"Dad, are you ok?"
My 12-year old son glanced at my shopping basket, and then looked back up at me, his expression a combination of confusion and concern.
"You do know that we don't actually have a dog anymore, don't you?" he said slowly, after a short pause.
I looked down at the packet of dog treats nestled neatly between a loaf of brown bread and bottle of lemon squash.
"Erm, well, we have a few office dogs, you see...", I muttered awkwardly, and walked off hurriedly to the next aisle in pursuit of an item that had suddenly assumed the status of extreme importance.
Behind me, I could feel my son's perplexed gaze still transfixed on me as he grappled with whether to inform his mother that Dad had misplaced his marbles.
The previous CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports had told me about the organisation's wonderful workers. She hadn't told me about the equally wonderful canine colleagues though.
Some, like Benji and Harley, will happily sit under their owner's desk all day, occasionally sharing his bed with his brother who - by sheer coincidence - was adopted by another member of staff. Others, like Molly and her sister Lyla, throw themselves at you excitedly as soon as you walk through the door - while Winnie, an ex-racing greyhound, has spent enough energy for one life time.
Then there is Doris. Doris is a 7-month old Schnauzer-poodle cross who likes to pop into my office to chew my plants. It would appear the leaves are of a moistness and texture not found in the leading brands of dog chew.
The importance of Doris' dental hygiene regime was revealed to me when I went to talk to Chris, her owner, last week. An exhausted Doris lay snoring in the bed behind him. Around her was a scene of cardboard carnage, the remnants of a box torn to shreds by her well-exercised jaws scattered over a wide area. A slightly pained expression crossed Chris' face by way of explanation. "She's had a hard day..."
I realise some might find such an office environment unusual. I, on the other hand, think it is an extremely good thing. Dogs are wonderful creatures who light up any place, and are relentlessly positive. Scientific studies have shown the proven benefits of human-animal interaction in terms of improving our focus and overall well-being. I am absolutely convinced the League's dogs contribute to a healthy, positive and motivated staff and workplace.
Dogs of course provide all sorts of extraordinary benefits to humans. They can sniff out diseases and danger. They can find us when we are lost or in distress. They are used by hospitals to help people recover from major trauma and injury, and by prison programmes to break addiction and address offending behaviour. There are even dogs that have been decorated as war heroes.
If ever there was an animal that has earned our undying gratitude and affection, it must surely be the humble dog.
Which is why, if there is one form of cruelty that perhaps makes my blood boil above all others, it is the horror of dog fighting which now seems to be taking hold of our communities.
Research by the League has recently uncovered the scale of this national scandal. A dog fight takes place in the UK every single day. In towns and cities in every corner of our country, criminal rings and local gangs are forcing dogs to take each other on in a brutal 'sport' that leaves them horrifically injured and mutilated - after which they are often killed.
As part of a training regime - the thought of which will bring shudders of horror to every pet-owner and animal-lover - dogs and cats can be stolen from their homes to be used as bait.
Incredibly, even though dog fighting has been a crime for over 100 years, there is currently no systematic recording of offences. More shocking still, the sentences for those few perpetrators who are caught are surprisingly light - particularly when compared with neighbouring countries.
Research for the League has indicated that international criminals involved in this barbaric sport see the UK as a 'soft spot', and are therefore operating here rather in other countries precisely because of the perceived lower risk of getting caught and jailed.
Northern Ireland's Assembly recently voted to stiffen animal cruelty sentences including for dog fighting. The League is now working to persuade politicians in Scotland, Wales and at Westminster to follow suit.
At the same time, the League's fearless investigators are working - often at considerable personal risk - to uncover and expose those behind horrific crimes against animals, and help bring the perpetrators to justice. We are working in partnership with local community groups to develop solutions to prevent people getting sucked into the murky underworld of dog fighting such as through education. We are also supporting the rehabilitation of dogs - including those used as 'bait' - who have been rescued from the horror of dogfighting.
Celebrities and MPs of all parties are backing our campaign. With the support of our supporters and the general public, there is a real chance we can banish this terrible cruel sport to the dustbin of history - the only place it belongs. We are launching the new phase of our campaign in Parliament next week.
I look up to see Stanley standing in my doorway. A seven year old part-Schnauzer, part-Cairn terrier, his hugely cheeky personality belies his diminutive figure. He is something of an office darling - and he knows it.
He is looking expectantly at me, as if he instinctively knows the bag of treats is now nestled surreptitiously in my top drawer underneath the compliments slips. To his delight, I call him over to my desk and open the drawer.
I'm sure my son would approve.
To find out more about the League Against Cruel Sports campaign against dog fighting, go to www.league.org.uk/dogfighting
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