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.

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Motherhood

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.