Long walk for animal welfare
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.