Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Dear Sandy Paws

Dear Sandy Paws,
I am writing to inform you that a certain 'Caesar Turner' needs to be removed  from your 'nice' list on a permanent basis.

It would seem that, despite luring everyone into a false sense of security by being eerily well behaved over the past few months, Caesar has now blotted his copy book with spectacular style.  Not a week ago, I was feeling very proud of him for managing the excitement of the dog training Christmas party.  Where, his reindeer outfit won him a first place prize.And, where, he proved that he's made great progress with dealing with other dogs - despite crying just a little.

However, Sandy Paws, you can imagine my dismay when this morning I opened the dining room door to find an explosion of nice, new Christmas presents seemed to have happened.  The floor was littered with bottles of wine, bubble bath, candles, scarves, socks and woolly jumpers.  And, the worst part, was that a number of these were broken!

So, Sandy Paws, I ask that you send back all of Caesar's presents and use the money to buy some new presents for all of the ones destroyed.

Yours Sincerely,
A very annoyed dog mum

To see what Santa thinks, click on the link below:
See what Santa thinks by clicking this link

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Meeting your perfect dog...

It seems as if a number of things have pointed me in the direction of this post.  A few days ago I saw a cute photo with white type over a picture of a dog.  As it happens, I can't find the quote any more; it went as quickly as it came.  But essentially it said 'that moment when you realise you've found YOUR dog.'  I thought a little bit about this and then, a few days later, I was reading one of my favourite dog blogs and I came across this post.

It didn't really happen like that with Caesar.  In fact, when I first saw his picture on the rescue centre website, I gave a little shudder and scrolled down.  He looked aloof to say the least and I chuckled as I thought 'I'll probably never sleep with a dog like that in my house'.

And I wasn't far wrong.  I remember the horrifying moment when I first got him and I realised I was drifting off on the sofa.  Damien was at the gym and Caesar and I were sitting together in the front room.  I shot up off the sofa in terror, not believing that, not only had I taken my eyes off the dog, but also that I'd fallen asleep while he was there.  He was staring at me unnervingly.  I realise now he was probably feeling the same.  Unsure of what I was about or what I might do to him.  Unclear about what he was supposed to be doing while I was dropping into a doze on the sofa.

I remember thinking to myself 'it shouldn't be like this...'  I felt stupid for being afraid of my own dog.  What sort of person adopts a dog that they're frightened of?

In hindsight, perhaps I should have waited for the 'moment'.  Maybe I'd have seen a dog and a lightning bolt moment would happen.  I'd be struck down with love for them.  I'd be overwhelmed with a desire to have them and care for them and love them.  I didn't feel like that with Caesar.  I was overwhelmed by an urge not to be eaten by him.

So why did I adopt a dog I was frightened of?  I hear you ask.  And rightly so too, of course.  The pure, and not very responsible answer is, I was desperate to have a dog.  Firstly, because Damien didn't want one.  This was rectified when he saw Caesar and told me that if I wanted a dog it had to be 'that one'.  Even though, later, he admitted that he was also frightened of the ginger mongrel - mainly because he used to sit in the lounge and stare at us; something that also unnerved me.  The second issue was that, on arrival at the kennels, there were no dogs left to adopt apart from Caesar.

My issue now, though, is that I no longer believe in lightning bolt dogs.  I firmly believe that Caesar was the dog for us.  And I genuinely worry that there won't be another.  He has challenged me in ways that I never knew I could be challenged but training him and being with him on his journey has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far.  And yet, completely unexpected.

My visions of running around with a dog and a ball in fields.  Of playing fetch, of dog shows and fun agility are all smoke.  Unrealistic dreams of things that Caesar could never achieve.  Yes these dreams seem to have been replaced with something more.  The success of building a relationship where a dog that was so unsure before looks to you for everything.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dogs and Fireworks

Having a dog that is afraid of fireworks is no walk in the park.  Quite literally.  Caesar is one of many dogs who suffer from the minute the bangs and pops begin and gets gradually worse as the fifth of November approaches.  Managing this time of the year has been a learning experience for us.  Here's what I've learnt over the past few years about owning a dog who is literally terrified of fireworks.

To begin with, it's important to remember that every dog is an individual and different things work for different dogs.  The reason I say this is because there is so much conflicting advice when it comes to fireworks.  And, you know what your own dog needs.  For example, where some dogs will appreciate having somewhere to hide, other dogs, like Caesar, feel comfortable being closer to their owner.  If a firework goes off, 9 times out of 10, Caesar will bring himself as close as possible to us.  Some advice will tell you to ignore the dog and act like nothing is happening.  Again, having tried this, I find that simply giving Caesar a cuddle and talking to him normally can ease his anxiety a little - and he actively seeks contact when he's afraid.

Today, for example, I returned home from work to find the house empty and Caesar sitting in the bathroom looking petrified and shaking like a leaf.  It didn't take me long to realise that, despite it only being 5 o'clock, people were letting off fireworks.  I took Caesar into my bedroom and lay on the bed with him and told him about my day at work.  I did feel a little boring when he fell asleep - but at least he had stopped being anxious!  And you can't please everybody...

"So you'll never guess what happened this morning Caesar.....Caesar??"

Anyhow, after seeking and gathering much advice on fireworks as well as now having a little personal experience with a dog that has a phobia, here are my top tips:

1.  DO NOT walk your dog on or around bonfire night past night fall.  (The same goes for New Year!)  - even if this means missing a walk or two.  It really is worth it for your own peace of mind!
2.  DO try natural calming aids such as rescue remedy, thunder shirts and plug in pheromone diffusers.  However, ultimately, if your dog is still afraid, seek advice from your vet - the sooner the better!
3.  DO give your dog somewhere safe to retire to - I use Caesar's castle or a crate with a large blanket over the top.
4.  DO NOT attempt to pull your dog out from hiding under furniture - I know it may seem obvious but I've heard more than one case of dog bites from this from first hand.
5. DO play music or TV to distract from the sound as much as possible.
6. DO listen to your dog.  And by that, I don't mean ask them to tell you what is upsetting them but follow their lead - they will let you know if they need closeness or a hiding place, some privacy or some attention.  Use your initiative to decide how much of each is needed.

After following lots of advice for fear and trying my best to ease Caesar, I finally took him to the vet.  He is now taking Valium for his phobia and I must admit I have seen an improvement already in that he is not shaking as much.

Further Information
Fireworks and the law -
Advice from the RSPCA -

Have you got any advice of your own to add to the list?  Comment below to add your tips.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Confessions of a dog owner

I find myself regularly uttering the words; "Look at me, I'm all covered in dog hair! - How did that happen?" and know EXACTLY how it happened...

Not only do I often give up a large portion of my bed to my sleeping dog...but, more often than I'd like to admit, my pillow.

Not only are these headphones functional...but also great on COLD beach walks....and not to mention very stylish...

I spend far too much of my salary on dog toys...

....which usually end up broken.

My dog has a better wardrobe than I do!

And, if I want to sit on the sofa, I ask the dog's permission.

I have more wellies than high heels...

And the only picture hanging on my wall is...

I find lick kisses cute not gross even if I end up smelling like a bowl of ProPlan...

How many of these confessions also apply to you? Leave a comment and let everyone know.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Campervan Crisis!

Our campervan is snug on a night, particularly with Caesar in there, but, in order to stop us from feeling too claustrophobic, we lift the AFT (or Auto Free Top....or in my words 'lifty-up roof').  This weekend, though, despite the weather being fairly warm during the day, the sky had no cloud cover at night leaving it very chilly in bed.  So, after a successful night on Friday, where we all slept in the main cab and no one had to climb into the roof, we decided to leave the roof down on Saturday when temperatures plummeted.  

We had to be up early to leave on Sunday as we'd made arrangements back at home for 10am.  So, we tried to go to bed early.  Tried...

Unfortunately, this camping trip did not run as smoothly as the previous one, and the second night started with Caesar barking at people passing the van and waking me (and probably others) up.  Then, when things had calmed and I was beginning to drift off, he woke me up by treading on my stomach and I decided I needed the toilet again.  So, I wandered over to the toilet block in the freezing cold, my hands shaking and my teeth clattering together.  Finally, I came back and settled again.  Caesar was excited about this and decided to jump around on the air mattress in celebration....

Can you guess what's going to happen?

You were probably right.  3am and there's a hissing sound coming from my feet and I realise that he's punctured the air bed.  So, I'm back outside the van looking for my car's puncture repair kit...Can I use a tyre puncture repair kit on an air bed?  3am...and I'm trying to find out do tyre puncture kits work on air beds?  It doesn't look like it.  And the hissing is continuing.  Forget the tyre punctuation kit then...  3am and we're trying to locate a tiny hole in an air bed before it deflated completely.  And suddenly, I get my finger on a claw sized hole and the hissing stops.  Great.  Have we got a first aid kit with a plaster in?   ....No.  Have we got any sellotape?...No.  Damien suggests chewing  So now what?  3am and we're swapping sides of the bed.  Damien is trying to sleep with his thumb over the puncture, while Caesar, the very cause of all the mayhem, is sleeping on top of me because he doesn't like sleeping on the hard surface....

As long as you're comfy Caesar....

This weekend was spent at dog friendly campsite Hillcrest Park.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Caesar the Bongonaut

So, since our trip to Wales, I've been thinking carefully about holidaying with dogs and I've finally come to a conclusion that I feel suits me.  

Reasons I'm not sold on holiday rentals (static caravans, cottages, lodges or hotel rooms).
1.  You cannot leave your dogs unattended
2.  Many rentals like you to clean up before you leave - this means spending your holiday hoovering up dog hair.
3.  Many rentals in the UK are very expensive
4.  There's often a limit to the amount of animals you can take.
5.  Some specify that dogs must be 'small' or 'well behaved' (define well behaved?!)
6.  You cannot guarantee that your dog won't damage something - even if it's by accident.
7.  Dogs are not usually allowed in certain rooms (e.g. the bedroom) for hygiene reasons.
8.  You have that awkward moment when you arrive and your dog has been cooped up in a car for 4 hours and needs a wee/drink/poo/mad half hour/good bark/bit of human company.  And you're worried that s/he does any or all of the above in front of the owners.

'But what about my bedtime snuggles?'

The Plan
So after travelling the 250 miles back from Wales in my lovely reliable Vauxhall Zafira family MPV, I decided that I wanted a camper van.  Here's my reasoning (in relation to the above):
1.  As with a car, as long as conditions are cool and dogs have water, it's OK to leave your dog in a camper van for short periods of time.  I'm not suggesting going shopping for the day and leaving a dog locked inside a VW transporter but certainly a trip to the shop for milk should be fine (as long as it's not too hot outside.
2.  Its your van - clean it and feel proud or leave it and hope no one asks to look's your call and you do it on your terms...
3.  Barring the initial cost of buying a campervan (which I intended to swap for my permanent car) camping should not be too expensive.  And you can get a pitch on a decent site for one night for as low as £10.
4.  You can take as many dogs as you like to most dog friendly sites as long as they are under control.
5.  The vast majority of sites that are 'dog friendly' care very little what your dog is like as long as it's not disturbing fellow campers.
6.  If your dog damages something in your camper van then it's yours and you replace it if and when you want to.
7.  Your can sleep with as many dogs in your bed as you wish!
8.  On some sites, you can arrive and pitch up, take your dogs to the loo etc before you pay for your pitch.  Although there is still the danger of someone coming over when your dog is going through there 'just been stuck in the car for 4 hours...' routine.

My Love Hate Relationship
I have very mixed experiences of camping.  I remember camping all over England and France as a child in a caravan.  We loved it!  It was always warm and we played until the sun went down every night.  Then, we came in and sat at collapsible tables with decks of cards and mugs of hot chocolate and on a Sunday morning we woke up late and had a fried breakfast.  Then we played some more.

In my early 20s, my grandad donated a tent he'd found to me and my partner.  Our plan was to travel Europe with only said tent and a 1l VW Polo.  Actually, we got as far as Whitby and hated how cold it was.  We did make one trip to France in it and after 4 days of camping and discovering that we had limited budget for food, no means of entertainment when the dark nights set in at 9 o'clock and that it wasn't as warm in Paris in August as we had hoped, I cried and said I wanted to go home.  The holiday lasted 10 days.  And I never went in the tent again...

I don't mind this type of tent...the type that's inside and next to a radiator...

The Van Plan
I have to admit; I've never been the most confident driver and, in recent years, my confidence seems to have dropped more.  It's not because anything has really ever happened to me while driving.  Mainly, it's because I tend to drive to work (2 miles away) and back a few times a week and, as risk of sounding like my gran, sometimes to the shops.  So that pretty much ruled out the idea of buying a caravan because I'd be too frightened to tow it.  Also, my excuse to most other people, I sometimes struggle to park my own car at my house due to all parking being on street so I certainly would struggle to park a caravan here.  Therefore, I'd need to park the caravan away from home and pay for it.  I didn't want to do this for 2 reasons:
1.  It would cost me more money again
2.  Once my parents did this and several incidents occurred:  someones caravan was stolen, as it was on a farm, they came back once to find a family of field mice nesting in the overhead compartment,  And finally, the icing on the cake, the farm got foot and mouth and no one was allowed to remove their caravan from it for almost a year!  By which time, they'd discovered that package holidays were usually better...

OK, so I wasn't sold on caravanning and many of these limitations also applied to large motorhomes and trailer tents.  And never again in my life do I ever want to attempt to camp in a tent and especially not with a dog that howls when it's cold.

So that left me looking at vans and van conversions.  Firstly, VW transporters; lovely cars but totally out of my price range.  Secondly, Transit Vans; I did go and see one but felt they were too wide to parallel park on a road full of cars. just wasn't cool.  This is when I discovered the Mazda Bongo.  For those of you who are not familiar here are a few fast facts about Bongos:

1.  The Mazda Bongo is an 8 seater van which is available for purchase in Japan.  They have never been officially sold in the UK so all available vans have been imported.
2.  The rear 6 seats fold down into a bed.
3.  On some models there is a 'pop top' which raises to make a sleeping space for 2 which can be accessed through a hatch.
4.  They're around the same width as a normal car but taller and longer.
5.  They have a cult-like following that makes you feel like your part of a group.

Mr Caesar and Mr Bennett

Mr Bennett the Bongo
A few weeks after making my decision to buy a Bongo and struggling wildly to get a decent one, I bumped into a nice chap online who was considering selling his.  He invited me to come and look at it and I knew the moment I set eyes on it that it was my Bongo.  Luckily, I persuaded him to part with it.  And so my Bongo experience began.  I decided to call it 'Mr Bennett' although I usually call my cars girls names because 'Bennett' means 'blessed' and because I feel that any camper van that has to house 2 adults and 3 dogs needs to be!

Mr Bennett in York
Unfortunately for me, I purchased Mr Bennett at the end of the summer and had little time to organise camping trips in him.  However, the weekend past, I decided to give it a go.  I wanted everything to be perfect and refused to go anywhere that had a poor forecast or bad reviews.  I eventually chose a 'Wagtail Park' in York.  And Caesar and I took off on our adventure.  We were to meet my parents there.

The Bongo fit Caesar's XL cage in wonderfully and did not prevent the back seats from being used (as happened in my previous car).  Although I did bash the plastic as I put it in (oops).  I got Caesar settled with his travel bowl of water and blankets.  He was quiet for the fill hour and a half journey.

All set up and ready to go...

At Wagtail Park
Arriving at Wagtail Park (<-- link), we met the owner - Caesar was whining and whimpering a bit because we stopped but shutting the doors made me realise that you can't hear him from outside the van.  The owner asked me to make sure he was kept on a lead and that all 'oopsies' were picked up and put in the dog bins around site.  We found a very quiet corner with no cars for miles and pitched up there.  By 'pitched up' I actually mean 'parked the van' for that is all I had to do.  

For anyone who is camping with dogs, Wagtail Park is a nice big site with all the facilities to meet your basic needs: nice clean toilets, washing up facilities, waste disposal and a nice small to medium sized fishing lake for anyone who is interested.  Caravans, motorhomes, camper vans and tents are all welcome and pitches have lights and electricity.  We paid £20 per night, which I felt was very reasonable.

What's going on out there?

On the doggy side, there's a nice little wander around the lake and lots of space on site.  On the personal side; the showers are amazing and the toilet block is lovely and clean (the fishermen have their own toilet I noticed).  There are even little details like washing up liquid and towels provided to make everything easier.

Caesar the Camper Van Dog
Now to the main point (sorry it took so long).  Caesar.  I had worried that this first experience may be a disaster.  That a few weeks down the line I'd be advertising a 'Mazda Bongo for Sale' and keeping hold of my good old reliable Zafira.  And, Caesar had a big part to play in this.  If he doesn't like something, he can make my life a nightmare.  He can cry and howl and bark and bang scratch and carry on for hours on end - he never tires!  

It was partly due to this that my mum and I almost had an argument about my meticulousness about where and when to go and how warm the weather forecast must predict the weather to be before I will commit to the mini-break.  The weather for York looked good.  However the forecast was sadly wrong and it ended up drizzling most of the time anyway!  I had been concerned that this would ruin our holiday but I was very wrong.  My parents showed me that, unlike tent camping, you can get inside your van and put a heater on.  Or, if you have one, you can erect an awning and sit in there away from the wind and rainy weather.  We were even able to put a little heater in the awning to keep us all toasty warm.  In fact, at one point, it got so warm that we had to turn it off!

Sleeping was great too.  Caesar and I jumped aboard (after putting an air bed on the folding beds in the boot) and fell sound asleep.  The only issue was when I needed the toilet but it was that comfortable inside, I couldn't have bribed Caesar to leave - he just stayed cuddled under the double duvet!  

It's fair to say that Caesar took to camping like a duck to water.  And, even made me really proud when I accidentally left the crate door open in the dark and he followed me round to the side of the van and sat by my legs - I didn't know he was there until I tripped over him!  
Who would have thought it?  Caesar, a natural camper van dog!

Out and About in York.
On Saturday, due to the ever so slightly dodgy weather, we caught the 'Park and Ride' bus into York.  Caesar wasn't sold on the idea of bus travel but did make a lot of new friends on the bus who thought he was very cute in his sheep jumper and kept talking to him and reassuring him.  The same has to be said for York city centre, where lots of people stopped me to ask about him and pat him and wonder why he was shaking - don't we all?  We had dinner at a little outdoor cafe near to the river and watched members of York Rowing Club row up and down on their long boats.  Caesar was great, especially considering that there were other dogs running around - sometimes off lead.  Actually, he was so great that another, unsuspecting, couple with a dog decided to come and sit next to us which, as you can probably guess, caused much stress - more to me than Caesar whom I had to bribe with cake to keep quiet.  Finally, we decided to go when he barked at a small terrier carrying a huge lump of wood that everyone was 'awww'ing at.  And made him drop his wood and run away (oh no!).

Camping With a Dog - My Findings
The purpose of my initial camping trip was to determine the answers to the following questions:
1.  Would I enjoy camping?
2.  Would Caesar enjoy camping?
3.  What did I NEED if I was going to go on camping holidays with the dog?

Morning weather check...looks a bit rainy...but it's warm in here!

I have compiled a list of what I feel are necessities for camping with a dog, particularly a difficult dog like Caesar:

1.  A camping electric extension with a trip (for safety).  Electric items could also be run from a leisure battery but my research has led me to believe that this is an easier option by far.
2.  A heater - although, surprisingly for the end of September, we did not use ours for the first night.
3.  Towels!!!  - More than you think you need because they come in handy for things such as cleaning up cans of Coke that Caesar has knocked over all over the centre console...  And also for things like drying paws before bedtime.  And for putting on the floor in the showers - so take more than you think you need.
4.  Baby wipes - useful for many of the above reasons and more!  Also useful for cleaning mucky dogs paws quickly.
5.  Some form of enclosure of crate.  Caesar is a jumper and not the warm snuggly type that you wear in winter.  He's the type that launches 6 foot over a fence to chase a dog.  So I'm much happier having him enclosed within a crate (which effectively has a roof).  Although I am also attempting to use windbreaks to create an enclosure type effect that Caesar can't see through.
6.  Something to tie your dog to.  Whether it be (in my case) bull bars or some type of ground peg.  Something solid and safe where you know you can leave your dog while you sort out the interior of your van for bed time.
7.  An awning!  I came home and immediately bought one after seeing the benefit of having my parents' awning space.  We managed to fit in a kitchen unit, tables, 3 large chairs and a rather large boisterous Caesar and it didn't feel at all cramped.  I've fallen in love with the ease of air awnings and I treated myself to a Vango Kela (well worth it I think).
8.  An open mind - When I left, I had a cold, and I was worried about rain and was feeling concerned about leaving the warmth of my lovely house to spend one of my precious autumn weekends in the back of a van.  What I found is that I had an absolutely wonderful time with lots to do.  And Caesar, once again, exceeded my expectations with great behaviour, minimum whining and not disrupting everyone on the site.

Conclusion: As long as you're warm and comfortable, camping is great!

Hopefully, you should hear more of Caesar's Bongo adventures in the coming months!

Thanks for reading - leave a comment or simply 'like' at the top of the post!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Manchester Dogs' Home Disaster

It seemed wrong that we let a disaster that is this close to our hearts go by without comment or respect so our post this month is in response to the terrible event.  For those who are unfamiliar with the horrific incident that occurred at this rescue centre, here is a link to a news article on the matter: News Report From Manchester Evening News.

It seems that the recent news has been showered with examples of how evil the human race can be.  In fact, I've taken to changing the channel every time the radio announces a news broadcast; ignorance is bliss after all.  And, while I'm concerned that if we don't all die of the latest infectious virus, or in a nuclear war, we'll probably be mauled by a police dog or stabbed by a junkie.  And we wonder why almost 10% of the population is suffering from depression and anxiety? (The Fundamental Facts, Mental Health Foundation, Link Here, 2007).

Anyhow, no matter how I try to avoid it, the important stuff leaks it's way through.  So it was through Facebook that I first heard about the disaster.  The fact that over 50 dogs have died already is beyond a tragedy.  However what is, perhaps, worse is that these were 50 dogs who, for whatever reason, were looking for a fresh start.

Anyone who has gone through the process of adopting a pet will know how it brings out emotions that you never expected to feel.  If you get lucky, you get an easy ride.  A dog that has few issues and settles into your home quickly.  However the reality is that most rescue dogs bring with them their own baggage - and I don't mean a doggy suitcase with food and a blanket.  These issues could be the reason that they found themselves in a kennel in the first place or it could be the result of a trauma that they suffered by being abandoned or neglected or abused.

When I visited the shelter where I adopted Caesar, I could not believe some of the horror stories.  In fact, it seems that Caesar got off fairly lightly as far as some of the dogs were concerned.  In the short time I was there, I saw a dog who had been living out of bins and was so malnourished that he had been brought in on the brink of death, a dog that had been found in a shed in someones back garden; unfed and uncared for.  Another that had been taken by social services along with the family's children; there was evidence to show that the dog had been kicked and every bone poked through her thin skin.  I'd like to tell you that these were extreme cases but you'd only have to look on any rescue centre's website to find that, unfortunately, they're not.  What's worse, some pounds will sell dogs for money with no home check on the owner and risk putting them in the same position that they found themselves in before.  Or, dogs are brought back into the kennels for reasons so petty that they hardly qualify as an excuse.  I've bared witness to these 'reasons' and I don't even work at a rescue centre or pound.

It wasn't just 50 dogs that died in the fire.  It was 50 chances to build something amazing.  50 blank slates waiting to start their lives again.  Waiting for a better home, for a better life and for someone who would keep them safe and care for them.  The heartbreaking thing is; they were almost there.  They'd already been taken from their sheds, back rooms, skips and owners who did not have the time or heart for them.  They'd made it further than some dogs could ever dream to come.  They were somewhere where they were supposed to be safe and loved.  They had a name and a bed.

I want to think that the incident was not further proof of the evil of which human kind is capable.  I want to think that it was some horrific accident.  And that an explanation will come.  But, in truth, the majority of the dogs in rescue centres are proof enough that the world we hear about on the news, the world that I try to block out for my own sanity, is becoming more and more out of control.  Just weeks ago, I accidentally heard a story on the news of a horse being attacked by a man with a knife.  I thought to myself 'what is this world coming to?'  Who would stab an innocent animal?  To me, it is crimes like this - crimes that cannot possibly have a sane motive and that affect the defenseless and the innocent that make my blood boil.

So here we are.  50 dogs murdered and a charity building that works every day and night to give them a chance at a new life, burnt to the ground.  I'd like to be able to offer some comforting words.  Or, at the very least, some reassurance but I can't.  All I can say is that I'm glad the number of good people donating, helping and of course the two men who ran into the building to save the dogs from certain death, exceeds the number of terrible people who caused such a terrible incident to occur (one).  And, I hope that, wherever that person is, just like the dogs trapped in those burning kennels, he feels very very alone.

And to all the dogs that died, who have remained nameless and lost forever, we are truly sorry that you didn't get the second chance that you deserved.

If you'd like to help:
Donate to Manchester Dogs' Home here

A wonderful channel from a centre called 'Hope For Paws' in America gives some good examples of some of the work that faces rescue centres today.  They have a YouTube channel and it's definitely worth a watch (tissues first)! Hope For Paws on YouTube

Saturday, 6 September 2014

'No bother...'

It was early evening and my Grandma was about to leave.  We'd spent all day cleaning and tidying and mopping and dusting.  "He's no bother, is he?" she said, gesturing to Caesar as we drained the dregs of our tea.  This statement was loaded.  When I say 'loaded', I don't mean in an unkind way with accusations or false sentiment.  But, a reflection of the time and improvement he has made and a question hanging in the air 'when?' - when did he become so....fine?!

When did he grow up so much?

When I brought Caesar home from the shelter, my grandparents were two of the first people I took him to see.  They live a short walk from my parents and it was important to me that, as dog lovers themselves, they like Caesar.  So, I knocked on the back door that Sunday afternoon and greeted them wholeheartedly hoping that Caesar would make a good impression.  And, to put it bluntly; he was bothersome!  He would not sit still, he ran up and down their kitchen boisterously, almost knocking my gran off her feet, and then, as if that were not enough, he jumped up at units and tried to steal food. 

In the dog house for being naughty!

A few months later, my Grandad had offered to come and help me plant some nice flowers in my garden.  Kindly, he had donated geraniums and dahlias from his own cuttings and helped me to put them, in their pots in the soil planter at the rear of the yard.  Caesar sat nicely and carefully watched as we planted each geranium and I began to feel as if he may be making a positive impression on Grandad.  You see, Grandad has set ideas about things like dogs; he thinks females are more loyal and 'less bother' and so, before we adopted him, Caesar already had the odds stacked against him.  But today I felt good.  "Good lad," I told him as we stood back to admire our work.  And then I went inside to make a cup of tea.  What ensued, can only be described as 'the great geranium massacre.'  In the minutes it took me to get two cups out of the cupboard and put them on the worktop, all hell had broken loose outside!  

I could hear Grandad shouting so I dumped the cups and ran outside.  This is what I found:
Caesar was jumping on and off the planter at an unstoppable speed!  At small intervals, he was digging a hole and pulling a geranium out of the garden.  Some geraniums were flying into heaps, some were buried under mounds of soil!  And Caesar, was an uncontrollable mess of paws and tongue that could neither be caught or calmed.  Grandad threw his trowel down in the soil and heaved a heavy sigh.  I won't repeat his words about Caesar.  Needless to say, he still prefers female dogs. and has never offered me geraniums since!
My garden - my planter!  

Back in the present day, while we were tidying my Grandma received a phonecall.  He neighbours had lost their old dog.  I remember the dog well as she would often wander round for a fuss or some food on hot summer days when she was supposed to be in the garden.  I was a mere 10 when the family adopted the puppy who had been found tied to a lamppost.  The topic, as is natural turned to our own experiences of this, 'I will find it hopelessly hard when Caesar's time comes' I told her.  What I didn't say is that sometimes I lie awake at night looking at him and worrying about it - his mere 6 years of age only making it harder as I realise the potential of our time together to quintuple!  And our bond too.

We began to talk about mine and Caesar's unlikely bond.  He was not the dog that I had wanted when I arrived at the shelter and I never make a secret of that.  It was Damien who was set on him and would not consider any other dog.  And, I'm pleased that my naivety and judgement were overpowered by my desire to have a dog...any dog.  But our bond began to grow from a few days into our relationship where I felt as unsure about him as he did about me.  We gained a sort of understanding 'we're both OK as long as we know where the other is.'  And, as long as I go out at the same time and return at the same time, he won't destroy my house (much).  

In our house he's more of a free spirit but at other houses he likes to keep me in his sights.  A sort of comfort blanket I suppose.  And that's OK, because I like to keep him in mine too!  And, if I leave him, he'll kick up a fuss as if to say 'you broke the rules'.  And so when I walked out of the door with my purse in my hand leaving him with my grandma, I completely forgot about the silent rule book.  That was until I was half way to the shop.  I felt a little wave of panic overcome me as I crossed the road; what if he wasn't coping?  What if he was scaring my grandma with his odd noises and behaviour?  What if he'd panicked?

I almost sprinted back from the shop.  I'd left the pair for almost half an hour.  And I have to admit I was afraid of what I might come back to.  I knocked on the door and a little face appeared in the window; it was Caesar.  He whined a little and looked around.  I held my breath.  I knocked again.  When I thought about it, Caesar hadn't been left anywhere for a little while.  Last time I tried to leave him with dad, he didn't like it.  He whined and cried and carried on and dad got quite annoyed with him.  'I should have left him in the garden,' I thought.  But it was too late.  Finally, from another room, I saw Grandma walking toward me.  I felt my heart return to it's normal position and I resumed breathing.  "How's he been?"  - "no bother." 

Caesar getting comfortable at my grandparents' house

So there we have it - somewhere between the Great Geranium Tragedy of 2012 and today, Caesar has found a place where he is beginning to feel secure.  Secure being left in a place other than home with someone other than me, secure in spending the day tottering around after me and my marigolds and secure in the knowledge that I will not leave him.  I know that it's not a profound breakthrough and perhaps there's not much to take away from this post.  They say that time is a healer and I'm sure that time has enabled Caesar to feel more comfortable.  He had to work to feel comfortable around me and now he is working to feel comfortable away from me.  

Monday, 18 August 2014

Going Wild in Wales

A 9 day dog holiday with Caesar in Llandeilo.

Holidays are expensive. Spending a lot of money is stressful!  But it's ok because holidays distress us. Right?  So it was all worth it in the end wasn't it?  Or that's what I hoped as I made the bank transfer of £580 and cringed.  The problem or at least potential problem was that this year, for the first time, our major holiday of the year would be taken with Caesar.  A very relaxing 7 days in Wales with a hotel stop-off on both ends to break up the 7 hour car ride (for all of us!)

Day 1 - Oldham
We were running very late.  Very very late.  It was almost three and we hadn't set off yet, despite making plans to meet family in Manchester for dinner.  Caesar always knows when something is amiss and danced around our legs as we attempted to load the car.  I had chosen him a special new collar off the rail for his holidays; Spongebob Squarepants in a bright yellow with lots of funny faces.  Car finally packed with; dog food, dog treats, dog toys, dog towel, dog deodorant, dog chews, whistle, extension leads, spare collar, dog coat, dog bed, dog bowls, water and finally the actual dog, we were ready to go.  And we set off three hours late for hour journey to Oldham.

Apart from finding myself circling the ring road like a roundabout with Caesar screeching 'it's past my tea time!' in the boot at rush hour, the journey went fairly well. And 3 hours after beginning our journey, we pulled up outside the 247 Hotel in Manchester.  The room rate was very reasonable at £35 per night with a small charge for dogs added - I had prebooked it a few weeks ago on Late Rooms.  And the staff were sweet about the dog.  Inside, I managed to tackle the stairs with Caesar and two bags!  Luckily there were only 2 floors.  And then find my way to an immaculately clean, spacious room with the biggest bed I had ever seen!  Damien pulled the huge cage upstairs and we put it up next to the window with room to spare.

Where are we going this time?

Then we headed out.  We met my aunt and uncle at their flat in Salford and managed to negotiate tea for five in a flat for two with Caesar running between everyone's legs. And, as a bonus, the flat was still completely in tact when we left. Then, we visited 'The Star', a pub that is owned by over 60 members of the community in Salford!  As it was a warm night, we sat outside with Caesar and he was made a fuss of by almost everyone who passed him.  What'd great about The Star is its warm atmosphere and sense of community - almost everyone greets you as a friend and being small and at least a little furry, Caesae was receiving VIP attention.  By the end of the night, he was sitting at the bench practically joining in with the cheery conversation.  It was almost midnight when we all bundled back into the car and headed the 20 minutes back to the hotel.

Exhausted from the journey and a constant stream of admirers, Caesar slept soundly all night, barking only occasionally at customers choosing to take advantage of the hotel's 24 check in.  But, by the time he'd woken anyone, he was fast asleep again.  We didn't eat at the hotel, but 2 advantages (in addition to the room prices and dog friendliness) were the price of food on the menu and check out time of 12 o'clock.  

For more information about the 247 hotel in Oldham:
For more information about The Star in Salford:

Day 2 - Oldham --> Llandeilo
Caesar was unsettled as we climbed back into the car at 11 the following day.  He bobbed around in the boot squealing; not exactly what you need when you're trying to unparallell park your car which someone has kindly parked very close to the back of and someone else has kindly parked very close to the front of and your SatNav is telling you to 'make a uturn where possible' over and over.  Damien, a non driver himself, kindly told me I can be short tempered when driving but I think having a screeching dog whose noise makes you wince behind you while trying to do a turn in the road between tightly parked cars is enough to test anyone's patience to the limit.

Finally, almost 10 minutes after leaving the hotel, we were on our way. The journey took over five hours and, with the start of a migraine bubbling after the first 2, I pulled over and gave Caesar a rest.  It was hot in the car and, with the temperamental fans that only work on your fourth setting, I did feel sorry for the furry guy.  We both had a rest, a drink and I had some ibuprofen to soothe the pain which was partly brought in by three separate idiots with caravans all of whom almost ended our journey and possibly our lives at different points and one of whom had me throwing my car into a bush as he took a 30mph bend at no less than 50, almost turning the caravan over and, as it rocked, causing me to swerve into the shrubbery on the outside of my lane.  Caesar, thank goodness, was not phased by this.  But he did begin to grow tired of travelling as we hit the 3 hour mark.

We pulled into the tiny road at around 4pm.  And immediately drove straight past the cottage, onto a farm track, over an ungated railway crossing at the top of a mound, finally ending up on the bank of a river where I had to manoeuvre a turn in the road between a ditch and a fast moving river. Incidentally, I am glad that I don't own or tow a caravan. Particularly as, inevitably, Caesar chose this as his time to start howling and jumping up at the windows in the boot.

As we pulled up, Caesar screeching loudly in the boot, the owner of the cottage came to greet us.  I grimaced inside knowing that if I didn't take Caesar out of the boot he would simply get louder and louder.  And knowing that, if I did, he would fling himself at the man with every second of pent up excitement that he had collected over the last five hours.  The latter happened.  But the owner seemed very understanding and we'd later see that he had two large Irish Wolfhounds of his own. 

He gave us a tour of the house and showed us, the part we had all been waiting for, the 2 acre dog excercise field that was exclusively ours at certain parts of the day.  The field was beautiful and I couldn't wait to get Caesar onto it for a run.  But first we had all of our belongings to fetch from the car.   At 7 we headed for the field which was through a gate in the garden of our cottage.  Given Caesars reputation for being a fence bouncer, I didn't want to let him off his lead as the field had a fence leading directly to an enclosure where the owners kept their dogs. Even at almost 8ft I had visions of Caesar lunging over and chasing the dogs around.
Caesar loved the owner's field
He loved running in the field.  And we had hoped that he would sleep all night but his separation anxiety/attachment disorder reared it's ugly head again and, by the morning, we were both exhausted from his all nighter.  I resolved to ask the owners for special measures the following day.

Demoted to crate sleeping - one sulky pooch.

Day 3 - Llandeilo
Despite hardly sleeping all night, kept awake by Caesars barking and howling and whimpering, I refused to admit defeat until almost 9:30.  My eyes ached a little and I felt frustrated with Caesar for crying all night.  'It was supposed to be a nice break for us all,' I reminded Damien irritably as he donned my wellies and called Caesar outside. The ginger monster jogged past as if he were cool as a cucumber.  I narrowed my eyes and flopped onto the sofa.

Weather forecast for today; rain, then thunder, then a bit more rain, topped with a bit more thunder. The silver lining was that the thunderstorm had come early - my iPad weather forecast had predicted it on Wednesday and I'd hoped it might break the weather.  Despite this, we made a short trip into Llandeilo.  Everything was shut apart from a supermarket which boasted a grade 2 hygiene rating (!!).  From which, in desperation, we bought some cream cakes (!!!!!). And which sold Fajita packs but nit the other ingredients to go with them.  I stood outside with Caesar. And a nice Polish family pulled up and asked me for directions to Issac Newton's house. Less than helpfully I answered 'I didn't know he lived here' then he complemented Caesar, saying 'hiya boys,' and told me he liked him very much before driving off up a side road.  

We returned to the house after finding a nice round walk from the station in Llandeilo up to a promenade with benches and picnic tables looking out to a scenic countryside view. I made a mental note that, on a warm day, it looked like a nice place for a picnic. We were home by two and just in time for the second storm to begin. Caesar had some field time at 3 but kept being told off for crashing into my legs. Then we returned to the cottage and felt warm and cosy as we watched the rain dribble down the bay window and bounce off the roof of the car.

Luckily I managed to catch the owner who nipped in to check we were ok and ask about my plan. I explained about Caesars mental state and asked if, slightly breaking the bedroom rule, I could put up a small cage at the foot of the bed and allow Caesar to sleep inside. She agreed and in turn apologised for her dogs barking.  She explained one was in heat.  I couldn't have been happier to say 'it's fine!' Usually I'm the one apologising for caesar's behaviour.  I told her as much and said its nice that she had dogs that acted like dogs and not robotic shadows or stuffed animals.  She smiled.

Day 4 - Dinefwr Castle and Park
Although the weather forecast constantly threatened bad weather for the week, the sun shone through the curtains when I turned over this morning. Caesar was in a cage at the side of the bed that was rather smaller than I would have liked but all the same did get us all a good nights sleep.

After a good hearty breakfast, we set out in search of adventure and found, a short few miles away, Dinefwr Park and Castle.  The castle is owned by the National Trust so those with memberships will benefit from free parking.  However it cost us £6 to park the car if you're not a member - ouch!  We then took a path towards the castle which took around 40 minutes at a leisurely pace.  For us, it was relieving that the park had an 'all dogs on lead' policy that meant we didn't have any unwanted visitors heading for Caesar. In fact, the only other dog that we saw on the walk seemed to be of a similarly reactive state to Caesar. It's owner wrestled it past, never looking up to see Caesar reacting in almost exactly the same way.  

Dogs seemed to be welcome in the castle area and we climbed the steps with Caesar to get a good look at the view.  I'd like to think he enjoyed it trying to climb up on the wall to get a look at the huge drop and giving me a tiny panic attack.  The weather, although changeable, did stay fair for 90% of the day and I treated myself to a much deserved ice cream after we climbed down.  However, reviews suggest that's its a good place to visit come rain or shine.  We wandered back through the fields on our return to the car and found ourselves in a field of sheep.  There were lots of paths heading off in different directions and I'm sure we missed lots of interesting tracks and trails to explore!  For those wanting to visit, there is only the tea van at the bottom of the hill so get a drink before you go up if it's going to be a hot day.  Caesar seemed to enjoy the walk and was quiet for at least some of the way home!  

For those interested in visiting Dinefwr Park and Castle, details can be found here:

In other news: I threw the only dog toy we had over a farmers fence! Since it's next to our cottage they're bound to know it was us.  I found myself wondering, what's the etiquette here? I don't even know who owns the field.  But I bet the owners of the cottage do.  I don't feel right bothering them with such a menial matter though although I'm certain they wouldn't mind.  And the fence is far too high to be able to retrieve it myself.  I don't mind losing the toy.  I suppose it's like kicking a football over a fence, they'll either throw it back boer or chuck it away.  I just hope it doesn't cause any problems!

Day 5 - Carmarthen
Last night, Caesar fell asleep in the crate the front room.  So we left him to see if he would see the night out.  He must've been exhausted because we didn't hear from him until seven in the morning.  

The weather wasn't great today so we decided to take a trip over to Carmarthen, a place where I had seen there was at least one pet shop where I could replace Caesar's AWOL toy.  Although, he did eventually settle, Caesar was a little rowdy in the car when we set off.  I'm not sure if it was the heavy rain that calmed him or simply tiring himself of crying.  

There weren't many people with dogs walking the streets of Carmarthen but we did see a few.  We wandered around and I went in the occasional shop, some of whom kindly invited the dogs in.  The best find of the day had to be a little pet shop backing onto the indoor market.  'Pets corner,' although fairly small was stuffed with everything you could dream of for your pets; chews, toys, food, treats, harnesses, collars AND Dogmatic head collars!  I've been wanting another for Caesar for some time but I'm not a good internet shopper.  Every time I see one online I convince myself the one he has, though stinky and fraying somewhat, is fine and we don't need another.  Faced with a smart new one in a shop though I couldn't help myself! I bought a few new toys for much less than they would cost at a more major retailer and bought a black Dogmatic; £23.99.  I wasn't keen on black, but when I tried it on him, I felt he looked the bees knees so I had to treat him.  I'm sure he really appreciated it.  We had a good walk around the shops and found a castle too.

It was raining again when we came back so we played tug for a bit and waited for our field time.

Day 6 - Swansea, Pembrey and Carmarthen
What I learnt today: never attempt to go to Swansea with dogs.  We ended up going round the ring road looking for parking only to discover dead end rows of parking spaces and having to reverse out into heavy traffic.  The more I tried to find a car park, the further away from the place I seemed to get!  Caesar was starting to get restless so I told my phones sat nav to take us to Swansea Bay instead. It looked like a nice place when I'd googled it the previous night.  I found it much easier to park at the bay among hot dog vans and lifeguard services. And, I was just about to pay, when I noticed a sign telling me that dogs were not allowed on the beach at this time of year.  In one sense, I was pleased that the car park sign told us this before we had paid to park and headed down the beach.  However I was equally unhappy that I had woken up early and driven for over an hour to find that digs weren't welcome at the bay and all of the car parks were immensely hard to navigate around and then, inevitably, full.  If you do decide to ever visit Swansea, the park and ride might be a better option.  I didn't check it see if it was dog friendly.

I gave up on Swansea shortly after 11 and brought my phone's map up. As we were on the coast, I remembered I had read something about Pembrey beach in the visitors guide. As we live on a beach ourselves, I never find beaches too exciting.  However, I do like coastal villages, so I set the sat nav to take us to Pembrey. It took another hour, despite only being 18 miles from Swansea.

When we arrived, we were charged £5 before entering the car park.  Damien and I frowned at each other as we passed through, £5 lighter!  Then we drove for what seemed like quite some time.   It was not evident where we should be parking, it seemed to be some kind of forest.  I told Damien we'd probably come to the wrong place as it didn't look as if there was a beach here but noted that we'd have to make the most of it since we had paid a not insignificant amount to come in.  We passed a riding school, caravan park and Segway track all within the confines of the parking I'd just paid to enter.  Each attraction was separated by rolling grassy slopes and forestry walkways.

We parked up near to the Segway track and wandered in the direction that other people seemed to be heading, finally finding a sign that read 'beach for dogs'.  The path took us directly to a wonderful beach which stretched out for miles.  The tide was out too and everybody was able to keep a good distance from each other.  After a lovely walk and a chance for Caesar to wear his Doggles, we headed for food.  Everywhere at Pembrey seems to be dog friendly and dogs were even allowed in parts of the ice cream parlour/bar/restaurant.  In fact, looking around there were lots of dogs and owners.  It was a truly peaceful and beautiful place with lots of things to keep everyone occupied.  And, it did occur to me that not so long ago, we would not have so peacefully enjoyed lunch with other dogs in the vicinity.  However, we sat in the beautiful surroundings go the park with dogs at either side and behind and Caesar never so much as batted an eyelid.  Pembrey was a beautiful place with lots to do and I have a feeling that I will find myself back there at some point.  

Caesar was so good while we had lunch, despite several other dogs at surrounding tables, that I let him eat the rest of my burger.  He sat looking very proudly around the surrounding area and some children called their mum to come and see his Doggles.  

After we had eaten, mainly because we hadn't dressed or packed appropriately for this sort of day (much to my disappointment), we bundled back in the car and headed back to Carmathen to buy something for tea and so that I could exchange some walking clothes I'd bought the previous day.  While I was in a shop, Damien observed how different reactions to Caesar could be; one man shepherded his wife away from Caesar saying 'he looks like a real fighter, him' (hilarious when you actually know him) where as two old dears sat and talked to him telling him not to cry as his mummy (who was listening from inside the shop) would be back soon.  Another old lady also stopped to tell Damien how beautiful he was (the dog - not Damien!). I suppose people see what they want to.  

If you are interested in visiting Pembrey Park and beach (which we give 5 doggie stars) go to:

I think we succeeded in exhausting him.  He had much more fun than he would have in Swansea so I suppose my parking crisis turned out to be a happy accident!

Day 7 - The day of nothing...
Today the weather forecast looked more promising.  However, after getting up, we soon learnt that the weather forecast here is not always to be trusted.  In fact, looking at the guest book, the weather forecast can rarely be trusted.  You need to live on the edge a bit.  And, above all, dress for all weathers!  The kind of rain was falling that makes you cringe to think about going out in it - heavy downpours that warrant the use of the highest setting of windscreen wipers.  Thankfully, Caesar seemed exhausted from the previous day and was as enthusiastic about leaving the cottage as us.  We even struggled to get him to go to the garden for a wee!  We decided to go back to Llandeilo if it calmed and then out to a dog friendly eatery for tea.  I wanted to try a shop in Llandeilo called 'Heavenly' which sold chocolate and ice cream; I'd seen it recommended in the visitors book as well as a magazine.

Actually, what happened was odd, it did turn out to be sunny on the evening.  However, Damien, the dogs and I were equally shattered.  And, because I sometimes have to remind myself that I'm supposed to relax on holiday, we allowed ourselves the day (which we were supposed to be having tomorrow) to recuperate before the long drive back.

Although, since we hadn't eaten out much since arriving, I did decided we should have a meal out.  We drove over to the nearest pub, 'The Plough Inn' and, feeling immensely guilty for leaving the dogs in the car, we asked for a table.  They had none and were completely booked up.  So, we began driving around the Welsh countryside looking for somewhere to eat.  I'd have preferred somewhere dog friendly.  But the problem with that, for us, is that there could be other dogs there.  I'll never forget the dreaded time when I took Caesar into a pub at lunch time.  Of course, as we were waiting for our desserts, a person turned up with a really yappy terrier.  Caesar immediately started jumping around and squealing and squirming and brought the whole pub to silence.  We had to drag him past the terrier to get him out of the door.  How embarassing.  Needless to say, Damien ended up outside in the rain while I gulped down a boiling how apple crumble.  Anyway, I digress.  We drove for almost an hour, our stomachs gradually getting more and more hungry.  Eventually, we gave up and ordered a Chinese takeaway from a local Chinese in Llandeilo.  

We got home and sat hungrily munching our spare ribs, prawn toasts and noodles.  When we had finished, Damien asked if I could help him work out the washing machine.  I left to go to the kitchen and, by the time we'd realised that no one was manning the left over Chinese, Caesar had already guzzled down a plate of noodles and eaten the spare rib bones!!  I'm sure this stealing food behaviour will be the end of him one day!  I was quite relieved he hadn't choked on fragments of the rib bone - he probably swallowed it whole!

Day 8 - Llandeilo (when it's open) and the river
I had vowed not to do much on Friday as I had a long drive ahead of me and didn't want to tire myself out.  We parked up in Llandeilo and set about looking for 'Heavenly', the little confectionary shop that I'd heard so much about.  We walked past on four different occasions without noticing and I'd just about decided that it had gone!  However, when I found it, it was very much there and doing very well too.  It's not particularly a dog friendly thing to do although the kind shop keeper did invite the dogs in - I refused of course, imagining how much damage Caesar could do to the delicate chocolate displays - but I did think Heavenly was worth a mention.  In fact, we decided to visit again the next day because it was so nice!  If you're ever in that neck of the woods, I do recommend a visit - and the delicious ice cream is worth a taste.

Llandeilo itself wasn't exactly a great place for dogs and with it's very narrow footpaths, it did make it hard to squeeze a larger dog such as Caesar past.  However, I will say this for all areas that we visited; most of them were extremely dog friendly and even chocolate shops and cafes were more than happy to allow dogs to enter; something that I found a stark contrast with in the North East of England.

Not sure I love the water...

We finished the day with a walk down to the river which was about 10 minutes away from our cottage.  It was warm and I'd hoped Caesar might have enjoyed a little swim (on flexi lead of course) as the river was quite fast moving).  However he avoided the water like the plague, not even wanting to get his feet wet - typical!  

During our river walk we had time to take in the beauty of the welsh countryside.  We had seen so many rolling green hills and farms and rivers on the way to the cottage but standing by the flowing water and looking up to green fields on the other side, I had time to take in the beauty of the place.  There was a longer field walk following a footpath and crossing over a bridge but we decided not to take it in favour of returning to the field for a run.  Particularly because the water seemed to be making Caesar nervous and, instead of running around and enjoying himself, he chose to hide behind my legs.

Day 9 - Runcorn
We left the beautiful cottage at 10, bidding goodbye to the owners.  Caesar was surprisingly quiet in the car.  As my uncle and aunt were away for the weekend, we decided to split our journey into two parts and stay the night in Runcorn.  The reasons for this were three fold; firstly because Runcorn was not far off the beaten track, secondly because it split our journey into two neat halves and thirdly because it was cheap - if you've ever holidayed in Runcorn you may understand why.

At the same price as the Oldham 247 Hotel, the Campenile Hotel in Runcorn set us back £50 for the night.  It was dog friendly.  More like a motel than a hotel, it spanned over 3 floors and access to all rooms was on the exterior of the hotel.  We found ourselves situated on the top floor, which did make it difficult to toilet Caesar.  And also to carry all of our belongings up two flights of stairs as well as being yanked along by our lovely mutt.  

So am I allowed on this bed then?

I asked at the counter if the restaurant/bar, which was empty, was also dog friendly but was told no but we could sit outside if we liked.  I looked at the graying sky and thought of the long journey.  Finally, I negotiated taking food from the restaurant back to our room and the staff agreed.  They seemed eager to help and I was fairly stuck as there didn't look to be too many other places to eat in the local area.  Particularly given the fact that we found The Campenile by following a sign that simply said 'hotel'.  I'm guessing it was the only one.  The room was pretty simple, it had one towel (which was one towel not enough) and there was a slight blood stain on the quilt (I gave Damien that side of the bed).  When the hot water was on in the bathroom, a rude message appeared on the mirror.  This told me that perhaps the hotel wasn't as clean as it could have been.  But, for ease more than goodwill, I decided to leave it.  I was tired and aching and not in the mood for a room change or having someone visit and Caesar make a huge fuss.  After all, it was only a one night thing and Caesar didn't seem to mind.

However, of the two hotel stop overs we made, I would recommend the 247 Hotel in Oldham over the Campenile in Runcorn.  The former was clean, well looked after and the rooms were large.  For a budget hotel that allowed dogs, it was great.

Never the less, if you're interested in staying at the Campenile Hotel, the link can be found here:

Details of Afallon Cottage, South Wales
Our beautiful cottage was set in a rural location but with easy access from a main road.  It had a dog walking field of 2 acres and space for 4 persons + 2 dogs.  And, it seems, that many visitors are so pleased with the cottage that they return time and time again - I don't think you could get better credentials than that.  In true cottage form, the place is cosy.  It has a large front room/dining room.  The kitchen is quite small but the use of the space available maximises it's potential and we didn't struggle to cook anything.  What impressed me most about the place is how well equipped it was.  Everything had been thought through from fresh, clean towels and handwash in the bathroom to salt and pepper in the dining room.  We even arrived to find freshly made Welsh cake, a jug of milk and a box of teabags - what more could you ask for? 

Noteworthy points:  With a dog like Caesar one thing did cross my mind when booking the cottage; was the dog exercise area secure and away from other animals (having a reactive dog)?  Yes and no.  The owners have some beautiful Irish Wolfhounds whose enclosure does border the field.  They do bark if you pass close by their enclosure, which is understandable.  For dogs like Caesar (who can jump high fences) and reacted to the barking, I didn't feel right about letting him off his lead.  He may have done nothing but I was afraid he would damage the wired enclosure fence or try to jump to get to the other dogs (a bad habit he showed off when he was in kennels).  

Overall:  I would recommend the cottage to anyone wishing to visit this part of Wales.  The owners were very friendly and, although living on the same site, were keen to allow privacy which was lovely.  We had a beautiful outdoor space that was all ours and access to the owners' private field that is brilliant for those whose dogs perhaps can't come off the lead in wide open spaces (although do remember the dogs can see other animals including other dogs and sheep).  It is brilliantly situated for main roads and also for countryside walks.  Who could ask for more?

Also, we booked through Dogs Trust Cottages.  This meant that 10% of the fee went to Dogs Trust which is great because the price was the same as other booking sites for the same cottage.  Details of Afallon Cottage can be found here:

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