Me & My Pet: Chris Packham, CBE

Nature-loving TV presenter Chris Packham, the host of a brand new event called Dogstival this May 18th & 19th, tells PetsPyjamas all about his dog best friend Scratchy.

What is Dogstival and how did you get involved?
Dogstival, is a celebration of the joy dogs bring to our lives and is set to be the best day out a dog could ever want. The total opposite of the traditional best in breed judging-style dog show, dogs and their owners can expect dazzling canine displays, activities to try such as agility, ‘distraction ally’ and flyball, delicious gourmet treats, fantastic gifts, experts talks and more, in the heart of one of the UK’s most dog-friendly areas, the New Forest. There’s even a dog-friendly beach, which is the first for a UK dog festival, as well as live music and a vintage funfair with views over to the Isle of White.

Another great feature of Dogstival is that is intended to help owners discover more about the mental and physical wellbeing of their furry friend for a happier, healthier future together. The Dog House Behavioural Stage will host canine experts covering topics such as mental stimulation, separation anxiety, diet, exercise and more. Recognising that much of a dog’s life is spent in the home, the actual stage itself will be transformed into a life-like house setting to explore typical issues that happen in the household.

The Dogstival team got in touch back in summer 2018 to talk about the event. They explained that as well as being an utterly fantastic day out for dogs, they wanted the show to help owners develop a greater understanding of what it takes to be a responsible pet owner in precious environments such as the New Forest, which was a huge selling point for me. As a local resident of the New Forest and being hugely passionate for the area, I thought it could be a great thing to get involved in. The fact we’re combining all that’s amazing about owning a dog, learning more about our unique local environment and showcasing our brilliant local businesses it all seemed to fit.

Tell us about your adorable dog – what sort of dog is he?
Scratchy is a 16-year-old, black miniature Poodle. He is my best friend and the centre of my world. I first met Scratchy when he was just six hours old, he’s now 16 so the twilight of his years but he’s simply meant everything to me.

Does he have any funny ways?
I think all dogs have their unique personalities or quirks. Scratchy is no different. He loves cuddles, but less in the evening when he’s relaxing and he loves certain walks, the ones he’s more familiar with, I guess where he can explore and probably thinks is own ‘special patch!’

What difference does he make to your life?
He is my incentive to go outside to connect with nature and maintain my mental wellbeing. I call him my ‘joy grenade’, as we head out for a walk and he explodes with joy, which is my favourite thing to see.  

Will he be involved in the festival?
I’ll be largely based in The Dogstival Lounge, as part of a line-up of inspiring talks and insights from patrons and partners such as the New Forest Parks team. I’m sure Scratchy will be making an appearance at my side, but he’s an old boy now, so we need to make sure he gets plenty of time to rest, so I expect he’ll be keen to head to the Happy Hound Den, which is dedicated to four-legged relaxation!

Do you like to travel with him?
Scratchy is a seasoned traveller from the UK to France, as I used to have a house there. He’s now on his third passport! These days, we tend to stay closer to home.

Any thoughts about pet welfare?
The very first thing someone needs to be totally sure on if considering getting a dog is ‘if I can properly look after a dog’ – from training to being part of their everyday life perspective. Dogs are like children, they need love, care, attention, play, and education. Dogs aren’t things you can leave in the morning and come back to after work.

It’s also about understanding the type of dog that suits your home or lifestyle. How much exercise do they need? It’s about space and engagement, they desperately want to part of every minute of your life, so giving that back is so important.

Does your dog join you when filming?
Scratchy comes everywhere he can. He’s been sniffing about our wonderful countryside on Spring or Autumn Watch for a past few years and always with me. When I have to fly overseas things are more difficult, but our amazing dog sitter moved into my old house and when I’m away he goes back there. Old smells, lots of cuddles and love. I hate being away from him, but I can sleep well knowing he’s somewhere happy and safe.

Do you find it easy travelling with your dog?
We have all the necessary stuff to make life easy for travelling with Scratch but with his age and all the great dog-friendly places and walks on our door-step, we are spoilt for choice, so we tend to spend our time together closer to home these days.

Dogstival takes places on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May at Pylewell House, Lymington. For tickets and further information, visit dogstival.co.uk.

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