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.

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”

Blogmas day 4 – 12 days of Christmas for dog lovers

A new take on the well-known Christmas song and some ideas for what to buy your dog for Christmas.

Well, the tree is up and it’s beginning to look a lot more festive around here! Getting the singing snowman out made me think about Cindy, my golden retriever who is no longer with us. She didn’t like the singing snowman. I don’t think she understood why it moved and where the voice came from!

She was very much a part of Christmas and I thought I’d do a Blogmas post for our furry friends.

So, to the tune of that other well-known Christmas song:

On the 12th day of Christmas my doggy shared with me
12 wintry walks
11 bonios
10 bags of dogfood
9 canine cuddles
8 furry playmates
7 packs of poo bags
6 tongues a-licking
5 squeaky toys
4 muddy paws
3 dog leads
2 floppy ears
And a waggy tail to show she’s happy!

Here are some ideas if you’re looking for inspiration to treat your furry friend at Christmas.

First of all – dog treats! Some people make their own, but there are plenty of festive treats out there – either normal ones, or special ones for Christmas. The most important thing is to make sure it’s a treat suitable for dogs. Last year my Mum’s dog got these mince pies for dogs and this year I’m getting her some pigs in blankets. Mum, if you’re reading this, don’t tell M!

If you want to give your dog a stocking, why not make one yourself with some of the things that you know he or she loves?

If you don’t want to get treats, you could get a toy. There are all kinds available, from indestructible frame balls for super chewers to a squeaky reindeer. You know what kind of toys your dog likes. I could buy Cindy anything because she was gentle with her toys, but if your dog is a chewer, it’s better to get something more durable.

Cindy tolerated the reindeer antlers for the photos, but she wasn’t a fan, so I didn’t ask her to wear them for long. If you want your dog to look festive, you could get something like this reindeer collar or a personalised Santa’s little helper bandanna!

Maybe it’s a good opportunity to get something practical. When Cindy was getting older, I got her a bed with memory foam to give her better joint support. There are beds to suit all price ranges and sizes – here’s an example.

Also, as she was getting older, I got her a waterproof winter coat to keep out the cold and damp

Another thing you could do is pay for an activity that you can do together. What kind of things does your dog enjoy doing? Is there a skill that he/she could learn, or a class that you could do together?

Most of all, dogs don’t see gifts in the same way as us, so if you really want to do something good for him or her, take some time out of your busy schedule and go for a walk or have some sofa time with your dog. It’s easy to get carried away with all the preparations and often the best thing you can give is your time.

The other thing is not to let your dog have anything that would hurt him or her. There is so much food around at Christmas time, and some things like grapes, raisins, chocolate and alcohol are bad for dogs. Don’t let your friend spend the festive season feeling sick because they had access to human treats!

What will your dog be getting this Christmas?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

So, what was behind door 4 of your advent calendar if you had one today?

L’Occitane: I got a mini of the verbena body lotion, which is great because I like the bath soak from the same range. I’ve never tried a body lotion from this range, so I’m looking forward to that.

M&S: Gatineau Melatogenine Advanced Rejuvenating Cream. I was happy to see another skincare item. It said you can use it morning and night, but it’s quite a rich cream, so I think this will be my new night cream!

Question for the day

So today I’d like to know – do pets join in with your Christmas celebrations? Will they be getting a gift? If so, what is it?

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This post contains some affiliate links. I have not bought all of these specific products, but they are similar to things that I have bought in the past.

How you can help dogs and other animals around bonfire night

Firework litter

I had the idea for this post because of something that happened to me over 10 years ago.

I’d taken my dog Cindy the golden retriever to visit some friends in Somerset. We went for a walk together with their Labrador and we were having a good day. The dogs were chasing around and having fun, when suddenly Cindy picked up something that looked like a stick. She didn’t tend to scavenge on walks, but she was a retriever, and she liked to be carrying something in her snout.

We realised that the thing was not a stick but the remains of a firework. I told her to leave it, which she did, but the damage had already been done. There were still chemical traces on the piece of wood, and they burned her throat, making it hard for her to breathe.

Luckily my friends had a car (if this had happened at home I would have been in bigger trouble because I don’t drive), and we rushed her to the emergency vet, who treated her and gave her something for the pain.

In the end, everything was ok, but since then I can’t help thinking about all those bits of fireworks that come floating down to earth each 5th November. Nobody knows where they will land, and it would be easy for an animal to pick them up, especially if it’s an inquisitive dog.

So if you see things like this when you’re out walking, especially around or after 5th November, please pick them up and get rid of them safely, taking them out of harm’s way.

Hedgehogs

I follow a couple of nature pages on Facebook, and they always make the point about hedgehogs hiding in unlit bonfires, which provide a warm and safe place to hide away. If you build a bonfire a couple of days before you light it, please check inside first to make sure that no small creatures such as hedgehogs are hiding in there.

If your dog is scared

Fireworks can be scary for dogs because they don’t understand where the loud noise is coming from.

Cindy never paid them any attention, but I know people whose dogs get really stressed out at this time of year. Each dog is different, but here are some things that you can try:

  1. It’s hard because the fireworks can be let off any time in the weeks leading up to bonfire night, but try not to leave your dog on its own if you know it’s going to be frightened. If you know you’re going out, could the dog spend the evening with a friend?
  2. The dog will take its lead from you, so don’t give him/her the impression that it’s something to be stressed out about. Try to act normally as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening and your not being bothered might help to reassure your dog doo. If the dog thinks you’re worried, it communicates the message that there’s something to be worried about.
  3. However that doesn’t mean that you should ignore your dog if it’s looking for comfort from you. Show them some love and try to help focus their attention on something else.
  4. Put some music on – then the bangs aren’t as loud as they would be in a completely silent house.
  5. Sometimes if a dog is frightened, its first instinct is to run away. If you need to open the door, try to put another closed door between the dog and the front door so it can’t dash past you into the street and run away. Also make sure that your dog is microchipped as this is not only a legal requirement, but it will make it much easier for you to get them back if they do make a dash for it.
  6. If the dog doesn’t like the flashes of light, draw the curtains.
  7. You can try playing Youtube videos of fireworks if you think it would help your dog get used to the noises so it’s not such a big shock when the real fireworks start. This is good for helping puppies to discover that the noises are no cause for concern, but if the dog is already afraid of the sound, this might just make it worse.
  8. Make a safe place that your dog can retreat to if he/she feels scared. Sometimes dogs like to go under things such as tables because it makes them feel safe. You could also make sure their favourite toy is there, or something which smells of you and is familiar.
  9. You can reward calm behaviour with games or treats.
  10. If you think your dog will be anxious, try to feed and take them out before the fireworks start, as an anxious dog might not want to eat or go outside.
  11. Barking and whining are not the only signs of stress. Yawning and panting can also indicate that the dog doesn’t feel good, so don’t take your dog to a fireworks display if you think it will upset them. Seeing the cause of the noise doesn’t always make it better. If you’re at a display, you’re not in a controlled environment and there is nowhere to run.
  12. Going for a nice, long walk in the daytime can burn off excess energy, helping your dog to feel calmer when it comes to the evening
  13. In some cases, vets can provide some kind of sedative, or advise on homeopathic remedies, but I haven’t included further details here because that’s a discussion to have with individual vets.
  14. Some dogs find comfort in chewing, so this might be a good time for a safe chew to focus on. Other dogs might prefer to use their brains to get treats out of a puzzle toy.
  15. If your dog needs to go outside during the fireworks, going with them can help give support, so they can focus on you and not the scary noises outside.

Do you have any other tips to add? If so, please leave them in the comments.

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Holly’s story – from a puppy farm to a loving home

You can help dogs like holly by not contributing to the demand for puppy farm puppies.

From a puppy farm to a new forever home
You can help dogs like holly by not contributing to the demand for puppy farm puppies.

Something a bit different today, but anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know that dogs are close to my heart!

Meet my friend Holly! She’s an eight-year-old yellow Labrador and she lives with my partner’s grandparents.

I met her nearly two years ago one evening after work. S had suggested going to visit his grandparents. It was a bit unusual going after work, but it would be good to see them, and of course they had the dogs – a greyhound and a saluki, who had both come through a rescue organisation.

When we got there, I was ushered into the front room where, dozing on a duvet, was the newest addition to the family – Holly.

S’s grandma had seen Holly on a dog rehoming website and she knew immediately that she wanted to help.

Holly had been living on a farm in Ireland, where she was being used for breeding. In her six short years, she had already had several litters of puppies, and she was unlikely to have had a break between each litter. Her teats were swollen, she was terribly overweight, and she didn’t seem to understand the concept of going for a walk. This combined with the worn patches on her elbows suggested that she had spent a lot of time just lying on a hard floor throughout the cycle of mating, pregnancy, and giving birth to puppies. The puppies would be sold and then the cycle would start again. This is no life for a smart, young Labrador.

Fortunately for her, Holly was rescued from this life of puppy production and she was brought to her new forever home around two years ago. She now goes out for regular walks with the boys (Perry the Saluki and Gwyn the greyhound). She can’t run as fast as them, but she has lost several kilos already which makes it easier for her to move around. Like all Labradors, she loves her food, but her new diet is helping to bring her weight down to where it should be, and of course going for walks helps with that too.

Holly is a typical Labrador in that she likes to be patted. She is very calm, and I often sit on the floor stroking her when we go round to visit. She has perked up a lot in the time I’ve known her, and although people haven’t always treated her well, she likes people. When I first met her, she had her lovely, kind nature, but she seemed so tired. Not the kind of tiredness that goes when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, but weary because life had been tough for her, and somehow lacking enthusiasm.

Now she often trots out behind the boys to greet us at the door, and there’s nothing like a tasty treat to awaken Labrador enthusiasm!

Her legs aren’t strong enough to allow her to jump up into the car like the others, but she has learned how to use the ramp.

I’m so glad that she now has a life with a soft bed, the chance to have a good diet, people to give her hugs, and interesting places to explore.

Some months later, Holly was spayed, so there’s no risk that she will have to go through another pregnancy. She’s had enough of that to last a lifetime!

There are plenty of good reasons not to buy from a puppy farm (also known as puppy mills in the US). These are essentially irresponsible breeders who run factories for producing puppies with little concern for the puppies or the mothers. The dogs are often not well-cared for, there is little or no medical history, basic medical care and immunisations are not given, there is insufficient information about the parents (including any hereditary health problems), and the dogs are often taken away from their mother too early, which is bad for their social development. If you get a dog from somewhere like this, you could end up with a sick puppy, or one with behavioural issues. Temperament can be inherited, so if you’re not allowed to see the parents, or the mother has behavioural issues that go beyond the normal protectiveness towards her puppies, the puppies could have issues too.

Some people go to puppy farms because they don’t like the fact that good breeders and animal rescue organisations will want to vet potential new homes first, but if it were your puppy, wouldn’t you want to make sure that it was going to a good home?

I can understand why people who genuinely want to help would buy a puppy from a place like this and give it a better start in life, but even if you do help that one puppy, it’s contributing to the wider problem. As long as people think there is money to be made in this way, and as long as there is a demand for puppies, people will try to meet that demand. This means they need dogs like Holly to be mothers – again and again and again. In the UK, it’s illegal to breed from a bitch more than six times in her lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t do it.

So if you really want to help dogs like Holly, it would be better to go to a rescue organisation, or if not, a registered and responsible breeder, than to support the puppy farm trade.

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My friend Cindy – the golden guiding girl

Four paws, 10 happy years together, and a big, waggy tail. I’d like to tell you about my friend Cindy the golden retriever!

I’d like to tell you about my friend. She isn’t around any more, but you can see her picture on both of my websites. Many of my friends met her, but for anyone who hasn’t, this is the story of Cindy, my golden guiding girl.

If you asked me about my favourite dog breed, I’d tell you it’s the golden retriever. This is because I spent 9 happy years with one – firstly as my guide dog, and then as a friend and companion because she stayed with me when she was too old to work.

Cindy was not my first guide dog. The first one was a crazy Labrador who had some behavioural issues and after a year it was decided that she was not suitable to guide. She retired early and became a family pet. I knew I could make it work with a guide dog. I saw how much happiness and freedom they brought to other visually impaired friends. I have loved dogs since I was a small child. We always had them when I was growing up because my grandparents loved dogs as well.

When I was 4, we got a new dog, who was also called Cindy. I grew up with her, and she was my childhood friend. When I was 5, I thought she was smart enough to learn to read. “Wag your tail if this word says cat”! That didn’t work out so well, but she was a smart girl and we had a lot of fun together, in our garden, on holiday, on walks, or just chilling out. The first Cindy died when I was 15.

Cindy the retriever bounced into my life when I was in my early twenties. You don’t get to choose the name of a guide dog, so it felt quite special that this girl shared her name with my childhood friend. Each litter of puppies is given names beginning with the same letter – so all of Cindy’s brothers and sisters had names beginning with C.

We trained out of a hotel in Greenwich, London, which meant that we were close to a nice big park for walks after the training sessions.

During the next years, we did everything together! Cindy sat under my desk in my various offices, helped me to negotiate two of my least favourite obstacles on London streets – roadworks, because they are never in the same place twice and completely change the landscape that was otherwise so familiar to us, and tourists, because many of them are so intent on taking their pictures and completely oblivious to the fact that there are other people on the streets who might actually need to get somewhere, such as to work!

I had a lot of dog-loving friends, many of whom worked long hours, so they couldn’t have a dog of their own. We all went for long walks together, mostly in the Surrey countryside, and sometimes we went for long weekends to visit a friend on the Isle of Wight, where the golden girl could swim in the sea.

This is something I wrote on her 4th birthday and it sums up a lot of the happy memories we had together:

Four years – where have they gone?

The golden wagging bundle of fun
Who bounded in to my house one day in November In preparation for our December class.

Something about you got my attention
Your love for life and sense of fun
Your ability to keep calm and wag whatever happens.
I loved the golden puppy girl straight away!

I’d been so disappointed with a failed match
Willing to put my trust in a new guide But feeling under ridiculous pressure to make it work.
Pressure of my own making – but still it was there.

Class was fun in the training centre.
We learned together.

A few months in, you were naughty
Not wanting to walk past the vets
Because you’d been in there for ear treatment.
Not wanting to go home
If you didn’t think our walk had been long enough!

But somehow along the way things fell in to place And we became a team, and good friends.
I think we’d always been friends
But were just getting to know each other.
You learned I don’t like mornings
I learned you love to run and chase after sticks And bark at them if they are too big!
You love to sing and do headstands when you’re happy
And can pick up if I’m annoyed or upset,
Coming over to make sure I’m ok,
Laying your head on my lap And not leaving till you’ve made me smile.

So many happy memories
Chasing in the park after your ball
Diving in to the forbidden muddy pond
When we were supposed to be going out for lunch.

I was so proud when we did our first walks together
And you remembered the places we’d been before.
You soon got the name Singing Cindy
Because of your happy songs!

We explored our new area together
When we moved house, under a year after we met.
Would you find our door again? Would we get lost?
Only once did you try to have me break in to another house with my key
But that was months in to our time there and I wasn’t paying attention!

The time when you were so ill after eating a firework
I was so worried because you couldn’t breathe.
Rushing you to the vets to get you cared for.

Then moving jobs to a brand new office and company
You looking out for men as you always do Unaware of their place on the talent scale!

How many secrets do you know about me?
It’s a good thing you can’t talk!!

I was so proud as you took in each new place with ease
Learning routes and following other dogs without going crazy!

It’s fun to see you out on walks
Loving the feeling of freedom
Running like a crazy horse
And carrying logs twice your size!
Rolling in the dry grass
And telling off any log which is too big for you to carry!

With you I can stroll around town confidently!
Not feeling clumsy or dependent,
But travelling quickly and freely because I know you’re looking out for things in our way.

The time that the knife-wielding men fled at the sight of you
After trying to terrorise the train carriage.
Meanwhile you were sleeping – oblivious to the whole thing!
The time we accidentally got on the TV news,
Because I thought the live reporters outside our building were a bunch of tourists
And urged you forward so we could go inside!

How many people say how beautiful you are
And want to stroke that golden head!
Sometimes it’s annoying
But I’m proud to know you’re so stunning

Sometimes people try to deny you access
And that makes me really angry.
I’ll take on the argument, and usually win
But how embarrassing and degrading is that?
We just want to have a meal or a drink with friends in peace
And don’t always have the energy to make people aware of the law.

We’ve done so much together!
The long trips we’ve taken
The new people we’ve met.
Apart from your tendency to want to be everyone’s best friend
I know I can take you anywhere And that you will behave impeccably.

And the Cindy hugs,
When you jump up on your back legs And give me a hug.

And the times when it’s all got too much
And you let me cry in to that silky fur!
Staying with me, no words necessary!

I asked for a speedy dog, and I got one
Happy to trot along when I’m late
Quickly but carefully!
Trying to stop at the taxi rank
To see if I’ll pay for a ride home
And in doing so give you the evening off!

We’ve had so much fun over the last four years
And I look forward to the next years together with you My golden guiding girl.

Well, We had more than four more years together after that. As Cindy grew older, she had a number of health issues and we later discovered it was pancreatitis. This meant various types of medication before and with her food, and that I had to be so careful that she didn’t get anything other than the special prescribed diet. Otherwise she could get very sick.

This became easier when I changed my job and set up my own business. No more 3 hour commutes into London! That was wonderful and although we’d both had good times with our colleagues in London, in the end we were glad not to have to travel any more.

I was so relieved when I got permission to keep Cindy when she retired. This doesn’t happen automatically and if you can’t find an approved home for your guide dog, the Guide Dogs Association will rehome your dog, but the new owners are not obliged to stay in touch with the original guide dog owner. After we’d been through so much together, I could not imagine anyone else looking after her but me. After all, we’d worked together as a team for so many years. She’d looked out for me, and I wanted to do the same for her in her old age.

It all worked out well in the end. I worked from home, and Cindy stayed with me. At first I thought about applying for a new guide dog straight away, but then I moved house again and decided that I didn’t want to put Cindy through the stress of having a young dog bouncing around.

When Cindy was 11, she developed a tumour. At first nothing happened, but then it began to spread quickly. I had to make the hardest decision that any animal owner has to make, but I didn’t want her to suffer, or to keep her alive just because I couldn’t bear to say goodbye. The vet came to our house to make it less traumatic and Cindy fell asleep for the last time in my arms.

I don’t plan to get another guide dog at the moment and this is not the place to ask about that. This post is to celebrate my friendship with a wonderful golden retriever who brought so much happiness to my life. She wasn’t perfect – anyone who has lived with a golden retriever knows just how stubborn they can be – but I certainly wasn’t perfect either, and that’s what makes a friendship real.

If you’ve written a post about your dog, please drop the link in the comments. I would love to read it!

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