dogs in dublin

Issue 9 December 2021

Image by Mike Blank
PIC Mike Blank

the lively eMagazine shimmering substance with  sun

White Fabric

full edition of emag page

in laptop format only

contents of  emag page
full edition


  1. my dogs and me  by the editor

  2. lead story -  no surprises puppy-wise  by Thomas Cantwell

  3. christmas dreams by  Steffi Baker

  4. hazard free christmas by Desmond Purcell

  5. character cracker by Diana Darcy

  6. my pick from archive  by Thomas Cantwell

  7. go from ordinary  to extraordinary - outdoors with your dog and the wren

  8. christmas box -  down by an open gate by Agnes Chatfield


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Image by Mike Blank

my dogs and me


For me Christmas is a time to remind myself to follow my dreams.

The darkness of mid-winter is illuminated with an abundance of fairy lights and dreamy things.


It's all too easy to be blinded by the pressure to buy things, to do things, to send things.


Hidden behind all of this I find a tranquil sense of benevolence.  A warmth that generates a festive glow, a unique generosity of spirit.

'dogs in dublin' eMagazine wishes all our readers the very best of things this Christmas.


In true festive spirit, Kirstin recalls a recent walk. 

We passed an elderly woman.  Her bike was parked against a lamp post.  She was actively engaged in taking a photograph of an elderly man.

The man was standing tall beside a wall.  A heron stood proudly on the wall behind him.

It seemed as though the woman was just cycling by and the man asked her to take a photo of the scene with his phone.

She did it with great care indeed.

On the other hand Karl squirms when he thinks of what happened him recently out there on the pavement.

We were crossing at Brighton Avenue when I noticed a sudden change in Karl's gait.  

We stopped.  I lifted his right paw.  Sitting in the middle of it was a piece of severed clear glass.

Carefully I removed the foreign object with my finger.  There was an indentation left behind.  The skin wasn't broken though.

Karl was happy in the world again.  We continued on our walk.

There is so much glass on the pavement these days!

Image by Lucas van Oort
PIC Lucas Van Oort

no surprises puppy-wise

Image by Mike Blank
by Thomas Cantwell

It is the festive season and all dog charity groups are united in one voice – don’t give puppies as Christmas presents.  Very good advice but are we in the mood to listen? Have we ‘maxed out’ on the amount of ‘advice’ we can absorb – regardless of how well meaning it might be?

Thanks to the pandemic over the last two years, we have been bombarded with a never-ending stream of frustrating guidelines, contrary health advice, diktats which have no respect for civil rights along with a generous helping of reprimands and slaps on the wrists for those of us who don’t always bend the knee to the party line. If that wasn’t bad enough, we also have the climate change zealots warning us of Armageddon if we still insist on enjoying a cosy, sparkling fire. 

Image by Jakob Owens
PIC Jakob Owens

Unfortunately drowned out by this cacophony a serious cri de coeur on behalf of our furry friends may not be heard – but heard it must be. The ISPCA warns: “Pets do not make good Christmas gifts and should never be given as a surprise.  There are a number of unscrupulous breeders who cater for the Christmas market so buyers please beware.” So, the message is – don’t buy a puppy on impulse – it is a process and buy it at any other time of the year except Christmas.

It may be very tempting to have a cuddly little pup looking so cute in his festive red bow waiting under the Christmas tree for little Paul or Aisling as they storm into the front room to see what Santa has delivered. It will be love at first sight but may quickly sour when the new arrival piddles (or worse) on the carpet, chews up everything in sight and barks the house down.

Image by Rhaúl V. Alva
PIC Rhaul V Alva

Be under no illusion but that love will certainly vanish when the realisation hits home that someone has to look after the dog’s regular needs such as exercise, health care, diet and grooming. Too often nobody wants to take charge and the animal is dumped and joins the tragic band of 11,000 dogs which are abandoned in Ireland every year including those got during the lockdowns and later discarded because their owners didn’t research the exacting commitment involved.

Carmel Murray of the ISPCA points out “It is not the case that on Stephen’s Day we see an influx of unwanted pets being abandoned, however we do see a problem later in the spring and summer months when pet owners plan to go on holiday and realise, they need to pay kennelling fees.  At this stage puppies may have lost the ‘puppy appeal’ and are growing fast and becoming a nuisance due to the lack of training and socialisation”.

Image by Bruce Galpin
PIC Bruce Galpin

If the family really want a dog, then you must seriously examine the strength of your commitment and make sure the whole household is on board. To find out if you all have the right stuff for the challenge ahead – which could last up to ten years or more - click onto the dogsindublin archive and the October edition where my colleague Desmond Purcell in his article ‘A serious case of Paws for Thought’ points out just how tough that challenge will be.

If you have second thoughts then drop the adorable puppy for Christmas idea and buy your offspring a bicycle, a smart phone or anything else you don’t have to clean up after or walk in the pouring rain.

by Steffi Baker

christmas dreams

Image by Alex Williams
PIC  Alex Williams
Image by Mike Blank

Even when my life seems to be tumbling down around me I find safety in going to bed.  More often than not I dream.  Sometimes the dreams are pleasant.  When sleep doesn’t happen I lie awake in the middle of the night comfortably.  It’s only when first light appears with the sense of having to face another day of being awake that I feel afraid again.


Christmas is so cleverly packaged by consumerism as a time to make dreams come true.  As most of us seem to believe that having new things will make us happy, it’s certainly a case of laughing all the way to the bank for promoting product providers.  We are both sublimely and blatantly encouraged to dream about what we do not have.  I wonder what do dogs dream about at Christmas.

Image by Samuel Foster
PIC Samuel Foster

Dogs seem to share our sleep pattern in the sense that they sleep at night.  As dogs in the wild tend to be active at dawn and dusk, it’s reasonable to conclude that domesticated dogs probably have adapted to our ways by virtue of living closely with us for so long.  According to behaviourist Jill Woodman, unlike us, dogs can spend a fifth of the day in a drowsy state, a transition stage between sleep and wakefulness, probably a throw-back to when they needed to stay alert to dangers creeping up on them while resting.  ‘We now know they dream about experiences and re-enact them in their dreams, as we do’ Jill confirms. 

I’ve found dogs to be generally more active in the morning.  Many like to indulge the continental siesta concept in the afternoon so probably end up spending more time sleeping than the average eight hours we are supposed to do.  Even the largest, aggressive-looking dog appears vulnerable now.  Seeming significantly less present, this reduction in awareness of what is actually going on is probably what facilitates dreaming.  I like to watch them dream.

PIC Mark Zamora
Image by Mark Zamora

This Christmas I’m dreaming of finding the way to be more comfortable alone with myself.  I’m grateful to know that this is where personal happiness begins.  Thankfully the days of thinking that if I have this or that I will be happy are long past.  Now I can only be amused by the way-out advertisements or at least that’s how they seem to me.  This festive season I hope that I will spend time watching my dog dream in the afternoon.  Now I know that I am not imagining it.  Whatever about sleep and dreams there is one constant I can count on.  Like a magic wand, when I open the biscuit tin full of Bonio, the dog will appear instantly beside me.  Here’s to Christmas dreams!

Image by Norman Tsui
PIC Norman Tsui
Reference made to Jill Woodman writing in Edition Dog 37

hazard free  christmas

by Desmond Purcell 
Image by Mathilde Langevin
PIC Mathilde Langevin
Image by Mike Blank

Christmas can be a very dangerous time for our furry friends. The tree, the lights, the decorations, the festive food and drink – all pose significant hazards.  But a few good safety tips put into place now can avoid frantic calls to whatever vet is on Christmas day duty in your area.

A trawl through the internet will yield some handy advice about ensuring your dog has a hazard-free Christmas and the barkingroyalty.com site is particularly informative. What you must watch out for can be summarised as follows:

Image by Alisa Anton
PIC Alisa Anton
  • Decorations – Ornaments can be deadly especially for a pup who could swallow and choke on them. Glass items can cause cuts to the paws, mouth and more serious damage to the digestive tract. Keep them out of reach on the higher branches of your Christmas tree.  Better to use plastic instead. Avoid tinsel as it glitters and is therefore a magnet for playful dogs. Even a few snippets of tinsel ingested can cause nasty problems and (expensive) surgery may be required.

  • Christmas tree – the needles on a live tree can be mildly toxic to our canine buddies and can cause irritation to mouth and stomach.  The lights also present hazards because many canines – especially pups – will see the electrical cords as ripe for chewing with very unpleasant outcomes – an electric shock and/or a fire.  Cover up the wires and put the lights up higher.  Specialised tree water is another danger as it contains pesticides and fertilizers which can be fatal to dogs and humans alike. Play safe and give your canine buddy only limited access to the tree and none whatsoever when he is not supervised.

Image by Clement BB
PIC Clement BB
  • Festive plants - a kiss under the mistletoe may bring some romantic cheer but the plant is poisonous to dogs – so keep them well away. Holly berries are also a no-no.

  • Chocolate – should be avoided at all costs and the darker it is the more lethal it becomes. Even small amounts can cause vomiting, tremors, heart problems and possibly death. Highly toxic so keep it out of harm’s way.

  • Alcohol – It is careless to leave unattended booze lying around as too much tipple hits our furry buddies just like ourselves – drowsy, unsteady on the paws and maybe even a coma.

  • Leftovers – animal welfare group Bluecross warns that some festive fare has ingredients very toxic to dogs so be very careful about what titbits they get. For example, mould in leftovers which include yoghurt, bread and cheese can lead to convulsions.

Safe Christmas treats – If you do want to treat your dog to some festive titbits there are foods which are not toxic although Bluecross advises it is best not to interfere with your furry friend’s regular balanced diet.  In very small quantities the following foods are safe – assuming your dog is not allergic to them: turkey without skin or bones; salmon but not smoked; lamb, no bones; scrambled egg; green beans; sprouts; parsnips; carrots; peas, apples and potatoes, without butter.

So, the best gift you can give your canine buddy is to keep him happy and safe over the yuletide season. A few simple steps can ensure that preventable accidents can be avoided and your household’s Christmas festivities are not spoiled.

Better to be safe than sorry!

Image by Alison Marras
PIC Alison Marras

character cracker

by Diana Darcy
Image by Mike Blank

It’s Christmas time.  For many it is their favourite time of year.  In spite of the horrendous commercialism which the festive enthusiast cleverly manages to seamlessly side-step, it is a special time to have fun.  A time to feel generous and kind, to chill-out and relax.    


Others try to ignore the festive season.  For the grinch it is a time to be grumpy and cranky when long-held grudges come to the surface.  Sufferance is the order of the day.  They feel forced to be around people who make them feel bad.

PIC Karen Mork
Image by Karen Mork

What do dogs think about Christmas?  According to Holly Leake in Edition Dog issue 37, current scientific thinking concludes that the dog has the same emotional intelligence as a toddler of two and a half.  Having lived with dogs I find myself naïvely questioning if empirical science is indeed capable of measuring the true capacity of a dog.  Can the experiments conducted really tell everything that there is to know? 

PIC Daniel Cano
Image by Daniel Cano

All I can say is that when an intelligent dog looks deep into my eyes I see more there than I do when a human does the same thing.  It’s so easy to explain things away.  We’re told that we are interpreting the animal from a human point of view.  How else can we interpret?  Besides, in the larger scale of things humans are animals.  Why is it then that the animal can make me feel that he is interpreting me from a place of great wisdom?  That he can see what most humans miss.


He doesn’t care how old I am or how ugly I look.  It’s nothing to him whether I am successful at work or if I’ve been drawn over the coals for bad decision-making.  Neither does it matter if the neighbour declares me to be divine or to be avoided like the plague.  In my experience I have found that what really matters to animals is the character of the person.

Given that too often humans demonstrate poor judgement of character, I have to elevate the dog and the cat.  How can we judge character accurately when we are for the most part taken in by the trappings presented to us?  Not alone do we judge others by the persona they display but we also show a shocking willingness to take on board the established collective judgement of others about someone without even considering the justice of checking it out for ourselves.  It seems to me that humans are becoming increasingly manipulated by vested interests who set up their stall to divide and conquer.

Image by Melanie Hughes
PIC Melanie Hughes

Dogs check everyone and every dog out.  There is no such thing as ‘I’ll take your word for it.’  And not only dogs.   Although it happened long ago, I still remember with pain the time I was ripped off by the estate agent in charge of the apartment I was renting for a holiday in France.  I was surprised when so untrue to form my normally people-friendly social cat refused to come out of his carrier to greet her.  A few weeks later instead of the return of my deposit I found my bank account debited by €300.  How I wished then I had given the credence he deserved to the prudent cat.


Dogs can sense our emotions so consequently at Christmas will probably tend to be more evasive with the grinch and positively playful with the festive enthusiast.  But, consistent, accurate judgement of character puts them on a different planet to most of us.  It’s probably the reason I find so much comfort and joy in the company of animals at Christmas.

Image by Jeremy Bezanger
PIC Jeremy Bezanger

my pick from  archive...

Image by Mike Blank
by Thomas Cantwell

'dogs in dublin' eMagazine is zany and zesty but also highlights the life enhancing potential generated by the relationship between dog and owner. How with a little bit of sensitivity and imagination our dogs can help us gain deeper insights into the various vicissitudes of our lives.  The ‘true to yourself’ piece in the October edition is an elegant example of this.

 A harmonious walk with a dog is rudely interrupted when he sees a black cat. All seemed well with the world before the feline appeared. Now the dog with all his being is totally focussed on the cat. He has become a force of nature, out of control and the owner is seriously challenged – just like adversity challenges us.

Seamlessly the reader is presented with a wider question – how do we deal with adversity?  Just like the black cat and the dog it can hit us out of the blue, often something over which we have no control.  We feel pain, fear, anger and frustration. But just as composure will be restored between dog and owner when the cat vanishes, we too can restore harmony between ourself and the world simply, as the title indicates, by being 'true to yourself'.

Image by Ergita Sela
PIC Ergita Sela

 from archive
October emag page

Image by Mike Blank

true to yourself and your dog

by the editor

When your dog is walking along happily beside you it’s easy to feel good about things.  The dog is in tune with himself, you are listening to yourself and together you make a pair to be envied.  When all is going well between you and your dog it’s even hard to recall a time when it was ever otherwise. 

PIC Leio McLaren

Adversity presents a very different picture though.  Then your large dog sees a small black cat.  He instantly becomes fixated by it.  As he is a big dog he can be hard to control.  He loses sight of everything else for that brief period of time.  He may stand up on his hinds and you may feel that you are going to be toppled.  He may do this in the middle of the road that you are trying to cross to get him away from the small black cat.  Nothing is on his mind now except that cat.  You are seriously challenged.

PIC James Barker

So what does adversity mean to you as you strive to be true to yourself and your dog?  In short, adversity is an unfortunate happening or circumstance.  It knows no boundaries.  It can apply to the physical, mental, emotional, financial and social aspects of our lives.  Like the dog, it is how we respond to adversity that really defines it.  There is a choice  says Gary Savoie.  You can define adversity or you can let adversity define you.

Image by James Barker

Facing pain is something that we and our dogs like to shy away from.  The animal tries to hide it.  What we do to avoid it is frankly unbelievable except that we do.  Yet, pain must be faced.  If it isn’t it will keep presenting itself to be faced over and over and over again.

Things happen to us and our dogs that we have no control over.  The impact can be staggering.  We may even find that the source of this personal tragedy was ignorance so unintentional.  Like the dog, we have to deal with the emotional impact but the process needs to be finite.  Things that happened outside of our control cannot be allowed to control our emotions forever if we have indeed chosen to define adversity. 

Image by Alysha Rosly
PIC Alysha Rosly

The consequences of things that happened to us and our dogs, especially things that happened in very early life, simply have to be lived with.  It is amazing what dogs with a bad start can achieve with sensitive, capable handlers.  Our lives have been shaped by the deed, whatever the nature of it, whether intended or not.  The best we can do is acknowledge the fact.  Face the pain.  Accept the impact.  Stop comparing with those who had a solid background.  Seek a way to succeed regardless.


The first step to overcoming adversity is becoming mentally prepared says Gary Savoie.  Anyone who has faced their pain successfully will agree wholeheartedly with him that beneath the pain lies power.  Like the dog does everyday, it’s about accepting what is in an awake way.  Listening to the thoughts.  Feeling the emotion as well as you can.  However uncomfortable, it simply is now.  Accepting what is can put it up to us.  We might even think that we accept but can later find out that the acceptance was only partial.   More still to do.  As you walk quietly with your dog, use the peace between you to practice letting go, to talk positively with yourself.

PIC Stefen
Image by Stefan

Just as the dog regains his composure once removed from the cat, so we can be true to ourselves by choosing to define adversity as opposed to allowing it to define us.  Whatever way we go, how we handle adversity is paramount to succeeding in life.

Reference made to Gary Savoie, laughatadversity.com
Image by Amee Fairbank-Brown
PIC  Amee Fairbank-Brown

‘The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,

St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,

Although he was little his honour was great,

Jump up me lads and give him a treat.


Up with the kettle and down with the pan,

And give us a penny to bury the wren.’

go from ordinary to
Image by Mike Blank

outdoors with your dog and the  wren

The wren is a tiny brown bird with a loud voice.  You and your dog will more likely hear the rich continuous trills, ascending notes and clear timbres of the beautiful, complex and melodious song.  If you are very lucky you might notice a male wren perched high, his short narrow tail cocked vertical, exposed to the elements with rounded body quivering as he sings.  Although seemingly invisible for the most part, wrens can be found in woodland, farmland, heathland and moorland and are regular visitors to most gardens.  Your dog may suddenly stop and focus into the hedgerow because wrens spend much of their time foraging with cover.

Image by Joshua J. Cotten
PIC  Joshua J Cotten

According to bto.org, each wren population is closely adapted to its local climate and this determines their resilience to severe winter weather.  Individual wrens establish and maintain territories outside the breeding season usually selecting damp habitats where they can live off insects and spiders.  Five to eight small speckled eggs are laid in late April.  The eggs are incubated for 13 – 18 days followed by a fledge time of 15 – 20 days.

The male can entertain more than a single female with an active nest at any one time in his territory and often there are second broods. 

You may be more interested than your dog in the fact that the wren is the centre of much folklore.  According to thewhitegoddess.co.uk, the wren’s nest is protected by lightning.  The story goes that whoever tries to steal wren’s eggs would find their house struck by lightning and their hands would shrivel up.


We all remember the fascination of Aesop’s fables in childhood.  Recall the one when the wren was challenged to compete with the eagle to determine which bird could soar the highest.  The canny wren rested on the eagle’s back and when the big bird tired, the wren flew out higher as the exhausted eagle plummeted to the ground.  The moral of course being cleverness wins over sheer strength anytime.  Perhaps a good moral to keep in mind when managing your strong dog.

Image by david Griffiths
PIC David Griffiths

In the past many guard dogs would have their festive slumber disturbed on St Stephen’s Day by ‘wrenboys’ calling to the house.  According to voice.gardenbirds.uk, the custom is said to have begun after the stoning of St Stephen.  It was believed that the wren ‘betrayed’ Stephen by singing as he hid from his persecutors.  The ‘wrenboys’ would catch a wren and parade it around the town.  This is described in the song

‘The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he was little his honour was great,
Jump up me lads and give him a treat.
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
And give us a penny to bury the wren.’

The wren is a tiny bird with a big voice.

Image by Ryk Naves
PIC Ryk Naves
Image by Mike Blank
Image by freestocks
Image by Mike Blank

christmas box

down by an open gate

Agnes Chatfield.jpeg
by Agnes Chatfield

It was late Autumn, and I was in Ireland for a short holiday. The weather was sunny, and Mary and I decided to go for a walk. We took off after lunch and walked up the Ballymote road. In many ways it was my favourite walk. I knew several of the homes on route, at least I did from my younger days.   The parson’s abode I remembered well, it was an old house set well back from the road.

A little further on we passed Kilcoyne’s the veterinarian’s place. That house stood on higher ground, and it had a fine drive and an extensive front garden. On and on we went, chatting all the while, as we enjoyed the fresh air and the chance to be together and remembered old times. Further along we came to a labourer’s cottage, the gate was open, and no one it seemed was about.

Suddenly, out came a large brown dog, mouth agape and ready to let us know we were not welcome. It was cross and I felt the need to chase it off. In my best imitation of a schoolteacher, I told the animal ‘go away.’ It didn’t budge and barked all the louder. Eventually we passed by with a sigh of relief and didn’t converse much at all. After half a mile or so we turned back. The dog was still there.

As we got within a few yards of the house, with   the animal still outside, I picked up a short stick that lay on the side ready for action. Armed as I thought for the dog who took umbridge at us walking past its domain, the dog was ready and waiting and bared its teeth in a show of strength. I stood for a second holding the stick, I told the dog in no uncertain manner, to go home. However, neither my stick nor my manner did anything to deter the beast, rather he barked the more, as I repeated, ‘go home’ but to no avail.


In time we got past, but I felt shattered. Few words passed our lips as we got near to the church and finally back to Emmet Street and the comfort of home.   Strangely enough, we never discussed the encounter, afterwards yet I felt Mary was just as uncomfortable as I was, but we never spoke of it again.

PIC Akshay Mackin
Image by Akshay Madan
PIC Grant Durr
Image by Grant Durr

Recently, our younger son adopted temporally a large dog. He walked the dog twice daily and grew fond of it.   Yet since he lives in an upstairs flat by the sea and works full time, the dog grew miserable from being cooped up inside for long hours. Shortly afterwards the dog was adopted, and he knows from the owner that the new  home has two other dogs, and he has company.

 Many years have passed since then and I’ve encountered many dogs, both with two of our own children and with a good friend and in both instances, there was no drama. Perhaps the incident with old ‘Franco’ came to mind, but then he was no threat, just old and in my way.    All told, most animal lovers keep their pets in the garden and the entrance has a closed gate.


With Christmas coming up soon and one of the favourite gifts for children seems to be a little dog, it has me wondering.  Surely there are many instances where pets are loved for a day, a week, or a month? Then the novelty wears off and the dog is either neglected, ignored or dad or someone else is left to walk the dog and pick up the droppings. Either way, it is best to give a gift of a dog to a more responsible youngster. Since walking the dog can become a chore.


PIC Bradley Pisney
Image by Bradley Pisney

In Ireland, years ago, some dogs were allowed to wander and sometimes caused a fuss when two sedate ladies walked by and didn’t think much of the dog’s barking serenade.

There is a jolly song called-How much is that doggie in the window?’

The person who wrote it longed to own such a dog but had no idea of the cost. Since indeed there is cost. The best reason for owning a pet is that the person or persons must love animals and therefore they will look after them and care for their needs.

Mary and I didn’t know what to do with an angry one!

PIC Markus Winkler
Image by Markus Winkler

The only dogs I fondly remember are the twin plaster cast white dogs, that lived on our kitchen mantlepiece. Yet back then, there was only one doggie left. Some one of the children either knocked it over or wished to look at it closely and dropped the dog on the floor.

PIC Background Annie Spratt