Posted in Doglovers, Health, Relationships, Thoughts, Time

A Day Out at Cambridge

Yesterday I went to Cambridge.

There have been plenty of visits there, but today I thought about this trip differently. It has been a hard few weeks and for those of you who know me on Twitter, you will be aware that I am currently off work due to stress. Cambridge was a chill-out day, a de-stress day for me. I was in quite a reflective mood and because of my increased levels of recent anxiety, felt that my senses were heightened all the more for this.

Therefore, I observed my feelings more on this day out. What would have passed me by without significance or importance seemed more urgent, more acute and hence the reason why I wanted to write about it. There were times when I felt quite exhausted trotting round and others where there was a window of joy and a sense of healing, when the old me came back.

The first was the sight of a very beautiful female husky dog. I can’t remember the exact breed now because at present my memory is shocking but she was three years old and we stopped and spoke to the owner, making a fuss of her at the same time. They say dogs can be therapeutic and this beauty with her soft magnificent coat certainly was. It was nice to talk to the owner and a chance encounter to talk to someone who was happy to talk back to a stranger: we moved on.

We hit the Lush shop, the eco soap and cosmetic shop my husband loves.The smell of all the perfume greets you as you walk in through the door. Some would find it too overwhelming and the riot of colour hits you with all the soaps and bath bombs out on display, but we love it. An unremarkable visit, I was waiting while my husband was paying for the purchase chosen, when one polite shop lady came up to me and the conversation started. In 10 minutes, we had discussed her fine arts degree studies, her previous employment for a larger company as a manager, the Lush company ethos, and had purchased a further anti-stress smelly for the bath. This lady was different. She had buss, drive, passion. There was something special about this women. I literally felt my zest for life and my strength return as we talked. Suddenly I was chatting like the old me and I asked her name which was Mandy and when we returned we would look out for her.

Feeling more cheery, we then hit the Apple Mac shop in St Andrews Street. Swish and elegant in appearance, this shop was busy. Zooming into the store with more energy I took one of the iphone’s on display and started to play. I managed to play some songs and some videos, look at maps and write a note. This was fun, and I only felt compelled to move on when my guy was politely hovering around my shoulder hoping we could make our way out to the next store.

Waterstones was next: the book shops are always a must when we come to Cambridge. We split up, at this point, and planned to meet in an hour. Hubby likes science and the environment. I head straight to social sciences, women’s studies, writing skills and religion. Sometimes, I look at nursing but I tend to leave this mostly alone, and on this ocassion most definitely did, as it was work related. It was tough to read much today. The academic writing books and critical thinking skills had a glance and I found the concentration hard, content to just mainly skim the pages and look at the covers.

We walked to King’s college having eaten at the start of the morning. I paid the £5 entrance fee to go in- having not been in for years and the “other half” went and looked in the National Trust shop. Camera at the ready I was able to take some shots without flash -that was the rules. There were candles, I lit one, paid my £0.20p and said a prayer for my loved ones and friends, remembering a Christian currently abroad and praying for his safe return. I gazed at the windows, looked at Rubens Adoration of the Magi Painting and tried to read the accompanying leaflet but got bored with this, just instead happy to soak up the light from the stained glass and adore the majesty of the place.

We took tea at Borders and browsed at some more books. Borders has a specific women’s social section which I enjoyed and then went back to our car using the Park and Ride bus. I looked at the gardens, the people sitting and walking. It felt like a sunday, the soft late afternoon light. Driving back I, as the passenger, fell asleep for a bit and woke up outside Tesco where we needed tea bags.

We came back to find a welcome meal had been prepared by our dear friend who had cared for our daughter all day whilst we had been out. This was a very welcome change and we had bought her some flowers to say thanks.

 All in all a pleasant day and an enjoyable one.

Posted in Animal Rights, Doglovers, families, Relationships


This was the title in a national newspaper last week highlighting the plight of abandoned pets growing in the UK, as the squeeze of rising interest rates and credit card debts are taking its toll on our nations pets. As you will see, I have already spend time with my last two posts discussing dog kennels and a business venture of hiring out pet dogs, the later of which I fiercely oppose. However, after reading this report, I have had to make this into a trilogy of blogs concerning dog ownership.

Back in December, I wrote A dog is not Just for Christmas warning people not to purchase pets unless they had at least considered properly the reality of cannine ownership. It is not for the faint hearted. I wish more people could have read it, as now reports of animal sanctuaries receiving record numbers of abandoned pets have unfolded. People have already been hammered with rising fuel costs, higher morgages, food price rises and the general cost of living is increasing. My own family and I have had to change the way and where we shop, as prices leave us amazed. Middle class families are now shopping in many cheap stores in order to keep their financial position viable. So then, it is all too easy to understand why when cuts have to be made against essentials like food, the dog just has to go.

I am judging no-one here but this blog is all about making one statement. Don’t purchase a pet lightly and then callously and cruelly toss it away. I believe there are two types of animal owner who abandons their pet. The first is where a dog, (say as an example), was taken on with the best of intentions but for extreme reasons the owner has to part company with it. Relationship break up, death, a move or sudden and extreme hardship finds the owner desperately having to find a new home. These pets will probably at least be handed over responsibly to an animal shelter and because they have been cared for responsibly will often find a new home quickly; as many will not have the behavioural problems seen in neglected or abused pets.

However, there is sadly another type of owner which this newspaper report focused on. A collie puppy was thrown down a rubbish chute of many feet and left to die. Despite receiving appalling internal injuries its cries were heard and he was rescued. An animal shelter and its veterinary team fought to save him and he lived. I was so enraged and sickened by this story I have to tell it here. What gives anyone the right to think that a living, feeling being can be chucked away down a rubbish chutes like a piece of garbage is beyond me. Thankfully, the puppy is now safe and sound and found a new home. It will however, I am sure remember what happened to it and may not like certain situations that may cause the animal to remember what happened to it when it was a puppy. 

Our own rescue dog Lucy, who died last year, hated bicycles and was often nervous at certain things. Her plight was that she was going to be drowned in a bucket with her six other siblings, a threat given to the  animal sanctuary verbally, unless they took on all of the puppies. Nice blackmail hey! What would anyone do hearing that? Well, I would have to take them all on, and this is what the already crowded shelter did, giving our lucy a home, until one day she ran up to us with her big floppy ears and rolled over and we scooped her up and took her home for 14 years.

Animal welfare and police are currently investigating the Collie incident and I do hope the person or people will be caught. Personally, not getting too verbally violent on here, I would like to get hold of the bastards concerned and push them down the rubbish shoot and leave them to……; best not go on. I think you get my drift as to how I feel.

So once again PLEASE people get the message. Don’t dump animals and leave someone else to pick up the tab. Don’t have one in the first place it is as SIMPLE as that. 

Finally, finishing on a nice note. There is a way to incorporate you dog into your life -style, if committed, on the subject of the annual vacation. Anyone reading porridge will know of our dilemma concerning our puppy and the holiday approaching. Well, a little detective work on my part has solved the problem. Bramble our dog is coming with us. We are staying at a dog friendly B/B where Labradors are trained as guide dogs for the blind. Explaining our problem of needing dog care for the forthcoming T4 on the beach, Weston Super Mare, the proprietor has kindly offered to look after her for the day. We have also explored a kennel a few miles away, that looks very suitable, for the possibility of her being there just for two separate long days, while we may explore Bristol and other venues where we can not take her.

 Problem solvo. Bramble get ready for nice long walks in beautiful somerset. With camera in tow I just can’t wait. Here endeth my blogs on dogs for now.


Posted in Commitment, Debate, Doglovers, Modern society, Relationships

The Dog is not for Rent


I was appauled by an article in the Times recently entitled “Dog for Rent.” Just could not believe it. What ever next? A USA company coming to the UK has set up a business which offers the opportunity for its customers to rent a dog. Dogs and also certain breeds of dogs are seen as a must have- all be it a temporary commodity to have, in Britain consumer society. A dog representing  an important symbol of status and possibly a statement, or fashion conscious symbol. There has been criticism from animal welfare organisations concerning this business and ultimately the welfare of the dogs.

The owner of the buisness says that clients are very carefully vetted and no dog would end up in a bad home situation. Also, as a supposed comforter to our consciousness and reason, no dog will be homed no more that five times in its lifetime. I have many reasons to completely hate this idea as an business enterprise how ever well meaning its buisness owner is both to the dogs it is renting out, and the clients it is seeking to offer a service too. These are my own objections as a dog owner.

  • Dogs are not commodities to be shifted around like non-feeling objects. A ornament of a fad, craze or must have style accessory. Dogs are sensitive emotional creatures who need the stability of a prefered one home placement and need the routine of that environment similar to a child. That does not mean they should be treated like human children or act as a substitute for one. I know of couples who do do this and this indeed can be just as damaging to a dog.
  • Dogs need the discipline of one family or person’s rules and activities. Therefore, this is why each breed of dog needs careful consideration to that person or familie’s lifestyle, exercise regime, work-life and recreation. This is why so often people wish to re-home pets because they just do not realise the work and needs of that particular breed.
  • I hate the notion that a dog can be seen as something which can be tossed around from one alien house to another, even if it is just a few times in a dog’s lifetime. Dogs can develop bad behavioural problems as a result.
  • The idea of a pet being a short-term loan does not send a message of responsible behaviour when considering any long-term health problems, veterinary care and need for medication which may need consistent handling, preferably from one vet. The message here is, if a problem develops with your pet, you can simply pass it over to someone else.
  • And what happens when any children become attached to a rented animal or indeed the owners. Are there any clauses in the contract in place to allow permanent ownership, or ultimately it appears the business in still the overall owner?
  • This may be well-meaning but I just don’t buy it. As a dog lover I simply hate this idea because of what it represents. If there is not the intention to look after a dog for its life time, then don’t have one. OK, lots of people who own a pet can have circumstances which change and this can alter the ability to care for a dog. That is different. It will be interesting to see how this catches on and what the outcome will be.
Posted in Doglovers, Environment, families, Home, Uncategorized


This is the first of two blogs concerning the plight of man’s best friend. The other when finished, will sit along side this and will focus on a very alarming news report. For now this is today’s tale. 

Today I visited a prison for dogs. Yes, that’s right a dog’s prison and battery farm all in one. We have a dilemma with our approaching holiday. What do we do, with our then nine month old labrador puppy, by the time our holiday arrives? Some very dear friends are willing to look after our dog but a near miss-hap with their new cat puts this into question. So we have explored the idea of a dog kennel. There have been already recommendations of this particular place, several miles from where we live. The reports of other owners dogs loving it there and not wanting to come home seemed appealing and eased our conscience.We wanted to take a further look. People can just show up to view, another good sign that this kennel was well run and the animals cared for. Indeed, the website also looked very good and inviting.Our holiday problems were going to be sorted out easily.

Our other dog, who died last year was lucky, she always had a accommodating home to go to. When she became too old to go there, and the lady in question stopped running her service from home, our pet came with us, and holidays were accommodated to her needs too. We are a family and that means the dog was part of that equation. What is right for one , has to be right for all of us and that includes our pet. No questions asked. 

With a new puppy young and full of beans a time of re-appraisal was possible. Could our new pet become accustomed to kennel life? And this would solve a lot of headaches with what to do with her for the odd weekend away and any annual holiday. Arriving, we were shown inside the grounds and waited while another couple had come to collect their pet. You know when you and your partner just look at each other, make the connection, speak the same language with out uttering a word. We both shook her heads. No way was our dog coming to town here.

Rows and rows of kennels, lines of animals. The noise, oh the noise. The dogs were making such a row, jumping at the mesh cages, saying “get me out of here”. We imagined our little dog in this sterile, caged concrete environment. We could see her little face, the turned down ears and wanted to walk away there and then. But being polite we didn’t. We inspected the cells, made some kind gestures to the dogs and wanted to take everyone of them home with us. We could have filled our car boot up with them all and sped off.

The people helping to guard the place were lovely and obviously cared for animals. The feeding quarters were clean, it was well-organised, no smells. The kennels were clean, the dogs healthy. There was an organised regime of medication needs; they took dogs in season, families of dogs housed together (Interesting these dogs were quieter because they knew each other). The prices were reasonable and all dogs had to be vaccinated. There was a running area and the dogs were exercised daily. You could not have asked for more. BUT, it was like a battery farm prison, it was not anything like a warm, home routine. How those dogs ever slept I don’t know. Some were left up to a month if their owners were away for long periods. As my husband said to me: “we have to remember a day for us is like a week in a dog’s life”. I can’t believe those dogs could have been happy staying there.

The dogs may not be served porridge but their normal dog food, however, we felt upon leaving that these animals must have felt like they were  ” doing time”. I was expecting far less dogs, more separate individual kennels where the animals got some peace and quiet. This was just intensive dog homing and sadly profit has a lot to do of this I feel, though appreciating over heads must be high in running this place 24/7.

We returned to our pet, all eager to see us, saying: “looks like your coming to Somerset after all” and now will be looking at dog friendly hotels, guest houses and cottages. We just have one huge problem with this. We have booked and paid for tickets to attend the rock event T4 on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare and a dog can’t attend such a venue. This is for our teenage daughter to be Incorporated into our holiday. We have considered finding a kennel there, just for the day, and if anyone out there knows where we can find a good one nearby, please do let me know.

Finally, after this experience we said to each other. Why don’t we offer a home for Holiday and over- night service for other dogs. One dog at a time, who likes other dogs, vaccinated and toilet -trained. I am sure we could make an income from the demand which would offer individual home care from committed and loving pet owners.Not that we would do it for the money but for the pet-owners peace of mind and a happier time for the dog separated from its owner. On that note concerning separation, that will lead nicely into my next blog: The Dog is Not for Rent.

Posted in Change, Children, Debate, Doglovers, families, Home, Learning, Modern society, Relationships, Thoughts, Time

Girlie Morning

I have had a great weekend but especially yesterday morning. My daughter and I sometimes have, what we call, a girlie morning. Having to work a lot of weekends at the moment due to staff shortages, I wanted this weekend off to be something a bit more special. What I learned from it is that one adventure and spontaneous moment can lead to another and that the little things in life are the best.

Our girlie morning was well planned yet it wasn’t and it turned out to be great fun. I said to my daughter one thing I had learnt recently. IF you promise something do it. If you can’t, say no. Perhaps as parents we realise that we promise as much as we can and sometimes can fail to deliver, when in fact it is better to say no in the first place. Anyway, I promised my 13 yr old daughter a trip to a beautician and had booked it weeks before for-filling my promise. Our morning was planned around this.

We went to a very nice lady who worked from home and, therefore, it was not a fortune in cost. She had her own building in the garden and the experience was no less than any salon. There were still the beautiful smells, the fresh white towels and the delicious atmosphere with tranquil music. I am not used to pampering, having had only two other such experiences in my life time as presents. Always saying I could not indulge in such frivolity, (think of all those starving people in the world), But I thought, well I am still doing what I can to make a difference in the world, so why not have something nice for a change.

Feet and hands were pampered, eye brows plucked and tinted. We had two treatments each and it only cost us £20.50, a bargain I thought. We told the lady we were going to shop in town and the usual parking problems. She advised us to take the ferry. In over twenty years of living on the wash we had never caught the ferry. Kathryn said it sounded fun and I agreed. so we left the car and took the ferry. The five minute ride for a pound was magical. I could see all the river photo opportunities I had missed. Why had I not done this before.

In town we said “where first” and hit Costa Coffee and had freezing cold citrus fruit drinks and starred through the large windows. We were soon involved in a kind of game/activity. We sat and observed the people and watched the window of the world before us. We asked ourselves if the people looked happy, what were they doing, what they wore. We suddenly saw people we knew and waved to one and was waved back to. Suddenly, this was an interesting exercise. Lots of people were overweight, people, bags, pushchairs, ice cream. We looked at what they had bought, how many courting couples and the fact that many just walked with no conversation if they were with someone. Many looked expressionless, not happy or unhappy. It was absolutely fascinating to just watch and observe people’s behaviour. I learnt again in those few minutes to just be still and watch.

Then we hit the shops. Looking at tops, sunglasses, clothes. We tried on shoes and bought two pairs, vowing the dog would not be eating these new ones. We have had many shoe casualties since the arrival of our now 7 month old puppy. I always make a rule about how much money we will spend. This is good for my girl to know the value of and being sensible with money. We save up and then we split it in half. We count how much we have left. My daughter is excellent with this, spending some of hers on friends birthday presents knowing she has two parties to go to soon. I commended her for thinking of others rather than blowing all hers on just herself.

Soon with the heat we were getting tired. We decided to skip lunch and take the 1pm ferry back to the car, knowing there was food in the fridge at home. We had just about spent our allowance. The ferry ride back was great and we had time to look at the leaflet describing the history of the ferry run while we waited by the flood gates in Ferry Lane. Back in the car we chatted about how much fun it was and eager to show dad/husband our new purchases and eyebrows.

 We arrived in our village, windows down in the car. We could here the horn and smell the smell. “Chips,” we sang in chorus, “Follow that Chip van.” The car was flung round and off we sped to buy our chips, to go home with and eat with our lunch. Dad/husband was there, dog bouncing around. We all eat lunch in the garden, under the apple tree, and the dog had some chips too.

What I love about girlie mornings is it gives me and my only child the chance to talk about anything and everything. A lot of the time it is about friendships at school and fairly minor things and chit-chat, but there have been times when we have talked about the hard issues: drugs, smoking, sex, boys, all the main stuff kids need to say and know about.

Our next beauty treatment is already booked for July and the ferry will no doubt be taken again. This is going to become more of a regular thing. I experienced true happiness yesterday and it didn’t take a grand experience either: Just the simple things in life. But next time I will take the camera, there is a gorgous shot I want of the town’s quay line that I just have not noticed before.

Posted in Commitment, Doglovers

A dog is for Life not just for christmas

When I am standing outside in the freezing cold of a December morning, complete in boots and dressing gown, encouraging our new puppy to relieve itself in the garden; My thoughts are:

“I must have been mad wanting another puppy dog.”

We had lost Lucy, our faithful companion of 14 yrs in the summer, and vowed there would be no more dogs. The peace from the barks, the freedom being able to get out more; holidays without dog care to think about. The never ending vet bills. But here I was with the latest arrival of six weeks and a few days doing all the puppy bit again.

For those of you who are dog owners there will be sympathy and understanding as to why we decided to have another. We love dogs and their faithful companionship and un-conditional love. We simply missed having a dog around. When we lost Lucy we sobbed on the carpet, as we cradled her head as she was put peacefully to sleep at home. It was a private but definite grief and it had all the emotion of loosing a fellow human being: our family member.

The purpose of this blog though is to remind those thinking about purchasing a dog, especially a puppy, the reality of care that is required and the commitment that is involved. Puppies are definitely not for little children as a present for Christmas; unless the parent is prepared that by the time the day is out, the child will have passed it over to you. This is a life-long commitment

No wonder then that by Boxing day, with all the stress of food preparation, entertainment, relatives and busyness the patience is beginning to wear extremely thin as the dog pees and chews its way through the day. I have been reminded of a few realities myself.

First, the swimming pool kitchen in the early morning. No layins for me now when not at work. The howling for the first few days at night, as they miss their mum and sibling pups. The endless rounds of newspaper needed and the 20 minutes toileting without fail, if you don’t want the swimming pool or the poo pile. Then they roll in the garden mud and have to have a mini bath. The carpet takes a bashing and the endless cleaner comes out, complete with throwover for the settee and plastic for the carpet.

Then there is the mini dash to the shops as you can’t leave your dog too alone to begin with unless you want the kitchen chewed up in the mean time- or the distress of knowing you have left them howling. Chew spray is a good deterrent. My hands are scratched with the teeth. Pups particularly like to chew your arm off, they see that arm as their prey. The entertaining is of course necessary. Pups like to play, have attention and toys to squeak, balls to chew.

Forget the house work and the computer for a few days, at least until you get into a routine. All the family must be committed to lend a hand. For the first couple of weeks it is nackering work. BUT in all this time you are bonding and they with you in this new relationship. You laugh when they bark for the first time and look all so surprised. When they respond to their name, this is a new milestone. And when they do ask to go outside to the loo, you know that sanity and less swilling out may just be around the corner.

Once vaccinations are completed at 10 weeks( a mere£50.00!), and they can walk on a lead, (a week after their second course.)This does definitely help as you can tire them out more and re-enforce the toileting routine. If you can stand all of this for a few more months, eventually the dog should calm down- but not always, You will then have an enjoyable pet if trained correctly. On saying that, I understand the chocolate variety of Labrador is a bit scatty and barmy. We are lucky we choose the ivory coloured one of the Labrador breed and she is a good girl most of the time.

Personally for me my view is someone should be around for quite a bit of the time, unless you have two dogs who are company for each other, or have a dog walker. No adult dog likes to be left so very long but will adapt well if they know you are coming back and its not left for many, many hours. Dogs make great guard dogs and help lift a lonely day.

We long as a family to run along the beach and the park with Bramble, our now eight week plus Labrador retriever, playing ball. The family outings with dog drool as she eagerly awaits the contents of our picnic: Labs are greedy devils. The wagging tail and the wonderful greeting when we return home. Eagerness to get into the car in a mad hurry of energy. The smile on her face and how her head will  turn to one side when we talk to her or make a fuss.

So please don’t be put off completely. Dogs will give back more than you will give in a lifetime. You will love them and care for them just like a child. Just remember all the hard graft that is involved.

A dog is for life not just for Christmas.There will be animal shelters up and down the UK today bracing themselves for the after Christmas rush of abandoned puppies and young dogs.

Make sure your dog is not one of them.