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Celebrations all round for
Canine Concern Scotland

Therapet of the Year, Tibetan Spaniel, Ali Baba

This year sees the 15th birthday of the Trust and therefore our Awards Lunch was very special. We always enjoy being able to pay tribute to our enthusiastic and deserving volunteers and having an anniversary to celebrate gave an extra lift to the proceedings.

This year we changed the venue to The Kaim Park Hotel at Bathgate and all were agreed the change was for the better. We had a super lunch which included a birthday cake specially baked by Mick Stead, very yummy it was too! Bathgate is not so far for those in the West to travel whilst still being comparatively near to Edinburgh. Sadly we did not have our very dear Father Jim Peat with us this time and his loss was deeply felt.

We had a lot of wonderful nominations and it was as difficult as ever for the Trustees to decide on the Therapet of the Year, which they do independently with marks out of ten for each nominee. In the event of a tie I as Chairman get a casting vote and thankfully have not so far been called upon to use this although the voting has always been very close. This year was no exception. However, there can only be one winner although there is a runner-up award and all nominees receive a laminated Certificate and special rosette. I must say it does the heart good to read these lovely tributes to our Therapets.

THE SPENCER AWARD was donated by Tom and Dorothy Wilkins in memory of the very first Therapet, their lovely and much missed Cavalier K.C. Spaniel. Tom and Dorothy moved to South Africa a few years ago but they have decided to return to Scotland and next year we look forward to having them back with us to make the presentation.

This year the award went to a very special wee dog, Tibetan Spaniel "Ali Baba", most proudly and lovingly owned by Fiona Ferguson of Largs. They visit Haylie House Residential Home for the Elderly and the nomination was made by the Home’s Registrar, Margaret Comrie. She said "Ali is the highlight of many residents’ week and is a perfect size for elderly people. He has a happy, outgoing personality with a coat that just begs to be stroked! Our more reserved residents obviously benefit from his visits – the look on their faces when he arrives says it all – these quieter residents become quite animated during and after a visit from Ali. He is a great favourite with staff but makes it quite clear that until he has visited HIS residents he hasn’t got time for US! What a character he is!" Fiona and Ali have been visiting for EIGHT YEARS.

Ali has been quite a bit in the news of late, taking a leading role on stage playing Toto in "The Wizard of Oz" and pictured in "The Scottish Episcopalian" wearing his Therapet coat at a special Service for animals. Well done that boy!

Close runner-up to Ali was Elkhound "Zoey" from Aberdeen, loved and owned by David Stuart Caldwell who visits no less than four places regularly – two Cornerstone Houses (the nominators), Fontville Nursing Home and Persley Castle. Both Zoey and David have done a lot for the Trust, David being of tremendous help to Area Rep Fiona Henderson. At the time of the announcement of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award to Aberdeen Therapets they both appeared very prominently in the "Press & Journal" and other papers, adding to the already great fame enjoyed by Fiona’s own Westie, "Toby". Fiona says Zoey is the only bi-lingual dog she knows, she can understand English and Gaelic, also sign language and whistles. A book could be written about her, but suffice to say her award was richly deserved.

The two final awards were "Gotchers" and the recipients had no idea whatsoever about them. THE DR MORRIS ANDREW & DANIEL THE SPANIEL MEMORIAL AWARD – a beautiful silver quaiche donated by Morris’s family - is made annually to the Therapet Organiser of the Year.

Our dearly loved and much missed Morris was a Trustee and was himself area rep for Edinburgh for some years and so it was with special pleasure that this year the presentation was made to a very surprised Douglas Ruthven! Morris himself nominated Douglas for the Committee of Management a year or so before he died, being already a very committed Therapet visitor with his own two dogs and devoted to work for dogs in other areas such as the National Canine Defence League. A real dog man in every way. Douglas has more Therapets in his area than any other and works very hard indeed to keep them all occupied and happy. In addition he is always willing to take on extra jobs organising stands for us, giving talks when requested, and recently has become involved at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh with phobic patients.

This had been quite a week for Douglas as he also celebrated his 65th birthday!

The final surprise award – THE IAIN WHYTE MEMORIAL AWARD - is made to a person or organisation whose work has been of special benefit to the Trust over the past year or a period of years. Certainly "period of years" was applicable here because this special twosome has been active with the Trust since the very first day – they came in with the bricks! Mick and John Stead have been members of the Committee of Management from the start and John is now a Trustee himself. Going back into the past when we were part of PRO Dogs, they were the proud owners of the first ever PAT Dogs in Scotland with their beloved two Dobermanns which in itself caused quite a stir and some positive publicity for this much-maligned breed.

When the Trust began Mick and John were with it 100% and helped with recruitment and vetting of new volunteers. Mick is a great cook, as witness our 15th birthday cake, and is in charge of the special catering at our annual Companion Dog Show. This is a tough job but her lunches are famous! Husband John is now in overall charge of the Show itself and what a success story it is. I just do not know what we should do without the Stead team and that is a fact. It was with the very greatest pleasure that we asked Betty Lawson-Whyte to make the award to this very special couple. Well done, Mick and John, always so willing and never making heavy weather of anything.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our 15th Birthday Lunch and hopefully will be back in Bathgate next year for another happy meeting.

Marjorie Henley Price, Chair of Trustees