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Nine to Fido: Dogs Trust’s Wag! Magazine Editor

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Ever wanted to know what it’s like to work for a dog magazine? This month we chat to Deana Selby, Publications Manager for the Dogs Trust about her Nine to Fido producing the charity’s supporters’ magazine – Wag! Deana is pictured above with her dog Daniel the Spaniel or just ‘Daniel’ to his anipals. 

Describe a typical working day
Before work I drop my kids at school then walk my dog Daniel for about an hour in the woods near to home.  Then we hop on the Number 43 bus where Daniel likes to sit on back seat of top deck so he can gaze out of the window. Usually fellow passengers ignore him but some like to come up and give him a stroke, which he likes. Then we trot through the park in Islington into the office, where Daniel’s first job is to inspect everybody’s wastepaper bins just in case they have thoughtfully left toast crusts for him.

Bins emptied, Daniel can relax and I can get on with some work. I’ll check through emails to see if I have any reader questions to respond to; as editor of Wag!, the Dogs Trust supporters’ magazine, I am responsible for dealing with all of the reader enquiries. This is my favourite part of the job, as the variety of emails and letters is huge but very often they’ll send me snaps of their dog having fun on the beach, hiking up mountains, sailing on speedboats and usually there’s a few reading a copy of Wag! too. 

The wonderful thing about these emails is that the reader will be bursting with pride at how well their new rescue dog has settled into his new life. Often there’ll be an email from a person whose dog has passed away and they always make me very sad but I reply to these letters first - having lost a much loved dog of my own some years ago and knowing how much it can hurt. I sometimes feel like a bit of a canine agony aunt!

I work as part of the communications department dealing with media enquiries and public affairs so there’s always emails or a team briefing about the latest piece of dog news to hit the press.  I make sure I understand the issue whether it’s a case of rabies coming into the UK or a new piece of government legislation. Often a member of the team will highlight a story from one of our 18 re-homing centres, which they’ll be working on and we all pitch in with ideas if needed. This morning’s story was a mother and daughter pair of German Shepherd dogs, which had been handed in to our Snetterton re-homing centre with a note that they are well trained but can only understand Russian!  I’ll file the story in my “news for next issue” part of the brain.

Writing Wag! is one of the most enjoyable parts of the job, as I’ve always loved writing and I get the chance to talk to lots of different people to get the stories. The forthcoming issue has a feature about the winners of our recent Dogs Trust Honours Awards and I very much enjoyed interviewing all the winners by phone. I also have to organise photography and many years of experience have taught me that the very best way to get a dog to look at a camera is to hold a piece of sausage just above the lens. I work with a variety of photographers and I really enjoy going on photo-shoots.  I also work closely with a graphic design agency and I’ll often have layouts to have a look over, copy to edit or imagery to work on.        

Have you always been a publications manager? If not what did you do beforehand?
Before I was publication manager I was head of comms at Dogs Trust, having been a press officer, and before this I worked at a small PR agency in London.  

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What made you decide to become a publications manager?
I had just had my first baby and wanted to return to work part-time, so the part-time role of publications manager was offered to me. I grabbed it with both hands, as I’ve always loved writing.

What are the pros and cons/the highs & lows of your job?
The pros are speaking to some really kind friendly people who have re-homed rescue dogs and love them to bits.  It makes me so cheerful when I speak to some who has given an older dog a home. I also love visiting the re-homing centres. I have nothing but admiration for the canine carers, as they really do have the toughest job. I like to hear about dogs that were in our care for a long time but the staff have gone flat out to find them a perfect home, despite odds being stacked against them. Being able to take my dog to work – there are not many places that would tolerate a ravenous spaniel running around!  Despite being a dog charity our office is a very ordinary office so having the dog there brightens the place up. My co-workers are pretty tolerant of Daniel’s quirks.

The less enjoyable side of the job is hearing some very distressing cruelty cases but thankfully they are not too common.  Seeing evidence of dogs being mistreated abroad, especially the dog meat trade in the Phillippines, is very upsetting. It’s also sad realising the sheer numbers of stray and unwanted dogs in this country; last year Dogs Trust cared for over 16,000 dogs and we’re just one welfare organisation. I get so angry whenever I see someone I know has bought a dog without properly thinking about it first, such as my neighbour who bought a sweet husky puppy six months ago and now wants to get rid of her.

What has been your most memorable doggie moment?
Organising a reunion for the Beagles whom Dogs Trust helped take out of a breeding centre 14 years ago.  Consort laboratories closed down in 1997, and with the help of many wonderful volunteers plus funding from the late Linda McCartney, the Dogs Trust went in and took all the dogs and found homes for all 150 beagles. These dogs had been bred for experimentation and had never been outside or seen grass, let alone had friendly human contact. Many of the Beagles had behavioural problems but all eventually found loving homes. 14 years later, we got the surviving elderly beagles back together at Dogs Trust Evesham where many of them had been taken to safety. Seeing all those lovely, gentle old Beagles having lived such great lives with caring owners, despite their hideous start in life, was so touching. Hearing all about the rescue operation and just how many volunteers were involved was inspirational – when people work together for a common cause so much good can be done.   

What advice would you give to someone interested in doing the same job as you?
It’s important to have strong writings skills and a genuine passion for animal welfare, if you hold both of these qualities then I suggest getting in touch with welfare organisations to offer your writing services as a freelancer. It’s not uncommon to hear of interns that move quickly up the ladder to full time work, as advertised job opportunities are few and far between. The best advice I can give is make yourself known and available to a charity you feel passionate about.

Wag! is the Dogs Trust supporter magazine, which shows how with your help, the charity takes care of the dogs. There are three issues of Wag! a year. To request a copy, visit Dogstrust.org.uk. You can also keep up to date on Dogs Trust news on Facebook and @DogsTrust on Twitter. 

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