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Archive for August, 2010

Little Bear is a little grumpy today.  This isn’t at all unusual, just like his mum, he gets the hump easily – especially when it’s raining as it is today. I often think that the traditional Schnauzer cut makes otherwise cheery dogs look a little miserable, but even without the usual hair-do LB is looking sulky.

Maybe it’s because Annie’s antics have elbowed him out of his own blog. This is utter rubbish of course, and not even I’m daft enough to believe this for a second (he never reads his own press you see) but it’s probably worth a post on how LB reacted to all of the drama around his new foster sister’s appearance (or should that be disappearance?)

Hmmm, there’s a plan afoot

LB knew that we were up to something. We brought things home in bags that smelled of the pet shop and then tucked them away, still full in cupboards; baby gates he’d last seen as a pup were hauled from the garage and put back up and new blankets and beds materialised in the lounge.  He kept a close eye on it all and inspected everything in minute detail.

He tested out the bedding for comfort and sniffed the gates as if trying to find some weak spots that may come in handy should the cat corner him suddenly.

The night before we were due to pick her up I had an awful pang of guilt. LB was snuggled up in his bed which is next to ours and The Cat was stretched out on the bed in the spot where my feet should have been had they not learned to routinely reorganise themselves around her large black and white frame. Has anyone else noticed how cats suddenly treble in size and weight the moment they fall asleep on your bed?!

Both are spoilt rotten and LB especially, although it pains me to admit it, can be something of a brat on times. How would Mamma’s little prince take to a strange dog in his house?

The answer is… amazingly well. Annie was obviously traumatized by her ordeal and spent three days solid refusing to come out of the dining room.  LB obviously knew she was in there – even without his heightened sense of smell the odour of  ‘dog been living rough for 44 hours’ was hard to miss.

Mamma, there’s a monster in the dining room

She also growled at him frequently from under the door and on a couple of occasions charged at him and barked furiously when she saw him amble past the patio doors.  His look said it all ‘Mamma, there’s a monster in the dining room.’

But he took it all in his stride. The off-limits room, the smell of a new dog he couldn’t even see (save for an angry flash from behind the blinds) and OH and I taking it in turns to be on Annie duty in the dining room in a bid to coax her out from under her table.

When at last he did lay eyes on her – a walk by at opposites sides of the road outside the house, he was an angel and for once didn’t even open his beak! Annie barked and lunged – but LB steadfastly ignored her.

On their first joint walk the next day he displayed the same impeccable manners. A mutual sniffing session back at the garden reassured LB that the monster had been banished and Annie I think swiftly wrote him off as not worth worrying about.

Three weeks later and LB seems relatively content with situation, save for one key complaint – Annie, despite his very best efforts, refuses to play with him.  Which is probably the real reason why the little fella is so grumpy.

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Breakthrough

Apparently lost dogs tend to move in a triangular pattern and are likely to return to the place from which they are lost at around dawn and dusk. Searching at night, suggested our local Dog Warden  was usually fruitless as most dogs lost or not would bed down somewhere after sunset.

This insight, although immensely helpful, did nothing to curb our night time rambling though. Sitting at home just didn’t seem to be an option that either of us could contemplate and so we walked off our worry into the early hours.

At 6.30am Little Bear and I set out with our friend from Lab Rescue and her Lab Grace to continue our search. After another fruitless search we headed home. I got the computer out and started emailing the poster to all of the vets within a ten mile radius. Little Bear snuggled up to me and I must have nodded off because the next thing I know my phone is ringing.

I’ll spare you the details but in short, the man on the other end was calling to tell me that he’d seen Annie dead at the side of the road. Apologising profusely for being the bearer of bad news, he said he’d only caught a glimpse as he drove past but he thought I’d rather know.

Other Half was out of bed, dressed and in the car within minutes. LB and I sat on the floor and hoped. The coordinator from Dogs Lost called – she hesitated “A man just called us….’ she said “I know, we’re checking now” was all I could manage.

“IT’S A DEER!” The relief I found in those three words was unbelievable. Poor, poor deer but I was just so thrilled that it wasn’t our Annie. I called Dogs Lost and cried, then I called back the poor man who’d reported it and cried again while he thanked heavens and saints and practically whooped for joy!

There’s a dog in my garden

The real breakthrough came later that day when I got a call from an elderly lady who had spotted Annie in her garden. It was one of the gardens that backed onto the field in which she’d been spotted that first night. OH and I raced over there along with Carole from Dogs Lost. Neighbours came to help with the search, one lady ready for her holidays and waiting for her lift  to the airport braved bramble bushes and muddy fields to help find her!

Returning to the field while OH, Carole and the neighbours checked gardens I spotted her!  My heart in my mouth I followed the advice from the dog warden which is not to chase but to sit quietly and make a yelping sound like a puppy. And so I knelt and then, when my knee complained, sat in a wet field yelping like a puppy, wafting packets of dog food and generally making an arse of myself until I swear I heard one of the horses in the next field snigger. My routine obviously cut no sway with the errant Annie because about half an hour later I got a call from Carole to say that she could see her slumped in one of the gardens.

After blocking holes in wire fencing barely big enough for rabbits but which she was obviously using to evade us, we finally caught up with her. Bedraggled just doesn’t do the scene justice. She looked like she’d given up. Huddled next to a gate she ignored all manner of tempting treats including my friends best pate and cheese. Once we realised that she wasn’t going to go anywhere of her own volition my friends husband scooped her up and carried her to the car. No mean feat as she’s a big girl to say the least! But she was safe and that was all that mattered.

The scene that followed was like a street party. The lady who made the call, a sprightly 92 years young, said it reminded her of the day the war ended. Another batch of complete strangers hugging and crying and breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Annie watched unblinking from the back of the car. I thought about all my grand plans – OH turned to me and said jokingly “I hope the baby gate holds” and we laughed for what felt like the first time in months.

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Little (big) dog lost

To this day I have no idea how her collar broke . One minute I was guiding her from the car park to the field, the next she was panicking, writhing around at the end of her lead, eyes wide, tail tucked, scanning the strange surroundings like a cornered fugitive – heart thumping I forced myself to try to stay calm, I crouched down, avoided eye contact, spoke softly, moved slowly but it was futile – seconds later the lead, with collar, snapped open and still attached was hanging limp in my hand.

She headed first for the car park and the locked car. I cursed myself for not getting the keys from OH before he left – maybe if I could have opened the door she might have chosen to hide instead of run.  Before I could get near her she whipped past me and took off up the path beside the field running at full speed.

A man appeared at the end walking his dog – now frantic I screamed for him to try to stop her before she got to the end of the path and the road. It took him a few precious seconds to comprehend what was happening and in that time the moment was lost – she was past him and out onto the road.

By some miracle she avoided the cars on the roundabout. Yes, we’re technically a village but a busy one.  By the time I caught up seconds later she’d turned left – cars were stopped both sides of the road and people were scrambling out of them, trying admirably to catch her.  Seeing her lose control of her bowels in the middle of the road was horrendous – I’ve never seen a dog look so terrified in my life.  More people streamed out of the nearby running field, another popular haunt for dog walkers, but she turned, retraced her steps and continued her sprint down the main road.

I took off after her and cursed myself for letting a dodgy knee stop my running training. She was already out of sight and my desperation was escalating to all out panic.

As I ran a car pulled up level to me and a man shouted ‘Get in!’ Without a moment’s hesitation I did and found myself tucked next to a sleeping newborn baby in a car seat and saying hurried hellos to his wife in the front seat. Mick (my good Samaritan) dropped me at the copse at the end of the road and promised to drive around looking for her.

All I could think about was how terrified and how far from home she was. It was all my fault. I’d promised her safety and love and minutes later, here she was lost and alone. A wave of nausea hit me that would stay with me for the next 44 hours.

The kindness of strangers

I called the police and the dog warden, I made all of the reports necessary and we searched every lane, field and bridleway. At around 9pm I got a call to say she’d been spotted at a horse yard about two miles from where she went missing. We dashed over there only to find the field full of complete strangers. Mick, my good Samaritan with the car was tramping through the fields while his wife sat serenely in the car feeding their little one.  The man from the park (Andy) who hadn’t been able to stop her initial bolt was there having swapped his dog for a high-powered torch. There were others too – a lady called Claire who worked for the council and her colleague, another chap called Neil and Judith, a friend of a friend with Labs of her own. All of these people were complete strangers and yet here they were, in a field, in the dark looking for my dog – they searched with us until after midnight.

Other Half knocked on the doors of those houses backing onto the field in the hope that she had somehow gone from the field into someone’s garden. Despite the late hour people opened their doors, checked their gardens and offered their help – one lady, even though she was in her dressing gown offered to introduce us to her neighbour who volunteered with the charity Dogs Lost. Needless to say he promised to go back in the morning!

We returned the next morning with home-made flyers asking people to check their gardens and sheds and then went to see Carole, the local co-ordinator for Dogs Lost. Within minutes of knocking on her door we had our missing charge on the website and posters made. Within 2 hours the whole village was covered in them.

We searched all day. FD’s previous owners arrived with one of their other dogs in the hope that the familiar faces and scents would tempt her out of hiding. Everywhere we went people wanted to help. Three young boys who couldn’t have been more than nine stopped me to ask how they could help. Between them they decided that a Facebook group, regular postings on Twitter and an email to all of their local friends would be a good plan.  I was also quizzed on her favourite food and they earnestly suggested that treats might be a good idea. They were so sweet and genuine I could have cried, had there been any tears left by that point.

People called and left messages on my voice mail saying that they’d checked their gardens and told their friends to look out for her and wished us luck in finding her. My friends church group prayed for her – a fact that even though I’m not religious makes me well up just thinking about it.

When we collapsed into bed at around 2am on Saturday morning I was too numb to think. But I still had the overwhelming feeling that she was alive.  The news that came a few hours later would test my faith in that intuition.

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Disaster strikes…

Annie the Labrador sleeping

Annie

What’s that saying about ‘the best laid plans’?

Thursday 5 August

Having spent the week preparing for the arrival of our foster dog (FD) I was feeling nervous but ready as OH and I sat down to dinner. “Right, run me through the plan one more time.” He’d said. It went something like this:

  • Pick up Lab Rescue co-ordinator at 7pm.
  • Drive half an hour to get to the pick up point and collect FD.
  • Stop at the large field opposite the house on the way home to let her stretch her legs.
  • OH to stay with FD while I nip home to pick up Little Bear and bring him back to the field so that they can meet on neutral ground and get acquainted.
  • Sniff sniff, wag, wag and then all home for supper before settling down for the night.

I didn’t expect it all to go to plan (we’re dealing with dogs after all) but I felt as though I’d covered all of the angles.  I had contingency plans for goodness sake.  As I remember, our main concern was whether the baby gate we’d set up to section off a sleeping area for her in our en-suite would be high enough to stop her launching herself onto our bed in the middle of the night. That and my nagging irritation at not being able to find a car harness for her like the one LB has.  After a fruitless tour of pet shops and online stores I resolved to try to order her one from our local pet shop on the Friday. Little did I know then how crucial that decision would be…

The meeting

Having been described as a ‘big bouncy girl’ I was shocked to see the timid looking creature that almost tumbled out of the car at the collection point. Big yes, but she looked as if she’d rather melt into the pavement rather than bounce.  Her tail was so tucked I had no idea even how long it was.

It took some persuasion to get her into the back of our car.  OH suggested that I get in one side and encourage her in that way.  It worked brilliantly –  I called her name and she leapt in beside me but sort of crouched – neither sitting nor standing, just hovering next to me as if she already regretted her decision.

As we drove the forty miles home she slowly began to relax until she lay panting next to me.  I stroked her gently and just ten minutes from home she had her two front paws hooked over my thigh and her head resting gingerly on my knee.  I studied her. A chunky lab, she had a post puppy belly and more than a few spare tyres bless her. Her coat looked as though it had been a long time since she’d been brushed and as I raked my fingers through her red fox fur I found grit and flea bits held in place with a waxy residue. She looked up at me with the gentlest, but most anxious eyes I’ve ever seen. “You’re going to enjoy staying with us,” I said confidently “We’re going to take great care of you and you’ll soon have a lovely shiny coat again.”

Ten minutes later she was running terrified and collarless towards a busy road…

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The Universe is a strange place on times.  In my last post I was bemoaning the fact that I wanted a friend for Little Bear but that Other Half wasn’t as keen, fearing that in adopting a companion dog we may risk the heartache of it not working out.  What we needed was a way to test the water. I volunteered our dog sitting services with friends and family and my dog walker friend has promised to pass on any suitable requests for day boarding that she can’t do, but it was looking pretty hopeless.

Then, the day after my whingey post, I got a call from a Labrador rescue charity I’d registered with months before.  At the time they said that fostering wasn’t something they needed volunteers for that often but took our details just in case.  I’d almost forgotten about it because we had quite a wish list too – must be dog, cat and kid friendly, female, playful and sure of herself. Who’d give up a dog like that I thought at the time.

The co-ordinator popped round to give us more details and <drum roll please> our dog, cat, child, horse and chicken friendly, playful, female foster dog will be arriving TOMORROW!

So it’s been all systems go on the preparation front (hence the lack of posts) while I do my homework around re-settling a dog, managing introductions etc. I’ve had some amazing advice from the lovely people on the Schnauzer Forum and I think I’m as prepared as I can be.

For the purposes of the blog she’ll be known as Foster Dog (FD) for the time being just in case by some quirk of fate her previous owner stumbles upon the blog.  I can’t imagine how terrible it must be to have to re-home your baby 😦

So we’re as prepared as we can be.  LB has had a haircut (pointless I know, but he’s nice and cool now), The Cat has settled into her new feeding spot out of reach of a greedy Lab, baby gates are up, coffee tables cleared (save a Lab tail does the job instead) and routines worked out.  Until we meet her and get her resume (a detailed questionnaire each dog has when they’re handed over) there’s not much else we can do except wait – impatiently!

So fingers, toes and paws crossed that all will work out well with the new arrival.

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