It’s Been a While….

Two Years! Two Years! Oh my!  Things have changed….

Smartie is still the heart of our home. No change at all. Everything we do is based around him. We have just recently spent 5 days in a little cottage in Holne where Smartie was made as welcome as the humans!

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My children have grown and my son has flown the nest…..

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My son now lives in his own home with his partner and her son (who is adorable!) and their own TWO children.  My twin grandchildren, Brody and Amelia and they were born in May.

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Seriously! I am a Grandma… I am now 46 although I was 45 when I received the new title!

These two babies have transformed my life! I see them often and maybe once or twice a week I go over after work to help out with feeds and bathing.  You see here a few photographs… I have hundreds! They change every day.

Amelia Brody

So I am loving life and may be forgiven for not adding any new blog posts in the past two years… Perhaps now I have more reason to record my memories…

My old dad has not been so well. He has Heart Failure and is being treated for it. He has lost a little weight on a controlled diet. He is still out with his little dog daily and is terminally grumpy so things are not so bad!

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So…. updated! This is my life and between my home, my full time work, and then my children and dog and husband (in that order!) and of course my old dad…. life is good!

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Birthday with the dogs!

Turning 44 was not as bad as I had thought it might be…
I jest! I realise there are people lots older than 44 and not feeling their age at all.

Saturdays are always so busy… I never imagined that after a hard week at work that a relevant day of rest would turn into such a frantic day of activities.
Firstly I have to say that after having my mother in law in hospital for 10 days it was relief to get her home so the real recovery can begin! (I could enjoy my first day without factoring ‘hospital visiting’ into the day.)

Back to Saturday… My first job as is usual on ones birthday is to open your cards and pressies if you are lucky! I was.
Then it was onto the more mundane tasks of washing, hoovering, ironing and general tidying up. A job that takes time now is removing Smarties nose~art from my windows…

Internet shopping done the night before I waited patiently as my delivery slot arrived. Then it was off to my dads house to collect the ever eager Scruff and of course my dad.
Scruff is so funny… Every time I go to pick my dad up it is an unspoken rule that Scruff comes too. For some reason, she must not be certain as she makes sure she is stood at the front door the entire time I am there. She has a look on her face that says “ OK! I am ready whenever you are.” It makes me smile.. She is such a pudding that she needs me to squidge her ample bottom up so she can get into the car. Dignity? What dignity!

Once home and Smartie had welcomed his sister Scruff into the home with a lot of little of sniffs and a lot of ‘bum-tucking in’ from Scruff, David and I took Smartie on his usual Saturday morning training session. Today he was meeting Lenny the Springer spaniel. He would be walking with Lenny and running free with Lenny… and hopefully coming back to us on re-call with Lenny!
He did indeed return which was good because the meeting with Lenny was perfect timing for the next part of the day.

Once training was done we were back home to collect Scruff and dad as we were going to the local RSPCA site at Felledge for a Fun Dog Show and Open day. As usual… Scruff lead the way with sterling behaviour, showing the youngster how it should be done. With a steady pace, a friendly wave of the tail and the occasional polite sniff, no bouncing, all done with calmness. Smartie seemed to watch how it was done and when she had taken in all the information from Scruff she was ready to do the same. Well… maybe next time… Smartie was off! Occasionally his front paws lifting off the ground, this was so he could stretch himself to limit to reach the dogs at the bottom of the field. Apparently you can do this if you rear up on your hind legs. Or not. Then he managed to lift the pace to a mad dash whilst his head did almost 360 degree turns to ensure he didn’t miss anything.
This went on for about half an hour… it got considerably better as time went by. Eventually you could see his little face and the look on it said
“Another dog… mmmm…seen them all now”
He was absolutely brilliant! He was even very good when the horses were nearby and Smartie usually has a short fuse for the horses… Later in the day we bumped into Michelle, a local RSPCA Inspector who also happened to be Smarties foster mum. She was so pleased to see him and she commented on how well he looked and how well behaved he was. (Thank goodness she never clapped eyes on him as we arrived!) She gave him a cuddle and had a little cry… that’s normal for her. We are pretty sure they are happy tears. It always amazes me, she has a job that one would imagine you would have to be tough for but Smartie has this knack of getting right under your skin very quickly.

Once home and fed and everyone back in their rightful places I got to open a few more pressies and cards and of course check Facebook which was filled with all of my friends greetings. So lovely! Love or hate facebook, your birthday is always made better by it!

So, a year older, wiser? Not so sure. Happier? Without a doubt!

Here are some photos from the day and some from when we returned home.
Dog Show 3

Dog Show 2

Dog show 1

Recovering after all of the excitement!

Relaxing later...

Then after the nap it was back to normal naughtiness.
Bone or boot

Lessons Learned.

As we are approaching week 4 of dog ownership I though a little update on how Smartie was adjusting to life with us.

For a rescue, I would imagine that depending on what history you are aware of you should introduce everything slowly and as if it was a new experience. In truth, he may have done everything before but not with you so I guess in that respect it is a new experience.

Smartie has long elegant nails and I thought a visit to the groomer might be a good way of letting him enjoy being pampered and also getting used to someone other than us touching his paws. I made the appointment and arrived on time. I bundled my little ball of energy out the car, grappling with his lead. As I swung a leg behind me to close the car door Smartie headed off with me floating behind directionless like a paper kite. The groomer met us at the door looking rather bemused as Smartie had a sniff at her, bounced at her legs once or twice and then cocked his head from side to side working out what direction he should head in. To the horse noise, the dog noise or the children squeal noise?

Just as I had gathered a modicum of decorum a puppy spaniel with the floppiest ears came racing from around the corner to meet the ‘wild dog’. I allowed the dogs to have immediate eye contact. (WRONG!) I allowed him to rear up on his hind legs. (WRONG) and then I reverted back to paper kite mode whilst a little chase ensued. (Yes I know! WRONG!)

Grooming lady was looking as though she was about to explode. I don’t think she knew quite where to begin. Thankfully she started at the dogs’ feet and explained to me how his nails were fine. If, when the dogs paw is firmly on the ground the nails don’t touch the floor then the nails are ok. She did compliment him on his long elegant toes and nails but that was where the good comments ended.

I was about to turn tail and begin the drag back to the car when a firm hand gripped mine and removed the dog leader from my hand.

I learned lots of things very quickly as the ‘matter of fact’ manner with which grooming lady had decided to use, began her speech. It seemed to me that she had so many ‘corrections’ to tell me that the best way was to say them quickly.

She informed me that as a relatively new dog owner having not had a dog for some 11 years, that I was an idiot for choosing to adopt a ‘problem’ dog. She told me that Staffies and Staffie crossbreeds where probably the highest maintenance dog on the planet. I was told that aggression could come to fore at anytime. She told me I was allowing him to be the pack leader and with that came heavy responsibility of protecting us all. This is when aggression could be shown. I understood this. The harness I was using was enabling him to pull; the leader I was using was giving him too much freedom and also allowing him to lead me where he wanted to go, again, giving way to him being pack leader. I was told that until he could walk by my side at my pace he wasn’t ready to be off the lead. She also told me that‘re-call’ was a pipe dream with a dog so easily distracted and so obviously in charge.

I sucked in my breath, had a talk to myself in my head and decided that punching the grooming lady squarely on the nose was not an option. She was deeply bereft of people skills…. The image of the nose punch went away and I replaced my facial expression with a one of acceptance. She was a dog person…. She wasn’t going to pander to my needs and treat me with kid gloves. I needed the short, sharp shock tactics.

At this point she walked up the street… with my dog. I could hear echoes of “No, no, no, no” and “Sit, Sit, Sit” and then “Stay, Stay, Stay” ….
This went on for some time. The stop/start movement, the noises, the pokes in the ribs…
“Walk on!”
I sighed as I watched the amazing transformation in what seemed like 18 hours but what was actually 50 minutes. She had him sitting and walking, staying and stopping on command.
She brought back a rather bewildered and shell-shocked looking Smartie and handed me his leash. As she told me a few other tips Smartie sat at my feet and didn’t make a move. I was no longer a directionless paper kite!
Dogs need boundaries; they look to us for direction and instruction. It is our job to make the dog feel protected and not to burden them with responsibility they could never cope with.

I offered to pay this lady for her time, it was the least I could do. She refused but she did offer her services to me later this week. She asked me to bring him over one evening and she would work with me again, this time allowing me to be the pack leader. I accepted.

When I arrived home I began to tell the extraordinary tale to my husband who responded quickly by grabbing the dog and lead and a pot full of tasty treats and went off into the garden to try out all of the new commands. Smartie excelled. The short session was brought to a close with a game of fetch.

On Sunday I had arranged to go to the RSPCA spring fair where we would be seeing all of Smarties former carers including his foster mum. I was a little anxious wondering how he would behave but showing a united front, we all got ready to go. Smartie was ready with his new half choke-chain collar and short leather leader. Packs of tasty snacks where handed out to all of the adults and we were on our way….

If I had dreamed the outcome of this outing it would have been acceptable to me, however it was not a dream. Smartie sat nicely; he was calm and happy as we chatted to the kennel carers. He wagged his tail and accepted treats. No jumping, no running off, no barking. Was this really the same Smartie that was a bundle of excited, uncontrollable energy only the day before? He had a little jump when he saw his former forster carer but we had to allow him that. She cried and cuddled him and thanked us for loving him.

This is just the beginning.

Our New Addition to the Family

I had never considered what I would do when my children didn’t need me to ‘look after’ them anymore. I know the old saying, you will always need your Mam and Dad and I agree with it whole heartedly. It’s the time when you children no longer rely on you for entertainment or to stay home with them. That period of time when they have reached adulthood, have their own friends, their own itineraries even though they still live at home.

With my son now 22 years of age, working full time, having his girlfriend and constantly booking holidays it is rare that I see him. I still wash for him, feed and clean up after him but he’s not reliant on me for anything other than that. My daughter, well, it is a little different with her as she and I are very close and we probably do more together now as friends than ever before but of course you still have that empty feeling when you realise she doesn’t need me to take her to the doctors, or to be home after college and things like that. She is 18 years of age in July and of course she has her boyfriend and will be going off to university in September so I guess I will feel a little worse then!

I have thought about this so much lately and I decided it was perhaps time to talk to my husband about it. I explained that it was time for the two of to start living our own lives. Perhaps we should start planning things for just the two of us…. I decided that later in the year we should go to York for a long weekend. We both love York. “Ooooh, yes! That is a great idea! Count me in!” exclaimed my daughter from the depths of the living room. That’s ok; we can have a nice summer holiday, just the two of us. It will be nice not having to create activities to suite younger people. We’ll be able to potter around Bulgaria as we wish.
“Gabriella and I will come with you, if you let me know the dates.” Said Allen….
“I would like to go on another holiday with you and Dad too but could Scott come?” Said Andrea…

You can see how this is going can’t you… I’d rather have it like this than to have them not want to be around us as we grow older. It’s with all of this in mind that we decided to get a dog to live with us. We love dogs; we love animals to be honest. We have always had to work such long hours, full time that having a dog was never really a viable option. Now though, things have changed. My husband works shifts so that means the length of time any dog would be expected to stay home alone is reduced to no more than three hours. We have always thought that if the time was right for a dog it would have to be a rescue dog. We would only want to give a home to a dog that hadn’t had much insight to love and regular food and cuddles, a dog that could truly feel safe for the first time in a long time and for a long time to come.

I spent the next three months scouring the online rescue sites just looking for the ‘right dog’ for us. We wanted a dog that was calm and not too young. We wanted a dog that wouldn’t have separation issues, no aggression and one that didn’t mind the small furry animals that already lived with us.

I was beginning to think that we would never find one. How strange when there are so many dogs out there looking for homes and yet here I was, struggling to find one. I knew I was asking a lot of any dog. The small furry animals was a much bigger issue than I thought it would be and it seemed that for the majority of dogs their natural instinct was to chase small animals.

Eventually I saw on our local RSPCA web site a dog called Smartie. He was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier Cross. He was only one year old but was living with a foster family as he hadn’t coped well with kennel life. This dog had been scalded and beaten and his wounds had been left open and uncared for. He was starved. Eventually a neighbour reported the owners and the dog was taken away by the RSPCA. A court case followed and the RSPCA ‘won’ their case. (I don’t think they ever see these cases as a victory in a glorified way, only that it meant that the dog or animal was safe from any further cruelty and the people responsible were held accountable. I doubt anyone would think the punishment was sufficient but at least they had done all they could within the perimeters of the law.)

Smartie was waiting for his forever home. His foster mum had written that Smartie was a god boy, he didn’t chew, he was house trained and he could stay home alone. (As long as you didn’t leave things lying around as he likes to take things to his bed) He knew basic commands and was very good on the lead.

I made an appointment for everyone who would be in this dogs’ life to meet him. We all trooped up the local RSPCA centre. My self, my husband, Allen and Andrea, my dad, his dog and one of our degu’s in a little carry case. The meeting went very well and Smartie seemed to like us all. We took him for a walk and saw how good he was on the lead, how good he was with Scruff and how happy he seemed. He didn’t show any interest in Edgar, our little degu, so we knew then he was the one for us. We signed the adoption papers and were told to wait for the home check. Home checks are vital as it gives the organisation a chance to see where the dog will live and it gives you an opportunity to ask questions. They checked our garden fence and gave us the all clear. All the home-check lady had to do was to hand in her paperwork and all we had to do was to wait.

I love a happy ending….

Smartie lives with us now. (Three weeks today and I have to say he is different dog to the one we brought home) He is fun loving and happy and loves snuggles. He can walk and play for as long as you are able to and he is always happy to snooze in the sunshine. Smartie loves food and that is probably one of the very few things that I can say is a negative point. He is very greedy but when you realise he went so long not knowing where his next meal would come from I think you can understand. It’s a fixable trait. Other than that he seems to have fit in perfectly with us. Living in the same room as Edgar didn’t go to plan though and although he shows no aggression at all he was ‘overly interested’ in Edgar. We decided it would be better for Edgar if we moved him so he is know living happily in Andrea’s room with the other 4 girl degus. He gets plenty of attention and we all go to see him. He seems happy and I am sure he is more relaxed without having a dog’s nose poking though his cage.

I would like to introduce you to our dog Smartie.
Smartie 2 JPG

Smartie 3

smartie 4

Smartie 5

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smartie 7

smartie 9

Smartie 10

Smartie 11

Smartie Smile

Blame it on the Weather…

I can’t believe I am entitling the Export template as ‘Week 7’! Where does the time go to?
Isn’t it a fact that the older you get the quicker time seems to pass… I know, it goes no quicker or slower whatever your age but the perception is much different isn’t it? I find myself deliberately doing little to nothing on a Sunday to make the day appear longer… Obviously with that you get a serious feeling of regret due to wasting an entire day.

I can’t wait for Spring to spring! I long for the nights to be lighter, for the colours to brighten up and for the fear of one last snowfall to be gone. My dad has a theory based on an old wives tale so it is of course 100% true. *!*

“February fill dyke, be it black or be it white”

It would seem it will work either way for us, it has been both black and white lately! As I was driving up the hill to my house which is one of the same hills that the weather people always mention… “The snow will be more significant on the Hills…” My dad noticed the dykes along the fields were all filled with snow. He sucked in his breath and shook his head. February Fill-dyke….. White.

I still have an eerily quiet garden… I am not used to the peace as we always have so many visitors. I am still blaming the Sparrow hawk… It doesn’t stop those silly squirrels though… they visit whatever…

If you can’t watch the antics of the garden visitors then you have to find something else to watch and dad and I did just that. The Jazz Singer! I was brought up with the soundtrack and I like nothing better than to cosy-up on the sofa and sing through a film! *oooh baby baby* I actually found the character Neil Diamond played in the film to be very annoying… self-centered and arrogant, but these are newly made assumptions that have come to me over time. Jaded with experience perhaps? If you concentrate on the songs he becomes less annoying….
*I’m amazed, I’m confused.
I’ve been dazed, I’ve been used*

I’ve only got one particular blot on my landscape this week and that is the looming-large appointment we have with the Damp-man… yes, you guessed it… We have damp issues! (I blame the weather….) I’m hoping it is a relatively cheap fix but of course it won’t be…. I may have to take my sing-a-long-The-Jazz-singer ‘show’ to the streets along with my dads cap….

A Dog or a Lamp?

Looking for a rescue dog that will co-habit with 5 degus and 2 hamsters is not proving to be an easy task. I am slowing up on the search. I did tell my husband that if there was a dog out there meant for us then the situation will present itself to us. I am leaving it all to fate!
Having put that little task to one side I am left with another quandary… how to bring my husband around to the idea that we need a new standing lamp…
(Dog to standing lamp… smooth…NOT)
I know you can get reasonably priced ones but isn’t it always the case, when you see one you love, and it is expensive, you decide its too expensive but none of the others come up to that level after you have seen the perfect one.
The lamp I want is this one…
Floor Lamp

Isn’t it lovely, a little out of my price range at £135.00? I took a great opportunity and mentioned said lamp to my husband in a rare moment during the football when Newcastle United were winning. Catch him a good mood….
He mentioned something about saving for it. I think he was only half listening. What he doesn’t know is that we have a ‘savey club’ at work and since January 2nd this year I have been saving… £140.00 to date which is good in one month. He hasn’t even missed it from the bank or his wallet  haha *seriously only joking*

Anyway… I needed to get the dogs and lamps out of my head and get on with some work, at work, but just before starting time I thought I would complete my morning ritual and check the local rescues to see what dogs were looking for homes….
*Rolls eyes incessantly at self*

I found Eddie, a 3 year old male boxer dog and Star, a 1 year old male Beagle mix hound.

It can’t hurt to email my hubby I thought… So I did just that.

I have just received his response…..

Subject: RE: Eddie & Star from Deerness….

I thought you wanted a lamp? Love D XX

SO… he WAS listening….

Bird Watching Afternoon.

We do enjoy the RSPB Big Garden Bird watch. It can be quite an event in our house and this weekend it was no different. I had chief bird watcher in charge of the proceedings. My dad was also in charge of the pencil and check list… V.I.B.W. (Very Important Bird Watcher)

Things started slow, it was a milder afternoon than we had had in the past few days. There was still snow but the thaw was well under way. The feeders were filled to the brim of all manner of tasty treats to tempt our feathered friends.

“Dad! Two blackbirds… over there by the fence!!”

My enthusiasm was a little too much but my dad seemed to like it.

“ Yes, yes, I have got them down now… just two? Is that not a third one there?”

He points in a very general direction.

“No dad, that is the back of the other one behind the trunk.”

They left as quickly as they arrived, the noise could almost have been deafening if it wasn’t for good double glazing.

“The Sparrow hawk is coming.” Dad remained deadpan as he made the announcement.

“How do you know?”

He stayed straight-faced.

“The Blackbird told me…”

I nod… and quickly open up a new tab on the laptop and Google ‘Straight Jackets’.

I had barely got the S-T in and swooping down from above and landing squarely on the largest branch of the apple tree was the Sparrow Hawk! He searched the area with greedy-eyes and then flew back to the other tree on the other side of the garden. Settling, he continued his visual search and he must have seen something moving on the large tree over the fence and he was up and away so quickly. He glided straight over the fence of our garden and slap-bang into the net of the neighbours’ trampoline. I knew that thing had to have a good use as it never has any children on it! With not an ounce of dignity left he flapped a few times then he took his embarrassed self away from the tree and off into the distance he fled!

I turn to my dad seated next to me with a very smug look on his face.

The garden fell silent for the next few minutes as is usual after a sparrow hawk visit.

The brave arrived shortly after the hawk had left. Safety in numbers!

“5.. Tracey, 5 long tail tits.. 7! 7! There are two on that feeder…10! Count them Tracey!”

I concur! There was indeed ten Long tail Tits, as they took to each feeder, flitting from one to the next like busy little mice-birds..

The feathered flood gates then opened. It was a wonderful sight! A robin, little and fat and very proudly sticking out his red-breast was fluttering upwards in a very undignified manner as he tried to feed from the fatty cake in the square cages. Usually feeding from the ground, this was a strange thing to see. As he dangled and fluttered the tits came in, Coal tits – 2, Great tits, 2…3, Blue tit, 1… and so the count went on. The blackbirds, already counted arrived, the second Robin arrived and was very quickly seen-off just as we checked another ‘I’ on the checklist. As quickly as they arrived they left and the garden fell silent.

“Rabbit!” dad has his wiggly finger out again aiming it to the bottom of the garden.

“It’s a bird watch Dad.” Seems I should point it out.

“I wonder were the squirrels are today?” He seemed undeterred by my mention of the animals not being allowed.

As we sipped on our hot coffee and chatted dad spotted the newest visitors. I was not so sure about the ‘Safety in numbers’ statement for these chaps but one after the other the Wood pigeons arrived. We live opposite a very large farmer’s field so we are used to the arrival of these guys in large numbers. Very early on a morning is the best time to catch them all. I have had up to thirty in at one time. (Approximately!) This time was a rather lesser number of 8. Impressive for our list though. Dad marked them all on the list and as he added the last strike for 8, number 9,10 and 11 settled at the lower part of the garden.

Other birds arrived and departed over the hour, we made sure we didn’t do any false accounting and we had an impressive list by 3pm.

The only notable no-show was the Woodpecker. We had visits from the Jays, two of them. The mystery bird we had two of we think they were young male blackbirds… I wanted them to be Field Fare but I think that would be false accounting.

All in all it was a very enjoyable hour spent appreciating and getting swept up in the excitement of the Big Garden Bird Watch.

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