L-R Emmy (lying down), Drama, Kendra, Savannah & Teya

2 June 2014

How Did We Get Here?!

When you own a dog or two people look at your little canine family and think 'aww, how sweet, how normal', and things are good, and you expect to see your vet once a year for your annual vaccinations, and maybe once more for good measure if an injury happens on a walk, or a small illness takes hold.  

When your pack expands beyond that two to something like, say, five, the general public looks at you and your number of dogs as abnormal, strange, they think there must be something wrong in your wiring - you are the 'crazy dog people' or worse - you are 'hoarders' or 'collectors'.  And with those numbers come several vet visits per year due to the regular things like 5 sets of vaccinations, illnesses that then go through every dog, scratches and tears that come from the play (especially with a thin-skinned breed like a whippet).  You are on a first name basis with every member of your vet practice and you're sure you've helped pay for a huge portion of that new piece of medical equipment they are now using on your pooch.

And it never happens one here, one there.  It always happens in clusters.  We can go a few months without seeing a vet, but then as soon as we go in once we will be there at least once or twice a week guaranteed for the next month or two.  Never fails!

For example - we'd done quite well since January.  Just a round of boosters for everyone, then the day before we went on holiday in mid-April Teya got a puncture which needed more than just my regular in-home care (following the advice of vets after previous punctures), so the in-laws, who were whippet-sitting, had to take her to the vet as we were driving to the airport.  The next day Emmy came down with a virus that hit her hard, and she actually ended up in the vets on a drip for a day.  Poor pups - poor in-laws.

We arrived home from holiday at the beginning of May to take care of that bill, and then 2 weeks later booked Savvy in because she was being funny about eating (though in every other way she's doing great!).  She wanted to eat, but then sometimes she would just stop - like she had a sore tooth.  Turns out she does have a slight gum infection, so we have her booked in for a dental for this coming Tuesday.  In the meantime on Friday Kendra got a tear which wouldn't stop bleeding so off to the out of hours vet for stitches, and then Saturday she and her grandma Teya found a bowl of cooked chicken wing bones (bad mummy - we are obsessive about things like that, so I cannot believe I let that happen) and had themselves a snack before I caught them.  No vet visit, but lots of worry and watching and making them eat lots of soft food like bread and rice to help cushion the sharp bones, and 36 hours later (touch wood) all seems to still be ok.  And as you can see -  it clusters.

So never a dull moment when you have 5.  But how did we get here?  I have a few answers to that question...

I blame Chelsea for being the best dog in the whole world.  Our heart dog.  Discovering the whippety parts of her personality then led us to the whippet breed.  You can read more about how she is responsible for this on her website page HERE and by reading Chelsea's Legacy (be prepared with some tissues for that one).

Dawn & Richard Mason - Aphrael Whippets
I blame Dawn and Richard because they bred and graced us with the beautiful Savannah from their first litter under the Aphrael kennel name.  She is everything a whippet should be - beauty, speed, elegance, loving, and she has an amazing sense of humour.  She's a social butterfly and loves everyone.  She truly spoiled us for any other whippet.  They then introduced us to showing whippets, which put us in the orbit of other people just as dog and whippet-mad as we had become, which led to our next whippet from them, Teya (out of Savannah's sister), and then they encouraged us to consider breeding.  Need I say more?

I lay a huge portion of the blame with Patience.  Her writing on the whippet email lists about her whippets (she had NINE - five doesn't sound so bad now does it!!) and their adventures just captured us.  Way back when it was just us and Chelsea we read her tales of their experiences and longed for a houseful.  A few months after we moved to a house with a garden (yard for the North Americans) and got Savannah, Nick said, after reading a Patience story, that he would happily have half a dozen whippets if we could.

Through email lists and message boards Patience became a treasured friend; she helped supply my collar and lead addiction; she became a co-manager of Whippet World (a great whippet message board); she visited us one year and our girlies (by then we had 3) adored her on sight.  I think they recognised her scent from the many packages of collars that had arrived through the post over the years.  And then she actually published her stories in a book called 'Mama Pajama Tells a Story'.  And we read the stories and we laughed and we cried, and we wanted more whippets.

Now I am absolutely positive when Patience penned 'Adventures in Bungee Walking' (where she describes creating a contraption to help her walk her then 7 whippets at once, and where they race off after some type of prey and she flies behind them and lands in a thorny hedge), or any of her other stories about the whippets pulling her over or making her fall down, and the many injuries she sustained, that she did not envision those stories as enticements to get more whippets.  I am truly certain she wrote them as cautionary tales.  But she also wrote about love, and friends, and devotion and these amazing dogs who are so precious.  And somehow all of those beautiful word pictures seeped into our subconscious and I believe they played a HUGE role in our ever expanding whippet pack.


And so somehow we now have five.  We were up to six for a year until we lost Chelsea. We spent a few months at eight when two boys from our last litter took a few extra months to find their forever homes.  And our house is chaotic and manic, and we have weeks on end where things just seem to go wrong and everyone has a vet visit. But we also have lots of laughs (just last week I wrote a Facebook post about Kendra who, in the middle of a whippet wrestling match, accidentally executed a perfect back flip off our bed and landed on her dog bed on the floor), lots of love and lots cuddles, cuteness and sweetness.

Of course there are days that things take their toll and I feel myself longing for the ease of just two.  But then one (usually the one who has just driven me out of my mind) will crawl up in my lap and tuck their head under my chin, or press the side of their head against my lips so I can smooch that soft spot in front of their ears, and I melt and everything is fine again. And to be honest there's not a single one of them I would part with. 

Seriously - this is just too cute!!

27 May 2014

Mornings and Old Dogs

I don't do mornings, never have, never will.  I am not a morning person, I'm a night owl and insomniac.  I do mornings when I have to, but it kills me.

Normal household mornings involve the dogs waking Nick sometime between 5:30 and 6am.  It's supposed to be 6, but some mornings one of them (usually Teya with her 'whisper whinging') just cannot be reasoned with and Nick is forced up a bit earlier.

As soon as it becomes obvious he's getting up the chaos begins.  Drama digs his feet out from under the covers, Teya gets behind him and tries to herd him off the bed while talking at him loudly, the twinnies Kendra and Emmy (we are trying not to call them 'the puppies' any more since they're almost 3) shout and jump on and off the bed, killing my feet and almost knocking VOD Savannah (VOD = Very Old Dog) off the bed.  Savvy could come up to the top of the bed out of the chaos and be safe, but instead chooses to stand right on the bottom corner and let them knock her about.

Once Nick is off the bed then there is mass pushing and shoving of 4 dogs jockeying for position at the dog-gated bedroom door (Savvy is smart enough to either hang back at this point or still be on the bed). It's like the starting line of a horse race.  As Nick swings the gate open you can hear the announcer in your head going 'Aand they're off!' as 4 bodies race, woo-woo / warble (Teya). shout (twinnies & Drama) and roar (all four) their way down the stairs.  Horse race analogy aside, if you watch them move together they almost look like a school of fish.  

Savannah cleverly stays out of this particular fray.  She dives (or is helped) off the bed as the others race through the door and then she heads for the bathroom - out of the way of flying hooligans who are still shouting and wooing and may still be running up and down the stairs a couple more times just for fun.  She has been the unfortunate victim of the 'racing back upstairs' at the wrong moment and ended up being dragged/falling down the bottom section of stairs, so self preservation and common sense does show itself here.  Once she's absolutely sure the coast is clear she will come out and escort Nick safely down the stairs. 

A calmer version of the gate lineup - wanting
back in from the rain
The same 'starting gate' melee happens at the back door and again Savvy usually sensibly hangs back until it's safe for her to get outside without being body slammed by one or both of the twinnies who are shouting and racing each other round the back garden in sheer joy of morning and anticipation of breakfast. 

Once that 'business' is done everyone comes back in the house and Savannah starts her signature BaahRoo 'feed me now' while Teya warbles, whinges, woowoos and talks, Drama grabs a bone and chews hard to redirect her excitement and they all meet at the dog-gate to the kitchen.  A bit of sorting, and we have Savannah and twinnies inside the kitchen and Drama and Teya outside and breakfast happens.

One more run outside and they curl up downstairs for 'Daddy time' while Nick eats his breakfast and goes about getting ready for work. Then he drops them all back in bed with me before he leaves, where we all stay happily until it's time for me get up and the fray starts for me, similar to above.

On Tuesday mornings Nick isn't here because he works overnight.  They have seemed to grasp that on Tuesday they get fed later.  They pay no notice to weekends or holidays.  If 'Daddy' is here it's 5:30-6am and there's no convincing them otherwise.  But bless my girlies, I can usually get them to wait till 7, and sometimes even 8 if they've had a 5am relief break with a cookie or two.  However once they decide I've slept long enough and their tummies can't wait any longer one of the younger ones will start the jumping and bouncing and then everyone else starts.  For me there is no digging out of the covers.  I'm on the side of the bed closest to the door.  Teya still tries to herd me, but my problem is that the other three, (and Teya when she's not herding) are jumping up and down on/off the bed and face fighting and shouting at me and each other, and knocking Savvy about (who REFUSES to move away from the jump-zone).  But of course all the jumping and shouting is also ON me, which means I can't actually get up, so I'm trying to protect Savannah while also trying to grab a shouting bouncing whippet (or two), and actually sit up or stand up.  Eventually I make it.  The rest is pretty much the same as described for other mornings except they all race each other back up the stairs to get the best bed spot as soon as breakfast and 'business' have been taken care of.

VOD Savannah (fawn & white) sleeping peacefully
in the middleof the brindles

All of this brings us to this morning.  Bless their little cotton socks they didn't decide they needed a 4am break (often the case due to Savvy and 'old lady bladder') and I had no concept of the time when I felt a couple of them jump out of the bed and I grumbled at them to get back in, and they did.  What seems like a few minutes later (could have been seconds, could have been an hour) I feel a dog land on me from a giant leap from the floor.  It's Savannah.  I tell her 'good girl' and try and persuade her back under the covers.  She is having none of it.  She jumps down off the bed, gives her signature BaahRoo (which wakes the rest of them), and leap-attacks me again, starting the morning frenzy.

I finally work my way through the leaping, spinning, shouting, woowooing pack and get to the gate.  Savvy is in the middle of the starting gate fray so I carefully move her aside and open the gate.  I'm floored to see her become part of the racing 'school of fish' down the stairs (by choice)!!  I can't remember the last time Savvy didn't hang out in the bathroom till the coast was clear.  I rush downstairs to make sure sure she didn't hurt herself to be greeted by the even more demanding Royal BaahRoo.  Everyone heads outside and Savannah is first back in, and instead of heading to the kitchen she stays by the door and decides to play goalkeeper as I keep sending racing twinnies back out to complete their business.  She play bows and rooroos and teases them while I'm trying to get them to stay outside till they're done.

My heart smiles as I watch this even though she's being completely counterproductive and contrary.  2013 was a tough year for her.  She aged very quickly, she got stiff and sore regularly, and was in a bit of an emotional funk we couldn't seem to get her out of.  There were still 'silly Savvy' moments, but for the most part she wasn't quite the same.  She seemed to be struggling both physically and mentally.  Part of it, of course, was her age which brings with it the onset of hearing loss, but it had seemed to happen overnight, so we also wondered if losing Chelsea (her lifelong companion) had hit her harder than we realised.  

In January we started her on an additional Senior supplement that was supposed to help body and mind.  We just added it into the routine and forgot about it.  We know if these things work the change will take time so we don't actively look for it.  About a month ago we realised that she hadn't been as sore and stiff, that she was more playful, she was even initiating play with the twinnies, and in general she was more engaged than she had been for a long time.  It took us a few minutes to work out that the only thing that had changed was this new supplement.

After a year of just catching glimpses of the real Savannah, we now have her back.  And I have surprises like this morning where she acts 5 instead of 13.5.  And I allow her to tease and bait the twinnies, and to BaahRoo her demand for food at me and I happily stay awake an extra hour before returning to sleep so I can capture this memory in writing.  

So it turns out some mornings aren't so bad after all!  And as my dear friend Patience  (who's blog you must read) would say 'Hug Your Hounds'. I'll add to that 'especially your VODs', they are the most precious. 


24 May 2014

The Lost Art of Writing

Sorry for the long absence.  I got so excited about doing the blog, and writing creatively again, and then Nick's marathon took over, then life took over, then Nick stole the creative gene and started writing a Novel (actually he finished a novel) for NaNoWriMo and it's taken me this long to think of something witty and clever to write.  OK, so it probably won't be witty or clever, but at least I thought of something fill the page.

So I was sitting at the computer (getting rarer these days since Nick bought me an iPad Mini for Christmas) checking Facebook and the whippet message boards and generally catching up with the world and typing away at 80-100wpm and I looked up and saw these beautiful pens that I bought from some some members of a Facebook crafting group I belong to.  Some of the members of the group make pens (among other things) - a craft called Pen Turning if you want to look it up.  I bought a beautiful maple one for Nick (so sorry the photo doesn't do it justice, but he has it at work now - it's a maple bolt action)  and 3 acrylic ones for me.
The Maple and the bottom acrylic are from Mr Coop 
& the two top acrylic are from Dinky Dau's Crafts

Okay, so now that I have babbled and bored you, I will finally get to the point of this blog.  I have been a pen and stationery addict from really young.  There was nothing I loved more than shopping at the beginning of the school year - fresh packs of paper, new binders, and especially new pens.  I loved pens of all kinds.  Coloured pens, gel pens, fountain pens.  I REALLY loved fountain pens and then I could truly write.  I never did learn proper calligraphy, but I could write beautifully with a good fountain pen.  I LOVED writing.  I mean handwriting rather than creative writing (though I love that too).  I had really nice penmanship, and I loved to write.  As soon as I learned to type I also loved to type because it meant I could write faster, but I still loved the act of writing, and as Nick will attest my love of all things 'pen and paper' still exists.

The unfortunate thing in all this, as these beautiful pens above can attest to, is that in this current age we are always on a keyboard.  Whether it be a desktop, laptop, phone or tablet, we use our fingertips to do most of our writing these days (the latter two much to the detriment of language, but I've already talked about that HERE), and we have lost the art of actually writing.  I loved to write letters in longhand to send to my friends.  When I first moved to England from Canada I would write pages to my friends.  Of course things would have been easier had all the conveniences of the internet been around then - I wouldn't have felt so alone in a strange country if I could have jotted the odd note here and there to my friends across the sea, but I WROTE.

Then I had office jobs and I wrote there.  I also used computers, but still did a lot of handwriting.  Unfortunately these days I work from home due to health issues.  I make fleece dog toys, and now have started making paracord collars and leads (that's another post), and I keep all my work related notes in an 'app' I can access from my phone or tablet or computer so that I can access them from anywhere.  Convenient, but sad.  

So I have these new pens, along with a huge collection of other pens that I love, and the most use they will see is me writing the odd notes to myself while paying bills online, or making a reminder (if my phone isn't handy).  So they will sit here for me to look at lovingly and longingly until I force myself to write something, to write ANYTHING, just for the joy of using them and of writing again.

And that will sadden me more, because with the lack of physical writing, while I 'can' still write neatly and beautifully, I have started to scrawl and after a short time my hand will cramp.  Then I look at the chicken scratch on the page - equally as bad as anything my pharmacist father or physician husband could write, and I want to cry.  And then my wonderful husband who I truly adore will come home at the end of the day and say that the lady at the Post Office couldn't read the postcode I wrote on the envelope I asked him to mail, and that will be the crowning end to my day.

So on behalf of all of us stationery and pen addicts out there, I beg you to not let handwriting fall by the wayside. Write a letter to a friend, write a loving note to your other half, or your parent or your child.  Write a thank you to a teacher or to someone who has done something meaningful for you, or write to someone someone who needs something meaningful shown to them.  But please WRITE.