Cork ready for pawsitive thinking

A quirky event for all the family, including beloved dogs, is a chance to celebrate all things canine, says Helen O’Callaghan

Cork ready for pawsitive thinking

FANCY seeing your pooch’s moves on the disco floor? Or having it learn something practical and useful — like finding your missing car keys?

If so, Pawsitivity in the City at Cork’s Fitzgerald’s Park is the place to be next Saturday.

The one-day celebratory festival for our canine friends will be attended by pet expert Pete Wedderburn, dog behaviourist and trainer Suzi Walsh, and Dancing with the Stars finalist and actor Aoibhín Garrihy, an avowed dog lover and proud owner of two French mastiffs Rubie and Reggie.

“Pawsitivity is an opportunity to see like-minded people who love pets and aren’t intimidated by dogs. It’s a real celebration of our canine friends,” says former Fair City star Aoibhín, who admits to feeling upset when passers-by comment on her two “gentle giants”.

“They drool a lot. They shed. And because they’re so big, they look intimidating,” she says. “You do get strange looks or the odd comment that they should be muzzled. I take it to heart, so I tend to walk them in quieter places.

“They love the beach — they’re rural dogs really. They’re such placid, gentle giants.”

Aoibhín and her hotelier husband John were “in the market for a dog” when they first saw a French mastiff hunting for crabs on a Sydney beach.

“I’d never seen one before, apart from in the movie, Turner and Hooch,” says Aoibhín. “We struggled to find a breeder in Ireland but eventually we got Rubie — we just fell in love.”

Although there are only 11 months between them, the two dogs have very different personalities.

“Rubie’s independent, gentle, loving and does her own thing,” says Aoibhín. “Reggie’s needy. He wants to be your shadow and is always looking for hugs.”

However, they get on “like a house on fire” and go to doggy day care where they are best friends with another canine duo, Hugo and Lola.

“I was in Ennis for the weekend and brought them in — they were absolutely ecstatic to see Hugo and Lola,” says Aoibhín, adding that the two dogs have really enhanced their owners’ lives.

“When I moved to Ennis, it meant leaving a network of friends and family,” she says. “I found it hard at first. Then we got Rubie and she was such a companion and I never felt alone.

“John’s job is stressful — surrounded by people and always being on when others are off. We find the dogs great for our mental health — they put you back in a good mood.”

And though John is currently climbing Mount Everest, the dogs are still at the top of his mind.

“When he does get a signal to phone, he always asks ‘how are the two’,” says Aoibhín.

The Pawsitivity event offers a chance to test your dog’s IQ, with Suzi Walsh assuring doggy-lovers that even if theirs scores low, it’s not a sign they are an idiot.

However, there are certain signs of canine intelligence, such as problem-solving ability or attempts to communicate with owner.

“It realises the person is important, a resource. It barks at you or makes eye contact with you,” says Suzi

A series of tests will quickly establish a dog’s IQ, she says.

“If you put a towel over a dog’s head to block its vision, how quickly does it take the dog to remove it? If they’re super-smart, they’ll have it off in seconds. If not, they might happily sit there, towel on head, waiting for something to happen.”

Suzi loves Pawsitivity — it ran in Dublin over the weekend — because it’s a “happy event about caring and looking after, bonding with and spending time with your dog”.

Vet Pete Wedderburn — who’ll be on hand to give pet health tips — says that most common pet behavioural problems are caused by lack of stimulation.

“If a dog’s left at home alone and not taken for walks, they end up bored,” he says. “They start to bark, chew, and behave badly. Behaviourists recommend dogs be taken for a half-hour walk or more, twice daily, for their entire lives.”

Wedderburn urges owners to feed their pets for good health — “ask your vet what they feed their pets” — and to prevent as many problems as possible.

“For example, dogs that enjoy eating grass are more likely to swallow tiny slugs and snails.” he says. “This will increase risk of picking up lungworm, so they should be on a higher level of lungworm prevention than ‘handbag’ dogs living indoor lives.”

Hosted by Pedigree Ireland, Pawsitivity in the City is a menu of free fun for dog owners, parents, children and pets. Includes outdoor cinema screening of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (4pm), pop-up Doggy Café with complimentary Pedigree food and snacks/beverages for the whole family, as well as a pet photographer to capture your pooch looking their best.

For little guests, balloon modellers and face painters feature. Visit ISPCA pop-up ‘Puppy Pen’ and talk to ISPCA vets/nurses. ISPCA re-homing team will be available to talk to any prospective owners.

Pawsitivity in the City, Fitz-gerald’s Park, Cork, Saturday, May 20, from 12pm to 5.30pm.

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