herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

Exotic eagles and crocodiles snap up the attention at Pet Expo

Animals

Stefania Najdoska age 4 looking at a Crocodile from the National Reptile Zoo
Stefania Najdoska age 4 looking at a Crocodile from the National Reptile Zoo

Eagles, crocodiles and dogs were among the star attractions at this year's Pet Expo in Dublin.

While various animal species were strutting their stuff at the RDS in Ballsbridge during the weekend, there were more than 40 breeds of dogs at the family event.

Tallaght couple Stephen and Debbie Long exhibited their enormous Black Russian Terrier Rhonda, a friendly bitch who is just 18 months old and still growing.

The glossy luxuriant fur of Rhonda had a "must pat" quality that attracted large numbers of admirers.

"These dogs were bred by the Russian army to guard their military installations," said Stephen (43), a disability support worker.

"But only a certain type of person is suitable to own one, as they are high maintenance dogs and need a lot of time and attention," he said.

The couple share their house with five of these giant dogs and a 60kg South Russian Terrier. They are so particular in their care of the Black Russians that they have only sold two litters over the past seven years. Pups are €1,500 each and all have been exported to the UK or the USA, with just one sold in Ireland and that was to a Russian lady, he said.

That special link between canines and humans was best demonstrated at Pet Expo by several volunteers from Irish Therapy Dogs, who spoke about how they bring their pets to nursing homes, hospitals, care centres and special schools.

Laragh Byrne from Kildare with Alaska a 16 year old Bald Eagle from the Irish Raptor Research Centre sanctuary for birds in Sligo, at Pet Expo today. Irelands Premium Pet Exhibition at the RDS Simmonscourt. 8/11/2015 Picture by Fergal Phillips
Laragh Byrne from Kildare with Alaska a 16 year old Bald Eagle from the Irish Raptor Research Centre sanctuary for birds in Sligo, at Pet Expo today. Irelands Premium Pet Exhibition at the RDS Simmonscourt. 8/11/2015 Picture by Fergal Phillips

Perks

Volunteers Christina O'Brien and her mother Ethna O'Brien, from Gort, Co Galway, spoke of bringing their pets to a local nursing home.

"When I bring our dogs Dakota and McGregor to the nursing home, the staff tell us that the whole mood of the place lifts. Everybody perks up to welcome them and we can see the benefits for the residents," said Christina.

Brenda Rickard, chief executive of Irish Therapy Dogs, brought along her cocker-spaniel to the Expo. She said 250 volunteers bring their dogs on weekly visits to care institutions. "Patients who are stressed or who have had strokes or who have dementia or intellectual disabilities all respond very well to the presence of dogs.

"Families and staff can be astounded when patients who never talk suddenly start talking when introduced to a dog," she said.

Michelle Leeper Nevin (44) travelled from Tullamore with her husband Derek to exhibit some of their 11 Great Danes, including an 18-month-old tall male named Ferrari. "He eats three kilos of meat every day. Like all Great Danes, he is very sociable," she said.

Five of their dogs are national champions. Pups sell for €1,500.

Winning

Another dog winning admiring glances was a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd owned by Tracey Douglas from Belfast.

"We named her Luna because she was a bit of a lunatic as a hyper pup, but she's calm and cuddly now," she said.

Exotic animals on display included Freya, a rough neck monitor, and Pinkie, an alligator snapping turtle.

Jonny Doyle, education officer at the National Reptile Zoo in Kilkenny, was delighted to tell intrigued visitors about these peculiar creatures.

"Pinkie is aged 15 and weighs five kilos but she should live to 100 when she will weigh up to 90 kilos. These turtles lived on Earth before the dinosaurs era and have been extra hardy to survive 200 million years," he said.

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