Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Dachshunds and cats’ Category

The Axis of Evil (AKA Squirrel for lunch)

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

So, recently, as you may have read, my good friend Hilda sadly died.  It was a shock.  It is still a shock.  And while Hilda was in hospital and then after she had died, I had her dog, Toby, here to stay.

My dogs didn’t really like Toby at first.  It’s OK now, kind of.  But Medlar really, really hates Toby and he is never getting over it.  Even though Toby isn’t here now, Medlar still approaches the house sideways, on his toes, ready to attack-slash-run.  Not attack/run.  No, I mean slash-run.  He is very aggressive.  Having three dogs and a seething cat in the house was not restful.  There was never any peace until bed-time when I placed the animals in several different parts of the house.

One day, just a few days after Hilda’s death, I had some ladies who attend my workshops here, come over for a technical knitting solving thing – coffee with DPNs on the side. I just do not know why I didn’t cancel or rearrange it as I was honestly still in shock and we had not even sorted out the funeral, but it never occurred to me call it off.  So these lovely ladies arrived, I popped them into the workshop room and then went to make coffee – and round up the three dogs (three dogs, by the way, is too many dogs.  Do not do it.  You’re welcome). Only Toby was present and correct, if by present and correct you mean turning somersaults on the borders and eating shells and stones ‘cos that is what he mainly does.  No sign of my boys.

I had to find them and then place them, all three of them, in specific and safe places before returning to my guests.  I called, whistled, cursed (quietly) and finally resorted to shaking the biscuit box in the front garden.  I have created a sort of Pavlovian reaction among the good village folk here too – when I shake the dog biscuit box, they form a line outside the gate.  Rupert swaggered over, got a biscuit and I placed him in the kitchen.  No sign of Arthur, who is the nicest of all my animals and very biddable.  Eventually after some castanet-standard biscuit percussion, he emerged from the border.  With a squirrel’s head, perfect and looking me right in the eye, sticking out of his mouth.

Squirrels have really large heads.  Well this one did – its head was almost the same size as Arthur’s head. This created a surreal impression of a two-headed dachshund where one of the heads was growing right out of the main head.  Also, the squirrel’s eyes were open and as Arthur sashayed up the path, the squirrel head kind of bobbed and swayed.  Now, I know, realistically, if a squirrel is so far down inside a dog’s throat/stomach you can’t see the body, it can’t still be alive.  But I was as far from rational as I am from New York, and so I did what I think we would all do in just this situation.  I screamed at the top of my voice.  This set off a short chain of reactions.  First, Arthur froze and bellied-down but tried as hard as he could to swallow the squirrel.  Second, Toby and Rupert cartwheeled out of the kitchen like a two-headed poodle/dachshund freak-show act.  Third (I imagine) traffic stopped and children were ushered indoors at the school and kindergarten, both of which have the pleasure of being within earshot of Court Cottage.

I knew I had to get the squirrel out of Arthur’s mouth.  I’m not good with stuff like offal, in fact I can’t have it in the house and so I was just certain I couldn’t get hold of it and pull.  I was also sure Arthur would resist me.  Yet, I had two ladies in the dining room, literally 30 feet away – and I had to get back in there and knit. Or at least not be hysterical.  My screaming matured into a really sweary stream of consciousness.  And a whole tirade of eugh. Arthur was very afraid.  Toby and Rupert were hysterical.  Poor Toby, he never signed up for this mad boot-camp experience.

I forced myself – and I still don’t know how – to grab the head of the squirrel and pull.  Arthur resisted a bit then suddenly let go. And that is all there was – just the head.  No body.  It was either still in the shrubbery, or in the dog.  My money is on the dog.  I hurled the head into the border and Rupert sprinted after it like a starving wolf who has never had back surgery.  But I was too fast and I dragged the bloody, boiling pack of dogs back into the house. Then I scrubbed my tembling hands, and my arms, face, and neck with boiling Dettol and wire wool, made the coffee and went back into the dining room.

‘I’m sorry about that’ I murmured.  No problem, they intimated.  Just as if they had no idea of what had just happened, just feet away from the window of the room where I had left them for an awkwardly long rest.  We knitted for a bit, resolving tricky things as we went.  Then Florence who often calls in during her break at work, popped her head in, and said:  ‘Is Rupert in here?’ No.  When I last saw the dratted threesome they were in a squirrel coma.

I hastily excused myself and joined Florence in the kitchen.  She was furious as she had been fruitlessly searching for Rupert for about ten minutes. We deployed the dog biscuit box and went back into the garden.  No sign of him.  Toby happily trampled a few borders and Arthur went to look for the squirrel head.  Ominously, it had gone.  Suddenly, Rupert popped out of the border – with a new, and absolutely huge squirrel in his mouth.  But this time, the head was inside his mouth and the whole of the rest of the body was hanging out.  He could hardly walk!  He kept tripping over the sodding squirrel as it lunged and lurched about – oh, it was dead alright, and it was just the most bizarre and nightmarish puppetry. I honestly wondered, at that moment, if I was in fact asleep and dreaming.

I was actually crying by now – tears of utter rage, and revulsion, for I knew what I had to do. Both Florence and I were now totally oblivious to the fact that everyone within a 200 yards radius of the house, including the people in my dining room, would definitely be able to hear our piratical swearing and for my part, jagged sobbing. We just did not care and our yelled oaths were truly heartfelt, if a bit repetitive.

Our only hope was to distract Rupert with dog biscuits and then, when he dropped the squirrel, to grab it and get it away.  A very hasty discussion revealed that Florence was unwilling to be the squirrel-grabber. And after all, I had already wrestled a squirrel head from one dog that morning, it was in danger of becoming my party-piece. So she festooned the path with many biscuits, casting them before Rupert like savoury, hefty confetti.  He hesitated…he loves those biscuits and frankly I think we were all wondering how he’d swallow the enormous squirrel, so he dropped it and still snarling at me, started eating the manna from heaven while I – a true heroine, picked up the headless squirrel and kind of pogo-ed up the path with it in my outstretched hand.  I hurled it into the kindling box.  And then, as I am confident you would have done, I had to dance and jog about on the spot for a few moments while flicking my hands about in a frenzied routine of grossed-out devil-casting.  You would have done the same, right?

A few moments later, after another full decontamination routine, plus face-washing to reduce the redness and swelling of angry tears, I calmly rejoined the knitters.  There is simply no way on this good earth that they did not hear all this and frankly, had I been in that room, I would either have left by the window and never come back, OR joined us in the garden. But anyway they must be much calmer than me.  One lady simply said, hesitantly raising her delicate hand – ‘You seem to have something in your hair.’ My inner hysteria, always only lightly dusted with calm, almost burst forth – in case it was a squirrel body-part; but it was only a twig.

My dogs are hounds.  They will hunt and kill and eat things.  But I am 100% sure, on reflection, that Medlar had a dark hand in this terrible scene.  He probably wanted Toby to eat the squirrels and die, or at the very least be in big trouble.  But Toby will hardly eat his own dinner let alone giant rodents that the cat has winged.  Oh yes, it was Medlar, and my lads just went in for the kill.   Were you watching, Hilda?  Hope you enjoyed it more than I did!

A Word About Arthur. And Medlar Rises Again.

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

The thing is, Arthur is an under-dog.  In his mind.  And I hardly ever mention him, do I?  But in fact, he is the sweetest, best-mannered, gentlest little dog that ever walked Dog’s good earth.  He just melts away, often, into the background while Rupert and to a lesser extent, Medlar (Lord of Darkness) perform acts of willful mayhem and lay the village to waste.

When Arthur was a puppy, which is seven years ago this September, he was snubbed by Rupert.  They gradually got along and now they are joined at the paw, but it is, I feel, still a bit of a one-way street.  Arthur adores Rupert. He actually cries pitifully when Rupert has to go to the vets, so we usually take him along too, to calm him down.  If Arthur has to go, Rupert just goes to sleep in his sleeping bag.  He doesn’t cry.

Arthur longs only to be loved, held, cuddled and stroked.  He will put his paw on your arm, or rest his chin on your leg, solely for the purpose of being instantly alerted should you try and get away.  He nuzzles and taps you on the leg to be picked up.  When you do, he just sighs and goes to sleep.  He is also very, very handsome:

Arthur on Landscape for Blog

This is him modelling for Elements.  And here are some of his other portfolio shots:

Arthur and the apple close up

That’s an apple.

Arthur on apple petals

See how lovely he is?

Arthur in Helebore border

 

You know how much I love Rupert, right?  My first very own dog, and he’s my shadow.  Maybe a bit less so now he’s older and likes sleeping even more than he used to.  But he is my soul-mate.  However, I have never met a dog as lovable as Arthur.  Unlike Rupert, he never gets nasty, or moody or stubborn.  He doesn’t (often) steal food and if he does, he will obey me when I command him to give it up or stop.  Rupert just looks at me as he wolfs his ill-gotten gains and basically sticks two fingers up at me.   Arthur will walk, off the lead, right by my heel.  He will not run off and chase seagulls or bark at prams, as Rupert does.

But mainly, Arthur is just the most loving, loyal gentle little dog ever.  Timid he may be, and also, perhaps, not the sharpest dog in the pound.  It just makes him even nicer.  I could not love him anymore than I do.

In the interests of balance, here is a picture from last weekend of them both, Rupert at the front as ever.  He now has almost no tan.  It is almost all white and some of the black is now grey.  How can he be eleven this year?  Surely it is only about six months since I brought him home, wrapped in a blanket?

In other news, Medlar, Dark Lordling of Puriton, has been poorly.  He is now much better but he was really ill for several days resulting in two very expensive trips to the vet.  My word, he was unwell.  He began by just being really dopey and then, after half a day, I realised that he was not eating or drinking.  The next day, I took him to the vets and in a sure sign that he was really poorly, he submitted to all the tests (though he did come out of the back having had both front legs shaved to take blood, as he resisted the first attempt.  Apparently).  I don’t know exactly what happened out there but they were gone for ten minutes and when the vet came back she said: ‘I think we need to give him antibiotics in case it is an infection but I rate your chances of getting tablets into him as zero so I will inject them – this will last for two weeks.’  And she did.  He was furious.

The blood tests proved all fine.  The chief reason I was so worried was that some cats in our village have been poisoned.  To date, five cats (four from one household, over a period of about four months) have been killed with anti-freeze poisoning.  Two other cats have disappeared.  I did not think he had the symptoms of this which are fairly rapid and utterly horrific, but I was keen to make sure.  It was not a toxic issue in his case.  Still he would not eat or drink.  I boiled chicken and tried to get him to drink the cooled, weak stock.  Nope.  I bought cat-milk.  Nothing.

So that day, in a valiant or possibly foolhardy attempt to get some water at least into him, Florence and I held him wrapped in a beach-towel (this was Florence’s job) while I went to the dangerous end of Medlar and used a soft pipette to gently shoot some liquid into his mouth, which was partially successful.  If by successful you mean no-one died, we were able to keep him from dehydration, and the kitchen was fine after a deep clean.  I also, probably in contravention of all known wisdom but I am fine with that so don’t bother telling me off, smeared tiny semi-melted blobs of vanilla ice-cream on his front paws and he licked that off quite happily.  I think he had a very sore throat.

He did go back to the vets though because I was still frightened that he was not responding.  By day three, he was a bit less dopey and drank some water.  That night he also ate for the first time.  All through this time and indeed a week or so afterwards as he slowly improved, he did little other than sleep.  But, he only wanted to sleep where we were.  So he slept in the kitchen all day, or in the sitting room if I moved; and on our bed all night. He is not a very affectionate cat, really.  Or he wasn’t.  But since this illness, he has been totally soppy and very demanding of baby-style cuddles and shoulder-perching, along with 100% devotion to stroking him.  He has suggested we do this on a family rota basis.

He is older now too.  He is ten, but in his prime still.  See how he smiles for you?  Sweet, is he not?

Medlar Halloween 15

 

Rupert and the Peanuts

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Warning:  do not read this if you are eating, have just eaten, are about to eat, and/or object to the word arse (for my USA-based reader, this is ass).

So, Rupert is both clever and deeply stupid.  He is the greediest dog I have ever met, and his greed creates levels of cunning that are quite awesome. He knows that in Lily’s room there are lots of lovely things.  He once hit the mother-lode in there and snaffled a whole Thornton’s Easter egg, resulting in an emergency dash to the vet for stomach evacuating.  So we are very vigilant about keeping it firmly latched.  But, with the cunning of a fox who has the keys to KFC, he has now learned that if he hurls his stumpy, barrel-chested little body at the door over and over again, it sometimes de-latches. And then he is in.

Last week, two things happened which became related.  First, Florence and Will moved house.  This is their first home-owner house and it’s lovely, but it is a project.  Second, Rupert, un-be-known to us de-latched the door to Lily’s room.  Some time later, Lily came home and asked me if peanuts were harmful to dogs.  I was of course instantly on high-alert.  She had found an empty, carefully ripped-open, bag of peanuts.  It had been full and in tact. A swift Googleize revealed that they are not toxic but being high in fat, they are not recommended.  In bulk.

That day, we toiled for hours helping with the move.  The dogs were left at home with one of us taking it in turns to be with them, let them out and so on.  That evening, we went back to the new house with the traditional moving in day offering – fish and chips and champagne.  We took the dogs. Rupert seemed a little restless but the day had been unusual.

As soon as we entered the new house, he began sniffing and running round, stopping, sniffing, running…There is a kaleidoscope of patterned carpets in this new house, riots of florals, swirls and curls – a migraine at your feet.  On a patterned carpet of many shades, it is hard to see peanuts which are being forcibly ejected from a dog’s arse.  It is far easier to feel them, with your stocking-ed feet.  At the same moment as the stench of peanut-poo hit my nose, Florence skidded through a small but crunchy portion of re-cycled peanut.  The poor neighbours.  I have a stomach so weak, I can’t even bear to smell anything gross without actual heaving and several times, when changing nappies or cleaning up after pets, I have added to the chaos by actually vomiting.

But this was their new house.  Bravely, I grabbed handfuls of the newspaper that had been wrapping china and began trying to collect the nut debris. Rupert can move quite fast when he wants to and with every bound, he fired another tiny peanut bomb out of his arse.  He was clearly feeling much better with each projectile evacuation and he really picked up some pace in all the downstairs rooms.  Florence was retching into the sink as she ripped off her socks.  So that was no help.  Finally he stopped.  I then conducted a finger-tip (with rubber gloves, calm down) search of the chaotic carpets. Whole peanuts, when shot out of a dog’s bum, are beige.  There is a lot of beige in the patterns of those carpets.

Anyway, I shampooed the carpets, washed the socks, immersed myself in neat Dettol, had a massive glass of Chard and really couldn’t face my fish and chips.  Rupert?  He’s fine.  He always is.

Book! Dogs! Halloween!

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

So, things to tell you.  First, ‘Elements’ is now available to buy from our dedicated website Smith & Jones Knits.  Hurrah!  Rowan retailers can buy it direct from Rowan via their Rowan rep or account.

Second, dogs and Halloween.  Halloween is their favourite festival, obvs.  This year’s Halloween events are happening, as is traditional, in October and here is Arthur helping me to model two of the items that can be knitted:  Skull and Bones Mitts (black and white) and Tomb Raider Mitts (pink and black); there is also the antidote to skullery – a KSH beaded scarf, Friendly Spirit.  Do you think he looks scary?  BOO!

Really looking forward to these workshops. I love hiding GIANT SPIDERS in peoples’ knitting bags.

Skull and Tomb Raider plus Arthur

Friendly Spirit stitch close up

Skull and Tomb Raider together

Rupert’s Dog-Buggy

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

Rupert has been a wonky dog for years, with his IVDD (dog back disease).  He has pulled through three major operations, and even recovered from back leg paralysis.  This makes him tire easily, so walking fast, or far, is not possible.  When we walk, I carry him a lot of the time, which is even slower.

Now he also has heart failure.  He has had heart disease for a couple of years – a heart murmur, which then progressed to a gradual worsening of the condition.  Two weeks ago he had an ECG and this indicates that he is now in the early stages of heart failure.  I had not appreciated that there is a difference between heart disease and heart failure.  All is not lost.  The vet prescribed a tablet every day, and six days in he is definitely livelier, less sleepy.

For ages I have been pondering getting him a dog buggy or pram.  I didn’t do it because I felt the longer we could manage, the better it would be for him, but in practice this meant we hardly ever took him out for proper walks, because I just can’t carry him for more than about half a mile, and he can’t walk happily for more than about fifteen minutes.  The heart failure diagnosis spurred me on.  Last week his new chariot arrived:

He loves it.  I got one that is big enough for two dachshunds, so Arthur, who has no need of it, can share if he has walked say three miles and needs a break.  I reckon a three mile walk for a dachshund is about ten for a human, despite the fact that they have four wheel drive.

Arthur does not love it, but treats and soft cushions are helping his buggy-phobia.  To be fair, Arthur has anxiety about Everything, so I knew he’d be reluctant.  We are getting there.  But I also have some issues to resolve. Note the mesmeric impact on Arthur (right) of a treat being held above his head.

So the main issues regarding the buggy fall into two camps:  logistical; and emotional.

Logistically, it is a bit of a tank. You can buy dog push chairs for as little as about thirty quid, but they seem a bit flimsy.  You can buy them for hundreds of pounds but that seems silly.  Also, not an option financially, so I have one that is sturdy, large enough for two medium sized dogs, and has air-wheels.  I am struggling with the weight of it when lifting it into and out of the boot of the car.

The second issue is about walking dogs on leads, whilst pushing the buggy.  I have to hold the leads in one hand, and also steer this tank which does not have a rotating front wheel.  Two such outings have seen small improvements in my handling technique.  The dogs are getting better at trotting along beside the buggy too.  After a bit, Roo gets a lift and then it’s just Arthur walking alongside.  I must admit to just putting him in with Rupert far sooner than he needs it, just because it’s easier.

The emotional issues are less easy to define.  I know he has a very diseased spine, and a heart condition, but The World doesn’t know this.  I may well be projecting thoughts here, but I worry that The World kind of judges me as – well, mad.  Then my assertive side says:  stuff The World.  And I am fine for a bit.

Last week I took the dogs plus the buggy, plus a picnic, to Weston-s-Mare.  They have a lovely wide paved sea-front prom there now which is miles long, flat and ideal for dogs in prams.  And other uses I suppose.  It was certainly busy, despite being a typical British summer day.  I parked, and began the long, awkward process of unloading and erecting the buggy.  While I was doing this, then loading the picnic into the tray underneath the carriage, another car parked beside me, and they too unloaded and popped up (in record time) a push chair.  We smiled.  We exchanged:  goodness me, isn’t this a miserable summer? murmurs.  We loaded our cargo into our respective ‘prams’.  The couple with their baby – for yes, they had a baby, not a dog – stopped mid-loading and just stared, open-mouthed, as I popped first one, then two dachshunds into my buggy.  I had to cross a busy road to get to the prom so I wanted them both in the blasted buggy before we set off.

I was brought up to believe that it is rude to stare.  It doesn’t actually stop me, as I am extremely nosy, but I do hope I would not have my jaw a-gape, or point.  Which they did.  We set off with as much dignity as I could summon, which wasn’t much as I tried to get going with the brakes on.  We tried again and I fled, burning with embarrassment, over the road.

On the prom, Arthur walked, and Rupert rode.  Here, I noted that for every dog buggy I saw – which was one, if you count mine – I saw eleventy nine human mobility aids.  Prams, push chairs, wheel chairs and motorised mobility scooters.  Then there were skates, skate boards, bikes and trikes.  I reckon that for every two walkers, there was one person (or two dogs) who were not walking.  This was better.  People smiled.  They pointed – but in friendly ways.  Yes, some people laughed a bit – but it felt OK.  Several people delayed us on our walk by wanting to talk to the dogs.

At the far end, past the old ruined pier, we stopped for the picnic.  Once the boys had had their treats, they sat fixedly staring at me, while I had mine.  With the cover up, and viewed from the back, you can’t see that the buggy contains dogs.  It looks like a rather posh jogging push chair.

A young spaniel bounced over, a sandy tennis ball in his mouth.  He was eager to investigate my picnic, but he didn’t actually steal it, or do anything really wrong.  However, he was not on a lead, so he was able to get very close to us, very fast.  This prompted an instant response from both my boys, who were, thankfully, clipped by their harnesses to the interior of the buggy.  Nonetheless, they unleashed a volley of verbal abuse whilst lunging as far as their short leashes would allow, at the spaniel.  He, and his owner, were startled by this.  That is to say, the spaniel reared back on his hind legs and pelted off, whilst his man jumped and then failed to retrieve his dog, as he was laughing so much.  The buggy was rocking as Roo and Arthur whipped one another into a frenzy of spaniel-hate.  To on-lookers, it must have looked like a giant toddler, whom they could not see, was yapping and snarling like at least two dogs, whilst also trying to up-end his pram.  But in a testament to its weight and stability, it did not tip over.  My picnic was partially lost to the playful summer breeze as I had to let it go in order to restore order in the buggy.

Oh well, that spaniel got more than he bargained for and may well now have a life-long pram phobia, poor thing. How Rupert laughed.  He was a proud dachshund on the way back.  He owned that prom and was the boss of All The Dogs.

 

‘Elements’ Photo-Shoot; photo-bombing

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

We have now completed about 70% of the photography for the new book, ‘Elements’ which Donna and I are publishing in September.  The shoots have been held in Somerset, and in South Wales which is an important factor for us both, since we have drawn our inspirations from our home environments.

For my other books, I was never able to attend the shoots.  I very much regretted this, and not only because, had I been at one of them, I would definitely have noticed that one of the pieces was inside out. Before it was photographed, so that it didn’t end up in the book that way.  It’s OK.  I expect to be over it in roughly 2018.  I did ask to be there each time. But it wasn’t – yes, I think, in fact, it wasn’t allowed.  No-one said that, but it just didn’t ever happen, despite my always asking, and even driving the items over to the shoot location for one of the books.  And then, you know, saying ‘hi!’ and ‘bye!’ before just driving home.  I am more assertive now.

I did mainly love the photos for the other books.  But Donna and I both wanted to be much more involved this time than I had been in the past.  We now have a much better appreciation of just how much sheer hard work styling a shoot is, and we are very grateful to our models and photographer.  I mean, it’s not hard as in assembling Range Rovers in a car plant or teaching GCSE maths to a bunch of enthusiastic teens.  But it is actually a lot of slog, fixing, getting wet, getting steamed up, forgetting to eat and drink – that sort of thing.

Anyway, above all it was a nerve-wracking and highly enjoyable experience which has yielded some great material for our designer to work with.  All we have to do now is choose a minute percentage of the 1000s of images that were produced.

We shot some of the interior pieces here.  In fact, for my very first book, the cover shot was taken here so I was present, if in the kitchen.  As I was arranging two of the pieces, Arthur who is the Zoolander of the Dachshund world, being ridiculously good-looking, photo-bombed the set up.  I think one of his shots might creep into the final edit.  I always think of Arthur as a pup.  But he is 7 this year.  I was struck by how white his muzzle is going.  Sigh.

Arthur photo bombs the shoot 1

 

 

Arthur photbombs the shoot 2

Dog Days

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Rupert will be 11 this year.

Here he is, looking a bit nosy.

Arthur, who is his half-brother, will be 7 at about the same time, but he still often looks very puppy-ish, as he did yesterday:

Rupert is quite grey/white now on his face and paws.  I remember Ralph going like this and at the end, his tan was all white and his black was all grey! Very chic, we thought.

Arthur is an absolute baby, a sun-worshiper, like most dogs:

Arthur is Rupert’s shadow.  When Rupert sleeps, Arthur often snuggles up beside him and watches over him:

Rupert sleeps a lot.  All dachshunds have the most amazing capacity for sleep, far more than cats.  And when Rupert is feeling well, as he often is, he’s a keen walker (unless it is wet.  Or cold.  Or windy…).  But he’s nearly 11.  He sleeps even more than he used to:

There is, of course, no need for Rupert to sleep on the kitchen floor.  He’s lying here on top of a home-made snuggle sack, which Florence made for them, but he could have chosen either of his two soft beds.

And then, when he thinks Rupert is drifting off, Arthur lays his head down over Rupert and goes to sleep too:

Look at the white flecks on Arthur’s head.  They are neither of them young dogs now, but yet, not really old.  Rupert is just mature.  In his prime.

Dachshund Therapy!

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Here I am getting some Dachshund (and cream-tea) therapy courtesy of the lovely Jackie and her little girl, Bronte.

Me, Bronte & Arthur, Aug 2014

On a solo-mission, one of my first unless you count Asda last week, I met up with Jackie and Bronte by the seaside for a really happy afternoon, yesterday.  Bronte often attends my workshops – she is the petite girl on the right.  Bronte is just adorable and they get along very well indeed.  Arthur, on the left, is a very quiet boy and it does him good to get out from under the shadow of his big brother from time to time.  Rupert stayed at home…!

We walked on the pier, the dogs soaked up the Dachshund love from the passers-by, and then we had tea.  The cafe provided a little dish of dog treats too.

It was lovely to catch up with my dear friend Jackie, and I think it did me a power of good – even better than Fairisle or antibiotics!  Thank you Jackie, and Bronte, we will see each other again soon.

Ralph

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Ralph was the first Dachshund I ever encountered.  I fostered him on and off for some years.  Last week, aged fifteen and a half, Ralph died.

Ralph on the beach

If it hadn’t been for Ralph, I would not have ever thought of getting my own boys, Rupert and Arthur.  I have always loved dogs, especially small and medium sized dogs, but maybe I would never have got a dog at all.

I met Ralph through a mutual friend of Ralph’s own mum (I know it’s actually ‘owner’ but you don’t own a Dachshund!).  I went to this friend’s house one day and there was Ralph.  Feisty, smart, border-line belligerent – and so short.  He looked me up and down.  I looked him, um, down.  He went back in the house and fetched a ball.  This was for me to play with him.  I was fascinated by this funny little dog, but you know, I threw the ball a few times, it was time to go, we left.

About a month later, the mutual friend rang me.  She and her family were moving to America.  In the meantime, she was wondering if I might be a suitable alternative foster-carer for Ralph, one or two days most weeks, sometimes weekends.  How did I feel about it?  I wasn’t sure, if I’m honest.  On paper, it seemed OK as I worked largely from home.  We did a trial run and Ralph came for a play-visit.

Once Lena had left us alone, Ralph gave me the appraising look that I was to come to know so well, before fetching his new toy:  a GIANT tennis ball.  For an hour, we played giant tennis ball games.  It was so much fun!  Then, we sat on the sofa and Ralph permitted me to cuddle him while he had a well-earned snooze.

Soon afterwards, Lena moved away and I met Ralph’s mum.  The informal fostering began.

Ralph spent many days and nights here.  In the autumn, he chased apples on the lawn, in winter he ran on the beach, chasing old tennis balls, before having a swim in the deep pools that form round the pier and posts all along Burnham and Berrow beaches.  In summer, he lay in the sun while I gardened and he dug up all the plants round my pond, hunted frogs and once or twice ‘fell’ in.  He loved  water.

He slept by the bed, in his own pillow and sleeping bag bed combo.  He was my shadow.  I loved him more than I could have imagined.

Once, his mum went to New Zealand and I think we had him for about 3 weeks.  I knew he wasn’t mine.  He loved his mum more than anyone.  But, like most Dachshunds – maybe like most dogs – he fixed his love on one person at a time.  When he was in my house, I was his.  If I was out, Lily or Florence were his.  If there was only Mark – well, he made do.

Recently, his mum moved away to Dorset.  Ralph, getting old now, didn’t really need the kind of foster care he once did and anyway, it was too far for me to be the carer.  Before they moved, Ralph was ill.  He started having fits and shakes, after which he’d seem confused or even frightened.  I did a death-bed dash.  He made a fantastic recovery.  That time.

Last week, and Ralph was now a very mature sausage indeed, his mum told me he was poorly – a gastro infection, he needed to be at the vet’s for re-hydration and a some R&R.  Next day, he came home, but she knew he wasn’t ‘right’.  I went to see him.  Right on the spur of the moment, I drove to Dorset.  Why did I do that?  Did I think he was going to die?  Well, at 15.5, and with some long-standing health issues, yes, I suppose I knew that he was probably going to die quite soon – maybe in a year or so.  So, why not wait until Saturday?  I just don’t know.  Also, his mum needed to go to do just a few hours work that afternoon, the day I went.  I couldn’t bear that he’d be alone, even for a short while, when he was so poorly.

Ralph was white the last few times I saw him, so that wasn’t a surprise.  Rupert now looks a lot like Ralph did when I first met him – pepper and salt style black and tan.  So I know that Rupert will go snow-white, like Ralph, where Ralph once was tan.  But Ralph had gone very deaf in the last couple of years.  And his sight was clouded with cateracts.  And he was really ill.  But – he still knew me.  He greeted me and accepted me back, without a word of reproach.

His mum went out after about half an hour, leaving me and Ralph alone.  I didn’t know that he would die that evening, so it wasn’t that which made the few hours I was there so special.  He was in some discomfort in spite of the heavy meds he was on, but we settled down on the sofa, and with his nose buried deep in the crook of my arm (Dachshunds like their noses to be covered and warm), and both wrapped in a daffodil yellow airy blanket, he slept.  If he stirred, I held him a little bit closer and he looked at me, smelled my hand, accepted a tiny bite of sausage as a snack, and with a sigh that all Dachshunds do to perfection, he snoozed on.

I had my knitting with me, of course. I am not good as sitting still, doing nothing.  But the time just stopped.  I didn’t move, he slumbered, a bit fitfully but slowly, he seemed to settle more, to fidget less.

I didn’t stay long after mum got back.  We talked about how he seemed.  He was due back at the vets that evening because his discomfort needed addressing.  We were both genuinely confident that once this was addressed, he’d be fine.

He wasn’t fine.  He had to go back yet again late that night and at about midnight, he was put to sleep.  It was a brave, kind, and amazing thing for his mum to do.

I, in the meantime, came home, smiling about yet another death-bed dash to see the Duracell Dachshund.  Next day, I was teaching how to make a Moebius Cowl in Devon.  The ‘phone ringing at 7.00am made me anxious though, as did Mark’s voice when he spoke to Ralph’s mum.  After I had spoken to his mum, I had to go and  teach.  Well, that was OK, it was busy, it was a lovely class in fact.  It was just the drive there and back that was not so good.

Ralph has left a huge gulf in the life of his mum.  She was an amazing companion for Ralph and he was to her.  He had a job, you know.  He worked with her, helping vulnerable clients, often children, to talk, to communicate, to trust – even to love.

I loved Ralph so much – and he wasn’t even mine!  But when he was here, he was mine.  Because he needed to know that he had a home-from-home, where he was as unconditionally loved as in his own, real home.  When I got Rupert, and then Arthur, Ralph was amazing with them.  As puppies, they had the capacity to annoy a mature dog, but Ralph, kind and wise, just accepted them and got on with the business of training them to bark at everything that moved in the village and beyond.  After Ralph stopped coming here so much, we had to stop saying his name, because whenever we did, Rupert would run to the door and scan the drive.  It was too cruel to let him hope.  He loved Ralph as much as I did.

On Saturday, I am going back to Dorset, to be with his mum and her family.  We are going to scatter his ashes on the beach.  Recently, we cleared out our garage and Florence found a manky old green rubber ball, pitted with sand and tooth-marks.  I must have saved it from years ago.  It was a ball Ralph found on the beach at Berrow many years before, and we always took it to the seaside when he came to stay.  Over the years we must have found, and lost, dozens of balls but this one was special.  He loved it more than all the others so I always made sure it was never left behind.

I am going to take it, and throw it for him, one last time.Ralph in the sea

Dachshund Love-In

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

It’s the boys!  Doing what they do best:  snuggling and sleeping and looking just painfully cute, if I say so myself.

More snuggling here:

A rare wakeful shot of Rupert, visiting Florence’s flat for the first time, lying on me, watching the progress of the roast chicken:

And finally a massive over-dose of cute/yummy/loveliness:  the Dachshund muzzle – this is Arthur, Rupert snoring like a train in the background:

 

Dog Days

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Last Tuesday evening, after having taken the boys for a little trip to Jolly’s Pets Emporium that afternoon, Rupert seemed a bit down.  I thought maybe he was tired.  Taking them to Jolly’s is how I imagine OAPs feel after being set loose in a massive garden centre for the day, where the smell of the Yankee Candles vies with the fragrant waft of fried donuts.  Where cream teas are consumed and ‘things on slate’ are browsed.  Dozing on the coach home might follow.

Arthur models the new collar we bought at Jolly's

Arthur models the new collar we bought at Jolly’s

Jolly’s is a vast (to a dachshund) emporium of lovely smells, treats tantalisingly out of reach, toys being squeaked, just begging to be killed, and happy staff who love to talk to the pets who come by.  We spent a while there, bought new beds and cushions, new collars and had new tags engraved.  Roo hasn’t worn a collar other than for outings since his back problems started, though for 4 years he wore one all the time, quite happily.  I wanted him to resume wearing one because my greatest fear is him being taken (who am I kidding, more likely bolting) from the garden.

Rupert (right) and Arthur just after we popped their new collars on

Rupert (right) and Arthur just after we popped their new collars on

Treats were stashed away for the car journey home.  I also bought Medlar the sweetest new collar:  ice pink, very pale, with tiny diamond studs, a new tag (he loses 4 or 5 a year) and about 8 bells.  He pretended to be furious but secretly he adores the colour and the bling because he knows it looks amazing on his silky black fur.  He also sounds like Quasimodo.

Anyway, Rupert was down that evening.  He looked lovely in his new collar – red with white polka dots, as did Arthur.  But even his usual vanity couldn’t rouse his spirits.  I let him sleep. In his new bed, on his new plushy cushion-base.

Dachshunds can have sad days.  Maybe all dogs do.  Why not?  People do, don’t they?  I noticed when I used to foster Ralph that he had what his mum calls ‘sad dachshund days’.  We agreed that it might be back-related.  Now and then, this does happen to Rupert as you know.  Actually I have never known Arthur to have one, but he is the single most happy and enthusiastic life form on the planet.  By Wednesday, Mark had noticed that Rupert was not his usual arsey, belligerent self.

By Thursday, I was semi-cage resting him, my usual ploy if I think his back is bad.  I was also spending more time talking to him and seeing if I could generate any life in the old dog.  I couldn’t.

Early symptoms of sad-Dachshundness

Early symptoms of sad-Dachshundness

By Saturday – and I had to go out for some hours but Lily was in charge, so he was never alone – I was 100% cage resting him and had upped his Metacam to full dosage.  He wouldn’t get out of the cage bed for meals, unless picked up and placed by the food.  He was reluctant to walk.

By Sunday I was mentally back with him at the Vet School in Bristol, having him scanned and bracing for more surgery – or worse.  I was carrying him out of the cage to the lawn for reluctant wee-ing (not me, no) and offering him treats such as cups of tea in his bed.  I was consulting on-line Dachshund forums.  Yes, it  was that bad.  The thing I wasn’t clear about was that it was back pain.  I’m an expert in Rupert back pain and he was only exhibiting one symptom group – lethargy, and sadness.  There was no indication of pain  or masking; no crying; none of the other physical signs I know so well.

On Sunday evening, now as sad and low in spirit as he was, I once more carted him onto the lawn and stood while he moodily sat down.  He stared balefully at me, refused to stand up and just fidgeted.  He actually sighed.

Now I have no idea why I did this but I stooped down and *un-clipped his new collar.  Rupert shook his head, stood up and sniffed the damp air.  He then charged over to the tree where I keep is football, and looked at me as if to say:  come on then! get my football, minion.  I got the football and rolled it to him.  He rampaged around the lawn with the ball, panting, tail rotating (he can’t wag anymore), laughing his head off.

I put the collar back on him.  He sat down, looked at the football and said:  meh.

Rep from * to end of blog post.

I did this 4 times.  I called witnesses.

We left the collar off that night.  He rolled about and romped with Arthur, chased the cat, ate his supper, demanded treats, owned the sofa – all normal.

Do you know what?  It was the collar wearing!  That is why this bolshie little demon was so fed up – he was sulking. I checked back on-line with the Dachshund interwebs – yep, other sausages do this too.  One of the people whose Dachshund is the same described them as ‘eccentric’.  That is certainly one word for it.

Me and My Dogs

Monday, May 20th, 2013

 

Roo & me May 2013 1 Roo & me May 2013 2

 

An acquaintance, not a friend, because I don’t know this person except via others and from a dachshund forum which I haunt (don’t judge me, I love dachshunds, this is my ‘fix’) recently lost her little girl dachshund, at only five months.  This little girl had some pretty daunting problems from birth and her ‘mum’ kept her because she loved her so, and also she felt that she, more than anyone, would probably be able to cope – more than cope in fact – she’d be able to give the little pup a good chance of a good life.  And she really did do that.  But sadly, the puppy’s health was poor and last week, she died.

All this made me think about Rupert.  This woman didn’t ‘write off’ the little poorly puppy, she poured love and effort into her short life.  I have been much more lucky with Rupert but even he has been close to ‘written off’ more than once.  Of course we went on to find vets whose judgment we trusted and if you follow my blog, you will know he’s had a lot of surgery in his (almost) nine years.  Once, after his second spinal operation, a ‘friend’ – who had no pets and never had – said (exact quote):  Oh Ali, if he was mine, I’d get rid of him! Have him put down.

We are – um – not so close nowadays, she and I, by the way.

When I got Rupert, as a puppy, I had fostered a dachshund for a long time on and off, so I knew what I was doing.  I’d never had one of my own though.  I saw Rupert (there were three male pups to choose from at the breeder’s house) and he was the one I fell in love with.  Actually, I fell for them all, but HE picked me.  He scampered over and climbed onto my legs as I knelt down and fussed mum and all the pups – there were four, three boys, one bitch.  He shoved in front, and licked, and forced his little wriggly puppy body into my hands.  Pushy.  I should have known!

On the way home, after tears from me, tears from the breeder – and I felt so bad, taking him away, but there you are, that’s how it works – he settled into my shoulder.  He still does this, every time I pick him up.  Arthur doesn’t do it.  But Rupert just drapes himself over a shoulder, snuggles down and nods off.  Then, that first time, he fitted into a hand.  Now I need two hands and a braced arm.  He’s a big mini.

I think, looking back, that Rupert was always going to have ‘issues’ with his well-being and health.  Now I know for example, that his ears are oddly short.  We didn’t know this, really until we got Arthur, four years later and were horrified that his ears were weirdly long.  We thought we’d got a little Dumbo-Dachshund with Arthur.  They’re not long.  Arthur’s ears are normal. It’s Roo.

Rupert has a ‘corrugated’ nap to his allegedly smooth coat, like a man with very crinkly hair whose smoothed it down with Brylcreem (remember that?), and there is a wiry coarseness to his back fur.  Arthur is perfectly smooth.  I think there is more than a touch of wire in Roo.

By eighteen months, he got a bad hernia, which was treated with surgery; only for it to ‘go’ again.  More nights sleeping on the floor with Rupert, mattress dragged from spare bed…

At four years, with no warning and despite careful step/jumping down/climbing management because I know that dachshunds can get back problems, his back ‘went’ and he was off his legs.  Just like that, one Sunday afternoon.  Dragging his back end round because his legs didn’t work.  This led to the first and probably the worst of his three spinal surgeries.  The last was over two years ago now and it was the most radical but it’s the one that he recovered from best and also the one that – so far – has given him over two years of surgery-free, happy (if carefully managed) extra life.

More than once, vets and surgeons at Bristol have given us what I now think of as the ‘get out clause’.  At first I don’t think I recognised it as such, because the best vets are really good at this.  They don’t say:  do you really think you are able to cope with this?  Or:  it’s just not worth the operation.  As the owner though, you do have to be very careful not to be having things done just because you cannot bear to lose your dog.  It really does have to be about the dog.  A really good vet – the majority – will NOT be only bothered about the insurance as I have so often heard said;  this is not my experience.  But I have been gently asked:  this will be hard to manage, are you OK with that?  Or:  I have to say most owners might well have drawn the line here.  Now, if they mean:  this is cruel, don’t do it, I need them to say that direct.  So I always ask, if I think a ‘get out clause’ convo is kicking off:  what would you do, if he was yours?  And then:  will he be in pain?  So far (touch wood, send prayers to the Great Dachie In The Sky) the answers have always been more along the lines of:  no, but this will consume most of the next few weeks and even then, it’s constant management.  The  bottom line so far from our vets and surgeons has always been:  if I could devote the time to managing this, I’d have the surgery done; and no, with meds and careful treatment and management for ever, he need not have pain.

The management of his condition has never, ever been an issue for me.  For us.  We all take part and so do his little extended pack of carers.  One of my friends sewed him a walking sling for his hind-end when he was still off his legs after the first surgery.  He came home still not able to walk or even weight bear on his back legs, so he had to be ‘walked’ about for a few minutes every three to four hours day and night, to try and get him to wee etc, and to gently let his back legs start to ‘feel’ what they needed to do.  This went on for about three weeks from the day his legs ‘went’, and very gradually, he stood, with a little less help from the sling each day.  Then he stood alone.  And one lovely, amazing cold day, he walked a few staggering steps.

In between all this, he cage rested or more often than not, he lap-rested.  Life got put on hold.  I only had one bad reaction from anyone and they were just not nice folks on any level, let alone the humane/caring levels, these emotions being sited on the higher planes of evolution, which they had not reached.  I doubt if they’ve scaled the foot hills of decent humanity even now.

Two surgeries later, including a 90% ‘fenestration’ of his spine, he is amazing.  He’s had lots of therapy, even accupuncture and he does need a 50% dose of an antin-inflam/painkiller every day, but he’s good.  He’s not existing, he’s living a good, full, happy life.

He has two ‘furrows’ down his spine where the surgery was.  His tail has never really recovered from the first paralysis – it’s got a ‘hump’ near his bottom and it doesn’t ‘wag’ properly, it sort of rotates.  He often skids off his back legs when he tries a fast cornering manoever such as Medlar-pursuit games.  He wobbles when he’s tired or if he’s having a bad day – and there are a few other syptoms that, should I see them, mean I just up his meds for a few days and pop him in the crate for a bit more rest daily.

He’s had so many ops now that if he gets a soft scrambled egg (the post-op recovery food we were first advised to give him) I think he just assumes he’s been in hospital but it’s all good now.  That said, he’s a bit tetchy.  OK, he’s proper grumpy at times.  I don’t really blame him.  I think this is partly a memory of pain.

In Rupert’s case he had (has) an hereditary degenerative spinal problem, despite coming to us from a good, responsible and reputable breeder who did all the things right in terms of breed.  Arthur – who arrived about three months before Rupert first became unwell, is, we think, free of it and they are half-brothers.

Just luck.  I think of it as good luck, because I love him so much, and we were lucky to get him, and he was lucky to come to us. We considered it an honour to look after him – we still do.

So this week, I have thought about all this and about the little girl puppy who died.  Can you weep for a little dog you never even met?  Yep!  She was never written off by her loving, caring ‘mum’.  We dachshund owners may be daft about our dogs – and I think all dog lovers are the same, really – but we are sane.  If she hadn’t thought that her little girl deserved and had a fighting chance, I am sure she would have said so.  But she did have a chance – and that’s what her mum gave her.

Here we all are, happily at work this week.  I’m in the middle, Roo on my lap, Arthur acting as bum-scarf (a phrase I heard this week and basically, it’s Arthur’s job description).

Report-writing time

Report-writing time

 

 

Sun Dogs

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Do you know what you haven’t had lately?

Gratuitous dog pictures.

Here are some from this week, when it was hot and sunny.

Arthur gazes lovingly if blankly into the middle distance

Arthur gazes lovingly if blankly into the middle distance

Arthur tip-toes through the tulips
Arthur tip-toes through the tulips

Arthur, disturbed by me taking pictures of him while he was sun-bathing

Arthur, disturbed by me taking pictures of him while he was sun-bathing

Rupert:  the George Clooney of the dachshund world; my handsome old silver fox

Rupert: the George Clooney of the dachshund world; my handsome old silver fox

 

Cold? Stressed? Here’s a motivational picture

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

 

This is Arthur.  All he wants is a warm cuddle from me (or anyone, really) and his big brother (out of shot, snoring on Mark’s lap).

I am a slave to these little dogs.  When I wonder how creatures barely 9 inches tall can command all my devotion, I just look at their sleeping faces.

His ear, by the way, is a little ‘crispy’ having been sucked/chewed by Rupert earlier on.

Gratutitous Dog Picture

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Rupert has so few possessions.  His chief prize is his hand-knitted felted sleeping bag.  I know a lot of dogs don’t have many ‘things’ – a bed, a blanket, a few toys maybe.  I do know a very handsome dog who does have a lot of possessions, but I think this is exceptional, as is the dog in question.  He is not my dog by the way.  Much as I wish he was.

When he is happy to see me, which is every time unless it’s bath-time, he tries to bring me one of his few things, usually a blanket.

He is most happy when I give him the gift of food.  However, as Dachshunds have a tendency to be both greedy and lazy (not Bronte, she is neither, but they usually are) and they can have bad backs, too much food-love is cruel, really.  So when a large pot of Greek yogurt is empty, I give it to him.  He then has a happy half-hour with his muzzle inside as he tries to get every last lick, or he carries it round in his teeth, very delicately as if he is carrying a baby bird, or he lies down with it and scratches at it with his paws.  Once he is satisfied that it’s all gone, Arthur wanders over to see what that was all about and then he washes Rupert’s yogurt-y face.

Happiness all round.

Life in the old dog yet

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Roo, jealous by nature, feels that recently his little brother Arthur has been hogging all the lime-light.

So, 18 months since his last major surgery, he agreed to pose for an impromptu photo-opp.  Here he is, gazing lovingly (at a piece of cheese being held by the photo-taker) as we filmed him in his ‘lovely Somerset home’.

Note the silver muzzle, he is old beyond his years, possibly due to all the surgery or maybe just as an homage to George Clooney, upon whom Rupert models himself, of course.

I do think Roo looks very handsome here and I am not in any way, biased.

 

Next time:  some knitting.

 

Brave little soldier

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Arthur is poorly.  He came in from the garden at the weekend – minus a whole claw – the entire thing, ripped off, just a bleeding stump of claw-bed left.  We have no idea how this can have happened, though they do dig, so maybe he tore it then.

He was very distressed.  We bathed it in warm salty water and comforted him with sausage slices and apple slices and cold tea.  These are almost his favourite things, his first favourite being ice-cream, but diary isn’t that good for dogs and anyway, we had none.

The vet says he’s OK and it will (probably) grow back, he’s got pain relief and antibiotics, but it’s vital that it’s kept really clean as infections easily set in here, as it’s very close to the bone in his paw and if that happens, sometimes dogs have to have part of their paws (toes) amputated.  They are most likely to get this if they lick at it all the time because their mouths are not super-clean.  The vet suggested a collar-cone, but Arthur was already freaking out, so a sock is the next best idea.

Happily, I have the two socks that Millington and I knitted ages ago when she showed me the toe-up sock thing!  One of these plus a hair band et voila!

He is a bit sorry for himself and he’s not mad keen on the sock – but it’s working!

Further blatant dachshund pictures

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Rupert is having a rather good phase.  Back-wise.  Food-wise – meh, not so good, at least not from my view point.  Given that he is a crippled dog who has had 3 lots of major surgery on his back and several other alarms and excursions, he’s remarkably agile.  But mainly, he’s very cunning.  He has recently stolen a parcel of wrapped chicken bones, ready for the fire or the recycling, eaten a good many of these and only, according to the vet escaped a serious bone-fragment internal injury because I had first simmered the bones along with an onion, some bay leaves, pepper corns and a stick of celery – all of which he also ate – for 12 hours in the AGA to make stock.  This made them far less dangerous, it seems. He broke into (I am not joking) a closed room and vaulted onto the side to gain this prize, whereupon he ate about half of it before being rudely interrupted by me.  He was so full, he was swaying.  And had to be starved for 2 days, water only.  Can you imagine what Arthur and I went through?

But anyway, all is now well and I have once again increased the security levels, so he is afforded more protection than a head of state.  Here he is on the right and front, sunbathing on my mat:

But since we haven’t had much sun recently, they have mainly been sleeping in the kitchen or the dining room by the fire:

Arthur loves Rupert so much, if Roo has to be in the cage on his own, Arthur can hardly bear it and so when they are actually together, he sort of lays on him in a childish way – sometimes, he takes a little of Rupert’s ‘spare skin’ – you know how Dachshunds have ‘folds’ round their necks – in his mouth and just goes to sleep, I think it is so he will instantly wake up if Roo moves.

Arthur wears a collar, Roo doesn’t, but he still owns one and recently has been on 2 little walks, once in Budleigh Salterton, where he and Arthur shared a very small ice-cream.  He wishes for more hot weather as he loves the sun on his poor old back, but failing that is happy with cold wet weather as long as I light the fire and they get to sleep beside it while I knit.  I usually oblige.

(By the way, the visit to BS was about 2 weeks before the Royal Jubilee and the town is clearly a hot-bed of fervent Royalism, every shop had a special display, but the most eye-catching of all – bordering on vulgar, so many union flags and photos of Her Maj were rammed into the windows – was in the local funeral directors.  Which I found – though I am unsure quite why – rather unsavoury).

 

Royals and caravans. Not together.

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

*in reading the following you accept that I don’t hate the Royal family, I agree that the Queen is amazing for her age and I don’t think (unlike Millington) that ‘she (her Maj) shouldn’t be allowed to go outside’.  Millington is harsh, sometimes, for one so young and lovely.  Also, I have several very good friends who own/use caravans and I am not caravanist. It’s just that, because we live very close to the M5, caravan play-ground of the world, in much the same way as Monte Carlo is the play-ground of the rich and Tango-tan-tastic, we are blessed with many caravans.

OK.

Sometimes I think I am out of step with the world.  I reflected on this today because a year ago today, (no offense Kate and William) I didn’t watch the Royal wedding.  They were gutted, natch. This is was partly because we were en route to the Isle of Wight that day – which we found in an utter ferment of ardent Royalist/wedding activity – but even so we could have watched the highlights later.  We didn’t.  We avoided it and that, my friends, was tough.  I know most people really did love it, and I did like her dress, but I felt a bit isolated in thinking:  this is their big day and I’m really happy for them, they do seem lovely and they sure do look great especially together, having double-handed improved the attractiveness rating of the Royal family by 1, 109%;  but it’s nothing to do with me, I don’t want to watch it.

I think they will bring – maybe this has started, I have not checked – a breath of fresh air to the Royal family (she gushed, brushing up her glossy celebrity/Royal family magazine journo skills in case I get a chance of a free-lance gig at one of them).  Kate has a unique sense of personal style, she is both an icon and yet, touchingly, she is at one with modern culture:  a wise and pretty head on young shoulders – oh it’s no good, I can’t go on.  I don’t think any of that.  I think she’s about as normal as a daughter of the super-rich can be; and she needs to gain about 10lbs.  Oh and shock-horror:  Kate once went in Zara.  And bought a dress.

I was tempted by having a Royal wedding party (had we been at home) but honestly, that would have only been in order to wear every sparkly thing I have ever owned or knitted, plus a tiara, whilst drinking (M&S) Champagne and eating buffet food.  Sometimes I think my fondness for bog-standard buffet food (not you, Value Range) is a key indicator of my proley roots.  In this I imagine I am exactly like Kate.  I don’t care, I love a cocktail sausage, me.  I don’t like posh buffets, with things on rock hard slices of ciabatta bread that are at once too big to neck down in one mouth-full, yet also certain to shatter into a thousand shards of splinter-like bread needles beloved by assassins at buffets, if you bite it.  Either you risk an unseemly choking, cheek-bulging few seconds to 2 full minutes depending on the topping, or everyone in your orbit gets a bit. Lose lose.  Likewise I don’t like things that are crimped and folded into bread-or-pastry-like-material, thus making is impossible to discern what this conceals.  Sniffing the buffet is (apparently)  frowned upon.  As is my favourite past-time with chocolates (this is gross, so you might want to skip): biting it, eating that half and giving the rest to Mark because I don’t like it.  I’m fussy.  But greedy.  And curious.  Can’t give it to the dogs, chocolate is toxic to dogs.  Isn’t it, Roo?  I mean, you can’t bite half a mystery crimped crescent moon-shaped pastry affair and then pop the other half back or give it to your husband.  In public.  I also, oddly, given what I have just shared, don’t like communal dips or being a long way down the line at a buffet because I suspect all the people in front of me of sniffing it as I would very much like to do, or at least breathing on the food and maybe touching it.

Sorry, small digression.  It’s not unusual.

This next bit is something I think I  share with a lot of people.  I do get a bit fed up with loads of caravans.  I accept that this is because I don’t indulge, but I really don’t get caravan rage and I acknowledge that a significant number of really lovely people derive innocent pleasure from this past-time.  In fact, I think I’d really like a camper van, but it has to be pistachio green and cream.  It is a long-standing dream of mine to own a VW Camper Van.

This is my problem with caravans and it’s to do with the product-branding, not the users:  it just really makes me laugh (out loud, yes, I lol, but it’s OK ‘cos I’m usually alone in my car at this point) when I read names on the backs of caravans like ‘Marauder’, ‘Adventurer’, or ‘Crusader Hurricane’.  Oh come on.  You’re not a Marauder, now, are you?  Because if you are, sorry but you’ve backed a loser coming to Brean Down Caravan park for 2 weeks, the others are not going to be impressed with your marauding ways and it’s not a great way to make friends in the club house.  I suspect.

I sometimes drive past the people towing ‘Marauder’ and glance at them.  You’d never know. They look so normal and nice, but I suspect if you ARE a marauder, you might not want to advertise.  No, wait – they have it on the back of their van!

Why do the marketing teams give their products such inappropriate names?  It’s not like they can seriously think:  ‘I know, if we call this new van ‘Thor’, we’ll attract a new niche of god-like, if possibly rather aggressive, customers’, is it?  Should I buy a caravan, I’d be positively discouraged from buying if it was called ‘Thunderer’ or some-such nonsense.  I’d honestly rather have one called Betty or Tetley.  Because, in the caravan-owning segment of my friends and acquaintances, none of them is remotely like the sort of person who you’d associate with ‘Buccaneer’.  No offence, on the contrary, I have actively rooted out all my buccaneering friends and deleted them from my FaceBook account.

On the other hand, sometimes I think I won’t like something, perhaps partly because of its overwhelming popularity, and then for some reason I do try it and lo and behold!  I was wrong, Millington was right, I DO like it after all!  One such thing was knitting in the round on 2 short circs, though here it must be said that the very moment Millington lets me out of her sight, I instantly revert to DPNs.  But yes, I do like 2 short circs.  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Nothing was going to make me read that because I thought it’d be nasty and also it was so popular, it sort of repelled me.  To be fair, I didn’t read it, I listened to an unabridged version – and I loved it, though I was right, it is a bit nasty.  I went right on and got the next 2 volumes and was desolate when they ended.

I acknowledge that in posting this blog, I may have reduced the chances of a call any time soon from the editors of ‘Royals! They’re Just Like Us!’ and ‘Marauding Today:  Modern Caravaning’.  Oh well, there go 2 gigs.

Anyway, I must go now and resume worrying about how on earth I’m going to water my veg garden while we are in the grip of this hose-pipe ban and drought.  *rigs life-lines for Dachshunds to safely navigate the torrent of flood water formerly known as Our Garden*

 

Love: it’s Dachshund shaped!

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Me: OK February, we meet again. 

February:

Me: so, is it fourth time lucky?

February:

Me: like, every year, you come around and Rupert has to have surgery. It’s as regular as, um, a calender. Wait, that does make sense, since you’re a calendar month…OK, what I mean is, every year with the surgery, give us a break?

February:

See, that’s what you get when you try and talk to February.  Nada, zilch. Nothing. February doesn’t even have the common decency to reply to this imaginary conversation.

(New Readers:  it’s OK, sometimes she writes about books.  Or knitting).

Rupert, seen here in his study:

is the Senior Dachshund (Senor Dach, as he is known to the staff).  He is also not a well dog, having inherited a very bad dose of what I call the Devil’s Back, a degenerative spinal condition sometimes afflicting shorter-legged and long-backed dogs, but which has been largely bred out of miniature varieties nowadays.  This is one reason why you see so few standard Dachshunds now.  Sadly, despite much research on our part and also a lot of careful handling, Roo appears to be a throw-back. 

4 years ago this month, we first saw the terrible signs of it.  He had surgery.  And there followed a good year, after a long and difficult re-coup.  Almost 12 months to the day, it was back, more surgery, better this time, a very fast recovery and a good year.  Last year, hello February my old friend – yep, bang on, another crisis and an even bigger op this time (all these take place at Langford, Bristol, that place where they filmed the telly programme about vets in training.  It’s an amazing place).  They did an op to not only treat the most recent disc problem but take surgical steps to try and head off further incidents.  And he positively bounced back from that one, no time off his legs, no pain, he totally breezed it.  That’s my boy!

So, you can imagine how I approach February.  I kind of come at it sideways, crab-like, trying not to make eye-contact, for yes, February, she is a cruel month.  Cold, hard, cutting, pale grey and mercifully short.  If I could, I’d approach February from the back – that would of course mean I’d have to time-warp forwards into March, so maybe I’ll just leave that idea there, on the side-board and step away. 

Well, he’s not off his back legs.  However, true to form it’s clear that all is far from well.  The pain is well controlled and he’s comfy.  Family vet, lovely and calm (like me! yes, I AM calm) has been consulted, who in turn has consulted the main Dachshund guy at Langford (yes, I do believe they have 1, isn’t that cool?).  Further surgery hasn’t been ruled out but it’s not a high probability given the scale of the last operation.  I could opt for further tests, chiefly 2 MRI scans, which he’s had before, the first to establish exactly what has happened now and the second MRI 8 weeks later to double check.  The intervening 8 weeks have to be spent cage-resting.  But each MRI involves sedation and a very stressful trip for Rupert.  (Oh, by the way, it’s not the money, thanks be the great god Pet-Plan, boy did they ever back a loser the day they accepted Rupert onto their books!)

So I have decided to cage rest him anyway, and see where we are in 4 weeks, then, if he’s no better at all, get the MRI done.  If he is better, continue with the cage rest.

Now, I have been told to my face and had it hinted at several times, that cage-rest is cruel.  So if that’s your opinion, that’s fine (OK, it’s not really fine but whatever), but I am sure it’s not, if done well and for a specific purpose.  Also, as a young lady he met when he was still a puppy pointed out:  he’s a very lazy dog.  Oh, she was so right.  He is.  They all are, really, lazy, burrowing, snuggling, snoring bed-dwellers.  I know what makes Rupert happy.  I know what makes him sad, mad, anxious, relaxed and cheerful.  It is so simple.  It is this:  love, lack of pain, warmth, softness, food and me.  That’s it.  Sniffing other dogs’ bottoms is of course, a bonus.  And hey!  that’s what Arthur’s bottom is for!  Yes, he’s in a (large, cushioned, with water on-demand) cage.  But he’s also on my lap a lot, or another volunteer lap and he gets carted round like a Chinese Prince-ling.  He can walk this time, but the idea is to minimise this. 

Me: So anyway, February, you can take all that and stuff it up your frozen, heartless spout, because I’m happy to stand on your frosty lawns and help Roo get out for a wee (in other words, try and stop him sprinting after Medlar, whom I suspect of being February’s dark-hearted hand-maiden). 

February:

See?  How rude!