Monday, 4 November 2013

A Series of Exciting Adventures, the first

It all started with an invitation - to a party.
A Puppy Party that is at the vets, there is a serious reason behind it, to let them explore the surgery and get used to the sights, sounds and most importantly the smells as well as a bit of owner education thrown in.  But, "it's a PARTY!" and The Mother Bean really wanted them to have party frocks, we gently (OK, not so gently) explained that it's not that sort of party and really 'smart casual' (collar and lead) was much more the order of the day; she tried to push for pretty ribbons but there is no way Dido would ever wear a ribbon, especially out in society - she's just not that sort of dog and if Hester (who probably would have been quite happy with bows made from ribbons) tried she'd simply remove them, before destroying them in her own inimitable way - i.e. chewing them into shreds!  Anyway, outfit choices made - black collar and burgundy lead for Dido, red collar and matching lead for Hester - off we went.  They were very good about getting out of the car and walking through the car park, we parked at the top and by the time we'd got to the bottom they'd stopped cavorting and were walking in something akin to a straight line, we all waited by the kerb and crossed the busy road without incident. Into the waiting room to greet the other guests, Hester hung back a little whilst Dido launched herself in with a 'hello, here I am' type of bounce and grin on her face.  I found a seat and Hester sat down nicely, Dido tried to bounce on everyone and when that wasn't allowed let her displeasure be known in quite vocal terms.  When all the guests had arrived Head Nurse Anna talked a little bit about what was going to happen (Dido tried to join in), we had a tour of the practice and when we got to the operating theatre I was amazed at how small it was, I suppose for most animals and procedures it's fine but I had to ask how they'd managed with Finn - two tables and a bit of a tight squeeze was the answer, and his paws were nearly touching the ceiling!  A quick trip to the kennels before going back to the waiting room for some more instruction and QnA session with Laura, as it was lunch time Dido wanted her food but was pacified with pieces of kibble and small chicken treats - which also did quite a good job of shutting her up, the whingy anna!  Finally the pups could all greet, play and general cavort about before being certified and given their party bag; an hour had passed and it was time to go home - tired, educated and happy.  They slept virtually all afternoon....


Certificates for enthusiastic participation - maybe a little too much in Dido's case.

So we have been really busy -  and not blogged it all!
We're going to post a series of adventures in installments, at least that's the plan....

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Three weeks have flown by.

 In a haze of mostly office stuff, see the office blog for that.
The pups are doing very well although we’ve had a few setbacks, mainly a tummy bug.  Dido was being picky with her food and I thought it was just the dish problem but somewhere along the line she’d picked up a bug which eventually resulted in a very messy yard and cage and of course shortly after Hester got it too.  They were really quite poorly, very flat and listless, not interested in anything at all really.  An overnight 18 hour starve (they’re not really big enough to do a full 24hrs) and small portions seemed to so the trick.  They both recovered quickly but a couple of days later Dido had a relapse with explosive results! This time round I thought vet assistance was required, if only to ease my mind, there was some rebounding in her guts which were loudly gurgling and a small area of tenderness.  One tube of puppy ‘calf paste’ and small bland meals every couple of hours for the next few days was the prescription.  Dido was really good about going into the vets on her own, Hebe had come with us in the car but was left on guard.  Small complication - the aga was out (that’s another story) so only a microwave for cooking.  I picked up some cooked turkey and swiftly learnt to cook rice in the microwave. After 48 hours she was much improved and I started adding back in the Euk.  A week later she’s so much better that she eats a load of cut grass which ferments in her tum resulting in all of her tea making a reappearance in spectacular fashion over the course of a few hours until the brown gungy, smelly mess appears and then she’s looking for food again - brown bread and honey for an extra supper and by morning she’s thin but ravenous!  Even more so when I only let her have half her breakfast - well, that’s what happens when you eat things you shouldn’t.
So we lost a week’s worth of training but I don’t think it’s had a major impact, in fact being stuck inside we’ve been working on sit, which is coming on really well.  They will both sit on command both verbal and hand signal with words and hand signal without words; Dido will sit at a distance of 2-3 metres (assuming no distractions) but Hester still comes towards me before her bottom makes contact with the ground.  Hester is a more natural retriever and gift bringer and today we’ve started on wait before sending out. Dido is more inclined to take the retrieve and dash off with it, and on retrieve recall (different command from plain recall) will often drop it mid way back, in expectation of reward I think even though she’s never been given one after a retrieve - that brain of hers is sometimes too smart for her own good, you can see the problem going in, rattling around and off she goes with her chosen solution which usually involves feet or teeth!

The upset tums made me readdress the feeding regime.  The first brainwave was adding a splash of hot water to their dry kibble which is very sticky and requires lots of trips to the water dish.  Since starting to add the water they’re both noses straight in and gone in one sitting.  The second lightbulb moment was feeding times, we’ve always dropped lunch first giving them breakfast, tea and supper; however this wasn’t working this time round, our (or more precisely my) time schedule is different, there wasn’t long enough between tea and supper so supper was ending up at somewhere between 10 and 11 and I was having to wake them up for it and then keep them awake long enough to empty their tanks before bed; all in all not a good arrangement.  So lunch went back into the routine and supper has gone without being missed at all.

Poor Hester still keeps getting bad experiences when she’s out and about but now she gets over them faster so we’re building up some confidence there.  Dido has had a few scary moments and although she doesn’t quake like Hester it takes longer to settle back down and carry on in a normal fashion; Dido is also much more bouncy and wants to bounce on the world which means that sometimes our progress is more a series of kangaroo jumps than a sedate walk.  Hester trots along happily beside me being nudged back into place - until something scary happens!
They’re both coming along really well on their own; however, yesterday we had our inaugural two puppy outing and as an exercise in heel work it was not a success!  I had to do it much earlier than I had planned because we’ve been invited to a puppy party at the vets next weekend and I need to be sure I can manage both of them; apparently the answer is yes, but they’re not exactly at heel!  Oh well, it will come in time.
This week we’re going to start walks with Hebe, weather permitting taking it in turns to go for the morning paper which will reduce my walk schedule by one but also cut the length of Hebe’s morning outing  - we’ll make it up with playtime after dark.  At least that’s the plan but we have the builders starting work on Monday in the sitting room and Maia is at the vets on Tuesday for her second cartophen injection so things will remain fluid.

Hebe has been a real revelation, she’s a perfect Big Sis, stepping in to break up raucous playtime, playing gently with tug toys, sharing chewy toys but sometimes keeping one for herself, firmly but gently.  Watching at teatime (the one shared mealtime) and darting in to hoover up any spilt bits (she doesn’t know I’ve cut her ration to account for her ‘extras’!).  Although sometime she does take advantage because apparently puppies make perfect pillows during a hard day at work.

The pups are also forming their own Job Descriptions, they taken over shredding duties and will even sometimes read the papers for us.
I think I had read this one before Hester did...
They are so different.

Chunky Monkey Dido has grown into a long legged, square headed girl; she has a week of growing up until she’s a real skinny-ma-linky-long-legs and then a week of growing out until she’s puppy shaped once again.  Hester seems to grown all ways round although sometimes she’s a real plumpkin, her face is more rounded than Dido’s and she has much bigger eyes.  Dido is curious about everything and wants to help - no matter what you’re doing - she also sleeps less and really quite vocal, grunting to be let out, a different grunt for a cuddle (which are few and far between she doesn’t like being smothered) and whingy series of grunting when she’s desperate to stay awake and play a little longer but is dead on her paws. 


Hester in contrast loves to be cuddled and will tuck her head into your shoulder folding her legs in and doing a very good impression of a teddy bear, she too fights sleep but not as much as Dido, she needs more reassurance but contrarily is often the instigator at playtime and the one who has to be forcibly stopped for her own good. Hester watches what’s going on but only if you’re on the floor will she come to investigate  - usually with a gift in mouth; she has only two speed flat out top speed ahead and flat out asleep with very little inbetween.

So as Mr Robson says on GQT it’s onward and upward.

(and I will get those photos online....)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Out into the world - or not - and did you know dishes bite?

A whole new world
Dido has discovered that she can climb the stairs, all alone and unaided but she kinda gives herself away once she's reached the top by thundering around at top speed doing a lovely impression of a small herd of elephants on the rampage.  Until Monday she couldn't get back down again.  but she can go both ways we never know where she might be.   Consequently The Board is now doubling up as an office door barricade during week days and a stair 'gate' during evenings and over the weekends.  Hester sits at the bottom and looks imploringly, "I'm only little, pick me up, carry me and give me lots of cuddles on the way"  or at least until Monday morning when Dido set off at high speed and there was no one around to assist her progress so off she took.

The big wide world.
Tuesday rolls around at last and we can set paw outside the gate. For weeks the road has been sheep free - until Monday night when a flock wandered down leaving a lovely trail of what Dido assures me are very tasty little raisins!   Dido is fascinated by everything that's going on and is paying me little or no attention, Hester meanwhile is constantly checking with me that everything is fine.  Gradually we've increased the distance and by the end of the week were getting out onto the main road with all the clamour of traffic and people.

On Sunday I noticed a small gap in Dido's upper front teeth (as she was lying her back laughing up at me - trying to grab my fingers), the puppy needle teeth are on their way out and consequently they are more chewy than ever, I'm clearing soggy cardboard confetti from the various floors at least twice a day.  They're also partial to empty plastic bottles, the square ones are particularly good as the corner will crush and then can be chewed with satisfying crunchy noises

Tasty, tasty
For some reason the cracks in the yard are delightful, even better than pebbles.  We’re not too happy about yard licking despite the very clean patches so the cracks have been liberally doused in washing up liquid, only one lick each and they’ve both back off.  However one evening Hester was sitting on the step with green slime around her mouth (lovely!), she’s been yard licking again I thought and went to get kitchen roll to clean her up.  The green slime was particularly difficult to remove and full of gritty bits, as I was swiping it off her nose she opened her mouth to reveal a slightly chewed slug (urgh).  She dropped it on the step and it struggled to move away as it was now totally deslimed. Oh, puppies are such lovely creatures.  So far no more slug eating adventures, phew.  Although the verandah has another piece missing, bits of brick have turned up in the water bucket and there are a couple of chairs with suspicious marks which look remarkably like puppy teeth!

Despite their choice of snacks meal times are not so plain sailing.
The pups had been fed with food loose on the ground, not out of dishes meaning their dishes were a novelty, a slightly scary one, and without the competition of eating as much as you can as quickly as you can from their litter-mates they feel no compunction to dive straight in.  I made a mistake with their dishes, I got metal ones with deep sides - thinking about the quantity they would have to eat.  The first problem was when Dido put a foot in hers, it flew up and cracked her on the head! After that she wouldn’t go near it and would only eat directly from the floor again.  I eventually coaxed her to eat from a small, shallow, glass dish, however, two distinctly different dishes wasn’t working because if Hester ate Dido’s food Dido wouldn’t finish off Hester’s, *sigh*.  Two small glass dishes it was - which was OK but they didn’t hold much so we tried going back to the big metal dishes but because they were so deep the metal D-ring on their collars would clink against the side.  Not good.  So I chalked it up to experience and invested in new dishes, shallow, un-tip-up-able style, still metal but with a rubber ring on the foot, smaller versions of the water dish in the cage.  Initially they weren’t sure about the noise of the kibble in the dish so we broke all the rules and played with our dishes and our food, leaving the dishes (empty) down all day until Dido started picking them up by the foot and running off with them. Problem solved.  However, even now when they eat tea alongside Hebe and Maia, they are easily distracted and have to be pointed back to food.  They are getting the idea and anything not finished within 15 minutes is removed or if there’s only a little left Hebe gets to clear their plates - which is helping in concentrating their minds, Hester’s more than Dido’s. Despite this they’re growing well and seem to be thriving; we’ve dropped lunch and they’re on three meals, big breakfast and tea and smaller supper.

Stairs again
Dido can now hurtle both up and down the stairs.  Hester can go up but needs lots of encouragement to come back down and if either of them need to go out it’s still better to carry them - Hester simply takes too long and can’t really hold on long enough to get down the yard, although verandah step is good enough; Dido gets distracted by everything and thus also can’t get down the yard in time.

The big wide world is a wonderful / scary place.
It’s wonderful: Dido is enjoying going out and will nudge the leads asking to go, she’s been up to the shops, in the post office, round the block, buses and coaches are surprising large, met Sue and Ali and their dogs Kim and Minty, been down to the crossroads, been terrified by a motorbike and then worried by cars but we’re over that now, up the incline, the hand driers in the public loos are very noisy and scary, met Linda and Moss (Moss is wonderful and he thinks Dido’s pretty great too), today we met Denis and Ollie (who doesn’t like black labs but didn’t recognise Dido as a lab, she’s not big enough yet!), talked with lots of visitors, learnt that it’s ok to puddle and dump outside, sheep are worrisome but their deposits are very tasty (no they’re not Dido, grr, ah-ah, leave) but apparently not on the menu.
It’s scary: Hester on the other hand is having problems but then she’s not had a smooth ride.  To begin with Hester was much better being focused on me and not what else was going on however I’ve found out that she’s frightened of dogs especially small ones and barking terriers turn her into a quivering wreck; some people are scary too. She was the first to venture off our road and into the village, unfortunately two runners came thundering past from behind us, they made me jump so poor Hester was very wide eyed but a little sit and she was OK and on we would go, not 5 metres on and a pair of badly behaved Charlies on a double lead pulled their owner across the road snarling at us.  It’s a good job her collar was tight otherwise she’d have slipped it and been away, no option but to pick up and walk back towards home; back onto the Mill Green and I put her down again, she tugged most of the way back and panted for quite a while.  Next day we’d go early before the visitors arrived, she set off very well but only half way down the road we met Marian and Jill (soft as washing old Border), Hester hid behind me before trying to bolt for home again.  We walked on a little way to let Marian get out of sight before finally coming back.  We will not be defeated so that evening we would try again, this time she was keen until we got to the gate and then she didn’t want to go out.  Oh-oh I’ve got a little agoraphobe!  Poor little pup what a series of frightening experiences.  A day off from leads completely and then back to garden walks to get over that one. Next up was to go in the car to somewhere new - top of the village to walk across the green and around the church, which was fine but talking to a tourist who wanted directions was enough make her quake again, so we called in at the Post Office on the way home, she walked across the road very well but started backing off when we saw people; I decided to carry her, that way she has the security of being in contact with me, at head height (not foot), she can’t escape what’s going on but I don’t need to reassure her (which would ‘reward’ her behaviour) leaving her to deal on her own.  It’s working, she’s been to the garden centre, the craft fair in the hall and back to the shops, carried for all and although some people still make her shake she gets over it much faster - funnily enough children, even tiny ones, don’t bother her at all. Yesterday we went back up to the church end and this time Hebe came too!  As an exercise in walking to heal it would have been a disaster but in confidence building it was a triumph - there were lots of things that made her start and had she been on own would have bolted but she looked at Hebe who simply carried on and thus so did Hester. The plan now is confidence building outside, heal work in the garden and in a couple of places which should be worry free.

Their development is different that if I didn’t know I’d think they were from different litters, different ages.  Hester is still a puppy whilst Dido is a little dog, there’s about 2-3 weeks difference in the physical and mental development.  Dido has been hopping in and out of their cage for 3 weeks, Hester has only started doing it on her own this weekend, Hester still bunny hops up the stairs, Dido walks.  Watching them grow is fascinating - apparently we should ‘write a paper on it’!  (I’m sure there are lots already....)

Why so much in one chunk? Well see the office blog for reasons....
Photos have got as far as the server but not online yet.


When you have a series of dogs over the years you accumulate various pieces of paraphernalia.
Maia has Bramble's dish, you know which one was hers because she carried it around and one day dropped it at the top of the steps, it bounced on the concrete yard with a resounding clang and ever since has a 'ding' in the side. Hebe got Bracken's, the matching pair to Bramble's but without the ding. Juno was the third dog of the tribe (with Bracken and Bram) and consequently needed a new dish, hers has a different rim on it and will be Dido's or Hester's in the fullness of time.  Leads are not quite as long lasting as metal dishes but they too have been passed down. Dido is already using Juno's slip lead and Hebe's long puppy fixed lead, Hebe has a smart new fixed lead to go with her posh town frock (a leather collar with an engraved ID plate). As we usually have only one puppy at a time Hester has her own all new fixed lead.  Bramble never had a slip lead so Maia had her own but it's too heavy for the pups so Hester has a new one waiting on the hook, because of her huffing (and general naughtiness) Maia no longer uses her slip lead and only goes out with a leather collar and short fixed lead.  Until I dug out Juno's lead Dido was using Hebe's which was actually Bracken's originally - it no longer has a stopper on it but that doesn't bother Hebe.
Hester with Juno's lead, a little big yet!
Toys are generally short lived however we have a few which have been around for a long time, we have Cara's giant Wolfie-sized kong, Hebe's 'flying saucer' also made by Kong, Maia's green nobbly, previously squeaky, ball  but the oldest is a Ty rainbow snake called Wormie and he was Juno's we have a photo of him being washed before Maia arrived in 2000, apart from having his 'black feelies' (don't ask) chewed he's still in fine shape.  Until last week we had Juno's 'very, pleasant, Christmas present, pheasant' (again best not to ask), it was a little worn around the edges but a puppy tug of war allowed its stuffing to see the light of day and he has finally left the toybox. 
I wonder what Hester and Dido will pass on.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Whisper it, but it's still going well

Gosh, three weeks already, sometimes it feels as if they've been here forever, and my how they've grown. They can now walk up the steps onto the yard and when they arrived they couldn't even bounce up and down them.

They're both confident little bodies not bothered by thunder, low flying aircraft, big wagons on the back road, steam trains hooting, wind, weather, car alarms however on Monday evening something terrified the life out of Hester.  They puddled, came in and ate their tea whilst I prepared some potatoes, once they'd come to the boil I realised the timer was in the sitting room and by the time I returned Hester was all of a quiver looking like a beaten puppy.  I hadn't heard anything and although she initially seemed fine Dido was a bit jumpy too. No amount of cuddles or distractions perked her up and my happy, waggy Hester was a shaky, frighted pup so I let them put themselves to bed in the cage, Dido draped herself over a still big eyed Hester; Hebe kept going out to check on them and coming back looking worried.  They did cheer up later on in the evening and ate their supper as usual; by morning they seemed back to normal.  I've kept an eye on them and they are definitely worried by certain barking dogs especially terrier type barks fortunately Hebe and Maia barking at the door has no effect on them neither does that bark that is supposed to tell them to stop behaving like lunatics.  They've greeted all their visitors with a smile and a wag, except on Wednesday Yvonne called in and Hester immediately backed off, ears down, a few treats and lots of cuddles and she was prepared to make contact but not like Dido to demand attention.  I can see that Hester is going to need more socialisation than Dido and to meet many more people in lots of different places.

Tuesday was their trip to Pickering for their second jabs and they were brilliant, travelling all the way in the back of the car with Hebe and Maia on the back seat. They were weighed again and they've both put on around 2kg, no wonder they're large puppy-lumps!
They are small monsters of destruction, having dug out one side of the verandah and caused a small sink hole to appear they've now started on the other side and my sitting room floor is a morass of cardboard confetti, but better cardboard than furniture.   They're also label hounds - no not dedicated followers of fashion (although Hester very might be given half a chance!, oh and human) they have an avowed intent to remove labels from everything.  It started with the label on a toy, then another toy, next a dog bag, then off empty plastic bottles, and from more toys, then the dog towels and now it's simply anything with a label.

Their training progresses steadily.  Hester still trots along beside me on her lead with a piece in her mouth, she is slightly more easily distracted now that she's gained some more confidence but comes back to heel quite readily.  Dido is another matter, the fixed collar and lead is providing no negative feedback and it's far more interesting to sniff the flowers or eat the grass than it is to walk along beside me.  So we've progressed to a slip lead and the change is remarkable, just that slight tightening is enough to stop her in in tracks and with verbal encouragement back to my heel before we set off again.  Although we'll all be ready for pastures new come Tuesday when we're finally allowed outside, there are only so many times you can walk around the garden before everyone is bored and want to lie down (yes, that includes me too!).  Recall is still good, they'll come in from the yard through the dog house and into the kitchen handbrake turning every corner and all from out of sight.  They're doing so well that we now have two levels of treats, kibble for standard returns but little puppy training treats or tiny pieces of schmako for recall from really tempting things like breaking off mid-play, leaving a really interesting sniff etc.  Our play in the back garden has been curtailed by the activities of a sparrowhawk which has left three piles of feathers, one blackbird, one blue tit (I think) and something else small (maybe a house martin) and heaps of feathers are one distraction too many so as soon as the gate is opened they head straight for the feathers, dive in and refuse to leave; I'm not going to let them fail or struggle to get them to return so for now we'll simply avoid the feathers until they've gone / lost their smell but they are quite useful for ensuring focus is on me for lead work, we can walk through the blue tit and almost past the blackbird without any sideways tugs.

Dido has turned into a bit of a Grunting Gertie, there's the I'm tired but don't want to go to sleep squeaky-grunt, the let me out I need to go down the yard deep grunt and the wingey grunt meaning i want to play but everyone is ignoring me.  Hester doesn't grunt (and doesn't seem able to ask to go out, she waits for Dido) but does squeak when she's tired and barks at Dido to get her to play and they both growl at each other, and at Hebe, when they're playing big teeth.

Small problem with the photos - my computer is not recognising the card reader but all is not lost because the laptop is, so another slight delay.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Dymanic Duo, week two

The importance of the right 'bribe'.
Although the pups were responding well  to commands and beginning to follow and come back when called they weren't in the least bit bothered about the little pieces of kibble I offered them and to be honest big fusses and cuddles were just not doing it - they get those pretty much all day, not quite on demand but almost so that's not a suitable reward / bribe for good behaviour. All of which meant slower progress than I would have liked. Dido and Hester were on Alpha sporting puppy food when they arrived and we kept them on it, it seemed fine.  We also got vouchers for free Eukanauba puppy, my lot have always been Eukanunba girls so of course I filled in the coupons and sent off for two lots of free food. Two big boxes arrived on Monday with measuring cups, storage bins (for 3kg) and bags of food.  That evening they tasted euk for the first time and boy did they like it! Fifteen minutes of come hereing with a piece of kibble for each successful recall and what a turn around.  By Wednesday I was tripping over them and now they follow me everywhere and will even break off from the middle of rough and tumble to come for their tiny piece of euk.  One 15kg sack promptly ordered, Alpha is £20 (no VAT) for 15kg, Euk is £55 (£43 by ordering online) - you get what you pay for and we've started changing them from alpha to euk.

Personalities coming through.
During our individual play time and training sessions I can seem them even more clearly than when they're together. Dido is definitely the more independent and curious as well as the larger puppy - latest nickname: Chunky Monkey.  Hester is softer and more affectionate and thus she's Happy Hester.  For Hester I'm the main thing in her life, which is wonderful, Dido has fixed on Hebe, which is fine as I'm the main Bean in Hebe's life, Dido will take her cue from Hebe and I'm really pleased that they're bonding with the rest of the pack rather than fixating on each other.  Hester likes to cuddle and needs something or someone to lean on to go to sleep. Dido is quite happy to flop out in the middle of the floor and is the first to come and find out what you're doing and to offer her assistance. Hester likes big hugs and smothering cuddles, Dido prefers to sit on your lap and be ruffled and has learnt that stooping down probably means she’s about to carried somewhere and if she’s not up for a hug will scamper away, whilst Hester sits on your feet and asks to be picked up / cuddled.
They're both bundles of mischief, well they're puppies I wouldn't expect anything different.

Training progresses well, Hester is walking along really well on her lead and I thought she was going to be trouble cavorting about like a pony; however, she likes to carry a piece of the lead (as did Bracken and Juno) and as long as she's got her lead in her mouth she trots along like a good'un.  Dido is more interested in the rest of the world and as long as she's not distracted will trot along happily but as soon as something catches her eye (or nose) she just has to go and investigate so we were spending a lot of time standing still, Dido with a muleish expression on her face, mine one of resigned patience until she settles and off we go again.  However, with lots of short sessions she's getting better and is beginning to show some inclination to lead carry too.  Hester is now on circles and the first figures of eight at varying speeds, Dido can circle and will change pace but on the fast walk pace tends to start gallumphing so "ah-ah" and we slow down again.  We're using two different training grounds and practising going in and out of different doors and gates (they're not quite sure about which way they open yet and are often between door and wall) both on and off leads.
We've not been out in the car as much as I would have liked, it's too hot; however this morning it was cool and we’ve been as far as the Fox and Rabbit and back with pups in the back and Hebe on the back seat.  A little squeaking but I think that was because they were tired more than anything else but they soon settled down so our trip to Pickering on Tuesday will be fine.
During play they both chase and retrieve but Hester seems to be the one (so far) who's more interested in fetching things back for me to play with or to throw again, I think Dido's independence means that she's quite happy to play on her own and doesn't need me so we're having to be a bit more determined and using more slightly more structured play with her which is showing results, she's carrying things back in my general direction - I mug her on the way past!
Going to work.
Puppies visited the office to meet everyone and get a sniff during their first week here, however this last week they have been coming to work every afternoon.  Mornings they spend helping the Mother Bean with household chores and mostly sleeping in the kitchen.  They were introduced to the CJS readership last Friday on the office blog.

Time for bed
It’s been so hot I’ve been leaving them in the kitchen / pantry / dog house during the day, I usually find them under the duckboard on the cool concrete.  Although after supper they’ve taken to putting themselves to bed.  They’re learning ‘in your bed’ and Hester will hop in (not always but mostly), Dido looks at me and usually has to be lifted in, the door goes down and they sit waiting for their kibble.  Every morning they go back to bed with Maia so Hebe and I can go for a walk and collect the paper. 

Au pair Hebe
Hebe has accepted that they’re here to stay and is now stepping in stop their play fights / rough and tumble when she feels they’re getting out of paw and it’s usually just as I’m thinking it’s time to call Time Out (they’re learning that too).  Sometimes after bed I hear Hebe having a grumble at them, just a gentle rumble or a quick sharp bark and then nothing from any of them until morning.  She is feeling a little left out though and I’m trying to find time (I could do with a time-turner) to spend with her on her own, it’s mostly while we’re busy doing other things such as clearing bits of the garden, our morning walk and at least once in the evening a 10 minute hug and snuggle session.

The troublesome twosome strike fear into the fabric of the building.
They're doing a very good job of investigating every nook, cranny and crack - of which we do have rather a lot.  The cracked floor tiles in the kitchen have been nosed, licked and thoroughly checked out.  However, it's the verandah that's bearing the brunt of their archaeology.   First it was the slightly rotten part of one of the upright posts which was chewed and then its foundations were removed piece by piece, it's now a stalactite.  But on Friday morning they excelled themselves.  There's a crack where the original floor has shifted a bit over time, somehow one of them managed to remove a small pebble from the crack destabilizing the lot and an area the size of a dinner plate collapsed inward like a sink hole, three largish pieces broke away, one of which was removed - no doubt for chewing later, and then noses, teeth and feet have excavated quite a large proportion of the substrate. There's now a large rock covering the hole until I can get some aggregate and cement to patch it up.

Brave little dogs.
We had a thunderstorm yesterday and they didn’t ruffle a hair at the thunder claps or the bright lightning flashes.We’ve had jets practising over head and a heavy helicopter following the railway line and again they’re not bothered in the slightest.  The only thing that gets them running to me (and it’s nice to know they come to me for succour) is a barking dog and even then only certain dogs or tones. 

Dido definitely knows her name, today Hester was already elsewhere so when I went to collect Dido I called Hester’s name first, no response but when I called out “Dido” she came running from the dog house before I even got to the “come here”.   I’ve not had an opportunity to run the same test on Hester yet.

Considering they’ve only been here two weeks it’s amazing how much they’ve learnt, how well they’ve settled. And how they’re growing,they must be at least half as big again as when they arrived.
Photos will follow next week sometime when I upload them, however, there are not as many because I’m busy doing rather than observing and photographing.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Well, that was a surprise.

A while ago the Bean arrived home smelling all funny, I rubbed myself all over her to make sure that she smelt of me so that was OK.  But then...
She came home smelling funny again and this time brought two small dogs with her, they have the funny smell.  They're not like my terrier friend Moss although they're about the same size, they're little mes with squeaky barks and sharp teeth and I'm not really sure about it, I'm always the 'Smallest'.  They've taken over the house and monopolized my Bean.  It looks like they're staying so we'll have to get things sorted.  But I'm not standing for it, when they get too running about I bark at them and tell them to stop no matter how much I'd really like to join in because Bean says I can't and if that's what she says then... And it doesn't matter that it's hot I have to lie on my Bean because I want big, huge hugs to let her know that I'm still here and she says that I'm her best dog, and calls me beautiful girl, so that's alright then. Now she has a pocket full of lovely euk and when the little'uns are called in I go too because I get pieces of euk as well. So there are some good things about them too.  Now I might be imagining it but they seem a bit bigger now so maybe they'll be as big as me, or Maia one day - that would be good 'coz then maybe I could play with them, you never know.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A week of firsts

First car ride
On the back seat sitting on and beside me and even attempting to mountaineer over my shoulder and through the dog guard for further exploration.  Dido watched out of the window fascinated by the world whizzing past.  Having been swathed in and lying on a, not dirty but not washed, dog towel and having been hugged for the nine miles over the moors the two little bodies were beginning to smell of 'us'.  All in all a successful journey without any calamities and once home the pups went into the sitting room with Mum whilst I let the big girls out of their dog house.

First meeting with Hebe and Maia
Hebe and Maia sniffed me all over and got big hugs in return before venturing into the sitting room to greet the new arrivals.  Pups sat still and cautiously lifted noses to sniff muzzles whilst larger noses snuffled them all over.  Hebe's never really met a pup smaller than her - Finnegan, even at 16 weeks, was almost as big as she is, her ears went back and her eyes became very large before she sat down in stunned amazement.  Maia, you could see, was going through the “oh, no another puppy” thought processes.

First night
Was simply amazing. Admittedly they were exhausted after a very busy and probably stressful day - not that that put them off their food, well they are Labradors after all. Puddles after supper and by 11 they were settling down so it was bed time.  Big girls went out to empty tanks whilst I put pups into their cage, it's huge (for wolfhound pups), so there's vetbed and towels as bedding at one end and a stack of newspaper at the other along with an un-tip-up-able bowl with water. The towels they'd come home with went in along with an old t-shirt that had been worn a few times but not washed (nice and smelly - lovely!). They went in happily and snuggled down whilst I sorted out the mattress and beds for the girls.  Maia and Hebe came in and hopped up waiting for their biscuits, two bonios handed out and small handful of kibble to distract littles. Lights out and off to bed we all went.  I think they slept better than I did with - one ear open for cries, starting at every noise.  Not a whimper, all night. I went down at six and I don't think they'd even moved, the girls heard me and were standing up so the pups were stretching out. The cage was dry with one little hotspot in the middle of the bedding heap.  Everyone went out and puddled immediately. And it's stayed that way, although we did need new newspaper on Tuesday after Dido in her excitement to see me sat in the water dish!  We're now going to bed at 10.30 and getting up at 7. Although last night they put themselves to bed in the cage after supper, so it was early bed for everyone at just after 10.

First words
They're learning quickly. So far they respond to their names although I don't think they know who is who yet as they react to both names. ‘No’, ‘a-a’ and ‘ha-hum’ in a growly voice all bring heads (and teeth) away from whatever they were investigating. ‘Good girl’ gets little bodies full of wags and wriggles. ‘Busy-busy’ (the puddling command) is used much but I’m not sure they’ve connected the two yet.  They’re hearing ‘give’ a lot too and are quite happy to let me rummage around their teeth to find the latest piece of fluff, tiny pebble, leaf, twig – whatever, not that they’re given a choice really!
‘Come here’ with happy voice and down on knees with open arms gets them hurtling towards you to throw themselves on whichever lap, leg, arm is nearest - I think that's more body language than words but it's a good reaction especially when they’re not looking at you.

First ask
On Monday Dido wandered to the door and squeaked, a quick trip down the yard and yes she really did need to puddle. Tuesday evening she wandered around squeaking but it wasn’t until she started circling on the tiles, nose down and tail up that I realised she needed out – as soon as she was put down at the foot of the steps she dashed down to the bottom of the yard, found the best place and dumped.  Clever little girl.  We’ve had a quite a few more asks from Dido but not really any from Hester, maybe I’m not picking them up as quickly or perhaps she’s not needed to as when one goes out so does the other. However, apparently you can scratch at your collar and puddle on the mat at the same time!

First jabs and first meeting with our favourite vet (and second car trip)
I hadn’t had time to introduce them to travelling in the car ‘on the dog shelf’ and nine miles across the moors to the Pickering seemed a rather extreme introduction so they were once again chauffeured and travelled on the back seat. They sat and behaved themselves in the waiting room with everyone wanting to say hello.  Their turn came and Katie bounced out of the consulting room to gather everyone up in a big hug, the other clients were a little surprised but it was Mum’s first return visit since Finn so it was quite a momentous occasion.  Anyway, they were checked over (lovely little pups was the conclusion), weighed (5.1kg for Dido and 4.9kg for Hester) before finally the pin in the neck and the first jabs were completed. They slept pretty much all the way home.

First lead
It’s been too hot for much of anything, even going down the yard they sensibly stick to the shaded areas so only a couple  of trips each, just five minutes or so walking round the garden, or more often standing still until they stop cavorting and look at me again.  So far Dido wanders along beside me mostly “following the feet” the lead loose until a sniff catches her nose and then a little dart to investigate.  Hester is more of a prancing pony, cavorting along beside me; we have lots more stops and sometimes our walk around the garden is little more than the length of the back lawn  - already, I can see she’s more determined than Dido and is going to need a little ‘persuasion’. We use the same ‘come on then’ and similar to get them to ‘follow feet’ either with or without the lead (we’ll worry about heel commands in a week or so, for now they need to get used to the weight of a lead and the little bit of constriction).

First trip in my car on the ‘dog shelf’
I had intended to get them ‘car ready’ before their first jabs, but we decided that jabs were more important so on Thursday evening they went out for the first time in the tailgate with Hebe.  We only went up to the roundabout at church and back but they were very good, hardly any squeaks but a few scrabbles as they try to find the best vantage point to look out and one growl from Hebe as someone tried to sit on her shoulders!  We’ve been out again today, this time up to the Pickering junction lane end and back, and they were just as good, so I think by the time their second jabs are due (a week on Tuesday) they’ll be fine to go in a proper fashion.

First puppy inflicted injury
A long scratch from a claw down the inside of one leg caused by an over enthusiastic greeting. Note to self: if  you’re sitting on the floor / ground and calling in a hyperactive pup probably best not to wear shorts!  They are very soft mouthed and although my right forearm is just the right size to be grabbed as they’re being carted around so far there’s I’ve only picked up one tooth mark which is smaller than my recent horsefly bite (and far less annoying).  In fact I have more bruises from the big girls (Maia particularly) being determined not to be left out of the morning puppy pile.

Things remembered
When cleaning up puppy puddles to put the bowl of clean water between your knees that way they can’t knock it over / jump in it.
The remarkably small space a puppy can manage to get into – but not necessarily out again.
No matter how many I’ve already removed they are pebble seeking missiles and are still able to find yet another one.
And who needs a fitness programme when carrying 10kg of puppy up and down stairs (my office and sitting room are on the first floor) and lifting them up and down the back steps onto the yard.
How to behave like an idiot when clowning around while persuading a puppy that I really am the best (most daft) thing in its life.

What a first week.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Meet the New Arrivals!

Yes, plural! Having taken it under advisement and after much thought we've decided that we're up to managing two.

So why two?  We've always had pups as singletons before but this time I decided to chance my arm (and I realise I very well may live to regret it) and double the 'pack size' in one fell swoop rather than with two lots of disruption within a short time span.  I really wish they could arrive at five or six months old when I can really get into the 'proper' training but you would miss so much of their development and the opportunity to shape them from the start so small squidges must be dealt with (and they are kinda cute when they're good - for good read sleepy!).  Although we now number four as Maia is now an old lady of thirteen and her injured back is making her ever less of an integral team member which means that I'm really only dealing with three and that was one of the main forces in the decision.  With a team of three I can work with one whilst two are company for each other and when working with a pair (Hebe plus pup) for a short time the other has a chance to be alone and develop some independence, this started from the day (well the day after) they came home.  Each pup is an individual with her own personality and will have her own training schedule and handling regime although they all sleep together in the dog house, pups currently in the huge wolfhound cage (sorry crate), big girls on the mattress they should all be sharing the space by late autumn and the cage can go back in storage come spring - well that's the plan.

So will you all please welcome Hester and Dido.

(Hester on the left wearing the very fetching red collar, Dido on the right with the very smart black collar)

Thursday, 18 July 2013


After losing Juno and Finnegan last year we decided that 2013 would be the year in which we got a puppy.  By a strange fluke of chance we were in contact with Mittenhills (origin of Juno & Maia) who, as luck would have it, were planning a litter in the spring.  Wonderful, we put our names down for a bundle.  Eventually Jess came into season and everything was looking good she was positive she was having pups and so were we - but the five-week scan showed it was all in her imagination; sad faces all round.  And so the search began. I found a lovely looking lot but the breeders were sending their pups home at six weeks, way too early.  The search continued.  Some things are meant to be, Eastgate didn't have enough of Maia's pills in stock so I got half and would pick the rest on the next Saturday, when I called in their file had just been updated with information on a new litter, just around the corner - literally.
As soon as I got home I phoned and went to have a look a day later.  Wonderful we've found our puppy! I reserved Queen's Drive who will be known as Dido (Queen of Carthage), but they were only six weeks old and their personalities were not really developed although they are wonderful bouncing bundles, click through for some pics.  I returned a week later and picked my pup; we collect her on Saturday - eek!
Puppy cage and baby gate have been liberated from under the spare bed, the girls are getting used to less space in their doghouse.  Box of puppy paraphernalia dug out of the cupboard, lots of collars, leads and a few puppy sized toys.  But the smallest sized collar is missing, ah yes puppy number four was one too many and the soft leather split.  And what in the name of all that's holy has happened to the puppy dish? One word: Finnegan! more chewed plastic than dish, a new one is in order.
Time for a shopping trip.
New collar, lead, dish and a small heap of toys plus 15kg of puppy food and we're set.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Problematic resolutions.

OK the food resolutions are proving a little tricky. 
First the new food every month.  Not managed one yet.   I'm struggling to find something new and untried (and edible) in our little corner of the world, there are few artisan shops offering unusual delicacies.   Not helped by the weather meaning we've been  relying on the store cupboard and asda deliveries.  I think I'm going to have turn to the internet, but that means I have to decide what to try and search for - kind of takes some of the fun out of it. 
Brand new recipes are somewhat difficult too.  Over the weekend I was reading a wonderful recipe for chocolate mousse cake, fantastic picture lovely ingredients  it all sounded great until I got to the middle of the mousse instructions, "whip the egg yolks in the cream and boil" that's it, as they say on Dragon's Den, "I'm out".  Same problem with an almond chocolate cheesecake.  Thought we'd try potato gnocchi, deep frying could be troublesome on the aga but I was willing to try,  however in the recipe - yes, you've guessed it, bind with egg - argh!  Next one, what about a cobbler?  Cobbler scones are made with yoghurt, no that won't do either.  
The weather and time constraints did ease up and I was able to source some almond nut butter for the almond cookies.  The nut butter was rather strange, oil on top to be mixed with the stiff nut paste below.  The biscuits themselves were easy to make although the raw mix did taste a little odd.  12 little rounds sitting on the baking tray (and yes, I forgot the photo again), 25-30 minutes said the recipe, um, well.  10 minutes in soft and expanding, turned them round, 15 mins in beginning to skin, 20 minutes in and they're black, charred offerings worthy of King Alfred.  I think it was the high fat content from the nut butter and the butter-butter.  It's not put me off so I will try again (once I've got some more ingredients!)  and this time tinker with the heat settings and timings. 
Which all means that for now I'm stuck with the tried and tested - although last night's pancakes were delicious!

Monday, 14 January 2013

The cookery year

Has begun.  New recipe trialled this weekend was for a pineapple and almond cake. Fresh pineapple and brown sugar in the bottom and the cake mix on top, the strangest cake I've made; it's more like a butter cream held together with a little flour and ground almonds.  It rose up like a souffle over the top of the tin.  The only problem was trying to keep gas 4 (180 C) for 40 minutes and the edges got a little, shall we say over brown! Anyway it's served with the bottom on the top so slicing off the brown bits didn't matter.  It was lovely served hot with whipped cream and even better cold with a drizzle of pouring cream, only a couple of slices left.  So that's one for the book but with the cooking instructions left in pencil pending further attempts and some fine tuning.
(note to self, take some photos before you eat the results...)

Monday, 7 January 2013

2013 will the year in which I…

Do you make resolutions?  I don’t really, at least I haven’t not for years but when I was a child my family had a list of 19xx will be the year in which I…  They were always positive things, not negatives, so no giving up something or promising to lose weight or even to get fit, they’re things to be done and experiences to be had.  We’ve sort of carried on, at least in discussions – yes, usually on or around New Year and rarely got any further.  So this year is different because I’m at least putting some them down on paper (even if it is an electronic version).   

Here’s my list:

Try a new food every month.  It was going to be a vegetable but I thought that might be too easy because we eat most veggies and I try any new fruit on the shelf and thus contrarily it might also prove a little difficult getting hold of 12 new untried vegetables, so I’ve opened it up to food meaning it could be a new cheese one month and a new type of sausage another.

Sticking with the food theme, number two is to try a new recipe each month.  Again this might not seem that difficult, I’m a sucker for a new recipe so to make it challenging it has to be something new, not a variation on an old favourite, it has to include new ingredients or novel combinations and new cooking methods are very welcome.  I’ve got two already! A new beef casserole with prunes and rosemary (novel combination for us) and a new macaroon biscuit made using nut butter, I’ve not used nut butter before except the peanut variety in muffins!

A one off now for number three, still with the food. To experiment with steamed puds in the microwave.  I’m an aga cook and a microwave is useful for – well, not much; but aga’s struggle with genuine steamed puds, having the lids up for the length of time it takes to steam drains all the heat out, yes you can oven them but somehow it just doesn’t cook properly.  I’m reliably informed that microwaves make excellent puddings, so this year I’m going to find out for myself.

Getting creative now, number four is to practice my drawing with all the lovely new art materials I got for Christmas.  One Labrador paw already underway.

Number five is creative too, to get to grips with my camera at last and make it behave as a true SLR – or else I might just have to revert to film.  No photoshopping and editing afterwards won’t do, one shot – one picture and no tinkering.

Six is more of a threat than a promise! To get my cupboards, shelves and storage in order.   There is some kind of system behind what’s in each (really there is, honest) but as they’ve filled up they’ve spilled over and some are now quite mixed up.  Plus I need some space for all those artist’s materials and photographic equipment and prints.

This one is a reawakening, over Christmas I’ve been catching up on my mountainous piles of magazines.  2012 was rather hectic and the newspaper got a cursory once over, my interest magazines had the headlines read but not much else.  Well I’ve been catching up and rediscovered how wonderful it is to sit and read about different subjects, skimming some taking time to delve into others.  I’ll always have my book at bedtime (even if it’s an electronic one) but somehow to sit and read a book during daylight hours is a sybaritic pleasure for holidays and days out of time but an interest magazine is permissible (don’t ask me why it just is.)  Number seven is simply to read.

An inherited one to finish, Dad always said this will the year he would walk from the Battery to Sandsend on the beach.  He never did.  I threatened it a few times but Juno ate sand and Maia set off for Denmark so we stopped going to the beach because it was more trouble than it was worth.  Meaning that Hebe has only once set foot on sand, she’s walked along the cliffs in howling gales watching the rollers and not been bothered.  So maybe this year I’ll complete Dad’s list, there again maybe not and it will still be on the list next year!

And last but by no means least, not one for the list but 2013 will be year in which we meet Dido / Storm / Saxon / Hecate – our new Labrador puppy, as yet un-named (also not yet born, we’re looking at a late spring, early summer addition).

Here’s to 2013, may it be a year of new discoveries, rediscoveries and a completed list…