Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's a beautiful day

The sun is shining and there isn't a cloud in the sky. Finally, summer has arrived. So you'd think that Mollie would leap out of bed, grab a tennis ball and demand to play - but no, she refused to get out of bed. After being called a few times she reluctantly staggered downstairs and flumped onto the beanbag, from whence she gave me a hard stare before tucking her nose under a hind leg and muttering "hrrrrmmmmph" - remember the sound that hovercrafts make when they land and 'deflate'? It's extraordinarily similar. Obviously the cats were obliged to eat her breakfast rather than let it go to waste.

Mollie didn't shift again until it was time to go next door. When I opened our front door she had a brief moment of excitement as there was a strange dog wandering past so she obviously had to run out and chase it, which was rather worrying; luckily there was no traffic! On the way to the neighbour's she was still barking smugly to herself... but once there she went straight upstairs to bed.

Have I mentioned that Mollie doesn't do mornings?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Better to have loved and lost

On the D For Dog forum, in Prince's goodbye thread, Graham says:

It's so sad in many ways, that we all seem to have some experience of the gravity of such a loss - and many of us very recently.

It got me thinking.

Loss and grief are the price we pay for opening ourselves to love, but love is it's own reward. The trick is to not close your heart because of the pain of loss, but to hold on to the memory of love and so allow it into your heart again.

To quote Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem In Memoriam:

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

So many people say silly things like "I'll never love again" or "there'll never be another ". They're right about the second one - there will never be another Prince, or Cleo, or Timmy, or Lady or (in my case) Duke, or
Nisse - but each dog, and therefore each love is different. Some people ridicule the love that can exist between owners and their pets and think that such owners are somehow warped, and that that love could be better 'spent'. Personally, I think that the more you open your heart, the more love you find that you have to give, and the more you receive in return. In fact, pets are so good at opening people's hearts and healing their minds that Animal Assisted Therapy is becoming more and more popular and achieving amazing results.

I would turn what Graham's said around - the fact that so many of us have experienced the gravity of such a loss, although painful, shows that we can love. It shows that our hearts haven't hardened, in spite of the terrible things that are on the TV and the internet daily. That gives me hope.

How scary is this???

A member of the D For Dog forum has posted this very scary link. It gives a list of 75 breeds of dog which are banned in some states of the US. It not only includes the usual suspects - Staffie, Mastiff, EBT (all of which are prone to whine and drop at your feet, paws in air, for a belly rub) - but also Fox Terrier, Airedale Terrier, Springer Spaniel, Newfoundland!!
Newfoundlands are bred to rescue humans, for goodness sake!! I've never heard of anyone being savaged by one - you're more likely to get accidentally sat on or drooled on... and as for the Fox and Airedale terriers - why them and not the JRT? Because they can be vicious too - I mean, yes at one end of the spectrum we have Mollie, who will just sit and look bemused as a small child attempts to pull her leg off, but at the other end there are JRTs who will bite you just because you looked at them funny. Or rather, because you looked at them at all. Or because you happened to walk somewhere within half a mile of them and your trouser leg looked tasty. And yes, I speak from personal experience here.
I'm sure my friend Helena will be mortified to learn that her dogs are banned in the parts of the US, possibly in the very states that she once lived in.
It's madness, utter madness - politicians scrambling to do something, anything to make it look like they've got control of the situation - a situation, incidentally which only exists in newspapers and on television. Wouldn't it be better to bring in compulsory dog licensing, chipping/tattooing and socialisation/obedience? Oh no, that would be a sensible thing to do, wouldn't it...

Sunday, July 29, 2007


We conducted an experiment this weekend - we left Mollie overnight. We rather selfishly went to Spanfest - Steeleye Span's first ever festival of their very own, at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk. There weren't any camping tickets left and anyway Tracy was on a course yesterday (Advanced Back with Dan Stretton) so we drove down both Friday and yesterday. Dogs not allowed, so we left her with the neighbour. When we got home (2.30 Friday, 3.30 this morning) we wedged the living room door open so that as soon as the neighbours let her out in the morning she could jump the fence and come and find us.
Yesterday morning she came in just as Trace was getting ready to go out - in fact she ran past her initially! We all had big cuddles and then Mollie wouldn't leave my side all day. Yesterday evening when I took her next door she snuck through their front door and ran home! I had to catch her and hand her over, she looked really pathetic as I walked away...and this morning when she came home and found us in bed she was very excited but calmed down quite quickly and snuggled down under the duvet and went to sleep.
I think, overall, it went well - certainly in terms of leaving Mollie. Because she's with the neighbours virtually every day it's a natural extension for her to stay overnight, and it sounds like she wriggles much less in their bed than she does in ours..they enjoyed having her, too (toasty feet!). My only regret of the whole weekend is really that we couldn't stay over, as the drive home from Long Melford in the dark and rain this morning was hard work - but doable, and there wasn't much in the way of traffic. The festival had a good atmosphere, the surroundings were amazing and the music was mostly great too.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gone, but not forgotten

Just read on Graham's blog that Prince was put to sleep this morning. I think when you know an animal that well you can tell when they've given up and it's time for you to give up too and I join with others in applauding Graham for all he did for Prince, and for making the right decision when the time came.
I shall miss reading about the little fella, he was a real character and I'm sure he'll be sorely missed. Thank-you, Graham, for sharing his last weeks with us.

RIP little one, and I sincerely wish Graham all the best.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Water Baby

On Tuesday, we went to Sence Valley Forest Park again - and this time we took a camera. It was warm out and it's a 2 mile drive, so by the time we got there Mollie was starting to overheat slightly. We threw the ball as we walked (off and on - when produced from a pocket and squeaked it provides an excellent distraction from other dogs) and by the time we got to the first bridge, Mollie was panting hard. I walk down to the 'stream' to see if I could persuade her to have a drink, but she decided that was enough and flung herself in. We spent a few minutes chucking the ball from one bank to the other, with Mollie swimming across the current, then walked further down to where the path slopes down towards the water, and Trace threw the ball - and off went Mollie. As you can see, she really enjoys swimming now!! When we took her to Bosworth Water Park in April, it took several attempt to get her in the water and she wasn't very confident at all. Since then she's really toned up and got stronger and generally more confident and that obviously helps with the swimming as well.

There are some more photos here, in a slide show. The white gravel in some of the photos shows where the paths were eroded by the flood, and the straw across the path shows where the water was up to at the weekend.

Back in the car, Mollie (with the aid of her wet fur) managed to slip her harness and escape onto the parcel shelf. She then spent almost the entire trip from Ibstock to Loughborough (we went to visit some friends) drying herself and nesting. Here she is drying her muddy face on the shelf - her tail was wagging so hard that it's just a blur!!

The rear windscreen is now a bit filthy... and the harness is going to be adjusted somewhat before it's used again - it was new so I didn't quite tighten it enough...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Canny Collar vs Tennis Ball

We took Mollie for a bimble this evening - down to the village, round the back to the castle, up to the Leisure Centre, across the playing fields, back down to the castle then home. Mollie was in naughty (very bouncy and hyper) mode so we went for the Canny Collar AND the tennis ball. It's an interesting combination, as when she has the ball in her mouth and pulls on the lead, the collar causes her mouth to close - thus squeaking the ball. Every now and then she had to put the ball down and lick her lips a bit, but if we went to pick it up she nabbed it again. As we walked across the fields, throwing it as we went, you could see her getting tired as she sometimes fetched the ball but, instead of dropping it, ran back to us and just stood there squeaking it for a bit. On the way back, she was much better behaved - much less trying to bite the lead... sigh...but at least with the collar I can control her with one finger and she doesn't pull enough to hurt herself. Still, we're considering getting a chest harness to see if that works any better. She walks better off lead than on, but she has the road sense of a pheasant... no; wait - less.

Photo courtesy of Tracy ;-)

From burbling brook to raging torrent

Spare a thought for the staff of Dogs Today magazine, who had to evacuate last week as the waters rose at their offices in Chobham, Surrey. Beverley Cuddy has posted some piccies on her Cold Wet Nose blog of the waters rising. As she says, even with a couple of inches of water they'll have to replace the carpets and replaster; luckily (for us!) they put the next issue to bed with what sounds like minutes to spare.
I think more and more that we're quite lucky here in Leicestershire. We have a bit of flooding around Rothley and Sileby - but that always happens when there's heavy rain. In fact there's a stretch of road that goes under the A6 that is closed most of the Winter because it floods. Most of the flood plains are fallow fields, used for grazing in the summer but left empty in the Winter because they flood - these are flooded now but with minimal damage to crops. Other flood plains, such as Watermead park near Wanlip (and of course the lovely Sence Valley Forest Park!!), are country parks. Whitwick has flooded in the past as the normally picturesque and burbling brook has swollen to river size and broken its banks - but this summer, although it's definitely been much deeper than usual, the village has escaped largely unscathed thanks to significant work carried out on the flood defences last year. Mercifully, we live on a hill - so although our garden is absolutely sodden (clay soil = no drainage!), we won't flood. It all drains down into the valley..

Save Our SSSI

Speaking of the valley, some people local to us are trying to raise money to save our woods from developers, clean them up and turn them into a real focus for the community. I'm confident that the campaign will succeed and I look forward to helping out when the clean-up begins - at the moment we're always on the lookout for teenagers on motorbikes and broken glass, it'll be nice to get the area cleared of rubbish and shut the yobs out. The addition of poo bins would be good, too...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Where'd that bridge go?

Well, yesterday we pootled off in the drizzle to Sence Valley Forest Park again. There was an open day so we thought we'd do the walk round the lakes then have a look at the open day, then head over to Ashby Farmer's Market.
The walk started OK, Mollie was soooo excited to be out and about, she does love it there. When we got to the first bridge - the one just by where she slipped and fell in the other day - the water was up to the top of the arch and had actually eroded some of the path. The path was underwater on the other side, but it was only an inch or so deep so we risked it and carried on walking. When we got to the next bridge, however (there are several streams which run into and between the lakes, and the path crosses them), there was no way to continue without waders. The path was under at least a foot of water. Mollie was all for carrying on as long as the ball went in that direction, but we turned back. The park was full of dog walkers getting just that far then turning round.
We walked back and headed for the open day stalls - but the rangers had given in to the weather and were heading home - the lake had already got to within a few feet of the big tent and was still rising in the persistant drizzle, and the only people at the park had either come to walk the dog or take photos - on which note, I have to apologise as neither of us even had a (working) cameraphone with us, so no pics I'm afraid!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Suspend NFL Quarterback Michael Vick for Dogfighting!

From the Care2 petition page:

"This week, a federal grand jury indicted NFL star quarterback Michael Vick and three cohorts on felony dogfighting charges.

The abuses described in the indictment are almost beyond belief, and include a report of Vick being consulted before the execution of the losing dog "by wetting the dog down with water and electrocuting the animal."

The indictment also describes "the execution of approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in "testing" sessions ... by methods including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick should be suspended from the NFL immediately!

The NFL expressed “disappointment” and said, “We believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts.” That’s just not good enough. The alleged acts were not petty or harmless; they were nothing short of gruesome and barbaric.

Sign the petition to the NFL today, and tell the league to suspend Michael Vick!"

Please consider signing this petition and pass on the link.

I will leave to your imagination what I think should be done to these people.

No, not Shih-Tzu - Shiatsu!!

My partner Tracy is just months away from qualifying as a Shiatsu practitioner, and around the same time that she qualifies it will become regulated (which means no more 'shiatsu' massages in hairdressing salons etc - but that's another soapbox). You can read more about Tracy's exploits and experiences here. Anyway, this means that on most Thursday nights she has clients in for treatments as you have to treat so many people each year during training, plus it helps build a client base before you fully qualify. Last night one of them cancelled, so I got lucky and got a treatment.
Now, Mollie has become fairly good when there's a treatment happening, if I'm not around to distract her she'll normally sit in the hallway and moan occasionally, or she'll just go to bed. Historically, when I've had a treatment, however, she's not only had to watch but also intervene on occasion (wet nose and a moan or a strategically placed paw) if she thinks Tracy might be hurting me, which is quite sweet but does get dog hair on the futon! But last night, although she snuck in, she lay down quite nicely in the doorway for the whole treatment!! Afterwards, when we told her what a good girl she was, she just crept forwards on her belly until she was close enough to be kissed and cuddled, then she curled up between Tracy's knees and said 'hrrmph' and got a mini treatment herself. Because of how badly she used to pull on the lead, she had quite a bent spine but regular shiatsu has helped to straighten it out - it also helps enormously with her escaping kneecap ("luxating patella") and calms her down when she gets overexcited.
All this means that, when Tracy finally starts working from home more and more, Mollie will be able to cope much better and not get in the way too much. Of course, most of Tracy's current clients want Mollie cuddles after their treatments, which probably also helps her to not be so scared of strangers coming into the house.
You can read more about Shiatsu and details of practitioners in your area at the British School of Shiatsu-do website and also the British Shiatsu Society website.

I slept really well last night, incidentally - and so did Mollie dog. Shiatsu does leave you wonderfully relaxed...

Note: for a while, we did consider getting a shih-tzu. In fact we came very close to getting a cross from a rescue but the 24 hr trial really didn't go well. A lot of people, when they hear 'shiatsu', say "isn't that a small dog?" and obviously think this is really really funny. Would've been good to get the dog to walk up and down their backs if they then asked for a treatment... oh well...

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Graham has been discussing dominance on his blog after I mentioned that we, too, wrestle with our dog!

When we first got Mollie, I was very worried about dominance and was all for making sure Mollie was always on the floor, not allowed on the furniture etc as a lot of people say that encouraging any kind of bossy or pseudo aggressive behaviour can cause your dog to become dominant and basically potentially dangerous. But then I read about wolves and watched that TV program where that bloke basically 'became' a wolf, and I thought, hey - among dog and wolf packs, the leader still plays with the others, and it's an integral part of the bonding process. So, Mollie gets occasional reminders about walking behind us when going upstairs, and she gets fed after the cats, and has to sit or lie down for treats etc, but we play with her as if we're dogs. To start with, she didn't know what to do - if you went down on all fours, growled and bounced her, she'd run away - but now she bounces back and plays properly!! Sometimes it looks and sounds for all the world like she's biting my hand off, but leaves nothing but a slightly damp patch - and she always stops when we stop. Ultimately, I guess it depends on the relationship you have with your dog and on your dog's character. We have to be on our guard as Mollie will occasionally push the boundaries a bit (she IS a terrier, after all!), but it's fairly easy to put her in her place ("BED!!" usually works!), and she was doing that when we first got her anyway. And a knock on effect of us playing with her like this is that she's much much happier playing with other dogs now!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Back seat nesting

This evening we took Mollie to Sence Valley Forest Park near Ibstock. She loves it there: she can run around off lead, there's a gravel path so you don't have to get muddy, and there's a lake (it used to be an open cast coal mine). The trees aren't very tall yet but it'll be even more lovely when they've grown; they've done a really good job of prettifying it and there are ample dog bins... there are lots of paths that head off into the countryside so we need to go back with provisions and an O/S map one weekend - when it's not raining!!

We bimbled along the path around the lake, met a few dogs (she got chatted up by a 6 month old staffy called Dino, a brindle and white waggy boy - she seems to love staffies and I can't say I blame her! Sorry Prince...), threw the ball a bit... at one point was clearly overheating so we led her to a stream but she slipped and fell in!! Up to her neck, but still wagging. By the time we got back to the car, she was shattered, and when she's tired she nests, so on the way to the friend that we visited this evening all Tracy could see in the rear view mirror was a waggy tail as some frantic nesting went on. What had started out as a fairly tidy fleece blanket ended up very, very crinkled up and messy. We were both in stitches as she kind of got her head underneath the edge of the blanket and tossed it, then picked it up in her teeth, then went round and round, then sat and had a breather for a second and surveyed her work. And all this while wearing a harness clipped onto the seat belt!! Unfortunately, just as she'd got her nest just right, we arrived at our friends' house, but at least that meant it was ready for the trip home...

Spot the dog

Gratuitous photo time: in March I was off sick for a few days and had a duvet on the sofa. Sammy and Mollie were quick to take advantage when I went into the kitchen for a few minutes...

Dublin council evicting family pets

Dublin city council have decreed that all dogs belonging to 'dangerous' breeds which belong to council tenants must go...

You can read more here:

Anvil Ireland press release

Please sign the petition here.

There is also a thread with sample letters and more information on D For Dog .

This is senseless, absolutely senseless discrimination against innocent dogs and their owners. Already there are family pets in overflowing pounds which are destined to be put to sleep because the council have decided all dogs of certain breeds are dangerous. Discrimination of this kind against humans would be condemned as racism and would basically equate to, for example,everyone from a particular ethnic minority being evicted because one or two had a violent history. Seems to me it's the council who should be evicted.

The landing game

Mollie, my partner Tracy and I have invented a game.

It's one of Mollie's favourites.

We keep the door through to the living room closed so that the cats can't go upstairs unless they're invited (the reason why is another story), and we have a laminate floor in the hall. Mollie likes to try to be first through the door when it's opened (from either side), so if going from the living room to the hall she does a kind of sideways cartoon scrabble on the laminate then runs up the stairs.
The game is for one of her humans to crawl up the stairs, bang both hands on the landing (dog pounce) and go 'hah!' or similar. This is Mollie's prompt to a) grab a toy/sock/slipper and b) run past taunting us with it. The landing runs across the top of the stairs, so she can run from the master bedroom to the bathroom shaking her 'toy' wildly... and whichever human is at the top of the stairs then has to try and grab the toy or the dog as she runs past... sometimes it ends up with a spot of dog-wrestling, either way it invariably leaves the (dark blue) landing carpet covered in white hair. Don't let anyone tell you that smooth-coated terriers don't moult, they definitely do!!

On a separate note, thank-you to Graham for his mention yesterday!! Mollie unfortunately took Prince's advances the wrong way and thought he was after her chew, which she promptly glued to the sheepskin rug in front of the fire. Does anyone else find their dogs do this? We have a huge fluffy beanbag in the living room and on more than one occasion we've found a partially masticated rawhide knot hanging from it... in fact, at the weekend she glued one to our bedsheet and it left little hard patches which I'm told were quite uncomfortable to sleep on... hehe, glad it wasn't on my side of the bed!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

We have the technology...

Dog breaks new ground with his metallic paw | Uk News | News | Telegraph

The wonders of modern technology, eh? We can't conclusively prove whether two innocuous family pets have savaged a couple of sheep, but we can give a dog an artificial limb. Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous!!

Mollie Blog

Mollie is our 3 year old Jack Russell - she's a long legged one, which means some people will think or her as a Parsons Russell. We just call her Mollie dog and tend to think of her as JR X whippet - she runs like the wind!! We got Mollie last November after her previous owner had to rehome her (for reasons which I won't go into here).

Mollie dog is a character. She HATES mornings, would rather lie in until at least ten o'clock. She will quite happily go for long walks - the furthest so far is 8/9 miles so far - and she refuses to acknowledge when she's tired; but we can tell, and we stop and make her have a rest and a drink. She's not quite ball-obsessed, but she does have a small collection of
Air Kong tennis balls - some of which no longer squeak, and many of which are "somewhere safe". When she's very excited she likes to squeak a ball to show her feelings...
As my partner and I both work full time, Mollie spends her days with our retired neighbours where she gets lots of cuddles, a cooked lunch, and played with all day if the sun is shining. It's a dog's life.

The photo above is from a sequence taken when she'd just been given a
Sherley's Beef 'n' Bacon Knot. It's her favourite treat, although last night she did discover rather a liking for pancakes (made with goat milk).