Archive for category rescue dogs

Bad times sad times and timing

This weekend just gone I was due to give a question and answer surgery at a big vegan event called Vegfest. It had support from Holly Hedge where I’m behaviour and training advisor and other rescues as well. Now, anyone who knows me will know that this is not my biggest strong point – public speaking – yet I was looking forward to going and see where it took me. Scary times yes. But choosing to man up I went with the notion of ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’

The trouble is, unforeseen circumstances meant I had to cancel at the last minute and tried not to get stressed enough to go into Aspie meltdown. Those are not good times. I won’t go into the why’s and wherefore’s here but suffice to say I let people down…I may have missed an opportunity to gain new clients or at the very least extra publicity. I often find myself faced with a difficult decision being a business person and all; do I risk making an idiot of myself and go to an event where I am expected to network and talk to other humans or do I not go and wonder if just this time I may have kept my condition under control and actually had a nice time? It wasn’t the problem this time, other gremlins were afoot.

Sh!t happens though, we have to deal with it and move on, that’s life right! So this blog post is  both an apology and a timely reminder that no matter how carefully you plan ahead or cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s, life has an odd habit of pinching on you on the bottom when you least expect it. A good training plan however, is a must and should be infallible, but that’s another blog post!



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People whispering in a dog training world

All my life I have been exposed to hatred, ignorance, fear, violence, revulsion, bullying and abuse. ALL my life. I’m in my early forties now and still naive to the ways of mankind. Partly because of my Aspergers, partly because I am slightly disjointed from society.

Like many others I find myself drawn to social networking sites and yet even online you are not safe from scaremongering and petty backstabbing. There is only so much you can avoid by blocking or unfriending/unfollowing folks. As far as I am aware none of it has been directly aimed at me, although I have recently been party to a phenomenon known as ‘guilty by association’.

There are many whom, it would appear, feel it is ok to disparage others without first gathering the right information before making slanderous judgements. There are some who attack others from behind a computer screen and some who speak about others in hushed tones during private messaging, not bothering to find out the truth.

Others seem to find it prudent to jump on band wagons and mob mentality is alive well even within the dog training fraternity and in animal rescue. The dog training industry itself is heavily divided, with often disastrous results for the dog owning public, as if it all wasn’t confusing enough already! As for the animal rescue scene, I have been appalled at the treatment of some involved by people old enough to know better.

What confuses me more than anything as knowing how passionately professionals feel about their profession, how they get caught up in the waves of revolution when asked to consider a new method or a new technique is launched or dishonoured then why can’t that enthusiasm, that drive be used for the greater good instead?

If we all work together for the common ground of helping people achieve better obedience and greater control over troubling behaviours then surely it makes sense to pool resources, knowledge and experience. Can you imagine what we could achieve?

If bad practice is driven out of the industry and people learn how to communicate better, learn how to teach and become the kind of trainer they want to be without needing positive punishment this would have a ripple effect on the whole world. A good kind of ripple; one that ensures that every dog owner and every dog gets the right training, and trainers get the right training too.

Alas, I know my point is moot. Being human, people will always argue their way is the right way even when overwhelming evidence shows the contrary. Gossiping and bullying will never stop. Bad methods will live on. Shame on those who point the finger or are too blinkered or afraid to be open to new suggestions. Shame on those who force others to make uncomfortable and sometimes life-changing decisions. Shame on those who seek to exact ridicule and threatening behaviours on those trying their best or working hard to achieve their potential.

I won’t let anyone stand in my way. I won’t let anyone drag me down to their level and I won’t let anyone use my naivety against me ever again. I have been through too much and worked too hard to allow anyone to take it away from me. So say what you like. Think what you like. About anyone you like, even me. Just remember slander and libel are crimes and karma gets you in the end. My integrity is pure and assured. Is yours?

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Awesome news! Scholarship won

As some of you may be aware, I am keen on continuing and improving my knowledge and skill base by educating myself. There are only two courses I wish to complete and a possible third. One is the BSc in Animal Behaviour, the Roger Abrantes course. The other is the Jean Donaldson Academy for Dog Trainers course.

I spent 7 days composing my submission forms. I lost my completed forms twice. Once due to a computer error and once to human error. After discovering the solution I finally finished and sent off my forms, breathing once more after being so stressed and upset at losing my efforts twice. I knew I stood a chance, but I never thought I would be lucky enough to be chosen.

Well, guess what? I was chosen! I was welcomed to the Academy by Jean and I spent the next few days on cloud 9. What an awesome opportunity to learn from one of the greatest names in the industry and gain a decent qualification! I cannot thank Jean and the scholarship team enough, I’m so grateful as I would never have been able to afford the course otherwise.

My blog will be updated about the course, it will be good for me to chart my progress or regress. As an Aspie I am a little worried about my brain not being able to cope at a higher level of study but I have got this far in my life I’m not giving up now, my career is too important to me. It may actually be fortuitous to be doing a FdSc first, giving me good preparation for the intense BSc via the Ethology Institute. I shall find out in time.

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Product review: Safestix (Say no to sticks!)

With so many play products for pets on the market, ranging from puzzles to tug toys, squeaky to treat dispensers it’s sometimes difficult to choose a great toy for your dog. One product which recently captured my interest was Safestix a dog toy designed with safety in mind. The company director’s, a husband and wife team set up the company after their dog was injured playing with a stick. Knowing that not only do many dogs like playing with sticks but that many owners do not realise the dangers this poses to their dogs, they went about designing and marketing their idea for safe stick for all dogs to play with. Play is an important aspect of a positive relationship with our pets and can be a beneficial exercise, canine friends enjoy playing together too so if playing with sticks is a no no what can you give your dogs to play with instead?

There is a wealth of information out there concerning the injuries dogs have sustained from playing and chasing sticks, many vets advise against this seemingly harmless activity yet when you read and see the evidence you begin to realise that playing with sticks with your dog is potentially an accident waiting to happen. There are some great links on the Safestix website concerning this, have a look. I for one used to allow my dogs in the past to chase and play with sticks, other than the occasional cut gums nothing major happened to them but since becoming involved in the behaviour field I haven’t allowed with my recent canine companions.

A client recommended the Safestix to me after purchasing one for his active collie, sparking my curiosity as the toy itself to me looks rather bizarre. It’s made of durable non toxic rubber, has a twisted ‘stick’ centre and either end is rounded into a bulb. It’s fairly pliable and tough enough to withstand a good chewing. It is currently available in 2 sizes, I bought the bigger size 70cm for my 3 Bull Terriers. Koda and Cassini enjoy a good tug game with each other and I partly chose this toy as they could take hold of either end safely and the toy itself would not rip apart like most tug ropes do (within minutes with those two!). Tallulah is not interested in toys except Kongs and only if they’re stuffed with something to eat.

The Safestix doesn’t splinter like sticks do, the rounded ends stop it from sticking up out of the ground, it floats in water making it a great retrieve toy, it can be tossed for the dogs to chase and is so brightly coloured (orange) it would be difficult to lose! The dogs also seem to like the textured twist design, they spend a while having a good chew on it as well as playing with it.

All in all I find the Safestix a fabulous addition to the toys my dogs enjoy playing with, I’m happy knowing they cannot injure themselves on it and it’s joined the list of products I recommend my clients. The company have excellent customer service and the product arrived quickly and is becoming more widely available through retail agents. Say no to sticks!

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In tribute to my sweet Jellybean 2005-2011 RIP

A loving tribute to the memory of my sweet baby Jellybean Lollipop (Kennel name-Tallulah Sunrise 2005-2011), my rescue Bull Terrier who passed on 6th April 2011 after losing her brave battle with kidney failure. RIP my angel until we meet again, mummy loves you.

Our journey began 3 years ago after a phone call from Joan Kenway of Bull Terrier Welfare, she asked if I could take on a young female Bull Terrier still in her previous home needing to be re-homed as soon as possible. So Tilly as she was called then joined my family. We renamed her Jellybean Lollipop on the way back from collecting her because she was such a sweetie and I love Jellybean Factory Jellybeans!

Jelly was overweight (which made her a great pillow), had bad teeth, undershot jaw, smelly breath and a dolphin shaped marking in her red fur. Cassini, my other rescue red female, has a stingray shaped one so this was fate! My vet Martin Brice diagnosed a heart murmur which had gone unnoticed at her old vets and he let me devise an exercise and feeding protocol to tone her up and ease the bowel issues she had. Feeding this young girl was no problem she really loved her food but I had to work on her food aggression as well as her other issues.

Jelly had hyper-excitement issues, meaning if she saw a blade of grass (no, not kidding) she would tip from normal to yowling to high pitched incessant barking looking like she was high in seconds. Wow what a chemical rush this girl was getting! It made my mini Bull Terrier Koda stress and he wouldn’t go near her in the fields. It took approx 6 months of sub trigger/threshold work, positive reinforcement and retraining to get her to the point where I could open the car without her exploding out and making open area visits calm and pleasant for all of us. Kodas reactions and her passing out a few times were enough to motivate me early on to sort it out. She had hormone related reactivity issues as well!

Food aggression was quick to sort out, as was the hyper-excitement with toys. Leading a sub threshold life is not easy but I owed it to all of the dogs, us as well as a responsible owner. Jelly was a joy to live with, she was compassionate beyond compare and taught me this in a way no human has. Her playful, sweet, loving attitude gave us joy and helped me cope when I got stressed and my Asberger Syndrome (it’s on the autism spectrum) took over. She would nudge a dog, any dog if was hurt or seemed fearful. She would nudge us humans if we were not happy, she would come and lay down with you if crying and she would give calming signals galore if arguments broke out in the house, she was like me; not happy to be touched unless asked for and didn’t like confrontation. In fact she would nudge on walks, nudge when washing up or cooking. It was as if she was checking up on you, making sure you were ok. It wasn’t attention seeking there was care behind the nudge! I’d look down at her and her ears would prick up, so heart-warming. She was a lover not a fighter but would react to barking if barked at which I worked on with her to reduce it. She was lovely to train and work with; she did accompany me to work and met lots of friends because of it. She was shy, not scared shy but in a I’ll come to you if I want to then go away if that’s alright kind of way. Her recall was fantastic, aways came running back with a wagging tail and ears up, big smile and she walked by my side whenever I asked, kindred spirits.

When I felt she was fit enough to be spayed, I took her in to the vets and asked for pre-op blood screen. That’s when I was told the bad news. She had creatinine elevation and an ultrasound revealed she had congenital kidney dysplasia. An irreversible condition which was treated remedially but she would eventually go into full renal failure. To say I was devastated was an understatement but she was immediately put on medication, I changed her home cooked food to reflect the lower protein and phosphorous levels she needed and began the long road of keeping everything potentially toxic to her out including some of the dog treats I used to buy and chemicals in floor cleaners etc. Hard to maintain but so worth it; she was my angel.

Jelly’s mannerisms were to me so unique. The only dog I ever met which liked her scruff grabbed and rubbed from side to side, was ticklish on her muzzle too. She laughed when you rubbed her belly; she had subtle expressions in her body language and eyes which she altered when communicating with me when she wanted something, whether it was a treat, a walk or toilet. She tranced all sorts of things, doors were a good one. If you said no to her she would give you the big puppy eyes that so many other dogs use with their owners too, they made her look so adorable that it worked every time, those big brown eyes could melt my stony heart! I let her get away with more than the others, she was my baby and I knew she had less time with us every minute was a blessing.

During the last few months she slowed down. I had to teach Koda & Cassini to walk slowly for Jelly. She damaged her Cruciate ligament and I took her to hydrotherapy at Chapel Farm Hydro Centre for treatment, which helped her gain strength back but she was still slow. Happy to go out, she slowly walked by my side. Our last walk was only a short one, but we had a bit of a play and she seemed happy but had lost so much weight and was weaker. The day before we moved I was worried about her, emailed Martin in SA she had no appetite, laboured breathing, lethargy; Signs of kidney failure. Busy packing I fretted over her, tried encouraging her to eat and take her meds but she did gulp down some liver cake. She stabilised a bit and I took her to the surgery first thing before the movers arrived. Stressed and upset we moved house while my Jelly stayed in the vets, I was thankful she was being cared for while so much was going on. We visited her and she looked so pitiful. There was no spark in her eyes. My Jelly was fading away. Leaving her there that night was gutwrenching but with so much to do at the house (it had been left full of junk and 2 years worth of dirt) I had no choice. Upset and distracted I went to visit the next day and Laura Frascarelli the locum vet and all the vet nurses were so good, patient, understanding took great care of vet Jelly but I couldn’t leave her there on her own another night. We agreed I’d take her home for one last night then bring her back to be put to sleep the next day. It was the most precious night. My friend Rebecca, Jelly’s original breeder as fateful luck would have it came to say goodbye, she had always loved Jelly who was the first born of the litter. Jelly had raging thirst but we slept and cuddled together the whole night and woke to birdsong and glorious sunshine. I was crushed beyond belief but could not see my best friend suffer any longer. She died with her head in my arms at 1.20pm 6th April 2011 and was buried in the sunshine where she had been sunbathing that morning. I felt it fitting, she was a sun worshipper. I had wrapped her in her favourite blanket, put in her Kong, some liver cake and water and cried until I slept, exhausted. As she also liked hosepipes and moving water I will save up to install a water feature in memoriam by her grave. The pain of losing her is like nothing I have ever felt before, I have not had an easy life and coping with the emotional turmoil is alien to me, but I believe she and I were meant to meet and teach each other the things we did. Fate. She plays happily at Rainbow Bridge, free from pain until we meet again. Goodbye my baby. I will miss and love you forever.

Thank you to my children, dogs and cat for letting me bring another Bullie baby home, without you I am nothing. Thank you to BTW, thank you to Martin Brice, Laura the locum, Clare, Lisa, Sara, Jody and the team at Emerson Vets, Clair Hucker at Chapel Farm and a special thank you to Rebecca for making Jellybean for me.


Today April 6th marks the 1st anniversary of Jelly’s passing. I still cry for her, my heart dog. I still miss her. I felt her presence in places  she loved we visited for the first time since her dying, I know she she is joyful where she is free from her illness and this brings me comfort. I shall never forget how she never complained about her pain or how she gave love in such an honest way. Rest in peace sweet angel. Never forgotten,always loved.

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