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Things That Mattered in 2013

Well we had a good year.  Family life has gone well and we have all had a good time together and cherished one another.  The key moments have been my son going to Nairobi on his summer internship just before the airport burnt down, and he also went sking for the first time and loved it. My life carried on as usual with no particular points to punctuate the year except a trip to Cambridge to visit my son for a ceremony and a punt on the Cam. it is the day to day trivia that feel important, a walk with my mum or a friend, stopping for a flask of tea and taking in the view, whilst sharing out lives, our joys, our fears, disappointments etc..

 

My Sophie is now over two and has calmed down, at last she will sometimes settle and give me a few hours peace in the day.  Her basic temperament is very affectionate and she can go from calm to manic in under a second and is too much for most people but I adore her. 

I appreciate the things I have each day knowing that although I have a lot less than many of my friends, I have a lot more that most of the world and I never go to bed hungry, I have shelter and family and friends I love.

 

 

 

Nearly Two

Well my dear little dog is nearly two years old and what a difference a bit of maturity makes.  She is now a cracking dog and I am astounded by how much I love her.  So many of the problems we have with young dogs is down to their age.  Maturation often goes a long way, with training, to solve what at the times feels like impossible problems.  Sophie is now obedient most of the time, behaves well around joggers and cyclists, is usually good around livestock without losing any of her character or propensity to be naughty.  She is the most cuddly dog I have ever encountered and I think she is beautiful too. She is still hard work and needs a lot of exercise or activities to keep her occupied and loves nothing more than a ride in the car to her favourite shop or going round to our neighbours for a cup of tea!

 

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My Beautiful Sophie

My Beautiful Sophie

Life with My Dog

I decided to start a blog when I got a puppy because, despite reading lots of books and responsibly  preparing myself  I had no idea how tiring it could be or how time-consuming.  I wish I had been able to read a blog such as this before I got my pup, one that would have warned me what it is really like:-

  • tiring
  • boring
  • frustrating
  • time-consuming

It is of course great fun but does require enormous patience and resilience – none of the books tell you that lead training can take months, that house training may not be just a couple of accidents and ‘bobs your uncle,’ but would mean a new carpet, quite seriously mine is ruined, despite taking my bundle of joy out at least every hour.  Each pup is different and it is so easy to feel disillusioned when speaking to other dog owners who can’t seem to understand why you are walking around in a daze, blubbing in the street with clothes torn to shreds by your dog’s love of ‘tug of war’ games.  Just occasionally you will meet a gem who has had dogs of all sorts for twenty years and they will tell you some dogs are far more challenging than others and if they had had their ‘Percy’ as a first dog they would never have had a dog again and no it is not just bad owners that make dogs difficult, some just come wired that way and take longer to crack.

If I am honest there have been some days when I have regretted getting my pup and others when I can see that we are making progress and what a fine dog and companion she will become.  There are days when I feel totally inadequate and as if I don’t know what I am doing or how to handle her and on other days she responds to all my commands and is mellow and doesn’t do anything too horrendous.  I love her and have done since the day she was brought to me from the rescue centre, a tiny, quite beautiful runt but I have also had feelings for her which are not so pleasant.

I am doing this alone as my son is in his final year of school and has no interest in a rogue puppy which means even writing a blog is hard because while I have been typing away she has brought a plant pot (with soil and plant) into the living room, nicked a banana off the dresser and jumped on the forbidden sofa 5 times.  I get up at 6, no more lay ins or taking a cup of tea back to bed and within minutes of waking up I am chasing the dog up and down the living room playing tug of war games, ball or whatever else we can invent, still drugged from sleep.  I then get my son to school before a long walk with the dog, the rest of the day is spent playing with her because she doesn’t sleep all day as the books suggest and clearing up the mess.  It really is like having a toddler, the day is long and slow and boring.  The best times are when she sleeps next to me on the sofa or outside bench while I read or puts her paws on my shoulders for a cuddle and when bed time comes round I sigh such relief.

I got a dog because:-

 

  1. I wanted to exercise more and knew I would have to keep it up when a dog relied on me
  2. I wanted to enjoy exercise and a dog really does turn a walk into fun
  3. I wanted a companion
  4. I wanted to laugh a lot
  5. I wanted to feel safe at night (well she’d lick a burglar to death)
  6. I wanted to feel useful by rescuing a dog

So far all the above objectives have been met but with a high price tag – caveat emptor!

Afternoon Tea with my Working Cocker

Well it was supposed to be a civilised event – tea with my elderly (eighty year old, male ) neighbour.  It started well as we both drank our earl greys in pretty white china cups, Sophie the dog was being well behaved, or so I thought.  I should have known that quiet and out of the room is not synonymous with behaving well.  In under a minute after my initial concerns about the deceptive peace, the bloody dog runs through the living room at break neck speed with something string like dangling out of her mouth.   Keen to show my ‘drop’ control to my neighbour I swiftly caught  her and in a commanding voice ordered ‘drop’ and the little dear did – a tampon was deposited into my hand right in front of a very old school, elderly gentleman.  The dog seems to have decided that I need a daily dose of humiliation but this, so far has to be the worst – what can you say?  I said ‘good girl!’

My Working cocker

Twelve long, long weeks ago I was a happy, energetic woman and full of optimism and excitement I took on a rescue puppy. believed at the time to be a spaniel mix. Unknown to me, she (Sophie) was a working cocker. Sophie is spectacularly beautiful and cute which is just as well because her behaviour is frankly driving me bonkers. I am middle aged and my son will be off to University in October so I thought it would be a super time to take on a pup to fill my impending ’empty nest’. I have had a dog before and she was so easy, well-behaved and eager to please. Before taking on Sophie I read every book about puppy and dog training I could lay my hands on and wrote copious notes so I thought I was prepared. Sophie has been a nightmare – house training took 9 weeks of hourly trips out and in the end we finally cracked it (well nearly) by my putting on a one woman carnival show after each evacuation in celebration of the achievement. But even now she will suddenly jump on the sofa or my bed and wee (both off limits to her).

Sophie was bought from a rescue home that is, in my opinion, somewhat over burdened and she had been allowed to get covered in faeces on a regular basis. She had dreadful diarrhoea when I received her which was the result of a parasitic infection so I suspect she did not receive the relevant and critical early lessons. My carpets are now all ruined and I am sick and tired of mopping up whilst airily pretending it does not matter (as the books advise one to do).

Sophie is a little fire ball of energy, she has a really strong sense of self and is determined with a penchant for nipping (I use the term nipping because frankly it sounds better than biting!). I have followed religiously from day one the guidelines about how to encourage bite inhibition, I can now yelp better than most dogs. I have also stared into space ignoring her, put her for time out, given myself time out, growled (it always makes me choke so I’ve given up on that one) etc. etc all to no avail. I have recently started to spray her with water which helps a lot (well revenge is sweet is it not?). She is SO prey driven and it seems cannot help herself, she will not stop attaching herself to our clothes (did I say clothes?- rags) and shaking, pouncing on us, and worst of all nipping or acting as if going to nip (not really hard.) Whenever she is pushed away or told not to do something she will look as if about to nip. She is not dominant in that I can take anything off her, brush her, clip her nails etc with no trouble even when she doesn’t like it. She knows all the essential, basic commands – sit, stay, leave, drop, fetch my G and T and is walked off lead in open landscape where she will come back to my whistle and meaty treat. When excited by other dogs she will ignore everything and I feel I have little control at these times. She approaches other dogs beautifully and flops down making herself look absolutely tiny, cute and vulnerable and then once she is sure she had duped the other dog into thinking she is sweet and ‘ickle’ she pounces on thier backs and nips their tails. I am desperate for a dog to give her a good telling off but they are all too well trained locally so I end up having to put her back on lead. Ah and there is another problem – lead control, I regularly have to reinsert my arms back into their sockets like playing with a barbie doll as a child (maybe that was just me!). I have tried the suggested techniques but she is either being obstinate or she is thick. The truth is, it must be me failing to communicate what I want/expect her to do. I’ve watched the entire series of the dog whisperer, read every book going and quite frankly feel like a failing parent with a hyperactive toddler-teenager. I love her dearly (when asleep) but surely it shouldn’t be this exhausting and this demoralising. Please tell me other people feel like this and that she won’t end up out of control.

She is walked slightly more than recommended, played with, taken out for all sorts of social experiences. She has every type of toy, chew available plus some of our own inventions – a loo brush (new) is one of her favourites! She is fearless – fireworks, thunder, emergency vehicles, and baths do not bother her which is great but neither does her angry owner. We can be out on a walk and I’ll blow the whistle and have 5 dogs all sitting for me waiting patiently for a treat (none of them mine!). I have thought of just running off, swapping her for someone else’s dog as it waits patiently outside a shop for its owner but then she looks up at me, comes for a cuddle and licks my face and we are aright again!

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