Saturday, 30 May 2015

Touring and traumas

We set off for our second touring gig on the bank holiday Monday. The weather was okay and the location picturesque but I could not shake a feeling of unease which grew with each solitary Magpie we passed. Not generally given to superstition, the sight of a single Magpie always has me asking after his family and looking around hoping to see his other half.
Trying to shake the feeling off, we set up with relative ease, managed to avoid a terrier escape and went off to explore. The presence of several Rabbits meant that our walk was a little stressful. Trying to contain an excitable dog and stop her from crawling commando style under barbed wire was no easy task. We cut things a little short went back to the van to heat up a preprepared curry then took a gentle stroll to the pub. The locals were very warm and welcoming and the ale was very acceptable according to my other half. Next day was my birthday which as I approach 50, I hope they slip by largely unnoticed. We did a favourite walk around the village of Thorpe. Perfect for Muffy as she can run across fields fairly freely. (she has a long lead as she knows 'come' perfectly well but is a terrier and has periods of unexplained deafness.
I check my phone often as facebook tells everybody that it is your birthday. The posts can disappear down your timeline quickly and I feel a big social obligation to respond to everybody who took the trouble to say 'happy birthday' with a like to acknowledge there greeting. At 2.17pm, Suzanne Archie Cape, wished me a happy birfday (Not a spelling mistake, it is really Muffy's sweetheart Archie, in cognito) I remember feeling slightly uneasy. Nothing sinister, no great premonition, just wondering if Suz was okay. It seemed like not a typical message from her. I actually checked her page for any more clues that all was not well. There was not much posted that day but otherwise nothing. I felt a bit relieved when shortly after, she posted about 2 Cairn terriers looking for a home. It felt as if normal service had been resumed. Her pages are full of lost and homeless dogs. 
It seemed however that all was not well. At some time after the post about the terriers, which was 2.30ishpm. Neighbours went round as Archie had been barking frantically and they found Suz in the garden. She had passed away by the time they found her. The cause of this tragedy has yet to be identified. Suz was not very much older than me and looked fit and healthy. 
If anyone is in any doubt that our dog accounts are not real, you only have to look at the tributes. The grief, disbelief and bewilderment is overwhelming. A page set up to raise funds for Cairns in her memory, has already made over £1000
Suz was just one of those people who had something that made others warm to her instantly. There are times when I feel that I am a high functioning person with autism. I feel bad about it but sometimes my words of condolence are hollow and I wonder if I have no ability to feel. This is not one of those times. Tears have been close to the surface since I returned to the caravan after a dinner out on the 27th May, to see that many of Muffy's friends had candles for there profile picture. I soon found a post saying what had happened but had to read it 3 times before it registered. Initially I thought it was Archie who had met with some tragedy. To add to the sadness, myself and many of her friends had private messages which got deleted with Archie's original account. I still have a few when we corresponded through her craft page but have lost the majority of them. I was soon going to be the proud owner of some terrier cushion covers which she made so beautifully. I feel sad that she never had the chance to finish them as it would have been a special reminder of her.
So nothing to be done on this tour but to acknowledge the sadness and reflect on how quickly things can change, to think about the family she left behind and what they must be going through and to try and honour her memory by aspiring to be the person she was. Rest in peace Suz, will will miss you and of course Archie who said goodnight to all every night without fail. How I wish I had responded to everyone but mostly I didn't see them until the morning :-(
As for the Magpies, they still followed me around this morning but the sorrow has come and can't be undone. I don't even bother to salute them. Towards the end of our walk, however, a pair flew over and gave a little aerial display. A reminder that after the rain, the sun will surely reappear.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Hear me Raw

One thing I didn't think would be a major consideration when getting a dog, was food. I once had a cat who lived a long happy life, enjoying stuff from the supermarket. 
It seems that everybody had some advice on feeding and the dirty looks hubby got when he picked up some Bakers was enough to get me researching frantically. The last thing I needed was to feed my little spitfire something which may increase hyperactivity or make her ill. 
Research, however, just served to increase my confusion and raise more questions. I never realised how many dogs seem to have issues with allergy and intolerance. I eventually came across the all about dog food site (link to the right) which provided me with enough information to decide on what to feed. I never had a issue with 'would Muffy like the food?' Muffy likes her worm tablets. I really feel for owners with finicky dogs. It is hard enough to find a good food without wondering if your pooch will eat it. 
Initially we decided to feed a cold pressed dry food. Although it was always eaten with enthusiasm, I began to worry that a single food would be boring and more human treats slipped into her diet. I then began to worry about dental hygiene as sometimes her breath could knock you sideways. We introduced a wet food which went down well but I still felt the diet was a bit boring. I had been reading a little about raw food so after some favourable reviews from others with small terriers, I decided to mix it up and try some.
Muffin approved and despite fears about a higher protein food causing hyperactivity, she showed no signs of behavioural changes. I was quite surprised to be asked on more than one occasion if raw feeding made them vicious. I am not sure what the logic behind that is. I don't get her to go out hunting for her own cartons of frozen food. She gets the odd bone but generally speaking, I like to keep things simple. The food is complete and conveniently packaged.
She now has a range of about four different foods and I am little less neurotic about her having the odd unhealthy treat. She generally does well and after close monitoring, we seem to have got the potions right.
I did, however just have a reminder that I should stay vigilant with the weight checks. Having returned from an area heavily populated with Deer, I did a quick body check for ticks and was surprised to feel her ribs with a little more ease than usual. A jump on the scales revealed that one of us had gained after our short holiday. It wasn't Muffy unfortunately. She had lost a whole kilo! I felt like a terrible owner. How could I have not noticed. I felt even worse as I realised that she had been scavenging and ignoring 'leave it' on our walks for the last couple of weeks. As I had not changed portion sizes, I can only put it down to our really long walks on holiday and the fact that I had run out of her higher fat Raw food for a while and had been mostly feeding a much lower fat one which seemed to produce twice as much pea filled poop.
She is back on the higher fat one now and I will certainly up the potions if we walk more. Lessoned learned. Regular weigh ins required.
Finding the right food, is no easy task. It sometimes does seem easier just to trust that what is on the shelves is okay but all of our dogs are different and some of what is on the shelves in downright rubbish. It is very much trial and error and trying to work out what is right for your dog and your budget is not for the fainthearted. Muffy isn't much help. Whatever goes in her dish it always ends the same way!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sockmageddon and Max the shredder.

These days, Muffin is much less bolshy than she used to be. She has come to understand her life with a family pretty well and she mostly knows what the boundaries are. 
Every now and again, however, she will demonstrate her displeasure about something in typical terrier fashion. It is a little bit half hearted mostly. Failure to let her go up to the bath when someone is in it, often leads to some laundry being dispatched from the airer or a shoe being dragged around the kitchen,
Lately she has very much been enjoying, basking in the morning sun beaming through the front windows. I generally let her in after breakfast, on the understanding that it is too early to bark. She does seem to understand times when barking is a bit more acceptable. 
Weekends I have a break from the drink making duties and hubby brings me coffee in bed. Yesterday as I was dozing, I was rudely awakened by furious barking, indicating that the 'no barking this early' rule had been shamelessly violated. A rebellious terrier was then banished to the back room while we had our drink in bed. 
After ignoring some barkey requests to let her back into the sun shine, we heard a general rumpus which we assumed was a frustrated 'wall of death' stunt around the sofas.  All was soon calm again and we enjoyed our first cuppa of the day.
Having ventured down to make a refill, hubby returned with a look on his face that said some naughtiness had occurred. 'What was she up to' I asked, not really sure I wanted to know. 'Sockmageddon' he tells me with an action man eagle eyed look. Apparently every sock on the airer had been removed and relocated. The back room looked like somebody had blown up a sock draw. Luckily the rest of the day was uneventful. It is a shame I can't say the same about my friends day with her dog Max. 
He had happily munched his way through a newspaper and created so much papiermache that his jaws locked together. It is unclear what happened really as the vet said, he had never seem anything like it before. Poor Max had to have an anesthetic and have his jaws opened surgically. I doubt Max will be getting near a paper again. A £150 vet bill and some very worried owners ensued from his chewing, shredding exploits. I probably don't need to mention this but yes, Max is a terrier!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

A Wirehaired Foxairn smooth Jackapoo

Muffy's facebook friends sometimes share the E card stating something along the lines of 'a Cockerpoo etc is not a breed but a mutt.'  Muffy (with tongue firmly in cheek) will respond with outrage and insist she is a Wirehaired Foxairn Smooth Jacapoo. 
A DNA analysis , revealed that she is about a quarter wire fox terrier, an eighth smooth fox terrier, then a general mishmash of breeds including Jack russell terrier and Cairn terrier. She looks like a small odd looking Cairn or a large grey Yorkie. In the early days, we sought help and got it in abundance, from the Cairn forum, as lots of people thought she may be a Cairn cross. A lovely bunch of people, they have overlooked the fact that she is only a little bit Cairn and still welcome her.  
Muffy's friends are absolutely right about crosses not being a new breed of course and it seems a little odd to me that people will pay lots of money like they will for a purebred dog when the shelters are full of mixed and crossed breed dogs. 
The way I see it whether pure breed or mixed breed, all dogs should be afforded equal worth and value. I understand that if you have a soft spot for a particular breed that you may have to pay more because it will be harder to find and more in demand. That is just how the market works like it or not. I don't feel that the money exchanged for a dog should in anyway be related to her actual worth. I paid the standard adoption fee for Muffin and would not part with her for any sum offered. I am sure all the pure breed owners and the purposely cross bred dogs, owners feel exactly the same.
I am sure there are many who would have written Muffy off as an unhappy accident with some dodgy genes. The way I see it, she is just a small dog trying her best to cope in a world she doesn't always understand. Yes she has some anxieties and came to us with some less than desirable behaviours. We found that the biggest aid to calming things down was to accept her for who she is and respond accordingly. Just the same as humans, dogs have insecurities, emotional struggles, physical differences or disabilities. Sadly it sometimes feels like we live in a world that has a narrow set of criteria and if we don't fit it, life can be harder. It seems to me that half of the issues are created by an intolerant and impatient society anyway. A little time and understanding can go an really long way.
I do not in anyway, apportion blame people who choose to pay a lot of money for what is essentially a mixed breed dog. I think that is a predictable response, in a commerce based society, to concerns about health issues in some breeds. If something is cleverly marketed, there will be customers. We are all guilty of falling for the sales pitch. As with all decisions to have a dog they are often heart led and once a pup has your heart there is no going back. I just feel sad that our poor dogs may yet again suffer as more designer 'breeds' are reproduced for profit while the shelters fill up. I hope that one day going to the shelter will be the norm when we would like to extend our families. In an ideal world there would be no need for shelters but I am a realist.
There are, of course, lots of arguments and points of view when it comes to dogs, breeds and breeding. I love that we all have the freedom to express our opinions, but if Muffin and I hear anybody implying that any dog, or human for that matter, deserves any less respect, love and dignity than another, you will find us in the corner, paws and fingers in ears, singing and howling, la la la we're not listening.
Mutt she is, or as I prefer to say 'terrier cocktail' (with a dash of German shepherd, great pyrenees and poodle) We defend your right to call your dog whatever you want as long as it isn't late for dinner. Be proud, whatever genes created your precious pooch. They are all wonderfully unique and special.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Facebook Police

Muffin has her own facebook profile. She has a sweetheart named Archie who is a Cairn Westie cross and is in a complicated relationship with a boston terrier from Croydon called Lola. (Archie doesn’t mind) She has many short hairy friends. Roo, Scruffy, Biba, Murphy, Charley, Maisey, Holly, Daisy and Bella to name but a few. They keep each other informed about all the dog news and the tricks that they get up to. The dogs even have their very own abbreviations. There is BOL (Bark out loud) WMT (Wag my tail) TTTP (talk to the paw) The list goes on.
They share posts about lost and homeless dogs and support animal causes. Muffy even attended a trial once to determine the fate of another small terrier called Nellie. It was alleged, she killed a baby plover. Poor Nellie got sentenced to life (on the lead) Muffy was not happy with the verdict. Clearly some of the jury had been nobbled with sausages.
Periodically, there appears to be a cull and a few friends disappear. It is terribly sad because our doggy facebook pages are a lovely diary of our furry friends lives and a chance to connect with others who feel the same about their canine pals. It also stops our friends who are not so dog crazy, from being bored by our countless posts about our dogs on our own pages. Behind every dog there is a warm human who makes our world a nicer and funnier place to live.
Can’t you leave our dogs alone facebook. We all know that dogbook is not the same thing. We don’t hurt anyone and there is lots of fundraising and rescue work done. As Muffy’s little friends would say ‘Grrrrrrrrrrrrr and Pffffffttttttt to faceypoobook!’ How dare you say we are not real!

Terrier on tour

You may have seen from the Merry christmas video, that Muffy fancies herself as a bit of a singing diva. However I am not suggesting that she is touring to entertain anybody but herself.
We tend not to think about the kennel incident. When we decided that our home needed a dog, we had already booked a holiday abroad and the children would have been most unhappy if we cancelled. We told ourselves she would be fine in kennels for a week but in truth, leaving her there was gut wrenching. I spent most of the time worrying and we pretty much knew by the time we picked her up that there would be no more kennels. We had a brief shot at leaving her overnight with a home boarder but it didn't go too well. To be fair, I did advise that it was unwise to leave her unsupervised in the garden if she didn't require any landscaping doing and how was Muffy to know that it is only acceptable to play towel tug at home with the old towels and not your dog sitters best towels.
All in all, Caravanning seemed like a good solution to keep everybody happy (by everybody I mean everydoggy) Not wanting to spend loads and realise it isn't for us, we purchased a 20 year old van and tentatively set off on our touring adventure.
So far the 'tour' involves a long weekend to a park full of deer, 40 minutes car ride away. Much walking took place and a good deal of sniffing. Not wishing to recreate the Fenton experience, Muffy stayed on her long lead and did very well indeed meeting other dogs. She was also very nice to a look alike terrier on the site. She was off lead at this point however, as she saw an opportunity to escape while we were flapping about the flood! (note to self, turn off the taps and lift the sink cover before connecting the water)
Despite the teething problems, a good time was had by all. We are looking forward to our next gig but need time to recover from the last.

Touring is so exhausting!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Birds bearing gifts

I think I mentioned that Muffin is a clever beast. I don't really have any experience with other dogs to compare her to but she has impressed me on more than one occasion. Week one AT (after terrier) she attempted to steal my breakfast by frantically barking at the back door so I would investigate. When this failed, she pretended to lose something under the sofa. As I searched in vain, she had a good tuck in to my porridge. She is more well mannered these days and doesn't try to steal food from the family.
She also uses music cues to alert her to when an advert animal is going to appear and gets herself in position for a good bark. She once barked all the way through the 'murder she wrote intro and we realised she was hyped up waiting for puppies to appear out of a packet of digestives! She will run at speed from any location in the house when she hears 'rice rice baby' 
Another big pleasure for the girl is bathtime. One day when the human male was taking a bath. I had successfully ignored the whining at the door for a good while. She then went to get her towel, dragged it in and continued her whining. I was so impressed, I almost let her up. 
Another time she took it a stage further. She generally waits expectantly by the sink while I run it after a walk. Then she jumps in and splashes around to clean her paws. On this occasion, I was on the phone for rather a long time I was surprised to see her jump out, fetch her towel off the radiator and dry her own feet. Shame about the muddy prints from the sink to the radiator but gotta love the girl for trying.
Her latest rub also show initiative. She no longer tries to steal food from the humans but has decided that the birds are fair game. She will wait quietly in the yard until she sees them fly over. If one has a foody treasure, she will bark frantically which often causes the bird to drop its morsel to an expectant terrier. Sadly she has blown her own scam now. On bacon days, I throw the fat on the garage roof for the birds. She is indignant about this outrage that she can't contain herself when they land for the fatty goodness. They have got wise to it now and avoid flying directly over her yard!
Composed 25.09.14

Frontline and Ted's bottom

A couple of angry snaps in the tail direction, indicated that its probably frontline time again. This has to be done a bit sneakily as Muffin is not really impressed about having the oily compound applied. Worming is no problem for a dog that will eat anything offered to her. 'here's a nice tasty treat for you Muffy' 
'Thanks very much, nom nom nom' Goodbye any internal lodgers. 
External lodgers are harder to evict. I am pretty sure that my intentions are being psychically transmitted some how. The morning scratch after frozen kong routine is pretty much set in stone. This is when I had planned my frontline attack. She is generally open to a little grooming at this time. Pulling out some bobby's buttons, untangling the armpit hair, general body check for lumps and bumps. I had my dropper hidden away ready for action. The kong was attacked with gusto then discarded when empty. I waited for the look requesting an invite to join me on the sofa but it never came. In fact she slunk back to her own sofa (yes you read that right) and settled down looking grumpy. This is so out of routine that she must have known what I was planning. 
Our morning routine is always the same. First of all we go out at 6.30am. This time of the morning is reserved for dogs who may be a little less socially acceptable than the average dog which is the case with us, or owners who have got a bit fed up of being told where they are going wrong with their dog. Ted, a beautiful golden cockapoo, falls into the later category. He is selectively deaf when off the lead, but his human is always being told off for not letting him off. Muffin is also not allowed off the lead near other dogs as her fear reactivity with strange dogs, may cause her to go and start a fight. Her anxiety levels at such a time also tends to lead to hearing loss. Luckily the 6.30 dogs are mostly friend dogs. Normally I let Muffy decide which way we will go in the morning. Left is to the field where she might see a friend dog or occasionally she might be confronted with a new scary dog. Right and we just go as far as the waste bin where she will leave her deposit and head home for breakfast. Usually if she has had fun with a friend she will want to go back to the field the next day. Yesterday we saw an unknown dog so she decided to go right this morning. Ted was also heading that way as he and Muffin have been very interested in a huge mound of earth that has appeared in the field. He had a bath and his human was keen for him to stay clean. He was sporting a fine burberry jacket to keep him dry. Muffin doesn't really understand clothes. She knew it was Ted but was clearly bemused by his attire. She tried to make sure that it was indeed Ted by sniffing his bottom for an extra long time just to be certain. Ted was very patient with her, as he so often is. Seemingly happy that it was the Ted she knew and is largely indifferent to, she strutted on her way, left several p mails and came home for her breakfast. Anyway I am digressing which is normal. After breakfast, as mentioned before, she has a kong filled with softened gentle and frozen. This keeps her happy while I consume a much needed coffee. Usually before I have finished my drink she is up placing her bottom on my arm with a backwards looks which asks ' please scratch my tailbase' I am very well trained at this point so I obliged of course. This goes on until she has had an all over scratch. Usually her male human emerges at this point. She gets a morning flattery session about how beautiful she is then waits patiently while he constructs his cheese sandwhch. Just as she is munching a small cheesy treat, the teen boy emerges and make his ham sandwich (Yes we are all very predictable) Muffy gets another fuss and a nibble of ham. She then almost wills us to go out the door so she can have her gravy bone. Although the weekend routine is different, this week day routine remains the same. I cannot remember a time when she did not come for her scratch. I am planning to frontline with reinforcements after tea now. She must know that all thoughts are on hold for now. She has been demanding scratches all the time I have been typing. Well an itchy dog needs her frontline. Sorry Muffin. Just get it over with. The bake off is on tonight, You can watch it in peace. 
Composed 24.09.14

The spectacle thief

Nobody told me that terriers are compulsive thieves and destroyers of stuffed things. It tends to be a bit more half hearted these days but whenever she manages to slip in the bedroom (Usually off limits) Muffin feels the need to steal an item and run. If it was down to me, she would probably be on the bed by now but that was the deal I made when dear husband finally agreed that we could have a dog. However she is now welcomed by him for some weekend fusses every now and again and when we are all on holiday.
Today I was feeling a bit giddy and sick. I tried to put away the likely targets for her looting, socks , pants, miniature muffy bear and left the door open. I figured that the weekend is our time and if I can't get up she can come to me. I then slept the sleep of the sick and woke up some time later to find her curled into me under the covers. Ah I thought, my little grey angel. Then I went to put on my spectacles only to discover that they had disappeared.  After frantically searching fearing that she had consumed them glass and all, I found them buried in her pebble patch which also doubles as a toilet. She must have hidden them somewhere in the interim as the back door wasn't open while I was in bed. Happily they are in tact unlike the doggie bed I was storing for a friend once.
Composed 27.09.14

Adventures and anniversaries

Yesterday was Halloween. It is also known as gotcha day in our house. Muffin wasn't supposed to come home on halloween but she got sick in kennels and had to stay in. It was a ridiculosly emotional day as I reflected on our years together. There have been tears of frustration and equally of joy. There has been much laughter and a fair few embarrassing moments. My skin is a little thicker than it was. I think it is fair to say that Muffin exploded into our lives and our hearts. 
Looking back at the photos, it is clear to see that there have been changes in her appearance. On day one, she was a mostly black, greasy little thing with some bald patches. She has now paled into a steely grey colour.
She was spoiled and adored by cyber friends and friends in the real world. She volunteers to work with me so the adults with learning disabiliites I work with can come out dog walking. They treated her to some anniversary goodies and liver cake.
She was also treated to a long trek with her male human. They went all around and through the woods. She generally stays on the lead in the woods due to her hearing going if she sees a tempting sludge hole to wallow in. She was trusted to be off lead out of the woods, as she is usually impecably behaved. She goes back on if we see another dog but will always wait when asked. Yesterday however, she decided to have a solo jaunt around the woods. As they walked around the edge she shot off and disappeared. The human male was calling for a good 15 minutes until he heard the familiar jingle that lets us know she is near and she appeared like nothing had happened. 
Composed 01.11.14

A walk in the wrong direction

Muffin is a dog who knows which way she wants to go. She is a creature of habit. While she clearly enjoys exploring new places when we get in the car, if we leave from the house she will walk the route most travelled. Yesterday she was taken in the opposite direction to her usual walk. She seemed game as there might be some interesting smells on the dog field. However as we moved towards the allotments, the penny dropped and she realised that she was most probably on route to the vet. A this point, she stopped walking and decided not to be complicit in this outrage.
Human male had to carry her about half the way! She seemed to enjoy the ride but not so keen on the destination. One or two dogs and its usually safe to enter. However there were several already waiting so a stressed out terrier had to wait outside until it was her turn. 
When her name was called, she went in telling off a couple of dogs on route and left her usual calling card, a small puddle. This only happens at the vets now. She managed to jerk back into the needle as she had her booster but remained fairly good natured as she had her ears, weight and back legs checked. All seems fine. She is athletic and lithe apparently. She hops rather a lot particularly with right back raised but her knees were quite firmly set so the vet thought it was just a quirk she has (one of many) 
The field was pretty empty on the way home so she had a good game of fetch. Hopefully it helped her forget about the vet until the next time we walk the wrong way!
Composed 04.11.14