For the Love of Dogs

Towards the end of May, our cocker spaniel, Ruby, had three puppies and we have two of them still living with us : Betty is staying here with our family but Arthur is staying here temporarily, until my niece is ready for him. They have brought such joy to our lives since they arrived, unplanned. Yesterday morning Betty sneaked through the door and came upstairs with me to wake Joshua and give him his porridge – the pups are so fast and slippery these days! I slid open his bedroom door and before I had time to wake him up gently, Betty was on his bed and licking his face as her greeting. I thought that might have been a rude awakening, but he grinned at me and giggled as she wriggled around on his pillow, delighted to see him. He responded happily to her greeting and then she gazed at me waiting to see if there was any leftover porridge for her.

As we are having new windows fitted, the house is in chaos with all doors and gates left open for the contractors, so all week, the dogs have come with me to work and stayed in the truck, until lunchtime when we have enjoyed a long walk together and another at the end of the working day and we have all enjoyed that  temporary routine.

This weekend, Arthur is staying with my niece so after work I drove to the station and walked him in to wait, on his lead. I loved the reaction that he got as he made so many people smile, even if they just walked by. But a large number could not resist his animal magnetism and came over to say hello and to stroke him, several saying how he had improved their day. One couple with special needs spotted him from inside a cafe and came rushing out , picked him up and began kissing him. One lady told me that she loved his long waggy tail and another asked if he could stroke him, then asked if I thought a dog might help him with his anxiety? I was very proud of Arthur and how well he coped with all this attention from strangers, taking it all in his stride. In fact, later, when nobody approached him for a while, he looked accusingly at passers-by as if to say ‘Hey, can’t you see how cute I am?’

So my experience yesterday proved what I already knew, that dogs make people happy, they bring joy to humans. Not only have our 15 week old puppies taken Joshua to their hearts, allowing him to stretch their heads backwards, as he likes to do ,with no retaliation, but  they are brave and open to strangers too, confident that they will be loved by everyone. This litter was not planned nor initially wanted, but the reality is that they could not have arrived at a better time as both comfort and distraction, and we will give them the best, most loving homes possible.

Puppy Love

Incredibly Ruby’s puppies will be 7 weeks old today. They have been such a blessing in my life and I have adored watching them grow in size and confidence during that 7 weeks. Yesterday I had the best welcome home at lunchtime as I opened the front door and six dogs spilled out, all delighted to see me home after four hours of being away at the office. We are fortunate enough to have a field that we can walk our dogs in, where no other dogs go, so it is safe for the puppies, before they have had their injections. I led them all around the perimeter of the field and the pups followed me and their parents enthusiastically and it was a long way for their short legs. When we got back to the house, I ate my sandwich outside and then lay on the picnic rug and played with the puppies for the remaining ten minutes of my  lunch hour. I could have easily stayed there all afternoon in the sunshine.

It will be tough to part with this litter, as they have brought me such joy at a difficult time in my life, but I know how happy these puppies will make our nieces and I will get to see them grow up as they are staying within the family and we are keeping Betty Boo. These dogs will make their new houses into homes, as I cannot imagine our home without at least one dog in it. We got our first dog, Shandy, when I was two years old and since then I have only been dogless when I was away at university, and even then my future mother in law was keeping Barney at her house, ready for when I graduated.

I like to think that we are giving these puppies a good start in life : Their mum has been an excellent mother to them with her feeding, cleaning and protecting them. We kept Joshua away from them until they were a decent size and speed – only yesterday he trod on one’s tail in his big NHS boots and made it squeal! They were in the safety of the utility room for their early weeks and now they love being outside in the yard to the front and on the lawn to the back of the house, where they have freedom to run and play together. They certainly appear to be happy, healthy puppies and in a weeks’ time they can have their first inoculations and we will get them micro-chipped. That is about the last thing that we can do for them before releasing them out into the world, where I know that they will be spoiled rotten and loved to pieces.

I am not sure that Joshua can tell them apart – my husband struggles – so I doubt he will notice when Hugo leaves at the end of the month and then there will be just two puppies instead of three. Joshua has never not had at least one dog in his family and they have all learned to be gentle with him, despite the way he stretches their necks and flicks their ears. They have also learnt how to jump out of his way as he walks around the house or as he crashes to the floor with a seizure. The puppies have not yet witnessed a tonic clonic seizure, but they will I am sure and it will be interesting to see how they respond.

So happy 7 week birthday puppies, you have brought more love and joy to our home and you are on the brink of a new adventure.

Puppy Love

Joshua loves our dogs and he has even taken our new puppy, Kevin, to his heart already. We had a wonderful afternoon out at an arborteum yesterday and he had a black dog on each side of his wheelchair, trotting alongside him. As we admired the golden autumn colours, he woud occasionally reach down on his left hand side and stroke the head or ears of Ruby, very gently. We found an area thick in fallen crispy leaves and my husband showered the dogs in leaves, which really made Joshua giggle. He reached out to join in, so my husband passed him giant handfuls of leaves so that he could thrown them up in the air over Kevin. Joshua loved this game and did not want it to stop, the dogs tired of it before he did.

When we stopped at a pop-up cafe for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, again Joshua stroked the dogs while devouring his Dad’s victoria sponge. The dogs were very much part of this family outing and they are an important part of the family too. Joshua likes these days to kneal on the floor and to throw toys for Kevin and Ruby to fetch back to him. They are not the best at returning to him but he enjoys getting on their level for a game. Although still a puppy, Kevin is taking his lead form Ruby and is gentle around Joshua, as though they both understand that he is special and potentially unpredictable too.

Although they are not official ‘therapy dogs’ who assist disabled people with day to day tasks, they are beneficial for him and they will, I am sure, protect him should the need arise. Ruby is very attentive during his seizures, sitting with him and checking that he is OK. I can recall one holiday walk when Joshua did not want to get out of the car, he clearly knew that a seixure was coming but we thought he was being lazy or obstinate, and overruled him. Within minutes Joshua  was lying on the ground, fitting. A St Bernard came rushing to his rescue but Ruby was very protective : she was only a young dog at the time, but our small cocker spaniel put her front paws on Joshua’s chest and she snarled at thisdog, who was simply curious. The puppy taking on the gentle giant looked ridiculous but showed, even at a young age, what her role was going to be.

I cannot imagine our family without at least one dog in it, and I am sure that Joshua feels the same.


We have an exciting new addition to our family next week : Kevin ,the 8 week old jack russell puppy, is joining the chaos at our house! We already have two dogs, one cat and 5 hens, but as our older dog is now 14 years old, we feel the time is right to introduce Kevin, so that they have some overlap. I went to visit him for the fourth time yesterday, to take him a blanket, so that it will smell of his Mum and sisters, so that he will not feel too lonely when he comes here.

The first time we saw Kevin, his eyes were still closed and his Mum, Scruff, was very attentive and protective of her litter of four puppies. Gradually each time we have seen him, she has distanced herself from them, so much so that yesterday, she was missing in action and the pups were now weaned and independent, even going outside. He is adorable and I am confident that he will be a good addition to our madhouse, although I expect some jealousy from Ruby, our 7 year old cocker spaniel, so she will have to be managed like any other jealous sibling.

It struck me how different motherhood is for Scruff than my experience  : she had four babies and was with them constantly while they were dependent upon her and she defended them with her life – apart from the quantity of her offspring , our experiences were similar at this stage. Then she started to achieve some separation, as they grew bigger and more active and she was willing to leave them for short periods – this is possibly akin to when I ended my maternity leave,  and returned to work when joshua was 6 months old. Only I left Joshua in the capable hands of a childminder, did not leave him with any siblings to fend for himself.

Yesterday I did not see Scruff at all, she only comes in at bedtime apparently and even then she wants nothing to do with her pups now, as they are reaching an age when they are ready to leave home.  I do not recognise any of this stage of motherhood and I do not expect to ever see Joshua leave home and make his way in the world independently.

Joshua and our other dogs have not met Kevin yet, just me and my husband, so he will need to be introduced to them all carefully next week and he will need some space to find his feet in our busy household. If he is anything like the companion to Joshua that Ruby has become, then we will be very fortunate, as they are inseparable. She adores him and they spend a lot of time playing ball together both in the house and in the garden. Hopefully she will teach Kevin to recognise his seizures and to comfort him during that process, as she has learnt to do.

I know that puppies are hard work, with the little accidents and the chewing that are inevitable, but on balance I am expecting Kevin to bring even more fun, love and laughter to our family, which can only be a good thing.

Man’s Best Friend

It was a beatiful, warm morning first thing yesterday as it was time for my sister to return home so I drove her to the ferry terminal. Joshua was awake at 6.40 , it appeared that he was up mainly to say good bye to his Aunt, as he retired back to bed when we left and was still fast asleep when I returned 2 hours later. The morning sunshine was glorious and it turned out that was the best of the weather for us yesterday.

Other than that fond farewell first thing, we had a quiet day yesterday, spent mostly inside the cottage, just chilling and quite a lot of dozing too. It rained most of the day and so it was perfect to hunker down and stay dry, eating both lunch and tea at home. But the sun came out and the rain dried up towards the end of the afternoon and so we ventured out on a cliff path walk, with our two dogs and with Joshua in his wheelchair. Everywhere felt fresher after the rains and it was good to get some sea air in our lungs, to clear stuffy heads.

We had a ball tucked in the wheelchir pocket so when we arrived at an open stretch of grass, my husband began to throw the ball for Ruby, our 7 year old cocker spaniel and she enthsiastically chased after and retireved it. Joshua watched and enjoyed the game for a couple of throws, but he is no longer willing to just be a spectator! He stamped on his wheelchair footplates to gain attention, then he held out his hand for the ball. – there was no doubt what he wanted. Thereafter the game was his and he took turns at good overarm throws of the ball, sending a panting Ruby  running backwards and forwards around the park. Joshua delighted in this game and neither of them got bored of it, so long as I got the ball off Ruby then tossed it to Joshua. They were very companionable and both were very focussed on the game.

I know that therapy dogs exist and dogs that are trained to alert their owners to seizure activity or diabetic shock, but although Ruby has none of the speciliased training, she is very in tune with Joshua and his needs and they look out for each other in a sweet way. My husband was trying to brush Ruby later, an activity that she hates,and so she sought refuge on Joshua’s knee – it seemed that he was ‘den!’. I love the relationship that they have developed: she is my shadow and is always watching to see where I am, but she is also very caring towards Joshua and they clearly have a mutual love for each other and we would not be without her.