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Like most good stories, this one starts with a crisis and ends with a love affair.
On October 4, 2004, a black Labrador cross puppy with an adorable quiff in the centre of his forehead, was thrown from a car on the M1 outside Nottingham in the UK. As he struggled to get to safety, he was hit by another car and his leg was broken. A good Samaritan brought him to the veterinary hospital, where I happened to be on duty that day.
I remember vividly the first time I set eyes on him: a tiny, terrified bundle of fear, curled up on the examination table. The hopeless expression in his eyes broke my heart. As well as his broken leg, he was underweight and had other minor injuries. He was only about one year old and the outlook was not good.
I contacted the council to report a stray dog and was told that because of his general condition and injuries, he would not be a successful candidate for rehoming. They said the kindest thing would be to put him to sleep. As I put down the phone, the puppy’s eyes locked on mine, as if he had been eavesdropping. In that moment, our lives changed forever. I decided to adopt him and the council christened him Murphy. Our journey had begun.
Before we met, Murphy never had a chance to learn good habits. He suffered from fear, anxiety and a lack of socialisation.
But he was loving and energetic and I knew that with a little help, he could surmount his difficulties. It took a lot of time and a lot of research. I made mistakes, for sure, but I also learned so much. This was the start of my enduring passion for understanding canine and feline behaviour.
Day by day, month by month, Murphy matured into a wonderful dog and a loyal companion. He loved going to the beach and eating seaweed, he loved chasing squirrels, travelling on buses and in cars and spending time with other dogs. He lived a happy and eventful life until, aged around 15, he collapsed on December 23, 2018. He died at 2 am on Christmas Eve.
I miss him every day and I like to think of my new shop as his legacy.
I grew up in An Spidéal and trained at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London. I qualified as a registered veterinary nurse in 2005. Since then, I’ve worked in some of the most advanced veterinary hospitals in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Australia. As well as treating animals, I am passionate about dog and cat behaviour, which can be influenced by a host of factors, including diet, the environment and socialisation.
I love helping people understand their pets so that they can help them live their best lives. All too often, problem behaviour is rooted in a lack of understanding.
For example, up to 80% of owners complain of problem behaviour in their dogs. In most cases, neither the owner nor the dog is to blame. I firmly believe that with the correct knowledge and tried-and-tested training techniques, most behavioural problems are preventable or manageable.
Over the years, I have built up a huge reservoir of knowledge about veterinary products and training techniques. This has enabled me to develop very clear ideas about the kind of business I want to run. I support companies that have an ethical mindset and will only stock food and products that are effective and produced to the highest ethical standards.
For example, at Murphy and Me, we only stock Burns pet food, a holistic, natural product. The company does not test on animals and has won several awards for its ethics and nutritional standards. Its products have also received a PARNUTs classification from the Food Standards Agency, meaning the product provides nutritional support for animals suffering from certain medical conditions.
At Murphy and Me, we also run a Puppy School and provide Behaviour classes and grooming services. My mission is simple: I will treat your dog as I would treat my own and as I treated Murphy.
As I set out on this new adventure, I do feel as if he is still here with me, maybe sitting quietly in the corner, his big eyes taking everything in.