Tag Archives: Labradors

Olive, Mabel & Me – book review

It seems fitting that, on the eve of March 2021 – one year to the month since the world and our lives became dominated by Covid-19, I have finished reading Olive, Mabel & Me (Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs) by Andrew Cotter.

If you’re a dog lover, you must know about Mr Cotter by now and the narrated antics of his black Labrador, Olive, and her little sister, yellow Labrador Mabel which entertained many of us while we were locked down (with new videos still being shared). What started as a bit of a laugh, a sports commentator with nothing to comment on but his dogs, The Dog’s Breakfast Grand Final became an Internet sensation thanks to a video uploaded on Twitter which went viral. The public demanded more videos and Mr Cotter obliged with Game of Bones….and the list goes on.

Thankfully, while this book talks about the videos and the circumstances of their production, it goes beyond that to talk more deeply about Andrew’s life with his dogs (and a period when he was also dog-less thanks to career demands). We see pictures of a much-younger Andrew with his family dogs, for example. Andrew loves the mountains and takes his dogs with him on long walks in all seasons while his partner, Caroline, usually remains at home.

Olive and Mabel have contributed in their own words The Foreward to the book, but the rest is all Andrew.

Andrew has written this book as if he were sitting in our lounge talking to us directly. I could hear his voice as I read the pages of his words which share tales of his life with his dogs and his wit, more generally.

Some examples:

  • On Labradors: “A Labrador is a velvet cushion in animal form – short coat, perfect domed head and ears made from the softest material known to man, woman or beast. As if created for therapy and designed for stroking.
  • On Walkkies: “Let’s get one thing straight. Dogs are happy with any walks. Through the lofty pine trees of Yosemite or down a filthy inner-city pavement – it’s all good.
  • On the Vets – a chapter entitled “The Place That Shall Not Be Named
  • On staying in a dog-friendly hotel: “Unable to leave them alone, I was restricted to a room-service dinner, with both dogs agreeing that it was quite the most brilliant thing in the world that food should simply appear – but only after the poor member of staff who had knocked on the door was forced to hear what Olive thought about his mother.
  • On seeing a dog in Tokyo: “Once when out for a jog in Yoyogi Park, near where we were staying in Tokyo, I saw a dog – not running around, catching a frisbee, chewing on a stick or sniffing other dogs. Rather, this proud and noble descendant of the wolf was being pushed around in a buggy while wearing a Superman costume. Everyone there who saw it seemed to consider it perfectly normal behaviour, while the dog itself looked as royally pissed off as you might imagine. Perhaps he had really wanted to be Spider-Man.

Because I want you to buy this book, I’m going to leave it to you to find the passage in the book which deals with the topic of pulling grass out of your dog’s bottom…we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

I don’t follow sports and so even though I live in a country which regularly carries broadcasts of the BBC, I would never have heard Andrew Cotter if it wasn’t for his work with Olive and Mabel. And I am truly grateful for the humour he shared when I (and many of us) most needed it. Buy this book and reward Mr Cotter for his talents. You’ll be rewarded because it’s really an excellent and entertaining read.

I’ll leave the final words to Andrew:

“The power of love for dogs is a curious thing. The connection you have with these creatures is so very strong and one that can’t really be explained to those who don’t share it. But there are millions of people who do. Not that I didn’t know it already, but the whole success of Olive and Mabel has shown me just how far-reaching that love for dogs is.


Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

What’s in your dog’s plastic toy?

A research team at Texas Tech University has studied the levels of phthalates and bisphenol A (known as BPA) in dog training batons and other plastic toys.  They presented their findings at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry conference held in California.

The research was conducted by Kimberly Wooten, a master’s student using the project as her thesis, and Phil Smith, an associate professor of terrestrial ecotoxicology.  Smith also raises and trains Labradors.

“In the process of training a lab, you do a lot of work with these plastic bumpers. I have a lot of bumpers in my garage, and they spend a lot of time in the mouths of my retrievers. Well, lots of attention has been given to chemicals in plastics lately regarding their effects on humans. Since we all care about our dogs, and we want them to be as healthy and smart and well-behaved as possible, we decided to look into this.”

BPA are used to give elasticity to plastic and vinyl and are known endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen or act as anti-androgens and could lead to negative health effects.  In 2012, the US Government banned the use of these chemicals in baby bottles.

Training bumpers had higher levels of BPA than toys; but weathered and aged toys released more BPA than newer ones.

The research raises a number of questions, but it is hard to compare results because so few studies have been done – particularly in the area of how much of the BPA actually enters the dog’s system.

“The interaction of pet health and environmental chemicals is understudied,” Wooten said. “What may be a safe dose for one species isn’t always a good measure for another species. But the amount of BPA and phthalates we found from the bumpers would be considered on the high end of what you might find in children’s toys.”

Source:  Texas Tech University press release