Thursday, 18 July 2013

10 Things 'They' Didn't Tell Me About Owning A Dog

So Saskia is now happily in her forever home, and it left me thinking, what if people had a more honest view of what owning a dog would be like. Would this help to curb the number of dogs in rescue. There are of course all the usual things that are trotted out, from 'it's a huge commitment' to 'they're very expensive'. I think anyone giving thought to getting a dog will have heard these, and so I suppose to many they may just go over their heads.

So I thought I would put together the things I didn't know... Now, obviously there would be more to this list, and maybe I'll add to it at some point, but these are the first that came to me.

Think of this a little like one of those parenting blogs '10 Things They Didn't Tell You About Childbirth', but just a little less grizzly.

'Sunday mornings... made for lazing'
1/ Just like in those parenting blogs, I'm going to start with the obvious 'sleepless nights', whether you adopt or pick up a puppy, you are going to get some of these. Once your puppy has grown or your rescue has settled in don't expect it to stop there. Then there will be nights like last night when the little buggers decide to visit you at 3am after opening the baby gate...

2/ Say 'good bye' to a lie in. I don't think I've got up past 7am since getting Barry, I'm fine with this, many people wouldn't be. I actually love getting up early, and now on a Sunday morning the dogs come up to our room, we read papers, drink tea and immediately wash the white sheets, well, something has to motivate me to do them.

3/ You will never, ever feel worst after a dog walk, but you might start off really hacked off your having to leave the house, in sleet, in the dark, realising five minutes after you've left the house that your wellies have sprung a leak and your gloves don't work. Everyone getting a dog hears 'You're going to have to walk it', which you will, otherwise, in my case you could say goodbye to your sanity as your dog climbs the walls. What I will say is regardless of the weather, walking my dogs makes me & them happy, which is never a bad thing.

'The Three Musketeers' 
4/ You will worry. I worry about their health, the heat, the dangers of poisonous food, poisons plants, leaving them at home (at all!), having other people look after them, training, theft, if a fence panel has blown down in the night, roads, recall, people, over feeding, under feeding, if the gravel in the back garden hurts their feet...      if I baby them too much.

5/ Dogs do not have 'days off' this means you won't have one either.

6/ You will not stop at one... We how have Barry, Mars & Sonic, fabulously big dogs, and we really do need that bigger sofa. Apparently Al always knew this would happen...

7/ You will have to plan everything. No more visiting a friend and deciding to stay over, no more popping out shopping then deciding to go for meal as you have your furry stopwatches at home. Oddly though, going from someone who was very used to doing what I wanted when I wanted, this took absolutely no adjustment. I want to come home to my dogs... I think I may get the separation anziety....

''Come on... I'm perfect!''
8/ One day, although they are stashed in every bag, every coat, and hung off leads, you will leave the house without a poo bag. You will have to root through your bag to find a tissue. It will not be pleasant.

9/ Your dogs will not be perfect. I had a vision of me wondering with an off the lead dog walking neatly to heel just before we paired up to fight crime, both perhaps wearing capes. As it is, Barry is his very own Super Hero, let's call him the 'Counter Surfer', Mars is more of a 007, in that he loves humping blonds (really) and Super Sonic has super hero hearing, it's just very selective.

10/ You will sing to your dogs, dance with them, talk to them very publicly, introduce them as a member of your family, laugh when they've wrecked something you've saved for, cry like a baby when they have to go to the vets and know that that your life is better and you are better because of them.

My list is entirely mine, yours may well be different. I think it's number 10 that makes all the difference. If you're not prepared to accept your dogs as family member they will always be disposable. I'd fight tooth and claw for mine. They are family.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

We need a bigger sofa...

'I know... I'm fabulous.'
We're asked quite regularly about our experiences fostering, people's questions vary from the obvious 'is it going to be hard giving her up' to the quite frankly odd, 'if a home isn't found for her soon, you're not going to let her be put down are you?'. Answers to these questions, in case you were interested... 'yes, I'll probably blub a little, but it will also be one of the best days of my life', secondly 'No, you must be mental'. 

I guess the first question is asked because some people see dogs in just the one way, they either are yours or they aren't. I think I probably subscribed to this, I have to admit I was worried that this impulse would come into play, that after Saskia had come into our home I'd feel that rehoming her would feel like giving one of my dogs away. Thing is, when you foster you are often taking in a dog who's had a hard trot, and for us knowing we could provide a bridge for Saskia has become a very cool thing. We've lived with her, she is treated as one of our family (she is) and of course we have fallen in love with her. For Al and I, seeing that Saskia has a future ahead of her has become really exciting, and weirdly her being such an easy, loving dog makes her leaving easier. 

As for the second question, as extreme as it sounds really all it does is highlight how little people know about the work that rescues do. I suppose when people think 'dog rescue' they think of the 'big boys' but they have no idea that small rescues, either breed specific or more general are operating quietly and below the radar. These rescues are desperate for funds and are often run entirely by volunteers. These volunteers need to make hard decisions, receive phone calls all through the night and work for nothing other than the continued safety of the dogs in their care. 

'Don't tell but I think this white fluffy one is O.K.'
Saskia does not belong to us, she was signed over to the rescue, and we picked her up from the pound in their name. We remain her custodians, all of her vaccinations, medical care and spaying will be paid for by 8 Below Rescue, which is why although she is staying in our home and  not a rescue centre, those funds are still needed. We will continue to be lucky enough to look after Saskia until the time that someone is even luckier, and she becomes a permanent part of their home. 

I'm sure one day we will 'fail' and a foster will stay with us. One thing I can say is that the dog we 'fail' on won't be a perfect dog like Saskia, we know she'll just be the perfect dog for someone else. Alex and I are destined to 'foster fail' one day, but unlike our gentle, quite perfect Saskia, it'll be the dog who makes our lives hell until we realise we've come too far to let them go...

If you'd like to read more about the fab Sled Dogs neeeding homes with 8 Below please visit

Thrice as nice... Keeping calm and staying chilled.

Saskia has now been part of our family for over a month, and in all honesty it’s flown by. Saskia now has her favourite spots in the garden, and if she’s not there can be found glued to Barrys side. We’ve learned a hell of a lot, about this new dog, about Barry & Mars and as always a little more about ourselves.

We had a couple of days of settling in, with a little bit of scent marking from Saskia, which after toilet training Barry this was nothing, and lots of playing whilst the dogs sounded each other out.

Barry & Saskia catching some rays
I wouldn’t like to mislead anyone by saying that adding another dog to our pack has been totally plain sailing. It’s required a degree of commitment.

Because Saskia came to us from the pound we had no idea if she’s been spayed yet, so we’ve had to keep her and Mars under permanent supervision… we don’t want any mini Husky Setters running around. This means if I want to go to the loo they have to be separated, if the door bell goes, they have to be separated, if I go to put a load of washing on, they have to be separated… you get the picture.

Then there’s Saskia and Barry, they've had the odd little scrap so yet another reason they can’t be left unsupervised. Apparently dogs not getting on is a real sticking point for a lot of fosterers. Seeing any dogs scrap isn’t going to be nice, but to expect dogs to get on immediately is unrealistic. We’ve learned very quickly how to read their body language, so we know if there is any tension building. It’s been amazing how quickly we’ve learnt spot triggers and I feel we’ve developed a better understanding of Barry & Mars along the way. 

'You have our attention, we'll have those treats now.'
Indroducing Saskia to our pack meant we knew in advance we'd have to brush up on our pack leadership stuff. We practice much of what we've learned from reading and our visits from Sue our trainer, but to be honest we sometimes let things slide. We had been warned in advance that adding a third dog could make the dynamic trickier. We have known all this time that we would have to step up to the plate as leaders to avoid chaos. Having two dogs we knew that if you give 'em inch they'll take a mile, but having a third, give 'em an inch and they'll take that mile and just keep going.

'Cuddle me Mars Bar!'
When we indroduced Mars and Barry they immediately found their place and have had hardly a cross word between them, but I knew that to ask for this again would be asking too much. You can count the number of times Saskia and Barry have fallen out on one hand, but it doesn’t pay to take your eye off the ball. We’ve found that Saskia and Barry need to be fed  in separate rooms and their bowls lifted and out of the way before they come back in  together. Oh yes, and I can’t sprinkle chicken manure pellets anymore, as far as Saskia and Barry are concerned, this is food. Delightful stuff.

 Otherwise though I think Barry will really miss Saskia they’ve developed a bond, and will spend much of their day within spitting distance of each other. Mars will spend most of the summer chasing bees, butterlfies and shadows, so he’s happy to let them get on with it…

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

It's Official, We're Fosterers!

Sometimes in life we’re lucky enough to have the things we decide we’ll ‘do one day’ become the things we’re doing today. We'd talked about fostering dogs but we clearly needed a little push in the right direction.
Saskia, in the car on the way home

Our push came through a chance encounter. We met three huskies, one of whom it transpired was a Miortok Rescue foster Husky. This lovely dog was saved from being put to sleep and given another chance, living with her fosterer until she found her forever home. Al and I decided we  were lucky enough to be at a point in our lives where we could offer this kind of help and foster a dog needing a home. We then contacted Miortok who gave us oodles of advice, and let me talk through my multitude of concerns.

Dogs will need fostering for a variety of reasons, although the aim behind fostering is to look after rescue dogs in a home environment until their forever home can be found. In some cases a dogs stay with a foster family will be short, but many dogs will have a lengthy stay until their perfect family can be found. 

I'm pretty good at worrying, I have it down to a fine art, so when it came to adding another dog to our happy pack it took some thinking about. I imagined myself in a chaotic house, my dogs unhappy, feeling out of my depth and wondering why I had been so arrogant to have thought I’d be a good fosterer. Luckily I have a husband who, used to my wobbles told me to man up, and that we’d be fine. We have been, he was right… just don’t tell him that.

On our walk before meeting the boys
Now I had decided to help, to hear I couldn’t would have been heartbreaking. We now just had the hurdle of a home check which although terrirfying came and went and was absolutely fine. A lovely lady came and chatted with us about our dogs, looked at the set up we had, and talked about all the practicalities of our fostering a dog, and the levels of care we could offer. She was a huge hit with Barry & Mars, they’re a sucker for anyone with treats in their pockets!

After she left we just had to wait to hear back from Miortok... I was allowed to breathe out later that day when I heard we passed our home check.

One day later we were winging our way to the pound to pick up our first foster, Saskia.

If you’ve been to a dog pound, and I mean a pound not a rescue, you may understand when I say that they are desperate feeling places. I have only found out recently about the work dog pounds do and one of their roles is to deal with strays picked up by the dog warden. Lost dogs will then be held in the pound giving them seven days to be claimed by their owners who pay a small fee to have their dogs released. After seven days if dogs are unclaimed they may then be put to sleep. Sounds awful, and it is, but it’s not the fault of the pound.
Husky Sandwich!

Many dogs are claimed back by responsible owners unlucky enough to lose their dog, others go on to rescues and fosters, and those who aren’t so lucky may be put to sleep.

We’ve all read the stories of hideous abuse, the violence and the sickening acts that make you doubt in humanity. We don’t tend to hear about the casual neglect, which makes me doubt in 'us'  just the same. We have to make changes. We need to stop the people who buy puppies and dogs and grow bored and get rid, the people who don’t want to put in time, effort or energy, who buy a dog like they would a pair of trainers and just dispose of them when they can’t be bothered any more. There really is no shortage of repulsive reasons animals end up in desperate situations,  we live in a society that allows people to abuse, neglect and discard animals in a way that disgraces us as a nation.
''Belly rub please!'' 

I think I've shocked myself with the strength of feeling I've had about the situation Saskia and other dogs just like her find themselves in. Live with a dog who has been so badly let down and only then do I think you can really appreciate why it is so important we help to correct a situation we have created.

I'm incredulous that we've spent the last month with a wonderful dog that someone just didn’t want to, or didn’t bother to look for. I’d like to say ‘their loss’ but sadly it is to the detriment of the dogs whilst their owners walk away. I’m not going to start suggesting answers, I've neither the experience nor the credentials. 

All I will say is that we need to learn a new respect for the animals in our homes, it may be a cliche, but their lives are in our hands.

If you would like to see some of the other dogs being helped by Miortok please visit you'll see Saskia on there too!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Must Try Harder... Words From A Lazy Blogger

So, I’m a terrible blogger, I have these great intentions, these great ideas, and they remain intentions… and ideas.

Thinking back what could I have written about? Well lots, all these things I would have loved to share, that I tell strangers in the street, dog stuff, important stuff, which in my life is primarily dog stuff.

Barry & Mars The Day After Mars Joined Us
I was about to say that my dogs don’t rule my life but that would most likely be untrue. I have a ‘doggie business’, I’m woken up by my dogs and I kiss them goodnight, I talk to them even when I know everyone is listening and my time is all theirs.

So I guess I should start with the dogs in question.

Barry & Mars are two very different dogs, and they have both taught me very different things about myself.

Barry our first dog taught me that I could love and laugh even when my most favourite things had been 'Barried'. He taught me that you can be happy, even if everything has gone horribly wrong, because your dog wants you to be.

Barry taught me that patience isn’t a virtue it’s a necessity, and once you have patience you’ll see you have plenty of other virtues.

Mars arrived with us at nine months old. We went back to our breeder and asked if she knew of a dog who would make a cracking playmate for Barry. Turned out she did and Mars came to us, a bundle of ‘play’, desperate for round the clock cuddles but miles away from our overtly confident and undeniably demanding Barry. Mars gave me a new perspective, quieter and more reserved, I think it was a few weeks until we saw him shining through.

As They Are Now
Mars has taught me that we can all grow and adjust. We watched him hide behind Barry and we saw Barry grow stronger with his best friend behind. Mars took a while to find his ‘voice’ he now yodels and dances with excitement and would make any of you smile with a dance! He’s a soft soul, he reminds you that raised voices have no place in a happy home. 
Mars spent some time in a different home before he came to us and it didn't work out, just says to me that some dogs just need to find their perfect home & their perfect people.

If you already have your perfect match then lucky you. If you're thinking about going on that journey, enjoy it, we did.