I am sad to share the news that Dog-ED co-founder Philippa Robinson passed away yesterday. She had bravely fought a battle with cancer for over a year and during that time continued to be an active campaigner for canine health and welfare.
Friends in the world of pedigree dogs will remember her Karlton Index project which she started in 2011 and which led to an awards ceremony sponsored by the Kennel Club in 2013. This recognised the range of fantastic work being done by breed club communities to improve the health of pedigree dogs.
The Karlton Index came about because of her experience of getting the dog of her dreams (Alfie; Kimmax Karlton), only to have it shattered by ill-health, familial disease and heartbreak. That was the motivation behind all of her campaigning. Set-up in Alfie’s memory, the Karlton Index was launched in March 2011 with the hope of bringing something constructive and helpful to the heated debates around dog welfare. Philippa brought tried and tested tools from the world of business, a world in which she had excelled for three decades, and applied them to activities related to dog health.
The ideas behind the KI appealed to me immediately and my first phone conversation confirmed this was a person who shared similar values to me and a common desire to improve the health of pedigree dogs. We struck-up a friendship and that developed into a partnership under the banner of Dog-ED.
Philippa would be the first to admit that her initial views were that the Kennel Club, breed clubs and breeders were just not doing what was needed to address the health issues in pedigree breeds. She certainly ruffled a few feathers in the early days; how dare a mere pet owner and worse, a management consultant, challenge the lack of effort being made to improve breed health! How dare she come out with a scoring system that highlighted dozens of breeds that scored ZERO. However, she was always willing to meet, talk, discuss alternative views and change her opinion accordingly. She became friends with many of the Kennel Club’s Breed Health Coordinators and, before she became ill, served on the KC’s ABS Health Sub-Committee.
There have been some lovely comments from Breed Health Coordinators who met her:
- The dogs have lost a tireless champion
- She looked to find the common ground which is so much rarer than it needs to be
- What a vibrant and dynamic voice for good; a great loss and far too soon
The two of us were invited to speak at various meetings and workshops. She invariably introduced us as “an odd couple” because we were approaching the challenge of breed health improvement from a systems-thinking and change management perspective. This was quite different to the typical veterinary, epidemiology and breed club perspectives that prevailed.
Philippa will be remembered for so much more than the Karlton Index, though. For her, it was always about doing the best for dogs and using her personal talents to bring people together to achieve that aim. She will be sorely missed.
I’m sure all of us whose lives she touched will be thinking of her partner Alex and the rest of her family at this very sad time. RIP Philippa.
[Top photo: courtesy of Bill Lambert]