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As it’s day four-thousand and twentyone of lockdown, I thought I’d have some fun. Here are my top ‘facts’ about life with a Mini Schnauzer. Well, life with ours anyway….

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They bark – but only a lot 

I know there are exceptions to the rule, but most minis I know love the sound of their own voice. They’re vocal little dogs and will woof at the drop of a hat. Little Bear sometimes barks just for fun (or to annoy my husband). We’ve neither of us finished a complete sentence in his presence for the last twelve years.

 

Mini Schnauzer being carried

They like to be carried 

All puppies do the ‘stop and stick’ to the pavement routine when they’re tiny and are a bit worried about the world.

Schnauzers, however, don’t seem to have forgotten that often, once the treats had run out, their exasperated people resorted to carrying them.

Little Bear is an old master at this trick now and will even limp dramatically to get a lift. Like a fool I usually give in and hey presto, the minute I close the front door, he’s racing about the house like a spring lamb.

 

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They hate coats

I often think Schnauzers are the polar opposite of the House Elves in Harry Potter. Give an elf an item of clothing and you free them from servitude – give a Schnauzer a coat and he’ll look at you like he’s a newly condemned man.

A few years ago I decided that Bear’s statue routine could be ‘fixed’ by just   waiting him out.

I popped his new coat on him and waited. After an hour of him standing rooted to the same spot in the kitchen, I caved in. It was a battle of wills. I lost.

 

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They have sensitive fur 

While dog coats can render them instantly and completely immobile, so can other ‘unexpected items’ about their person.

Leaves on the legs, a twig on the toe and most infamously, a minuscule bit of poop stuck to the botty fluff. That one cost us £50, a mad dash to the vet with our ‘paralysed’ puppy and lost dinner reservations. We also had to change vets.

 

 

Mini Schnauzer curled up on the writer's chest

 

They’re incredibly loving 

Mini Schnauzers have huge characters. They’re certainly not a breed for anyone who wants a quiet life.

Little Bear is and always has been, a total drama king, but he is also the most sensitive, loving little soul imaginable. I suppose, in the end, that’s all we really need to know.

 

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Mini Schnauzer stands with front feet on a table, wearing a party hat and looking at a bone shaped cake

Birthday boy

Ten years ago today The Little Bear Dog Blog was born. It was a cold, wet February afternoon when I set up the WordPress account and in all honesty, I thought I’d probably only post a few times. It was just an experiment and never in a million years did I expect people to actually read my ramblings. But here we are, ten years, 152 posts and thousands of readers later.

Thank you

To everyone who’s read, liked, commented on or shared posts over the years – thank you so much.  Your time is precious and I’m so grateful for the time you took to be a part of our story.

I can’t of course leave out the beautiful little soul who inspired the blog. Had Little Bear been the ‘take anywhere’ dog I’d been expecting, I very much doubt that I would have taken to blogging as a way of processing the realities of life with a reactive dog.

They say that our greatest challenges are our greatest teachers. Little Bear and Annie have certainly been great teachers! But above all, they’ve taught me the power of unconditional, unwavering love. How blessed I’ve been.

I have no idea how many more blog posts we’ll have – time waits for no man, woman or dog, so we’ll take each day as it comes and be grateful for every single one we get to share with them.

“There is nothing truer in this world than the love of a good dog.” Mira Grant 

 

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Christmas Puppy. Photograph by Helena Lopes 

Happy New Year. As I write this, Little Bear is snoozing next to me on the sofa under a blanket and Annie is lounged in her bed; newly revitalised with memory foam to help her joints. People say our dogs are spoilt. I disagree. They are loved, but they are also respected. 

What does it mean to respect our dogs? I’ve heard two stories in the last couple of days that have made me ponder this exact question.

I love my dog, so long as it doesn’t act….like a dog 

The first was about an old man we used to see in the neighbourhood walking his Jack Russell. As our two are reactive, we only knew them to wave to, but our friend got to know them well. She asked me a few months ago if I’d seen them. I hadn’t and yesterday I found out why.

Through another friend, I discovered that the little dog, let’s call him ‘Bob’, was put down after snapping at the man’s grandchild who woke him up while he was sleeping in his basket.

To someone like me, who sees animals as I do people, (a soul is a soul no matter what the container), this is akin to murdering a human.

To be killed for exhibiting your natural behaviour when startled is an abomination. That’s like putting me down for swearing in the car when someone cuts me up on the motorway.

Failed by humans

The real crime here wasn’t ‘Bob’s’, it was the failure of his human to protect both child and dog from their own instincts. Few humans read a dogs body language well, so it’s insane to expect that of kids – or to expect them to stay away from dogs just because they’ve been told to. As adults, we need to manage the situation to keep them both safe.

Better safe than sorry 

Little Bear spent the best part of three days in the dog room last weekend while our granddaughters visited. He barks incessantly at kids and while I’m confident he’d never bite, I wouldn’t dream of putting my precious granddaughters or him on the Roulette wheel.

He had plenty of walks, free time to roam the house while we were out, plus he got his beloved sofa and humans back when the girls went to bed, but heart-breaking as it was hearing him howl, it was the safest thing to do.  

Respect dogs for who and what they are

To expect a dog not to act like a dog, well, that’s like asking a child not to act like a child. Dogs often do things we wish they wouldn’t, like hunt squirrels, roll in fox poo or lunge at other dogs, but they are dogs, doing what dogs do and when we take them into our homes and our lives, we need to understand and respect that.

Our job is to train them, control the environment to minimise unwanted behaviours and ultimately, keep them safe. And keeping them safe does not mean killing them when we get it wrong!

New Year (Doggie) Declutter? 

The second story was from the lovely rescue organisation, Friends of the Animals Wales, who, just three days into the new year, are full to capacity with surrendered dogs. They’re literally having to turn dogs away for want of space and foster families.

My mind reels even thinking about it. Are these older dogs shoved out to make room for Christmas puppies or are they just part of the new year clear out? How long I wonder before the Christmas puppies follow them to the rescue? Or did these older dogs growl or snap amid the stress of Christmas celebrations or exhibit some other doggie behaviour that wasn’t acceptable? My heart is breaking just thinking about how those little souls must feel to be turfed out and abandoned.

The bottom line is that, if you can’t respect a dog for who and what he/she is, then please, just don’t get one.

If you’re based in the UK and could offer a foster place to a dog in need, please apply via Friends of the Animals Wales. 

 

 

 

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Back in the summer I watched The Great Hack, a documentary about the insidious world of big tech, the systematic erosion of our privacy and the manipulation of the masses by companies such as Cambridge Analytica.

It confirmed most of my fears about the reality of social media and after watching it, I swore I’d take a break. Like a lot of people, it’s become a distraction and an interruption that I know I could live without. That I could be being subtly manipulated in the process just adds another reason to the long list of reasons for spending my time more wisely.

Twelve hours later, I was reminded of the flip slide to social media.

Bear takes a tumble 

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Little Bear during his ‘no walk’ week 

With Other Half away, the dogs by some miracle had granted me a rare lie in. Annie’s patience wore thin at around nine am and a polite woof reminded me that it was her breakfast time. Dogs fed and their garden wandering complete, I headed for the shower.

I knew instantly that there was something wrong with the tone of Bear’s whine. The baby gate at the top of the stairs is the only thing stopping him from ransacking Vizzy’s room and scoffing the cat food, so I’m used to him lying on the top step grumbling, but for reasons I can’t put into words, that morning, I knew something was very wrong.

In the three seconds it took me to run from the bedroom to the landing, it all happened.  As I grabbed the stairgate his head lolled back, gravity pulling it towards the bottom of the stairs and then, before I could save him, he was falling like a ragdoll, bouncing off the stairs as he went, before landing in a heap in Annie’s bed at the bottom.

Panic stations

Screaming after him, I reached him just as he started to come around. Obviously dazed and very confused, he sat up and looked at me as if to say, “what am I doing down here?” I raced him to the vet and sat with him in my arms in the waiting room trying to fend off the panic attack that I could feel hovering. A frequent occurrence since my mum passed last year, I had thought I’d learned to control them, but sitting there alone not knowing whether this would be another goodbye, was just horrendous.

By the time the vet called us, I’d breathed myself to, if not calmness, then at least a focused sense of control and Bear had recovered enough to bark at an unsuspecting Bassett Hound which I took to be a good sign.

Ticker trouble

By some miracle he’d not broken anything, but an ECG revealed an abnormality with his heart that would likely require a pacemaker. With orders to watch him closely, keep him calm (fat chance of that happening) and not walk him until the referral to the cardiologist, we headed home.

With my mind unhelpfully replaying on loop the scene of Bear falling, I turned first to Google and then, overwhelmed by technical papers I didn’t understand, the Mini Schnauzer UK Facebook group. I needed to know what to expect and most importantly, what to hope for.

Mini Schnauzer UK 

Screen shot of Facebook post asking for help for a sad looking Mini SchnauzerWhat I had wanted was information, but what I hadn’t bargained for was the outpouring of kindness that went with it. Along with the stories of other Mini’s who had had the same procedure and recommendations for specialists, total strangers sent him love and wished him a speedy recovery.  A couple of members sent me private messages, one even giving me her phone number if I wanted to chat about the procedure her dog had had.

With Other Half away and being effectively confined to the house on Bear watch, not knowing if he would collapse again at any point, these wonderful, caring people reminded me of just how lovely people are.

Twitter love 

Screenshot 2019-09-01 at 07.31.45The night before the referral appointment, sick with worry and unable to sleep, I tweeted into the void. But the void answered back – with love and prayers, crossed fingers and paws, funny giffs and cute pictures and the sweetest messages.

I read them to Other Half as we waited impatiently for our boy at the vet’s the next day. Then I took great delight in Tweeting the ‘all clear’ message once the cardiologist had confirmed that they could find nothing wrong with his heart over and above a slightly slow heartbeat.

The whole experience was so humbling and so touching that I was reminded that despite living in worrying times, where everyone is at pains to tell us how divided we are, people really can be truly incredible.

Have I changed my mind about social media? No. Like most people, I’m still very concerned about privacy and the use of social media to manipulate and control, so I’m rationing my use. What the experience has taught me though, is that the world really is full of amazingly kind people and thanks to social media, with all of its flaws, we now have more opportunity than ever to connect with them.

Thanks to everyone on Mini Schnauzer UK & Twitter for their love & kindness 

xxx

 

 

 

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At the start of the year, I decided that I wanted to do some volunteering. As our last ‘foster’ is still with us eight wonderful years later, Other Half was right to point out that something hands on in dog rescue was likely to end in tears – most likely mine as my campaign for dog number three was rightly thwarted by his good sense.  So when I got the opportunity to join the fundraising committee for Battersea’s #StrayOver campaign I jumped at the chance.

By spending the night as a ‘stray human’ and swapping a warm bed for a sleeping bag under the stars, teams raise money to support the thousands of cats and dogs who arrive at Battersea’s centres as strays each year.

So, on Friday I packed my newly acquired sleeping bag, my thermals and an emergency supply of homemade cookies and headed over the Battersea Old Windsor for my very first Stray Over.

Brilliantly organised, the event was tremendous fun, with talks, demos, a scavenger hunt and even a midnight, candlelit yoga class to keep spirits high. And of course, there were dogs! Current and previous residents mingled with the human strays and stoically put up with a near-constant stream of cuddles. They even provided the dawn wake-up call, although in all honesty, I’d not slept a wink.

Humbling

Despite the fun, the experience was incredibly humbling. Here we were having to endure a single night under the stars, in relatively mild weather in the safety of a car park overseen by staff and even a St John’s Ambulance team, but this is a reality that stray animals and homeless people have to endure every single day.

Even though the daytime temperature had peaked at around 17 degrees, the night was so bitterly cold that even with the benefit of my winter coat, hat and a hot water bottle, I was frozen. It is so hard to imagine having to endure that, along with the constant fear for your safety, night after long night. 

This of course is what Annie had to endure for two nights when she went missing all those years ago and Friday’s experience has given me new insight into what she must have gone through and why she was so shut down when we finally found her.

So, despite the cold and the lack of sleep, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat if it meant that more stray cats and dogs were able to find first safety and then the warm, loving, forever home that every animal deserves.  Roll on #StrayOver2020!

Support #StrayOver here

 

 

 

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Little Bear on sofa with his teddy

Little Bear’s first blog picture in 2010

Wow! The Little Bear Dog Blog is (drumroll please) NINE years young!  How can that possibly be?  But yep, sure enough, my very first ‘Hello World’ post is dated 21 February 2010 which means Little Bear was just two and a half when I started. Happy belated birthday little blog!

While I’ve not been the most consistent blogger over the years, I love that so much of our journey has been recorded.  Living and loving reactive dogs is a massive challenge and human nature means that we’re great at remembering the bad stuff, but not so great at remembering the good things.

In the early days I was definitely on the quest for the ‘cure’ – the training method, diet, supplement, harness, magic talisman (I added that for effect, but I got really close to being tempted!), that would transform my highly strung super-sensitive nutcase into the chilled dog I had so wanted.

It took me a long time and a lot of learning to be okay with the fact that he would never be a ‘take-anywhere dog’, not because I’d ‘failed’ in some way in not finding the holy grail of dog behaviour modification or scrimped on his training hours or socialisation, but because that’s just not how he’s wired.

I certainly made plenty of mistakes along the way, but looking back, I think we’ve done okay.  Suzanne, a very dear friend of mine who, thanks to her own journey with her own super-reactive dog is now a brilliant trainer, joined us in the woods for a walk the other week with her chilled Cockapoo Barney.

Watching LB meet lots of new dogs (pre-vetted by me obviously), play in puddles, carry sticks and clown around with her lad, she gave us the highest compliment ever, “Wow, he’s just like a ‘normal dog’, she said.  Now THAT I’m going to remember. Well done Little Bear! x

 

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Little Bear with his pals 2019 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Wotcha mean they may run out of biscuits?’ 

With just 54 days to Brexit, it’s still hard to believe how we got here. I had to drive to a client meeting on the morning of the referendum result and even though the traffic was much lighter than normal on the M25, everyone seemed to be crawling along as if in a shared daze of disbelief.

 

As John Humphrey wittered away on Radio Four, I mourned the freedom of movement that I’d not yet gotten around to enjoying and the dream of one day retiring to somewhere quaint and arty in Italy.

A dogs dinner 

But what then loomed largest in my mind was the fear of the utter bloody chaos to come. We’ve been braiding ourselves into the fabric of the EU for over forty years; that untangling ourselves without having to get the big scissors out and chop off a few limbs seemed to be a blindingly obvious reason why most people would vote to remain. Oh foolish fool that I am.

The dogs have taken it all in their stride of course. Bear doesn’t care for the heat so never fancied Italy anyway and Annie doesn’t like long car trips, but on the subject of interrupted supply chains they are far more animated.

Pet prepping 

And that’s why our garage is now like a pet shop. It’s also why we’ve got enough of their essential medicines squirrelled away for the next six months too. Next on the list is a nutritional supplement, just in case we have to resort to home cooked food – a contingency measure I dare say they’re crossing their paws for.

They also relaxed a bit more after I mastered a few batches of bake-your-own dog treats, though to be fair, the acceptance bar is pretty low as they even scoffed the ones I nuked to a near crisp.

But I’m not alone in my ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best’ approach. When I joined the 48% Preppers Facebook group a few weeks ago there were 3,000 members – today there are close to 9,000 and looking after our fur babies if it all goes south is a hot topic.

While our two are somewhat mollified by my preparations, if asked, I’m sure they’d have just one word on the topic – ‘BrexShit’ – and I really couldn’t agree more.

On that note, I’m off to order them some new collar tags

 

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Thanks Growlees for the picture – please look out for my order!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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