Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

A very Happy Halloween everyone!  

After our rather genuine scare on Tuesday, I'm pleased to report that Caesar is finally back to his usual self.  In fact, he was feeling so much better today that he went looking for the bag of food again.  Luckily, it was in an airtight box with a clipped on lid!

So for now, we are enjoying Halloween together and I'm feeling pleased that, this hallows eve, he is joining me on the right side of rainbow bridge! 

So, in the spirit of Halloween, I have a scary question for you!  What is the scariest moment that you've had with your pet?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

What about GDV?

Something new happened yesterday.  It hit me by complete surprise.  I had popped out for an hour or so and returned home to find my prize winning kitchen doorknob had failed on me (Read Kitchen Defence for more details on kitchen safety measures including the award winning doorknob:

Caesar's always keen to help out with the cooking.

I've returned home before to find that the kitchen had been ransacked but this time, to my utter amazement, there was only one thing out of place.  It was an open bag of dry dog food and it was lying in the middle of the floor.  Now, we ordered this new 12kg bag about a week ago and it came the next day.  Usually my dog food is kept in an airtight plastic container but as Gemma and Caesar now have different food for their dinner, I have yet to buy another container or to find where to put it in our poxy kitchen.  As I lifted the fallen bag into place, I noticed that it was still very heavy.  'That's good' I thought, foolishly 'if he's had any, it can't have been much...'

The rest of the day passed in a whirl.  I was busy tidying the kitchen and cooking and then cleaning.  Caesar sat quietly in the kitchen.  Then, at tea time, I called the dogs to come for tea.  I had decided just to pop a hand-full of food into the bowls.  After all, I didn't know which dog had been at the food.  Gemma sat impatiently at the door, dancing from foot to foot and waiting for her tea.  Caesar, on the other hand, almost turned green.  He looked at the food, then turned away and walked off.  This is Caesar we are talking about too; I've never seen him turn food away in his life!

Caesar's stomach had swollen terribly.

It was then that I began to notice other oddities about my little friend.  For example, his ears were back and he did keep breaking wind, which is a little unusual for him.  Within minutes of me noticing this, his stomach seemed to swell.  The more I looked, the more he looked like a balloon standing on four cocktail sticks... I wasted no time in ringing the vet who told me to bring him immediately.  By this time, it had been almost five hours since Caesar had eaten the food.  'I should have known!'  I thought miserably.  'I should have taken him earlier!'  In hindsight, I thought, I perhaps should have got him checked just in case.  But how was I to know?  It didn't look as though he'd eaten much at all.

Before going to the vet, I quickly pushed the bag onto the scales.  9.5kg.  Gemma had been eating from the same bag for almost a week now too.  How much had he really eaten?

Not his usual playful self at all - Caesar didn't want anyone to go near him, let alone touch him.

Why is it that when you're in a rush to get somewhere like, for example, the vets, that everyone decides to go slowly.  The person in front of me, who was already only going at 20mph, decided to break when I came up behind them.  For no other reason, I thought, than the fact that I looked like I was in a rush.  Also, possibly because I said a mean word that they didn't hear but probably did see my face which was getting redder and redder.

Caesar, who is normally very slim.  Looked as though he had swallowed a balloon.

The vets is already 20 minutes away but, in this traffic, it took me nearly 30 minutes.  The car windows were all open as Caesar filled the car with toxic bottom gases!  And the person in front refused to speed up.  Finally, I got there, jumped out of the car and rushed Caesar in.  By this point, he was squealing...

Feeling very sorry for himself.  

The vet confirmed my fears, it was too late to make Caesar sick so all we had to do was wait and hope that the food passed through.  She gave me two symptoms to look out for:
1.  Bloat - beyond what I was seeing now...
2.  Trying to be sick/go to the toilet but failing.
She also explained that she could admit Caesar for the night but that I would probably be better watching him myself.  After all, he is my dog and I am supposed to know him best.  Then, she gave him a strong painkiller which she told my might send him off to sleep.  All I could do now was wait.

By the time we got home, Caesar was bellowing in the back of the car.  As soon as I stopped, he jumped out and went to the toilet.  He went another three times between the car and the house.  I ran out of bags and then embarrassingly had to retrace my steps with hands full of bags.  A man asked me "have you lost something love?"
"....yes.  A poo..."
Rather unsurprisingly, he didn't answer that.

Things were bad overnight and Caesar lay on the floor howling in pain.  At one point, I let him into the garden and then could not find him anywhere.  Eventually, with the help of a strong torch, I found him hidden among some bushes, shaking.  A few times, I dialled the emergency vet number and then changed my mind.  Caesar wasn't showing either of the two symptoms that the vet had described.  His stomach was swollen but only to the same extent it had been when I took him to the vet.  At least I thought so.  He was managing to go to the toilet....every 5 minutes in fact.  The problem was that he was making a lot of noise and everytime he began to sleep, he jumped back up in panic.  Caesar continued to go to the toilet and let out his trapped wind.  I've never been so pleased to pick up runny dog poo or put up with the smell of dog pumps as I was last night.  These signs, the vet had told me, were good ones.

I woke up this morning with Caesar cuddled into my shoulder.  It was progress from last night when he refused to come near anyone.  He was still whining quietly but when he came downstairs his tail wagged manically to see my mum and dad.

Today, I am going to buy a safe container to put our new food in so that this will never happen again.  If you haven't got one already, I recommend you do the same.  GDV or Gastric torsion can kill in minutes - hours.  It's never worth the risk.

Know your facts about GDV/Gastric Bloat/Gastric Torsion  - ASPCA on signs of bloat and what to do  - Article on what Dog Bloat is.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Someone to talk to...

I've never been good at being on my own.  I like company too much.  If I'm on my own for too long then I have to talk to myself because I just like to have someone to chat to.  I'm pretty sure if I was living entirely on my own, I'd end up being reported for constantly talking to myself.  It's nothing serious, I don't tell myself to kill kittens or follow people, just things like 'oh that washing needs doing,' or 'what was I about to do?'  

Fortunately, now I've got Caesar I can talk to him.  Not that he understands too much of what I'm saying but he is a fairly good listener.  Having him around makes me feel slightly less embarrassed about talking away to myself.  

'I didn't quite catch that...but I thought you might have said 'treat'?'

A few years ago, when we hadn't long since moved into our house and we were pet and wee-stained-carpet free, Damien announced that he was going to France for a week or so.  I didn't take it too well as I hated being on my own and was petrified of being left in the house.  At night, each time someone would walk past, I would panic and hope that they didn't come to the house.  I didn't like answering knocks on the door, even in the daytime, and eventually, I moved my things to my parents' house and slept in their small bedroom.

Getting Caesar meant that I didn't have to be on my own anymore.

Caesar has given me something that I would never have had otherwise - the ability to stay on my own without being scared!  Largely because, if I am scared, I can talk to him and say 'did you hear that noise?' and also because he is so excitable he'd probably, however unintentionally, knock anyone who tried to get in off their feet entirely.  

'Well that's me settled for the night....'

Caesar too has come to terms with Damien going away.  Mainly because he gets to sleep in the bed and spend all of his time getting attention; even if he doesn't have a clue what I'm saying!  

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The perfect house guest...??

Caesar doesn't get invited around to other people's houses too much.  I'm not surprised really.  Last time we were guest's in anyone's house other than my parents he weed all over the floor out of pure excitement at being there.  It's not that he's too badly behaved at other houses, at least he doesn't mean to be anyway, it's more that he is extremely interested in everything that they have.  If he were a person, this would be an endearing quality.  The type of person who comes round and compliments your furniture, asks for a tour of your beautiful home and shows a LOT of interest in what you're cooking.  As a dog, I can't deny, it is slightly irritating.

Luckily, for my parents at least, he is now used to their house and so has learnt how to behave there....most of the time anyway.  He saunters in, gives everyone a fuss and then sits waiting to have his head collar removed.  Once he is head collar free, he then moves into the kitchen with my dad.  He does this because that is where the food is.  If he is called away from the kitchen area, he will generally come but then makes it his soul mission to get back to the kitchen again.  He particularly likes my parents' automatically opening bin which is essentially the magic gateway to leftover food.

At home, Caesar is not allowed on the furniture.  At least, not the sofas anyway.  He comes to bed most nights with me so the bedrooms have slightly different rules.  Generally, he understands this.  Occasionally, he will come for a hug on the rocking chair but only when invited.  Once we leave, of course, the rules are redundant and I frequently catch him sitting on the leather sofa.  In fact, there is a huge chunk missing from said sofa where he tried to dig a hole....

'Maybe, if I stare hard enough, he'll drop some....'

At my parents' house, the rules are no longer in play either.  And, for some reason, he feels that he is welcome to sit, lie or otherwise make himself comfortable on any of their sofas.  The problem is, where as my sofa was less than £200 and bought from Macro, their sofa or should I say 'suite' is from a proper sofa catalogue where you can order sofas that have a guarantee and come with which you can buy special cleaning equipment.  I'm guessing the guarantee is void if a large dog attempts to dig a hole in your new Richmond suite....   Perhaps that's worth checking.

Caesar is treated like a VIP at my parents' house.  I'm surprised he wants to go home.  He get's left over food (a good chunk of pork last night), to lie on the settee (actually meant my dad having to sit on the floor) and cuddled and fussed all of the time.  No wonder he cries in the car all the way home!!

How does your dog act at other people's houses?  Angel or anarchist?  Let me know with a comment.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The unanswered question...

I'm sitting at my laptop with Google open in front of me.  The same questions have been spinning in my mind for months.  The problem is, I don't exactly know if I want to know the answer.  If I did ever find out, I'm not sure I'd know what to do with the information either but that doesn't seem to stop me from searching.

"Lost dogs" I type, popping the name of surrounding towns into the box one after the other.  Each one comes up blank.  "Missing dog", "stolen dog".  I don't want to believe that someone didn't want him.  I want to believe that he was taken by some do-gooder and tied to the fence at the rescue centre.  Or that he got lost and someone with the best intention took him and tied him to the gate.  The common denominator is that in all of my visions he was not unwanted.

Caesar and I built an unbreakable bond in our first few weeks of being together.

Although it might sound pathetic, it hurts me to think that someone made a conscious decision to leave him.  To tie him to that fence, to listen to him screeching so loud that he was heard at the nearby farmhouse and to turn their back and walk away.  And, although this worked in my favour in the end, I hope beyond hope that whoever they are, they realise the mistake that they made.

Could you look into those eyes and walk away?

"I don't know how you kept him," people will say, "after all he did to your house..."  Other's will imply I'm some sort of saint, "I couldn't have done it..." they will tell me.  My answer is always the same, "I couldn't have taken him back and you wouldn't have either."  But I'm not a saint.  Not even close.  You see, there's no denying that no matter how badly behaved he has been; Caesar gets under your skin.  I don't understand how anyone could let him go.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Stolen things are more interesting...

It's a mistake I've made too often.  I have no excuse for it either, other than that I am so unbelievably forgetful that I actually anger myself.  The problem is that, after a long walk or a long day at work, I come in and my feet are aching so I pop down my boxes and bags by the door or hang them on the end of the stairs and promptly forget about them.  People tell me I shouldn't.  People shout at me for doing it. But, despite all of this, I just can't help it.  I forget!

At 10:30 every night, almost to the second, I drag myself up to bed.  My eyes are so tired that I never notice the pink and grey dog walking bag or the little blue handbag just sitting there.  They are like an invitation except for the sort of invitation that you can't get into very easily and you have to tear up to get inside.  Do you see where this is going?

Anyway, Sports Direct had these lovely useful looking walking bags from Karrimor in their walking section.  Immediately, my crazy dog walking lady instinct screams "DOG WALKING BAG!"  I love a good bag at the best of times and I'm a bit of a sucker for useful compartments.  Well, to my utter joy, this bag has tons of them.  It even has compartments within the compartments!  A laptop section too!  It was as good as sold the minute that I locked eyes on it but the deal was definitely sealed when I saw that it came in dark pink and grey too.  Seeing that they were £15 each or 2 for £24, I tried to convince Damien to get one too.  He shrugged and commented that he had better things to spend his money on.  Fine.

So, I paid the £15 and, after getting the bag home, immediately transferred all dog walking paraphernalia into it.  That was that.  For about a week!
Lovely, a brand new pink walking bag just in time for our holiday in the Lakes!

One Wednesday night, after a successful dog training session, I returned home feeling exhausted, popped the bag on the end of the banister and retired to my favourite arm chair.  I went to bed as usual, leaving the bang hanging.  Big mistake!

After an hours dog training both Caesar and I are exhausted!

By the morning, the bag wasn't so much a bag as a sleeve.  Caesar had ripped the bottom out.  Unfortunately, I hadn't even noticed this until I went for a walk and everything started dropping out of the bottom with every step that I took!

I found myself back in Sports Direct the following week, telling the shop assistant the story as I paid my second lot of £15.  "I wish I'd just bought 2 at the time," I told her as she scanned the bag, chuckling.

At least this one has lasted longer.  I must have had it for two whole months!  It was a few nights ago.  Again, I'd been to dog training and again I had flew through the door cold and wet, carrying Caesar, who hates the rain, with the bag slung over one shoulder.  I put Caesar down and the bag slipped onto the floor as I did.  Foolishly, I left it there.
RIP bag number 2 - ripped up by Caesar.  He has created his own opening into the main compartment as the zip is in front of the pink band!

When I came down in the morning, Caesar had ripped into the bag which is now broken beyond repair.  He had taken two things.  The first was half a packet of treats (no surprise there) and the second was a toy which he NEVER wants to play with.

Since stealing said toy from the bag, he has played with it so much that it's all chewed and misshapen!  Perhaps he sees it as the prize for all of his hard work!
'Nooooo, I've worked far too hard to get this!  You can't have it!'

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Rebellious rescue or pesky puppy?

It's the question that many perspective dog owners think very carefully about. It's certainly something that we thought about long and hard: to rescue or not to rescue?

Our first walk with Caesar at the rescue centre.

Yes, the guardian angel on our shoulder whispers in our ears that the most humane thing to do is to rescue.  Why give a newborn puppy a home and breeders money when a few miles away there are 20 kennels occupied with homeless dogs.  The problem with this, guardian angel, is that a percentage of these dogs are homeless for a reason.  Yes, that reason is related to humans.  However, the question is, how much of other people's wrong doings can you take on?  How much can you cope with?  It's hard to admit it but most of use want to be a good person but are terrified that this idea backfires on us massively.  The other day my dad told me a great saying 'Expecting the world to treat you well because you're a good person is like expecting a bull not to attack you because you're a vegetarian'.  He was right really.  You want it to be true but the harsh reality of it is that most of the time it's not.  Please don't go being a bad person now that I've said that and blaming it on me.

Except, dad, there's more to it than that isn't there?  There's something nice about being a good person.  The feedback you get at the local supermarket when you let someone with a pint of milk go in front of your £50 worth of junk food.  Or when you let someone get out of a junction at rush hour is undeniably satisfying.  That is, if they thank you for it.  If they don't, you can just go home and swear about them and feel better.

'Me?  Hard work?  Never!'

Anyway, back to the debate of rescue vs puppy.  Which, by the way I am not planning to resolve!  Heartlessly, I am now going to compare dog ownership to car ownership (I'm sorry in advance).  Firstly, when you buy a second-hand car, you know nothing about that car apart from what you are told by previous owner/dealer.  Sometimes, the dealer themselves does not know the answer to the questions.  They know what they have been told and they know what they can see at face value.  However, there are things that they will not be able to tell you.  Things like; when it's raining, the engine service light comes on (yes this happens to mine).  Or that, in cold weather, you have to try to start it at least 3 or 4 times before it will even make a noise (making you think, on several occasions, that the battery has gone flat - also a problem with mine).

We'd all like a brand new car right (preferably a Ferrari)?  But can we really justify it?  Firstly, can we justify the price?  It's a fairly well known fact that most new cars lose value from the minute that they're driven off the forecourt.  In the same way that a rescue dog usually costs around £100 to adopt and this usually covers vaccinations and micro chipping as well as on going support from the centre.  Secondly, going back to my car example, environmentally, there are hundreds of second hand cars which are a) cheaper and b) sitting there without a home.  OK, so your heart doesn't wrench when you think of a Ford Escort sitting on the forecourt in the rain but surely the eco-warrior inside considers that it's a waste buying a new car when there are good value used cars available at fractions of the cost.
What do you mean I'll be moving in there if I don't learn to behave myself?!

It's kind of the same with puppies/rescue dogs.  Except there is also the emotional aspect involved.  And this is involved at both ends.  With rescue dogs there is the moral reasoning that they are in a shelter while other dogs of their breed are being 'bred' perhaps needlessly (that's the argument - not my thoughts).  But there is also the emotional aspect that a shelter dog has lost a part of it's life with someone who perhaps didn't care for it or didn't train it in the way that you would have liked.  Perhaps they didn't socialise it or exercise it or even vaccinate it against disease.  These are mild examples, the reality is far more tragic; there are dogs there that wince when you raise your hand to stroke them or that fly into a panic when they see a man or a bike or a car or even a colour.  What has happened to them?  And, perhaps the bigger question, can you fix it?  For Caesar, his lost time was two and a half years.  He was around 2 and a half years when we rescued him.  This seems young and, in some ways it is, but it was enough time for him to be permanently damaged in lots of ways and I know now that my time with him will be two and a half years shorter than it would have been if I'd got him as a puppy.  I don't mean to sound selfish but this is the truth.  Don't get me wrong, this damage may not have been intentional or even avoidable but the fact is it had been done and we have to live with not only the damage and the result of said damage but the knowledge that we will never know what caused it.  We will never know why he panics at the sight of other dogs.  We will never know why he tears the house apart when left alone.

A puppy, on the other hand, is a blank canvas.  This is sometimes a preference for those with children who would like to know that the dog has been raised around not just any children but their own and knows how to act around infants.  Some rescue centres will not allow those with younger children to adopt dogs, I can see their reasoning.  Although all of the rescues that I know work hard to know their dogs well and work with them with lots of different people and situations, you can never be sure a dog is bomb proof, particularly if it's spent the majority of it's time in a kennel.

Perhaps then, you would think a puppy might be easier.  Think again!  I have spent a few days during the last week at my aunt's house.  She has just adopted a beautiful pedigree puppy.  The little pup is perhaps the cutest thing I've ever laid eyes on and is cuddly and soft and playful (as you would expect).  The first time I went round, I spent an hour with her.  I cuddled her and played with her and cooed at her.  She was pretty.  Two days later, I called my aunt.  "How are things?"  By the tone of her voice, I gathered that things were not very easy so went to spend the day helping out.  By five in the evening I was exhausted and I hadn't even done half of the work!  At least once every hour my aunt had to let her outside.  She didn't exactly know that she needed a wee so she had to follow her around the garden in the rain waiting for her to do one.  Then, she had to try to retrieve her from behind some bushes.  Then, she had to feed her several times.  Then she would sleep.  The problem was, if she slept too much during the day then she wouldn't sleep on the night.  But, if we left her while she was sleeping, she would wake up and howl.  My auntie had been in the house with her for three days, having not had her vaccinations yet.  This had become her life and routine.

Meggy - OK so puppies win on cute points!

I thought back to how Caesar was when we got him.  He used to howl in the night and wake us up, true.  He used to mess in his room when we left him, true.  It took him about a week to get over the crying and howling on a night but somehow, the fact that he was an adult dog made it slightly easier to cope with.  The fact that he was howling for his kennel made me think 'it's ok, he'll soon realise that he's safer and better here'.  With a puppy, your thoughts are constantly pulled to 'she's missing her mum!' and you feel incredibly guilty for taking her away from her mother and then for leaving her (even if she is surrounded by 400 toys and the best bed in Pets at Home).

Some people will swear they will never adopt a puppy based on how many dogs are waiting for homes in rescue centres.  On the other hand, some people will never rescue based on a bad experience or a fear of the unknown/damaged dogs.  What are your views? Let me know with a comment.  

Useful links  - A great blog covering the positive and negative sides of rescuing vs adopting.  - An article on Caesar Milan's website about adopting/rescuing.  Also discussing whether you have children or not.  - Some other aspects to consider when making your final decision.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Who actually ends bonfire night feeling fulfilled by the excitement offered by crackling fires and whizz-popping fireworks.  Not me.  At large, I come home feeling a bit cold and a bit disappointed that they only lasted so long or were too far apart or simply that the council spent that much on a firework display when there is an awful lot more that needs to be achieved in the local area than fireworks dancing in time to the James Bond Theme.

As a child, I remember my favourite bonfire party ever being the one run by the people down the road because they let me sit in their house and eat crisps whilst watching the fireworks through the patio doors.  I didn't like bangs, they made me jump! 

I might have had the get-up but I wasn't always a huge fan of the outdoors, even as a child!

It is for this reason that I totally sympathise with Caesar, who doesn't like bangs either!  The problem with dogs is, unlike humans who are scared of fire works (like me), they are not able to go "Oof - scared the life out of me, that one!" and have a bit of a laugh at their own expense.  Instead, like a tiny infant, they're trapped in their own body.  Confused by the alien noises and petrified by the possibilities they hold.  
"Don't fuss your dog," many instructions say.  This, is one of the most difficult things to adhere to.  Caesar will sit like a shivering wreck on the carpet.  He comes over and stands close by quivering and shaking.  Sometimes he runs around.  We close the curtains, put the TV on loud, he's already wearing his thunder shirt but we cannot escape from the sounds.

What was that noise?!

Last year it got too much.  Our house has single glazing and is in the centre of a fairly busy town.  The noises outside were non-stop and our neighbours were having their own fireworks party.  Fireworks whizzed past every window in the house before exploding noisily and with each one the shaking got worse.  Tears rushed to my eyes as I watched him run from the door to the chair and into the corners.  Trying to escape the inescapable.

I finally picked up the phone.  "What are the fireworks like near your house?" I asked.  Knowing that I would have to risk getting Caesar from the house and into the car.  "Not bad at all came the answer."  I knew what I had to do.

The fireworks there were not bad at all.  However, the occasional noises sparked another reaction.  Eventually, my dad stood up and disappeared.  He came back with a solution.  One that isn't advertised in magazines or dog psychology articles but it worked just the same...

Helpful Bits:
RSPCA advice on fireworks for pet owners:

Thundershirt website - Advice about how this special piece of clothing can reduce a dogs stress levels during difficult times such as thunderstorms and fireworks.

If your pet does have a major firework phobia, it is worth speaking to your vet as they can give advice and sometimes medication to help.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Who's been sleeping in my bed....?!

Last night was....eventful.  I left work just before 5:30 having been there for ten hours.  Went for a meal with the girls from work and then a party with the girls from work.  I returned home at almost 9:30 - 14 hours after I'd left the house this morning and still wearing my staff badge.  Caesar was frantic.  Of course, he had been at home with his dad since about 4:00 however, he likes it when we're all here together.  Family....or pack, depending on your outlook.

Never ever leave me again....understand?!

I was busy fussing him to death when Damien called out, "have you seen those dogs in the street?"  I peered out of the window but saw nothing.  "They're probably with those lads," I said passively as two teens chatted their way down the road "...should have them on the lead though."

Moments later, Damien called out again "there they are!"  Again, I missed them.  I walked out of the house into the dark.  I could hear and see nothing apart from Caesar standing on the window sill crying.  I was about to go back inside when I heard a sudden scattering of paws!  Then, a few minutes later, two dogs came running past.  They turned at the end of the street and sprinted back.  I called for them but they kept running in the opposite direction.  I sprinted back to the house and pulled out some collars and leads.  My first job was going to be to hook the runaways!

Video: It's not easy getting an excited dog to stop!

Ten o'clock loomed and Caesar was screaming noisily - letting me know his disgust at being left out of the fun.  I finally caught the smaller of the two dogs in a looped collar.  When it had calmed, I leaned down to stroke it.  It was clearly excited and nervous and kept jumping.  The larger ran around him in circles.  It took a while but eventually, I hooked her too.  I popped collars on both then and finally fastened the leads properly to the collars instead of using them upside down as slip leads.

Now what?  It was now 10 o'clock and a walk around the block had revealed no clues as to where these two escapees had come from.  And a phone call to the dog warden and local pound turned up nothing either.  Both lines rang off.  Finally, I made the decision to call the police.  "We can open a kennel for you.  But you will need to transport the dogs yourself or keep them until morning..."  I checked the clock.  10:15.  I had to be at work by 7:30 the next morning.  I listened as Caesar howled at the window, watching us with two other dogs.  'Traitors!'

Perfected puppy dog eyes
'Mammy, I want to join in! Pleeeeeeease...'

There was no choice.  "I'll bring him." I said as he confirmed that the kennels were 10 miles away.  What else could I do?  Hastily, I added 'if no one claims them I'd like to know'.  These two dogs were panicky and restless and I wasn't about to abandon them at kennels, never finding out what happened to them.  I considered my comment, which had taken me by surprise.  What exactly was I planning on doing?  I hadn't even been sure about one dog.  I didn't want these two adding to my gang!  Perhaps I could contact the rescue and offer them a 'foster home' until someone came along.  Was I really a foster home though?  I'm at work most of the time...My mind was spinning.  Shutting the front room door on my own dogs, I allowed the two to come in for a drink and a warm.  But minutes after they came in, there was a huge din from the lounge.  Caesar was not keen on canine visitors in his home and the noise and fuss coming from the living room frightened the dogs, who were trying to have a peaceful drink!

Finally, I got a call from the police - an owner had been found.  There was no need to drive the 10 miles nor panic about what would happen to the two frightened dogs.  Their panicked owner lived two roads away.  "Thank you so much," she said, throwing her arms around me.

Who's been drinking my water and lying in my bed?!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Saving Caesar - The Book

It was around a year ago that I gave up looking.  I had just received another order of books about dogs.  Dog behaviour, welcoming a dog into your home, helping to calm your dog and, finally, dog psychology.  I also had two novels about rescue dogs, both of which I started to read at around the same time.  The novels showed how each dog's individual characteristics made them special and important, where as the fact books spoke as if all dogs were pretty much the same.  They gave general rules on introducing your dog to your home, other dogs and other people.  They talked about feeding, ailments and had lovely illustrations of well behaved dogs.  They were a bit like a canine instruction manual.

"Keep your dog busy by playing with a ball..."

The problem was, in the case of the novel/life story dogs, they were both were extreme cases.  The stories therefore, although amazing, were far beyond what most rescuers experience.  The guide books that I bought assumed that your dog would adhere to certain rules and didn't cover the emotional aspects of adoption at all.  I wanted a book that would tell me what to do when I had just worked all day and come home to find the house in ruins after Caesar had been left for a couple of hours alone.  I wanted to know if it was normal to consider returning a dog like this to the rescue centre.  I wanted to know if this was the right thing to do.  I felt guilty if I kept him when I knew he would have to be left alone but guilty if I, the first person who had come forward, returned him to the kennel only a matter of weeks after adopting him.  I also wanted to know if what he was experiencing was normal for a dog that has just spent six months in a kennel.  

The day we reserved Caesar at the rescue centre...

As we began to see a light at the end of the tunnel with some of Caesar's behaviour, I started to wonder how many other people had experienced something similar.  Through conversations about Caesar, I had come to realise that I was anything but alone in the problems that I was facing.  This realisation, though, came months too late.  Before this, I had spent hours trying to find an 'answer' to our problems.  I had felt completely alone.  Now, though, I was starting to feel confident with Caesar.  He was managing in the house most of the time and incidents of home-wrecking were happening more on a weekly/bi-weekly basis than on a daily one.  One day, we had a particularly bad incident where he tore up my coat and, in order to cheer myself, I reached for the blue spotted diary which we used to keep when we first got him.  Damien and I laughed our way through the pages - it wasn't until this day that I had realised just how much we had already achieved with him.

Perhaps this T-shirt might remind me that we're supposed to be best friends!

I began to type parts of the diary up on my laptop; a permanent reminder of what we had achieved.  And, as I did so, the seeds of an idea planted themselves into my brain.  I should write a book.  Not an advice book, nor a dramatic book about the horrifying way that dogs are treated.  But a true story about adopting a difficult dog.  I have no advice to give; I am a first time owner and I never even had a pet dog as a child (well not really anyway).  
The first time a dog had ever been in our house.

The book is simple.  It follows me through my first experiences with dogs and into my adoption of Caesar.  It covers everything from visiting the rescue centre to attempting to start agility classes.  It is about feelings, experiences and there's a little humour in the mix too.  I want it to be a light in the darkness for all others who are trying to be a rescuer but are finding their patience pushed to the limit.  In 50,000 odd words it says 'you're not alone'.  These three words would have meant the earth to me eighteen months ago.

This blog focuses on life with Caesar today as opposed to the first year of his adoption.  

I'd love to hear your feedback:
  • Would you read the book?  Why/why not?
  • Is there anything that you would like to read about in particular?  Any areas of interest that would be included?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Battle of the bath

YouTube Adventures
I am a self confessed YouTube adventurer.  I can't help it.  "Look at this lovely picture of my baby in her paddling pool." writes one of my Facebook friends.  Hmmm...after thirty seconds of that, I've done enough 'aww's..'   Oh wait, what's this?  "Elephant in paddling pool"  well that has to be worth a watch!  OK, well that was interesting but what's this?  "Paddling pool stunt!"  Wow, that's looks both highly dangerous and highly entertaining!  Let's watch that.  And now, "Worlds fastest rollercoasters."  I bet they're all in America though.  Oh well, couldn't hurt to look could it?  You can see how two hours later I'm watching a man with no teeth yelling at his ex wife on a cheesy chat show.

Anyhow, I was on one of my YouTube adventures recently when I came across this video:

Not my video - made by wloltigerlolw2
Well done to them!

Anyway, it got me thinking about bath time in my house and how many injuries I sustained last time.  

Without fail, Caesar will try to jump out of the bath when he is covered in soap and water and soak me! 
However, getting him in the bath in the first place is always a bit of a nightmare as he tends to run off when I
go anywhere near him.  

As soon as I turn the bath on, Caesar disappears.  If it's me who's in it, he reappears once I'm safely
under water to steal my socks and take them to his bed.

Sock stealing - another of Caesar's hobbies.

I've tried treating Caesar during his bath, bringing toys in with him and still he jumps out mid-wash and 
flings covers me, the bathroom and everything else in water.  Sometimes, he lures you into a false sense 
of security by pretending to be fine with the whole bathing process.  He'll stand still for a while and you 
foolishly begin to think; 'perhaps he's enjoying the warm water.'  No, he's simply plotting the best position 
and timing to fling himself out of the bath.  This, he usually concludes, is the moment when you have a bottle 
of shampoo in one hand and he is covered with lather!

Who else has a naughty bath time doggy?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Bedtime Break-ins!

The cold nights are here.  Well, it is October after all.  We couldn't have expected much more for much longer could we?  Last weekend, we were wearing t-shirts and walking around in fields laughing merrily.  This week, we're wearing out coats in the lounge and talking about how we got so old so quickly.  Last week, we jumped out of bed with a spring in our step and a twinkle in our eye.  This week, we ignore our alarm for far too long and spend ages finding out biggest and warmest jumpers.

Get out your woolly jumpers everyone - it's freeeeeeezing!

Caesar is feeling the cold too.  He's now refusing his usual nighttime rocking chair cuddles in favour of the best spot in front of the fire.  He actually ignored me yesterday when I tried to cuddle him.  I was mortified!  Luckily, I'm still winning with the night time cuddles and he is still toddling upstairs after me when it's time to turn in.

No more rocking chair cuddles!

Video - fat chance of that happening

Unfortunately, he doesn't always want to leave again when it's bed time.  And, over the past few nights, he has had to be physically removed from his place under the quilt.  Caesar has PERFECTED the 'puppy dog eyes' look and will whip it out as soon as he's told to go to bed, making me feel incredibly guilty about forcing him out of the door.  However, Caesar is like a super-villain; getting removed once is not enough to stop him.
'I don't care if you were here first, it's MY bed by the fire!'

"See you in the morning Caesar," I call as he sulks out of the room.  I'm certain I heard him groan 'that's what you think!'

It's 4:00 in the morning and I can hear the unmistakable sound of crying outside of the door.  Perhaps it's mean or perhaps sensible but I choose to ignore it.  Pandering to Caesar has never done me or him any good at all.  It continues for a few minutes and then subsides.  Turning the pillow over, I begin to drift off again.  Then, moments later, I can hear a clawing at the door.  Followed by a click and then a slam as the door hits the side table. Finally, a low thud as Caesar lands delicately on the mattress.  And so it begins again.  "Go to bed Caesar...Go to bed Caesar....CAESAR!  Go to bed."  This is now happening 2 - 3 times a night.  It's no wonder that I'm always a grump!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Braving the bike

It's well known that I cannot run.  In more ways than one:

1.  I can't physically run for more than about a minute without ending up bent double;
2.  I don't actually run, I sort of prance which makes people giggle;
3.  I can't bring myself to actually go running for the above two reasons.

It's a wonder then that I own some impact resistant running shoes that cost more than most of my other shoes.  They're in the back of my wardrobe.

Walking Caesar - about the only exercise I get!

I am conscious that my exercise regime is nothing more than walking each day and wanted to do something about it.  "What about riding a bike?" my mum asked one summer afternoon.  The last time I rode a bike, I fell off!  However, I was keen to have a go so I jumped in the saddle, donned my dad's old cycling helmet and wobbled off down the road.  After a short time, I put the bike away, saying 'I'll have another go at that later' and then never did.

Then, late one night, something came to me.  "Caesar was abandoned by a guy on a bike..."  Damien looked at me blankly "he must be ok to run alongside a bike then?"  What I failed to acknowledge was that the abandoner probably knew how to ride a bike.  I, on the other hand, don't!

Caesar is a high energy dog!
Running alongside a bike is ideal for him!

So, when my parent's turned up tonight with the bike, I jumped at the chance.  "Let's go for a ride!" I said to Caesar.  I put on his longer lead with shock absorber to try to steady myself. However, as a safety measure, I made Damien run along side.  To begin with, I was very wobbly and had to get my balance before I could take Caesar.  But, by the time we were on our way back, I was gaining confidence by the minute.  "Pass me the lead."

What I forgot was there are a number of issues when riding a bike with a dog:
1.  Lampposts - he went one way and I went the other!
2.  Wheels - he kept getting in front of them!
3.  Energy - Caesar has more of it than I do!

I didn't peddle the whole way home, I was just pulled along by Caesar who was loving running alongside the bike.  I hope I can get enough confidence (and balance) on the bike to keep trying!
Home and having a relax - we're both still in one piece...for now.

Any other cyclist/dog walkers?  How do you manage?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

My personal alarm clock...

Once, I had a friend who used to have unsolvable problems.  She had these problems at least weekly.  I loved her, as I love all of my friends however I despised unsolvable problem discussions.  This is how they would go:
1.  She would present the problem.
2.  I would offer solution
3. She would give me a reason why solution wouldn't work
4.  I would offer another solution.
5.  She would give me a reason why solution probably wouldn't work.
6....well, you get the point.

We would end up going round in circles for hours.

I, on the other hand, am the polar opposite.  Often, I'm over productive when it comes to problems in that I attempt to solve them before they actually happen.  Basically, I solve problems that don't actually need solving yet or may never have needed solving if I hadn't attempted to solve them.  Some people may suggest that this is a good thing.  However, on more than one occasion, it has hindered me considerably in that by solving a problem that didn't yet need to be solved, I have actually caused myself another, and potentially worse, problem.

Always keen to solve a problem:  Leather car upholstery stick a pair of socks on....the bells may not have been such a good idea in hindsight...

To give a quick example:
A few years ago, I used to go and stay at an ex-boyfriend's university digs.  The communal house was very rough round the edges, shared by 9 men and with 1 working shower.  The problem with this shower, I was told, was that it squirted you with cold water meaning that either your clothes get very wet along with the floor and towels or you had to stand in a freezing cold shower cubicle and get sprayed cold water for a few minutes.  'No!' I thought.  'I have a much better plan...'  Instead of standing in the cubicle naked and getting freezing cold or standing outside and getting my clothes wet, I'll stand outside of the cubicle with no clothes on BUT (and this is the key factor) shut my head and arm in the cubicle so at the most my face, neck and shoulder will get sprayed with cold water.  What I didn't think about was the automatic reaction that occurs when you get sprayed in the face with freezing cold water.  This is not the reaction that you want to have when you are standing, with your head trapped in a glass door with no clothes on and you jump and hit your face off said glass door!  So...instead of having wet clothes, I had a fat lip and a nose bleed!

'I'm here to read about Caesar!' I hear you cry.  Well be patient...I'm getting to that bit now!  Trust me, this all ties in...really, it does...

Excuse me, this is my blog, stop hijacking it to talk about yourself!

Caesar's bed has been at the bottom of the stairs for around a year.  On most evenings, he retires to the red plastic basked and snuggles up among his cushions and toys.  On a night, he comes up to bed for a cuddle and then goes back down to his basket when my partner comes to bed.  However, as the colder nights began to set in, we noticed a problem; he wasn't going to bed anymore.  Not on an evening and, on a night, he was sitting outside the bedroom door crying.  Like this:


This crying was happening intermittently throughout the night but would become horrendous at between 5 and 6 in the morning and grow louder as the hours went by.  Now, to begin with, I ignored him.  But one day when I was waiting by the door for a friend when I noticed a problem.  'That door is really draughty!' I told Damien.  'No wonder he won't sleep in his bed'.  Caesar's bed is positioned by the front door.  Sitting there, I was shuddering as the wind came through the cracks between the door and the frame.  So, I decided to move it into the hall upstairs.  "He sleeps outside of our bedroom anyway, we might as well move the bed there."  Damien agreed so we hauled the huge plastic bed upstairs only to find that it didn't fit and was covering one of the bedroom doors!  Perhaps I need to employ a tape measure next time...

Caesar in his red plastic basket.

I don't need much of an excuse to buy my dogs something new so I headed straight for 'Yorkshire Trading' where I knew they were setting Scruffs Self-Heating Mattresses for a pretty decent price, only to find that they weren't selling them at all any more and now all they had were scruffy looking beanbag type beds...the type that Caesar eats.  I proceeded to hunt around for a better option but found none.  All of the beds I could find looked over priced and/or uncomfortable and/or edible if your name is Caesar and you have a taste for cheap stuffing...

I can't see why I can't just sleep here!

This is where non-dog owners, like my sister who was trudging around the shops very patiently with me, begin to suspect I'm fussy.  I'm not fussy, however I'm also not going to pay £35 of my hard earned cash on a bed that may as well have been a bag of hamburgers for as long as it will last.  Eventually, I found, tucked away at the back of a tiny pet shop, a cord, cream doughnut bed, which looked both trendy and comfortable.  'This is the one!' I said to my sister, forcing her to 'feel the quality'.  She obliged, probably because it was quicker than pointing out that the quality of this specific item made no difference to her and that, having walked around forty pet shops, she had now lost the will to live. 

Caesar recognises a good quality bed when he sees one.
So, now we have a trendy bed to go with our very untrendy
mismatched carpet!

Another thing that you need to know about me is that I don't like to wait.  I'm rubbish at being patient.  If I want something, I want it now.  I'm not spoilt or anything.  At least not more than most people.  However, I get very excited about things and, if I feel like this, I don't want to have to wait 5 days for something to be delivered.  I bought the bed there and then for the price tag of £28 only to get it home and find it on the internet for £10.  I wondered if I would have waited had I known.  I don't have money coming out of my ears, so £18 is not an insignificant amount.  However, my plan to relocate Caesar would have been paused for a further 5 - 10 days.  What price would you put on 5 - 10 days of being able to sleep without being howled at my a discontent doggy who has a draughty bedroom?

As soon as we walked through the door, I was running upstairs with the bed.  "Doesn't it look trendy?" I asked Damien "feel the quality."  Damien looked nonplussed.  "Good."  Luckily, the bed fit perfectly and, as soon as it was down, Caesar was in it.  That night he slept like a baby, in fact, I think it's the best he's slept since we've had him.  I fell asleep as soon as he left and didn't wake up in the morning to the sound of howling.  However, I was almost late for work!  Time to invest in a real alarm clock I think.

Bed Obituary
RIP bedding that Caesar has eaten:

RIP donut bed that looked so comfy and cuddly.

RIP massive stuffed bed that weighed a ton and which I had to carry home!

RIP fleecy soft bone blanket that is now ripped to shreds!

Does your dog feel the need to wake you in the morning?  Or are they well behaved and sleep in?  Maybe you have sleeping arrangements that mean they can't wake you.  I'd love to hear your own stories - share them in the comments section.