Long walk for animal wel­fare

Clutha Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - MARY-JO TOHILL

Walk­ing the walk and talk­ing the talk, animal-rights cru­sader Stephen Bras­sett has taken to the road to raise funds and aware­ness for animal wel­fare in New Zealand, with his two pint-sized ca­nine am­bas­sadors.

Orig­i­nally from Wellington, Bras­sett, 34, and his dogs Pic­colo and Jake, left South­land in early Jan­uary, pulling a home-built yel­low mi­cro-camper, which will be their home for at least a year.

They are pass­ing through the Clutha Dis­trict en route to Dunedin this week, in what could be de­scribed as a se­ries of small jour­neys. Dur­ing The Long­est Walk project, the in­trepid trio will travel the coun­try, giv­ing in­for­mal talks and stop­ping off at var­i­ous animal wel­fare agen­cies, in­clud­ing the SPCA.

Bras­sett’s back­ground in dog han­dling and train­ing took him to Melbourne, where he worked as a vol­un­teer at a cen­tre, be­fore work­ing full-time. His work in Aus­tralia, and here, has been an eye opener into how some peo­ple treat animals.

‘‘I know animals have a rough deal, and most of their prob­lems are caused by us.’’

He’s on a mis­sion to help fight the bat­tles animals can’t fight and say the words they can’t say, by help­ing ed­u­cate peo­ple about what animals need, in­clud­ing ba­sic food, shel­ter, ex­er­cise and train­ing. He uses his own dogs as an ex­am­ple of un­der­stand­ing what in­di­vid­u­als need, ac­cord­ing to their breed, per­son­al­ity, age and back­ground.

Take Jake, a 5-year-old pu­galieri, a pug - cava­lier spaniel cross, who Bras­sett adopted as a young pup. ’’He’s high en­ergy and a big part of why I could do this trip. He’s per­fectly ca­pa­ble of walk­ing 20km a day.’’

He’s got an over-the-top friendly per­son­al­ity that hides a ner­vous side, which can be mis­in­ter­preted as con­fi­dence, there­fore needs care­ful han­dling by keeping him busy and con­stantly ex­posed to new things and peo­ple while on the road.

Pic­colo, 11, a chi­huahua-cross res­cue dog, also has an anx­ious dis­po­si­tion, but makes no at­tempt to hide it, and is quite fear­ful in new sit­u­a­tions. The trip will be good for him, and he will al­ways have the safety of his owner, Jake and their camper. At his age, he’s ca­pa­ble of walk­ing about 5km to 10km a day.

Bras­sett, also an aer­o­bics in­struc­tor with qual­i­fi­ca­tions in sport and ex­er­cise, jokes that his own per­son­al­ity is some­where be­tween his two dogs.

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