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Dog expert Michael hangs up his leads after four happy decades

October 29th, 2021 8:10 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Doris and Michael McCarthy will now have more time to spend with their own dogs, Bear and Fudge. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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How do you tell a pet lover that their darling’s home-from-home is no longer open? With great difficulty, Michael and Doris McCarthy, who are closing their kennels business after 43 years, tell Kieran O’Mahony

Michael McCarthy’s knowledge and love of dogs has taken him all over the world, and so it is with a heavy heart that he has decided to close his popular kennel and cattery that he has run for over 43 years.

Located in Castlelack, just outside Bandon, dog and cat owners from all over West Cork and beyond would be well familiar with McCarthy Kennels, which Michael has run with his wife Doris. 

But they have now made the difficult decision to close the business, having not taken any new clients for the past two years.

‘I’ll miss it every day, because I love dogs and the dogs loved us, and we had a wonderful relationship with our customers who became our friends and our social friends. It has been very difficult to tell people that we can’t take their pets anymore,’ said Michael.

While they did have approaches from others interested in taking over the business, Michael said it wouldn’t be practical for them and age is also a factor. The dad-of-five’s ‘massive canine adventure’ saw him having a very successful career breeding and showing corgis for many years with his then first wife Monica, who died in 2000. 

His knowledge of dogs has seen him judge dog shows in over 26 countries, from New Zealand to Iceland, and in between.

‘I have taken part in many prestigious Best In Shows, including one in Ottawa in Canada and have also judged at the ‘Dog of the Year’ in  Melbourne, and twice in New Zealand,’ said Michael.

The former boss of Turner’s Cross Motors set up the kennels once he retired, and the couple have enjoyed travelling to all the events.

‘It was very easy for us to develop the kennels as we were already very involved in dogs. The great thing about it locally is that we had about 34 people who worked here, many part-time students here during the summer, and these students became very good dog people.’

Such is his knowledge of dogs that the Skibbereen native is an honorary life member of the Irish Kennel Club and the honorary president of the Irish Boarding Kennels and Cattery Association (IBKCA).

Michael was also a great help to the Munster Lost and Found and over the years he took in many a German Shepherd to assess before they could be rehomed.

‘Bear, our German Shepherd, came in here as a nine-month-old puppy and we ended up keeping him,’ recalled Michael.

‘We had clients from all over Munster and including a big base of customers in deep West Cork. Our proximity to Cork Airport was very helpful, too, as people could collect their pets on their journeys to and from the airport, sometimes late at night, which we facilitated if they were flying in late.’

Michael also believes that the culture of dog ownership has changed down through the years.

‘Dogs are now very much part of families and also the value of dogs has soared, especially during the lockdown.’

He says he will miss the business, their customers and, of course, the dogs and cats very much.

But now Michael – who turns 86 on October 31st – has another hobby to distract him. He is, he says, an ‘accidental  drummer’ with the Old Town Hall Band in Bandon, who are due to play their first gig since lockdown in the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon this December.

‘We could describe ourselves as Ireland’s oldest boy band, as six of us are all over the age of 80. I used to play the saxophone in my younger days and played in many other dance bands down through the years but I have ended up drumming now.’

 A case of pet sounds, you could say.

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