Archives for posts with tag: pets


Meet Pepi the cat… He is very special, and not just because he’s so handsome!

He came into our lives in late summer, a couple of months after the sudden (and devastating) loss of one of our beloved dogs, Hamish, to a terrible disease.

It happened like this. We feed – fed – the local birds on our patio, and one day I realised that the shadow beneath the patio table was darker than usual. Inky black, in fact.

As I watched, at the speed of light the shadow detached itself and neatly made a meal of one of the sparrows. I opened the patio door to try to help the poor little thing, but the cat (for such it was) ran off.

Over the next few days we played a game that he always won. I’d remove his hiding places, and he would find a new one. The birds, seemingly unaware of the brooding black presence, kept being eaten. I even tried to make the patio cat-proof (no chance!).

To cut a long story short, in defence of the birds I started feeding him. (I also moved the bird feeding station down into the garden, close to some bushes where they have more natural protection). Mark decided the cat’s name was Pepi, after an Egyptian pharaoh. Pepi decided to stay.

We hadn’t intended to get a cat… We had cats and dogs for years, living happily together, but our last cat passed away at the venerable age of 17 before we got our two setters. Cats just seemed to come into our lives – waifs and strays mainly, which people from the nearby town would dump in the village, thinking that tiny kittens would be fine somewhere rural. (This, by the way, is not true. All pets need proper care).

As Hamish and Lexie had not been brought up with cats, they chased them, and we’d never had many in the garden as a result. But when Hamish died, Lexie – who is blind – could no longer help with the cat patrol, so I guess Pepi saw an opening for a stray. But how to care for our new arrival, who clearly doesn’t care much for humans?

Food has been the answer so far. He clearly appreciates having his grub presented in a bowl rather than having to catch it. I have to say, we’re not yet sure whether he’s a he or a she because we can’t get close enough to see… He comes running when he hears the little gate open as I go to put his food down, and stands back politely, a couple of feet away. Just far enough. If I try to get closer, he backs off, and he won’t feed until I’m safely back inside with the door locked.

This is a photo of him trying the new Purina Pro Plan wet food – Purina have kindly sent me some samples to try. When I realised it was fish, my heart sank because Pepi’s never been fond of fish – I guess because there aren’t many running round the local gardens or farm barns. I had to give a whole pack of a well-known brand of fish-flavoured cat food to our neighbour (to her delight), so I feared the worst.

However, about ten seconds after the photo was taken, the plate was licked clean. Success! Pepi has finally been introduced to fish!

Going on holiday probably shouldn’t require the same sort of precise planning as a military invasion, but I’m pretty sure that George Bush and Tony Blair didn’t have to put as much thought into Iraq as we did into our holiday last week in mid-Wales.

Taking a diabetic dog on holiday requires thinking. Insulin needs to be kept refrigerated, and as our Lexie is Little Miss Fussy, some fresh food, which also requires refrigeration, was needed.

This is not to mention the various potions and lotions that her increasingly-aged mom and pop require of course! Then there are the tennis balls for Hamish, the bedcovers (just in case giant setter hoofs somehow land on pristine white bedcovers. We’ve been there, and it’s not pretty). 

Add to that various leads, poo bags, harnesses, dog dishes, knives (for cutting up said food), plus all the clothes of course, and you have yourself one serious logistical challenge. I was quite proud to find, when we got there, that the only thing I’d forgotten was a washing-up brush. I bet Tony Blair can’t say the same!

Goodness only knows what the hotel thought as the staff saw this trail of weird goods going upstairs. Refrigerators, bags of all shapes and sizes and two curious dogs. I don’t think there were any missiles, but I could have put one in by accident, of course. Various dictators have tried to explain this small oversight in court trials over the centuries (I particularly like Ghengis Khan’s immortal quote ‘doesn’t everybody take ten thousand horsemen armed to the teeth on a picnic?’). 

I have to add, at the end of a week full of sunshine and trips to the beach (and lakes and waterfalls), it’s not the easiest thing we’ve done. Lexie doesn’t eat well on holiday, and diabetic dogs, like diabetic people, have to eat when they have their injections. With people, you stand a chance of explaining this – with a grumpy hot dog who doesn’t want to eat away from home, you don’t. So I ended up pressing good cheese and fresh duck on her reluctant little self. I know there are various people out there who now want to be my pet, details are available on request (haha).

Put it this way, she survived – no dreaded hypo, which was a worry with all the extra activity and the heat. On the Sunday, when we returned, she got a bit wobbly after tearing round the garden to inspect it all in the searing heat, but some glucose and a couple of her favourite chew sticks seemed to do the trick, and today she is back to being Queen Lexie, she of the upside-down snoring regime.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has taken dogs with health problems on holiday, how does everyone manage?Image


Lexie - pickle dog is ill...

This is Lexie in typical hairy, skulky mode… She is a great little dog with bags full of character – I’ve described before my experiences training her, which have left me with a very deep love of this funny little girl.

Odd how life turns though – she’s been very quiet and down, and so we took her to see the vet, who has diagnosed that she has diabetes. Yes, dogs do get diabetes! And the procedure is much the same as for humans – she has to have daily injections of insulin and her meals have to be timed and monitored too, to make sure they match the peaks and lows of her blood sugar.

Naturally, I am finding the injection process terrifying. I didn’t sleep the night before the first one. The vet had shown my husband how to do the injection, and he had done his best to show me, but nevertheless, the idea of sticking a needle into my best buddy…

These things you can only do because you hope and pray it is for the best for her, so I did it, after a completely sleepless night, then burst into tears. Two days on, three injections under my belt, I am feeling a bit less worried but I still spend hours checking she is breathing.

She’s also got a snazzy pair of incontinence panties for the days when she drinks too much and leaks in her sleep. She is bearing it all very gracefully, even the needle, bless her. What a wonderful dog… Hamish and I are being as supportive as we can – Hamish is being very encouraging, bless him, offering tennis balls and indeed to help her eat her food. You can’t say better than that!

ImageThis is one of our dogs, Lexie, making herself comfortable on a luckless chair, fortunately already so battered I think it was beyond caring. No, I have no idea how she managed to get into that position, though there are ladies of the night that would pay a small fortune for her secrets, I’m sure. 

Perhaps I should have called her Miss Pretzel, but we settled for Lexie – she and her big pal Hamish are Gordon Setters, therefore from Scotland originally, so we were trying for a Scottish sort of feel. The naming was very quickly (and I feel unreasonably) followed by several major stars calling their offspring Lexie, which does I suppose make a change from Apple or Peaches Fifi Trixiebelle. While appreciating the compliment, our Lexie wishes to point out that she is the original. She also wishes to point out that while Fifi Trixiebelle is undoubtedly a good name for some dogs, if anyone ever tries to apply it to her she will sue.

Being an original, Lexie was determined from an early age (seven weeks) to be impossible to train. Hamish, a year older, was a darling boy who never did anything wrong. He even learned to pee on command, which he was particularly proud of. Lexie, on the other hand, felt that peeing anywhere she didn’t particularly want to was beneath her… along with any other sort of command I might be tempted to try to inflict on her Person. 

This may explain why I have a stack of dog training manuals a yard high, and have watched every single episode ever made of Dog Borstal and the Dog Whisperer. We also went to the local training class, where we caused much hilarity as we bounced and fought our way around while all the nice doggies paid attention to their masters and did as they were told. Paying attention, Lexie explained, was not what a Setter was supposed to do. And anyway, I was nowhere near as exciting as all the other stuff that was going on.

We persevered, and perspired, anyway  – all sorts of treats were tried, but Lexie is not much of a one for food treats. She is the sort of dog that lies on her back while you peel her a tiny morsel of fillet steak. She might eat it, if she’s in the mood. But she might not. However, grannies are not without their wiles and I discovered that tiny dog toys, stowed up my sleeve, were guaranteed to catch her eye… This improved things no end! 

However, there was one troubling issue that we struggled with – one that began when Lexie was six months old and we were out for a walk in our local fields. Both dogs were off the lead, happily sniffing around as we headed down towards the small river. 

I didn’t, unfortunately, spot the sick pigeon in the ditch but Lexie sure did. With cries of delight she pounced on it. I mentioned she loves dog toys – well, to a bird dog, a bird is the ultimate dog toy, unfortunately, and that was the day she found out. I dived into the ditch after her while Hamish fretted and fussed at the top and watched us wrestling for the pigeon – feathers everywhere… I won, to her disgust, and watched the pigeon wobbling away into the breeze with much relief.

I was, however, relieved too soon. The next day, on our walk, Lexie vanished. Just scampered away, and would not come back. A couple of minutes later I heard a ‘squawk!’ and to my dismay realised she’d chanced upon a pheasant that had decided to take a nap right in her path. She brought this one triumphantly back, waving it around by its neck as if to say ‘look what I’ve done! Aren’t I good?’… I could see the blessed thing was on its last legs, so I furtively stuffed it in a ditch and dived for the dog. No use – she skipped away happily, in search of more feathered fun, leaving me puffing in her wake. After ten minutes of trying in vain to entice her back I resorted to yelling ‘aaAAAAUUUrghhhhle!’ very loudly and keeling over in the stubble – it’s a good job it was a lonely field or I’d have been carted off by the men in white coats, I’m sure…

Lying prone and pretending to be dead, I squinted out of one eye to see Miss Dog standing peering down at me, obviously wondering what the heck mum was up to. I leaped up like an electrocuted salmon, rugby tackled her, and somehow got her back on the lead – but that was just the start…

After that, we very quickly discovered just how dog-proof our back garden fence wasn’t. No sooner did we mend one  hole, than she found another. And if we went to the playing field to throw balls, or toys, she would sooner or later run for the gap at the end and that was it.  Each time she would scamper happily away and we would see her in the distance, streaking over the fields, searching for another pheasant that might be kind enough to come out to play. 

The last straw was when our neighbour remarked in passing ‘I nearly ran over your dog yesterday… She just came out of the field onto the road…’ That same day, we bought a large roll of small-mesh chicken wire, 6ft high, and surrounded the back garden. We stood back proudly – Lexie snickered, and leaped over the five foot gate. My hubby and I just looked at each other askance… we hadn’t even realised she could jump that high. 

The following day, with a new, seven foot gate in place, training began. With advice from the experts, we started with a normal leash, practising recall over just four feet or so, moving to a longer and then an extendable lead as she got better at returning. Eventually we got to a long line – probably about ten metres or so. By this time she was nearly a year old – it wasn’t a fast process.

Finally, someone mentioned spray collars. These fit round the dog’s neck like an ordinary collar, but have a little box that is located just under their chins. You fill them with water, or lemon-scented stuff, and if you press a button then this is squirted in a fine spray into their noses. There were three settings – small, medium and large spray, which sounded just perfect to us as the final guarantee… We bought one, and took Lexie out to the playing field, where we at last took the lead off.

God knows, we tried to keep her busy and interested, and the training seemed to be paying off – but in the end the lure of the pheasant was just too strong and she made a break for the gap. Panicking, I hit all three buttons on the spray collar at once and an amount of water roughly equivalent to the Niagara waterfall squooshed up Lexie’s nose in an instant. 

Peering from a distance, all I could see was that the dog had disappeared into a fine mist… I held my breath. A heartbeat later, a soggy dog ran very fast back towards mum and dad, clearly not keen to go further in the direction of whatever the hell had just hit her. Feeling terribly guilty, we lavished praise on our prodigal pup.

Was she cured? Well, nearly. A few more, slightly less extreme squirts were needed, and even now I don’t walk her off lead anywhere that gives her too much scope to bolt. Nowadays, seven years on, she is much more inclined to want to be with her family – thank goodness, but I would never like to take the chance of some passing pigeon inviting her to play!