Thursday, July 10, 2008

At Dog Borstal with Rob Alleyne

We're lucky to call Rob Alleyne, from the BBC3 series, Dog Borstal, a personal friend. I also happen to be the one who designed and manages his website. As a result of this, we were invited along to see the filming of Dog Borstal for a day. Of course, we were able to take Ellie along too.

The picture to the left is the picture that Rob would probably pay me not to publish. It's fair to say that he's not the world's biggest Border Collie fan and so it took quite some coaxing to get him to be seen with one. But look at his happy face!

For those overseas readers, who probably aren't aware of Dog Borstal, it's a television series where dogs and dog-owners go to get some "tough training". These dogs are often those that have been allowed to run riot for far too long, and their owners are at their wits-end as a result. It's as much about training the owners as it is about training the dogs. Critics of the series argue (sometimes quite loudly and venomously) that the trainers are unfair to the dogs, or use out-dated methods. I don't personally agree with these charges, but each to their own. Rob is often described as the more placid and approachable of the three trainers.

While Rob and I often speak on the phone (actually we just do silly impressions to each other, with "Little Britain" characters being a firm favourite) it's very rare that we get to meet, because of the distance involved. Killing two birds with one stone seemed like a great idea.

It was a two and a half hour drive out for us, and boy is that camp well hidden. Though, with the help of SatNav, we managed to find it, and only needed to call Rob once we got on the site itself. The site is massive. Just so incredibly vast.

As we arrived, they were getting ready to shoot the exam for Rob's dog. We watched as much as we could, but were really nervous about having an enraged Director shouting "Cut, there's two half-wits in shot!".

What was immediately obvious is the immense number of people and the amount of coordination and organisation that goes into making what we see as a really simple sequence. It's incredible.

After watching the filming, we received the full tour of the complex, including the infamous kennels. Talking of which, I must add that the kennel blocks are much larger than they appear on television. I can also say that the dogs want for nothing in terms of their well-being. There are washing machines and dryers for the bedding, fridges, clean food bowls, grooming blocks, and the list goes on. Don't for a second, believe that these dogs are being kept in harsh conditions. It's just not the case.

After a spot of lunch at the expense of the BBC, we continued our tour, including the training room, and the offices of the trainers. Throughout this time, Ellie was in and out of the car. To her credit, despite being in the car for sometimes quite lenghty periods, she never grumbled once. More importantly, she managed to get all the way there without vomiting!

In the afternoon we went to the 'living quarters' of the trainers. We met Lynne Davis (and one of her dogs) briefly, as she was watching the tennis in the communal living area, with Mic Martin's wife. Oh yes, it seems like a really tough way to make a living doesn't it? :)

Shortly after, we got to let Ellie off leash and just walk her around the grounds with Rob. It's a staggering place to walk a dog. It seems almost limitless and you know that your dog is as safe as it's ever going to be. Again, to Ellie's credit, she wasn't in the least bit bothered by the very many rabbits around the place and behaved like the star that she is.

Did we meet Mic, you might be wondering? The answer is 'briefly, sort of'. As we were readying to leave, we were stood at the car with Rob. Mic pulled up in his car, said "Hi", and then went into the living quarters. He seemed either busy, or miserable, or busy being miserable. :)

Overall, it was a great day. It was great to catch up with Rob of course, but it was also great to see just how different things are to what we see on the final edited version.

Finally, as is often the case when I write about Dog Borstal, people will message me asking if I can get them and their dog on the series, or they ask me when the next series is starting. The answers are, no, I can't get you on to the Dog Borstal series, and while I do sometimes get advance notice of when the next series might be starting, I usually post that here in the blog as soon as I know. So, if I haven't posted the start date, it means that I don't know about it yet. Similarly, when the BBC are looking for new dogs for their next series, I will usually post details here too so that people have plenty of time to submit their dog for consideration by the BBC.

1 comment:

dawnie said...

Hee hee never thought i'd ever say that Ellie went to Dog Borstal!!