

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Oct 042012
 

By Suzanne Kelly. 

Crime involving animals of all kinds, domestic, farm and wild, is on the increase throughout the UK.  There are a wide range of illegal, violent acts taking place up and down the country.  But there are things we can do to help stem the tide.
The details are upsetting.  Horses have been attacked in Cornwall recently, and wildlife crime has been reported in the Scottish Borders.

A golden eagle was killed recently in our own area. It probably suffered for days in an illegal trap.

Conviction is almost always a difficult business.  Thankfully, in Aberdeenshire, the successful prosecution of the Reid Brothers led to the exposure and end of a violent, vicious dog-fighting ring.  These people tortured the unfortunate animals, and for their pleasure filmed the dogfights.

Money is the main motivator. Bets on dogs, though highly illegal, are still making money for those involved.  The dogs are treated inhumanely from birth, usually born to a mother who is kept perpetually pregnant then simply disposed of when worn out.

Even worse, the enjoyment of cruelty is why some people get involved in this crime.

Here is a link to the September 2011 STV story on the Reid Brothers’ conviction. It is distressing.
http://news.stv.tv/north/271235-two-barbaric-brothers-jailed-for-dog-fighting/

But it is also an encouraging story.  The Courts took this case very seriously and imposed custodial sentences on the Reids, who had 6 dogs being trained for fighting.  The ring was exposed, the dogs which the Reids had were rescued, and awareness was raised.

The Scottish SPCA’s undercover work helped bring about this conviction. It believes that there are others in our area involved in dog-fighting, and that it is still going on. There are reports that fighting might be taking place in Torry and Kincorth.

How to help

If a dog fight is about to take place or is going on:  it is very rare that the authorities get a lead like this, but it happens. Call the police emergency number – 999, or call the Scottish SPCA hotline – 0800 999 4000.

John Robins of the Animal Concern Advice Line said;

“People involved in dog fighting can be extremely dangerous. Dog fighting is a very serious crime and anyone who stumbles across a dog fight or has possible evidence of dog fighting should not try to intervene but immediately dial 999 and alert the police.”

If you know anything about dog fighting: please get in touch anonymously with the police, the Scottish SPCA, and/or Crimestoppers.  You can help save innocent animals from torture.  Dogs do not naturally wish to fight each other, and if you knew the barbaric things done to these animals to make them into fighters, you would want it ended.

Many people involved in acts of animal cruelty have gone on to harm people when the thrill from animal cruelty is no longer enough. This interest in hurting animals escalating to violence against people is not uncommon in killers and serial killers.

If you have seen any animals mistreated:  please get in touch with the authorities as above, anonymously if you wish.  The people who can help need as much information as they can get.

If you have any suspicions. Dogs that have obvious signs of injuries, either bodily or facial may be involved in dog fighting.  If you have any suspicions it is important that you bring them to the Scottish SPCA’s attention.  Either they can rule out cruelty and dog fighting, or they can start to build a pattern, and hopefully rescue animals from further cruelty.

There will be a leafleting campaign taking place shortly in the south of the city.  If you wish to get involved, get in touch.

Anyone who is not comfortable calling the Scottish SPCA, the police, or Crimestoppers can send an email , for non-urgent matters such as suspected dog fighting, to stop.dogfights@yahoo.co.ukYou can also write to that email address to go on an anonymous mailing list. No one else will get your details.

PS:  it is also Staffie Awareness  Week.  Staffordshire terriers are lovely animals, and deserve the same treatment and kindness as any other dog breed.

Contacts.

Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Hotline 0800 999 4000; website  http://www.scottishspca.org/

Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL)
John F. Robins, Secretary, c/o Animal Concern,
Post Office Box 5178, Dumbarton G82 5YJ.
Tel 01389-841111.,
Mobile: 07721-605521. Fax: 0870-7060327.
Website http://adviceaboutanimals.info

Grampian Police
Emergencies:  999.  Non-emergency number:  0845 600 5700.

Crimestoppers
Tel.  0800 555 111

Email for any leads
stop.dogfights@yahoo.co.uk

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Aug 312012
 

Lush Aberdeen in conjunction with eight other Lush stores throughout Scotland is holding a ‘Willows Weekend’ in association with Willows Animal Sanctuary and Animal Assisted Therapy Unit.

Willows work tirelessly to look after over 300 animals including almost 70 horses, donkeys and ponies approximately 60 cats and dogs and many reptiles as well as over 100 farm animals and birds.

They specialise in helping elderly or more vulnerable animals that have already been refused help by well-known larger national charities and are totally dependent on donations, legacies and grants from benevolent organizations to keep the sanctuary running.

Willows Animal Sanctuary is the largest sanctuary of its type in the Aberdeenshire area and it is a constant struggle for this non-profit organisation to raise the enormous funds needed to feed, house and provide veterinary care for the many animals under their protection.

Their Animal Assisted Therapy Unit has benefitted many disabled and vulnerable people in the community and this service has become a highly valued aspect of the Sanctuary.

Deborah Cowan, store manager for Lush Aberdeen had this to say:

“We’re thrilled to be able to provide this opportunity to raise much needed funds for Willows, and we’re really excited that all nine Scottish Lush stores have come on-board to support this wonderfully worthwhile charity. We will have flyers in store that have information about Willows, as well as info about a few of the adoptable animals looking for their forever homes.

“Willows have also kindly provided footage of the sanctuary and the animals which we will be playing instore. “

All proceeds excluding VAT from sales of Charity Pot hand and body cream on Saturday and Sunday the 1st and 2nd of September will go to Willows to help support the amazing work that they do.

Lush Aberdeen will be providing in-store activities on the day and are encouraging people to bring in any old pillowcases and clean plastic shopping bags. These will become the stuffing for the pillowcase mattresses that the Team will make for the many cats and dogs and other small animals that call Willows their home. They are also encouraging people to donate any pet food that they can spare.

Deborah also stated,

“All people have to do to show their support, is come into any Lush store in Scotland this weekend and purchase a Charity Pot hand and body cream. Lush make no money from this beautiful product, and for this weekend only, all proceeds excluding VAT will go to Willows. We have 3 sizes to choose from and to say thank you for your purchase here in Aberdeen, customers can make their very own Space Girl or Blackberry Bath Bomb!”

The stores taking part are: Aberdeen, Glasgow Sauchihall St, Glasgow Buchannan St, Glasgow Braehead, Livingston, Dundee, Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh.

Many of the above stores will also advertise the event on their shop Facebook pages so to find out about what is happening in your local area, use the Facebook search function to find your local shop.

Find out more about Willows at their website: http://www.willowsanimals.com/ The Charity has regular open days that are a perfect day out for the whole family.

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Jun 222012
 

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, has pledged her support to a Guide Dogs’ campaign to highlight the issue of guide dogs being attacked by other dogs and recently met with guide dog owners and their assistance dogs to listen to their own experiences.

Research by the charity has revealed that more than eight guide dogs are attacked every month.  These attacks can result in the guide dogs being unable to work and, in some cases, they can never work again.

This can have a devastating impact on the owner as they are then unable to go out independently whilst they wait for a new guide dog.

This also has financial implications for the charity, which pays the full costs of a guide dog – approximately £50,000 throughout its lifetime.

Guide dog owner William Sharkey told Dame Anne about an incident involving his assistance dog Lily:

“As a newly qualified guide dog owner, I was very angry when Lily was attacked by two dogs in Aberdeen city centre.  I was particularly horrified that the owner took no action to restrain their dogs and afterwards I didn’t think it was worth reporting to the police as I was unable to identify the owner.  The incident really knocked Lily’s confidence and it took some time for her to return to her normal self.”

Although the recent announcement by the Westminster government to introduce compulsory micro-chipping in England is a welcome step forward, there is still  more work needed to protect guide dogs and their owners from these vicious attacks.

With concern increasing about the number of attacks by other dogs on guide dogs, the charity is also calling on the Government to give police the power to treat an attack on an assistance dog as seriously as an attack on a person.

David Cowdrey, Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs said:

“There were 147 attacks on guide dogs between June, 2010 and December, 2011.  

“We believe that an attack on an assistance dog should be considered as an attack on the person, to reflect the fact that a guide dog is a vital mobility aid and that such attacks are very distressing for people who are already vulnerable.”

Dame Anne said:

“I was shocked to hear of the high number of attacks on guide dogs, as are those constituents who have contacted me about this issue and I will be lobbying the government to ensure meaningful measures are introduced to protect guide dogs and their owners.  

“Although the Scottish Government has already rejected compulsory micro-chipping, I hope that they will follow suit to ensure that guide dogs in Scotland are protected.  

“I would also call on anyone who witnesses an attack on a guide dog to help the police in identifying the offending owner.” 

Jun 142012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Old Susannah continues her romp through Aberdeen City Council’s A to Z of services, and  considers two very different ‘Mr Smiths’, and dog’s dinners.  By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  The burning issues of the past week include Olympic torches and scorching internet debate following Annie Lennox’s article in the Guardian.  In this piece Lennox suggests that Aberdeen might have some issues  and that the City Garden Project is ‘a dog’s dinner.’

In the first place as Mr Tom Smith (ACSEF, City Garden Trust, guru of truth, etc. etc.) points out, Annie doesn’t have all the facts.  Mr Smith will be happy to supply them to her.  This will be a historic first, considering ACSEF’s previous economy with said facts.   But what a result!  Tom Smith’s kindly offered to meet Annie!  I bet she’s wondering what to wear to any such meeting and is all nervous and excited.  Who could blame a girl? (Do I get a meeting invite as well, Tom, seeing as I was head of one of the official referendum campaign groups?).

I’m happy to admit I don’t have all the facts, either –  I keep asking for them, but I still don’t have them.  For one thing, I don’t know what comments people wrote on the voting slips when the six shortlisted designs were on show.  At the time comments and votes were requested (and paid for by the taxpayer).  Somehow, a private company, Aberdeen City Gardens Trust, seems to have the votes.  Tom is one of the people with access to them, and won’t let us see the results.  It wouldn’t be helpful, you see, to release this information.

I also don’t know the concrete web’s final business plan and its financial projections.  I also don’t know what the architectural drawings specify in any detail.  I don’t know what went on at the many meetings held to further the web.  I only  have ‘redacted’ (that’s with the details hidden) minutes of all those City Gardens Projects meetings you and I paid for (we’ve spent at least £600k on consultants and services for the granite web – you know, the project which won’t cost us a penny).  Call me over-cautious, but before I’d agree to borrow £90 million and commit to spending £140 million on a plan with no details, I’d want something a bit more concrete (excuse the expression).

I also don’t know the latest on Mr Smith’s front page P&J story from when he claimed UTG supporters were ‘harassing’ him and his family, and illegally hacking into his email.  You would have thought that had laws been broken, he’d have raced to the papers with the update. Otherwise, it just looks like a cynical manipulation of the press close to the referendum vote.    But all in all, I admit I don’t have these minor little facts.

But never mind the facts (which we’ve been asked to do so far) – once Tom’s had a word with Annie Lennox, she’ll be joining ACSEF, moving to Union Terrace and supporting the web.  Rumours that she has switched PR companies to Aberdeen’s BiG remain unconfirmed.

But Ms Lennox’ calling the Granite Web ‘a dog’s dinner’ in the Guardian was hardly fair.  Firstly, if you tried to feed such slop to a poor dog, it would slink away howling into the night, and the Scottish SPCA would step in, like they did to Dumfries & Galloway’s NHS supremo, one Mr Michael Keggens.  Because of his busy job and busy life, Keggens left his elderly dog without food and water, locked in the house for days.  Easy mistake to make I’m sure.

The Scottish SPCA were alerted to the dog barking, and found the poor thing alone in the house, caked in muck with not even water to drink.  Feeding the dog and returning a day later, the Scottish SPCA found the situation hadn’t changed.  Apparently living things need food and water, but you can’t expect someone high up in the NHS to know details like that.  Remember this the next time you hear of an elderly or infirm patient suffering dehydration. (PS – the Scottish SPCA is desperate for help just now, as are New Arc and Willows – if you can spare anything, please think about it).

Back to Mr Smith, well a Mr Smith anyway.  Old Susannah had a sudden urge this week to re-watch the old Jimmy Stewart film, ‘Mr Smith goes to Washington.’  Yes, it’s heavy on the sentiment and American values.  But the gist of the plot is this:  a corrupt, wealthy circle of small town businessmen and elected officials are milking the taxpayers; they have a crooked construction scheme (for a dam – a granite web would have been too far-fetched even for Hollywood).  These crooks have been sucking up public money, conspiring, and hiding the facts of their self-serving plans from the electorate.  This somehow sounds familiar.

In comes naive, honest Mr Smith, newly elected to the Senate, where people expect he will just do as the villains tell him to do.  He eventually finds out about all the corruption, and fights it (and he wins).  By the way, one of the most powerful weapons which the wealthiest crooked businessman has is his ability to dictate to the local press what to cover, how to cover it, and what to leave out of the news.

In the end ‘people power’ and truth win out over greed, corruption and manipulation.  I guess that’s Hollywood for you.  I’m still stumped as to why I thought of this film and wanted to see it again, but it will come to me.

Before I continue with my search through Aberdeen City Council’s A to Z of ‘services’, I’d like to say that I’m greatly looking forward to next Saturday’s (23 June) party in Union Terrace Gardens, courtesy of Common Good Aberdeen.  Hope to see you there.  And congratulations on the unanimous decision for a cafe in UTG to be run by Common Good Aberdeen volunteers, with 100% of profits going to improving the gardens.  A result in the truest sense.

I would also like to say a sincere thank you to the Guardian for its investigations, and to Ms Lennox (who can’t win – she gets it in the neck if she says anything, and gets it in the neck if she doesn’t.  But I dare say she knows what’s important and what she’s doing, and petty, small-minded criticism can’t stop her.  More power to her, as they say).

Now back to Aberdeen City’s A to Z of services.

M is for Marischal College: – Result!  ACC gutted this building, fitted it out with new furniture for some of the council staff, and boasted widely how wonderful it was – it only cost around £60,000,000 and it ‘came in on time and under budget’.  You can’t say fairer than that, can you?

Of course we never got to see a list of what the alternatives for council office space were (Old Susannah did do a FOI, knowing there is a ton of empty space owned by ACC out there – but was told this information was top secret).  Marischal may have been under budget, but what the budget was for other solutions was never disclosed.

Marischal workers are also under something else, and it’s not budget.  The problem I reported earlier with leaking toilet pipes hasn’t entirely been solved.  It must be kind of stimulating – you never know what’s going to land on your desk if you work at Marischal.

N is for National Fraud Initiative: – No, it’s not an initiative to strip the taxpayer of as much money as possible, it means that:-

“…Aberdeen City Council is required by law to protect the public funds it administers. We may share information provided to us with other bodies responsible for auditing or administering public funds, in order to prevent and detect fraud.”

We’ll have to wait and see if the new administration can do as well as the previous one at preventing fraud.  Let’s see – we had Councillor Cassie and his little financial embarrassment.  We had ‘care’ workers stealing from their elderly clients, we’ve had social workers buying themselves goods with our money;  we’ve had people at the council offices taking their work home with them (in the form of embezzled funds).

There is a saying: steal something small and you’ll go to jail; steal something big and they’ll make you a legend.  Steal an entire Victorian Park and put it into private hands to manage?  They’ll make you an ACSEF member.

O is for Open Data: – As the Council tells us,

“Open data is about increased transparency, about sharing the information we hold with the wider community to build useful applications.”

There is a link to this open data –

“We now have a linked data repository, available at: http://linkeddata.aberdeencity.gov.uk/ which provides a number of data sets as linked data. “

Please do be my guest and visit this link.  But if you’re looking for any controversial data, I’m not sure this will be much help to you.

P is for Package Holidays: – the City is giving us advice on consumer protection regarding package holidays.   Result!

I wonder whether the previous Lord Provost did a package holiday when he went on some of his essential world-wide trips in order to save the city some money.  His visit to Nagasaki clearly worked wonders, and I hear the Japanese want to get rid of some of their tedious green space to build granite webs.

There was a tartan created to commemorate the visit as well.  While we were spending all this money on his designer jeans, clothes, travel, portraits and so on, we sensibly have just auctioned off some of the artefacts from Thomas Glover House.  Glover, you may recall, was for all intents the man who most helped to open up Japan to the outside world, and his house in Aberdeen was a monument to him and his travels.

I wonder if they’ve sold the doorknobs, light bulbs and light switches from the Glover house yet?

Q is for…. nothing:  There are no entries.  Nothing about quality of services, quality of life, nothing.  That’s because things are so good, there’s nothing left to say.  (X has no listings, either, FYI).

R is for Rats:  If any of you have read the previous columns about the city’s A to Z of services, you will suspect correctly that this link takes you back to the city’s exterminator services.  The city will happily kill rats, rodents, insects, and a whole host of critters for you, for a fee.  And as we sadly know, they’ll shoot deer.

Next week:  Expect an update on the Tullos Hill deer slaughter story, the remainder of the alphabet, and a return to definitions as normal.

PS – I have learnt a great deal from the online debate sparked from the Guardian’s Annie Lennox story.  But most importantly, I’ve learnt you are not allowed to criticise a place unless you live in it.  Therefore, let’s have no more carping on about the situations in Syria, Iraq, Tibet, Myanmar, DRC, and so on.  Glad that’s settled.

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