Monday, 30 September 2013

Sicky Caesar

Having an expressive dog is great.  It means that you know almost the second that they are feeling uncomfortable.  Usually, it's predictable; fireworks, shouting outside or dog barking.  Caesar suddenly sits bolt upright and starts moving his head from side to side and whining.  His body begins to shake and I know immediately that something isn't right.

For most of his shakes and whines there is a solution.
Fireworks - ear defenders!!

On Saturday, at around eight o'clock this happened.  The only issue was, I couldn't work out why.  There were no fireworks and the street was quiet.  Now, Caesar can be a bit of a wuss at times and I was sure it was probably just nothing.  I ushered him over and gave him a little pat.  The next thing I knew, he's being sick all over the carpet!
Feeling under the weather :-(

Having a sick dog is an emotional battle.  Half of your brain (the empathetic, sensitive part) says feel sorry for him, he's just been very sick.  And the other half (the part that buys new carpets...) says 'oh my goodness, my lovely rug! Now I'm going to have to get down on my knees and scrub up a lot of smelly sick.'  Luckily, on this occasion, the winning part was the empathetic sensitive least the first time he puked.

Empathetic/nurturing side of the brain: "Fine you can sleep in the bed...."
Other side:  "not the whole bed though!!!"

I scooped up the last of it into a plastic bag and began scrubbing at the floor when I hear another balk.  This time he's sick on his bed.  Luckily, research led me to buy him a cot mattress instead of a bed, as he kept eating his beds.  I covered this with a 75p sheet from ASDA.  Not wanting to spend the remainder of my Saturday evening cleaning up dog puke, I bundled up the sheet and threw it in the bin.  I know, I know; shamefully wasteful.  But it did save me a good half hour....

No breakfast for sick doggies!
That went down like a lead balloon (video).

Saturday, 28 September 2013

My red toilet roll holder...

Categorically, I would say that leaving and entering the house are the two hardest parts of dog ownership.  If you listen to top dog psychologists, then you should ignore your dog before leaving the house and after entering the house.  My question to said psychologists is 'how?' when a massive dog flings itself out of the house and onto the drive when you open a door it is near impossible to 'ignore'.  Particularly when it is screeching while doing so.  On the same subject, how do you ignore a dog that has just squeezed out of the front door behind you?
Oddly, Caesar is alright with me leaving for work in the morning.  Recently, he has even begun to sit by the door when I'm about to leave.  It's as if to see me off.  My favourite part is when he leans as far as his body will allow him to catch a final glimpse before the door closes but never comes out of his sit. 

Coming home is a different matter entirely.  I try not to look through the stained glass front door as often I can see the bumbling and bustling of a little red figure behind the door.  His tail seems to make his whole body wag with excitement.  Mentally, I add another two bruises to my already patchy legs.  
I need to sleep now - but I'll keep hold of you so that you don't go without me!'

When I come in from work, I put on my shadow.  It's a large red dog with an unusually spotty chest and it follows me EVERYWHERE.  And when I say everywhere, I'm not exaggerating.  The first thing I do when I come in is hang up my bag and head for the toilet.  I should know better than to leave work without going to the loo because once I broke down on the way home and then accidentally locked my keys in my car.  I was desperate for the toilet and vowed that I would never leave work thinking 'I'll go when I get home' again.  Unfortunately for my bladder, that was a few years ago now and apparently I haven't truly learnt my lesson because I still hop in the car at home time thinking 'I'll go when I get in.'  Of course, there is an advantage to going at work which I often forget and that is that I get to go to the toilet alone.  At home, this is an impossibility.  There have been times in my house where I have been in the toilet and the whole family has joined me - one partner and two dogs.  Although, as a rule there is usually just me and Caesar.  He will insist on standing next to me in the toilet so I use him to my advantage and balance the toilet roll on his head!  At least he has his uses!
My red spotty toilet roll holder!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Leaving the lead...

It's the moment when my body decides to detonate almost every counter productive reaction that's within it's power.  It starts with my face burning and my eyes watering.  Then, there's the shaking hands, so unsteady that I can't unclip the fastening.  Then, there's my heart, beating so fast that I think I'm going to faint.  Perhaps it's good that these things happen.  I suppose that it means I care about what I'm about to do.

To unclick or not to unclick that is the question...

Sometimes, I lean down to unclick the lead and then stand up again, thinking better of the situation.  Sometimes I unclick it and then think better of the idea and clip it back on 5 seconds later.  Sometimes, if I'm feeling brave the whole head collar comes off but, more often, the headcollar stays on.  I'm not sure how that's supposed to stop him running after things but it gives me, at the very least, some sense of control.

'It's not fair - you take me off then you make me sit!'

What's my worst fear?  Oddly, it's that he runs over to and bothers another dog and owner.  Caesar has a very lumbersome and clumsy approach to everything and would fly at other people and dogs as if he were a miniature poodle - I don't think he always realises that he weighs almost twenty-five kilograms.  This worry is slightly ironic given that the same often happens to me when I have him on the lead.  I haven't got enough fingers to count the amount of times I've ended up wrapped up with Caesar screaming because someone else has let their dog bother us.  Or had to drag him backwards down a path to get away from the dog that is trying to sniff him.

Has anxiety made me too protective and controlling?  Or am I simply doing my duty as a responsible owner?  Perhaps I'll never know where the line lies.


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Who to moan to?

Every dog has its day.  In fact, if it's anything like Caesar, it has it's day at least once a week.  But when things do go awfully wrong where do you go?

Where do you go when you're feeling down?

Having Caesar's blog has been great for me.  It's a place where I can search for humour in some of the awful things that happen.  It's also a place where I've found other people who have experienced similar situations.  It's a place where I can stick it to those people who make comments like 'those aren't the types of dog you stroke'.  It's a place where I can remember how much I love him sometimes and also remember that, no matter how bad things get, they've probably been worse.
Talking about things can take the weight of your shoulders....

When I have a bad day, I'm the type of person who needs to talk about it.  In fact, I'm the type of person who will talk about it until I'm blue in the face.  I will tell anyone who will listen, and if they'll listen twice, I'll tell them twice.  It was lucky then that, eighteen months ago, I stumbled across a website.  I can't even remember what I had searched for but I knew straight away that I'd stumbled across something that was going to be important to me.

My first post was about my first concern about Caesar.  Did he look like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross?  This was something I'd been worrying about for some time but did not want to bring up with the rescue centre.  Replies poured in, welcoming me and thanking me for joining.  Members commented on Caesar's nice colouring and assured me that he looked just like a beautiful Staffy cross.  It wasn't long before I was joining in with other discussions.  Just little comments "Yes! Caesar does that too!", "Where did you get that?" or simply "Gorgeous picture!"  It might be nothing.  Small comments.   Small talk.  However, this became my go-to place whenever something went badly and even when something went really well and I wanted to tell the world.  In fact, this was the place that I learnt how many other people out there have similar problems and worse!  It's the place where I felt the least alone since having Caesar.

Staffy X what?  The first question I asked the internet.

I learnt the importance of talking and sharing and how this could make me see Caesar's actions in a different light.  I also learnt that other people have similar problems and sometimes much worse too!  I found that I enjoyed sharing Caesar's stories and often they were well received.  So I began to write a book, 'Saving Caesar.'  The other night, a post asked 'who do you love on the forum?'  How could I answer the question?  This is how:
Thanks to everyone at Staffies R Us for all of your help, support and encouragement.  I love you all!!!!!!

"MUM!!!! Stop talking about me!"

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Our most hectic day

As I've said before.  I tend to be the type of person who doesn't have much to do for the majority of the time.  Then, a day like today happens where I have far too much to do for all of the time.  I'm not complaining because I love to keep myself busy but I think both Caesar and I will sleep very well tonight.

Caesar this morning - oblivious to
how busy his day was about to get!

For weeks I have known about today.  And, the excitement and anxiety have been building up about it too.  Most normal people with normal dogs would think this is ridiculous.  Most normal people turned up at a show this afternoon and were told 'you can try flyball over there,' and thought 'OK great, let's give it a go.' I am not normal.  I have known that this opportunity was coming for over a month.  And, I have been stressing about it for exactly the same amount of time.

"Please pretty please don't let me down!"

 I also know that tomorrow, my little sister, whose feet I would like to glue to the floor is going on another world adventure.  She is the Indiana Jones of the family - language teacher version.  And I guarantee that by the time she is 30, she will have travelled most of the world.  This time, she is only going to Spain.  I say 'only' because her last adventure took her to China for a year and so, by comparison, Spain seems a stones throw away.  We had been invited to lunch to celebrate with her.
"I'll tell Emma I can't make it," I told my mum on receiving the invite.
"You won't." came the answer.  "You've been waiting months to see him try flyball."

My sister and Caesar just before she
embarked on her adventure to China.

So, we arranged lunch and flyball attempt number 1 so that they didn't collide.  We would eat at 12:00 and meet Emma at the dog show at around 3:30 - 4:00.  I set up a little run in the garden at my parents while waiting for lunch.  The course included bricks supporting canes and part of the inside boarding of a transit van to grab the ball from.  The ball was the famous 'Bouncy' who, through treating and fussing, has become a firm favourite among his toys.

A small audience consisting of my mum, my dad and my sister gathered as we ran Caesar over the jump and to the ball.  Caesar got a round of applause as he returned, dropping Bouncy at my feet.  "Again!" my mum called so we did it again.  "One more time!"  Caesar darted too and fro with gusto.  I have to admit I felt fairly proud of him, although that didn't necessarily give me confidence about his ability to run in the presence of other dogs.

I waited nervously for a text message from Emma to come through to my phone.  My stomach churned.  Why do I put myself through these things?  Maybe I should just accept that Caesar is what he is and give up trying to make him something better.  I checked me phone for the hundredth time.  Nothing.

Finally, just before 4:00, my phone buzzed with a message 'Come now x'.  I jumped out of my seat and, with my heart in my throat, made my way to the car, Damien and Caesar by my side.  I arrived at the show to find the car park full.  Already I was starting to panic.  "This looks busy," I said more to myself than Damien.  He nodded in anxious agreement.

To make matters worse, the flyball track was at the other side of the field.  Past the bouncy castles and the stalls with dog treats.  Past the refreshment stand and the main show ring.  And all the way to a place filled with cars, cages and DOGS!  Caesar yowled and howled and barked and cried.  I looked pathetically down at him.  I worry that, when he does this, I look like I don't care, mainly because I just stand there.  The reason for this, however, is that I've quickly learnt that nothing gets him past this aside from walking away.  And, when you're trying to go in one direction (ie. towards the other dogs), walking away just doesn't cut the mustard. So, second only to this is plainly ignoring him.  Although this doesn't work either, at least it doesn't give him attention for doing what he's doing as pretty much every other method does and hasn't worked anyway.

I felt physically sick.  And this feeling was multiplied one hundred times when Emma told me to remove the lead.  "Can't he do it with the lead on?" I asked foolishly.  The answer was a simple head shake.  My hands were shaking so much that I could hardly unclip the lead.  I could feel the energy radiating from Caesar.  He was like a firework waiting to explode.

The first run went well.  He ran to the end, grabbed a treat and Emma caught him.  Then it was time to run back.  This was not as easy.  He ran back, clattered into my legs and kept running.  He did a circle of the constructed ring and then finally returned.  The second time went worse.  This time, he ran to one end, jumped one barrier and then did a kangaroo-hop like jump over the other barrier and began running around all of the cars and dogs.  It took what felt like ages to get him back, even though later others would comment on how good it was that he 'came straight back.'  Although many were shocked to see twenty-three kilograms of Staffie jump a fence and run towards them, I was relieved that he did nothing but run around like a maniac.  Although, when I did get him back, the last thing that I wanted to do was let him go again.

Come back!!! Where are you going?!

By the seventh or eighth time, he was exhausted but at least running in the right direction ninety percent of the time.  My face was burning with the pressure and I could see that I had a small audience.  "Caesar, Caesar, Caesar!" I called in my fakely enthusiastic high-pitched voice.  In actual fact, I wanted to jump over the fence and run off myself.

The hot sun and running around took its toll on Caesar fairly quickly and, although pretty nippy at first, he quickly slowed down after his initial burst of adrenaline.  I decided to quit while we were ahead and make towards the car park.  I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Emma but I knew she would understand.  I have a nervous disposition and a nerve-shakingly mischievous dog - I need to escape sometimes.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Bed time Caesar!

When we adopted Caesar, I was determined that he would be a well trained dog.  I had previously had a go at teaching my uncle's dog Heidi to do tricks but failed miserably because largely, she couldn't be bothered and, having access to any food she ever wanted, wasn't that motivated by food.  Caesar, I decided, would be different - I would work very hard to train him.

What I didn't realise is that no hard work was actually necessary (for the basic skills at least).  By the end of the first fortnight he had 'sit', 'stay', 'leave it', 'find it' and 'stand' to a T.  Caesar continued to learn tricks at an amazing rate until I found myself teaching him things for sheer entertainment value.  I felt blessed that he was so clever.  What I didn't realise, of course, is that intelligence can be a curse in disguise.

Treat on nose balancing act - a trick we taught Caesar when we first got him.

I hope my uncle wouldn't have minded me saying that; while Heidi was a very beautiful and friendly dog, she wasn't exactly the brightest of the bunch.  That's fine - she could be left in the kitchen all night long and would never so much as consider raiding the bin, opening the fridge or mooching in the cupboards.  I hasten to add that these things are not a mark of unintelligence - in fact they are probably a mark of respect or at the very least; obedience.  Caesar, on the other hand, would have done all of the above and probably more!  

A bed Caesar constructed out of my 2 new cushions! 

The award winning doorknob, at least, did prevent Caesar from raiding our main food supply.  However, the remainder of our doors (aside from the lounge) are doorknob-less and offer nothing but a simple door handle - no match for Caesar.  At first, I tried to prop furniture against these doors to prevent him from going in but, after a while, I realised that all he was usually doing was piling up my dirty laundry and lying on it.  Plus, he was causing more damage to the doors and furniture by trying to navigate his way around them.  Was it such a problem that I was going to damage furniture and doors to stop him?  I couldn't see that it was really.  If this is what was keeping him sane for the day, then why prevent it?  I began to accept that, on arriving home from work, I would probably find him in the bedroom tucked up in a pile of yesterday's clothes and shoes.  It was flattering really.  No one else has ever showed much interest in my dirty washing...

The first night it was funny.  At 5 o'clock in the morning I heard a noise.  A sort of scratching and banging.  I held my breath for a moment, panicking.  Then, the door swung open and in trotted a wide awake Caesar looking very proud of himself.  He hopped up onto the bed, nudged me out of the way and climbed under the covers, tucking up against my stomach.  I wanted to get up and tell him to leave but he was right; it was freezing.  Plus, Caesar is like a forever warm hot water bottle and I welcomed the heat against my stomach.  I sighed and pulled the duvet snugly over us both.

Not loving being left alone, Caesar has never much
liked bed time (video)!

The next night it happened again.  This time at two.  I knew I could have him coming in all of the time so I took him back out.  Then again at five the same thing happened.  And again at seven!  I took him back out but each time, he sat outside the door and wailed - clearly offended by being asked to leave.  This was three nights ago and ever since we've had at least one late night visit.  Will I ever sleep again? 

Snuggle Album!
Evidence of excessive and often imposed cuddling:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

My space!

Have you got somewhere special that you like to go when everything is going wrong or when everything is going right?  A place where you can sit and cry or scream.  A place that you can share with the ones you love and hide from the ones you don't  A place that means something to you?

I did.  It was a little car park that overlooked the sea.  I spent many a happy teenage afternoon and evening there when life had got too much or when it was peaking at just enough. When luck had afforded me a car and an ounce of freedom with which I knew not what to do.  I later found that this wonderful location was a well-known dogging site (and not of the canine variety either).  So, I lost my special place and have never found a new one until recently.
A bit windy is it Dumbo?

Walks are stressful.  There's no point denying it.  I would love to say "let's have a relaxing walk with Caesar."  but thus far, those words have never passed my lips.  The reason for this is because nothing about Caesar is relaxing.  He runs too fast and too far.  He tugs and pulls and screeches and screams.  He picks things of unknown origin from the ground and eats them.  And, at most, walks are...interesting.

Looks like the lead is about to fly away!

When I was knee high to a grass-hopper, which wasn't too long ago (or perhaps it was depending if we're talking dog years or human ones), my dad used to go fishing.  I remember some of our excursions.  They usually involved me dressing in a LOT of very warm clothes and then waiting for an hour in the cold, crying because it was too cold and asking to go home.  Then, usually, sitting in the car with a packet of sweets.  Dad didn't take me fishing often - I wonder why?  Anyhow, back in the day of sea fishing, sweets, waders and flat fish, dad used to take me to somewhere he called 'the gare'.  It was silent and sandy and untarnished by tourists, buckets, spades and donkeys.  I was determined to take Caesar there one day.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find how to get to it, aside for walking down the beach for hours.

Poor old Caesar - once he has freedom,
he doesn't know what to do except for come back!

Video link for phone users:

Luckily for me, when we met Sharon (one of Caesar's rescuers) on Saturday, she showed us the way.  It was just the way I remembered it...deserted!

Nothing for miles - my sort of place!

Monday, 16 September 2013

On the outside

Today marked the start of a very stressful week.  I know this because I was stressed about today before today actually happened.  I had made an appointment at the vets for 2 dogs, both at the same time and the latest they could give me was 5:00.  This would be fine except for that I had meetings on a Monday which usually end between 4:30 and 5:00.  Plus, the vets surgery is 20 minutes away.  I was going to have to attempt to excuse myself - not something that I like to do.

Anyway, you can imagine my glee when the usual meeting was rearranged for Thursday.  I now knew that I had plenty of time to get from A to B without flooring my car (which still has the engine light on from the floods - probably better sort that out too)!  Also, it's freezing, so the only thing I feel like doing is going to bed in the fire!

It's sitting by the fire time already!
Unfortunately, Gemma got their first.
'Never mind, I'll just sit on her!'

Not being a fan of being close to other dogs, Caesar doesn't love visits to the vets at the best of times and I could see him beginning to shake as we wandered up the path towards the familiar door.  As we entered, and on seeing another dog, he began to howl.  Now, normally, I stand outside with Caesar as he is very loud and was planning on doing this as soon as I had let the receptionist know that we were here for our appointment.  On seeing the other dog, Caesar barked and squealed and did his usual 'I'm far too excited for such a small space!' routine.  I stroked his head and told him politely to 'shut up.'  The receptionist winced but ignored us as she continued to work on her computer.  "He's ok," I explained over the din, trying to hold him still as I waited for her to acknowledge us with some eye contact. "He doesn't like other dogs, I'll take him outside."  At this point, the other dog was called into the waiting room leaving me, Caesar, Gemma and Damien.  Caesar quietened down.  "He's just very excitable," I explained to her blank face.  "He gets excited about other dogs."  She nodded, not looking particularly interested.  "If another dog comes in here to wait..." I added, my cheeks reddening at the fact I was being ignored, "...then I'll wait outside."

Anything remotely exciting is
worth a good bark!

No other dog did wait and Caesar sat quietly by my side for a while.  A few minutes later, a lady walked through with another dog and straight out of the door.  Caesar barked as the dog passed and the receptionist got to her feet.  "I'm going to have to ask you to stand outside." she said unkindly.  I looked at her blankly.  By this point Caesar was quiet again.  "We can't answer the phone when he's making that racket." She said bluntly, pointing towards the door, then turned to her computer screen again.

Would rather stay cuddled up to my
best bud, Conehead, any day!

My cheeks burned and my eyes stung.  I was so angry at being asked to leave a vets and stand outside in the cold because Caesar was barking.  When the vet came outside to pick us up, she greeted us with a smile, "come on in you noisy two!" she said smiling towards Caesar and Gemma.  "It's not the little one, called the receptionist.  She seems nice..."

Usually, I am a calm person who is reasonable and the vast majority of times, on a busy day, I take the initiative to bring Caesar outside myself.  But today there was no one there and it was cold enough to make us both shake.  I felt a rush of anger as I stood with my hands up my sleeves outside.  It was almost enough to make me put Caesar back in the car and tell the secretary that I would be taking my custom elsewhere.

As I left, there were 2 Chihuahua's in the waiting room both barking at each other and at Gemma.  Oddly enough this was deemed acceptable noise by the receptionist.

How does your dog react in the vets?  Should noisy dogs be made to stand outside?  

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Bumbling on the beach

Although Caesar's tag claims that he belongs entirely to me; this is not strictly true.  I own only 99% of Caesar; the other 1% belongs to someone whom, until recently, I hardly knew.  I'll save the details for the book and simply say that the first person at the rescue centre to come across Caesar was a tall bubbly blonde called Sharon.  Sharon owns 1% of Caesar because she helped to rescue him and assure him a place in the centre.  Through the whole adoption process, I saw Sharon on a number of occasions.  However, as Caesar dominates any social situation that he is part of, we didn't get much chance to speak.  I knew that Sharon liked Caesar very much as she would make a fuss of him when we brought him back to the rescue centre.
Sharon and Caesar.

At the time, Caesar had a tiny fan club of people who would get excited to see him back.  It warmed my heart to know that so many people loved him and made the 6 months that he had spent in kennels more than bearable.

It was at the time of our last major Caesar success that Sharon got in touch to ask if I would like to walk Caesar with her two dogs; Bumble and Milly.  I jumped at the chance for Caesar to continue pushing himself and making new friends.  As the walk approached though, and Caesar had less and less off-lead experiences, I began to doubt whether we'd be able to do it.  Sharon assured me that her dogs were fairly bomb proof and were used to dogs in the kennels.  

Sharon is as sensible and careful as I like to think that I am and she too has a 'other dog radar' wired up to her brain.  After a few hours of walking, the pair of us scowered the beach for fellow dog walkers as Bumble and Milly played happily with Caesar on his long lead.  Well, I say happily, on occassion, Caesar did seem to manage to freak Bumble out by barking at him but at large the three charged around happily, each on their own doggy plant.  On finding there were no people for the next stretch of beach we unclipped Caesar's lead and off he went!  Although he made a LOT of noise again and was clearly full of energy, he ran skipped and played and did come back almost every time he was told to.  Two more friends for Caesar and a giant leap to Caesar kind!
Caesar with Sharon, Bumble and Milly - Don't jump off again Caesar!!

Caesar met his new friends on his lead but
later had a run around without it.  Well done C boy! 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Inconveniently ill

My eyes are drooping as I type this.  I had hoped that I would come in, order a takeaway, eat said takeaway and go to bed.  Instead, I came in, dithered over take away, couldn't find a phone to call takeaway, changed mind about takeaway, ordered an online takeaway and now I'm in the process of waiting for an hour for said takeaway to arrive.  By which time, I'll either have died of hunger or fallen asleep in my chair.  In the meantime, I decided to write a blog explaining why I'll be falling asleep in my chair and here it is:

Last night was hectic.  As a rule, I don't live a particularly hectic life.  I, like Caesar, like my set routine and anything out of the ordinary stresses me.  I do love a good meal out now and again but the thought of returning home later than usual is highly inconvenient as it means that I have to miss parts of my routine.  Then the question is; which parts?  What do I sacrifice?  Last night was the date of the monthly writing club that I have begun to attend.  It was my second meeting so I still felt the butterflies in my stomach as I considered reading my writing out loud.  The previous time, I had lost my balance and felt faint as I'd tried to read.  Anyhow, I rushed to my parents after work to print the chapter of the book which I was to present.  Then, not having time to go home, I rushed straight to the club.  I didn't get home until after 9.  The door was locked.

Correctly assuming that Damien was at the gym, I hunted for my key and unlocked the door, bracing myself for a cuddle and kiss from Caesar.  It didn't come.  The house was silent and there was no sign of him in the living room.  I searched upstairs and found him snuggled up on my bed - not unusual and with the cold I thought nothing more of it.  Later, he pottered downstairs and tried to climb on my knee, I gave him a quick cuddle but he jumped off a few moments later.  Then, he began hiccup-retching and licking his lips manically.  I've seen this before, it usually means that he's going to be sick.  I patted his back and waited but nothing happened.  This went on for almost an hour.  

Eventually, I resorted to the font of all knowledge - the internet.  By this point it was late and I sat in bed by the glow of my iPad.  I kept coming up with the same answer GDV - Gastric torsion.  I'd never heard of it.  The more I looked, the more I panicked.  Until, eventually, I decided to ring the 24hr helpline offered to me by my pet insurance.  The nurse at the other end of the phone (after slyly confirming that this was not a pre-existing condition with questions like 'have you currently got a vets appointment booked? - What is it regarding?') confirmed my worst fears.  "That sounds like it could be a gastric twist," she said.  By this point I was out of bed and already pulling off my pyjamas and throwing on my clothes.  Caesar, who didn't want to move, lay breathing heavily on the bed.  I could feel my hand shaking as she instructed me not to 'panic' - clearly not someone who has met me before.  If I do one thing well, it's panicking!  I can send myself into a panicky frenzy over just about anything.  In the Summer of 2005, I convinced myself I had Bird Flu just because I panicked so much about getting it.  I can panic about anything.  In fact, I now try to avoid the news as much as possible due to the fact that it has this horrendous effect on me.  

The overly calm nurse instructed me to call my vets as soon as possible and follow the procedure for the out of hours clinic.  "Follow your vet's advice," she told me.  I wasn't planning on ignoring it.

As the line connected to the vet, I began to talk hurriedly.  "He has a swollen stomach, he's shaking, he's licking his lips and doing hiccuppy type gagging noises," I told her.
"He's feeling sick," she confirmed.  This I was pretty sure of.  Before she continued, Caesar contributed to the conversation with a giant belch.  "That's good," she said.  'It might be good for you, you're not sitting next to him' I thought. 

Caesar didn't want to move; just lie on the bed.

The vet quickly explained that a gastric twist means that air is stuck in the dogs abdomen and this can be fatal.  She told me that, had this been the case, I would have seen his condition deteriorating rapidly, usually over 15-20 minutes.  She also assured me that I'd been right to call and explained that she could look Caesar over if I would like but, as he had burped and then pumped another twice since the phone conversation, she was fairly sure he was just feeling sick.  At the worst, she thought he may have a blockage.  "Keep an eye on him tonight," she offered, "then bring him in in the morning."  I kept to my word.  Throughout the night, I watched him carefully and observed his breathing and temperature.

This morning, the alarm called me from my disturbed sleep at 6:45 and Caesar bounded out of bed, tail wagging and went to wait for his breakfast.  I dropped Caesar at my parents' just to ensure that he wasn't ill while I was at work.  He had a whale of a time.  This morning, he bounded around the house excitably, this afternoon he jumped on my dad's friend's knee and knocked his coffee from his hand.  He had the time of his life all day!  I, on the other hand, struggled through twelve hours at work almost having to hold my eyes open with matchsticks!  

"Yes, he's been great all day - you sound a bit tired..."

Has your dog ever taken ill suddenly?  Was it serious or, like Caesar, did it pass by the next day?  

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Caesar's gifts to me...

Over the past 18 months Caesar has given me many a gift.  The gift of an excuse to buy a new handbag each time he tears one of mine to pieces, a few little gifts left around the house when we brought him home (of the smelly variety) and, on the odd occasion, the gift of tidying up the kitchen by eating all of its contents.  But these are minor gifts.  What we have earned and learned through owning him has been so much greater.

Some say that you make your own luck.  I suppose in many ways that's true.  I can't deny that I have a bit of an appetite for drama. However, things do have a way of happening to me with the worst possible timing.  Luckily, I've been able to turn things on their head and use them as fuel for my book/blog.  After all, if I didn't have a horrendously mischievous dog,  then I'd have nothing to talk or write about so I see Caesar as a gift; the gift of conversation.  The gift of a good story.

I also see him as a challenge.  I love challenges; even though I love, equally, to complain about them.  I enjoy the pang of anticipation when you think of something new to try or when you see even the smallest bit of progress.  I love knowing that, or at least thinking that, I've made a difference.  

Monday, 9 September 2013

The dog of a thousand faces...

Pull a face.  It could be any face.  A scary face, a sad face, a goofy face.  I'm going to trust that you did that.  I'll be disappointed if you didn't!  We have so many possible expressions and yet the vast majority of us use so very few of them.  Have you ever come across someone who uses lots of expressions though?  If you have, you know how hard it is not to laugh at how expressive some peoples faces can be!  Caesar is one of those people...well dogs.

When I first met him, I was terrified of him.  He had this massively determined look about him that made you think that he would pounce on you at any minute.  But, since then, a lot of time has passed and now I see nothing (most of the time) but a very cute and very loving little ginger dog.  However, ask ninety-nine percent of the people who come to the door and they will tell you otherwise!  Ask anyone who walks past the house and sees him sitting on the window sill when we leave for work and they will tell you how much of a scary looking guard dog he can be.

So, this has inspired me to make a collage.  The many faces of Caesar:

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Another one bites the dust...

Caesar didn't have the best start, but then neither do most dogs who end up in kennels by the age of two.  I suppose the mothering instinct hidden deep within me wants to right that.  And how better to right it than by buying him toys?
Not spoiled at all.  Caesar with a selection of
his unbroken toys.

Although this may seem like a good philosophy, there is one minor problem.  Unless they dispense food, Caesar isn't really interested in toys at all (I've covered this in my Kong Wobbler post).  However, recently, I did find something that caught my eye.  Banished to the sale rail in Pets at Home, was a green doughnut with a friendly picture of Rhubarb the cat on it.  I don't know why it made me look twice.  After all, Caesar has had hundreds of toys and has never played much with any of them.  The doughnut shaped toy claimed to be "hard wearing".  'Good' I thought.  I had quickly learnt that anything that wasn't 'hard wearing' wasn't worth considering.

Could it be?  A hard wearing toy that he will play with?!

Anyway, my dog mum instincts must have been correct because he LOVED it.  He played tug with it, pretended it was running away and pounced on it, squeezed it and squeezed it to make it squeak and then finally ripped a huge hole in it and ate the padding.

'I know nothing about what happened to that toy...honestly!'

THE END (for that toy at least....)

Well it made it for almost a week...

What's your dogs favourite toy?  Let me know in the comments section.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Saving Caesar (almost literally)!

Yesterday was the first day since beginning Caesar's blog that I did not post.  I do have a good excuse though (honestly)!  It involves Caesar almost literally needing to be saved! 

Last night, I needed to go to visit my Grandma.  She's not been very well, suffering from a bad back and I hadn't seen her for a while.  I decided it best to leave Caesar at home with his Kong Wobbler as he does like to have a fuss from her and it's a bit much when she's not feeling good.  Had I listened to the news before I set off, I would have realised how much of a bad idea this really was.

Caesar loves his Kong.
He'd be happy with that for a few hours, I thought.

We set off in good time, leaving Caesar with a Kong Wobbler full of treats.  His tea time was at six, but it was only four when we left.  The journey takes twenty minutes.  "We'll definitely be back for six," I assured Damien as we donned our waterproofs.  The rain was heavy outside.  

As we approached Grandma's house, I caught the travel news.  A list of places hit by flooding.  Roads around my Grandma's were listed as "the only major problem areas."  I'd already passed most of them.  We hit a particularly bad part around two minutes from her house, "this is a bit scary" I said, as I had to move from one side of the road to the other in order to get past the flood.  Actually, I had no idea how bad things were about to get.

By seven, it was fairly evident that getting home was not going to be easy.  Every road we set down led to a dead end.  Until, at one point, I had to try to reverse out of a flood of water.  The man behind me decided to push past and risk it and consequently blew up his engine.  I watched as black smoke poured from his car.  "What about Caesar?"  
I've never seen weather like it!

We leave Caesar at home during the day.  It's taken a long time but he's gradually come round to our leaving and coming back times.  And, touch wood, we've come home to a relatively unscathed house for the last week.  Sitting in the car, feeling completely hopeless, I could only assume what he was doing now.  By eight I was really starting to panic.  It was two hours after tea time and he was still home alone.  The Kong would surely be empty by now.  I made an urgent call to my parents.  "I've left Caesar," I told them, "and I can't get back to him."  I could feel my lip trembling as I spoke.

"Where are you?" came my mum's concerned voice from the other end of the line.  I realised that I was shaking so much I couldn't speak clearly.  "I'm on the bypass."  I tried to say. "There are cars everywhere.  People are getting stuck in the water and I'm too scared to keep going.  Everywhere I go is flooded and I can't get home."  It was true, there seemed to be no roads that would lead me anywhere I needed to go and everywhere I tried to go, cars were turning dangerously in the road.  The more people panicked, the more dangerous the roads seemed to become.  I had followed a treacherous route to get this far and every minute, the flood water was rising.  I doubted that I'd even be able to get home.  My mum finally agreed to prioritise Caesar, despite wanting to rescue us first.  They have a diesel transit van and I hoped that this might cut through the water a little more easily.  "We'll try to get to him," she told me as the radio announced that all roads to the town were now closed.  Unfortunately, when you're halfway down one of them, there's not much you can do.  "If we get there, we'll bring him home with us," she told me.  I agreed shakily.  I wasn't convinced that anyone would be able to get to him tonight.  I imagined him, terrified by the weather and trapped in the house.  What if the house was flooded?  

"Keep going, keep going, keep going," I was now chanting as the car made waves through the deep water.  I ignored the fact that Damien was looking at me with concern as I continued to talk to Myrtle (my car).  My next car is going to be a car that turns into a boat!  Then I won't have all of this to worry about.

Mum and dad arrived to eerie silence.  This is unusual in my house because any visitors are usually initiated into the house by being bowled over by a twenty-five kilogram dog.  They looked around but there was no sign of Caesar.  "CAESAR!" called my dad.  Slowly, Caesar clambered downstairs.  "I don't know what he was doing up there," mum told me nodding towards the stairs.  But that's where he was.  I felt so proud to return home to the house in exactly the same state we'd left it.  Well almost....

Here we are panicking about him.
And what's Caesar doing?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

There's something about those eyes...

It's fair to say that most dogs like routine.  We all like routine in our own way.  Yes, in some ways it's boring and repetitive but at least you know where you stand with a good routine.  Caesar does not just like routine, he is obsessive about it!  He gets up at the same time each day.  First he goes to the toilet, then he comes in and sits in the same spot at the left of the door to the kitchen, he waits and is given 3 breakfast biscuits.  He has his dinner at the same time each evening.  He's almost like a walking egg timer - if you aren't awake at his specified time, he sits outside of the door and howls.  If you are not in the kitchen providing him with his evening meal at precisely 6 o'clock, he stares at you and cries until you get up and do it.

I understand she's in China...but I'm sure that clock says 6 o'clock
and that's tea time isn't it???

Most Wednesday nights for the past year and a half, Caesar and I have attended a training class.  While, at first, he found it a little over stimulating, particularly the aspect of it that involved being surrounded by other dogs, he has actually grown to quite enjoy it.  Over the holidays though, we have been away and so has our trainer so it has been a good few weeks since we had attended.  This was enough to make Caesar a little edgy.  However, when we had to go into the hall a different way, it was all too much.  He didn't want to go through the other doors and screeched and cried, he howled and barked at the other dogs.  Someone new gave me a look as if to say "is he safe to be out in public?"  I blushed as I wrestled him through the kitchen, hoping that his noisiness would subside once we got into the hall.  I noticed the person in front wincing at the ear splitting howling that was going on.    

Luckily, having attended the same training class over a prolonged period of time, many attendees do know that Caesar is primarily a harmless noise maker and have grown to like him despite this.  So, I sat between two of them.  Caesar, for whatever reason, was not feeling the love tonight.  He had his tail between his legs and was making a whining noise.  "Oh dear," said one of the others.  "He looks a bit down on himself tonight."  I couldn't lie, he did a bit.  She addressed Caesar, "You're beautiful," she said to him, "Can he have a treat?"
I nodded  "if you don't mind."
Talking gently to Caesar, she handed over a treat.  His tail wagged madly and he could hardly keep his front feet on the floor as she leaned over with one.  Everything seemed to have returned to normality as the training session commenced.

Caesar: The king of the dejected look.

Moments later, I glanced at Caesar, only to see him sitting in front of the same woman, giving her the most forlorn look that I have ever seen!  There was nothing wrong with him, he was just looking for sympathy treats!

They don't feed me you know...I have to survive off things
that I can steal from the bin.

As if that wasn't enough, when she eventually cottoned on to his trick and had to lift the collar of her shirt to that she could not see his dejected look, he turned his attention to the dog owner at the other side!  His expression was so convincingly pained and frightened that they too took pity on him.  By the end of the training session, we were crying laughing.  He's obviously associated looking badly done to with receiving treats!  

I'm sorry that it had to come to this.  But I did tell
you 5 minutes ago that it was 6 o'clock!

How far would your dog go for a tasty morsel?  Let me know in the comments section. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Naughty Spots...

Caesar has hundreds of naughty spots.  They are much more prominent in the summer and turn grey as the winter sets in. Each one is associated with a crime that he has committed.  If you look closely, you can see which one is which...
Here is what they are for:
- The cluster on his left shoulder are for breaking into the kitchen and stealing food (solved that one...eventually)!
-  The cluster on his right shoulder are for opening doors and making nests of my clothes which he lies in like some sort of mental magpie! 
-  The individual spot on the left of his chest is from the time he ran in and licked my fish (and chips) as I leaned forward to sit down - no tea for me then!
-  The one below that is for the time he pulled Damien off a bench, knocked his dinner out of his lap and then ran around eating it all!
-  The cluster in the centre of his chest are for chasing other dogs around and screaming at them.
- The group of spots on the left his belly are for attempting to eat a packet of pencils which I bought my class as prizes!
- The group of spots on the right of his belly are for charging into people's legs at high speed!

And the one on the end of his nose is his 'kissing spot'; that's for stealing people's hearts and refusing to give them back!