Dear readers,

A new year started off and we wish you happiness, joy and success. May the traditional wishes of “health” really come true.

This year again, we shall try to keep you informed about different and interesting subjects. As a federative organisation, it is essential that our members, the breeders, the judges, the exhibitors be kept updated with the activities organised by the national canine organisations, with the routine that makes their daily work or with the different working championships as we also want to focus on the work, the missions, the functions that our dogs are able to perform.

We shall keep taking time to make you a bit more familiar with our national canine organisations by allocating them a specific space. In the issue you are about to read, we have chosen to highlight our Ecuadorian member, AERCAN.

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Yves De Clercq
FCI Executive Director
La signora con i cani

How did Fiona Pacifico Griffini-Grasser come to get this nickname?
We went for a walk with this great dog-lover in the Kitzbühler Alps

Rumours, rumours, rumours... something's going to happen soon... and if that something is in Vienna, that city with its love of details, then there'll be all the more rumours.
That big “something” is Vienna's first animal ball - the Wiener Tierball. When? On 8 November 2012. Where? In the historical elegance of the Vienna Park Hotel Schönbrunn. Who is it for? All those animals that can't enjoy a life of luxury! And the tabloids just loved it when it turned out that the patron of the event was going to be Fiona Pacifico Griffini-Grasser, without doubt the best-known member of the renowned Swarowski dynasty.

The choice could not have been more honest and more pertinent. Anyone meeting this impressive woman is overcome by her deep love of animals - whether a bird or a calf, whether a marmot or a cat. Born in Switzerland of Italian and Tyrolean descent, everyone knows that she has a special relation to dogs. And that's why "Ingah", the editorial department's dog, and I went to meet this famous animal rights campaigner in the Tirol. Our intention? To borrow a phrase from Morgenstern: "Just like children and dogs, thoughts often want you to take them out for a walk". So off we went with our dogs, enjoying the relaxing peace of the mountains and philosophising about dogs, animals and humans.

Fiona Pacifica Griffini-Grasser had three of her four dogs with her, all of them Golden Retrievers and all of them, despite being over 10 years old, in top form. These gentle dogs - dogs I repeatedly see in the middle of Kitzbühel throughout the year - seemed to be on an imaginary leash, so well-behaved that it hardly seemed true. They quickly made friends with my dog. Then off we all went, up into the mountains, with the dogs always keeping their beloved leader in sight. The two Goldie ladies "Sole" & "Luna" set the pace, while "Tequila", a true gentleman, hung back a bit, escorting "Ingah".

© Reinhand Holl/Kronen Zeitung
“Stoffl” enjoying a dousing on the patio

KW: Fiona, your dogs are in incredible form. They don't just look good; they're also full of stamina. Is there any explanation for this?

FPGG: I lay great weight on dogs being given high-quality food and regularly getting enough exercise. I'm out with my dogs every day for several hours - and that shows. It doesn't matter whether I'm in Vienna, the Tirol or Italy - dogs need exercise. You have to take them out - otherwise they're unhappy.

KW: There's an incredible story behind "Tequila". You told me that, as a young dog, he broke his hip in three places.

FPGG: Yes, that was a difficult period. But with the help of experienced doctors and gentle rehabilitation, he recovered astonishingly well and found his place within the pack. The dogs love being together - as you can also see with "Stoffl".

KW: It's just amazing how well he moves despite his handicap (the Labrador lost a leg after being hit by a car when he was just 2 years old).

FPGG: It's quite natural that he needs just a little bit longer, especially now that he's getting old. But he's happy in the pack, he's in good health and he's earned an enjoyable "retirement".

KW: Dogs with handicaps are often sniffed at on the street. Have you experienced that as well?

FPGG: People naturally sometimes take two looks at him. There's nothing wrong about that - but then some go on to say: "Oh, the poor dog! “ I've got a standard reply: "Why poor?" He's got a handicap, but it doesn't handicap him at all. If you only go by looks, by your own ego - then I'm pretty certain that there are some people who have problems with such a dog. But with us, he's a dog like any other dog - and he senses that.

KW: Fiona, you've spent your whole life helping animals in distress, without making any ado about it. You've had hundreds of stray cats castrated; you've fed countless starving dogs. What's behind this close association with animals?

FPGG: I've been mad about animals since the word "go". And that was not always easy for my parents. I always wanted to be physically close to animals, even when they were exotic animals in the zoo. I just wanted to be near them. Later on, when I was living in Italy, there were times when I had 10 dogs. I just couldn't walk by an animal in distress. I couldn't let it end up in an animal shelter, so I took it in.

KW: There's one famous “bus story” from Naples...

FPGG: I lived for quite a long time in Southern Italy. And one thing I like about Southern Italy is that there are always people who will feed and take care of stray dogs. I was no exception. I had an old VW bus. I used to take it along to the beach and feed the dogs. I often heard: "Ma guarda! La signora con i cani!" I felt that to be very warm. I felt honoured.
Our dogs are in the meantime passing a herd of young bulls - Ingah's eyes are getting wider and she's looking expectantly to me. But then Fiona resolutely touches my hand: "Katja, don't worry - the dogs know what they are doing". And sure enough, the four of them carry on up the track, as if guided by an invisible hand.

KW: Fiona, it's no secret that you have to travel a lot. How do the dogs react to this?

FPGG: In most cases our animals come with us. I need to know in advance whether I can take a dog, a pet, with me. And dogs have special requirements. You can't just "park" them somewhere, letting someone take them for a walk and feed them. When I own a dog, the dog wants to be at my side. It all boils down to good planning and organisation.

KW: You live right in the middle of Vienna. Isn't that a problem with four dogs?

FPGG: Though it's not ideal, it's not too much of a problem. When we go for our long walks every day, we just have to drive out of the city. But I always notice the difference to the Tirol. The dogs just have so many more possibilities here. It makes things so much easier.

KW: You like to spend summer in Italy. How do the dogs react to that?

FPGG: Very good. Italy's like home to them. There's nowhere where they feel themselves strangers. And of course I take great care that all necessary veterinary precautions are taken (mosquitoes, parasites, etc.) - Southern Italy is not without problems with regard to a dog's health.

And due to the heat, I feed the dogs differently. That's turned out to be a very wise move. But that's not just when we're in Italy - in my view it's very important to give dogs healthy food, and to know where the food comes from. Awareness for organic foods is not limited to humans.

KW: It's no secret that you pay great attention to your dogs' health.

FPGG: In my mind, you've got to keep an eye on your animals. When you live so closely together with them, you notice every change, no matter how small it is. And then you can react completely differently. I find it very important to have good vets, vets who you can trust.

KW: There's a lot happening at the moment in veterinary medicine, as is also the case in human medicine. Is this of interest to you?

FPGG: Of course - I'm very interested in all innovative research and in all new forms of treatment. It's all very exciting - a long as the research is done for animals and not on animals.

KW: Can you tell us something about the 1st Vienna Animal Ball, of which you are the patron? What can we expect?

FPGG: The ball is sure to be a great event. The focus will be - on animals. The organisers have got an awful lot to do in this respect. I have decided to take over the patronage, because I want to help raise awareness, to initiate and keep going a discussion that you can never do enough when animals need help. And there is more to it than just a unique event. The topic of having a feeling for animals, treating them with respect and love, is not as firmly anchored in our society as it should be. If we can get things moving in this area, that will be a great step forward.

We end our walk with a bite to eat - and of course the dogs are not left out. I'm impressed by the peace and quiet here in the mountains, with the sun setting behind the massive peaks. "Ingah" is enjoying being stroked by my interview partner. Coming back down into the valley, with the sun going down, I find myself reminded of an old American Indian proverb: "When you're the friend of my dog, you're my friend as well".

Dr Katja H. Wolf
Public Relations ÖKV (Austrian canine organisation)