MAN’S best friend, as any dog owner knows, is pretty smart. They can fetch. They can beg. Some can even round up sheep or sniff out drugs. But, as they can’t see colours as humans do, not many can pick out different shades on command. That is, until now.
Because tomorrow, Ollie, a humble two-year-old mongrel who doesn’t even have a home to call his own, will perform a feat quite possibly never seen before in Scotland – picking out coloured dumbbells from a magic box as part of the Holyrood Community Fun Day and Dog Show.
Ollie has been living at the Dogs Trust’s West Calder rehoming centre since last July as he was continually chasing the cat at his previous family home. Since then, the boisterous, bouncy brindle- coloured pooch, which the centre hopes to rehome, has developed a rather more entertaining hobby.
Jack Johnstone, assistant operations director of the Dogs Trust, explains: “Technically dogs are not colour blind, they just see different colours to us, for instance when we see green they see a type of yellow.
“But we have found a dog out in West Calder that we have trained to select colours on demand. The public will be asked to choose a colour, we will show our dog a flag of that colour and then it will have to pull a dumbbell of that colour out of a magic box. And we’ll do that two or three times to prove it’s not a fluke. It’s not unique but it will be the first time it’s been done in Scotland.”
“How does it know? Some people think it’s been trained to recognise a scent – but how would it know which dumbbell is which? Perhaps we have a wee kiddie in the box handing it the dumbbells. Perhaps it’s magic. Or perhaps this dog genuinely can see colours.”
Ollie’s colour trick is just one of the rather tongue-in-cheek events which will be entertaining the expected crowds of around 3000 at the event in Holyrood Park tomorrow.
Organised by the Historic Scotland rangers service, the day is the biggest event in the royal park’s calendar, with the dogs show central to the fun.
Jack continues: “The categories aren’t quite Crufts – like the dog with the waggiest tail.
“We also have the dog most like its owner – last year people really made an effort. We had a hound wearing a waistcoat and Sherlock Holmes hat with its owner dressed just the same. And a white dog with a black patch over its eye, with its owner was wearing sunglasses with one lens out. So that’s good fun.
“As well as the classes we have the doggy dash, owners at one end and dogs at the other of a fenced 50-metre stretch. You get the lurchers who run to their owners in 4.8 seconds, then the Jack Russells who’ll cock their legs on the fence, go have a look at the spectators, beg for a biscuit, then eventually make it back to their owners.”
Free microchipping for dogs is on offer as well as advice on ailments and behaviour problems, and games such as doggy musical mats, and a canine egg and spoon race.
It’s the second the dog show has been held with the Holyrood Community Fun Day and combining the two events has been a big success, says Matt McCabe, Historic Scotland interpretation ranger, with sports day games, a climbing wall, throwing the volcanic rock, sumo suits and a fire engine and ambulance also on offer.
Matt says: “The day is designed to showcase Holyrood Park, which is easily the most beautiful spot in Edinburgh. Each event is highlighting an activity which you can take part in in the park – for instance the climbing wall is highlighting the fact that with a permit you can climb in certain sections of the park.”
n Holyrood Community Fun Day and Dog Show, Holyrood Park, tomorrow, 11am to 3pm, free