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Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

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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Annie the Labrador laying on duvet on the floor looking up at her mum

Finally….!

In the on-going conversation between humans and dogs, dogs are by far the better listeners.  If we were measuring it in terms of reading ages, I think they would be on Dostoyevsky and we’d still be on the Ladybird Classics.

I haven’t worked out what I do differently yet, but Bear will start sulking and sitting in the window to keep watch for my return, even before my overnight bag has made it out of the cupboard.

Annie, normally a frenzy of arthritic acrobatics when I so much as look in the direction of their harnesses, doesn’t even stir from her bed on the days when Bear and I are heading out for an extended walk in the woods. When he’s harnessed up and ready to go, she’ll calmly go and sit by the fridge waiting for what we call her ‘consolation carrot’.  How does she know? She reads me like a book.

Are you sitting comfortably? Er, actually no… 

Lately though her communication skills have really ratched up a gear. Other half and I have been trying for months to get her to join us in the living room of an evening. There was a time when evenings meant all four of us squished happily onto the sofa, but since her arthritis has started bothering her, Annie will no longer jump up and won’t settle even if we lift her on and off.

There’s no denying that she loves her crate with its three super-soft crate pads and the thick duvet that make up her bed, but her crate is in the dog room and we of course, want her with us.

We tried moving the spare crate into the living room but she wouldn’t settle so after a fortnight of it gathering dust, it went back to the garage. I bought her a new memory foam Orvis bed, which after a week of her flatly refusing to even put a paw on it, I reluctantly returned. I even bought her a second fabric day bed which is almost exactly the same as the one that she still uses, just not as squished and flattened – but this too was found wanting.  And yes, we’ve tried just shutting the door but that just gets us woofed at until we relent.

Breakthrough

I don’t know what made me think of it, but a few weeks ago her duvet was hanging over the living room door drying after a wash. I folded it double and put it on the floor in front of the sofa and her eyes lit up. She hurried over, turned around twice and plonked herself down. She glanced up at me and if she could speak, I swear she would have said, ‘Finally!’ She lay down and went to sleep and she’s been curled up on her duvet in the living room every evening since.

Her communication skills don’t stop there though. Last night, I forgot to put her duvet back in her crate at bedtime.  As I was about to head up the stairs she stalked out of the dog room, stood on the duvet in the living room, wagged at me and nosed the duvet. Good slave that I am, I returned it to her crate while she watched, only for her to barge me out of theway the second I was done and settle in for the night.  Who says that dogs can’t talk? Or that humans can’t (eventually) learn to listen?

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Driving home from work the other evening, I saw what looked to me to be ‘the four ages of dog.’  Glacially-slow temporary traffic lights meant that for once I had the time to watch the parade.

It was a beautiful summer evening, one of the few we’ve had this year in the UK, and it was prime ‘after work but just before dinner’ dog walking time. With two reactive dogs, we learned a long time ago to avoid those peak times but it’s always lovely to see the neighbourhood dogs out enjoying their evening stroll.

The four ages of ‘dog’ 

Alternatively bounding around in circles, chewing its lead and then sitting down and refusing to budge, was a golden Labrador puppy.   Behind them, I saw a young husky towing the beefy-looking chap on the other end of the lead in his wake.

Then there was my neighbour with her cool as a cucumber Pointer who was loping at her side and stopping every now and again to sniff and lift his leg. But then suddenly there was a lump in my throat, because the next dog I saw was a very elderly chocolate Labrador. Unlike the other dogs, he trailed about 10 ft behind his people, who were so deep in conversation that they seemed almost to have forgotten why they were out.

His tongue lolled out of his grey muzzle, his gait bore the tell-tale signs of arthritis and he looked like every step was a decision. When he stopped, sometimes to sniff but other times just it seemed to rest, his people turned and called him on. He’d break into an awkward jog to join them but within seconds they had outpaced him again and he was left watching their backs and then hurrying once again to catch up.

We spend so long teaching our puppies and young dogs to walk to heel – to walk with us.  I think the very least we can do in their dotage is to remain by their sides – just as they did for us.

Red Fox Labrador Annie sitting in a field 'smiling'

Our Annie – 11 years young but still loving her walks

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This is Little Bear hiding under my desk thanks to a raging summer storm. He’s a shaking, panting ball of stress & the worst thing is there’s not much I can do to help him.

He’s had some KalmAid and I’ve done some T-Touch but now all we can do is ride it out until the storm passes.

Old School
When he was a puppy the old trainer told me to ignore “such silly behaviour” (her words not mine) to avoid reinforcing it. This may work for jumping up, but the idea that ignoring an animal in obvious distress would somehow help them deal with their fear is not just unkind it’s misguided.

LB is in no state to think or learn as he quivers and shakes under my desk at the loud claps of thunder that to a dogs sensitive ears must be unbearable. So the only learning he’ll be doing today is that there’s a safe and comforting lap when he needs one, legs to hide behind and soft words to do what little they can to reassure him.

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Where's Bear?

Where’s Bear?

With the warm weather persisting, walking the dogs has become an exercise in trying to dodge the heat. We were lucky today because the morning stayed cool right up until lunchtime but even so, Little Bear still needed to take some time out to have a rest.

His favourite medium of choice is clover, which of course prompts a swift chorus of ‘Roll me over in the clover’ from yours truly, but failing that, he’s quite partial to some long grass.  He disappeared so completely into it this morning that it took a while to find him. If he keeps this up I’ll have to start a Schnauzer version of Where’s Wally.

The clover shot is for pure cuteness.

Clover Bear

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