Winston the Brave

I have long been an admirer of furs who have special talents or abilities. I thought it might be a good idea to woof with one such illustrious dog who has overcome some difficulties and now is an example of courage, strength, fortitude and overall doggedness. I don’t think Winston will mind if I woof that I suspect these attributes also apply to Winston’s mum (Mumz) who had the never say no attitude to try and give Winston the best life possible.

This is Winston’s story.

Winston, hi. Can you tell us how did it all begin? Have you been with your mum since you were a small puppy? When did you find out that something wasn’t quite right with your legs?

Ok well Mumz didn’t meet me until I was 6 and Bruv was 9, at least we think he was 9. I was ok at that point regarding my walking. I’d had my cyst removed 3 years before that, so I was young when I got it, however it was removed successfully. But then I started scuffing my toes on my back legs, so she took me back to specialist centre who did lots of tests and found scar tissue at operation site. The scar tissue was attached to my spinal cord. There was no choice but to attempt to remove the scar tissue but it was risky. The day before I went in Mumz made sure I had THE best day at the seaside. The operation released scar tissue but damage had been done. Mumz was told I’d be completely paralysed within the year and would be “easier” to put me to sleep. She was so shocked because she didn’t expect that response or recommendation. Through her tears she asked if I’d be viable for a set of wheels or hot rod to support my back legs and thus allow me to get around much easier. They reluctantly confirmed it was possible and Mumz was still really upset when she took me away.

However she then got cross and I mean really cross. She started doing research and hopefully try to get a second opinion. This proved to be quite hard as people in the profession don’t like to step on each other’s toes. Eventually she found somewhere in Birmingham who would see me. It’s a 3 hour drive but we did it. They were brilliant. They explained exactly what was happening inside me, and they even drew Mumz an “idiot proof” picture to demonstrate what was going on. They explained the spinal cord has no pain receptors so I wouldn’t be in pain. The only pain I would get would be muscular as my front end would be working so hard. They even recommended the best hot rod wheels for me. She was elated as they also recommended I find a physio and hydrotherapist. We took action straight away. As a result I stayed upright for 5 years. I didn’t walk normally but I walked. I needed my hot rod wheels after a year or so when we went out but I could still get round the house and garden. Of course I had my man mobile or chariot. It’s been hard work, I have physio once a week and hydro every couple of weeks and a lot of work at home as directed by physio but it is worth it. She has to massage my front end every day as I get muscle fatigue through pulling myself along on the wheels. As a result, my front muscles are larger than they ordinarily would be. She also researched mobility aids, my special “help em up” harness (I think that’s what it’s called) and then also an off roader hot rod wheels. She’s made good contacts with people in the know – in fact the hot rod people are the ones who got me the Alan Titchmarsh show a while ago on the television.

I took to everything without complaint. It took a couple of goes before I realised my hot rod was a good thing but once I realised it meant I could run in it, I was fine! I’ve done all my physio without any complaint, however I think this was probably because food was involved. I’ve adjusted with each step of this journey. It’s Mumz who found it all upsetting and has cried buckets over the years but I’ve not dwelled on how I used to be. As long as I can get where I wanna go, I don’t care how I get there. I don’t mind saying I have been an inspiration to Mumz and everyone in the family. I’ve not changed one bit from the waist up. My zest for life has always been strong and I’m always wanting to be up and at them. I’m not gonna lie, I’m not cheap to look after but I’m worth every single penny and I’ve got a really close bond with Mumz because I rely on her so much. I’m quite fond of her despite her being a bit needy. I can’t walk at all now but we knew this would happen and it’s now 8 years since they told Mumz to put me to sleep and I’ve had a great time! I have had lots of fun, holibobs, trips to seaside and so on. I’m 14 and a half now so I’ve done brilliantly. Me being disabled hasn’t made me any the less of a great pet and friend – if anything the opposite because I so enjoy life it makes it all worth while. Every owner has a special bond with their pet but I think the bond you develop with a disabled pet is a very special one, and who wouldn’t want that.

Patrolling the zombie lake

Thanks Mr Winston sir for the clear and extensive answer. May I ask where you were before you picked Mum to look after you?

We came from a somewhat broken home. Bruv and I had been living together so Mumz got to adopt us both. Bruv and I were the best of buddies, we always knocked along together and were a strong unit.

Did the hot wheels make you and Mum feel that, actually, dogs with disabilities can be super powered and inspiring to others?

Mumz was shocked almost beyond words at how easily I was dismissed as a lost cause by the people who did me op. In the very same meeting when she was told that it would “easier” if I was put to sleep, the specialist asked if we were doing anything nice for fireworks night! I mean, talk about priorities. She now understands better how other places didn’t want to step on their toes but she wasn’t looking for that. She just wanted to see if anyone had any other ideas except euthanasia, but they wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t quite believe how some people who make a living out of caring for animals could be so uncaring. She also changed vets cos my vet wasn’t great in time of crisis too. I think that’s a very important point. If you’re not happy with what you’re being told, try your hardest to get more info and a second opinion. The internet has taught Mumz so much in respect of stuff like this. For instance, like how to help with me toilets as sadly the nerves dealing with that area were affected but it’s all very manageable when you know how. My vet didn’t know how and wasn’t interested. It’s very important to get the right team around you when you have a dog like me with very different needs. They are out there, the experts, you just need to find them.

Enabled, not disabled

So, Zombiesquad was a direct result of your combined thought that pets with disabilities can be super powered and inspirational?

Yes, exactly. This is why I’ve taken on hunting zombies cos I knew I was the best candidate. The whole point of starting zombiesquad was exactly that, to inspire others and to let them see my journey, and how brave I was (I can hunt zombies after all) and the fun people can still have with a disabled pet. We wanted to make my twitter page fun. She wanted everyone to see how happy I am. Obviously she had no idea it would grow so big but she’s thrilled she’s got such a large audience who can see how good my life is. People have approached her for advice with a newly disabled pet or on behalf of friends with a newly disabled pet which has made her very happy because without Twitter / ZS they wouldn’t have known me. She was able to reassure and offer advice and point people in the right direction at a very scary and daunting time.

Thanks. I think everyone agrees that the twitter page is indeed fun and inspirational. May I turn to something a little sadder. When Bruv went to the Rainbow Bridge, this was clearly a very large loss. Did you and Mum have an idea to get you another friend or apprentice soon after.

She didn’t want another dog after Bruv. We loved him so much, still do, the thought of someone else and going through that again was not something she was prepared to do. It felt very disloyal to him. But then I got depressed. Very depressed. Mumz did her best to cheer me up and even spoke to an animal behaviouralist but I missed him so badly nothing helped. So her solution was to allow the Kid to move in. We’re not best pals like I was with Bruv but he’s a companion and someone to do things with. He cheered me up.

Mr Winston, thank you for allowing me to interview you. I think everyone can see that being a pet with disabilities isn’t something to hold you back. The zest for life, for fun and for chasing zombies clearly allows you to live as full a life as possible. Thank you also to Mumz for pursuing the alternative option, for not taking the first advice as final and wanting the best in life for you.

Rushing to another zombie alert

Nellie

Nellie Beagle was rescued by BREW, Beagle Rescue, Education & Welfare. I wanted to understand and learn more about how Nellie came to be adopted and what was the process. So, I asked Nellie’s mum some questions.

When you decided to adopt, did you specifically want a beagle or was it more of an accidental acquaintance?

How did we wind up with Beagles? Well, our neighbour had a beagle called Zoe. She walked by our house every day. Zoe was such a sweet dog, always happy to give a lick or a hug.  When we decided to get a dog, my husband Rich said ‘Why don’t we get a beagle?’ Once we decided on the breed, I started doing my research which took around 6 months. I noticed that there were a number of organisations out there who rescued and rehomed beagles. We decided that we would pursue an adoption through BREW – Beagle Rescue, Education and Welfare. We filled out the application, had the home visit and were approved for adoption. The lady that undertook the home visit check actually brought two male beagles with her, they were called Magoo & Finnegan. Whilst looking at the available pups, I noticed Nellie and fell in love. She was just so petite and beautiful and we had to have her. We were approved to adopt her and we travelled to pick her up a few weeks later. Nellie was only in a foster home for a few weeks and I believe that she was used for hunting prior to us having her. She wasn’t potty trained and she wasn’t interested in being with us for the first 6 months.  The things she did like were eating, going for walks and her bed.  Her bed was a favourite from the very first day.  The first 6 months were tough – she was pooping and peeing in the house and hiding the remainder of the time. We tried to crate train her and she would do the most amazing things with the crate – turn it upside down, on its side, move it across the room – just nuts. When that didn’t work, we tried gating her and she ate the gate. We came home one day to find shreds of wood all over the place from her gnawing away, trying to escape. This required a vet visit to make sure she didn’t have any splinters in her mouth. 

Did you ever feel in the first 6 months that it may be a little too much to take on?

I remember telling my husband, Rich, at one point that if she peed in the house one more time I was done. Actually I think after that time she stopped peeing in the house. She also dug up a brand new rug – we put it down, left for a little while, then returned and she had made a giant hole in the rug. It was almost like a cartoon. We are not sure how one little dog ruined a 8 x 10 rug in 3 hours but she did. She was very trying at times but we knew that she was learning how to be a dog and how to live with us. This spurred us on, made us more determined to succeed and give her a life worth living. After 6 months she eventually settled in and became the perfect dog.

Why the sudden change after 6 months?

Perfect took about 6 months. There were many good things about Nellie from day 1. She liked to sleep and liked her bed so she was never up early or in the middle of the night. She always liked supper and was a good eater. She was always mild mannered and sweet to both humans and pups. She loved to go for a walk. She was a tracker, barking constantly when she smelled a rabbit. She loved her dog walker and couldn’t wait to see her each day. I think it took a village of people to get her to perfect.

Was Nellie called Nellie when you adopted her?

Yes Nellie was Nellie and as it is a cute name we decided to keep it and not subject her to having to learn another name. She was healthy, happy and friends with all of the dogs in the neighbourhood. She also made friends with all of the humans too. Everyone knew and loved Nellie.

So, was the adoption process easy and how did Nellie arrive at your house via BREW and a foster home?

Yes she was fostered in Ohio. She went from pound to a Brew foster home to us so had quite some upheaval. The process was easy but there were of course some requirements such as initial application, home visit, approval, etc. All hurdles we needed to cross.

Thanks. So it was fairly straightforward. Please continue.

Her grandparents also loved her – one grandma made chicken especially for her and the other made sure she had Christmas presents and brought treats on every visit. Nellie loved going to the dog sitters house and conspiring with her beagles (the dog sitter never had beagles until she met Nellie and she wound up having 4 and being a life long friend). The dog sitter has 5 fenced acres. Nellie would run in the front door, pick up the pack and run out the back door in a matter of a minute. We would try to say good bye and tell her that we would miss her but she was long gone. When we picked her up, her nose was always raw from all of the good sniffs she found. 

After 5 years, we moved to a house that had a fenced yard.  We thought it might be nice to give Nellie a friend, so we adopted Lucy, a senior beagle from BREW.  Nellie was great with Lucy. She welcomed her with open paws. There were no issues at all. Lucy lived with us for about 2 years before she went OTRB.

Do you think there was a “pack’ mentality between Nellie & Lucy? Maybe luck that they were two gentle like minded beagles?

Maybe luck & pack.. I think so. I also think that Nellie was such a loving dog that she would welcome anyone.

What did you know of Lucy? Can you tell us a little more about her?

We don’t know much, again she was a pound dog we adopted through BREW. She was very sick when we first adopted her, she almost died as she had pancreatitis. She was only with her foster mom for a short time. She was at least 10 when we adopted her. We wanted someone around Nellie’s age at that time. I think Nellie was 8 or 9 when we adopted Lucy.

Thank you. So, Biscuit, Remington & Dawson are the next ones on the radar.

After Lucy passed, we thought it would be a good idea to adopt another senior beagle. We drove to Chicago to pick up Biscuit and put her in the backseat with Nellie and came home. Again, there were no issues. The two of them were like 2 peas in a pod from day one. There was no fighting, just beagle love. Biscuit had been in rescue for almost a year while she worked through heartworm treatment. She was such a happy and pretty pup. A few months after we adopted Biscuit, we learned of a terrible situation where 2 beagles were living outside, not being fed, not receiving vet care and were in danger with the cold weather coming. A friend was able to get the owner to surrender the pups. Our friend asked for our help because she travelled for her job and was not able to take the dogs to care for them. We told her that we would help until we could figure out what to do. Again my husband, Rich, met Remington and Dawson at the vet the first day they arrived. They had been living in their own filth and both were malnourished and sick. I should say that neither had names at this point and they were named at the vet’s office. Dawson had ear infections, intestinal parasites and nasal parasites.  Remington had the same plus a skin issue and heartworm. We got the medication and veterinary care that they needed and then moved them to crates in our laundry room for 90 days. We could not have them with the girls as they could pass on the parasites and infections. After 3 months, we were able to get Dawson neutered and get all of his infections cleared up. Remington went through heartworm treatment and when that was successfully completed, he was neutered. Neither dog was housebroken or had any manners at all. We needed to teach them everything about being a dog.  This was a very difficult time for us. We weren’t prepared to have 4 dogs, 2 of them very sick, but we figured it out. After working through all of the issues with Remy and Dawson, there was no way that we could give them up, so we wound up with 4 dogs.

Did you know of the situation with Remington & Dawson before they arrived at the vets?

We believe the boys were owned by a man who passed away. The dogs were given to his son and we understand that he did not  take care of them. At least this is what we were told at the time. We don’t know if they were sick prior to the dad passing away or not. I have pictures of where they were living which was essentially a fenced in area with a chicken coop type place and weeds everywhere. We are not sure why this situation happened, only that a friend of a friend became aware of the situation and asked the owner to surrender the pups and miraculously he did. The odd thing is that he actually had another dog, I guess his dog, that was well taken care of and living with him.

What did the vet say when your friends had the boys surrendered and then picked up by you?

One friend had the owner surrender them and the other friend picked up the dogs and drove them to the vet. Rich met them at the vet. The vet knew that they were going to be in bad shape but we are not sure the vet knew how bad of shape they were in. The boys were living in their own faeces and Rich said they were really stinky. The vet said she has seen similar cases of neglect in the past and that we probably saved Remington’s life. Clearly much longer in the insanitary conditions and he would have died. Dawson would have too but he was not as sick as Remington. After the vet check the boys went to the dog wash and our friend went through 2 bottles of shampoo trying to get them clean. After the boys initial visit to our friend’s vet, we made an appointment and took them to our vet about a week later just to have them checked out and to get additional medications and make sure that nothing was missed in their initial vet visit. Getting them healthy – especially Remy – was a journey. It took Remington 6 months before he was through heartworm treatment and clear of all issues.

Remington & Dawson

It is heartbreaking to hear stories like this, however it is heartwarming that the boys were saved and are happy. Can I ask about Nellie going OTRB (Over The Rainbow Bridge)?

Life at our house with 4 dogs was going well for a number of months until we took Nellie for her annual physical. They did a urine test and discovered that she had TCC or Transitional Cell Carcinoma.  The outlook was very bleak as most dogs lose their battle within 6 months. TCC is cancer of the urethra and is common in older spayed beagles. Usually what happens is that the urethra gets blocked and the dog cannot urinate, so they need to be put down. We were very fortunate as the foremost vet researcher for TCC was at Purdue University, close to our home. Nellie started treatment there, first in a clinical trial, and then traditional chemo. She continued her fight for almost 3 years. She was going for chemo monthly and taking daily medications.  She eventually decided that she had enough and stopped eating one day.  We took her a few days later to the vet and she went OTRB. It was truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. We sent tissue samples to Purdue so they could potentially help another pup and/or stop the disease completely. 

We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from the Twitterpack at her passing.  She truly was one in a million.

Again, thank you. It is truly heartbreaking when things like this occur. Can you say, is TCC hereditary, is it common?

We are not sure if it is hereditary but it is very common in older spayed female beagles and also in Schnauzers, I think.

Since Nellie’s passing, Biscuit’s health has continued to decline. We think she is at least 14. She has congestive heart failure and is on a number of medications.  The medications cause issues with the kidneys and we are now dealing with kidney and liver issues with her. She is going to the vet twice a week for fluids to help her kidneys. Remington (9) and Dawson (8) continue to be happy pups.  

Thank you for letting us know so much information about all the dogs you have rescued and loved. Giving a dog a chance of a good life is wonderful and we are truly grateful to you, and of course Rich.

Midwest BREW can be found here. https://gotbeagles.org/

A chilly morn in the fields

Wake up, it’s time for a walk. I don’t mind that it is only just above freezing, there is a world of dexplorations out there.

We set out for a brisk walk around the fields at Mayhall Farm. We are lucky as there is permitted access kindly granted by the farmers.

Chesham from Mayhall Farm fields

The sun was still fairly low in the sky and the woods cast their shadows across some of the fields. The early morning frost covered the still shaded grass. To me it is ideal as all the scents are held on the surface and my nose is filled with the aromas of the wildlife I wish to meet. I don’t think the wildlife wants to reciprocate however. I am raring to go but my hudad is still a bit slow and takes some time to get into his stride. It is a lovely crisp sunny day however so we march on.

Snootering in the hedgerows

Every now and then we take time to stop and look around at the lovely views we have from the tops of the hills. We wonder where everyone else is? These are ideal walking conditions and even I am a little confused as to where all my fellow dogs have got to. Anyway back to sniffing the paths and fields for the rabbits, squirrels, deer and foxes which are all hiding away from me. As we continue our walk, the Chaffinches and Great Tits scatter ahead of us from their perches within the hedgerows.

Within a couple of hours we have strolled around 6 miles and find ourselves heading home to a hearty breakfast. My brain and nose have been filled with the sights, sounds and scents of the local fields.

Early morning shenanigans

I am a lucky Beagle Harrier. All this on my doorstep and I can walk it whenever I want. Rain or shine, I love it.

Dexter enjoying his walk in the fields.
Happy hound

Old Amersham Stroll

In pursuit of my dream of dexploring all the lanes, woods, fields and paths around my house I decided it would be a good idea if my parents had a gentle 8 mile Sunday morning stroll recently.

Starting through the fields at Mayhall Farm, we crossed a road with big houses and through Hervines Park. We very carefully walked over the railway crossing. Down the pathway and through the fields bordering Rectory Hill we went. This was exciting as I had never been here before and I was anxious to introduce myself to all the wildlife living in the copses, hedgerows and fields. Unfortunately I was shackled to my mum so I didn’t really get the chance to woof hello up close.

Hurry up, Old Amersham is down there

Past the football club and into Old Amersham we went. I was enjoying this. Somewhere I hadn’t been before and new sniffs abounded. I saw some lovely old buildings and quite a few people. Old Amersham has a Market Hall built in 1682 and it is still used today. Mum & dad seemed to be more interested to discover that there were quite a number of hostelries in the town that they seem not to have visited. Hmmm.

Left into Church Street and past St Marys Church. Taking the next right we strolled along the river Misbourne and through the fields. I was taking in all the scenery and looking forward to what was around the next corner.

Sadly it was the road which took us out of Old Amersham, up to Amersham on the Hill and back towards my home.

Zzzzzzz

Eight miles and plenty of sniffs later I was snoozing gently in my bed and dreamed of another dexploration just like this. Hopefully soon.

2018 – Year of Dexploration

As the year draws swiftly to a close I wanted to reflect on what I had encountered through the last 12 months. It appears I have enjoyed myself greatly with the assistance of my Personal Assistants and quite a number of my friends and their pawrents.

January

It was quite a cold month and I spent most of the time either running around to keep warm or trying to complete the crossword puzzle. January was quite a sad month as my pawrents had to go to my grandad’s funeral so it was fairly subdued to be honest.

February

I was lucky to get a trip to Blandford Forum in mid February and I took the opportunity to have a really good sniff around the River Stour. Thankfully the weather stayed fair. Back home it was essential that I continued to ensure that the fields and byways around my house were clear of squirrels.

March

Brrr. Much of March was cold as a result of the Beast from the East. Not that it stopped me from patrolling every day through the snow and chill wind. There was a stark beauty to the countryside near my house as I strolled the fields and woods.

April

The sun made an appearance and continued to shine for the majority of April. This was the signal for a hearty rendition of the “song of the beagle” on regular occasions. I even managed to get in a surprise visit to the Beagle World Record walk in Macclesfield. I am proud to be part of the world record for a single breed of dog walk along with over 1,000 of my friends and their pawrents. Sadly I did not realise it would be the last time I saw my wonderful friend Charley Beagle who went to the Rainbow Bridge early in September.

May

The merry month of May. The sun continued to shine, the rain clouds stayed away and the grass grew. Flowers proliferated in the garden and the meadows making for some wondrous smells on my daily patrols. I was nearly half way through another year and I sometimes took a moment to reflect on my lucky situation.

June

Still the sun refused to be hidden by rain clouds. This was what summer should be about. Warm days, bright evenings getting longer and all with the beauty of the flowers and shrubs in my garden surrounding me and making me so happy. The lanes, fields and woods near my house grew drier and dusty. The shade from the trees was welcomed as the temperatures climbed and walks became earlier each day. My June was saddened by news that a good friend Nellie the Beagle had passed to the Rainbow Bridge. Everyone loved Nellie.

July

With the sun still showing its face from early morning to late evening we were all getting hot and bothered. We decided to take a few days in Dorset to take in some views and some sea breezes. West Bexington and Puncknowle were chosen and we enjoyed being away for a few days. Back at home the early walks continued so we could avoid the hottest part of the day.

August

Patrolling in the parched fields around my house had become the norm recently. Whilst the scenery is wonderful at all times of the year, I certainly missed the greenery of the growing crops to run through whilst sniffing out critters. We managed another trip to Dorset for a day. This time we were in Christchurch and I made sure I got a walk along the beach. Sadly another friend, Tommy, from Argentina also crossed to the Rainbow Bridge.

September

With the summer pretty much finished it felt like a good time to think back over the shenanigans I had got up to this year. I was happy to recall all the fun I’d had so far. Little did I know that there would be a wonderful trip to London for me, courtesy of my hudad. I got to travel on the train, the tube and I saw many of the sights of London. Apparently I behaved impeccably. Very sadly Charley Beagle went suddenly to the Rainbow Bridge and everyone was sad for he was a great friend to all.

October

We met with my good friend Raffa Beagle on top of the northern Chilterns at Dunstable Downs. A lovely day was had by all as we strolled and watched the gliders floating silently across the skies. Not content with one outing I managed to wander around Ashridge Estate. This was great fun as the long grass held many critters and smells which were intriguing to me.

November

We lost a great friend in early September 2018 and a large number of friends all chipped in to buy a permanent and wonderful reminder of Charley beagle. We were lucky to be there when the stone bench was delivered. Later in the November I was lucky enough to get another tube ride and this time it was with both my pawrents.

December

December arrived and the cold chill of the Arctic wind made the grass frosty and bleak. The low sun played its rays across the fields turning them into gold. Walks around the woods and fields were done with the usual gusto albeit also with a view to getting back home into the warm.

My year has been wonderful. I have been to places I could never have dreamed of, I have met friends and had great fun with them too. I have had a year of dexplorations which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I feel reassured that I am safe and loved. I know I have a great life. I am very lucky.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2019 is good for you.

Grandad Chas

My grandad did the best ear tickles. He always told me I was ‘andsome. Whenever I saw him, I always knew that I would get many fusses. I saw him just before Christmas 2017 and he was happy to give me tickles and tell me to be a good boy. I love getting tickles and cuddles. He told my pawrents that I had become better behaved as time had gone by, that I was more attentive to them generally and I had learned more instructions. This made me happy and proud. I also got more treats when I was good.

Grandad Chas at 23

Nanny & Grandad had a lovely Christmas Day and then celebrated 59 years of being married on 26th December 2017. They were born in 1937 and got married in 1958. They had five children including my uncle David who passed away in 1974. They worked hard to make sure their children always had food on the table, shoes on their feet and honesty in their bones.

Grandad Chas with my auntie.

Grandad suffered a heart attack in 2001 and had to have a very big operation to save his life. My dad went to the hospital with nanny to see grandad the day after the operation and said that grandad looked like an alien all wired up to machines. Thankfully the operation was a total success as it allowed him to live for many years after 2001. He was able to enjoy doing many things such as seeing England play cricket at Lords & the Oval, go again to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and even go hot air ballooning.

Cricket at the Oval

Last Christmas, the phone rang on 28th December 2017 and my auntie called to say Grandad had fallen over in the shopping centre. Then she called back 25 minutes later to say that Grandad had passed away. I looked at dad and he was looking sadly at mum. He knew there was nothing he could do to bring grandad back and he would never speak to my grandad again. His heart ached and he wondered what to do. However he knew he had to go and see nanny as she would need plenty of support now that Grandad was gone. Grandad was nannies rock and helped her do everything. Grandad would try to cheer her up when she was sad. He would go shopping, do the cooking and generally help to make nannies life easier as they grew older. He was always at his vegetable allotment growing so many vegetables and fruit that they always had plenty of healthy food to eat. He would say that he had grown enough beans and carrots to feed an army.

Grandad Chas

Grandad Chas was a good bloke, he loved all his family and all his friends. He worked hard, really hard, to make sure that he could look after my nanny and ensure that his children grew up safe, secure, loved and with a sense of responsibility for what they will face in the world. He wanted his children to have good morals and were thoughtful and lived their lives with a free thinking and positive mindset. I think he succeeded. He said he was proud of his children and that was one of his main goals in life.

My dad tells me to always say what you feel when you can to the people you love and cherish. One day it will be too late and you mustn’t regret not telling those people dearest to you, that you love them. I miss my grandad so much so often. I miss the ear tickles and the back scratches. I miss the belly rubs and the head massages with his long bony fingers. Mostly I miss him not being able to lean into his shins and look up at him and tell him, with my eyes, I love you Grandad.

Christmas Eve walk

The bright sunny morning was too much to ignore. Come on it’s time to go and explore the hills, woods and the various muddiest places we can find. On with the harness and walking gear and off we go. Not long into the trip and the wellies come in useful as we stop to take the pictures of the views from the top of White Hill.

White Hill Chesham

Even looking towards the Chess Valley and Latimer had great views.

White Hill Chesham

I was intent on making the most of the walk today so decided to go through the muddiest sections of the fields, through the hedgerows and then up through the woods so I could get a panorama back to where I came from and to where I would return. It was great I was almost in Botley and I could see all the way back to Chesham Bois.

Is that a squirrel over there?

The cloud looked like a sea in a narrow inlet, washing upon the shore. Was I high up or was the cloud low?

Nearly in Botley

On the way back I even bumped into a little beagle called Poppy and we greeted each other in the traditional beagle festive fashion. I am now crashed out snoring soundly on the sofa. I may also be kicking mum in the kidneys whilst I sleep. I wouldn’t know, however.

What a great dexploration. I even saw this guy near my home.

Father Christmas

Have fun everyone.

Gotcha Day

Within the world of dogs in which I find myself, there is a date that arises once a year and is a cause for celebration, thanks and thoughtfulness. Whether the fur concerned is a pup, re-homed or rescued like I have been, the day in question is the Gotcha Day. It represents the first day we wandered into our new forever homes to start our new lives.

I arrived in my forever home on 19th December 2013 and I really didn’t know what to think, let alone what to expect from this new house and these new pawrents. I had been in a home before and for one reason or another it hadn’t worked out. So, here I was in another new home and it looked nice, it was warm and there were plenty of beds and places to sleep as well as a crate with blanket covers so I could retreat there if I felt anxious.

Fast forward five years and I have a great life. I am safe, loved and I know that this is my forever home.

I can celebrate my luck in finding the right pawrents to look after me.

I can give thanks to them and all my friends who welcomed me and made me feel loved and wanted.

I am thoughtful for the other furs who remain in kennels, pounds, rescue centres and worse still are unloved and abused all around the world. If I could wave a magic wand and give them all a loving home, I would do without a seconds delay.

Dixie and Maddy rescue

In an effort to try and find out how rescues are differently managed and costed in different parts of the world, I took the opportunity to ask Dixie Beagle’s mum in New Jersey about Dixie & Maddy’s rescues. I also asked about the problems encountered with the rehoming process, but which were overcome with love and resilience. You will see that there is some considerable frustration at some of the practices used by the adoption people. 

Can you tell us about your experience when you decided to get a rescue dog?

“When we finally decided to get another dog, the first thing to do was decide pretty much what we wanted. Our list was a 20 to 30 pound adult dog that would walk a few miles a day and would not hunt our Caique (small parrot) that had free run of our living room. There were only 2 brick and mortar shelters within 30 minutes of our home so we started there. The first shelter was predominantly pit bulls and pit mixes both of which are too big and strong for me. The other shelter was just as disappointing so we continued our search via the internet. Of course, now that there was no initial face to face meeting with the dog, this meant the process was lengthened so we had the chance to meet the dog before adopting it. We narrowed our search to fairly local rescues. We had friends in other states that rescued their dogs for less than $100. Imagine our surprise when we found we would be spending a minimum of $300. After months of looking on line we decided to start going to “adoption events” at local malls. We finally found a dog, we asked the foster as many question as we could think of, walked the dog around the stores and outside and agreed the 24 pound mixed breed would do the job well. We filled out the paper work and 3 days later one of the rescue’s founders brought the dog and a gallon zip-lok bag of food, and traded them for a check. We named her Scruffy for the unkempt slight curly black fur that covered her. The bird was not happy losing his out of the cage time however we needed time for all to adjust. Scruffy was great. She lay in the kitchen while I was preparing food. She walked like a showdog. She didn’t bark at every little thing, she had great manners and we were happy. After 5 days we thought the Caique might be able to spend a bit of time on his play stand. I had Scruffy across the room as the bird came out. She stayed right next to my feet for about 15 minutes, then as the bird started to whistle, Scruffy charged the playstand. The bird flew to me out of fear and Scruffy was on me, snapping like crazy, trying to get the bird. The bird bit me from fright as I grabbed Scruffy’s collar. I called the rescue and the response was, “Well she chased all the birds out of the yard but we didn’t think that your parrot would be out of a cage so thought it would be alright.”  Scruffy was returned to the rescue and our check was returned.”

So, what happened next?

“Back to our search. We decided maybe a young dog would be more accepting of a bird in the house. We found a rescue that had a beagle mix litter about 5 months old. Given the age of the litter pups, we considered that a pup should be young enough to train. We called and the owner/operator said she only had a female left from the litter and would bring her by the next day. The pup was beautiful but very shy. The rescuer attributed that to being shown at adoption events and losing all her littermates. The pup won my husband’s heart right away and cried when he went inside to get her a cookie. She immediately crawled to me but kept looking for him. We had a quick talk and decided to take her. We paid $350 for her with the promise to get a $50 refund once we had her spayed. She had won our hearts so we were content to pay this. During the first week, we took her to our vet for a check up and found out that she was probably a bit older at maybe 6 months, and she had ear mites. That didn’t impress us about the care she had received at the rescue. She also was more than just shy, she was afraid of everything. She had a hard time walking away from us in the yard. She shook at anything unknown. After one mistake, she was house broken so we assumed we could bring her out of her shell. When we went back to the vet to make sure the mites were gone, he admitted that he didn’t think we would keep her and offered a bleak outlook on her ever becoming a normal dog. We made progress getting her out. After a month it was time to spay her. Dixie was a lot of work and patience but we were committed. We found a trainer to work with her and us to make her more confident. I decided to claim the $50 refund to help pay for the private training. Imagine my surprise when I could not contact the rescue. A little investigation showed me that her rescue had been shut down a week after her adoption due to animal welfare concerns! It didn’t matter. We were committed to giving this sweet little pup a good life. When we got her it took us 2 weeks to get her to walk 80 feet to the road. Now, at 7 years old, with a lot of hard work on all our parts, she walks 2 miles twice a day, walks at a 15 minute mile pace. She kind of accepts the bird, she greets anyone that says hello on her walks and makes us laugh at her antics everyday. She is no longer fearful. The only leftover problem is that she gets overexcited very easily.”

It sounds like it was hard work at first, but that perseverance paid off?

The first vet was right, she isn’t a normal dog. She is a great dog. We learned a few things during that time. First, both rescues lied just to place the dog even if it might come back. We were fairly flexible in what we wanted and even redefined our search and that is important, but we may have been a bit too flexible. While we would not trade Dixie now, there were moments when we almost gave her up because she was too energetic for people of our age. It took about a year before we adopted Dixie and I sometimes wonder if search fatigue influenced our decision to take and keep Dixie. We often say “we didn’t choose Dixie as much as she chose us.” I think we just all needed each other.

It sounds as if there is a very special bond between you all. Maybe that you feel now you have put in so much time and effort from both you and Dixie, that you are a strong unit. You must have been pretty upset with the rescue centres though?

Well, we subsequently found out some more information, which we couldn’t confirm but seems to show that Dixie was born in Kentucky. The “story” is that the litter was found under a shed and turned into animal control. I don’t know that for a fact. We have no idea how she got to NJ. 
Her NJ rescue was obviously not a good place to be as a pup. The woman told us she had never stepped on grass until she came to meet us. We can only imagine her life before us. When we got her she was afraid of the world and didn’t trust humans not to hurt her. Treating her ear mites did not help that situation. Although it didn’t hurt it was uncomfortable to have liquid squirted into her ears. In the beginning she did not like anyone reaching for her and especially not over her head. We started touching her back near her tail. Soon we were stroking her back and chest. It actually took about 2 years before we could ruffle her ears without her pulling away. Now she loves any kind of petting and tickling.
She was ok with a collar but did not like being controlled by a lead. In the beginning, she had no curiosity.  She had to be coaxed to walk a bit farther every day. Neighbors would laugh as we tried to get her around that block. When fear became too great she would just stop, stand still and shake. We were overjoyed when she made it around the block but we had to be careful how we showed it as even praise given too loudly or actively would make her cower. We couldn’t clap our hands or wave them about and “good girl” said too loudly had the same effect as “no”. We learned to physically smile whenever we praised her and eventually she got it. We stopped saying “no” to stop unwanted behaviors and made the ah-ahh sound some use with toddlers.  We still use that sound today before a firm “no” if ignored. Much of our progress in giving Dixie confidence came through her daily walks. We have many dogs behind fences in our neighborhood.  Many of those dogs bark at people on the street. We were told to just ignore the barking and walk by. Dixie would freeze and want to run away at the first sound. One day I picked her up and carried her by a solid fence behind which was a barking dog. This was a major mistake according to a trainer, however once by, I put her down and continued on. Dixie found some interesting smells and was happy. I had to repeat that a few times. Thereafter she would pause at the barking and then run to the smells she knew were waiting just up the road. After that it was easy to slow her down and now she doesn’t even acknowledge unseen barking dogs. Just as I went against conventional dog training by picking her up to get past a fear block, we both soon realized that each dog is different and we had to become creative in finding ways to help her get past fear triggers. 

Not all triggers are alike either. She was terrified of clapping, doors slamming or something heavy falling but thunder or fireworks had absolutely no effect on her behavior. It’s not so important to know why she was afraid as to find triggers and help her conquer them. We did consult a behaviorist and Dixie was on Prozac for 4 months. During that time we eliminated many triggers and her life became much better. And then our trainer suggested one more thing. He wanted us to start Trick Training with her. Soon Dixie could sit up, play dead, wave, roll over, spin in circles, weave through my legs while I was walking, jump through hoops and other goofy behaviors. The amazing thing was that with each new trick, she gained confidence.  It showed in how she strutted down the street like she owned the place. She still has some traits such as not liking change or ignoring a “Quiet” command and having virtually no recall but those are common to most beagles. We can’t change instinct. The only other suggestion our trainer had was that she might benefit if we had another dog. It took us a couple of years to take that advice, but now that we have it has made a big difference. Before she was happy with us but not necessarily accepting of others. Now she is a social butterfly wanting to meet all dogs she sees and any person that says hello when we pass. It took 4 years to get a good dog and 6 years to get a great dog. 

Sounds wonderful, there is so much progress with Dixie to allow her to become the strong, confident Beagle that we all see today. Shall we move on to Maddy?

We had been told that another dog might help Dixie resolve her anxiety. When we decided to finally get her a friend, we decided we did not want a puppy and this time we would get a slightly smaller dog. With that in mind, we realized we could look at a wider age range, anywhere from 3 to 10. On this basis we started our search. We missed a dog by one person in line at a shelter. One of the rescues gave a dog to a friend after keeping us waiting for a month. We were frustrated again with the search. Then we found a rescue that was linked with a kennel specializing in end of life care for dogs. The rescue part of the organization took any adult dog but mostly had dogs 7 years or older. We stopped in at one of their adoption events and got to know them. They didn’t have a dog we wanted at the time, but they got their dogs from a kill shelter in New York City whenever they had space. Eventually we went back to see their dogs. The event was at a pet store. We arrived shortly after it began.  There was a Puggle that seemed ok, though heavier than we wanted, until someone showed up with another dog and it got aggressive. I then fell in love with another but it was blind and we didn’t think it would work out. The rescue workers told us to wait as there were 3 more dogs coming. Soon two of the dogs showed up… a Shih Tzu and a Schnauzer. Both were 8 years old. They had been raised together but given up when their owner was hospitalized. The Shih Tzu was perfect. Her “brother” was having a hard time adjusting to the new reality and was fixating on her. The rescue really wanted to adopt them together. We would have taken them singly, but 3 dogs would be too much for us. Then the last dog arrived. She was a 9-10 year old long haired Chihuahua. Smaller than we wanted but we decided to take a look. The foster handed her to Tony and said she would probably whine as she didn’t like many people. He spoke with the foster for a full half hour and was holding the dog the entire time. He then passed her to me. I noticed all the other rescuers were paying attention to us. We spent about an hour holding and walking her then went home to think about it. The decision made, it was time for the dogs to meet in a home visit/inspection. When the fosters arrived they drove straight up to the house, instead of letting them meet in neutral territory on the street. The foster brought her daughter with her ,who was very attached to “Madison”, and wanted to make sure Dixie wouldn’t attack her. Dixie was very excited running around the yard and barking like a loon. Little Madison was a bit uneasy but as there was no aggressiveness from either of them, I said we wanted her. 

Suddenly the foster said she had to check our references before the deal could be done. It took her a week. She talked to all my neighbors. She called our vet to make sure we could take care of Dixie and seems to have got in a fight with the vet over the response. The Vet Assistant who answered the phone told her to give us the dog and refused to answer any questions about Dixie. Without anything to prevent it, we got a call to say we could have Madison for $200. We picked her up 2 days later.
First thing we did was change her name to Maddy. The foster told us she would only eat boiled chicken breast and cheddar cheese, hand fed. She was sleeping on her daughter’s bed and she didn’t like to go for walks. Within 2 weeks we switched her over to kibble. We bought her a harness that fit her properly and started taking her for walks, and she started sleeping in a crate. We took her in for a vet check and the assistant who had talked to the foster was there. She was so excited for us and told us about the call. Maddy has a collapsing trachea (common in small dogs) and luxating patellas. Other than that and needing her teeth cleaned, her only problem was her weight. She weighed 10.2 pounds! Probably due to the horrible diet which kibble and excersize would help.

Did Dixie take to Maddy straight away?

Bringing a second dog into a home isn’t hard, but its not easy. It takes a while for things to settle into a routine. Dixie is not good with change so we had a little trouble from both sides.  Maddy was a bit intimidated by Dixie and seemed to have a slight trust problem. This was not helped when on the second night at home, Maddy tried to jump over a sleeping Dixie and fell short landing on Dixie! Dixie reared up with a growl and it took about a week before Maddy would go near her. Dixie was a bit jealous of the attention and special food Maddy got while we were switching her to kibble. That eased a bit once they both ate the same food. We are lucky that the food we feed Dixie makes a version for small dogs with much smaller pellets. However, Dixie, being a beagle mix, decided she wanted all the food and one night chased Maddy off her bowl. Now Maddy eats in a crate and probably will forever as she eats much slower than Dixie. Problem solved. After 6 months, Maddy had lost her excess weight and now weighs 7.5 pounds. She was building her stamina on daily walks that she loves. Early after adoption Maddy couldn’t keep up with Dixie so at least once a day we would all head out together. One of us would take Dixie for her usual walk. The other would head out with Maddy. We planned our routes so we would meet up at some point close to home and the four of us would finish the walk together with Maddy trying hard to keep up and Dixie being held back to a slower pace, kind of our version of a “pack walk”. 

About the time we had made great strides in Maddy’s exercise and diet,  we took her to one of her rescue’s events. Everyone was excited to see how good Maddy looked. After fielding many questions about what and how she was eating, we got the back story on Maddy. It seems she had been with her foster for at least 6 months. Everyone kept telling the foster that she was not helping the dog become adoptable by babying her so much. We also learned that the foster had overcharged us $50 in an effort to make us cancel the deal so she could keep Maddy. We didn’t care and consider the extra money a donation to the rescue. There have been many ups and downs during this year. We had to learn to let the dogs work things out by themselves, as long as there’s no contact with teeth. Dixie was barking more as she was excited more often and Maddy assumed that was correct behavior so barks a lot now. Dixie learned that Maddy got attention when she whined so now Dixie whines too. Maddy still eats in her crate but the only food she feels the need to guard is her nightly chew and even that is easing some. And just recently Maddy has become strong enough to keep up with a slightly slowed Dixie on her evening walks.(We think we see a lead splitter in our future.) Now more often than not, when the girls are resting we find Dixie lying on one side of the pillow that Maddy is sleeping on. 

Apart from a couple of early incidents, Dixie liked Maddy right from the start. She keeps trying to get Maddy to play chase with her. It hasn’t happened yet but maybe next summer. Dixie became Maddy’s protector almost immediately. Our neighbor has a dog that fence fights. He charges the fence and growls and barks. Maddy was terrified. It’s great because Dixie ignores him. The second time it happened Dixie ran over and stood between the dog and Maddy until he gave up and left the fence. Maddy now wants to do everything that Dixie does. Dixie is very demanding about getting her two daily walks. Maddy is just as demanding but seeing her bounce and run in circles when the lead comes out makes us laugh so it’s ok. Dixie gave Maddy the needed confidence to adjust to her new life. And Maddy has helped Dixie too. Dixie always wanted to meet people but couldn’t let herself meet a stranger. Now she bounces up to anyone that speaks to us while we’re out walking. Dixie plays more and Maddy has started being interested in toys. Everyday we see improvements all around.

That’s the story of Dixie and Maddy. It hasn’t always been easy and is rarely quiet but we wouldn’t change a thing.  We are happy every day that we have these two sweet rescued dogs in our lives.

The uncle I will never meet

Occasionally I hear of people and I sit up and listen to every word. In this vein, there was someone born on 13th December 1963 who was bright, intelligent and funny. He was good at school, was a great son and brother along with a good friend to all. He looked out for his siblings and was always there to ride his bike, play games with his brothers and was forever seeking to listen and learn about new things. At school his teachers all said he did well in his lessons.

Then on Good Friday 12th April 1974 he went into hospital and doctors found out he wasn’t very well. There was an initial diagnosis of pneumonia. When they found out the real cause the doctors said he needed to have treatment which would be painful and might not work. This made his family and everyone else worried. They all wanted him to be better and able to do well at school and grow up to be a fine man. Sadly he spent a long time in hospital having the painful treatment and he couldn’t keep up his school work. He couldn’t have fun with his brothers and sisters, as well as his friends. He went back to school in September 1974 once the chemotherapy had been stopped and radiotherapy commenced. He couldn’t walk the mile and a half to and from school as he was so weak, but he was determined to live as full a life as possible. He had been on holiday to Cornwall with the family, in the summer.

Uncle David

On Sunday 8th December 1974 my nan & grandad were crying when my dad got out of bed. My uncle David died of lung cancer. Apparently it was genetic.

The funeral was on his 11th birthday on 13th December 1974. All the family were present. His entire school class was there. Everyone loved my uncle David and everyone misses him so much now. I know my dad and Minnie da Minx’s mum miss him every day, as do his other siblings. My nanny has a quiet time to herself every year. I will give her special leg leans when I next see her.

Listening to my dad, I miss my uncle David. He is the uncle I will never meet.

Uncle David