28 November 2010

The First Snow of Winter

It's true - us Brits like nothing more than to talk about the weather.  As we live on an island where extremes of weather are fairly rare, any type of weather that is either too cold or too hot tends to make headlines.  This year, we've had very early snowfall in November meaning the roads grind to a halt, schools close, children dust off wellies and under-used sledges and us adults don our best snow-garb and get out there with the other 'big kids' and our dogs!

The hounds' favourite playing field

The hounds also seem to like the snow and the early snowfall this year has coincided with Mina becoming cone-free after the tail incident (see: previous post - Mina the canine catastrophe).

We've only had a few inches of snow, so it's not too deep for the hounds and they can enjoy a bit of a run and frolic in the snow.  I always worry that deep snow and icy pavements could mean broken bones, so I'm very careful where I let them walk and run.

I still want to enjoy the cold weather and want the hounds to enjoy their walks too, so here are my top tips for keeping the hounds safe and warm on winter walks:

Well wrapped-up against the cold
Coats -  Greyhounds have thin skin, very little fur and very little body fat and tend to feel extremes of temperature, so make sure that they have a waterproof, warm, fleecy winter coat to keep them protected from the elements. I like the coats that have a turn up to protect the neck. Alternatively a greyhound snood helps keep their necks warm.

Salty paws - Rock salt and grit may keep the paths and roads snow and ice-free but left on our pets' paws it can be a real irritant. When I get home I wash and dry the hounds' paws to make sure no grit has got stuck and that they can't lick anything that might be toxic.

A happy & cone-free Mina, enjoying the snow
Deep snow - Greyhounds have fairly delicate bones (in rescue we often come across cases where an owner has let their hound run free over uneven ground and the poor hound has ended up wtih a broken leg), so running in deep snow and on icy surfaces could be a recipe for disaster.

Dark nights - The old addage "Seen and be seen" really does ring true for winter walks - both for me and the hounds. I wear a reflective jacket and carry a torch. The hounds each have an Ancol Safety Halo (available from £3.99 at PetPlanet ) although I am saving up for the rather fab Leuchtie LED light collars available exclusively from Collarways 

Steaming hot mug of tea and open fire - When the walk's over, there's nothing better than putting my feet up with a good mug of tea and watching the hounds snooze by the open fire.

So, time to put my feet up and enjoy that cup of tea. Wherever you may be when you read this, I hope that you're safe and warm with your dogs at your side.

16 November 2010

The Final Farewell

Today I found myself making a decision I dreaded, and one which I had hoped not to make until the New Year.  My well loved and aged Taz cat (affectionately known as Tazzie) had to be put to sleep.

It hardly seems just over a year ago that I was in the same situation with my first cat, Chivers. I had always thought that Chivers would outlive Tazzie, but it wasn't to be.

I adopted Tazzie in 1992 from the appropriately named, Cat Orphanage in Billingham.  Her loud purr and sandpaper-like licks won my heart from the first moment I cuddled her. Tazzie was only about 8 months old when I adopted her, but like many poor un-neutered cats she had already had a litter of kittens and had endured a pretty tough start to life.

Tazzie, the food & drink cat burglar

Tazzie was the original cat burglar - especially where food was concerned. Despite always being well fed by me, she couldn't get rid of the instincts that I suspect were ingrained into her every fibre when she was a stray.

I will always remember Tazzie at a family barbecue, with her perfectly manicured talon swiping a sausage from under my Dad's nose. To this day, I don't know who looked the more surprised - my Dad for losing a sausage or Tazzie for her tasty foodie victory.

It wasn't all plain sailing with Tazzie though.  In her first year with me, I lost count of the number of times she urinated on the carpet: a change of cat litter (away from those hard dissolvable pellets) and ceramic tiles instead of carpet soon sorted that, along with the realisation that having a cat flap on the litter box prevented her from using it. There was also one time when me and my first husband had been away overnight and we came home to find that Tazzie had peed & pooped in the middle of our bed (and somehow managed to turn the radio on too - must have been one hell of a party).

I'm sure that these mishaps may have put off other owners, but not me. I persevered, read as much as I could about cats and their behaviour and learnt lots from both Tazzie and Chivers.

Stevie & Tazzie sharing a snooze

When Tazzie was around 13 years old, she was introduced to Mina.  She coped very well and took living with Stevie and Jasper in her stride.
Fast forward over 18 years and my beloved Tazzie was an OAP with failing health. She had become deaf in the last few years and seemed to live in her own little bubble. I was always very careful when approaching her bed and used to tap my fingers on the floor, to wake her up gently and not startle her.

Her quality of life had diminished and her world had shrunk to the size of the utility room. She could no longer groom herself and despite my regular sessions of brushing her coat, she still had matted fur that she just couldn't reach.  In the last few days her health had declined even further, leaving me with the heartbreaking decision that took me to the veterinary surgery today.

It's fair to say I have been in floods of tears and am still sobbing as I write this.  I wanted to be with Tazzie in her final moments and, as hard as it is to see your pet and companion slip away, I felt I owed it to her to soothe her passing with quiet words and cuddles.

Some people may question why I'm crying and grieving, after all she was 'only' a cat.  However Tazzie (and like Chivers before her) was not just a cat, she was my cat and companion.

Over the last 18 years she has provided me with companionship, cuddles, laughter, unconditional love and has been a constant presence during life's ups and downs.  Through deaths, divorce, redundancy, life changes, marriage, house moves and ill health Tazzie has been there with a loud purr, an emery board tongue and unlimited supplies of affection.

Our pets provide us with so much and their time with us is fleeting. I will miss Tazzie tremendously and I'm sure that the hounds too will wonder what has happened to the black and white ball of fluff that used to follow them around.
RIP Tazzie
1992 - 16 November 2010 
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