Friday, 16 March 2018

Lots of love for Laura and Lily!

Winter is finally coming to an end, and what better way to spring into action than reading about our first release of 2018, Lily: one in a million! ... a miracle of survival!

In case you may have been hibernating since the end of last year, you might not  know that author Laura Hamilton has been super excited about the release of her first book, and has been gracious enough to supply all of us here at H&H HQ with delectable home-made treats, such as biscuits and mince pies. But that's not all Laura has been up to, as she and Lily have been busy self-promoting their book locally and beyond!

As it stands, the achievements are quite impressive, and Laura and Lily have plenty more promotional forays planned! Here's what the pair have been up to in the run-up to their book being published ... 

That's Solent TV interview

Back in February, Laura and Lily appeared on That's Solent TV, a local station in the Southampton area that covers an array of local news stories. The full interview can be viewed below. 

Telephone interview with the States

The television interview proved such a success that Laura was contacted by American website Storytrender to give an interview! The hope is that national newspapers from both sides of the Atlantic will run the story and help spread their message far and wide. You can read the interview in full here

World Book Day

It may have been snowing in the run-up to this year's World Book Day, but Laura, Lily, and Lily's mother, Pilot, managed to put in an appearance at a local primary school just before the worst of the storm hit. As well as talking about the book, Laura talked about Pets As Therapy, showing the children the girls' demonstration of basic obedience with hand signals and retrieving. 

Not only was Laura intent on publicising her own book, she also offered to take along a copy of Worzel says hello! Will you be my friend? to read to the children, which they thoroughly enjoyed!

Magazine coverage aplenty!

If you reside in Hampshire or Wiltshire, Laura and Lily feature in the current edition of View Magazine. Don't worry if you aren't able to pick up a physical copy, as you can digitally view the March edition here

A little further afield, Laura and her book feature in the current issue of Vic Report, the magazine of both Victoria University and the University of Toronto, in her home country of Canada. The issue is available online for those who wish to take a look at Laura's Canadian mention!

So far, we've received nothing but glowing feedback for this book, with numerous five-star reviews. It's great to hear that Laura's labour of love has been so well received. 

"I re-read the book on three occasions, learning something new each time. A very careful description of Lily's problems give the background and shows just how dedicated her owner was in first of all noticing her problems with suckling, then feeding and drinking. Well written and beautifully illustrated ... well worth every penny." – Trevor Turner

"Lily: one in a million is more than a celebration of a life with dogs. It is also a living testament to the endurance of love beyond loss. [This book] is about breeder ethics. It's a new way of seeing interspecies relationships. It's a sharing of transcendent moments of healing and of inspiration. Despite being advised to put Lily down, Laura endured and was richly rewarded." – Geelong Obedience Dog Club

"Lovely, lovely story not only about a stunning dog, but also about the sheer determination of her owner to help her survive when most others would have given up. The book is a story from when the litter are first born and is written step-by-step through the intensive care and steep learning curve on how to look after Lily and for her to live. An amazing paperback to read, which I didn't put down once started! Lovely photos as well."  – Dog Training Weekly

Lily: one in a million! ... a miracle of survival is available from our website now. A truly great book about a truly inspiring story; you won't regret treating yourself to a copy! 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Cold Comfort

The UK and Europe have recently experienced some pretty extreme weather. The 'Beast from the East' hit first, bringing an icy Siberian blast, followed immediately by Storm Emma, and storm-force winds, metres-deep drifts, and sheet ice.

There's no question that the disruption and damage wrought on our human way of life was disruptive, so just imagine how hard it was for our wildlife. Extreme weather such as this causes major problems for animals in the wild, whether in urban areas or countryside.

When the extreme cold, wet, and windy weather hits, we can all do our bit to help wildlife around us to survive, no matter where we live. Last year, when the freezing weather affected us, we posted about caring for your dogs and cats during the cold weather, but this time, we're focusing on advice on helping you help wild animals, and care for smaller pets.



Birds are often the first to struggle in freezing weather. Not only is it harder for them to find their usual food, but vital sources of water can freeze. During colder weather, animals require more food, as more energy is used to keep warm. Garden birds benefit from extra food at the hardest times of the year (and not only in extreme weather): try adding some high-energy wild bird seed mix, or suet pellets, to the feeding table. You can also feed apples, pears, soft fruit, and even cooked pasta, rice, boiled potatoes, cheese, raisins and sultanas (Blackbirds in particular love these!). 


Access to clean, fresh water is also essential, so check frequently to ensure water does not freeze, and do not place water or food near areas where cats and predators may hide. 

It's also vital that you keep your bird feeding areas thoroughly clean: diseases and parasites can readily and rapidly spread at contaminated feeding areas, and many are fatal to birds, as well as potentially harmful to us.


If you're lucky enough to have badgers visiting your garden, you may get a visit during very cold snaps. Badgers tend to stay put if they can't dig for their favourite snack of earthworms, but the extreme cold can see them visiting a favourite feeding ground. Peanuts, cheese, fruit, and lightly cooked meats all make a welcome treat for your badger visitors.


Squirrels are famous for 'squirrelling' away nuts for later consumption. However, if the ground is frozen, they may be unable to access their caches. Whilst squirrels usually help themselves to bird seed, eating sunflower hearts and peanuts with gusto, you can give them a little extra help during harsh weather. Try almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and some chopped apple, beans, carrots, and spinach. And don't be surprised to see a squirrel take the food and bury it in your garden!


Ponds are havens for thousands of species of animals and plants, and even small ponds provide a big boost to wildlife, in any environment. Freezing is one of the biggest threats to ponds at this time of year. Animals can become frozen into the ice, if a rapid freeze occurs. It's vital that you check your pond every day for ice – more than once, if the weather is particularly harsh – and remove it. DO NOT POUR BOILING WATER ONTO THE ICE: the thermal shock could easily kill fish and amphibians. Break up the ice instead. It's also vital that the surface of the pond is as open to the air as possible. If a layer of ice covers the entire pond, it will prevent poisonous gasses escaping from the water, which can kill hibernating fish or frogs at the bottom of the pond.

Frogs will most likely not be in the pond itself, but hibernating under logs or stones nearby. Spring is when they begin to emerge to mate, and, hopefully, if the weather is too bad, they'll postpone spawning until it improves.

One final thing to consider. Be very careful to ensure that no road salt, grit, or runoff, from roads, fields or paths gets into your pond through meltwater or spray: salt can harm both animals and plants, and, in extreme cases, could make your pond uninhabitable.

General advice for pet owners

It's not just our wild animals that need extra consideration during extreme weather. Our own pets also need to be catered for, so here's some advice for your small, and not-so-small, animals

Stay indoors

If there's a covering of snow, I'll be the first to go outside with my dog! However, whilst we and our dogs may like a frolic in the snow, it's good advice to keep animals indoors when the weather is really bad. It's now believed that dogs are ideally suited to cold, arid conditions, having evolved in such climates – but don't think this means they are impervious to cold. It's particularly important to keep puppies, kittens, older, ill or infirm animals inside. If you have a short-haired or lean breed, a good quality weatherproof coat is a brilliant idea – particularly one with high-vis or reflective patches.

Minimising exposure to, and exertion in, extreme cold is also important advice for those of you with Pug or short-nosed breeds. Shorter-muzzle breeds are not able to pre-warm the air they breathe, as longer-muzzle breeds can, or filter pathogens and pollutants effectively. This can cause serious health issues, including rapid internal temperature fluctuations, and respiratory infections. Do not expect to go for a jog in the snow with your Pug!

No solo

During the cold weather, don't let your dog or cat roam freely outside by themselves. Dogs can come to great harm, especially around roads and rivers. Cats in particular have a habit of sheltering in places of vestigial heat, such as heating ducts, behind fridges and industrial equipment, and, of course, under cars and car bonnets. Many cats are injured or killed each year, when a car starts up or moves off. Before you get into your car, take a look underneath, near the warm parts of the engine and the exhaust, and check under the bonnet for any potential stowaways.

Hey: wipe your feet before you come in!

If your dog or cat has come in after an adventure in winter wonderland, particularly along roads or urban areas, give their paws, legs, and stomach a wipe, ideally with a clean microfibre towel or cloth. The grime and wet they pick up on their fur may be full of salt, grit, and other harmful chemicals, which can be ingested by your dog or cat when cleaning themselves.

Eat up

As with all animals, our pets need more food in cold weather, as they burn more calories to keep warm. Give your pet extra rations during cold snaps … they won't complain!

Anti-freezing, NOT antifreeze!

Vehicle antifreeze is one of the most toxic liquids an animal can ingest, and drinking even a small amount can prove fatal, particularly for smaller animals. Many brands contain a substance to make the fluid unbearably bitter, but not all, and not all animals are discouraged – so DON'T TAKE A CHANCE.


Outdoor pets

Some small animals are surprisingly hardy, coming from arid, mountainous, and very cold parts of the world, but they won't survive harsh weather without a little help. The best way to ensure your outdoor pets' safety is to bring them into the house, garage, or an outhouse, and keep food and water topped-up. 

If you can't bring in your animals, protection from draughts and damp is vital. Raise hutches off the ground by a few inches, and cover with a waterproof tarpaulin overnight, and whenever it rains. Animals should have an enclosed sleeping box to prevent draughts, lined with nesting material which should be changed once a week. Water must always be freely available, and should be changed twice a day. Check that it doesn't freeze, as small bottles and tubes rapidly freeze solid.

Keep your eyes peeled

When the harshest of weather hits, keep a look out for waifs and strays. If you come across an animal who appears lost, abandoned, or in distress, call a local animal shelter immediately; they should be able to offer advice, and will likely take the animal into its care.

If you come across an animal that is injured or in urgent need of help, call the RSPCA, SSPCA, USPCA, or ISPCA.


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Hunting with dogs: the facts

Thanks to the Hunting Act 2004, the use of dogs to hunt wild mammals has been prohibited in England and Wales. But were you aware that there are a number of different forms of hunting are still practice, one of which is questionable, to say the least.

Three forms of hunting are still carried out: drag hunting, trail hunting, and clean boot hunting. Here's how they differ:

Drag Hunting

Originating in the early 1800s, the objective of drag hunting is to have hounds search for a non-animal-based-scent, without the pursuit or killing of wild animals. These hunts take place in areas where there is unlikely to be any live quarry. The scent is laid up to 20 minutes before the hunt starts, and the huntsmen know exactly where the scent has been laid. There are a specific set of rules created by The Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association (MDBA) that must be adhered to, and the hounds are kept under close control to prevent any accidental chasing or killing of wild animals.

Trail Hunting

Originating in 2005 after the Hunting Act came into effect, the aim is to make the activity look as similar as possible to pre-ban hunting. Trail hunts take place on land that was previously used for pre-ban hunts, with the hounds following animal-based scents. The scent is still laid before the start of a hunt, but there is no predetermined time for this to happen; there are no official written rules for trail hunting. 'Accidental' chasing or killing of wild animals is more likely to happen on a trail hunt, as the hounds are not under such a close watch.

Clean Boot Hunting

Clean boot hunting is very similar to drag hunting, in that it is an alternative to traditional hunting. The main difference between clean boot and drag hunting, however, is that there is no use of an artificial scent. Instead, hounds follow the scent of a human runner. Aside from the scent, drag and clean boot hunting are very much the same in the way in which they are carried out. Clean boot hunting is considered the most humane way of hunting, as there is zero chance of wild animals being chased or killed. 

Trail hunting is an unfamiliar term to most, being the most recent form of hunting developed. As stated above, a main difference between trail hunting and drag hunting is knowing where the scent has been laid. If you don't know where the scent is, how can you prevent a hound from going off-track and chasing or killing an animal?

Trail hunting takes place on land that was previously used for hunts pre-ban, with many of these being National Trust owned. At the end of last year, a motion was raised at the National Trust Annual General Meeting (AGM) to ban trail hunting on its land. Initially, it looked as though those for the ban had won – 28,629 to 27,525. However, some members left their votes to the Chairman of the AGM, and with the National Trust against the motion, these votes would have been used to prevent the ban. The final result saw the motion defeated by a mere 299 votes. 

Since this meeting, the National Trust has revised its stance on trail hunting. The changes are as follows:
  • The use of animal-based scents has been banned to reduce the risk of wild mammals being chased
  • The presence of terriermen is prohibited, as they have no practical purpose on a trail hunt
  • Greater active management of hunts
  • Probing the track record of each applicant when they apply for a licence to hunt
  • Being more open with its members and the general public, by posting on the National Trust website the days and locations of approved hunts
  • Work more closely with the Police's Independent National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU)
Despite the numerous pages on the National Trust website, its wording still seems vague in areas, meaning that loopholes will occur, and these loopholes can be used by those opposed to the hunting ban.

The issue with trail hunting still lies with the fact that wild animals are at risk, and huntsmen can plead ignorance if they are caught. One way to combat this would be to amend the Hunting Act to include a 'recklessness' clause, which would enable offenders to be prosecuted if it can be proven they did not prevent their dogs from hunting wild mammals.

Since the AGM last year, more progress has been made to reinforce the ban as a result of lobbying by the League Against Cruel Sports. Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to drop her party's policy of a 'free vote' to repeal the Hunting Act 2004, as well as plans to increase animal cruelty sentences from six months to five years. 

The battle may have been lost, but that in no way means the war is over. You can do your bit to support the ban by assisting charities such as the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA, and if you suspect trail hunting on National Trust land is carried out near you, be sure to raise questions with the Trust or the NWCU

Friday, 23 February 2018

King of the Corvids

When you think of a raven, the first thing that may spring to mind is the fact they are synonymous with the Tower of London. But there is far more to them than being part of an iconic tourist attraction. In today's blog, we take a closer look at these great corvids.

Ravens have lived alongside humans for thousands of years. Being birds of a scavenging nature, they benefit from the messy way of human life. This, combined with the fact that they can easily adapt to the changing environment around them, allows the raven to reside in a wide range of different habitats, as well as live on a varied diet. They have few predators and can live long lives: 17 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity. 

The ravens of the Tower of London date back to the time of Charles II, who insisted on them being protected. Six corvids are resident at the historic site, and tradition says that if they ever leave the Tower, then the kingdom of Britain would fall. 

Ravens are highly clever and skilled animals, ranking alongside chimpanzees and dolphins in terms of their intelligence; they even understand water displacement to the same level as a seven-year-old child!

 You may already know that ravens can recognise and remember a human's face, but did you know that, if you do something unpleasant to them, not only will they remember, but will pass their grudge onto other corvids! They also show empathy for each other, remembering birds they like and responding to them in a friendly way for years to come. Furthermore, they have been known to hold funerals when a fellow corvid has passed away; they gather around the body, caw, and then fall silent. Our book Animal Grief details Professor Marc Beckoff's observations of corvid grief, and how they respond to the loss of a comrade.

A group of ravens is known as an 'unkindness,' and though they are mostly good-natured, they can show unkindness if provoked. In 2015, the University of Vienna gave a group of ravens a task where they would only receive a reward if they cooperated with one another. Those who cheated their companions out of their share of the reward would find themselves ostracised, with ravens preferring to work alongside those who played fair. This type of behaviour had only previously been seen in humans and chimpanzees. 

In Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem, the raven is said to repeat the phrase "nevermore." In captivity, ravens can actually learn to talk and mimic noises better than parrots can. Wild ravens will use this ability to their advantage, imitating wolves or foxes in order to attract them to a carcass that the raven itself is unable to access, thus being able to feast on the leftovers once the larger animal is done! To communicate amongst other ravens, they have even been known to use non-vocal, "hand" gestures to get the attention of other corvids, by using their beak to draw attention.

These aren't the only tools in a raven's arsenal. Ravens can successfully carry out complex puzzles, and are able to fashion make shift tools from twigs, leaves and bark. During research in 2015, one corvid caught on camera dropped one of its tools, then later recovered it from the ground, showing that they value their tools, and don't simply discard them after use. 

We may never know the answer to the Mad Hatter's riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk," but one thing we do know is that corvids are truly remarkable beings, and that there is certainly much more to be learnt from observing them. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Year of the Dog!

Our 2018 New Year's celebrations may seem like a long time ago now, but Chinese New Year starts today, with a 15-day-long celebration for those in China to mark the occasion. Here, at H&H HQ, we have even more reason to celebrate, as it's the Year of the Dog!

Legend foretells that the Jade Emperor wanted animals to be incorporated into the calendar, and that the dog was asked to be included for his wisdom. The choice of animals is of great significance: the ox, horse, goat, rooster, pig, and dog are six of the main domestic animals raised by the Chinese, whereas the rat, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, and monkey are all loved by the Chinese. The Zodiac cycles every twelve years, with the dog being the 11th animal. On top of this, each animal is associated with one of the five elements: gold/metal, wood, water, fire, and earth; these elements cycle every sixty years. 2018 sees the Year of the Earth Dog, meaning that those born this year or in 1958 will have characteristics such as being communicative, serious, and responsible in work.

Those born in the Year of the Dog will share a lot of personality traits with our four-legged friends. Attributes include: loyalty and honesty, amiable and kind, cautious and prudent, and due to their unwavering loyalty, they will do everything for the most important person in their life. Dogs are independent, sincere, and decisive, and they aren't afraid of difficulties in life. They enjoy harmonious relationships with those around them, much like Man's Best Friend!

Fancy joining in with the celebrations? A number of cities in the UK are hosting their own Chinese New Year festivities, including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Newcastle. From craft workshops to food markets, acrobatics to lion dancing, there is something for everyone to help ring in the Chinese New Year.

Whatever your plans may be for the Lunar New Year – and whatever Zodiac sign you may be – from all of us here at Hubble & Hattie, we wish you a happy and healthy Year of the Dog!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The strays of Istanbul

I had the good fortune to spend new year 2017 in Kadiköy, in the Asian part of Turkey. It was amazing – the coffee, the exotic-sounding language, and the plaintive and incomparable call to prayer, ringing out every few hours from the mosques.

It was especially impressive hearing the Iman calling from Istanbul's fabulous Blue Mosque, which is quite magnificent, both inside and out, and it reminded me of the time I spent in Northern Cyprus some years ago.

Turkey was just as I expected and more besides. What I hadn't expected to find, here in Istanbul and Kadiköy, were the numerous stray cats and dogs who populate the streets, apparently living in harmony alongside the people of Turkey. There are a huge number of these animals – unwanted by some but not unloved, it seems – and a scheme has been implemented whereby strays are taken in by resuce centres; checked over, vaccinated against rabies and other diseases, neutered, tagged and then returned to the streets, where local people (and a great many tourists) ensure their day-to-day living is taken care of. It's quite common to see both dogs and cats sleeping peacefully on the floor inside shops, cafes, and bars, oblivious to the coming and going of customers. It is hoped that this regime will mean an eventual reduction in the number of strays, which should, in theory, be the case.

I was both heartened and humbled to experience how Turkey is trying to accommodate these animals (who are, by the way, beautiful, and very affectionate by nature), who have become strays through no fault of their own. Far, far preferable is this to America's kill policy so enthusiastically implemented ... it could learn a lesson from Turkey's example.

Friday, 12 January 2018

You old dog!

After Christmas, there is always a focus on new or young dogs – how to look after them, what to feed them, etc – but what about older dogs? They require just as much care and attention as a new furry friend in the home!

Just like us, dogs are living longer, which has led to the need for a greater understanding of what is ideal in terms of care, exercise, food, physical and emotional support. Signs of ageing are similar to those in humans – grey hair, slower movement, tiring more often. Quite when a dog is considered 'senior' varies dependent on breed, but most tend to start showing signs of slowing down from the age of seven. Things to be mindful of include:

Mobility We are all prone to aching joints as time goes on, but there are a number of ways in which we can help ease our dog into a slower pace of life. Keep a consistent daily routine that either involves short walks, or garden activities, to keep him moving. 
You can teach an old dog new tricks, and he will thank you for it, as it can help to make him feel 'younger.' An added bonus is that older dogs have a better attention span than younger pups, so training them will be easier for you too.

Creature comforts Your dog may need to rest more, and that's fine! Make sure that everything he can possibly need throughout the day is close to hand for him, and that there are minimal obstructions to hinder him. 
Hard floors can prove tricky for senior dogs, so try a non-slip rug underfoot to give him more traction. 
It's also a good idea to revise the way in which he eats, as some older dogs find it difficult standing for prolonged periods of time.
They may also suffer from separation anxiety, so try not to leave an older dog alone for extended periods.

Warmth With thinning fur, it's a good idea to invest in a nice coat for those brisk, and often wet, winter walks. When back at home, be mindful of draughts in the house, and make sure that his bed is situated somewhere cosy.

Bodily functions Incontinence, loss of sight, and being hard of hearing are all unfortunate side-affects of old age in almost every animal, but that doesn't mean it has to prevent a normal way of life! Help re-train your pooch to use an indoor litter tray if he can't make it through the night without a visit outside. Have patience when your dog doesn't seem to respond to you – he probably just didn't hear you, or is having trouble focusing his vision!

A dog's diet is a crucial aspect at any age, but there are a number of different things to consider now your faithful companion is getting on in years. It is important to maintain a balanced diet in order to combat obesity and diabetes. Dinner with Rover and Dog cookies are two books that can help inspire you to creat fun and nutritional dishes for dogs of all ages!

There are some key areas where a change in diet can improve your dog's general health:

Gut-love Digestion becomes tricker with age, so including highly digestible ingredients, in particular proteins, will help with the efficiency of the gut. Fibre is a good ingredient to keep a steady, and healthy, gut transit.

Organs The higher the quality, the higher the nutrients! This will mean fewer waste products for the kidneys to dispose of. Maintaining a balance of minerals is another way to help protect the kidneys, whilst some diets contain specific essential fatty acid supplements that can not only protect the kidneys, but the heart as well.

Weighing-in on the situation Keeping a close eye on your dog's weight in his senior years is key to retaining mobility. It's ideal to feed your dog food that is lower in fat and calories to reflect a slower metabolism, and reduced exercise.

Grey matter We are all prone to senior moments, and dogs are no exception! The brain and immune system may not be what they once were, but a balance of vitamins and minerals can help to increase the effectiveness of the immune system as Fido ages. An increased intake of antioxidants will also benefit immunity, as well as having the added bonus of protecting against brain ageing!

Word of mouth Appetite decreases with age, and senior diets are structured around this; kibbles are generally smaller for ease of eating. Some kibbles may include a dental formula to help clean your dog's teeth while he chews. 

Aside from the obvious needs of an elderly dog, there are a great number of reasons why they make the perfect pet! Every dog deserves a loving home, but younger dogs are more favoured for adoption than their elders. Just think of how much you'll be appreciated if you take home an older dog instead – not to mention the brownie points you will gain emotionally, knowing you have saved a dog from possible euthanasia. Older dogs also have a more mellow temperament, and can be easier to form a bond with than younger dogs, and are generally easier to get along with, as most are content just being in their owner's company!

For a great guide on caring for your senior pooch, why not pick up a copy of Living with an older dog, available from Hubble & Hattie? It covers a wide range of aspects that you are likely to encounter whilst caring for your furry friend, and will be invaluable to you and your dog during his golden years. Always remember to consult your vet if there are any changes in your companion that concern you.