Thursday, 31 October 2013


‘Barking Blondes’ by Anna Webb and Jo Good was published this summer, but I’m a slow reader … and even slower reviewer. However, as the author of ‘DASH: Bitch of the Year’, I couldn’t miss out on the chance to say a few words about a book written by two of the UK’s best-known and self-confessed ‘bitches’.
In actual fact, if you know anything about Anna and Jo, you won’t be surprised to learn that their book is anything but ‘bitchy’. They co-present BBC London’s ‘The Barking Hour’ – a radio show which I’ve had the good fortune of appearing on to talk about Dash and greyhounds generally – and I can testify that they’re both warm, funny, energetic and, erm, a bit barking!
The book itself certainly looks impressive, with the dustjacket featuring a crisp, colour-coordinated photo of the authors and their canines (complete with ‘BB’ emblem). The endorsements are by none other than Julie Burchill and Julian Clary. My copy also featured two fine ‘pawtographs’ on the flyleaf from Molly and Matilda. At the head of each chapter are lovely line drawings by Abigail Read and there are eight pages of full-colour photos in the centre. So full marks for presentation.
But what about the content? Well, ‘Barking Blondes’ is the story of how the two women met and formed a close, professional friendship; it’s also the story of their much loved dogs: Molly, a miniature Bull Terrier and Matilda, a Bulldog. Along the way, we learn about the men in the women’s lives and how they inevitably come second to a whirlwind of media-related adventures where their dogs are the only invitees.
Readers will be reassured to learn that there are plenty of genuinely funny events – from doggy-paddling in a rock star’s pool … to having a guest on the radio show turning up with a Semtex-soaked bag for his sniffer dog to track down on air. Such ‘hilarious’ episodes have become the staple of any pet memoir (I plead guilty here, too). The book also has a number of charming turns which many dog-loving readers will identify with. One such is Anna’s dotty lingo which she uses to communicate with Molly (‘Nufftall grafull, Molls!’); another is the ‘Noodle song’ which Anna and Jo both sing when out and about. For me, however, the thing that makes it both brave and readable is that underneath these episodes is a touching portrait of two women who, in their own words, are ‘hard-working, focused, childless, dog-obsessed’ and trying to keep their (human, male) partners happy and not always succeeding.
Jo Good, as the more established celebrity, is the lead character and narrator. She can certainly write – or Anna, who it’s fair to say probably gets more practice, can certainly write well enough for both of them. There’s a bit of name-dropping (Clare Balding makes the inevitable appearance), but that’s to be expected from two media-savvy women who are currently on the Alan Titchmarsh Show. There’s also a shocking revelation about Jo’s relationship with Big George, musician and fellow presenter on BBC London. You can’t help but applaud the honesty in sharing what must have been a desperately difficult situation.
If I had a couple of teeny criticisms, it’s that the book suffers slightly from trying to be too many things at once: celebrity-cum-pet memoir with chick-lit confessional on the side. The authors have also been done a bit of a disservice by the proofreading. Typos and howlers abound (pun intended) – for example, poor Anna should try smoking ‘Marlboro’ instead of the market town in Wiltshire (‘Marlborough’)!
These things aside, it's definitely worth shelling out your hound pounds for a copy. Like their inimitable radio show, you just have to ‘get it’. This reader certainly did, and I’ll be sneaking my copy into Dash’s Christmas stocking, along with a tripe stick as bookmark. Woof woof!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

GBGW – how the stats stack up

(Photo courtesy of Nigel Wild)
  • Greyhounds on the Oxford GBGW (led by Dash, see pic above): 44
  • Greyhounds on the nationwide GBGW (67 locations): 2,230
  • Greyhounds needing new homes (annually): 10,000
  • Greyhounds finding new homes (annually): 4,000 (RGT)
  • Greyhounds languishing in kennels: ???
  • Greyhounds being destroyed: ???

Last Sunday’s ‘Great British Greyhound Walk’ was certainly a Great event. It got hounds from all parts of Britain out and into the public eye; it got their adopters and fans out and into the fresh air. A total of 2,230 dogs taking part in a nationwide walk is a fabulous achievement. No question. But it got me thinking about the stats – how they stack up … or rather how they don’t. The Retired Greyhound Trust (still the biggest rehoming charity by some distance) reports that they succeed in finding new homes for 4K or so dogs a year. There are quite a few other smaller rehoming charities out there, of course. And a percentage of dogs may well “live out their post-racing days at the kennels of their owner or trainer” as the Greyhound Board of Great Britain claims. But is this really supposed to add up to 6K dogs annually? Surely we’d see retired racers everywhere if it did. Every other living room in the UK would have a greyhound stretched out on its sofa! No. A staggering number of perfectly healthy greyhounds must still get “humanely euthanized by a qualified vet” (Greyhound Board of Great Britain again). Or worse. In writing ‘Dash: Bitch of the Year’ I took great pains to tread a fine line between condemning greyhound racing (it’s supposed to be on the decline, after all) and acknowledging the history and energy of a sport which has made the modern greyhound what it is. OK, if you want to breed a winner, you need to breed more than one dog. But how many more I’d like to know? I’d also like to know why the British, supposedly a nation of pet-lovers, are still happy for damn fine dogs to end up homeless, loveless and often lifeless. Shame on us.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Dash’s ‘bitchiness’ rubs off on Bonnie!

Just a short post to congratulate Bonnie (owned by Frances & Sheridan Donovan) who won the category of ‘Best Black Bitch’ at the Greyhound Extravaganza in Newmarket yesterday! The lovely Bonnie (above, left) is pictured with Dash at an event we attended last summer to promote the book. Best bitches should stick together ... particularly the petite black ones!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Female addition to family

I’m sure Dash won’t mind, but I’ve borrowed her blog to post a picture of the little lady. MARTHA Dilger was born on Monday lunchtime, weighing in at 7lb 14 oz. Sarah, the mother, wife and heroine of the hour is doing well. I like to think I did my bit too, repairing two punctures in the birthing pool as we went along. It wouldn’t be Oxford if we didn’t get a puncture or two en route! Of course, poor old Dash will have to adjust to yet another shift in the hierarchy, but at least Martha’s arrival means that the Dilger bitches now outnumber the Dilger blokes!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Dash’s 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
a poo underneath a park tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
two pigs’ ears … and a poo underneath a park tree.

On the third day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
three tail-wags … two pigs’ ears, and a poo underneath a park tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
four tattered toys … three tail-wags, two pigs’ ears, etc.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
five cold licks … four tattered toys, three tail-wags, etc.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
six garden sprints … five cold licks, four tattered toys, etc.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
seven yelps at breakfast … six garden sprints, etc.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my greyhounds (if I had two) would give to me
eight legs-a-roaching … seven yelps at breakfast, etc.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
nine whiffs of dog-breath … eight legs-a-roaching, etc. 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
ten rotten teeth … nine whiffs of dog-breath, etc.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
eleven nosey nudges … ten rotten teeth, etc.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my greyhound gave to me
twelve whines at midnight … eleven nosey nudges, etc.

Happy Hound-filled Christmas from Dash: Bitch of the Year!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Thirteenth time (un)lucky

Our thirteenth event of the season was a sponsored walk for Greyhound Rescue West of England ( It took place in the leafy and lovely surroundings of Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire. Unfortunately, we got there too late to blow the starting whistle, but a good time was had by all. Since it’s probably the last (outdoor) event we’ll attend this year, I’ve decided to suspend the blog until something INCREDIBLE happens. I’ll sign off with a fun summary of a typical day on the book promo trail:

  1. Set off for dog event with the car crammed with boxes of books, display stands, leads x2, collars x2, dog-coats x2, cash float, water bottle and bowl, treats. Already late.
  2. Promptly turn round and return home. Have forgotten Dash.
  3. Set off again. Sudden downpour and standstill traffic.
  4. Sat-nav announces our destination. Looks like a lay-by halfway down a country lane. It is a lay-by halfway down a country lane. Call the organizer for proper directions and apologize for lateness.
  5. Finally arrive at correct destination. Run to appointed meeting point, loaded up with books, etc. and Dash charging along beside me.
  6. Slip and fall over, scattering books everywhere. Dash takes advantage of diversion and scarpers, trailing the lead behind her.
  7. Pick myself up, wipe down books and thank kind person who has apprehended Dash. Dash looks very pleased with herself.
  8. Meet the organizer. They are surprised at (a) how small Dash is and, (b) how skinny and bald I am.
  9. Discover I’ve been given table next to PA system since ‘nice and prominent’. Fasten Dash to table and set up book display.
  10. Change Dash into kit – gold-fringed red velvet coat emblazoned with the legend: ‘DASH – Bitch of the Year’, and matching lead and collar. Finishing touch is a black flower which adorns collar.
  11. Meet some charming people and their hounds, but conversation consists of shouting in each other’s ears because of proximity to PA system.
  12. Sell and sign books. Carefully check spelling of each person’s name. Misspell someone’s name since three people are talking to me at once, and Dash is trying to pickpocket them for treats.
  13. Dash is given strokes and treats galore. Fans pose for their photo with her. Someone asks me, ‘Are you the handler?’
  14. Need the toilet, but can’t leave Dash unattended. Wonder if I could do it discreetly behind the table – seems to work for Dash. Decide to cross my legs.
  15. Read from book to assembled crowd. PA chooses to pack up at that precise moment. Am given a megaphone instead. Now have megaphone in one hand, book in the other, and Dash’s lead trapped under one foot.
  16. Judge a category in fun dog show. Discover I’ve been given one of ‘low-risk’ categories, e.g. ‘Waggiest Tail’ or ‘Most Melting Expression’. About to present rosettes when heavens open. Everyone runs for cover.
  17. Crowd thins out, so decide to take a wander and look at some other stalls. Dash steals sausage roll which someone put down for a nanosecond. Spend the day’s profit from book sales on accessories and toys for Dash.
  18. Thank the organizer, load the stuff (and Dash) in the car and set off for home. Car breaks down after three miles and end up getting towed home. Arrive at midnight.
  19. Declare that’s the last event we’re going to do EVER.
  20. Receive invite for another event the next day. Agree to do it without hesitation.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Dash and Celia Cross - Part 2

You’ll be heartened to hear that the greyhound pictured in the previous post (‘Droopy’) is now a lot happier in the care of Celia Cross Greyhound Trust. As are his fellow rescuees from the abandoned kennel of a local greyhound trainer. Although out of the kennels, they’re not yet ‘out of the woods’, and are still waiting for adopters to welcome them into forever homes. In the interim, the wonderful people of Burgess Pet Care have sent no less than ONE HUNDRED sacks of their Supadog Greyhound & Lurcher food to Celia Cross. Dash and I met the marketing boss, Naomi, at the Cranleigh Show (see photo above). Burgess were the official sponsor of the launch of ‘Dash: Bitch of the Year’ and are supporting rescue organizations in a number of ways, one of which is the Greyhound & Lurcher Fund. For every 12.5kg sack of food sold, 20p goes into the coffers. You can imagine this makes for a pretty tidy sum, and now is the time of year when the fund is awarded to an independent greyhound & lurcher rescue centre. If that’s you, or an organization you belong to, then applications should be submitted to As for the Cranleigh Show, well, despite the torrential rain, £17K (at the last count) was raised by Celia Cross. Some folk are just indefatigable in their desire to help.