Thursday, 30 August 2007

An Incident.....

Tilly, or 'Bugger' as she was known this morning......


Tilly and I had rather a traumatic experience this morning.

We'd been on our usual morning walk, and Tilly had been an absolute angel. Her recall has improved significantly, and she'd been off her lead for the last half of the walk. I put her back on her lead as we approached the track back to the car, as there is a field of cows at the end and she still views them as aliens - ripe for barking at.

There are two gates at the end of the track, and as I got to the second I noticed a couple of people on horses approaching. I decided to keep the gate open for them, firstly, because I ride and know how difficult it can be opening and closing stiff gates, and secondly, because I thought it would be good for Tillys equine education.

As expected, Tilly went crazy as they approached, barking and spinning around. The two horses and riders were fine with this and I explained that she was new and hadn't seen much. In the meantime, Tilly had wrapped her lead around my leg about twenty times and had her face virtually pinned to my knee. Then it happened. Due to the leverage she had accidentally achieved by being wrapped up, and a sudden lurch towards the nags, she popped out of the bl**dy Ezydog harness. I think the blood drained from my face as I stood holding the lead, with an empty harness dangling from it.

Anyway, Tilly proceeded to maraud around the two horses, having a sniff of ones tail, barking, snapping at their hocks etc... Basically, everything that with most horses would have found her launched into orbit on the end of an iron-shod hoof.

Thankfully, these were ride and drive horses, and used to things going on behind them. I'm not sure Tilly realises what a lucky escape she had. I managed to pin her down in the end and clip the lead onto her collar, but it was a frightening experience. In many respects it would have been good if one of them had given her a boot, as long as she suffered nothing but a shock.

The riders were most understanding, and took it in their stride. So much so that they seemed to want to chat for hours. All the time, Tilly was woofing, and the cows were approaching the now open gate, having identified some excitement going on at exit one.....

In the end, I scarpered, with the valid excuse that I needed to close the gate sharpish. What a walk!!

This afternoons walk was far less eventful. Tilly was enormously over-excited, as it was a walk she hadn't done before, but pretty good under the circumstances.

Going back to the harness issue, and perhaps for the benefit of other blogging dogs using them (Bailey and Mollie) I don't think it's really a design fault - but a freak occurrence. It only came off because she'd got herself so tangled up, and I still have no idea how really. I don't think that any other harness I've seen could be any more secure, so I think it's just something to be aware of rather than concerned about......

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Memory Lane (8)


I mentioned in my last 'Memory Lane' post the most recent holiday that Prince and I enjoyed together. We had a great time, as ever. I always referred to these trips as our 'boys own adventures', as that's really what they felt like. We always used to be getting up to no good, doing things totally unplanned, and getting into scrapes. The funny thing was, that I always knew that the two of us could face anything together, and overcome any prospective problem. Thankfully, problems were rare.

Our last holiday was no exception. Back in May, very shortly before he was diagnosed, we rented a cottage on the Shropshire / Wales border for a few days. This was a new experience, as we'd always relied on hotels previously, and I thought it would be good to have a little more freedom. The cottage was lovely, small but clean and comfortable. It had a log-burner and resident rabbits, so immediately met with Princes approval.

I can only assume that Prince was already developing the lymphoma whilst we were on holiday, but he showed no sign of it until perhaps the final night. We did lots of walking, and invariably Prince led the way. We went to Attingham Park, Carding Mill Valley, Ludlow, a local nature reserve and many other places. Prince was like a mountain goat at Carding Mill, and a piglet in the centre of gatronomy that is Ludlow! He was absolutely full of beans and thoroughly enjoyed himself - I didn't think for a minute that he wasn't well, and I don't think he did either. The only indication, which is only in hindsight, was the final night. Rather than relaxing in the sitting room with a bone, Prince decided to go to bed early. I wasn't at all concerned by this as he'd done a heck of a lot of walking and exploring for an older dog, but perhaps it was a sign of things to come.

I'm so pleased that we had this holiday - he was like a puppy again, and I was in my element with him at my side. Annoyingly, I left my camera at home so don't have any pictures from this trip, so I've included another favourite above. This was taken at Eaton Hall, near Chester. We went to their gardens open day with his Grandparents. Of course, Prince and I were more interested in the tea and cakes than the hellebores so we took up position outside the tea stall. Prince was in his rightful place, on my knee, awaiting a piece of Victoria sponge......

Childcare....

I had to laugh at the comments my last post generated. I was particularly amused by the references to shipping Tilly off to my parents house so that I can have some respite. The 'aulds', as I like to refer to them, will be seeing quite a lot of Tilly, as they will kindly look after her during my (thankfully fairly infrequent) visits to the London office when I start back at work. I've already 'booked' them for the first two days of October, when I'll have to go up to town to get get back up to speed on how this work malarkey is conducted. I think they're consumed with a combination of fear, trepidation, and anticipation. Despite her exhuberance, she really is an angel. They came over to my house last night to see her, and she worked her magic as ever by immediately cuddling up between them and falling asleep. What worries me slightly about this is that their visits tend to be after 'the witching hour' of eight thirty in the evening, when Tilly flakes out after a busy day. Her demeanor at the same time in the morning is somewhat different!

It was good to get a couple of 'lurchery' comments too. I seriously considered looking for a lurcher at the time, predominantly as I've been really taken with my friends lurchers, as well as those of fellow bloggers. I may well have joined the ranks of long-dog ownership were it not for Prince gently guiding me towards a funny little black thing with long legs and a damned cheeky face.....

Tillys new harness arrived today, as recommended by Emma, who's just got one for Mollie. It's an Ezydog harness, and I have to say that I'm impressed so far. It seems good quality, comfortable and was easy to fit. It moves around a little on her, but this may be down to my adjustment. She is a funny shape though - the straps that go around her neck could probably do with being a fraction longer, whilst the girth straps are perfect. The larger size would undoubtedly be too big though. She seemed to adapt to it really well, and it's great not to be pulling on her neck. We went on a new walk this afternoon to test it out and it felt much more secure and controlled. We can start getting some more road experience now that I'm not concerned about her slipping her collar as she shies away from oncoming cars.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Weary, Weary, Weary....

I really must stop complaining, but I really am tired. I'm not used to getting less than seven hours sleep a night for any sustained period. I didn't get much sleep whilst Prince wasn't well, and now I'm not getting much because Tilly Trotter needs to get up earlier than I might like. Added to this we have our daily walks / drags adding up to two hours now. I'm b*ggered. Oh well, I suppose it's doing me good. I do look forward to a time when we trust each other a little more, and walks are a little more relaxing. At the moment, I don't get chance to look anywhere but at Tilly, and my feet if I'm jogging over rough ground, and all this is conducted at fairly high speed, so I can't say walks are terribly pleasurable. In contrast, long before he slowed down due to age or illness, Prince at least sniffed and wee'd every twenty centimetres - giving ample opportunity to admire the scenery and take a breather! We'll get there in the end I suppose.

I escaped for a couple of hours after our morning walk to go and see some friends at their farm. As well as a their usual selection of lurchers and terriers, they're also 'walking' a couple of foxhound puppies at the moment for the local hunt. They are causing absolute mayhem - nothing is safe from being chewed, urinated on, or eaten. One was swinging on one of the horses tails as I left - thankfully a laid back horse who wasn't overly concerned. No wonder there was such concern about the possible re-homing of foxhounds when the ban was brought in!!

Sunday, 26 August 2007

I Spy....

Uncle Damian and his partner, Auntie Katrina, came to visit Tilly today and we all went for a walk together. I'd pre-warned them that this was unlikely to be a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll, but more of a cross-country endurance trial. As it was, she wasn't as quick as she can be, and we played a lot of 'fetch' beforehand to try and burn off some of the excess energy, so it was quite manageable. She also spent most of the walk on the lead, as her recall's taken a bit of a backward step over the past couple of days. I assume this is because she's getting more confident and independant - but I couldn't risk her disappearing in the forest, or rounding a corner to find a horse or unsociable dog on the other side. Hopefully, we'll be back on track soon.

Tilly isn't currently allowed upstairs in the house, which is something I imposed from day one when I wasn't sure what the house-training situation was. Also, I like to think of upstairs as being a quiet place for Prince and I at the moment. Of course she'll be allowed up at some point, but I think it's quite healthy to have boundaries in the early days. Even Prince wasn't allowed upstairs for some time after I first got him. Tilly's very good though, she goes to sleep on the sofa at the bottom of the stairs so that when I come back down, she can greet me immediately as the door opens. The picture below shows me discovering her waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.



As you've probably guessed, the picture's taken using the webcam, which is set to take a picture when it detects motion, or when you click a button. I can't emphasise enough how useful this piece of gadgetry is. It was crucial when Prince wasn't well, so that I could keep an eye on him, and even my mother watched him from twenty miles away. Now with Tilly, I have it on in the kitchen at night so that I can check that she's not up to no good, and occassionally if I'm upstairs I'll put it in the sitting room so that I can get a better idea of how she copes with me leaving her. I can also spy on her via my mobile phone when I'm out if necessary. It really is useful, but was rather expensive at about £200 when I got it. The peace of mind it gave when Prince wasn't well was worth the money though.... If anyone's interested, this is the one I got.

Memory Lane (7)

Prince, Showing a lot of respect for the ruins at Fountains Abbey.....


Prince loved living at the current house. As well as having rabbits in the garden, he had horses on the other side of the road, and every Winter he had his very own sheep in the paddock next to the house. Due to his previous exploits, he never had much interaction with the sheep, whereas I unfortunately did. The farmer used to leave them in the same paddock long after they had eaten every available bit of grass. This led to them regularly sticking their heads through the wire to eat the grass outside the paddock. Sheep being sheep, and generally quite keen on the concept of death, they invariably got their heads stuck and would have happily remained stuck until the grim reaper brought down his sickle. I disappointed them terribly by doing a twice daily round of the field - wrestling them out of the wire fence and setting them free. Prince used to go crazy when I came in smelling of sheep - he used to think I'd been terribly unfaithful.

It was during our time at this house that we started going away together frequently. It had been less frequent previously, because sharing a hotel room with Prince had been like bunking up with a budgie with a megaphone. He used to cry all night at the door, and be up and down off the bed every two minutes. However, as he got a little older he settled a lot, and we spent many happy holidays together.

We went to the Coniston Hotel in Skipton very often. It's owned by a lovely family, and has an enormous amount of land, and a lake, ideal for walking dogs. Our last visit was at Easter, and we carried on to another hotel in North Yorkshire which was one of those that advertises as dog friendly, but in reality is anything but. Prince wasn't allowed out of the confines of the room, whereas at the Coniston Hotel he was a regular in the bar and lounges. We had a good time in Yorkshire though, and buzzed around Fountains Abbey, an arboretum I can't remember the name of, and numerous farm and country tracks.

Over the years we visited many other places together - various parts of the lake district, Burghley Horse Trials, Badminton Horse Trials, lots of local equestrian events (he'd become very horse friendly by this point!) and our last holiday together, on the Wales / Shropshire border. Our Shropshire holiday was probably the most special of all, not only because it was our last, but because it was one of our true 'boys own adventures'. More of that next time though....

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Helping

Tillys been doing a lot of 'helping' today. 'Helping' daddy keep fit by running him ragged, 'helping' ensure daddy didn't have a quick nap after lunch by sticking her tongue in my ear every time my eyes closed, 'helping' daddy remain alert out walking by disappearing at every opportunity and roundly ignoring my pleas for her to come back.... I'm exhausted - she's really beaten me today.

She was also very helpful whilst I made some chicken liver pate this evening. She helped ensure the livers didn't burn in the pan, and also helped clean up when I dropped some on the floor whilst trying to spoon it into ramekins. She'll probably have the raging sh*ts now - just what I need.

The only thing she didn't help with was when I escaped to my favourite spot to talk to Prince. I'm not going to make it a weekly pilgrimage in case I ever can't make it, but I did need to get away and spend some time with him on my own today. It's been four weeks now, and I still miss him just as much as ever. I'm a little more composed now, and not quite as fragile, but I still yearn for him with every cell in my body. Sometimes it's the strangest things I miss the most, like the sound of him 'checking' his food bowls in the kitchen, and sometimes it's a sensation - like the feeling of his wiry coat against my leg in bed. But I know that I miss him so much that I still can't imagine a future without being able to look down and see him next to me. I can feel him, and this is crucial, but my god would I like to be able to bend down and kiss his wiry muzzle. I'd do anything imaginable to have him lying between my legs chewing bones now....

Friday, 24 August 2007

The Postman Knocks Twice.....

Tilly's had her very own special delivery for the second time this week. Todays delivery was less exciting than yesterdays, but did contain a huge bag of Burns dog food - Venison and Brown Rice to be specific!

She enjoyed the sample, everyones comments were positive, and I like the look of the company, so I hope she does well on it. I remain impressed with their efficiency - I only ordered this bag from their website late on Wednesday night, and it arrived first thing this morning.

Tilly had a great time last night at her Grandparents house. Due to the breakdown of their fitted fridge, I had to leave her with them and dash out for a cheap standalone one to tide them over. She didn't seem too perturbed to realise I'd gone, but I believe did wander from room to room wondering where I was. On the upside, she had lots of ball games in the garden, a few games of 'dumbell', and the odd treat when I wasn't looking from Grandpa.....

Memory Lane (6)


About a year after Princes 'mother' left, we were on the move again. This time we had no restrictions in terms of location, so we headed to the sticks. Well, not really, but a truly rural part of Cheshire, surrounded by fields, woods, horses and cows. Prince absolutely loved it. We moved to a beautiful old stone cottage, with a ramshackle garden, and much to Princes delight - resident rabbits!

Prince took to true country life like a duck to water. One of the things I've always loved about him is how adaptable he is, despite receiving very little 'formal' training. Horses are a good example. When we first got him, he was absolutely enthralled by them, and would frighten us to death by leaping up to try and snap at them over the stable door. By the time he reached his last home, he was happy to walk quietly alongside them, blow up their noses, and have his back nuzzled by them. The same went for cows.

Sheep were a different matter - he never really accepted them. I think a lot of this stemmed from his first real experience with them, at the previous house. What happened was my fault entirely. There was a field that we walked through regularly, and after walking through it almost daily for a couple of years, it had never had any form of livestock in it. However, one evening late in the Autumn after the clocks had gone back we approached the field in the dark and I let him off his lead. He shot off, which surprised me. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could just make him out, mounting a small group of sheep one by one in the corner of the field. I'm not sure if he was trying to play with them, becoming amorous, or simply bewildered, but I was horrified. I'm pretty sure there was no malice in his actions, but I'm not sure the farmer would have seen it that way. Anyway, I stumbled across the field in the dark to retrieve him, losing the lead in the process, and we slunk off. Thankfully, all the sheep seemed unfazed by their experience, and I didn't see any suffering after-effects the next morning. Of course, Prince was delighted with his activities, and was on the lookout for willing participants for the 'mount the sheep' game from there on....

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Special Delivery

Tilly was delighted this morning to find that she had received her very first parcel from the postman. Addressed to her and everything!! After careful (read frenzied) unwrapping, she found an exciting 'chuckit', or ball-launcher, very kindly donated by Tealeaf, Boots, Meg, Cleo and QB over at Blogs from the Dogs.

This afternoons walk was punctuated by rather offensive language as I tried to get to grips with it, at a venue very badly chosen for the task. After several miss-launches, and periods of scrabbling in undergrowth for the wayward ball, we got the hang of it and Tilly was overjoyed. Tongues-lolling, we made our way back to the car tired but satisfied. Thanks to Kerio, TDF and family!! I will post some photographs of our exploits soon, but need her recall to be a little more reliable before I can risk being distracted by the camera whilst out walking....

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Favourite Blogs

I've become quite obsessed with blogs and blogging since starting this one back in early June. It's a shame the reason it was started is so painful, but I've been meaning to post for ages about some of my favourite blogs. I apologise for any ommissions or duplications from previous posts.

The Lurchers - Self explanatory, and great fun.

Flowerpot Days - A beautifully written blog from Cornwall, with a doggy element as well as general interest to writers, musicians, or anyone who appreciates creativity.

Watsons Canine Lymphoma Blog - A chronicle of Watsons battle against Lymphoma. He sadly lost his fight very recently, but I'm looking forward to reading more about his early days.

Picotee - A fun and lighthearted blog of general interest, written by Kerri - also the writer of the brilliant blog below.

Blogs from the Dogs - Hysterical tales and pictorial stories from a great pack of lurchers and wolfhounds.

Mollies Blog - A great day to day account of the life and loves of a Jack Russell terrier from Leicestershire. Many of her traits remind me very much of Prince!

A Frog Dogs Life - The innermost thoughts, likes and dislikes of a much loved French Bulldog called Balboa

Cold Wet Nose - Beverley Cuddy, Editor of Dogs Today Magazine, writes this highly informative blog. Great for under-reported stories and issues affecting the doggy world.

Bailey & Parents - Somewhat irregular (but understandably so) reports on the progress of Bailey, the labrador puppy who joined the family after the sad loss of Benji to Lymphoma.

Dogga - Not terribly doggy, but a really interesting and fun blog written by a sound engineer with a good sense of humour and interesting job....

Dumbell Dreams

Tilly has an orange rubber dumbell, as can be seen in the picture on the right. Said dumbell is offered for a game at least 3,347 times a day. Woe betide anyone who doesn't want to play dumbell. I'm having dreams about orange dumbells. I see orange dumbells, hiding behind trees. I fear orange dumbells.

However, even an orange dumbell fails to rouse Tilly after about eight thirty or nine o'clock at night. She makes me laugh in that she doesn't stop all day, and then by the evening she's exhausted. I hope I'm not doing too much with her. Even a border collie cross must have limits. We're currently doing about two hours a day, about a third of which is now off her lead. In between there are the dreaded dumbell games and other shenanegans. I don't intend to increase walking time if I can avoid it, as it would be unfair when I go back to work and probably couldn't realistically do more than a couple of hours walking a day. I don't know, do you think I'm doing too much? She certainly never gives any indication before the evening that she's tired.....

Yummy Delivery

When we got back from our morning walk, Tilly was delighted to find a range of samples of Burns dog food sitting on the mat. I'm very impressed with their efficiency - I only ordered them yesterday. I fed Prince James Wellbeloved dry food, which he enjoyed mixed with fresh vegetables and some meat, but Tilly would only eat the meat and vegetables. I've also recently found out that JW are very cagey about their animal testing procedures. Now, testing dog food on dogs sounds likes a pleasurable experience to me - but I'm suspicious as to why they're so reticent to give details.

So, having had a look around for a company who are transparent about their ingredients, are ethical in sourcing the meat element, and are aligned with my natural feeding ethos, I have come across Burns. She hasn't tried it yet, but if she likes it I'll be pleased, as I like what I read and hear about Burns dog food. It was also good to get a £5 discount voucher with the samples!

She's flat out at the moment, having spent much of this mornings walk off the lead, and a significant time playing with a lovely crossbreed she's met before, and two English Setters who we met shortly afterwards. She also said hello to a little Norfolk terrier and a Jack Russell. I'm so pleased she gets on well with other dogs...

Memory Lane (5)


Our next move was a compromise between myself and my girlfriend at the time, to a semi-rural part of Cheshire. I think I came out of the move better to be honest, as did Prince, who found a canal, fields and lovely community on his doorstep.

The move was less positive for my relationship with Princes mother, and it was at this time that the cracks started to show. We did our best to hide it from him, but I'm sure he knew something was amiss.

In typical Prince style, he carried on as normal - chewing rawhide voratiously, honing his rabbit chasing skills, and enjoying long walks through fields and woodlands. He was also continuing his journey to become an amazingly well-rounded dog and the best friend I could wish for. He still had some slightly odd moments, like taking a dislike to a particular room for no apparent reason (ghosts?), but he was such a good dog that such things failed to be an issue.

When Princes mother and I split up, it was a hard time for all involved. As I've mentioned previously, she did the right thing in choosing to stay away after a while, as seeing her occasionally was just confusing Prince. He missed her terribly. Despite all her faults, she was brilliant with him and provided a certain type of feminine care that I couldn't. For about a year, Prince suffered eye problems that I'm sure were associated with the loss of his 'mother'. On the day she left, I took him away to a hotel in Yorkshire so that he wouldn't be unsettled by the whole process. Of course, he spent the evening entertaining the residents in the bar...

Princes dislike of vets also reached new levels at this time, and resulted in me taking him daily for a while, purely to feed him sausages in the waiting room to try and make it a more positive experience. My motivation to do this was also increased by the presence of a very attractive veterinary nurse at the practise. Unfortunately, in the longer term Prince never overcame his dislike of vets, and I never managed to woo the nurse. B*gger.

After the departure of my girlfriend, Prince migrated from his own room to my bed to sleep. As far as I was concerned, he was a far better sleeping partner and it signalled the start of many years of cuddling, squirming and snuffling under duvets with him. Not correct in training terms I know, but I wouldn't have changed it for the world.

As you can see from the picture above, his ever-growing toybox received a lot of attention when the weather reduced his enthusiasm for a walk...!

Random

I don't really have a great deal to write about today, but as is typical of me, I've decided to blog for bloggings sake. I'll write another installment of Princes life story tomorrow, but I'm too tired tonight to give it the concentration it deserves.

It was Tillys first day of freedom today, as her vaccinations will be fully effective by now. Or should be - maybe not if you believe the controversy.

We had a good walk somewhere new this afternoon, but she spent very little time off her lead, as she was not inspiring confidence with her recall. She was far too excited and distracted to risk it, and I could see a distinct glint of naughtiness in her eye the whole time....

She was very tired this evening, and I wasn't sure she felt particularly good. This instinct was proved correct when she got up to throw up on the carpet. The poor little thing was clearly preparing to be shouted at for this, so I had to reassure her that such unavoidable things were not punishable in this house! Perhaps surprisingly for me, I'm not overly concerned by her expulsion. Any dog owner will know that one-offs are not really anything out of the ordinary. I'll just have to hope I don't find any more in the morning.....

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Tilly-Trotter

Tilly's doing well still, and is huffing and puffing next to me as she feels she's been ignored for far too long. This is not what she's come to expect! On a serious note, I am trying not to provide 24 hour entertainment, as I'd hate her to get used to it and then have problems when life has to go back to some degree of normality.

We've been out walking (dragging?), played with balls, rubber dumbells, squeaky toys and rawhide bones. She's also carefully removed the seal from around the back door. I'm not too concerned about his, as it's something I was going to get rid of anyway - but I'm not sure it bodes well for the safety of everything else in the kitchen!

I'm sick to death of rain. It's even disrupting Tillys garden activities - which says a lot! We're free to go wherever we like from tomorrow, as it will have been a week since she had her final jab - but the weather's so foul that I'm finding it hard to get terribly excited at the prospect. Summer? What Summer? Baaaggghhhhh......

Memory lane (4)

Prince & Rory


Prince at the Styal Estate


Prince was as happy as a pig in muck having moved North, despite being a Southern dog at heart. His days were spent playing with Spike, galloping around the terraced garden - which provided excellent agility opportunities, and sampling the multitude of rawhide bones that were being offered.

He also received numerous visits from other doggy friends - 'Uncle Davids' dog, Rory, was a regular visitor with whom he had an on / off relationship. They were fine whilst out walking, but tensions were apparent in the house!

Prince also spent more time with his Grandparents, who were now only half an hour away. I was working from home by this time, but regularly needed to stay away overnight. Far from being particularly distressed by this, Prince was delighted to stay with my parents, and used to give me very clear signals after half an hour of being there that it was time I was on my way. This signalled the start of terrible spoiling, which Prince revelled in.

It was around this time that Prince had his first experience of water, at the fairly nearby Styal Country Park. This was a revelation to him and us - and he loved it. He used to get so excited that he'd just run around in circles in the shallows, barking and splashing. He was always more of a paddler than a swimmer, but I'll never forget the first time we went to the beach. We must have looked a real sight - me, with my trousers rolled up to the knee, and Prince paddling alongside me. The joy when I first felt him start kicking with his legs as he truly swam for the first time was incredible. I can only imagine it would be like seeing your human child swim for the first time - I was overcome with pride.

After a year or so, we decided to move again. The urban environment was driving me mad and I was desperate for a greener existance. I don't think Prince really cared whether he was walking through an urban park, or across a moor, but I certainly did. I just wish we could have taken Spike with us.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Daddy Tramp


It's been three weeks since I lost Prince, and although a lot's happened in that time, I'm still struggling day to day. I don't think I'd quite realised how much until earlier.

I decided to mark the three week point, to the minute, by walking down to the bridge where I connected with Prince a couple of days after he was put to sleep. I left Tilly at home, and armed with tissues, headed off. I started crying the moment I set foot into the field fifteen minutes away, and it reached a crescendo when I go to the bridge. I hadn't realised how much I've been bottling up, and pushing to one side whilst I look after Tilly. So I sat on the bridge in the rain, with tears rolling down my face, and sobbed to Prince for half an hour. Again, he was with me and it was an enormous relief. The tissues were useful to say the least.

An unfortunate cyclist chose to cross the bridge whilst I was there - he must have thought he'd come across a rural lunatic when he encountered me sitting in the rain on the bridge, apparently talking to myself through floods of tears. Poor chap, he must have got quite a shock, but at least he'll have something to talk about over dinner tonight - the mad tramp on the bridge!

I felt much lighter walking back, and a lot better for spending some time alone with my little boy. I spend most of my waking time thinking about him, but it's hard to connect with him fully whilst Tilly's marauding around and taking up much of my attention!

Talking of Tilly - she's in very high spirits today, and has been really well behaved as ever. We were a little disappointed not to come across any other dogs on our walk this morning, but she did have her first game with ball-on-rope, which she enjoyed, as even unathletic 'daddy' can propel something on the end of a rope quite well across the field. We're currently snuggled up on the sofa, planning our afternoon walk.....

Memory lane (3)


It really took a good four or five months before Prince began to settle in fully. We discovered several odd behaviours that were never really explained - such as the way he jumped into the dry bath and sat there whenever either of us was in the bathroom. He also buried virtually anything we gave him - leading us to think he was stockpiling food in case the millenium bug struck, as this was around the turn of the century.

He remained as destructive as ever for some time, but also began to channel his energy into dragging me all around the village, crying continually in the style of a desolate sparrow whenever he wasn't getting attention, and honing his bone chewing skills.

Despite some ongoing problems, we were having great fun with him. His recall was terrible, and not helped by the fact that I used to panic whenever he ventured more than ten metres away from me. I remember him crossing a forty acre field to greet a lady and two dogs at the far side in about thirty seconds flat, much to her annoyance. As I huffed, puffed and swore my way across the field to retrieve him, I was less than impressed too. As I began to relax it improved greatly, and after a year or so I learned to trust him implicitly.

We moved back to the North about a year after we got him, and he settled into the new house we'd bought almost immediately. Almost overnight he stopped having accidents around the house, stopped chewing things he shouldn't, and calmed down significantly. I think it was as he began to realise that he would be loved and looked after forever, and his insecurity disappeared.

He also met his soulmate and adopted brother - Spike. Prince adored Spike, and vice-versa. They were so similar in every way, and Spike was the first dog that Prince would play with, and when they were tired, lie down next to. You can see them both in the picture above. My only regret about leaving this house was that we didn't keep in touch with Spike after we moved away. Thankfully, regardless of where Spike is now, I'm certain Prince will have re-connected with him and they will have been delighted to see each other again.

Zonked

Little Tilly's had another very busy day. A long walk this morning with a high octane play with another dog off her lead, another walk this afternoon, and then her first visit to her 'Grandparents' house this evening. All bound together by fun and games at home of course.

Tilly enjoyed her visit to my parents house, which is really important as they will provide a lot of help when I go back to work - as I do need to make monthly visits to London, and have the odd overnight stay elsewhere inbetween. As is now becoming her trademark, she settled almost immediately and enjoyed lots of ball games in the garden with my father, before coming in to monitor the consumption of dinner carefully. Further games were played in the sitting room before the bells struck nine, and she flaked out on the floor. 9pm would appear to be her bedtime, as she invariably goes to sleep at this time. I was a little worried about driving her home in the dark, as she can still be a little nervous in the car, but she seemed to cope really well. She's bonding well with my parents, which is great to see.

I know I'm getting repetitive, but I've no doubt that Prince runs alongside her a lot of the time, and he was so close to his 'Grandparents' that I don't think she can fail to be also.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Watsons Journey


Dear little Watson, who has been bravely battling Lymphoma with his Mum Linda at his side, was put to sleep last night. He seemed like a wonderful character, and clearly had the most loving home he could wish for. He was with Linda and Rich for a tragically short time, through his more mature years, and must have been one of the happiest dogs ever to have come into such a safe and loving environment after what he went through earlier in his life.

I'm sure Prince will be cantering alongside him now, helping him and guiding him on his new journey. They'll be full of joy at how well and fit they feel, and sending lots of love, light and support back to us at this level. I can understand the pain, numbness and shock that Linda and the family will be feeling now - and I'm sure you'll all join me in sending lots of love to them at this terrible time. Thankfully, we're only separated physically, and nothing can take Watson (or Prince) away from his family in spirit.

Linda writes so beautifully, and with such wit and humour, that I hope she resumes blogging when she feels up to it.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Memory Lane (2)


I hope you don't mind me indulging in another installment of Princes life story. I think I'll keep going until we get to where this blog began.

Anyway, Prince showed his true colours on the way home from the rescue centre by breaking through the dog guard I'd hastily fitted earlier in the day and came to join me in the drivers seat. As you can imagine, my driving left a little to be desired with an overexcited, squirming terrier in my lap. We're lucky that we made it home.

Home was in rural Buckinghamshire at the time, and Prince came from Milton Keynes Pet Rescue. The first few weeks involved a great voyage of discovery for all involved, and we discovered that whilst Prince was full of character, fun and love, he was also pretty mixed up.

I've never known anything about his background, but I don't think he'd been mistreated as such. He was far too trusting of people and not really nervous - although loud noises always made him flinch. I think he'd been owned by an elderly person who had died. He would panic whenever someone coughed or sneezed, and rush up to them to investigate what was wrong.

He certainly had some issues in the early days though. He chewed anything and everything in sight, pulled up the kitchen floor, pooped and peed all over the house, and opened and mauled every present that we had naively left under the Christmas tree. Despite all this, both my girlfriend and I had totally fallen for him within days, and despite the odd half-hearted threat to take him back to the centre (as a couple of people had done previously), I knew I'd never give up on him.

The picture shows him in the early stages of developing his career as a rawhide connoisseur, in the fairly horribly decorated house we were renting at the time. The shaggy coat and slightly scrawny physique he had when we first got him led to me mistaking him for a discarded camel coat on a few occassions......

Speedy Gonzales


Tilly has spent the day zooming around like a badger on speed. In between walks, now to be known as 'drags', she's been parading around the house with her rubber toy in her mouth, whist expertly dribbling a tennis ball along with her paws. I'm a shadow of my former self, aching and knackered. On the bright side, I could probably eat a diet of cream cakes and remain reasonably slim. It'll do me the world of good - and I really can't complain about her being full of beans.

She's been really good again this afternoon, and spent a little time off her lead during our late walk. It was a good job really, as I was too knackered to jog behind her at the end of the lead, and she needed to let of some steam at a pace quicker than my lumber!

One thing she is doing, which I really must stop, is 'mouthing'. Like a much younger puppy, she experimentally bites your hands quite a lot and has given a couple of rather nasty nips when very excited. There's no malice in it whatsoever, but it does need to stop. It's the one thing that doesn't seem to be sinking in yet - does anyone have any ideas other than a sharp 'no', and ending the game?

Memory Lane (1)


Barely five minutes can pass without me thinking of my little boy, and I'm still failing to complete a day without some form of outburst - whether it be a few sniffles, a good sob, or a downright breakdown. I think it's time to start introducing you to him as a young boy, when I first got him about eight years ago.

This is the first picture I took of him, with my girlfriend at the time. It's not clear - but means a lot as it's the earliest picture I have. This was our second meeting at the rescue centre, when we decided to take him. I owe a huge gratitude to his mummy, as it was she who pushed for Prince, whilst I was eyeing up a young Beagle. Thank goodness for that. We split up a couple of years later, but she was instrumental in moulding Prince into the little angel he was. It was a really hard time - he missed her terribly, and she him. She did continue to visit for a little while, but it was too hard for all concerned, and more confusing than helpful for Prince. Thankfully, she loved him enough to do what was best for him. Perhaps now I have an idea of how she must have felt at the time - and have enormous respect for what she did.

Soggy Dog

We got absolutely saturated this morning! Tilly wasn't in the least bit concerned about this and went marauding through every puddle and swamp in sight. I was less impressed with the weather.

Everything reminds me of Prince, some producing a smile, some floods of tears, and our walk this morning was no different. Prince and I were rather like to pieces of a jigsaw that fitted together perfectly to form an overall picture. We both hated the rain, and would happily wait until it had stopped, calmed down, or we had no chance of it stopping, before we took the plunge and went out. Similarly, we both picked our way around puddles and patches of mud where possible. I'm going to be asking him to give Tilly some guidance on this one!

Again, Tilly was good with the car this morning, and even had a brief spell off the lead - chasing her ball in a fairly enclosed part of the walk. It was only a brief period, to try and prevent her getting bored and considering wider exploration - but it was a good start, and good for her to have a run without the hinderance of me and the lead. She's playing with 'Rufus', her sqeaky toy at the moment.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Big Day

Tilly's had another busy day today. We had a good walk this morning, followed by much game-playing, before I went out for just over an hour to see how she got on without me. No 'issues' arose, and she seemed to be quite happy and relaxed about the situation.

We had another long walk this afternoon, and had a session at the end of more controlled walking on a short lead, and some work on a quiet lane with a few passing cars. She coped quite well, but still needs a lot of work to calm her down on a short lead and when cars pass. I'm not terribly worried about this as we're at such an early stage.

One thing she's doing really well with is travelling in the car. She's actually started jumping into the boot herself, rather than having to be 'caught' and lifted in. She's still obviously nervous when she's in there, and doesn't like the boot lid coming down, but it's a big improvement. Another couple of weeks of short journeys to fun places, with lots of encouragement and treats, and I think she'll be fine.

My brother and his girlfriend came to meet her this evening, and were greeted by the usual flurry of excitement, balls and rubber toys. She's got a lovely disposition and I think they were quite bewitched by her! Of course, after the initial twenty minutes of excitement she passed out on the sofa next to them.

It's been a big day for a little dog.

Run Ragged

After the barking had subsided after ten minutes last night, which felt like an hour, we had a peaceful night again.

This morning she's been on top form again, having performed her duties in the garden as required. She's been running around with her favourite toy in her mouth, whilst kicking her tennis ball along. We've also been for a walk - with me panting and sweating along behind. Within reason, I'm letting her find her feet this week rather than imposing heel work etc, there'll be plenty of time to start doing serious training when she's settled in.

She's getting better in the car, but we still need to do a lot of work on her fear of traffic. I'm currently imposing a 'no attention - I'm working on the computer' period, in preparation for going back to work at the beginning of October. I'm also going to start going out for a short period each day and increasing it slowly. I'm fortunate in that I will continue to work from home, but will need to go out each day for a few hours to see clients - so she needs to get used to this.

Of course, my going back to work is entirely dependant on not having been signed off through exhaustion beforehand.....

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Funny Noises

Tilly's 'Grandparents' came to see her this evening, and she was delighted to see them. She turned the rev counter up to eleven and flew around the house like an over-excited child for the first half an hour, and then promptly passed out. She's very puppy-like in some ways - full of energy one minute, and flat out the next!

I've just put her to bed and she was fine, but five minutes later a great volley of barking came forth. Spying on her via the webcam, I think she heard something outside (hopefully not Burglar Bill) as she was standing facing the back door barking. It's the first time she's made a sound overnight, but I'm sitting here with my fist in my mouth, because I know I can't go down to her unless something serious is happening. And from what I can see, it's not. I think going down now would signal the end of (relatively) peaceful nights.... Oh dear, my poor little girl!

Good as Gold


Tilly seems absolutely fine now, and continues to work towards the 'most surprisingly well-behaved rescue dog' qualification.

Prince was an absolute model dog, and never put a paw wrong once he'd settled in, but even he was fairly mixed up in the very early days. Tilly seems to have settled in remarkably well.

I'm currently conducting a bit of an experiment, and I'm spying on her via the webcam to see how she copes when I leave her. After wandering about for a while, wondering where I'd gone, she decided it wasn't worth worrying about and fell asleep on the sofa - as the picture shows. Little does she know that I'm hiding upstairs!

What a good girl....

Wired...

I thought I'd make a quick post just to let everyone know that Tilly's fine this morning - and buzzing around the house like a bluebottle! Thanks for the reassurance everyone....

Monday, 13 August 2007

Blooming Vaccinations

Poor little Tilly has been knocked flat by her vaccination earlier - and certainly didn't 'spring up' for more fun and frolics as I expected. In fact, she's been flat out on the sofa virtually since my last post. She did go in the garden and have a play with my neighbours dog before she really flaked, but this may have caused a problem of its own in that I think she was limping slightly when she'd finished. It's hard to tell because she hasn't really moved since.

She did eat a little chicken earlier, and had a few slurps of water - but that's it. I thought I'd taken my 'Florence Nightingale' hat off, but perhaps not!

There's so much controvery over vaccinations it's difficult to know what the right thing to do is. Prince never had any obvious reactions to them, and never showed any signs of being under the weather after having had them, so this is a new experience for me.

I hope she's feeling brighter in the morning. Has anyone else seen this type of reaction in their dogs?

Social Butterfly

Yet again we had a peaceful and uneventful night - no 'presents', no 'singing', and no destruction. A very good girl indeed.

We went straight out and she did all that was required exactly where she should - in the garden. I'm really pleased, I think it would be unfair not to expect a few more accidents along the way, but she's doing really well.

As I'd slept longer than I intended (exhaustion!) I decided to do a similar walk to yesterday rather than walk her down the road at a busy time. She thoroughly enjoyed herself, and had great fun playing with a minature Schnauzer. She seemed a little more relaxed with the car, but there's still a long way to go.

She passed out when we got home, until it was time to go to the vets for an initial check-up and her vaccination booster. She was a little overawed in the waiting room, with all the dogs around, but was pretty damned good, all things considered. When I booked the appointment I was sort of hoping that it wouldn't be the vet that treated Prince locally, purely because of the memories associated with him. When I arrived with Tilly, it was him we were to see and I surprised myself by being delighted it was him. It was good to talk to him about it, and I've always thought he was a great vet. He thought Tilly was great, and she thoroughly enjoyed getting her jab and being examined!

She then met a similarly young and exhuberant dog in reception on the way out and had a good romp with him before we left. I suspect she may be a bit of a tart - in the nicest way!

It was a really good, positive experience for her to have at her new vets for the first time.

She's had such a busy day so far that she's passed out again now. We'll be doing some more training and going for a walk when she springs up.....

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Duracell Bunny


Tilly's rather like a Duracell bunny - you can wear her out, and after twenty minutes sleep she's fully recharged again!

I think she's really enjoyed herself today. We went to a Woodland Trust site around the corner from the house and met her 'Grandparents' - only one of whom she's met before. Needless to say - she loved both of them, and I think it was reciprocated! We also met a couple of very well behaved dogs with a very kind owner who let me introduce Tilly to them to see how she'd react. She was perfect, and behaved like a real ittle lady. That's a real relief, as I'd struggle to enjoy walks with a dog that didn't get on with others.

When we got back to my house, Tilly passed out on both my parents in turn - just as if she'd known them for years. Again, Prince has been working his magic.

As far as 'issues' are concerned, we have the previously identified cars and traffic and nothing more really so far. We met some horses out walking that she barked at, but I think it was the first time she'd seen a horse, so I'm not overly concerned by this.

She did also have a wee in the dining room at lunchtime, as though to follow up her 'motion' earlier. Later in the day I took her in the garden and she performed both required actions, to much fussing and treats, so hopefully she's getting the right idea.

I also left her alone and popped out for half an hour earlier, and she coped really well. No 'presents', no destruction, no obvious signs of panic - what a good girl!

All in all, for a recue dog in their first 24 hours at a new home, she's an absolute dream - so I have no cause for complaint. We're going to get along just fine....

Silent Night

To my enormous surprise, and to her credit, Tilly and I had a very peaceful night. There wasn't a peep from her when I closed the kitchen door, and when I checked the camera from upstairs she's was happily curled up on her bed. When I got up this morning, she was still asleep on her bed and she hadn't left me any 'presents' on the floor!

However, we have had a few issues since. I'm realising that she's quite scared of the outside world - we went for a walk this morning and she's really frightened of passing cars. I assume this is to do with her having got lost and injured before ending up at the rescue centre, and probably having been terrified whilst loose on the streets. I think this will take some time to overcome.

When we got back, I was quite concerned that she hadn't had a poop, as she hadn't had one since I picked her up. This concern was resolved a few minutes later when I went to investigate why she was being so quiet in the dining room. There's probably no need to say anything more other than that my concerns about constipation were groundless....

Accidents are inevitable at this stage, so it's not a problem. More worrying is the fact that I think she would have gone outside whilst we walking if she hadn't been so anxious.

She's really good in the house generally, and is quite happy to lie quietly when she realises that it's time for a break from games. She's chewing her first rawhide bone at the moment - I'm sure Prince and Molly will approve!

Again, I'm sure Prince has been reassuring her. It's great to have a focus again, but I still miss my little boy like nothing I've ever known - I don't think that will ever change. Tilly and I are getting on really well and I'm sure we'll be companions for many years to come, but I can't help feeling a twinge of guilt occasionally when I look at her and wish she was Prince. I hope this is natural, and I think she's wonderful in her own right, but it's still painful sometimes.

Savage...


Not in the least - she's got a lovely temperament!

And So To Bed....


Tillys arrival has been a bit of a whirlwind as I hadn't expected her to be able to come until early next week, but as it was they said I could bring her home today. So of course I did.

I have to say that for a dog that has only been here since 5pm she's been an absolute angel. She's massively energetic, and we've been playing with her new toy all evening, as well as having been for a walk. She's also still very into the 'mouthing' side of things, despite being about ten months old - so I'll need to try and discourage that.

She seems very laid back in some regards, and has been happy to pass out on her side to sleep, despite the strange surroundings. We haven't had any accidents yet - one was narrowly avoided when I saw her preparing to have a pee in the sitting room and whisked her outside just in time. She hasn't had a poo since being here though, so I suspect I might find a present on the kitchen floor in the morning!

As far as phobias and fears are concerned, I've discovered a couple. Firstly, she doesn't like the car very much, so I'll need to make that as fun as possible for her over the coming weeks. Secondly, and perhaps the most strange one, she either doesn't like the dark or doesn't like torches. Either way, she wasn't happy when we went in the garden this evening. This could be an issue because I really need her to be relaxed enough to do whatever she needs to do after dark outside - rather than in the kitchen! Oh well, all rescue dogs come with hang-ups, and we'll deal with then as they come....

As you can see from the rather blurry picture, she's sleeping in the kitchen as we speak - and again has been as good as gold so far. No crying, no barking, no pooping (yet!).

I'm certain that the reason she's been so immediately settled is because Prince has been with her to reassure her. He was a few steps ahead of us out walking earlier too. He's clearly making sure that she feels safe and secure.

Anyway, I must try and get some sleep as I'll need to be up very early in the morning. I'll post some better pictures and more information tomorrow....

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Watson

Watson, a lovely Beagle/Basset who is riding the Lymphoma roller-coaster in the same way that Prince did, is having a tough time at the moment. Not to mention what his family must be going through - which I understand only too well. Can we all send some collective love and support to them please? I hope he starts eating again and keeps his strength up.

This post really makes me laugh - scroll down, and the look of derision on Watsons face is brilliant!

Approved!

The lady and gentleman from the RSPCA left a little while ago, and gave full approval for the arrival of a certain squirming bit of black fluff - or Tilly, as she's known.

As ever, I'm sure Prince played his part in this. I'd asked him to make sure that they were aware that they were walking into a safe, loving home. As always - he did me proud and didn't let me down. I could almost see him greeting them joyously as they came in.

I've just realised how odd this might sound to someone who doesn't share my beliefs - don't worry, I'm not losing my mind!!

I'm going to go and see Tilly a little later, and find out when she can move in. I'll take some photographs and post them up with some more detail about her as soon as possible. It will be useful for me to know what she looks like - she didn't stand still long enough last time for me to have any idea!

I think I'll continue blogging about how we get on, especially as it's introduced me to such a lovely community of people. I won't be changing the name of the blog, or starting a new one - this will always be Graham & Princes blog, it's just that now we have a new member of the family. He'll be by my side, helping me, and helping Tilly to feel safe and secure. I will change the description at the top though, to reflect the importance of Princes new 'sister'.

Friday, 10 August 2007

The Future....

Having returned from France a couple of days ago, I thought I'd update the blog. I also needed to thank every one again for the ongoing support, very kind comments and emails, and plethora of other heartwarming things people have been saying and doing.

France was good, but did feel a little like an anti-depressant pill, in that it numbed things for a while without really taking away the pain. A lot of wine, good food and beautiful French girls does have a therapeutic effect though!

Since I've been back it's been a real case of highs and lows. I've been on the go permanently, because the moment I slow down I seem to hit a low, so I suppose it's a classic avoidance tactic.

However, there is a glint of light at the end of the tunnel - in the form of a hyperactive black terrier called Tilly.

I realised yesterday that one of the things stopping me moving on is that I have no purpose or motivation in life without a dog. Prince loved other dogs and was never remotely possessive over anything - me, his food, bed, toys etc.... and I think he'd really like to see his 'Daddy' giving another unhappy dog the same love and opportunity to blossom that he had. So I made a tentative visit to a few rescue centres, not really expecting to come eye to eye with the right dog for me so soon.

And there she was - a funny looking black terrier cross, with a sign saying 'not for adoption' above her kennel. I couldn't help but ask why, and thank goodness I did, because the sign should have been removed and she was ready to be rehomed.

She'd been dumped at the gates covered in blood a couple of months before, with a really nasty injury to her leg. She was microchipped and her owners were traced, but they weren't interested in coming to collect her. What sick, uncaring, bastards they must have been.

Anyway, she's fully recovered now and absolutely full of beans. She's just the sort of terrier that Prince loved when he was younger - overflowing with energy, undoubtedly naughty, and full of character. I thought she was great, and smiled a smile of true pleasure for the first time since I lost my little boy. Thank goodness he led me to her. She's only ten months old and I'm sure we'll have our ups and downs, just as when I first adopted Prince, but I think we can help each other enormously and have a jolly good time along the way.

She's coming from the RSPCA and they're coming to vet me tomorrow, which I have to admit to being quite worried about. My only real concern is the garden, which isn't fully fenced because of its layout and rural setting. I think they may insist that I do something, which of course I will, but I'd rather not. Obviously, I'd had Prince for years and his recall was 110%, but even he was never unsupervised in the garden. I've never really been a fan of letting a dog out in the garden and shutting the door, and I'd be happy to keep her on a lead in the garden until I was confident that she would come back when called. Anyway, I suppose I'll soon find out whether I need to get the fencing people in to fence a bit off.

Getting a new dog has also brought some new raw emotions out. There are some things that will always be exclusively Princes, and many that I will be happy for a new dog to use. As mentioned previously, he would happily let another dog chew his bone with him standing next to them, so I don't think I need be too sensitive about it - but it's still hard. For example, he's had a teddy since I first got him which is the only toy he's never wanted to destroy, and this will definately be off limits for Tilly!

A little part of me is re-awakening at the propect of long walks and special times with a scruffy dog at my feet. Perhaps there is something worth getting up for. I'm sure Prince will be at the other side of me on every walk, and share in the joy of every new experience that Tilly has. What would we do without dogs?

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Acceptance?

I'm still feeling like a patient on life-support, just watching things take place around me, but I think I'm beginning to accept that I'm going to have to try and exist without physical contact with Prince.

I'm beginning to be able to look at photographs with a smile rather than a total collapse, and I'm trying to plan for a future with him in spirit only. We've been together a lot over the past few days, and I'm glad we had the opportunity before he moved on to talk about the un-severable bond that would always remain between us, regardless of our physical whereabouts. Various others who I've loved and lost over the years have also been with me, and provided amazing support and reassurance.

My friends and family have been wonderful, despite their own suffering. I've also been touched by the many kind comments left on the blog, sent via email and posted on various forums. Thank you, so much.

Prince would, of course, be very annoyed by all this moping and dejection. It was certainly never his style (unless sausages were withheld), and I can hear and see him now giving a disapproving harrumph before wagging his 'stump' furiously to encourage Daddy to 'buck up'.

So I'm going to try.

I'm heading to France this afternoon for a week, and may well bore you with more ramblings when I return. Thanks again for your help and support.