Happiness is a warm puppy

Joshua has always had dogs in his home and he loves them very much. We have a treasured photograph of a tiny baby Joshua , just home from hospital after 11 days in special care, in his new car seat, sitting on the floor with our beloved german shepherd cross, Honey, sitting next to him, looking on. Some may find that dog breed intimidating, but she was a gentle giant and she would allow toddler Joshua to climb all over her, grabbing her fur, and would not flinch. She was his perfect introduction to canine pets. When Joshua was 3, Honey had six puppies. I was midwife – though thankfully she did not need any help – in our utility room and we kept 3 year old Joshua away from the newborn puppies until they had opened their eyes , so at least they could see what was coming!

In the end we kept three of those pups, plus Honey, so we were a busy household. We had Jack, Max and Jim – who Joshua named – and we were a happy family. They were all very protective of growing Joshua and like their mother before them, tolerated all of the attention that he lavished upon them. We all loved dog walks with our pack of large dogs and were devastated when Honey died, but we had her three sons to console us. The downside of owning 3 brothers was that they all aged at the same rate and we stood to lose them all around the same time. Being used to having a pack of four dogs, we were not phased by the prospect of another addition. In 2011, when Joshua was ten years old, we got Ruby, a beautiful cocker spaniel. She was our first pedigree and our first small dog, so we now had a lapdog and a very loyal one at that. Ruby is very tuned into Joshua, being very attentive when he has seizures especially. She can always be found sitting at his feet, or as close as she can get, when he is eating as she knows that he is a good bet for dropped food.

For a while, we only had two dogs left, Ruby and elderly Max. Keeping chickens, we developed a vermin problem and so we sought out a jack russell to deal with the problem, so we welcomed puppy Kevin to our family, three years ago. The fox dealt with the source of the rats, fortunately, as Kevin is not a natural predator – although he loves to play ball with Joshua while he is in the bath -, he is very cuddly and will often snuggle in behind Joshua’s knees if he is curled up on the settee for a nap. Unfortunately, as Ruby was not spayed, before Kevin was one, they made three cocker-jack pups together. We have kept Betty, who is as cuddly and loving as her parents, and the two male pups went to live with our nieces, where they are very loved and very spoiled.

Joshua would not wittingly hurt any of our dogs but he can be rough with them : he routinely tries to open their mouths to inspect their teeth and stretches their heads back to keep their necks supple. All of our dogs oblige him by doing these exercises, but it can be a problem when Joshua expects every dog to be as obliging, so we have to watch him very carefully around other dogs.

So that brings us up to date, now with three small dogs in our family. They were a real source of fun and comfort during lockdown. Their favourite activity was to go outside to the tent ,or pod more recently, and have Joshua throw the ball for them tirelessly all afternoon, only stopping to share some Ritz crackers. I am trying to get fitter and I enjoy my early morning walk with the dogs for an hour, just as it is getting light. Our dogs are important members of our family and my only criticism is that they do not live long enough, but all we can do is love them and look after them as best we can while they are with us.

Kevin in the bathroom playing ball
Nurse Ruby during a seizure

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