Why we adore dogs in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 14:49 23 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:49 23 July 2020
Sarah Lucy Brown
In praise of Suffolk dogs — where would we be without them? | Words: Jayne Lindill - Images: Sarah Lucy Brown
As if we needed reminding, the past several weeks have reminded many of us just why dogs have long been known as our best friends.
As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, and we switched on the television at 5pm to find out the latest damage and listen to instructions on what and what not to do to help stop the spread, our Labrador retriever, merely looked up at me with his big conker-brown eyes and pleaded for his usual early evening walkies.
His total oblivion to the crisis unfolding around the globe and reliance on us to provide all the normal things that make his world go round has been calming and reassuring.
His wants are few – he takes little from us and, in return, gives us an immeasurable amount of affection, enjoyment, fun, occasional frustration and (usually) hilarious embarrassment.
For most of us, our dog is our companion – another member of the family or the other half of a couple. But for many people with disabilities or illnesses, their assistance dog is a lifeline, providing emotional and practical support.
It’s well documented that having a dog in our life can be beneficial for our physical and mental health in so many ways. It was pictures of pets, especially our dogs, doing crazy, cute and laugh-out-loud things, that were the first pictures to flood social media in the early days of lockdown.
My favourite was a sheepdog ‘working from home’ – sitting in front of a flock of sheep on computer screen.
As well as helping to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness, there are all the benefits that come from exercising a dog. Daily walks outdoors are just so good for us.
Playing with a dog – throwing a ball, chasing around the park – is a great physical and mental pick-me-up.
And don’t let’s forget that dogs – domesticated by humans for centuries – have always been willing workers when we need them, performing important tasks for farmers, police and armed services, Border Force, search and rescue among others.
Suffolk is a great place to own a dog with so much coast and countryside to explore together. We should always observe the Countryside Code, of course, only go where we’re allowed, never worry animals and always clean up. So, here’s our celebration of Suffolk dogs.
Jagger, celebrity dog companion to comedy writer Jan Etherington
Click here to read more about how Jagger got his rockstar name
Troy, the police dog - Licenced dog handler PC Jon Harvey, Suffolk Constabulary
Little did PC Jon Harvey know when he embarked on a secondment to the British Virgin Islands to help with the clean up of Hurricane Irma in 2017 that it would lead him off in a new direction as a dog handler.
Amidst the turmoil of the hurricane were lots of stray and lost dogs that needed homes. Touched by the plight of one particular hound, a Labrador-cross who he affectionately named Buddy, Jon fed him a cold ration pack, and got him checked over by a vet. When Buddy put his paws round Jon and his head in his lap, Jon knew he was coming home with him.
So, even though he’d never owned a dog before, he decided to adopt him, and Buddy now lives with Jon at his Suffolk home. “If it weren’t for Buddy, I wouldn’t be doing the job I am now,” says Jon. Last August, Jon teamed up with Troy who came to the police after his previous owner could no longer keep him.
Troy is a two-and-a-half-year-old Dutch Herder, an agile, intelligent and very controllable breed, that is used a lot in special forces and the military. Troy and Jon completed 13 weeks training together before taking up their duties in January.
Troy is a ‘general purpose’ police dog, trained in searching and tracking which could mean looking for criminals, for missing people or property. He goes everywhere with Jon who says they’ve developed a “pretty incredible bond”.
“We’re dealing with risk and the risk of violence,” he says, ”and obviously look we look after each other, as well as our colleagues and the public.” Although it’s still early in his career, Troy has scored some successes in finding property at crime scenes.
There will be more training for him and Jon in dealing with different scenarios, and each year the pair will need to formally renew the licence for their partnership. Troy lives at home with Jon – and Buddy, of course – and while theirs is a working relationship they are the best of friends.
Affectionately known as ‘Troy the boy’, he is, says Jon, an energetic, hard-working dog, ready for action the minute he’s on duty. “I’d say he’s driven,” laughs Jon. “I love him to bits.”
Dudley, the Insta dog - Owned by Sarah Lucy Brown and Craig Robinson
Dudley is a three-year-old cockapoo, who lives with photographer Sarah Lucy Brown and journalist Craig Robinson in Ipswich. Much photographed (understandably), he’s established himself on Instagram (Dudleyrobinsonbrown) where he has almost 900 followers.
“He’s quite a character,” says Sarah. “There is no doubt that he rules the roost. Since day one, he has always enjoyed a cuddle and is incredibly loving. Mischievous beyond belief, he has a great sense of fun and loves to play.
“Watching him run free in the park with his boundless energy is a real joy, but like Craig and myself he is happiest on the coast.
“He adores the beach and likes nothing better than taking a dip in the sea. He’s even become accustomed to posing for my photos – so long as there’s a reward of some chicken or sausage at the end of it! We couldn’t imagine our lives without it him – he really is part of the family.”
Bee and Hope, Brainy Dogs - Owned by Sophie Mayes
Bee and Hope are Brainy Dogs who work with Headway Suffolk, the National Lottery funded charity that supports people with brain injury, stroke, neurological conditions and those who care for them, at its Ipswich centre.
Hope is a seven-year-old Cocker spaniel x Labrador, and Bee is a two-year-old collie x Labrador x Dalmation, and both belong to Brainy Dogs coordinator Sophie Mayes.
“Bee is the livelier of the two, while Hope is referred to as our ‘bomb proof’ dog,” says Brainy Dogs coordinator Sophie Mayes. “The dogs match different clients and so will work with different people in different settings. They both undertake visits to care homes and work with clients in the centre or in their own homes.”
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Brainy Dogs are trained to help people with a neurological condition, and are either their own dogs or Headway dogs. Well behaved companions, they give love and are loved in return.
They can help break the ice with strangers, provide social interaction via dog walking, give people something in common with others, provide companionship, especially when friends and/or families leave, give people a reason to get up for in the morning. And if someone needs specific training for their dog Headway can arrange it.
The dogs based at Headway’s Ipswich Centre are provide rehabilitation for people either in the centre or in their homes.
“We also visit care homes and other establishments whose clients may benefit from the dogs,” says Sophie. “The dogs do many tricks and people enjoy doing games with them. It provides rehabilitation in a fun and motivational way. They may also want to walk or groom them.”
Brainy Dogs began when Helen Fairweather, CEO of Headway Suffolk, read a book called Endal about a dog who saved his owner after a brain injury during his time in the Royal Navy. She also watched a TV programme in which dogs went into prisons for training. She put the two ideas together and came up with Brainy Dogs.
What makes a Brainy Dog? “Rather than breed, it’s down to temperament and personality,” says Sophie. “Dogs must have good temperaments and be sociable. It’s a case of matching the right dog to the client, taking into account, age, size, trainability, client’s abilities and so on. Our clients have a wide range of abilities and disabilities, with some being wheel chair dependent through to others enjoying walking for hours each day. It is therefore vital we match the clients and dogs for their suitability together.”
All training is done in-house helped by volunteers from five different sectors – prisoners, people on probation, people with mental health problems, people with learning disabilities, and children in the care of the Raedwald trust. “There are many benefits to these volunteers from working with the dogs too, so if anyone wants to be involved and they fall in to any of those sectors please let us know,” says Sophie.
Dog lovers can help Headway by being a Brainy Dog boarder, providing a home in the evenings and weekends when a dog is in training at the centre, and occasionally in an emergency if a Headway client is taken ill, for example.
To find out more bout Brainy Dogs and how to have one you can contact Headway either via the website or by phone, or via referrals from a social worker, GP, or other agency.
Who doesn’t love watching sheepdogs at work, marvelling at the amazing bond between dog and handler?
Ed Thornalley is chairman of the East Anglian Sheepdog Society, covering Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, which fosters and promotes working sheepdogs, to help better manage sheep and livestock. They run sheepdog trials and offer training clinics.
Ed has been involved with sheepdogs for about 30 years and has three border collies - Nasher, Jamie and Pepper.
“Nasher is kind and thoughtful, Jamie is enthusiastic, a real tryer but lacks brains, while Pepper is a bit of a free spirit.
“In terms of working ability, Nasher has a lot of natural talent but can sometimes be a bit lazy. Jamie lacks a lot of natural ability but makes up for it by trying really hard, and Pepper, who isn’t fully trained yet, has a nice amount of natural ability.”
Ed got started with sheepdogs when he left school. “With no experience of sheep or dogs I got a job on Elveden Estate. I was sent to work with the sheep, and one of the shepherds there, Will Grey, took me under his wing.
“As a shepherd, it would be impossible for me to do my job without my dogs helping. They work sheep far more capably than I can, and I have the utmost respect for them. They are with me all day everyday, so they are my friends as well as work mates.
See a gallery of your dogs enjoying life in Suffolk by clicking here
Seven easy dog walks
Three walking trails to choose from depending including the UFO trail where you can learn more about the famous UFO sighting in 1980. Dogs can roam free through the forest. Car park with a small charge for the day. IP12 3NF
West Stow Forest
On the northern edge of Lark Valley, a three-mile marked circular walk and you can explore the woodlands by taking various paths. Roadside parking and dogs are allowed off leads. IP28 6HA
Christchurch Park, Ipswich
Seventy acres of gardens,woodland, ponds and grasslands to explore in the heart of Ipswich. Perfect for dog walking and a family day out. IP1 2DE
Circular two-mile walk with stunning views of the River Orwell, so good for dogs that like a dip in the water. You can follow the Arthur Ransom trail as this is where he set Swallows and Amazons. Car park at the beginning of the walk. IP9 1JW
Around 400 acres open every day. Home to lots of wildlife. The main track around the water is eight miles and is used by cyclists and pedestrians. Car parking with a small charge. IP9 2RY
A National Trust property with a variety of walks. Around the grounds of Ickworth House dogs must be on leads for consideration of other visitors and wildlife. In the woods and parkland they are free to roam. IP29 5QE
Lavenham to Melford Railway walk
Self-guided walk from Lavenham to Melford alongside the old GER Railway line. Open fields and woodland along the way. CO10 9QZ