Deaf Edinburgh dalmatian, Poppet, in running to be Scotland’s Best Dog
The search begins for Scotland's top pooch next week with the launch of Scotland’s Best Dog, in which Kaye Adams meets the pampered pets that are in the running to claim the title and coveted Golden Bone trophy.
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The new six-part BBC Scotland series, narrated by King's panto legend Allan Stewart, starts on Thursday, November 18, with the Capital represented by two-year-old deaf dalmatian, Poppet.
Each week, dog-lover Adams and her fellow judges, animal behaviourist River McDonald and SSPCA veteran and dog trainer Alan Grant, will meet the country's most lovable canine characters and discover their heart-warming bonds with their owners.
All three judges are quick to point out the programme isn’t about looks or pedigree, but about celebrating the unique connection between some dogs and the people who love them. The dogs and their owners will be scored by the judges across three key challenges - recall, bond and agility skills - with the overall heat winner earning a place in the Grand Final where they will compete for the Golden Bone trophy.
Representing Edinburgh in the first episode, Poppet is accompanied by owner Kaylee Hughes, 31, as she goes up against Husky Pomeranian cross, Miller, from Aberdeenshire, and mixed breed rescue dog, Picco, from Glasgow.
Kaylee, from Stenhouse, has no hesitation when asked why Poppet deserves the title.
"Poppet is incredible," she says, adding, "She has overcome a lot in her short life and, despite it all, is still so happy and funny. She’s just a joy to be around."
After being hit by a car in March, it's been a difficult year for Poppet, who was born with no hearing.
Kaylee, who shares her love of dalmatians with husband Dave, explains, "We'd been waiting to get another dalmatian for about a year. We already had one, Patch, and had wanted to add to the family for a long time when we found a breeder in Penicuik who was planning a litter, so we joined the list and waited for them to be born."
Kaylee and Dave picked Poppet from that litter when she was just two weeks old. A month later, they were given the news that she was deaf.
"Around 30% of dalmatians are born with some kind of hearing problem, it's genetic, so there is a breed-specific test they get at six weeks old - Poppet was fully deaf, couldn't hear anything at all," says Kaylee.
"When that happened, the breeder asked if we would like to switch to another pup but there was absolutely no way we were going to change our mind, we'd met Poppet a couple of times and I'd already fallen in love with her."
The couple had just two weeks to adapt from discovering Poppet’s lack of hearing to bringing her home. A sign language was quickly developed to allow them to communicate.
"The first thing I did when training her was teach her a 'look at me' command. We did positive reinforcement with her, every time she looked at me she got a treat. She soon learnt I was associated with fun things. Now when she is off lead she looks at me every 20 to 30 seconds.
"I'd also wave my hands about to make myself look super exciting to her, that way she came back to me. Again, every time she did there was a treat as a reward. We now have signs for recall, three different types of ‘good girl’ signs, and two ‘bad girl’ signs."
Despite sharing their very own sign-language, Poppet's lack of hearing can still be an issue as evidenced earlier this year when an accident left her hospitalised for a week.
"Poppet was hit by a car in March," reveals Kaylee.
"We were out on one of our usual walks along the Water of Leith to Murrayfield and, just as we were heading back towards our main park, something across the road caught her attention and just ran.
"We were nowhere near the road at the time, nowhere near the point I would normally have put her back on the lead. Usually she's great off the lead, very trustworthy, but dogs are dogs and that was it, she just ran.
"She got across the road absolutely fine but when she was coming back she was hit by a car, hurting her back-end quite badly and ending up in the vet hospital for seven days and seven nights.”
Poppet, who underwent a nine-hour operation to repair a broken kneecap, pelvis and hip joint as well as treatment for bruised lungs, is now fully recovered, apart from trips to the physio.
"She is full of life once again and likes nothing better than playing with her new half-sister, Poppy,” confirms Kaylee, adding, "When we got Poppy I was slightly worried about introducing them but in the first five minutes they were best friends. Poppet looks for her, cuddles into her, sleeps beside her. She is obsessed with Poppy and I'm hoping that, as Poppy has full hearing, I'll be able to train her to help me with Poppet as she gets older."
Regardless of how her TV debut goes, for Kaylee, who until lockdown was manager of Yo Sushi on Princes Street, Poppet is already Scotland's Best Dog.
She recalls, "During the first lockdown Patch passed away. I was furloughed at the time with nothing to take my mind of the fact I'd just lost the dog that had been my best friend for 10 years.
"It was a really hard time and it was Poppet that kept me going. She gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and actually inspired me to set up my own online dog accessory business, which I named after the two dogs, Patch and Pops."
To discover how Poppet gets on, watch Scotland’s Best Dog, BBC Scotland, Thursday, November 18, 8pm