Where 10 years brings us to
Walking the dogs has been part of our daily routine since we first brought Jasmine home as a puppy 25 years ago. When we adopted Susie-Belle, exactly 10 years ago, she was a dog who had lived confined to the grim interior of a breeding shed for years. Walking was something that she had never done. With her our walks became much more than a routine – they were a key part of Susie-Belle’s therapy. It was while walking that Susie-Belle shed some of the crippling worries which plagued her days. She visibly became more ‘dog like’. Watching her use her nose and other senses brought into sharp focus the journey we were on together. Knowing she had never felt fresh dew between her toes, or shingle shift gently under her paws made every walk meaningful.
My early blogs talk about the happy times we had while walking, even when many problems for Susie-Belle persisted. We organised and joined in with regular meet ups with other schnauzers, forming the early roots of what was to become in 2014, Schnauzerfest.
Eighteen months after adopting Susie-Belle, Twinkle joined us and the therapeutic value of walking for dogs from breeding lives became even clearer. Twinkle was a tightly bundled up bag of nerves. She remained so for a lot longer than Susie-Belle. But once she got the hang of walking, she blossomed. At least during the times we were outside we saw early, fleeting glimpses of Twinkle’s happiness. Which over the years grew steadily more confident and vibrant.
All the books I have written about the dogs feature dog walking. My commitment to promoting walks as a path to healing for puppy farm dogs has deepened over the past 10 years. Time and again I’ve seen not just my dogs, but many others benefit from the simple act of walking together. I have friends and many acquaintances who attest to the value for their dogs of being out walking.
From the original fundraising entity that was Schnauzerfest, has grown a charity. One where walks remain central to its ethos and aims. When COVID caused the loss of the iconic Schnauzerfest walks in October 2020 it knocked us for six. Facing us was the reality of trying to be as good a charity as possible without these popular and established events.
The loss of social gatherings around dog walks was personally very tough for me to accept. Ten years ago I learnt that Susie-Belle needed to walk in order to heal and thrive. The charity founded in her memory is rooted in this belief. My understanding of what puppy farm dogs endure began 10 years ago. My commitment to ending the cruelty is stronger today than ever. The last 10 years has seen no improvements for dogs in the industry.
While important as fundraisers, Schnauzerfest walks have always been more than this. They are opportunities to show the wider world what puppy farming does to dogs and why rescue dogs need support. I was very thankful that our 2020 alternative event, Schnauzerfest Walks The Globe was a great success. People engaged with it who had never been on a Schnauzerfest walk before, nor been aware of puppy farming.
It was in the week leading up to Schnauzerfest in October 2015 that we received the terminal diagnosis of Susie-Belle’s tumour. It was just 5 weeks later that she died. Knowing it would be the last she would ever enjoy, the last Schnauzerfest walk we joined was the saddest we ever shared. But through it all, the hope that I knew Schnauzerfest offered to dogs in future helped to get me through it.
Dog walks for Schnauzerfest hold great emotional ties for me. I know this is true for many who over the years have come to understand what Schnauzerfest is and where its origins lie.
We are now having to do things differently with the charity walks for a couple of difficult reasons. But, I’m really heartened seeing our supporters embrace the changes and planning walks for October. The Schnauzerfest community is a kind and big hearted one. Like Susie-Belle herself. Loyal too.