Are you prepared?

That time of the year approaches quickly once more and thoughts turn to having a festive season of fun, happiness and enjoyment of other peoples company. All honourable thoughts to have as we all hope to surface from the pandemic over the last eighteen months or so.

I might as well put this comment out there now. Please don’t buy or rescue puppies or older dogs unless you understand the consequences of what you are considering. Many dogs were bought or rescued during the throes of the pandemic and, whilst some of those dogs remain in safe secure environments, there is now a growing and worrying trend of them being taken to rescue organisations for re-homing as human circumstances revert to something akin to normality. Worse still there is a rise in dogs being dumped and left to fend for themselves. This isn’t just puppies but older dogs who need medication and have experienced a home environment for many years. We are a commitment not a passing whim.

I was rescued just before Christmas in 2013. My parents came to see me three times before they decided to give me a forever home. Each time they walked me, they asked questions of the rescue people, they listened to the rescue centre and then thought about it even further. They researched vet bills, food costs, leads and harnesses, beds and toys. They looked at where we would walk, if there were enough paths and trails, whether they would be home, how much would kennelling cost and if their jobs would mean them being away for any length of time. They researched the breed traits, energy levels and where the good or bad aspects were. They even looked at the availability and costs of things like holidays with me, in case I couldn’t be placed temporarily in kennels whilst they were away. When I arrived from the rescue centre I had no idea what was going on and it took me around eighteen months to settle into my new home. I was skittish, distracted and sometimes thoroughly distant and aloof. The number of times that worry or frustration was evident was sadly high. I didn’t really connect with them in the first year or so. They tried to implement a routine for me but I remained skittish and distant. However, and this is the most important thing, they never ever gave up. They never wanted to send me back. Even when I was destroying toys at alarming speed due to frustrations on my part, I was still a work in progress but they remained determined to work with me. They had committed to me having a better life and it occurred to them that if I was returned, it was a waste of time and effort on everybodys part. I settled and now have a younger brother to look after and try to ensure he feels loved and secure.

Lenny arrived in late April 2019. I have said before that he was like a furry hand grenade being dropped into my life. We fought and squabbled like a couple of devils for the first few weeks. My parents realised they needed some help with our behaviour so they spoke to the lady who facilitated Lenny’s rescue. She guided them and we now live relatively happily together. We certainly fight less but still manage to annoy our parents at just about the most inconvenient times. Lenny settled quicker than I did. I think that is because he was younger when he was rescued, had me to show him the ropes and our parents already knew roughly what to expect. His arrival and settlement went more smoothly than mine.

I think what I am saying is this. Ask yourself some questions about us. Firstly are you prepared for the upheaval we cause? It’s not all Hollywood glitz and glamour when we arrive. There is poop, pee and sick to clear up. Accidents happen and we need the vet. Sometimes these vet visits are at the most inconvenient times and we can need some serious medical assistance too. We need feeding, walking, training, grooming and generally will require your attention when you may need it for yourself. We will leave hair in places you never knew we could leave hair. We will bring mud in from the garden, need to go out at some unearthly hour of the night and possibly on more than one occasion a night. You may need to sit up with us to make sure we are ok, when we aren’t. Are you prepared?

Are you prepared for the rigmarole of checking our history if you buy us, or the rescue process if we are abandoned or have fallen by the wayside. Can you check with the breeder about mum, our bloodline, where we live, medical issues, are the breeders reputable and registered with the authorities? At this point I am going to ask one thing, please. Do not EVER buy us from some back street unregistered “breeder”. Please. Just don’t.

What type of dog do you want? Do we fit in with your circumstances. If you live in an apartment and will be out all day, is it a good idea to get for instance a husky or a beagle? Will you commit to a small lap dog, a more energetic dog or a larger dog that may not be quite as energetic. We all need the same amount of commitment.

Who will walk us in the morning, lunchtime or evening. If it’s pouring with rain or there are inches of snow outside we still need to go out. Are you prepared to take us out for a walk so we can fill our noses with scent and our eyes with the wonders of the world. Even if the rain is coming down so hard that you don’t want to go out. Will you have time to take us out for a decent walk or run around the park. If you are too busy, who is going to walk us?

Are you prepared to include us in your routine so we can play, learn and interact with you. It makes no difference to us being puppies or older dogs. We still need and enjoy the interaction of some play time, learning new tricks and routine in our behaviour which will strengthen our bonding to you. Remember we may be only a small part of your life but you are our life. You dont “need” us but we need you for food, shelter, warmth and companionship if you commit to us.

Having been prepared to welcome us into your home, are you prepared to say farewell to us when it is our time to go. Are you prepared to look after us, live with us and accept our mutual friendship for a long period of time before you take the kindest but most heartbreaking decision to be with us at our end. Good times and bad we will be there once the commitment has been made and accepted.

Most people will know my thoughts on rescue -v- buying dogs so I am not going to push one or the other of those buttons. All I am saying is that you step back and ask yourself if you can make that commitment to look after us for sometimes up to twenty years through day and night, good times and bad. We will disrupt your day, your weeks, your holidays, your plans and your lives generally but we will give you so much joy and contentment. If you can truthfully say that you are able to provide that commitment, and you want to adopt or buy one of us, then take steps to help give one or more of us a life we can enjoy and love. If we are only going to be a status symbol, a play thing or an after thought, then please go to the toy store and get a cuddly stuffed dog and pet that instead. It’s not fair on us if we are going to be anything less than a complete commitment on your part.

Please think about all options before you commit to anything. The commitment we show to you will need to be reciprocated. We will love you and have a happy life if you can honour the commitment to us. You could make a dog very happy if you make a considered decision.

What do Beagles think about?

There is a scurrilous rumour going around that beagles think only of their stomachs and then complain that they haven’t eaten in all of fifteen minutes. This is a shocking allegation.

It struck me again today that Lenny and I are extremely lucky to have so many buddies around the world that we can rely on to make us laugh, cry and feel wanted. Throughout the recent past we have retained our friendship with so many of our pals, despite a worryingly large number making their final journey. For this we are very grateful and truly humbled. We also see that there are quite a few pals who parents sometimes struggle to come to terms with life in general and more often the day to day things that they have to do. We have a close knit community amongst the friends and, as we have mentioned before, we always try to make sure that if someone is struggling mentally or emotionally (is there a difference?) we can be there with a word of encouragement or gentle virtual hug. Sometimes we think it may not make any difference however we hope that it will. I think that may be the operative word here, hope. We know that we cannot be by our friends sides 24 hours a day so we are, kind of, relying on a simple act or word of kindness or thoughtfulness, to make them feel better about themselves. Albeit it is a brief interlude in their darkening thoughts however our hope remains steadfast.

I wonder?

We also know that just by us being us we can lighten a load upon some people. From experience Lenny and I are aware that we sometimes make our parents proud as well as a little more fulfilled in their lives. They look at us curled up on the sofa, the chairs, the big bed, maybe sometimes even our own designated beds and they cannot help but give us a tickle, a belly rub or stroke our long soft ears to make them feel happier. As rescues we know they have done the most important thing for us so, I suppose, its only incumbent upon us to allow them to give us tickles and belly rubs. Food is also welcome of course. Oops I wasn’t going to mention that, was I?

The world can be a terrible place sometimes what with the war, arguments, politics, racism, famine, pandemics, arguments about the pandemic and general malcontent of large swathes of the population. If we can help to alleviate even a little of that dark cloud then maybe, just a little, we have worked our magic on you and made you feel more worthwhile and valued. After all what else is there for us to do?

What’s that Lenny, it’s time for some snacks. Great, lead the way.

Happy Birthday Lenny

It’s my protege’s birthday today. He is three.

We had a good walk this morning and then I saw that he got some extra kibble in his bowl. Not much, mind, but enough for me to notice. Apparently he’s on something called a “bit of a diet”. Anyway happy birthday little brother Lenny, I hope you’ve have a good day and I might even let you chew my ears as a treat. I suppose I had better let him say something.

I wonder if I’m allowed to eat bees on my birthday?

Hello everyone it’s me Lenny. It’s my birthday apparently and I am something called three. It’s good being three as I got extra food in my bowl for my second half of breakfast and my dinner. I hope I get extra biscuits later before I am forced to go to bed. So, I am determined to enjoy myself today and, who knows, maybe tomorrow I will be four and get extra, extra food? What do you all mean it doesn’t work like that?

If I sit nicely, I might get some extra food.

I’m off to complain to the management.

Well well, Fancy that.

This blog is on a subject that I have wanted to tackle but haven’t had the chance or insight to do so. Until now.

Puppy mills are an abhorrent method of producing large sums of money at the detriment to the dogs involved. I discovered that Fancy, who is one of the Wirral & Cheshire Beagles was used in a puppy mill. As I wanted to write something on this subject, I asked for the kind assistance of her mum, auntie Karen, who has been wonderful and extremely helpful in helping me write this blog. I cannot say “enjoy it” as I hope that you find it predominantly thought provoking and enlightening as to these terrible practices.

Thank you for allowing me to ask some questions about Fancy. When we spoke you told me that she was a puppy mill dog. Can you let me know a little more about her position before she came to live with you?

She had been in a puppy farm, kept in a concrete pig pen and had 3-4 litters in just over 3 years. Many of her pups died of Parvo either there or within 24 hours of being picked up for their new homes.

That sounds awful. Do you know how old she was when you met her?

They told us she was about 5 but she turned out to be 3.6 years. She was 4 on Valentine’s Day.

So, by my calculations, she was about one year old when she would have been forced to have her first litter. This makes me feel very sad.

How did you find out that Fancy was up for rescue and rehoming?

We saw Fancy on a “Beagles missing, found and in need ” site on FaceBook and we fell in love with her immediately. She had such sad, dark eyes and it occurred to us that she had never known a day’s happiness or been loved. There were so many people applied for her we didn’t think we stood a chance. However we were contacted by Many Tears twice that week and, because I’d previously had a home check and had 2 kind caring beagles, we were chosen.

Please help me! Please.

We drove over 10 hours that day to Llanelli, Camarthenshire and met her in an area used for meet and greets. She was petrified of us but not my beagles, Eddie & George. She just ignored them. There was no eye contact with us, nothing. She just paced up and down and cowered in a corner. When it was time to take her home she had to be cornered and caught to get a slip lead on her. She just wet herself. It was heartbreaking. My husband Alan carried her to the car where she laid down in the travel crate. She didn’t sleep but just kept very quiet all the way home. She came from a real lowlife puppy farmer. He’s a multi millionaire who posts “his” beagles or pups running free on fields. In actual fact they’ve never seen a blade of grass. The BBC did an undercover investigation on him.

In any case, when she arrived it was a lovely Sunday evening last July 2020. So we sat outside and watched her exploring and sniffing around the garden. She kept hiding in a corner if we looked at her so we stopped. It took 8 long days before I touched her and that was only because there was a wall behind her. She went to the toilet in the house but thanks to Eddie & George she soon got the hang of going outside. They were fabulous with her and soon realised she wasn’t a boarder but a new sister. I certainly couldn’t have done this without them and the beagle field.

Is this ok? What am I allowed to do?

What sort of condition was Fancy in when she arrived? I am going to assume she wasn’t in the greatest shape, given her life up to her time coming home with you?

She was in a bad condition when we got her. She had a dull dry coat and was very underweight with her ribs showing and tail between her legs. It took a few days for her to eat and she’d only do that if we weren’t around. When I first took her to the beagle field she spent the whole time pinned up against the fence. Nothing the beagles did bothered her, only the actions of the humans. I think it took about a month for her to trust one person and let them touch her. Eleven months later and she is still very wary of people she doesn’t know and she will cower away.

That sounds awful, and so sad. Looking at the pictures she seems to have come some way on her path to rehabilitation.

Yes,it doesn’t take much to win her round. A belly tickle, something tasty and she’s your best friend.

Give us a cuddle, says Jay.

How long did it take for Fancy to stop going toilet in the house? Was she called Fancy when you met her at the meet & Greet?

She did her toilets in the house for about 4 days. Maybe twice a day then just first thing in the morning. It tailed off after that as she went out every time with her brothers. Yes she already had the name Fancy I rescued a kitten on the A55 motorway many years ago and she was called Fancy.

You’re safe now Fancy.

You said that Eddie & George immediately knew Fancy was in need of some help. Did they act as if they were guardians to her, showing her the ropes if you like, and making sure that she felt at least some comfort with them.

Definitely. They gave her space from day one when she needed it. Even at the busy beagle field the others knew as well. She never got the initial newbie rough welcome. They all love her very much. Beagles know these things.

Erm, when did you start to see a real breakthrough in her feeling more at home and less scared of all sorts of situations? What was the thing that made you think “you know, Fancy is feeling a bit happier”.

I lay that lead next to her for about a week. I started to show it to her and make a big fuss like it was a toy. She was petrified as she’d only been put in a “rape harness”. She’s still wary of it but can’t get out of it thank dogness.

If you could give people a simple message regarding getting pups from a mill what would it be? Apart from “dont do it” that is.

I’ve given many messages of support to people thinking of puppy farm rescues. Don’t ever give up on them because of their fear. Beagles are so loving and trusting of us the good times far outweigh the bad and no mistake. I have a friend who 12 days ago adopted one with identical problems and the difference in her each day is amazing. Day 12 today and she was dying to jump into his arms when he got home but held back and did an excited dance. We all love his daily updates.

I wish I knew the answer to the puppy mills question I really do. They’re clever people who advertise their pups as living in loving happy homes with caring owners. When in reality they use dirty filthy concrete pig pens where they receive no vet care whatsoever. People see the advertisement and pay a large deposit, when the time comes most travel hours and they won’t leave their puppy their a minute longer so will take them home and face the consequences. Many die over 24 hours and some will be saved by a good vet. One of Fancys pups and owner I know so I know how she was fooled. She knows others.

May I ask about Wirral & Cheshire Beagles generally. Are you a registered charity and, if so, with whom do you work and co-operate?

Yes the beagle group is a charity. We give £1000’s away to beagle charities each year. Mainly Unite to Care where we got ex laboratory George from and Many Tears who are absolutely fabulous and rescue so many ex breeding beagles.

Beautiful

To sum up I am so happy that Fancy is now safe and loved. It is wonderful that she will never again suffer the privations of puppy mill life. It is sad and wholly awful that she had to suffer in the first place. If people didnt buy from puppy mills, then there might be a chance that they are served of their ability to operate. Please please think before making a decision to adopt a dog. Puppy mills are awful and make our lives a misery.

Thank you to Fancy’s mum for her wonderful help on what is a very difficult subject. Without her help, I couldn’t have written this.

A Sunny disposition

I wanted to return to one of the recurring themes which has allowed me to write this blog and, hopefully, keep people interested in reading it.

As some of you may know I, along with many others, had a beagle friend called Fred who lived in Germany with his parents. Sadly Fred made his longest journey on 22nd January 2021 and there were a large number of people who were extremely upset, not least his parents. Within a few months of Freds farewell, his parents rescued a lost soul called Ignaz (subsequently called Sunny due to his happy demeanour). This is his story of safety, love and security. Thus far.

I spoke with Fred’s mum, auntie Cathy and I am very grateful for her help in writing this blog.

Ok, I am going to start with the sad part (sorry) about Fred. Please don’t cry too much. When Fred passed over the Rainbow Bridge, you were both obviously very sad. However did his passing ignite a desire within you to get a rescue or did you harbour a desire to get a rescue anyway?

When Fred died we were so broken, the grief was unbelievable! He had been my side kick for 12 years and I had no idea what to do without him. I had always wanted to rescue a lab beagle and we said that the next Beagle would be a rescue or a lab Beagle. But we didn’t think we would do it so soon. We just started researching who could help us and then we found http://laborbeaglehilfe.de and Sunny (previous name Ignaz) was on there with his brother and we enquired, never thinking we would be able to get him. We thought it would take months and months to find a rescue but as soon as we saw Sunny, and found out he was still available, we were smitten and really wanted to give him a forever home! It didn’t end my grief but it certainly brought the light back into our lives. Definitely. I wish Fred was here as well – he’d be teaching him all the bad habits. I had Fred from he was 12 weeks old but I always knew that I wanted a rescue at some point.

The air of freedom. I love it.

What processes did you have to go through in order to get Sunny? Did you meet him (Covid etc) before he arrived and how much did the rescue tell you of his past

The rescue process? We were looking for organizations that could help us and Klaus found laborbeaglehilfe and that was it. We saw Sunny and knew we had to try to give him his forever home. They are small but I think quite well known. We had a couple of very long phone calls with the rescue lady from http://laborbeaglehilfe.de where she asked about our experience with Beagles, where we lived, how often would he be alone, did we have a garden (we don’t!) and many other questions. We were then waiting for her decision and really hoping we could get him. We checked the website and saw that he had been moved to ‘reserved’ but we hadn’t heard anything. So then we were panicking that he was going to someone else! But thankfully not as we received confirmation that we had been successful.

We didn’t get to meet him until the day he arrived. I think it was mostly COVID that meant we couldn’t meet him first but also think they like to take them straight from the lab to their new home if possible. The ladies from the rescue came in first and checked out our house (and us too!). Then when they were happy they went outside and brought him in with another Beagle (Robin) to help him not be so nervous. We know he is from a lab that did medical testing but the rescue don’t tell you anything else – no testing details or location. They just said that this lab was one of the better ones in terms of the care they take with the dogs (apart from the horrendous testing obviously!). It’s scary to hear how much animal testing still goes on in Germany!

This is new. I wonder if I will be loved?

Were you expecting what walked through the door? Did you have expectations or pre-conceptions of Sunny and his behaviour?

When he arrived I sat on the floor and he came straight over to me which was great because we had no idea how he would be with people. He’s been very snuggly since day 1. The rescue people had us prepared for all the worst case scenarios. For instance that he wouldn’t come near us, that he wouldn’t be house trained, that he would jump on the table. However he was the opposite! Teaching him how to use stairs was the main thing but after 3 days he had it sussed and he’s now really confident with them. As for sleeping in an actual dog bed – forget it! He’s set foot in it once. Its only sofas and the big bed for this boy!

Wake me up when it’s lunch o’clock.

How did you approach the basics of showing him his new life?

He made great progress really quickly. Indeed his curiosity was stronger than his fear (most of the time). He’s such a sweet, funny little goof ball and it’s amazing to see his personality come out more and more. We were prepared for all the worst scenarios with him but he is so snuggly, well house trained and also has no interest in human food (unbelievable for a beagle!). We tried to get him into a routine as quickly as possible to help him feel safe and secure. Now he sits outside the kitchen in the morning impatiently waiting to go for his walk.

Did you speak to anyone else about taking on a lab beagle?

We didn’t speak to anyone about it. We just started looking, thinking that it would take a long time and suddenly he was almost here.

The house was so empty without a dog in it and we knew we could give a rescue a great life. It all happened really fast.

I have heard other people say that their dog who recently passed to the Rainbow Bridge had “sent” the current dog. Do you think Fred had something to do with Sunny?

I do think that he was ‘sent‘ by Fred. The day we heard we were getting Sunny, a Robin bounced across my path as I was running and I knew it was Fred telling me it was ok. We wanted a lab Beagle because it is something I am passionate about – ending animal testing. It was through following the Beagle Freedom Project that I came across the Twitter pack so it feels like it was meant to be!

Are you strict with him, given the possibility of his previous life being pretty awful?

We are not very strict with him. We figure he had a hard enough life and now he can enjoy the sofa and the big bed as much as he likes. We do make him sit and he is really good off the lead. We work with him on that so he is learning and getting good stimulation. Thankfully he is really keen to learn. We push him only if it’s things like going out for a pee etc. Really its to keep him to his routine but otherwise we are patient with him and let him make progress at his own pace.

What do you think are his best and worst habits?

His most endearing trait is his goofiness! He’s a bit a clown and falls over himself quite frequently. His one bad habit is he is a poop eater. Big time!

He has quite a nervous character so we have to watch him with loud noises and new things but his shaking episodes are not so frequent now. Recovery from trauma is not a linear process so we just take it day by day and if he has had a lot of stimulation and activity we will make sure he has a quiet day so he can process and recover.

He’s such a sweet boy – he really brought the life back into me after losing Fred. Life with no Beagle is not fun!

These people are great. It’s good to be loved.

Thank you auntie Cathy. I think Sunny is in very safe hands and will learn that love and safety are now his for the rest of his days. He’s a very lucky beagle. And yes, life without a Beagle is no fun.

What happens when the novelty wears off?

It occurred to me today, in the middle of this latest quarantine lockdown, that it is ninety days since my nanny went to the Rainbow Bridge to see grandad and all my buddies who have departed. And it made me wonder again about my life. I know I seem to be quite cogitative recently and maybe its because of the current situation with this virus and many other things happening. The time has flown since dad took the fateful phone call in mid August. Nanny and grandad are still in our hearts and minds. Sometimes I think I can see dad looking toward the heavens when I have allegedly done something silly.

I know I am a little disparaging about Lenny but it’s good to have a little brother to run around after, play with and generally share my life. I say it often enough however I am a very lucky dog to have love, safety and security showered upon me. Walks every day come rain or shine, food twice a day, biscuits and treats on other occasions and the pick of seven beds to sleep in all add up to me feeling happy. I am happy also that Lenny has somewhere safe to call home. He deserves it.

There are way too many other furs who don’t have the singular luxury of a bed, love, food or security throughout their lives and this makes me sad. Since the global virus marched its way through almost every country on the planet, I read about dogs being sold for extraordinary amounts of money because the demand outstrips the supply. Thousands of pounds for a puppy sold over the internet, on the back of no visit to see the little fur in its “home” environment, not seeing it with mum, sometimes a lack of health certificates and no check on any breeding or bloodlines. Are we a commodity, to be sold and bought in the same way as traders sell wheat, coal or motor cars? As sentient creatures, should there not be a more respectful and measured approach to us. I know that there are some people who look after us, breeders who make sure that they see where we will go, ensure we will be looked after and keep in touch for further questions.

People are at home for far longer than they used to be and crave company to combat their lack of social mobility. What happens when, or if, the virus is controlled a little and people start to carefully return to their places of work. What is to happen to the many pets who have been purchased and who may be left alone at home, almost fending for themselves with no walks, interaction with their humans and losing the regimentation of a regular daily life? I fear that a large number will merely be surrendered to a rescue centre, or shelter whose facilities will become bursting at the seams with the influx. I hope I am wrong, I really do.

Then we turn to the dreaded “C” word. Not Covid, but Christmas! How far will “pester power” stretch this year? How many dogs will be introduced to a new home with all the noise and joviality going on around us. Sitting there bewildered by this new place, the brightly coloured surroundings and not knowing what to do, how to interact and feeling completely confused with it all. The novelty often wears off quicker than a Christmas Day dinner and we look for some guidance and interaction to make us feel wanted and loved. Maybe this year should be the time for people to do their homework before bringing us into a new home. Speak to a rescue centre, ask what would be the best dog to suit the human and canine needs and then see if there is an unwanted dog at the rescue or shelter. I was a Christmas rescue dog, my parents did their homework as far as they could, they spoke to the rescue centre, saw me three times, walked me on each occasion, asked questions and thought about me for about three weeks before I came home. I was, and remain, lucky because they persevered with me despite some difficult early months for us all. People will say “oh but the rescue centres and rehoming centres aren’t allowing visits” which is often times true at the moment. That doesn’t stop them from researching our traits, which would be the best type of dog to get and then ask more questions.

Maybe what I am saying is this. Instead of “What will happen when the novelty wears off” it should be “Don’t let us be a novelty in the first place”. We are a serious and timely commitment. We will love you, play fetch, sleep in strange places, make you smile and be your best friend. However we will also make you sad when we have accidents, fall ill, run off on a walk and need you to take us to the vet and clean up after us. This applies to puppies who have their whole life ahead of them as well as older dogs who want only to have their years of dotage in a warm comfy place with gentle ear tickles and soft cuddles.

Are people ready for that? If not, then think really carefully about our suitability.