Could you pass my handbag – I mean – er my dog

Ten-year-old Alfie, a Chihuahua, is a former resident of Dogs Trust Harefield, and was rehomed by staff member.

It’s easy donating last season’s sequined purse to a charity shop or shoving it to the back of the wardrobe – it’s more problematic doing that to a miniature dog.

Animal welfare charities are warning of a celebrity trend, set by the likes of Paris Hilton and Coleen Rooney, that has caused a rise in abandoned ‘handbag’ dogs. People are realising, too late, that while fashionable for a day, keeping a canine under their arm, is not always practical for life.

Animal charity The Blue Cross has seen the number of abandoned toy dogs more than treble in five years while the Dogs Trust had a 44% increase from 2009 to 2010.

Four-month-old Pomeranian, Poppy, was bought last Christmas Eve by a 17-year-old boy. He got bored and passed her on to his mum, who had to bring Poppy to work with her. Within a few weeks, Poppy came to the Dogs Trust in Shoreham.

It is unclear whether it was Orlando Bloom’s Yorkie ‘Frankie’ or Mickey Rourke’s Chihuahua ‘Jaws’ that inspired that particular teenager to get dog friendly for his man bag.  What is clear is that animal charities have cause to believe people underestimate the needs of little dogs.

Ryan Neile, an animal behaviourist at The Blue Cross, said: “People assume that just because dogs are small they require less exercise and mental stimulation, but this is often not true. All dogs need appropriate outlets for their behaviour, otherwise they may become bored, frustrated or stressed, which could result in behaviour problems, such as being destructive in the home.

“Just because they are small enough to be carried around all day, doesn’t mean that they should be. Due to their size, people forget they are still dogs and they need to be treated and respected as such.”

The charity has seen the numbers of Bichon Frise, Chihuahuas, Shih Tsus, Yorkshire terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Pugs, Pomeranians, Papillons and Cavalier King Charles spaniels rise from just 53 in 2005/6 to 177 in the past 12 months.

Pint-sized pups don’t come cheap either. Pedigree pups can cost more than £1,000 – and that doesn’t take into account vets bills, grooming costs or food.

People also forget what these so-called ‘handbag dogs’ were originally bred for.  For example, Yorkies, and most terrier dogs, were originally bred to catch and fight rats, and Lhasa Apsos were watch dogs for Tibetan monasteries in the Himalayas.

Some dogs are also prone to health problems. Chihuahuas can suffer heart murmurs and Pugs can have breathing difficulties and eye problems. These can result in large vet bills that people don’t take into account or may not be able to afford.

But despite celebrity influences, there are those who love the little breeds for their qualities and not just their portability.

University student Rhona Kirby, 20, from Haywards Heath, said: “I want a Maltipoo – it’s a cross between a Maltese and a Poodle and apparently all the celebrities have them but that’s not why I want them.  I looked into it properly – the Maltese part of them makes them docile and good companion dogs while the Poodle part makes them intelligent.

Rihanna and Jessica Simpson and the blonde girl from Gossip Girl – Blake Lively – all have one. They are everywhere in Hollywood. Vanessa Hudgens has one too but the fact that celebrities have them puts me off. I wanted them because they’re cute and intelligent.”

“I got a rabbit last week instead, only because I wouldn’t be able to manage a dog and work. I didn’t think that it would be fair to keep it indoors nine to five.”

When asked if she’d ever get a Maltipoo, Rhona said: “Definitely, but when I have more time to walk it. I’ll probably wait till I’m married so I’ll have someone else to walk it too!”

Sadly not all potential dog owners realise they haven’t the time to give. Shelby, a two-year-old Chihuahua, was brought to Dogs Trust’s Shoreham centre in August because her owner’s work commitments changed.

Two-year-old Chihuahua, Shelby, at Dogs Trust, Shoreham.

Nicole McCallum, Support Relations Officer for Dogs Trust’s Shoreham animal centre, said: “It’s a common reason in this current climate. Some people have to take on full-time work rather than part-time or have to move away.”

After featuring in the Daily Mail two weeks ago, Shelby got hundreds of calls of interest and the Dogs Trust found her a suitable new home.

Ms McCallum said: “She’s going to a couple – hopefully this week – with experience with nervous Chihuahuas, which Shelby is. She’s very scared of strangers. One of the staff has been fostering her, giving her lots of attention, playing with her, cuddling her on the sofa and Shelby absolutely loves that. Once she’s got past the fear, and has got used to you, she’s really lovely.

“The couple have been excellent. They don’t expect anything from her which is good for her, as it’s just about taking each day at a time. They understand what she needs which is great.”

I, for one, have had Lhasa Apsos for the past 15 years as a family pet and while our nine-year-old pooch Coffee is a little demanding for tummy rubs, she loves to run loose in fields, tell the neighbours’ cats where to stick it, and curl up on my dad’s newspapers.

Coffee sleeps on her back like a human.

New or young owners shouldn’t be put off by the needs of little dogs because they can bring a lot of life to a home.  They should just make sure it is the right dog for their lifestyle.

A dog is for life, not just for a handbag.


The Argus stories in print

The Argus story: Athlete wins Brighton’s 10k beachfront race with a sprint

A leisurely stroll along Brighton’s seafront was not what more than 300 athletes had in mind when they took part in Brighton’s Athletics and Triathlon Club’s inaugural 10K race on Wednesday evening.

Brighton’s Phoenix club sold a record of 450 entries and the excellent conditions of overcast but dry weather helped the competitors as they ran from Hove’s Lawns to Shoreham Harbour’s Carrot’s Cafe and back again.

Dean Lacey, of Cambridge Harriers, won the race in 30 minutes and 24 seconds with a final sprint to keep three seconds ahead of Phoenix’s own athlete Ian Leitch.

Lizzy Brama, a marshal for the race, said: “It was the best finish I’ve seen in a long time with Dean only narrowly beating Ian.”

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Askamum story: New parents take inspiration from celebrity baby names

Celebrity and film culture are now strongly informing how parents name their babies.

Babies in a line - baby names

By Soraya Auer

Celebrities are strongly influencing parents when naming their babies, according to an analysis of 23 million page views on a baby-names website.

Pam Satran, the developer of the nameberry.comwebsite, said: “Five years ago, I might have said that the biggest overarching factor was personal meaning, now the biggest factor is celebrities.”

Satran believes the number of searches for a particular name is a better indicator of how parents will act when it comes to naming their child in the more immediate future.

Of the girls names the name Pippa, she explained, rose in popularity after Pippa Middleton caught the world’s attention when she was the maid of honour at her sister Kate’s wedding to Prince William in April. “She seems to have the power of celebrity propelling her name and style,” Satran said.

At the moment, the U.S. Social Security Administration annually tracks and releases the number of babies with a particular name after birth. Jacob, Ethan and Michael were the top boy names for the US in 2010 while Isabella, Sophia and Emma were the favourites for girls.

More unusual names have also been celebrity inspired, such as Elula, daughter of actress Isla Fisher and actor-comedian Sasha Baron Cohen. Elula was not in the database in 2010 but so far into 2011, it is the 38th most searched for name. According to Satran, this is essentially because the celebrity couple chose not to publicize the name until well after their child’s birth.

“There is a culture of the celebrity baby,” she said. “The whole world goes on name watch. By not telling the name, it becomes a big news event.”

Other popular celebrity inspired searches include Flynn, son of actor Orlando Bloom and his Australian model wife Miranda Kerr, Hadley, from the bestselling book “The Paris Wife”, and Mila, which Satran points to actress Mila Kunis’ success in the past year.

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Askamum story: Leeds to become England’s first breastfeeding friendly city

With over half of mums feeling embarrassed to breastfeed in public, Leeds’ council and health services are calling on all businesses and residents to make breastfeeding mums feel welcomed and comfortable.

Three mums with their babies on their laps chatting

By Soraya Auer

Leeds is hoping to become the first breastfeeding friendly city in England with the Local NHS organisations and the support of Leeds City Council.

The Leeds Breastfeeding Friendly campaign aims to promote breastfeeding by making it more acceptable in public, so that mums are comfortable to breastfeed their children when they need to.

Maggie Boyle, of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHNT), said: “LTHNT helps deliver over 9,000 babies every year and we always advise mums that breastfeeding is the healthiest option for them and their babies.”

A recent UK-wide survey found that many mums are put off breastfeeding in public despite recognising its benefits. More than half of mums were too embarrassed to breastfeed in front of people, a third said they hid in public toilets to breastfeed and more than two thirds said they were ‘blatantly stared at’ when breastfeeding in public.

NHS Leeds has been working with local mums to find out what barriers they face when looking to breastfeed their babies. Leeds officials are calling on all businesses and residents to create an environment in which breastfeeding mums are welcomed, supported and made comfortable.

Leeds also wants to inform and motivate local mums to breastfeed as the number of those who choose to do it is relatively low. Health professionals will be measuring the success of the campaign by seeing if there is an increase in breastfeeding mums.

The campaign hopes an increase in breastfeeding in the most disadvantaged areas will make a significant different to the health and wellbeing within the most disadvantaged communities in Leeds.

“It is really important that mums are given all the support they need when feeding their children,” said John Lawlow, Chief Executive for NHS Leeds. “Now we need the support of local businesses and community organisations. All they need to do is sign up to the scheme and receive a free resource pack including display materials.”

To help local mums find out where Breastfeeding Friendly venues are in Leeds a dedicated website has been set up.

Local businesses and community organisations looking to get involved in the campaign can receive a free resource pack by emailing Sarah Erskine at NHS Leeds.

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Askamum story: Oliver and Olivia were 2010’s favourite baby names

Top traditional names remain popular, according to 2010 national statistics released today.

Top 100 baby names for boys and girls in a collage tree

By Soraya Auer

Oliver and Olivia, for the second year running, were the most popular baby names across England and Wales in 2010, according to statistics released today.

The Office of National Statistics’ 2010 list revealed Oliver, Jack, Harry and Alfie kept their top four places on the boys’ list.

Sophie, Emily, Lily and Amelia all rose into the top five spots in the list of girl names but there were no new entries into the top 10.

The fastest rising boy name in the top 100 was Ollie, while Olly was 113.

Despite claims celebrities influence new parents more now than ever, traditional names were very popular.

Olivia took top spot for seven English regions while Sophie was popular in the East and Lily in the South West. Welsh mums favoured the names Oliver and Ruby, possibly influenced by Charlotte’s Church’s three-year-old daughter Ruby. For the boys, Jack was popular in the North East while Oliver came top in eight English regions.

New entries into the boy’s top 100 were Bobby, Caleb, Jenson, Dexter and Kayden, and into the girls’ top 100 were Annabelle, Eliza, Laila, Maryam and Maisy.

Maisy saw the highest rise in popularity, rising from 141 in 2009 to take 100 in 2010. For the boys, Ollie saw the largest rise in the top 100, rising from 115 in 2009 to take 63 in 2010.

The statistics reveal that Alfie, among baby boy names, was the highest climbing new entry to the top 10 in the past decade (It was 53 in 2000). This could have been helped along by the success of Lily Allen’s song Alfie in 2007.

Evie was the highest climbing entry to the girl’s top 10 since 2000 with a rise of 101 places.

Over the past decade in the top 100 lists, boy’s name Kayden rose 1,326 places to 99 and Lexi, for the girls, rose 1,949 to 47.

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Askamum story: New Zealand bans 102 names

Celebrities wishing to name their kids creatively will want to avoid New Zealand where names like Lucifer, Adolf Hitler and Messiah will be rejected.

boy and girl sitting wearing gender symbol t-shirt

By Soraya Auer

New Zealand is cracking down on parents getting too creative when naming their children after Lucifer was requested three times.

The country’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages’ list of 102 names rejected in the past two years includes Baron, Bishop, Duke, General, Judge, King, Knight and Mr because they are considered too close to titles.

Punctuation marks . (full stop), * (asterisk) and / (slash), Messiah, Adolf Hitler, 89 and single letters C, D, I and T were also turned down.

This crack down comes after the registrar made headlines in 2008 for allowing the names Violence, Number 16 Bus Shelter, and for a set of twins, Benson and Hedges (after the cigarette brand).

In 2008, a New Zealand judge ruled in favour of a nine-year-old girl’s wish to change her name, Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii, because it embarrassed her so much she hadn’t told people her real name.

Judge Rob Murfitt said odd names could scar children as they grew up. He said: ‘It makes a fool of a child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap.’

Name choice is also subject to a naming law in Sweden where the names Superman, Metallica, Elvis and Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (nicknamed Albin) were not approved. However, the names Lego and Google were allowed.

A judge in the Dominion Republic submitted a proposal to ban names that are either confusing or give no indication of gender in 2007, reported the Toronto Globe and Mail. Examples were Qeurida Pina (Dear Pineapple) and Tonton Ruiz (Dummy Ruiz).

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