PDSA holds dog friendly festival at Cheltenham

Two thousand dogs are tapping their paws and wagging their tails. There’s so much to do and see it’s hard to know where to start. The dogs are overwhelmed by the size of the festival. There’s Buster from Bristol, Baxter from Bath, Finn from Hertfordshire – too many names to remember. The turnout is huge and the weather is hotter than Ibiza!

Baxter wanted to go to his favourite place for lunch, so the Doggie Diner it is. He took his place at the table and ordered his favourite, a tin of Sunday Lunch. While he enjoyed the food and doggie conversation, I took the time to catch up with Chris Locke from Lily’s Kitchen. Chris is really proud to work for an ethical company where everyone is really mad about dogs and cats. This year Lily’s Kitchen will be ten years’ old and Chris has been working for them for nearly two years.

Chris said: “Our food is so healthy even we can eat it. The food is packed with quality ingredients, even carrots and sugar snap peas. There is food for every age of your pet’s life, from puppy through to senior years. All the tins and trays are recyclable, unlike pouches.”

While the dogs carried on munching their way through Sunday Lunch, Chris shows me the array of food and their unique names – Surf and Turf, English Garden Party, and Veggie Feast to name but a few. “Our kitchen has rules, lots of healthy meat from muscle and organs like liver, no dried meat or meat meal which is really hard for dogs to digest,” said Chris.

During a pause for pudding, Emma MacDonald, a PDSA nurse said: “When Baxter has finished his dinner come along and get him a five-point pet MOT at the PDSA van.”

Before we left the diner, Chris said “Don’t forget your doggie bag. This is Red Berry Boost and is a complete meal in a snack bar. If you are away all day you don’t need to take your dog’s pet food with you as this bar is all they need. Again, you can eat it. Well that is if you like liver!”

When I spoke with Amy at the PR office she had told me the PDSA runs the world’s most respected, distinguished, and acclaimed Animal Awards Programme and, for the first time, these awards are to be held in the presence of the public.

On our way to find Emma and her PDSA van, we stopped off via the main stage where an amazing dog called Finn was being awarded the PDSA Gold Medal. This is known as the animals George Cross, and is given in recognition of bravery and exceptional devotion to duty.

By the time this ceremony had finished I don’t think there was a dry eye in the crowd.

At the PDSA van the vet and nurses were waiting for us. Emma joined Baxter on the floor of her van. “Getting down to the dog’s level puts them at ease,” she said.

A few years ago, the Animal Welfare Act was passed to protect pets. Owners have a responsibility to provide nutrition and veterinary care for their animals.

The PDSA has a mobile team of six vans throughout the UK. Emma said: “We work on a rota and visit different towns,” with Emma and her team covering Scotland. “While we are out on the road we offer the five-point pet MOT to anyone who has a pet. We also visit schools and educate children on how to look after their pets. The PDSA makes no charge for this, all we ask of people is if they can make a donation.”

Baxter scored a green light on his MOT. Emma is really pleased with him. She went through questions about his food, how long he was left on his own in the day, and then she asked: “Where does Baxter sleep?” “In his own bed,” I replied. “But is this upstairs?” she asked. Yes, but he does sleep by the side of the bed. “Ideally he should stay downstairs as they can be restless at night and you don’t want them creeping onto the bed” Emma said. Oops, got caught out on that one so he only got an amber pass on that question!

The day is gone and the sun is slowly setting.  The dogs are all exhausted but the three main acts are now starting.  With Baxter’s sleepy eyes saying I want to go home, my love for the Kaiser Chiefs will have to wait for another day.

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