Blogmas 2018 – visit to the Dogs Trust rehoming centre

When I was planning my Blogmas content, I knew I wanted to talk about some charities, and that there would be some kind of Dogs Trust post. On Saturday we had my interview with Aimee, a volunteer who works at the Newbury Centre and told us about her experiences working with the dogs on Christmas Day. When I was organising the interview, Emily from Dogs Trust also invited me to one of the centres so that I could look around, find out more about the work that goes on there, and hopefully meet some dogs!

S and I drove to Newbury last Saturday, where we met Kayla, who took us on a tour of the facility and answered my questions.

The first stop was the rehoming area, where you can see some of the dogs who are looking for new homes. S was particularly amused by Lulu the lurcher, who was meticulously rearranging her bowls to get every last morsel of food that had dropped underneath!

Nothing happens from the front of the kennels, so the dogs don’t expect treats or interactions from there. It’s a chance for people to see the dogs, but the dogs have their own space too, because they’re behind the glass. They have differently coloured tiles in there, so they can choose whether they want to lie on something warm or cool, and the staff find out what kind of bed they like to lie on.

When a dog first comes to the centre, the staff spend some time getting to know the dog to find out about its personality, what it likes, what it needs in terms of training, and what kind of home they think will be most suitable. Then the dog’s details are released, and people can come to find out a bit more.

Some people know exactly what kind of dog they want, but it’s good to have an open mind because there may be a better match for you that’s a breed that you hadn’t even considered before.

As well as thinking about what kind of dog you would like, if you’re looking to give a dog a home, it’s also good to think about what you can offer. For example, do you have an active or a quiet home? Do you have other animals? We have a fairly quiet home with no other animals, which would be fine for an older dog who wants to chill, but less suitable for a puppy or a dog who prefers to have doggy pals around.

I would have happily taken one or two home with me, but we’re not looking to get a dog at the moment. Still, part of me is glad that there weren’t any retrievers there at the time of our visit, or I would have really struggled!

At the moment, there are 54 dogs either at the Newbury centre or in foster care. Some of the dogs don’t do as well in the kennel environment, so they go to live in homes with foster carers until a suitable “forever home” can be found.

What’s it like living at the centre?

As well as the kennels, there is some other accommodation for dogs who need things to be a bit quieter. They may still be great additions to a family, but they feel stressed out by all the coming and going in the main kennel block, or the presence of other dogs might be unsettling for them. So they get to live in a house where things are a bit quieter.

There is plenty of space outside for exercise. The dogs are taken for their walks, either individually or with their kennel mate. They can go in the garden, where we also went to meet some of the dogs, or there is a field that has agility and other training equipment that can be used by the trainers – either to teach something specific, or just to keep their brains and bodies active while they’re at the centre.

A vet nurse is based at the centre, and any minor treatments can be carried out at the centre in the vet room. This includes things such as drops for ear problems, or routine flea and worm treatments. All dogs are checked for any health problems when they arrive at the centre, and their health is monitored throughout their stay. If there is anything more serious, the dog is taken to the local vet. There is a special agreement for some dogs with manageable long-term health conditions, which means that the vet bills are covered by Dogs’ Trust in some cases where the cost of continuing the treatment might make it more difficult for the dog to find a home.

We also visited the grooming room, which was equipped with a height-adjustable grooming bench and a shower. I would love to spend time in there grooming some dogs! The dogs look so much better once all the tangles are gone and the loose hair is combed out. It can also be therapeutic for the dog, and a good way to get them used to being handled.

Meeting some furry friends

A trip to the dog centre wouldn’t be complete without me having some canine contact and we finished the visit by going out into the garden, where several dogs were brought out to meet us.

First came Digger the collie terrier cross and his spaniel friend. Digger was originally a dogs Trust dog, but he now lives with one of the staff and occasionally comes to work with her. Digger got his name because of his love for digging, although he is apparently good at jumping over walls too!

Then came Jimmy – whose full name is Jimmy Jim Jams. He’s an ex-racing greyhound. Once greyhounds can no longer make money in racing, their owners often have no use for them and they end up at rescue centres. Jimmy was a friendly boy and he is still looking for a home – so if you think you could offer him one, you can find further details on his page.

Jimmy needs a family that can teach him about being in a home and help him to socialise with other dogs. He loves tennis balls and learning for tasty treats!

Who’s looking for a home?

Here are some of the other dogs who are looking for homes in the Newbury centre:

Bubba the Boxer cross is looking for a quieter home, preferably with another dog. He is affectionate once you get to know him, but he will need a bit of help from calm and understanding owners who will help him to grow in confidence.

Mickey the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is five years old and loves people once he has had the chance to get to know them. He too would like a quiet, preferably adult-only home, with owners who will continue with his training and give him some reassurance as he settles in and gets to know his new surroundings.

Rakki the Saluki is a slightly younger dog at 15 months old. He loves playtime and has a cheeky personality. He’s still quite young, so he has more to learn and is looking for a home with owners who are willing to continue his training and socialising.

Mojo the crossbreed is for me the most tempting of them all. She is 10 years old and enjoys gentle games of fetch or pottering outside, but her favourite thing is cuddles. Often the older dogs get overlooked because people want to have a puppy or young dog, but the older dogs have a lot of love to give, and they’re just waiting for someone to give them a chance. They also often don’t need as much in the way of exercise or training as some of the younger, more boisterous dogs.

As you can see, the dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and all ages – and this is just a small selection from one of the regional centres.

This isn’t an exhaustive list though. Clicking on any of these pages will take you to the Dogs Trust site. If you click on the rehoming link, there is a form with filters that you can use to bring up a list of dogs and filter them by location, breed, age etc. Unless you’re willing to travel, it is good to look for dogs locally so that you can go and visit them. Some dogs will require multiple visits first so that you can get to know them. Also, some are living in foster homes, so if you want to meet a specific dog, it’s good to get in touch with the centre first so that the dog can be brought in if they are living off-site.

Could you give one of these lovely dogs a home? If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll try and get answers for you.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.

Body Shop – a mini of the gentle eye make-up remover. I already use this and have a full-size one, but it’s good to have the mini so you don’t need to take a massive one on short trips away.

Glossybox – a Karmameju konjac sponge that will be product 7 in the giveaway.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.
  3. Black eye liner pencil from the Body Shop
  4. An eye make-up brush from the Body Shop
  5. Real Techniques expert face brush

Products 8-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – looking after Dogs Trust dogs on Christmas Day

Today’s post is the next in my series of posts about charities, and today we’ve got an interview from a Dogs Trust volunteer who tells us what it’s like working at the rehoming centre with the dogs on Christmas Day.

Thanks to Aimee for answering my questions, and to Emily from the Dogs Trust for arranging the interview. Below is Aimee and sponsor dog Mike.

1. What’s a typical Christmas Day like at one of your centres?

Christmas Day at the rehoming centre is very much a typical day so the normal cleaning, feeding, exercising and training. It’s a normal day at work for us but we try to add extra bits to make some good festive fun for everyone at the centre, two and four legged!

We like to be as festive as we can be, so we wear Santa hats and Christmas jumpers to get in the spirit! In the morning it is business as usual, so we ensure all the kennels have been cleaned and the dogs have had their morning walks.

On Christmas morning we try and squeeze in lots of group walks so everyone can join in! Of course, we have some dogs who would prefer the quieter way of life, so for them it’s time for some focused one-to-one training. We make sure that all dogs have a little extra fuss as it’s Christmas! It’s also lovely for us to get a bit of additional time with the dogs as we’re not open to the public.

Next is Christmas lunch for all the staff which is always a team effort, prepared by everyone in the rehoming centre that day. And, it’s always delicious!

Our dogs get a special Christmas dinner too. A very generous local turkey farmer kindly donates turkey leg meat which we cook for the dogs. Our dogs are constantly monitored by our veterinary team, so everything is given in moderation, and we always make sure to get a bit of veg in there too!

2. Do the animals get presents or any special treats?

Our supporters are fantastic all year round with donations, but they are always extra generous at Christmas with treats and toys, which really helps the dogs feel extra special on the big day! Extra supplies come in handy after their lunch, so when we’re tucking into our dinner the dogs can savour a long-lasting chew!

Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross Mike, our Sponsor Dog gets very spoilt at Christmas with lots of gifts from his wonderful sponsors. He loves to open them all and is very generous, sharing them with his doggie friends at the rehoming centre. He gets sent all kinds of goodies from toys and treats, to blankets and coats from his generous sponsors all around the country

As we get to Christmas night and all the dogs are tucked up in bed, we go home to celebrate with our families as the next team arrive for more fun on Boxing Day!

3. How do you feel about working when other people are at home with their families?

When I applied for the job as a Canine Carer, it was a given that there would be times we would have to work during holidays. I don’t mind though, the dogs in our care and the team at the centre are all part of the Dogs Trust family, and that’s what Christmas is all about

It always surprises me how many people ask if we have Christmas off, but the dogs need our love and care every day. We are their home until they find their special someone, and it’s a joy to be able to be one of the people who provide them with everything they need until that happens.

I love dogs and my job, and spending time with them isn’t a chore! Working Christmas Day means we tend to get a second Christmas with our families. It’s a win/win situation when you get two Christmas days, right?

4. Do you have any stories about dogs at the centre that you have become fond of?

Where do I start? there are so many!

First there is Mike, the Sponsor Dog. This will be our fourth Christmas together and I love watching him open his presents – he is so funny to watch! He devours his Christmas dinner and always has room for more! Then he goes out for a walk with some of his walking buddies and we have a snuggle before he finishes the day with a long snooze. He is just a joy to be around at any time of the year, but he does get extra excited on Christmas day by all the treats.

Then there is Mr Branston Pickles, a gorgeous Crossbreed who will be spending this Christmas in his new home after being with us for two years. He is going to love being snuggled up by the fireplace, opening his presents in his new home. It’s what we work towards and makes the hard work worth it.

Over the Christmas period we often see an increase of dogs being handed over, or even abandoned. Last year, Dogs Trust had nearly 5,000 calls from people wanting to hand over their dogs in the month after Christmas – and sadly we think this will happen again.

Back on Christmas Eve in 2015, two strays found themselves with us, so we called them Twinkle and Santa. Twinkle was a nervous, small Lurcher and Santa was a friendly Shih-Tzu who became wonderful friends, and a favourite duo amongst the team!

Then, in 2016 we met Mary, Gabriella, Melchior, Balthazar, Angel and Casper, our Christmas puppies! They were Staffie cross Lurcher pups who were an unwanted accidental litter, so they came into the centre to be looked after until we could find them new homes. They brought us so much Christmas cheer, lots of mess and lots of cuddles!

And finally, there is Staffordshire Bull Terrier Peggy-Sue, my little Christmas cherub. She was a stray who arrived at the centre in June 2016. She quickly found herself a new home but sadly it wasn’t to be, so I started fostering her from late October that year. She spent her first Christmas with me, my partner, nan and grandad. We fell in love and adopted Peggy in October 2017, so she spent her second Christmas with us last year. I was working so she spent the day with my partner watching Christmas films and waiting for me to come home so we could open all our presents and eat our Christmas dinner together. This will be her third Christmas with us and we can’t wait!

5. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of buying a puppy as a Christmas present?

We would always ask anyone considering bringing a four-legged friend into their life to rehome a rescue dog. We have thousands of dogs of all shapes and sizes in our rehoming centres waiting to meet their special someone. We would never recommend buying a puppy from any online source, but instead to do your research thoroughly so you can be confident that the puppy you have your eye on has been bred responsibly.

We have a wealth of advice on our website to help people be confident that they are buying a puppy from a good breeder, instead of a seller who makes a living pedalling sick puppies who may have been illegally imported into this country.

We want people to realise that if an advert seems too good to be true, it probably is. And, when you visit a puppy you should expect the breeder to be as curious about you and the home you can provide, as you are about the puppy. If anyone ever feels rushed into making a purchase, they should walk away. It’s hard to do but it’s the right thing to do. If something doesn’t quite feel right, or anything about the situation feels dodgy – report them to Trading Standards.

6. How can members of the public help Dogs Trust at this time of year?


There are so many ways that people can get involved at Christmas. We are always super grateful for any donations, and each centre has lots of different volunteering opportunities, so it’s always best to check our website to see what is happening at your local rehoming centre! Dogs Trust also runs a big fostering scheme for dogs who struggle with kennel life, so if this is something that might be for you, we can give you lots of information!

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed getting a look behind the scenes at what it’s like at the centre and I hope you did too. Later this month I’ll be bringing you another post about when S and I visited one of the centres, but for now, if you want to know any more, the Dogs Trust website is a great place to start. There is a lot of information on there, whether you’re interesting in rehoming opportunities, volunteering, or making a donation. If you have any questions, you can also leave them in the comments and I’ll make sure they are passed on.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.

Body Shop – one of my firm favourites – anyone who’s been reading the blog for a while will know that I love mango products, and this mango hand cream is one of my favourites. So I’m really happy to have that in the calendar.

Glossybox – something else that is going in the giveaway box! It’s the Real Techniques expert face brush for foundation.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.
  3. Black eye liner pencil from the Body Shop
  4. An eye make-up brush from the Body Shop something will be coming later to go with that!
  5. Real Techniques expert face brush

Products 6-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – supporting the Donkey Sanctuary this December

I mentioned in my Blogmas is coming post that I would be talking about three charities throughout Blogmas, and the first one of these posts is today.

According to the Donkey sanctuary’s website, there are 50 million donkey around the world. The sanctuary works to improve the lives of donkeys worldwide, training vets, helping people to learn how to take better care of their donkeys, contributing to research, and also working to put an end to cruel treatment. The various sanctuaries around the UK also provide homes for the donkeys in their care.

I mentioned last time how you can adopt a donkey, but the adoption packs can also be given as Christmas presents to the animal-loving friend who would like to know that the money for their gift went to a good cause.

Alternatively, the donkey sanctuary has a range of gifts that can be bought either online, or from their shop in Sidmouth, Devon. I particularly like the donkey foal – one of the more expensive things on there, but there are gifts for all budgets, and things such as cards, bags, magnets, pictures, and sculptures.

For anyone who is in the Devon area and who wants to go along, there is a Carols by Candlelight service at the Sidmouth Centre on 14th December, from 3pm till 7pm. Entrance is free, and after some festive music in the yard, you’ll be able to go to the barn, where a 45-minute carol service will be held, surrounded by the donkeys! You may even hear them singing along! No booking necessary. Dogs on leads are welcome.

If you’d like to listen, but can’t be in the area, the sound on the barn webcam will be turned on – so listen out for those donkey brays if you decide to listen in! You can find out more about Carols by Candlelight here.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.

Body Shop – Lash Hero fibre extension mascara – I have never tried this. It’s a two-step mascara with a lash primer and then the mascara part with extension fibres. I’ll need to find some tactile way of marking which one you use first because by touch bot h ends feel the same unless you want to touch the wand, which I don’t! I have a couple open at the moment, but look forward to giving this a go once I’ve used up some of my others.

Glossybox – a Yankey candle in the scent berry trifle. I knew there was a candle in there, but I didn’t realise it was one of the little ones in a glass jar. This is a lovely addition to the calendar and will make the room smell festive (in general I think Christmas desserts smell better than they taste anyway!) So again, two good products today!

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

Today you have another chance to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be a box with 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas 2018 page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

Multiple entries on the same page will not be counted – I have a spreadsheet to log them!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

  1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.
  2. Spa of the World® French grapeseed body scrub from the Body Shop.

Products 3-10 coming soon!

Giveaway entry form

     
 

Terms and conditions

  1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
  2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
  3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
  4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
  5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas – I stroked a reindeer

It’s the first day of Blogmas!

Today I’d like to share with you a wonderful experience that I had a couple of weeks ago, on a day about as grim as today weatherwise!

S had seen an advert for the Berkshire Christmas Fair, so we decided to go along and maybe start some Christmas shopping.

Fortunately they had some big tents up, because it rained quite heavily. Snow would have been better to make it feel Christmassy, but we managed to stay dry.

My favourite part was my encounter with a reindeer. I think they were there for the children, but you know, adults love reindeer too, and I think for me it was extra special because I’ve only ever been able to touch models of them. When you do that and have never seen a real one, you don’t really get an idea of their size or proportions. So when I stroked that soft muzzle as he munched away on his carrot, it literally brought reindeer to life for me. He was perfectly happy to stand there and be stroked, though to be honest he was more interested in the carrot than his admirers!

There were two reindeer there so that one could have a rest and the experience wasn’t too intense for them. They could also go back away from the people if they wanted to.

I can’t tell you all that I bought because some of it was Christmas presents for people who will be reading this! In terms of things that we got for ourselves, I found a little pewter owl to sit in my office, and we stocked up on fudge (coffee fudge is amazing!), shortbread (white chocolate an lemon shortbread is amazing!) and I munched my way through a selection of sample cheeses before deciding on three favourites to buy.

I found that some home fragrance gives me a headache, but recently I’ve discovered that reed diffusers can work for me as long as they’re not too floral. I got a sweet nectarine and vanilla one from Nostara candles – they have arrange of candles and diffusers on their website including others like linen and gardenia, and bergamotte and black tea.

We also got some cider from Norcotts Cider who are based in Devon and only use locally sourced ingredients. Who knew that pink grapefruit cider was a thing? I didn’t – but took some away with me, along with pear and raspberry.

In the end, we had bags of shopping and tried to make a dash back to the car – as far as you can dash with one person on a crutch and trying extra hard not to go flat on their face in the mud!

This was followed by dinner and an afternoon in Reading, so all in all a fun day!

The Berkshire Christmas Fair was only on for one weekend, but there are other events planned for Cambridge, Staffordshire, and Essex – you can check out the full list here.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.

Body Shop – a 60ml shower gel in the new vanilla marshmallow range. This is one of the Christmas scents (2 out of the 3 are included in the calendar with the fox and fortunately for me, they are the two I like most!) It’s similar to the vanilla pumpkin range, but obviously with marshmallow instead of pumpkin. I’ve already been using a body lotion in this scent, and it’s good to start getting you in the Christmas spirit!

Glossybox – a deluxe sample of a Nars velvet lip glide. This was not my first Nars lip product, but it is my first liquid lip from them. If I’m shopping myself, I still tend to reach for the traditional bullets, but this liquid lipstick doesn’t seem to be one that will really dry out your lips, so I’m happy with that.

The calendars go up to day 25, but I’m only doing Blogmas for 24 days. Therefore I’ve opened door 25 for Glossybox, because the Huda Beauty Winter Solstice palette is the first prize to go in the giveaway box.

Unseen Beauty Blogmas Giveaway

You have 24 chances to enter my Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway. There will be 10 prizes from the Glossybox and Body Shop advent calendars, and the prizes will be revealed throughout December. You can enter once on each Blogmas page, which means you have up to 24 chances of winning. You can enter at any time from when the page goes live to the end of December 2018.

If you enter more than once on the same page, the entry will only be counted once. I have a spreadsheet for tracking the entries!

Your answers to the questions will help me to get to know my readers and where they are based. Also, they prove that you’re a real person as I don’t use inaccessible widgets on my site.

The giveaway is international, but if postal restrictions prevent me from sending a product to your country, I will replace it with an alternative.

The form only goes to me.

What’s in the box?

1. Huda Beauty Winter solstice palate Featuring one pearlescent creamy formula and three icy pressed pearl powders.

Giveaway entry form

Terms and conditions

1. The give-away is open until 23:59 on 31st December 2018, and I’ll draw the winner on 2nd January 2019.
2. I will give each entry a number and then draw the winner by asking Siri to generate a random number. I want to make it as easy and accessible as possible for people to enter.
3. Your email address is being collected solely for the purpose of contacting you if you win the prize. You are welcome to sign up to my newsletter at the same time, but this isn’t necessary to take part in the give-away. If you do not win the prize, your email address will only be stored if you have signed up to the newsletter or asked for your entry to be carried over to the next give-away.
4. I will email the winner on 2nd January to ask for their address so that I can send the prize. The winner will have 7 days in which to respond. If they haven’t responded after 7 days, I will draw a new winner.
5. No cash alternatives are available and the winner is responsible for checking product ingredients for any known allergens)

This post may contain affiliate links.

Dogs’ Trust campaign – stop puppy smuggling

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember Holly’s story, in which I told you about Holly the Labrador. She was rescued from a life of bearing litter after litter so that her puppies could be sold on to make her owner money.

This week I’d like to tell you about the new campaign by the Dogs’ Trust, which wants to put an end to puppy smuggling.

What’s the problem?

With a high demand for designer breeds such as French Bulldogs and Pugs, especially during the run-up to Christmas, there is a market for small puppies in the UK. So much so, that puppies are being brought in large numbers from Eastern and Central Europe, often in terrible conditions.
Continue reading “Dogs’ Trust campaign – stop puppy smuggling”

Meeting some owls from Hilltop Birds of Prey

Last weekend, S, his dad and I went to Manydown farm in Basingstoke because I’d heard that they were going to have some feathered visitors – owls from Hilltop Birds of Prey.

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that I’m interested in owls. Anyone who knows me in real life will know my owl handbag that comes everywhere with me. You may have also seen my post about the rare breed farm and owl centre.

Whilst owls are wild birds, as someone who can’t see them, I’m always interested in getting closer to those birds that are comfortable with it, so that I can find out what they look like.

The birds from Hilltop Birds of Prey have all been rescued from somewhere, so they have not been specifically bred or taken from the wild. They may have been bought for children by parents who didn’t do their homework first or realise that an owl is not a pet that needs no looking after. They might have come from a zoo. Each one has its own story and I’ve put the link to Hilltop Birds of Prey at the end of the article.

These birds live at Hilltop Farm with other rescued animals such as a couple of donkeys and a rescue dog.

Meeting the owls

The first owl that we met was Jackson, a tawny owl who was only a year old. This made him the youngest of the owls there, but he is fully grown. He is still getting used to people, and although he perched quietly when we met him, he wasn’t quite as chilled out as some of the others who, like a dog, would just relax and let you stroke them for ages!

Fun fact: Tawny owls have short wing spans, which makes it easier for them to hunt in woodland.

Next came Wispa, the Little Owl. She was a little owl, but that is also her owl type. At over 10 years of age, she was a mature lady, and was very comfortable being handled. She was very small, but then being a little owl, that’s not surprising.

Fun facts: little Owls are between 21-23 cm long, with a wing-span of 54.58 cm. They were introduced to the UK in the 19th century.

When Wispa went back, the next thing I heard was the flapping of some big wings! So I guessed the next owl we would meet would be larger.

And it was – it was Yorkie, the European Eagle Owl. She has powerful wings, but isn’t bothered much about flying. She knows her food will be provided, and she was happy just to sit there being admired!

Fun fact – the European Eagle Owl is the largest species of owl. They liv all over mainland Europe and there are a lot of them in Scandinavia. They are also breeding more in the UK now.

The final bird, whom we didn’t meet, but who was also there was Fox, the Peregrine Falcon, whose official name is fox’s Glacier mint. You may have noticed the confectionery theme of Wispa, Yorkie and Fox’s Mints!

There was no entry fee to see the owls, but you could make a donation to support the running of the centre and looking after the owls. Mike was happy to answer my questions about where the owls came from, what they ate, how they got along (very well seeing how close they were together), and where they lived (each in their own space).

Find out more about the owls

The owls are not usually at Manydown –they just came for a visit.

This is the link for the Hilltop Birds of Prey website, which is not open to the public. So if you want to go and visit, you need to sort out the details in advance.

The Manydown shop

While we were there, we also bought some things from the shop, including some diced beef for a stroganoff, some sage and onion sausages, and some lamb kebabs. All very good quality and reasonably priced. Oh, and caramel shortbread, which I can also recommend for a sugar hit! They have a good range of meats, ready-to-go snacks, sauces, chutneys, biscuits, cakes, tarts – and there’s a Facebook page for the farm shop too.

What is your favourite type of owl?

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My riding story – horse riding with a visual impairment

I wrote this post because of a request that I received in the comments. I was asked to talk a bit more about my experiences with horses and horse-riding as someone with a visual impairment, so here’s my horsy story.

How it all started

I knew that my teaching assistant, who helped in maths and science lessons, and prepared Braille materials for me, had horses. She used to tell me about them, and I was really excited when she invited me to the farm where they were kept to have my first ride.

The first ride on Silke was a stroll down by the canal and back again, but after that, I was hooked. It seemed like a whole other world and there was so much to learn! I set about learning as much as I could, with an intensity that must have driven my poor grandparents crazy. When I couldn’t be with horses, then I was reading about them, thinking about them, and telling anyone who would listen what I had recently discovered!

After that, I visited Silke several times, and also rode one of the other horses there, Rhumba, who was bigger and thought that cantering through the fields by the canal was a lot of fun. So did I! When Silke had her first foal, I was allowed to meet him after a couple of days. All fluffy and still discovering what his spindly legs were for.

I enjoyed our visits, but they lived quite far away, so we needed to find something closer if this was going to become a hobby.

Making horse-riding accessible

We were lucky that the riding stables close to us was so welcoming and helpful. I think I took this for granted at the time, but having been to other stables now, I know I lucked out!

Sometimes I had lessons as part of a group, and sometimes I had private lessons. One of the most important things was that the trainer didn’t just let things go – if my hands or legs weren’t in the right position, she would physically show me what I should be doing. If I was sitting like a sack of potatoes, I was called out on it. I got the additional help that I needed because of my visual impairment, but I was expected to work as hard as everyone else.

One of my favourite things was jumping. It helped that the horse I usually rode loved to jump, but this was good experience for when I rode other horses who weren’t so keen on it. The instructor described the jump, told me if I needed to do anything to correct my approach to it, then gave me a few seconds warning before it was time to jump! I loved it!

We made a tactile arena on a big piece of cardboard and stuck Braille letters on so that I could learn their positions. (Braille is a tactile system which blind people use to read). Once I’d memorised where the letters were, I could understand instructions about where I needed to go. We had a couple of people around the arena who called out the letters as I approached them, so I knew when to turn. If there weren’t enough people, the trainer got a lot of exercise, getting to the letters before I did so that she would be in place to call them out! I understand now that people use more high-tech solutions such as Bluetooth headsets with someone giving visual information.

My assistant teacher also found a 2d wooden horse, and we mounted it on another piece of card, then labelled all the parts of the body with pieces of string that connected the Braille label to the corresponding part of the horse.

My grandparents never shared my love of horses, but Granddad took me to and from the stables every Saturday, and Nan read aloud my pony magazines, often slowly so that I could copy out information that I wanted for my Braille horse folder.

I know that at least one of the people whom I used to ride with has gone on to become an international dressage rider. I stopped riding when I was at High School – other interests got in the way. With hindsight I should have stayed with the horses, but you’re always smarter when you’re looking back.

Competing

As well as the weekly lessons, the riding school held its own yearly competitions in which you could enter for events such as dressage and jumping. We spent time grooming, plaiting manes, getting saddles ready and waiting for the big day. I was with the other sighted girls, so I didn’t feel different. Most of us didn’t have our own horses, so we were split up into pairs.

Everyone wanted to ride Bridget, the horse that I usually rode. She was so popular, partly because she seemed to enjoy what we did – especially jumping. But partly because she was a really kind horse with a lovely nature. She would put her head on your shoulder after you’d finished grooming her, and sometimes it felt as though the horses made more sense to me than the other people my age!

Anyway, I wasn’t one of the people in team Bridget, but I was assigned Sam, whom I hadn’t ridden before. He didn’t enjoy tearing around as much as I did, and I’m not sure he ever saw the point of hurtling over jumps when you could do the smart thing and walk round them, but you knew that he wouldn’t get flustered in an arena with so many people around, and he was one of the most reliable horses there. He got the job done – and in doing so we won one 1st, two third, and 2 clear round rosettes! I was proud of him and our picture was on my grandparents’ wall for ages!

I don’t remember it being horribly competitive. Yes, everyone wanted to win, but for me it was more about improving my own skills and becoming a better rider.

Trip to Berlin

The photo at the top of this post was taken when I went to visit my friend Sarah in Berlin. We were doing a kind of language exchange and had each planned fun activities for the other when she came to visit.

One of the things that we did in Germany was a ride through the countryside around Berlin. We met the horses, Maja and Marietta, and were escorted out by their owner for an evening ride. The things I remember most about that day were riding through a field of sunflowers – my favourite flower – and the fact that Maja liked to be in the lead! Ok, I also quite enjoyed being in the lead. The others described the path that we were going to take, where the turns were, and whether there were any low-hanging branches to avoid.

I was really glad I got to do this because so many stables are overcautious when it comes to working with disabled riders and it was great to go and explore on horseback without any unnecessary concerns – or the dreaded lead rein. Oh yes, and galloping was cool too!

Since then

I tried a couple of other riding schools as an adult, but never found one that I wanted to go to regularly. It’s true that you don’t realise what you have – until you don’t have it any more. I went on a couple of nice rides with a friend who lived locally, but I never started riding again every week.

As a young teenager I may have tired of my instructor complaining about my seat or leg positions, but she held me to a high standard, as she did with everyone else. I get the feeling that some other schools are so used to people who get a lot out of just being carried around on a horse, and that’s a great thing for some people, but setting the bar really low for all disabled riders is a sure way to demotivate people, especially those who are eager to learn and improve. If you’ve ridden before, the last thing you want is a lead rein, and the only way you can add more insult to injury is to give the lead rein to a 10-year-old child – yes, that did happen once. It didn’t make me want to go back!

Putting disabled riders in the same group can work if they are at a similar level, but not if what they want from the lesson or what they are able to achieve independently is vastly different.

Where I live now, I haven’t really looked around to see what’s available. I have different hobbies now. But I always look back fondly to the time when every Saturday morning was spent at the stables, grooming horses, cleaning saddles, carrying around buckets of food and water, playing games that involved teaching the stable dogs new tricks, and waiting for my lesson to come around.

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