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So who's the doggy daddy?

PUBLISHED: 08:48 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:35 03 July 2010

These eight bundles of mischief raised more than a few eyebrows when they were born five weeks ago, not least those of their owner General Sir Richard Dannatt.

These eight bundles of mischief raised more than a few eyebrows when they were born five weeks ago, not least those of their owner General Sir Richard Dannatt.

While you might expect the former head of the British Army to run a pretty tight ship and keep everything to a strict timetable, his dog clearly had other ideas.

For when his black labrador Phyllis paraded proudly at the first Norfolk Dog Day in August as patron she was already harbouring a little secret - a clandestine affair with an unknown mate.

And just a few weeks later the eight pups, five bitches and three dogs, were born.

Six have found homes already but two bitches are looking for new owners, in exchange for a donation to Help for Heroes, the charity for wounded servicemen and women of which Sir Richard is founder patron.

Proud mum Phyllis is looking after her litter with the help and undivided attention of the current longest-serving member of the British Army and Sir Richard's house orderly, Steven Crighton, known as Sarge, at his home near Norwich.

“When the pups were first born we thought they were pure labrador because they were all black with one chocolate,” he said.

“But then these white markings began to appear and we realised they were not the pedigree we thought.”

They believe the dog must be local to the Dannatts' home just outside Norwich but initial enquiries have proved fruitless although they have some suspicions about a springer spaniel.

“The dates don't tie in with any of the matings we planned but it must have happened at the beginning of August, just before Norfolk Dog Day,” Sarge said.

Attempts had been made to find Phyllis a more aristocratic mate. She turned her nose up at the first two potential suitors and although there were high hopes that the last attempt in July, with the black Labrador owned by the son of the Duke of Kent, would be successful, again the union was unproductive. As she was already six years old they thought that was her last chance to be a mum.

But it seems Phyllis was determined to take matters into her own paws.

Sarge, who has worked for Sir Richard since 1991 and was made an MBE in the New Year' Honours List, took Phyllis in when the pregnancy was confirmed, just two weeks before the birth on October 3.

“The general was watching a Norwich City game when we realised it was about to happen so I rang him and he managed to get here to see most of them born.

“I am keeping the chocolate one which I will call Murphy and another five have already found homes within Norfolk which is great. They will be going at the end of the month when they are seven or eight weeks old.”

It is hoped that all the puppies will reunite at the next Norfolk Dog Day which has just been confirmed for August 8 next year, back at Sennowe Park, Guist.

Last year's event raised an incredible £85,000 for Help the Heroes, attended by 16,000 people and 1,000 dogs.

Spokesman Annabel Brooke said they hoped to really establish the event as a great day out for Norfolk and raise more money for the charity.

“We hope to announce some new celebrity judges very soon and we have a new plan for getting in an out of Sennowe Park which was a problem last year,” she said.

Sir Richard, who is currently in London, said he was delighted that the families they had found so far for the puppies were able to make some very generous donations to Help for Heroes.

“The need for funds for Help for Heroes and other military charities has not diminished,” he said. “The recent news from Afghanistan and the deployment of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian regiment is keeping the whole issue at the forefront of our minds locally.

“I am delighted that the committee has decided to run Dog Day for a second year and myself and Phyllis are honoured to be President and Patron for a second time - but no more puppies again next year please!”

Anyone interested in having a puppy in exchange for a donation for H4H should email Sarge at: steven1960@hotmail.co.uk with details of their home environment and amount of donation that they are able to give.

For more details of Norfolk Dog Day visit the website www.norfolkdogday.co.uk

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