Showing posts with label dog walk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dog walk. Show all posts

12 July 2011

A dog walk of rhubarb and cat-astrophes

Most of the time I love village life.  Quiet(ish) roads. Fabulous scenery.  Lots of open space.  Pleasant dog walks and plenty of poo bins! Chatty neighbours and a sense of calm and chance to unwind at the end of a hectic day.

Our village playing field
On other days it can really irritate me.  People who don’t cut their hedges back – making it impossible for me and the hounds to walk on the pavement, without emerging with scratches.  Roaming village dogs – with a tendency to poop wherever they like.  The looney drivers who seem to think the 30 miles speed limit doesn’t apply to them.

Tonight though, I was reminded why village life is great.  At the moment, I’m walking the hounds in two shifts.  Since Mina’s had her toe amputated, and the dressing has only just come off, I’m building up the duration of her walks.  It doesn’t seem fair to take her to the playing field where Stevie and Jasper can run off lead and where she’d have to watch from the side lines.

Shift one of the dog walk duties (Stevie and Jasper) had been completed and Mina and I embarked on shift two.  I thought we’d have a quiet walk – just the two of us – with Mina stopping and sniffing all the pee-mails she’s missed over the last eight weeks…however, I was mistaken, as Tula, our cat, decided to join us!

We’d only just managed to cross the road when I heard the tinkling of Tula’s bell and saw her crossing the road to join us.  I picked her up and crossed the road again and put her in our front garden and then re-crossed the road to start our walk.

Tula takes root in the garden
Who was I kidding?  In a few seconds I heard the unmistakable sound of Tula’s bell coupled with the sound of oncoming traffic.  I tried to call her to me but she was having none of it and was sitting very serenely in the middle of the road, with no intention of moving.  Cue for me to step out into the oncoming traffic in the style of a demented Traffic Cop/Lollipop Lady and put my left hand out to stop the traffic.  My right hand was holding onto Mina’s lead very tightly and once the traffic had stopped, my left hand managed to scoop up Tula.  Heaven knows what it must have looked like to the approaching drivers – a greyhound and cat nose to nose, with a mad woman picking up the cat.

After this escapade Tula was put back in the house and the cat flap locked, so she could not follow us again.  Mina and I set off again to complete the walk, with Mina stopping every 10 steps or so to catch up on the important and aforementioned pee-mails.

Mid-way into our walk we passed Arthur’s house.  Arthur reminds me of my much loved and dearly departed Granddad - he’s in his 80s, lives by himself, grows his own veg and always has time for a chat when we pass by.

Tonight was no exception.  On our way back, Mina and I stopped and had a quick chat (well I chatted, Mina looked up adoringly for a fuss) and before I knew it my spare hand was carrying a bag full of home-grown rhubarb.  All in exchange for a chat and the promise of a small rhubarb crumble as way of thanks.

If only Mina was called Roobarb and Tula was known as Custard – it would have been a real life version of one of my favourite children’s cartoons.
Mina does her best Roobarb impression

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.

11 May 2010

A pocketful of treats... a diversionary technique

This Sunday, my last dog walk with the hounds before leaving to travel back down South, turned out to be quite eventful and got me thinking about how little us humans sometimes 'think dog' and expect so much from our canine companions.

Me, hubby and hounds had decided to stretch all 16 legs and take the hounds for a bit of off lead time, recall practice and a run in the local playing field. When we got to the field there was another dog - an off lead German Shepherd (GSD) - playing with its owner, so we decided not to go in as Mina can be unpredictable with other dogs.

We carried on walking for a bit and then turned round to head back this stage I could hear screaming and shouting coming from the field, accompanied by loud barks and yapping. We ran back to the field and when I saw what was happening, I handed Stevie and Jasper to hubby and went into the field to help... was quite a sight. The German Shepherd was half lying down, being held and protected by his owner, and was being attacked by two off-lead terriers (a Jack Russell Terrier and a Terrier Cross). The owner of the terriers was frantically trying to catch them, and the owner of the German Shepherd was desperately trying to (a) stop them biting her dog and (b) keep her dog calm, preventing it from biting the terriers.

I know that getting involved in a dog fight isn't the most sensible option, but it did look I could help and the attack hadn't escalated into a full blown fight.

I always carry a pocketful of food treats when I'm walking the hounds, and remember reading somewhere that if a dog starts to attack your dog, try and throw food, a ball or an object to get the attacking dog's attention. The terriers were running around barking and nipping at the GSD, who thankfully was long haired - as it appeared that the terriers were mainly biting out chunks of hair.

The terriers' owner was struggling to catch either of them, so I went across and started calling to them and throwing food treats - in their direction, but away from the GSD. Food can be useful diversion and both appeared to be food motivated. Somehow the lure of the food worked its magic and got them away from the GSD, allowing me to hold one by its harness and the other by its scruff (their owner had taken off his collar/harness).

Thankfully no-one was hurt - human or dog. The terriers' owner clipped them both back onto their leads and the GSD owner was keeping her dog calm.  What made it even more unbelievable was that the owners and their dogs were neighbours...

...and this got me thinking to how much we really know our dogs and just don't think dog.

Just because you may be neighbours, and even if you don't like your neighbour, the chances are you're polite to them - you say hello and exchange niceties about the weather and know how to act socially around them.

But, what if you're a dog and all you see/hear of your doggy neighbour is barking, growling and jumping at the other side of the fence when you're out in the garden? What if that 'big dog next door' is always trying to jump over the fence, or the 'little dog next door' is always poking its nose under the fence barking and trying to nip you?

Just because us humans know how to act when we meet a neighbour, we shouldn't expect our dogs to know what to do. All too often we expect our dogs to be mini doggy etiquette experts, doing what we would do in a strange situation, minding their doggy Ps & Qs, but dogs don't think human; they think dog!

We all want well behaved, well socialised and well mannered dogs but this takes time, patience and training. Next time you think about letting your dog off lead - think dog!

03 May 2010

Finding my 'fido fix'

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I recently started working in London, which means that in the week I'm living away from my husband, hounds and Taz, the cat.

Most weekends I plan to come home to Lincolnshire as I really miss the hounds in the week and by the time the weekend arrives, I can't wait to see them again (and hubby of course)! It also means that I can't help the Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust, the charity which I work for on a voluntary basis.

Last weekend, I spent the weekend 'down South' and by the Friday, I was really missing my 'Fido Fix.' So, thanks to the power of the Internet, I Googled to see if there were any local dog rescues nearby who allowed volunteers to come and walk dogs. Luckily I came across the wonderful Stokenchurch Dog Rescue and after a quick phone call on the Friday I was all set to walk Echo, a four month old Collie/Lurcher cross, at 10.30am on the Saturday.

So, Saturday morning - with the sun streaming down -  I found myself travelling down the M40 to Stokenchurch Dog Rescue. Despite all the years I lived down South and travelled this route, I'd never really noticed the rescue until now, or maybe it's just my memory playing tricks on me! After introducing myself, and filling in a volunteer form I was introduced to Echo - a four month old, Collie/Lurcher cross - who'd been found as a stray pup.

As you can see from his picture, Echo was a little bundle of absolute loveliness.  I was asked to walk Echo for 20 minutes, as being a pup they didn't want to overtire him.

I checked whether I could use treats before we set off and then we started our walk together. I'm generally used to walking dogs the size of my greyhounds and a bouncy puppy was certainly a different kettle of fish.  Echo was very excitable, but soon calmed down and took everything in his stride.

When he didn't pay any attention to the cyclists or the fire engine that passed, I made a big fuss of him and gave him a treat. However, when he showed too much interest in some of the other dogs (I'd been warned about this), we just walked calmly by (well I did, anyway) without a word from me.

At the end of the walk, I handed Echo back to the centre staff and was asked if I'd like to walk another dog. I readily accepted and was then introduced to Ben.

Ben was a 2 year old Patterdale Terrier, who had been rescued from his abusive owners. I was informed that Ben was afraid of men with deep voices and was wearing a muzzle to prevent any mishaps.

Ben was lovely but I could see how fearful he was, particularly of men. He'd obviously been trained to basic commands as he knew "sit" and "wait" but at the beginning of the walk he had a tendency to stop, drop to the ground and flatten himself out; not wanting to move or go on.

With gentle persuasion, and the use of some tasty treats, Ben became more accustomed to me. I used the treats as a reward for him coming to me when called and ignoring cyclists (there were a lot of cyclists out that weekend and apparently Ben's terrier instincts generally kicked in when he saw cyclists)! By the end of our walk, I felt I had gained a little bit of Ben's trust as he did allow me to stroke him without tensing up, or showing signs of stress.

The next weekend I stay down South I'll certainly volunteer my dog-walking services again. It was the perfect way to get my 'fido fix' and to build on my studies,  but more importantly it gave these rescue dogs the chance of a good walk, time away from the kennel environment and the opportunity to socialise with more humans.

Many dog rescues can't survive without the help of volunteers and if you have a few hours a week to spare, why not consider helping a local rescue centre? There may be no pay, but the satisfaction of knowing you've helped a dog in need is worth its weight in gold.
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