Taming the Fearsome Hound
By Chris Phillipsborn
The people | 27th October, 2006
The Isle of Wight is full of lore and ledgend. Well, I have a new one for you. It is a strange and frankly terrifying tale.
If you are of a nervous disposition, I'd advise you yo look away now.
It isn't going to be pretty.
you may have heard of THe Hound of the Baskervilles, in which a huge beast with rabid lips and flaming coat puts the willies into Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Well, Conan Doyle eat your heart out.
This is the story of the Hound of East Wight.
It begins with a cute little puppy called Pilot gambolling on the seashore, held on a lead by a small child.
Just eight months later this very same puppy grew Incredible Hulk-like into a slightly hairier version of the Yeti monster.
Nice little walks on a lead are a thing of the past.
Now, residents tell of a huge hairy beast running through the streets, towing a bedraggled woman behind it by the wrist.
Not content with with mere barking, the monster has taken up yodelling to better pierce the village calm.
Innocent bystanders flee from deserted streets as the beast flashes past during his frequent escape bids. Even the postman has taken to leaving our letters on the top of our car so he doesn't have to set through the gate.
Our garden was nice enough once. Now it looks like a new government detention centre for illegal immigrants. There are fences everywhere, with railways sleepers to halt tunnelling.
My mother-in-law refuses to call if the beast is loose in the garden.
Ok, every cloud has a silver lining.
But you get the picture. It was time to get a grip.
I tried teaching him to play bridge. We set him loose on the beach and he escaped all the wat to Whitecliff Bay. I challenged him to an arm wrestling competition but he beat me in straight sets. He was looking like a moose without the antlers - though thankfully without an ounce of aggression or malice.
Then we met Barry Davey.
Barry is a veterinary pharamacist and dog trainer who is retired from the Royal Army Veterinary Corp (RAVC) and lives in Ashey.
He joined the Merchant Navy at 15 and has worked on fishing trawlers, in the RAF and was posted to Melton Mowbray, Cyprus and Germany during his time with the RAVC.
If you have four legs and fur you just don't mess wiyh Barrie.
A couple of hours with him and the Hound of East Wight was tamed and supine. Amazingly there was no wrestling involved.
No more straining at the leash, no more stopping at every other footstep to smell each blade of grass. No more jumping up, putting his front paws on your sholders and giving you a big wet sloppy lick like the scrub of a floor cloth.
"There was no doubt who was in command" said my wife, still breathless with admiration.
Forget the dog, I decided I could learn a trick or two.
Barrie's theory about dogs is pretty straightforward.
"People have dogs as a sort of adornment; even a surrogate child. But dogs are wild animals and in many cases this gives them a position within the pack - their human family - which is higher than it should be. They should be at the bottom of the pecking order."
"They will take advantage given the slightest chance. When a dog realises he is at the bottom of the pile he is .. they just keep working.
When Pilot pulled or sniffed at an unauthorised lampost, he was taken back to restart that part of the walk until he got it right. He soon learned that where walks are concerned, there's Barrie's way, or there's no way.
Barrie plainly loves animals. "Except for scorpions, I hate scorpions," he said with feeling.
He cried when the first dog he trained in the army was shipped off to active service in Singapore.
Since then hundreds of them have passed through his hands.
Ambush, compound, tracking, mine detecting, security. You name the function, he's trained the dog. It's amazing to learn all the uses which the armed forces make of dogs in the technological age. Personally, I think I'd skip nime detecting if I where a canine volunteer.
"We used crossbreeds for mine work for obvioue reasons," said Barrie.
I wondered if they had finer noses.
"No," said Barrie. "They are more readilry available.
It is easy to feel ambivalent about the use of dogs in the army, until you remember they share many of the dangers and trials that soldiers themselves are subjected to.
Once a dog was trained it was a war dog, they have a job to do," said Barrie, who has a soft spot for springers.
"It's their whole personality. They want to please and they just keep working."
Springers make good arms detection and tracking dogs, he said. "The army doesn't take dobermans, they have a mouth like a typewriter, they bite all over. German shepherds bite and hold on, they are used as security and guard dogs. With them, what you see is what you get. They can make very good pets."
Labradors were taken on by the bucketful as tracker dogs, particularly for jungle work.
Army dogs where chosen at the age of two. Dogs would be selected according to their reaction to various tests.
"For example, with an ambush dog, you want a dog which looks and points but doesn't bark. So if you make a noise and you find a dog reacts like that, that's half your job done."
I asked Barrie for tips when faced with an aggressive dog.
"Stand still and avoid eye contact", he said.
"It won't work unless the dog is a pet", he adds reassuringly. "There are no bad dogs. Only bad owners."
As we talk, Pilot the hairy beast, our one-year-old Otterhound - aka The Hound of East Wight - is sleeping under our feet.
I wonder what sort of army dog he would make.
Barrie thinks for a bit.
"He'd make an excellent regimental mascot in the Water Transport Corps," he says with a grin.
I've already sent off for the application form.
The Dog Whisperer
By Isle of Wight County Press | 16th May, 2010
BARRIE DAVEY has been working with dogs for some 40 years, most of which have been spent on the Island.
He describes his approach as a cross between "Dog Borstal" and "The Horse Whisperer", believing that it his remit to give dog owners the wherewithal - or the "reins" as he puts it - to get better control of and respect from their charges.
Barrie says his first foray into animal training came at the age of six: "I tried to train the family's Christmas dinner - a cockerel! to lay eggs."
Soon after he moved on to Bambi, the family's tabby cat, trying to persuade it to jump from one upturned saucepan to another.
At eight he was packed off to boarding school where he kept a menagerie of worms, frogs and toads in his gym locker. He also managed to capture a stoat on the boys' garden allotments but it didn't stay around for long: "The smell of old gym socks and shoes was too much for him," says Barrie.
After leaving school Barrie signed on with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, where he was trained first as a dog handler and then later as a dog trainer, serving in Germany and Cyprus. He became a vital member of the RAVC dog display team in England and Germany.
Barrie has accumulated many pieces of wisdom during his years working with dogs, but two of his favourite phrases are "Mother Nature knows best" and "let sleeping dog lay."
Therapy Dog Stan On Duty
By Isle of Wight County Press |
Left: Stan the community therapy dog, with Stonehaven Residential Home, Sandown, resident Kath Howe, and animal trainer Barrie Davey, senior carer Rosina Fletcher, and Kerry Vale, assisting Barrie.
Having spent his career training army dogs to be ready for active duty, Barrie davey has just trained his first therapy dog.
Stan, the rottweiler alsation cross, owned by Kerry Vale, of Avenue Road, Sandown, recently completed his first official mission, acting impeccably throughout a visit to Stonehaven Residential Home in Sandown.
Barrie, who lives in Ashey, said "Many of the residents, who spent time with Stan, really enjoyed the visit because they miss the pets they used to have."
People get a lot of comfort from stroking dogs and Stan, who took it all in his stride, seemed to enjoy it too.
After watching programmes on TV about the work of therapy dogs and realising five-year-old Stan had the right temperament, Kerry, 21, posted a message on the internet asking for dog trainers to get in touch.
After Barrie contacted me, we did a lot of work with Stan to get him up to the required standard and we were both really pleased with him during the visit to Stonehaven.
"He was a bit of a handful when I got him about a year ago from a lady in Cowes who no longer had room for him, but with Barrie's help he's now the perfect therapy dog."
"Eventually I'd like to take him into hospitals and disabled schools," said Kerry.
A retired Royal Army Veterinary Corps dog trainer and vetineriny pharmacist, Barrie now works privately as a dog trainer but is prepared to provide training for therapy dogs on a voluntary basis.