A unique Discovery Centre which educates the visiting public, tourists and dog lovers about the rare Dandie Dinmont Terrier dog breed has been opened at The Haining in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. Part-funded by a grant of £20,000 from the Kennel Club Educational Trust, the centre also provides information on all 30 UK and Irish ‘vulnerable’ native breeds as well as the 12 breeds of Scottish origin. A computer database also allows visitors to research their own dog’s pedigree.
The Dandie Dinmont is the only breed of dog to be named after a character in fiction – from Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novel, Guy Mannering – and sees fewer than 100 Kennel Club puppy registrations a year, which is why it is listed under the vulnerable category. With fewer than 300 being bred worldwide each year, there is a real fear that it is only a matter of time until the breed disappears altogether.
The opening ceremony for the discovery centre on Sunday June 4th saw the unveiling of a statue of Old Ginger, considered to be the ‘father’ of today’s Dandie Dinmont, made possible through crowd-funding from within the Dandie Dinmont enthusiasts community worldwide, while the Kennel Club’s grant enabled the renovation and conversion of Old Ginger’s kennels into the Discovery Centre. The statue was the creation of Alexander ‘Sandy’ Stoddart, the Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland since 2008, and marked what would have been Old Ginger’s 175th birthday.
Wilson Young of the Kennel Club had the honour of officially opening the Discovery Centre, flanked by two pipers at the ceremony, which was attended by more than 200 Dandie Dinmont devotees from 14 countries. More than 125 dogs were also in attendance, a world record for an informal gathering of the breed.
Mr Young said it gave him great pleasure to open the Centre where the breed originated with Old Ginger. “As many of you will know, the Dandie Dinmont is considered by the Kennel Club to be a vulnerable breed, in that the number of puppies born each year has fallen below the threshold of 300”, he said. “In fact, last year, a mere 79 puppies were registered which is obviously very concerning.
“However, the dedication, commitment and enthusiasm of the individuals involved in this project are such that I feel sure that the future of the breed is assured. Looking around at the dogs gathered today, I have to say they are a charming breed, such characters, so it really would be a shame if they were to become even rarer than they already are. Many congratulations to all those involved in the organisation of this event.”
Among the dignitaries present at the ceremony were three Members of the Scottish Parliament, as well as representatives from the Kennel Club, Haining Charitable Trust, Scottish Kennel Club, Sir Walter Scott Society, Clan Scott, Selkirk Common Riding Trust, Abbotsford Estate and local tourist boards, as well as major donors from within the various Dandie Dinmont clubs worldwide and individual Dandie Dinmont enthusiasts.
Anne Macdonald, of the Scottish Kennel Club (SKC), said: “As president of the SKC, I was privileged to be present on what was a historic day for the Dandie Dinmont breed.
“It concluded a fun-filled weekend for enthusiasts of the breed and demonstrated just what can be achieved with the will and determination to save and regenerate interest in what must be one of the most appealing of the terrier breeds.
“The Discovery Centre raises the profile of not only their own breed but also highlights the situation faced by the other Scottish and vulnerable breeds. I sincerely hope that the owners of these breeds will make a point of visiting the centre, be encouraged to follow the Dandie’s example and keep up the momentum generated by this project.”
Paul Keevil, the UK coordinator of the Discovery Centre Project, said: “As magnificent as Old Ginger’s statue is, both my co-organiser Mike Macbeth and I realised that for it to be fully understood and its significance appreciated there had to be access to additional information. The Haining Charitable Trust graciously allowed us to convert Old Ginger’s historic kennel room into the Discovery Centre, but this was only possible with grant support from the Kennel Club Educational Trust.
“We realised that the Old Ginger statue would be the star of the day but it was most gratifying to see so many people spend so much time inside the Discovery Centre carefully reading all the information provided, not just on the Dandie Dinmont Terrier but on Scottish and vulnerable breeds too. For this project to be a success it is important to engage with as many dog lovers as we can and we both feel that this is now a reality.
“The Old Ginger statue and the surviving kennel and run are unique in the world of dogs, but now with the vibrant and exciting Discovery Centre, complete with its digitised computer database, we feel we are breaking new ground in the promotion of pedigree dogs.”