Monthly Archives: May 2014

Pets as Therapy . . . The journey begins.

Something very exciting arrived in the post this week.

***drum roll please***

TA DAAAAA

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A while ago, our Annabel had an assessment to see if she would be suitable as a P.A.T dog, and she has passed with flying colours! This makes me so happy. Most owners are already privy to the wonderful healing qualities their dog can bring them, but us lucky few who have the special honour of owning a therapy dog get to share that special feeling with people who really need it.

Here’s what Pets as Therapy have to say about themselves:

Pets As Therapy is a national charity founded in 1983. It is a community based charity providing therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other establishments from volunteers with their pet dogs and cats.

Since its beginning over 28,000 dogs have become registered PAT dogs. Every year some of these wonderful dogs need to retire and new dogs, having first passed a health, temperament, and suitably assessment, join Pets As Therapy.

Today there are over 5,000 active PAT dogs & a smaller number of PAT cats working throughout the UK. Every week visiting PAT teams bring comfort and companionship to 1,000’s of people, both young and old, by giving them the opportunity to stroke, hold and talk to one of these calm and friendly dogs and cats.

Pets As Therapy also provide individual animal assisted therapy (AAT), working with stroke patients and people with dog phobias.

The Charity’s Read2Dogs programme helps children in classroom settings improve their reading ability by helping to increase their confidence and enjoyment of reading.

I love everything about this charity. I feel very excited to be a part of it.

Let me rewind about 7 months. I had seen a dog on the website of our local rescue kennels by the name of ‘Big Gracie.” She was some sort of terrier cross, shared a name with my daughter (apart from the ‘big’ bit of course) and looked adorable. I went to visit her, and my daughter came with me.

Big Gracie was certainly a character but after chatting to the kennel worker, it quickly became clear that she wasn’t the dog for us. Not cat friendly, not always tolerant of other dogs, and it was not really known what her temperament was like with younger kids. Damn.

Throughout the whole conversation, my daughter had been tugging my coat incessantly.

“Mummy mummy mummy mummy.”

“Not now darling. Let mummy talk to the man about the doggy.”

“Mummy mummy look! Pease look!”

“Two minutes! Just shush for two minutes please.”

Tug tug, “Mummy Mummy.”

The kennel worker and I finish our chat as best we can over the constant interruption.

“Right sweetheart. Finished talking now. What is it?”

“Mummy look at this one.”

My 4 year old daughter takes my hand and leads me two or three kennel spaces down and points to a rough coated blonde lurcher. Silent with her head and tail down. Painfully thin and with big brown eyes. Something funny happens to my heart when we look at each other.

“She looks sad Mummy. Maybe we should take her home?”

She is brought out to meet us and on bending down and whispering a kind word in her ear, I am rewarded with a gentle wag of a blonde tail with a frosty white tip. She has been picked up living rough, with burns on her skin, ribs jutting out, and a sore red spot on her nose from rubbing it on the kennel bars. She is cat, dog and child friendly. I know then and there my little girl spotted her for a reason. . . that she is meant to be ours.

Our other dog Badger – a greyhound – had been crying at night since the loss of his belgian shepherd companion a few weeks previously. Annabel helped heal him. She also helped heal our broken hearts too – we were desperately upset at the loss of Fizz – a dog we had found at the exact same shelter all those years ago. I know he would have approved of us giving another dog a chance of a new life.

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And it went both ways – we have worked so hard with Annabel, who has had horrendous separation anxiety due to her traumatic past – (read the diary here) and we have helped each other put sadness behind us. Now, her issues are resolved, her tail is wagging, her scars have healed, and it’s her turn to bring a little healing and a little comfort to others.

What a journey we are on, eh my girl? So proud.

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Annabel has her first visit to a nursing home tomorrow. She has also been put on the list for the “read to a dog” scheme and phobia therapy.

Read more about Pets as Therapy or donate here.

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Thought for the Day

No explanation needed for tonight’s post. I found this on-line and think it says it all really . . .

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Seperation Anxiety – part 5. When crate’s go wrong.

Well, last I blogged about this we were doing rather well with the crate, weren’t we? Annabel was in her crate a lot in order to try and break the addictive behaviour when we left her. We’d increased her exercise to make sure she wasn’t restless in it, and she seemed very happy to go in there.

And all was calm.

And all was happy.

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For a while anyway. . .

After a few accident-free days, one night after last wees outside she wouldn’t go in to her cage. Oooh I felt a right meany! I had to be very firm as I ordered her into it. Mindful of our expert Dr David Sand’s advice that things should be kept as low key as possible with an anxious dog, it went against the grain a little to be so gruff with her right before bedtime, but I weighed up that it was still better than re-visiting ‘weesville’ on a daily and nightly basis.

So that’s when the crying began.

Annabel cried and cried until one of us finally went to sleep in the early hours. At approximately 6am the crying began again. (It harked back to the days of when my daughter was younger and crying for attention. You know to an extent you must harden you heart to it a little – but oh my goodness it’s not easy.)

This was the pattern for the next week or so. Our sleep got more an more disrupted despite us ignoring the hours. My daughter was also being woken by Annabel’s cries and subsequently, her routine and behaviour deteriorated. The crying got earlier and earlier, and my husbands language became bluer and bluer. Just as I was starting to think the toileting might be preferable to the sleep deprivation, a happy accident happened.

We’d been awake since 4am on this particular day thanks to the canine dawn chorus. Our little girl was -quite understandably – shattered and a nightmare to get ready for nursery. I walked them quickly, then we all left the house . . .

And forgot to shut Annabel in the crate!

Now it was one of those freak days where both my husband and I got held up at work and the dogs were left a lot longer than they normally would. I opened the front door and my heart sank as I realised our error and saw her waiting to greet me, roaming free, head poking longingly over the baby gate at the door.

I crept tentatively into the kitchen and nearly burst with joy to see a clean floor! It took every once of self control not to fling my arms around my girl and praise her to high heaven.

“Low key” I reminded myself. “Don’t make my coming home a big deal for her.”

Minutes later when we in the garden and she weed and pooed where she was meant to, I could get my fix and my snuggle. What a clever girl!

Since then, we have gradually increased the times we leave the crate door open and we are now at a point where it can be left open over night and most times we are all out. In fact, I would say the crate’s days are numbered as Badger seems to much prefer being in it now anyway, sneaking in quickly so Annabel has to sleep on memory foam mattress we got to help with his arthritis! ***sigh**

Goodness me this has been a challenge, and it’s a looooong road. But she’s worth sticking with. I feel that now more than ever. Rescue dogs sometimes have issues . . . Fact. Laregly that’s due to the fault of human beings, so surely, it’s only fair that human beings try to fix It? I like to think so.

The end is in sight my gentle girl . . . Keep going Annabel!

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The Sad Truth.

Funny how just when you think you are accepting of the fact your much loved pet has gone, something unexpected reminds you of them, and the pain of losing our four legged friend wells up as fresh as a daisy and stabs at your heart like it happened only yesterday.

This happened to me today, but more upsettingly, to my four-year-old daughter too.

We were on the field half way through our usual walk with the hounds and having a lovely time splashing in our wellies and watching the dogs run around. I happened to be looking directly at my daughters face when I saw it light up. She was looking past me – her eyes shone and a huge grin spread across her face.

“MUMMY IT’S FIZZ! FIZZ IS BACK!” And she runs with all her heart to the belgian shepherd that has appeared a few meters away from us, and happens to be the spitting image of our lovely lad Fizz who we sadly lost last December, aged 14.

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The resemblance is so uncanny I hear myself gasp out loud before I run after her as she calls his name.

“FIIIIIIIZZ, FIZZ!”

I catch her up as we arrive at the dog – a lovely bitch Groenendael Belgian – and I stop her just before she tries to give it a hug. I explain as gently as I can that it isn’t Fizz. That this dog is a girl not a boy, that she doesn’t have a broken ear like Fizz did, and that she has a white spot on her chest. The lovely lady who owns her tells my daughter the dog’s name and is very kind, but my poor little girls runs off in floods of tears.

I find myself fighting a few tears back myself.

We sit together under a tree till the tears have run dry and the impossible questions about death that only a child can ask are answered as best I can. She astounds me by showing better understanding than I give her credit for: “Maybe Fizz has gone to the stars because he knew it was Annabel’s turn.”

Fizz was our daughter’s first introduction to how a dog should be. He was a gentleman. His tolerance of her as she grew up was unwavering, and he taught her a healthy respect and a deep love for dogs.

I may have my hands full with our current beautiful hounds – but I still miss him

Today just reminded me how much.

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You can read about how we explained the loss of Fizz here .

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Thought for the day

Thought for the day from Furrbuddies . . .

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Armstrong’s Twisted Fish – A Review.

Furrbuddies has had the pleasure of reviewing a fab product this week. One my hounds highly approve of, and one I couldn’t be happier with.

Introducing Armstrong’s Twisted Fish:

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This is a company who started up because of the allergies their own dog Bailey suffered from. Bailey is allergic to many common ingredients found in traditional dog food and treats, such as wheat, soya, maize and rice. They set about making her some treats of her very own using locally bought fish skin, and soon found family and friends wanting some for their own Furrbuddies. And so,Armstrong’s Twisted Fish was born.

The are a few reasons why I love this product, the main one being its ingredients. As regular readers will know, Annabel our lurcher is on a special training programme to try and help her conquer her separation anxiety (which you can read all about here). This programme involves a lot of treat based rewards, and I was getting really conscious about the amount I was giving her. After all, there can be a whole lot of junk in shop bought dog treats. I’d had a stab at making my own liver based treats which were also healthy, but as a working Mum that struggles to fit in home made human food, this wasn’t something I was finding easy to keep up.

Here’s the ingredients in Twisted Fish:

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Kind of hard not to be impressed with that! The fish is caught in the North sea, off the coast of Peterhead, Scotland and then supplied by McKeown’s Fishmongers, Bangor. They hand prepare the fish skins so they’re extra fresh, and dehydrate them at a low temperature to retain nutrients.

Benefits of fish skin include:

– High protein.
– Low Fat.
– High in omega three which reduces inflammation and therefore can alleviate arthritis, bowel conditions, skin conditions and degenerative brain diseases. It also reduces blood pressure and cholesterol, which may prevent heart problems, boosts the immune system and is super duper for the health of your dog’s skin and coat.

Badger our Greyhound has recently been diagnosed with arthritis bless him, so I’m very happy to be giving him these knowing they’ll be much better for him than his usual biscuit.

Another good reason to like this product – the hounds LOVE them!

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They even recognise the sound of the jar opening now:

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(The jar is also from Armstrongs by the way and is actually a really lovely bit of storage solution. I’m a sucker for cool packaging – especially the refillable environmentally friendly type.)

We received both the long sticks and some smaller bite-sized ones too, great for training. They even have a fan we weren’t reckoning on (excuse the poor photo, I had to grab the camera quickly! I did end up having to break it up a bit for Fluffbomb’s little chops though. n.b.this was purely an accident. Armstrong’s Twisted Fish do not market themselves as suitable for cats.)

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So all in all it’s a huge thumbs up from us. I would urge anyone wanting to feed their doggies lovely, healthy treats of fishy goodness to have a look on Armstrong’s website (click here) and give them a try. The service was super friendly and very fast. It’s also a nice feeling to support an independent business who genuinely care, and hey – it’s one in the eye for the big chain stores.

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Follow Armstrong’s Twisted fish on Facebook here, and Twitter as @ArmstrongsFish

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Badger’s Arthritis.

Badger’s age has crept up on me. He was always the younger of our two dogs until we lost our lovely old Belgian Shepherd Fizz, so it came as a bit of a shock to realise that he wasn’t quite as nippy as he used to be. He hadn’t sprinted in a while, and although it’s healthy to see a rib or two (especially as badger has floating ribs) I was pretty sure he’d lost weight as well.

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After a check-up at the vets it transpired that he had indeed lost around a kilo in weight, and has arthritis.

In both his front paws.

In his hips.

In his spine.

Poor badger. This apparently could account for his weight loss, as greyhounds are pretty solid creatures muscle-wise and muscle is heavy. If he’s not using them, then they degenerate.

We have some anti-inflammatory tablets and glucosamine to try for a week or so and see if he improves. If the weight keeps coming off, it’ll mean blood tests to check it’s nothing more sinister. ***Puts fingers in ears, closes eyes, “lalalala!***

Obviously prescription pain relief and other meds may be considered further down the line, but I am determined to do as much for him as I can alongside the vets orders.

So first up to help our old man’s bones is a good supportive bed. We’ve gone for one from the lovely Ninna at Woof Beds – an independent business born out of love and concern for her own dogs comfort. Not only did Ninna provide amazing service, she was also considerate enough to share lots of other tips for managing arthritis (diet, supplements etc). Lovely lady. Great product.

The beds come in three sizes and accommodate any size of dog from chihuahua to Great Dane. ***GEEK ALERT*** removable and washable covers too.

Woofbeds are pure memory foam which is wonderful for promoting a healthy posture and relieving pressure points that lead to aches and pains. After all, if it works for us humans then surely dogs could enjoy the benefits too? Badger certainly seems to like it and I can say with absolute honesty that he chooses to spend a lot more time on his new Woof Bed then he did in his old plastic one, or even lying on our living room rug. It’s a lovely feeling to see him so obviously comfy.

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Next up, we were recommended Dorwest Veterinary Herbal Products for Dogs and Cats. Now I lost a good chunk of a Friday night looking through their website! Whilst hugely informative, it can be a wee bit daunting as there are quite a lot of products to choose from and I just couldn’t decide. In the end, I called them up directly and explained exactly what was going on with Badger. The lady who took my call – Gemma – was immeasurably helpful. No hard sell, a real understanding of the concern we have for our canine companions, and dosages and beneficial ingredients were all thoroughly explained to me. Gemma recommended two products to try in conjunction with one another: Mixed vegetable tablets and Garlic & Fenugreek.

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(The pestle and mortar isn’t just for an ‘arty shot’ by the way. We grind up all his pills to mix with some stock or gravy and pour over his biscuits. )

They do not claim to be a cure but can be used alongside medication and the correct diet to minimise comfort, ease pain and hopefully delay the progress of the condition. I would happily recommend Dorwest for their excellent service and range of products. As for how effective they are – well you can read the testimonies on their website, but I will be letting you know my thoughts further down the line after the supplements have had a chance to get into his system.

Oh Badger. I hope with all my heart that you start to perk up a bit. Whilst it’s never nice to witness to the aging process in our furrbuddies, it’s times like this that can also serve to remind us just how lost we would feel without them, and we appreciate them that little bit more.

Last on the list?

Well . . . who doesn’t feel better after a cuddle?

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