Category Archives: Dog relationships

Dog Squad Blog – Lord Banjo The Royal Pooch

Kathy Manos Penn is a corporate retiree—or escapee—who taught English before embarking on her 32-year corporate career. There,  it seemed she was always the go-to person for writing speeches, presentations, blogs, you name it, no matter her actual job. Says Kathy, “Finally, in my last ten years, I landed in a job with the word ‘communications’ in the title.” 

On a whim, she submitted an article to a local paper and wound up with a side job as a columnist. And then . . . her dog started writing. 

This week, Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch shares the story of how he came to be a dog author, with just a little bit of help from his mum. 

 Craigslist PostFlat-coated retriever needs a new home NOW. Home in foreclosure. Must go today or go to ANIMAL SHELTER tomorrow–Saturday.

And so begins my story.  I was the two-year-old dog in dire straits.  What were the chances someone would see a Friday afternoon post and respond in time to save me from a trip to the shelter the next morning?  Even if some caring person responded, would they want me once they discovered I was an 80-lb two-year-old black dog?

Eighty pounds? Strike one.  Black? Strike two.  It’s common knowledge we black dogs are the ones who get left behind at the shelter because so many folks are scared of black dogs, especially big, black dogs.  Only two years old?  Strike three for those who envision chewed shoes and furniture and rambunctious behavior. 

By now, everyone knows that I’m not a flat-coated retriever and that I went to a good home, not a shelter. Lucky for me, my mum was checking Craigslist nonstop in search of a companion pup for Tinker, who really was a flat-coated retriever mix.  Me? I look a bit like one with my wavy black fur, but I’m a Royal Pooch—a celebrity Royal Pooch.


I didn’t set out to become a celebrity, but that’s what happened.  My mum surprised my dad one Christmas by giving me a DNA test. Though my shiny, fluffy fur is black, my DNA results revealed that one of my great-grandfathers was a Great Pyrenees—a descendant of the majestic white dogs who were once the Royal Dogs of France.  I was sure our family and friends would be thrilled to learn I had royal blood and would want to hear all about my royal life, so I asked Mum to help me share the news in a book.

Puddin’, my feline sister, likes to say she helped me tell my story because she offered encouragement as Mum and I worked.  If you consider reclining on the desk or curling up in the file drawer as encouragement, you may agree with the little thing. 

Still,‘twas I, the Royal Pooch, who did the lion’s . . . I mean dog’s . . . share of the work.  Day after day, I could be found lying beneath Mum’s desk dictating my tale, and what a tale it was. 

 I thought my story was enchanting with a saved in the nick of time beginning and a happy ending.

  • Dog is rescued by loving family
  • Dog discovers he’s descended from royalty
  • Dog writes book
  • Dog resumes quiet life with Mum, Dad, and the cat.

But it turns out there’s more, much more.  My story didn’t end with me returning to my previously quiet life as I thought it would.  

That’s the first draft of the opening for my next book. What do you think?

Mum and I have a grand time doing book signings and meeting all kinds of folks, who admire my royal purple robe and love giving me belly rubs.  We discovered that dog lovers of all ages enjoy my sense of humor, so adults read my book and middle schoolers read my book and plenty of people laugh at my antics. 

I find it odd that my book is considered to be fiction. I mean, it’s all absolutely true.  Really! Every bit of it happened to moi.  Mum says most adults have a hard time believingthat I, a dog, wrote a book!  She tried to explain that for grownups to think of my book as nonfiction, they must have a “willing suspension of disbelief,” whatever that means.  I think that may be something she heard ages ago when she was in school.

Nonetheless, I didwrite a book, and I’m almost finished with my second one. I’m such a generous and gracious guy that I’m allowing the cat, Princess Puddin’, to have her own chapter this time.  She’s a beauty of a calico cat and quite intelligent. She told me in no uncertain terms, “If you think you can call yourself Lord Banjo just because some silly French King back in the day declared Great Pyrenees to be Royal, then you can call me Princess! So there.”

I think she has diva tendencies, but I love her in spite of her tiny tantrums. Until our next book comes out—see, I even said our book—you may want to visit Mum’s blog  https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com/to read stories from the Princess and the Pooch.  Yes, Mum writes blogs about books and things, but we all know that it’s we four-legged writers who are the most interesting.

These days, both Lord Banjo and the Princess write columns for a local paper, and their mum graciously posts them on her blog at https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com/. You can sign up to receive their posts via email, and you can contact the whole family at inkpenn119@gmail.com. They love to hear from readers. Click here http://mybook.to/ViewbookonAmazonto find Book one, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” on Amazon  

mybook.to/ViewbookonAmazon

back cover 7-13 (002).jpg

Dog Squad Blog – The Neighbour Pack

This week my friend Michelle Neighbour tells us about her love of animals and the ever expanding Neighbour pack.

As a massive animal lover I’d lost my beloved dog Holly in 2006 when she was twelve. In 2010 Holly’s beloved sister Sammie died at the grand old age of sixteen. I swore never to have another pet. I’d had the dogs before having children and thought it was unfair to have pets when I had young children to look after. 

That plan didn’t last long. 

Whilst based in Germany my children and I decided to get a kitten, so in 2012 Luna became part of the family. We picked this name as we were Harry Potter fans and one of the characters was quiet and subdued, much like this lovely kitten. 

However, we discovered that Luna wasn’t a kitten, she was the mum. I went to view the kittens and took pity on Luna as at eleven months old she’d had her first set of kittens. I took mum and kittens that day… the owners weren’t bothered about poor Luna. I had Trixie and a friend took her sister Lily. Trixie was so called as she had a bit of a devilish streak in her… much like the character Bellatrix Lestrange in, yes you’ve guessed it, Harry Potter. 

I left the army in December 2013 and moved back to the UK, to West London. 

I know this is a dog squad blog, so I’m getting to the dogs.

In 2015 I couldn’t stand it any longer. I wanted a dog and l wanted one now. So one weekend, on a whim, I drove up to Bolton and whilst stuck in the infamous M6 traffic jam, scrolled through Facebook and found him… By Sunday, Blue the Chorkie (Chihuahua/Yorkshire Terrier Cross) had joined the family, so called as he had a blue eye. 

After a week or two, maybe a bit longer, I felt bad that Blue was alone during the day. I spoke to the family of Blue’s mum and dad and found out that Blue’s brother had been returned to them. It was fate. That weekend I drove up north again.

When trying to choose a name for the newest member of the pack my daughter decided that he looked like a chocolate chip cookie, and so Chip was named.

Chip

Our pack was now complete. Two dogs and two cats… yeah right. 

In 2017 I was scrolling through Facebook (damn social media) and saw that a family had a puppy and that their other dog was being horrible to it. I drove straight over and picked up the cute little bundle who they’d named Bobby. 

I’ve heard it’s bad luck to change an animal’s name but didn’t really want a dog that sounded like it was named after an uncle. So, in line with our love of Harry Potter and the fact it sounded similar, Dobby, a Jack Russell Terrier, became part of The Neighbour Pack. 

So that’s it. Our pack is complete, and we’re definitely stopping there. Well, at least for now. 

The Neighbour Dogs

Michelle completed the London Marathon last month and raised money for an animal sanctuary. If you’re feeling generous, there’s still time to donate and here’s the link. https://www.everyclick.com/hillsideanimalsanctuary-mneighbour?fbclid=IwAR2Owp0ysi-2yqBTPt-V8Nwv7YNX7zvdI91GUXXv34ZS2PnmYH8MvnIYNZQ

Dog Squad Blog – Boydog and Lollopy

This week’s post is from Boydog’s point of view. His people parents (Tania and Simon) live down the road from us in Cyprus. Tania is currently fulfilling a longterm goal of hers by providing delicious and nutritious meals to the local community, via her catering company, Mish Mash. She also teaches cookery when time allows. So without further ado, over to Boydog.

Boydog

Let me introduce myself. My name is Boydog. I know you want to laugh, everyone does, but Mummy and Daddy told me that I am a dog and a boy so it seemed pretty obvious at the time. I put it down to a lack of imagination if the truth be told but I don’t hold it against them because for a few years after they rescued me, I was the happiest Boydog in the world. Then along came Lollopy. 

How cute am I?

Now I’m not saying it’s all bad but things did change for the worse. My dinner time definitely got worse. I’m not a greedy dog and sometimes I’d like to have a nibble then a wander and pop back later for a little bit more. Not any more I can’t, not since Lollopy came along. If I don’t gobble down every last morsel at the precise moment the kibble is poured in my dish, the second I take two steps in any direction, a huge nose dives into my bowl and devours every last crumb. This has certainly added a few kilos to my ever expanding figure as I now have to empty the bowl whether I am hungry or not! 

Walk time has definitely got worse. I always recognised the signs that a walk was coming up. Daddy (or at the weekend Mummy and Daddy) would put on their ‘special’ shoes and gather up my harness and lead. I would give the odd “woof” which I wouldn’t call bothersome to anyone, then off we’d go. Not any more! not since Lollopy came along! The ‘special’ shoes are recognised before they are even on feet and the fun begins. The frantic charging around the garden, barking at several hundred decibels and the yells from Daddy and Mummy to cease that awful noise almost makes me rather have a quick poop behind the tree in the garden. 

And we’re off!

Once out in the street, I used to enjoy a calm leisurely trot, sniffing all the wonderful aromas and then thoughtfully masking them with my own. I was forgiven if the dreaded black cat crossed my path as it was in my nature to protect my Mummy and Daddy from such a peril. Not any more! not since Lollopy came along! Lollopy seems to think it’s a race and tries to cover as many miles in the shortest space of time possible. Mummy complains that her shoulder will be pulled out of its socket. Daddy complains a bit but I’ve heard him whisper “black cat” close to her ear just to wind up Mummy even more. 

Family mealtimes used to be such a treat. I had managed the art of begging so Mummy and Daddy thought I was just laying innocently under the table but managed to sneak the odd morsel which Daddy fed me without Mummy seeing. Not any more he can’t! not since Lollopy came along!

Lollopy feeding

Lollopy is so tall that she can almost put her nose on the table and eat off Daddy’s plate much to Mummy’s disgust. Obviously Daddy doesn’t let her so she has to sit further back than I used to, which means Mummy always notices when Daddy sneaks us the odd morsel and all three of us get shouted at. There used to be the odd plate to finish off but now the plates are scraped and rushed into the dishwasher before Lollopy gives everything a pre-wash. 

And then we come to bedtime, the worst change of all. I had my own lovely little corner at the bottom of the bed. Occasionally, I would find myself trapped by feet as Mummy or Daddy stretched out, but generally I had a peaceful and comfortable night. Not any more I don’t, not since Lollopy came along! Lollopy takes up the whole bed. Mummy wakes up having a panic attack because she’s dreaming she’s trapped in a strait jacket, having woken up unable to move a single muscle. Mummy moans at Daddy about this massive lolloping dog sleeping in the middle of the bed and I have resorted to sleeping in my own bed on the floor – not my idea of a comfortable night. 

I don’t always sleep on the floor!

The worse time of my life was when Mummy and Daddy would bring down their big bags and carefully fill them with as many clothes as they could squeeze in. I would always try to sneak in but they would look at me with their sad actor’s eyes and tell me that, although they love me dearly, I couldn’t go with them. They would drive off with mock tears in their eyes and I would be on my own for a hundred years at least. A strange lady would come and give me food and a quick hug. I might get the odd walk but it wasn’t like a daddy walk. Day became night and night became day over and over. I felt sad and forgotten. Not any more I don’t, not since Lollopy came along! Now I have a friend. When the sad eyes say their goodbyes, Lollopy and I perform our best acting skills to make them feel mega guilty but then…….. we have a ball! Lollopy chews up all the cushions and I dig up the stones. Lollopy eats all the plants and I chase the cats. We both go mental when the postman or dustmen come. This is our home, this is our family and we are in it together…. forever.

Any chance of some treats, Mum?

Dog Squad Blog – Border Collie Skai

This week’s post is from Craig Gowans. We served together in the Army in Germany and I worked and socialised with Anji Gowans who is great fun (and also barking mad!) Craig gave me loads of information and anecdotes regarding his time as a Royal Military Policeman, which helped shape the first book in my ‘Unlikely Soldiers’ series. http://smarturl.it/m202d6

Here’s the story of the Gowans family K9 pal, Skai.

Skai is a Border Collie originally from Holland.  Her Dad is actually a Dutch National sheep dog champion, which is pretty cool!  We got her in January 2007 and so she is now 12 years old, although you wouldn’t think it!

Border Collies are famous for their herding abilities and working with farmers and shepherds to herd sheep and goats all over the world. Watching them work is really impressive as they operate on commands using whistles.  But why whistles?  Well it’s simple, a whistle carries over much further distance that voice.  So when they are working across large distances and in bad weather, they can still understand exactly what the shepherd wants them to do.  

Having Skai as a member of our family has been and continues to be tremendously rewarding; her love is undivided and she is always there whenever we need her for a hug, or just to talk to.  Sometimes she even helps our youngest daughter with her university work! 
Skai is a people person, but sometimes can get a little close to your feet if you are in the kitchen (so my wife says!) 

Skai has a myriad of facial expressions, like a human I suppose, some of them do make us laugh.  Whether it’s serious herding mode, elegant and beautiful mode or just ‘what are you doing Skai?’ mode, you can almost tell what she is thinking by the way she looks. And if you are lucky she will give you a squinty look, which we all now means ‘I love you’.   

Skai loves to herd, she just cannot help herself and I genuinely think it is all that matters to her from waking up, to going to sleep! Being from working stock it is literally part of her DNA where she has an unbelievable urge to watch and herd the cats!  She follows our 3 cats and literally every single waking minute of every hour of every day she stares at them!  Just waiting for them to move.  When they do, off she goes ‘Come by to the left, away to the right’ lol it really is non-stop.  The cats will go round the coffee table and Skai will go the other way to herd them, when she gets there she just stops and stares.  Poor cats think this is normal as she has always done it.

The cats are used to her, but for visitors who don’t know Skai, they find it funny.  But to Skai, it’s not funny, it’s serious, she’s working! 

Skai loves to go for her walkies and is very obedient off the lead and listens to verbal commands and whistles.  We have the ‘Wrekin’ hill near us and she loves to go up there for a walk with us, always good for photos too, all the smells and long grass and heather are just what
she likes.

Skai has seen all of our four children grow to adults and met their children too!  She is a true part of the family who brings us all happiness and lots of love.  She has been with us since we lived in Germany with the Army and moved to five different homes in total.  Skai is getting into her twilight years, but there is literally no stopping her.  She is really healthy and just won’t slow down (It is the Collie way!).   

I hope you enjoyed reading about Skai, she really is quite special to us.  I will leave you with my favourite picture of her at the top of the Wrekin, if you look closely you will see those ‘Squinty eyes’ I mentioned earlier.  

What a beautiful dog and a lovely story. Thanks Craig.

Dog Squad Blog – Elementary My Dear Watson

Jean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two big scruffy dogs, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is mother or stepmother to five children and despite having had such a hectic life so far, Jean is a successful author, photographer, dog trainer and beekeeper. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

Jean shares Sherlock’s story in this week’s post.

Every morning Sherlock does a little happy dance when he sees me or my husband, John. His partner in crime, Watson, raises one ear and demands a tummy tickle. Watson is not a morning person. The detectives enjoy breakfast and a walk in the woods, followed by bodyguard duties, during which they watch over me. Their previous lives were not so idyllic.

Sherlock with Watson

Five years ago, Sherlock was named Rudi by the animal shelter that took him in, here in northern Provence. He’s a Gascogny Blue Griffon, a scent hound, and if you look up the breed, you’ll see that all the owners are men with guns. They’re so prized as hunting dogs that I get asked whether I’m hunting, when I take him for a walk. Little female me, no gun – they only see the dog!

If you know dogs, and people’s habits with them, you can work out much of a shelter dog’s story from his behaviour. Rudi was undoubtedly dumped by a hunter, to be replaced by a younger dog, better suited to hunting. He’d been in the shelter six months and was unlikely to leave alive because he was too big, too old, male, too black – all unpopular characteristics – and received wisdom says that hunting dogs make bad pets because they are semi-wild and run away all the time. 

Luckily for Rudi, we wanted a big, beautiful (any colour), older male dog who could cope with our feisty female Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Blanche. I’ve worked with a top dog trainer, Michel Hasbrouck, so am confident that I can cope with dog problems but I don’t seek extra ones. When I adopt a dog with a past, I use my head, then give my heart. A forever home is just that. I hate shelters and Rudi’s was one of the worst. 

Blanche and Sherlock

When we met him, Rudi flinched when touched but showed no aggression. He ran away when called, typical of a dog who’s punished for previous disobedience when he does come to his human. He’d known only beatings. He was very chilled with Blanche when they were let off lead together in the enclosed wasteground that passed for an exercise yard at the shelter. And he looked me in the eyes, sad, passive and stubborn. I don’t expect love at first sight and didn’t get it but I knew I could create a bond. I’ve done it before.

When we went back to get him, I went to the pen and my heart broke. Rudi was lying beside a huge pile of restaurant waste in a dog-bowl and he’d given up. He saw me and gave just one bark. He knew I’d come back for him and he was up for it. 

So we now had a hunting-dog, who’d almost certainly never been in a house before. He was petrified at coming up the steps and through the front door. But he wanted to be with me so in he came. He lay down – great! Then John turned on the TV and Sherlock bolted out the door as if monsters were after him, which of course they were.

After two days of quiet television, Sherlock relaxed enough to watch the football and now one of his favourite places is in front of the TV. Blanche was a huge help in showing her new friend the ropes and of course jumped on him occasionally – that was her leadership style. He suffered terrible nightmares for months and on one occasion, Blanche and I both rushed to find him because of the terrible noises. He was asleep. Blanche and I looked at each other, shrugged and left him to it.

Step by step, Sherlock became the dog he’s always wanted to be. He comes when he’s called, after thinking about it. He takes treats. Like most hunting-dogs he’d probably been trained to refuse food by hand. He loves being stroked and, when the grandchildren visited, he ran up and down the garden with them, so gentle. When he found his voice, even Blanche was impressed. He has the deep bay of a hound, not at all suitable for suburbia but, luckily, we are on the border of a French village, with a huge garden and good neighbours.

He has grown more confident but still has fears. One of our training successes was with regard to his fear of sharp noises that sounded like gunshot. We think that’s probably why he was abandoned – a traumatic incident out hunting that left him too scared to work. He had an extreme reaction to us popping the cork on the local sparkling wine, Clairette. So, purely for the dog’s sake, we did this most days until he grew used to the sound. Now, we can pop away without him even lifting his head.

I doubt that he ever had a bed. He now uses all of those available, as the mood takes him, and he also turns two rugs into dens. He is the sweetest and most civilised dog I’ve ever known, with no desire to escape whatsoever. He used to be petrified at the sight or sound of hunters. Now, he ignores them. That life was a long time ago and more than his name has changed. When we lost Blanche and adopted Watson, it was Sherlock’s turn to show the ropes to the new dog. And he did. To show his advanced level of house-training, Sherlock even taught Watson his favourite domestic activity: hoovering – or rather Dysoning. And the video is here to prove it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Q4xPrKLO4&t=  

Watson looks sweet, doesn’t he? He is! But he was abandoned twice and spent most of 2017 in a shelter – a story for another day.

Great story, thanks Jean. If you would like read more of Jean’s true stories about dogs, you’ll find them in ‘One Sixth of a Gill’ (available free to members of her Special Readers’ Group http://eepurl.com/AGvy5) and in ‘Someone To Look Up To’. http://books2read.com/someone , on offer at $0.99/ £0.99.

Top Pick Award from Litpick Student Reviews. By IPPY and Global Ebook Award Winning author.
‘Jean Gill has captured the innermost thoughts of this magnificent animal.’
 Les Ingham, Pyr 

Jean’s publications are varied, including poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. My favourites are ‘Someone to Look Up To’ and the Troubadours series.

Book 1 of the multi-award-winning Historical Fiction series The Troubadours Quartet ‘Believable, page-turning and memorable.’ Lela Michael, S.P. Review 

If you want to know more, sign up for Jean’s newsletter at http://eepurl.com/AGvy5 for updates and a free book. If you review one of Jean’s books you can add a dog to Jean’s Readers Dogs Hall of Fame on her website. Contact Jean at jean.gill@wanadoo.fr with comments or questions. She loves to hear from readers.

Dog Squad Blog – Soldier Dogs and their Handler

We go back to the seventies for today’s blog from my friend Andy who grew up in Llanbradach. After leaving school and working in a factory making helmets he decided he wanted out. With limited choices, Andy decided to join the British Army.

Here’s what happened. 

Following basic training, I became an Airborne Supply Specialist, which involved pushing whatever it was out of Hercules planes with 16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company, RAOC. But my error was to apply for as many courses as I could, from Medic, to Jungle and Arctic Warfare. The course I coveted most was that of Dog Handler, which I knew would help overcome my fear of German Shepherds. When my application was approved, I was packed off to Melton Mowbray to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps where they trained both animals and squaddies.

The course was brilliant and I passed with flying colours. Unfortunately, I hadn’t looked at the small print when applying but now discovered: after passing the course you will be sent on attachment to the Army Dog Unit Northern Ireland for two years. It was the height of the so-called troubles and even when regiments went to some parts of Northern Ireland, it was only for six months. I wondered how I was going to survive six months let alone two years. But this was a unique unit as everyone was a volunteer and the unit has been served by every Regiment and Corps.

During my first six months, I learned so many things from my fellow members and the dog I was given. Guard Dog Sand was a cross between a Rhodesian Ridgeback and Labrador. We became a real team, patrolling HMP Maze, HMP Magilligan and on point on patrols in Co Londonderry and Co Armagh and also during riots.

At the end of two years I was promoted to lance corporal and asked if I would like to extend for a further two years. I agreed without a second thought and was sent to the Maze Prison to take charge of C Section of 20 dogs and handlers.  

There were a few dogs who had reputations – Dixon, Jebel, Prince and a 108 pounds of a black German Shepherd named Sebastian. The history with this dog soldier was a horror story. He was sent to the Hong Kong police as a gift from the British Army. When taken out of his sky kennel he immediately attacked six police officers and was sent back to Melton Mowbray and then onto the Maze. He had chewed a Scot’s Guard handler, his next handler took four weeks to enter his kennel, and the same for the next. The following handler failed and the decision was made to destroy Sebastian. I found this too much and voiced my opinion and the reply came back from my Sergeant: 

‘Thanks for volunteering Max!’

This frightened me more than going out on patrol but I took two weeks leave and stayed outside Sebastian’s kennel reading newspapers and books, talking, or doing anything I could think of. I spent days throwing tennis balls into Sebastian’s kennel hoping for some sort of interaction but nothing came, until day 13 when he picked the ball up and brought it to me at the front of his kennel. I told him to sit and to my amazement he did! This was a major breakthrough and was followed by an order for me to take Sebastian straight out on the outer patrol of the Maze. So I had to go in clip him up and walk out with him. It was like going into a gladiator’s arena and while I did so, 15 men (2 in full baiting suits) were on standby with hoses, brushes, and one with a 9mm handgun. With dry throat and a cold sweat I walked into this beast’s domain. I called Sebastian and he came running over to me. I found this most intimidating but I gave the command ‘sit’. 

He did as told and I clipped the lead on Sebastian and we went straight out on the outer perimeter of the Maze. The smiles of my fellow handlers as I walked out was so rewarding; any doubts about me quickly turned to respect. 

From that day on we grew stronger as a working dog team, being called out for cell clearance, riots and hard patrolling. As our successes grew so did our reputation, throughout Northern Ireland. I can honestly say this dog saved my life and the lives of lots of others on many occasions. I never once questioned his reactions and trusted him one hundred percent. We knew each other’s footsteps one for one. I felt as if I had a bulletproof Ready Brek glow about me and my partner Sebastian (you have to be a certain age to remember the Ready Brek advert).

We worked in areas such as West Belfast, Armagh, Londonderry, Forkhill and Crossmaglen. Time flew and my four years soon came to an end. 

I was told to attend a meeting with the Commanding Officer and ordered to be on my best behaviour. I was marched into the room and carried out the normal army greetings of salute and standing ramrod straight as my whole body was on Viagra! I wasn’t sure why I was in there and suspected some sort of family emergency, but the CO’s tone was not that bad. I even wondered if it was good news and perhaps they had a sunshine posting in store for me. No such luck. The CO asked me to stay for another two years.

I grinned like an idiot when he read out our achievements and told me we were the Army Dog Unit’s best asset. I was chuffed to be asked to stay on and my ‘yes sir’ was the most enthusiastic and proudest I have ever said. 

All Army dogs were trained to the highest standards and saved thousands of lives in their roles as search explosive dogs (known as wagtails), tracking dog (known as groundhogs), or guard dogs (called snappers or land sharks). 

Sebastian and I grew stronger as a team and won many conflicts. It was a lot more than love that I had for this dog. I respected and trusted him and put my life in his hands on many occasions. He was a soldier as much as I was and a highly trained Army weapon too.

We were used for what the Army called hard patrols, where the dog team was at the front point of the patrol and would pick up the scent of anyone in front of the patrol. Then we were also used in riots for many tasks eg holding the crowds back, snatch squads, also close protection of VIPs, patrolling prisons and also cell clearance. On one occasion Sebastian and I were called to get two prisoners out of a cell. The remaining prisoners where locked in their cells and the prison officers had drawn back to the reception of the wing while Sebastian and I walked to the cell accompanied by two soldiers in full riot gear. The prisoners would shout abuse, spit, and throw whatever they could – including cups full of urine. This only heightened the dog up to switch on mode. The prisoners were hidden behind the door with weapons ready to attack us both. Sebastian with his nose and super hero sense walked into the cell and without hesitation turned to the left and nailed the prisoner holding the metal bed leg. The man dropped to the ground and yelled. Sebastian looked up at the same time jumping and grabbed the second prison by the upper arm. Both prisoners had given up in a matter of seconds. The sense of achievement from this result and many similar has never been matched since leaving Northern Ireland.

My six year tour was coming to an end as my final two months were spent training a new handler to take over Sebastian. The day I said farewell and thanked him for being at my side was one of the saddest of my life. It was only a few weeks later that I received a call from a fellow dog handler who told me of Sebastian’s sad end. 

Every dog is a unique individual with its own skills and personality. I’ve always put my dog’s needs before my own and each one I have had or worked with has been loved with all my heart.

My Unlikely Soldiers series is about the British Army during this period. Check out this link for further information http://smarturl.it/m202d6

“Written with passion, humour and knowledge, Unlikely Soldiers is a riveting coming of age tale. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a good story, I’m waiting for the sequel with baited breath.”

Dog Squad Blog – Teddy Bear Teddi

This week’s blog is from my good friend and walking buddy Mandy, and her beautiful little dog Teddi.

Teddi is our 4 year old Pomeranian who looks just like a teddy bear. A little while after the loss of our 13 year old Siberian Husky, my husband and I started to feel we were ready for another dog. We wanted a smaller dog which wouldn’t require as much training or walking, so we visited a few dog shelters in Cyprus. Unfortunately, nothing quite captured our hearts. I continued searching through Facebook rehoming sites, and then I stumbled across Boo the cutest dog in the world Facebook page. I fell in love with Boo from the first moment I saw him. From then, my mission was to find a Boo for myself. This process took only a few months and finally in February 2016 I became the proud doggy mother to Teddi.

teddi with toy

From a pup, Teddi’s bed was always downstairs, as my husband didn’t want a dog in the bed. I totally understood and agreed. That was until I spent a night away on a girls’ night out. I returned home to discover my husband had allowed Teddi to sleep in our bed. From that day on she has never looked back and is in our bed every night.

Teddi is such a happy little dog with a lovely personality, who loves play time. Her play can range from helping me to take my socks off then ragging them or playing fetch with her many balls all scattered around the garden. She’s not bothered about walking, but most days we go, and this starts with her running off and hiding. Then I have to find her, pick her up and put her harness on, which she doesn’t like, but once on she is happy to go out. On our walk around the village when she has to pee pee this involves her raising her back legs off the ground and doing a handstand whilst walking and peeing – really comical to watch.

The whole ordeal about going out for walks doesn’t happen if I pick up my car keys. Teddi’s excitement is overwhelming. She’ll spin around and around whilst barking on route to the car. Once in she adopts her position in the front passenger seat with front paws on the door armrest waiting for the window to be opened so she can pop her head out, then off we go.

teddi in car

Teddi definitely has small dog syndrome and is quite active in her barking if there are any cars or people in the surrounding area around our house. This makes her a wonderful guard dog (despite her size) and alerts us to any activities outside, even crisp packets blowing in the wind! I remember once when I was upstairs in the bedroom, and I heard Teddi barking, but it wasn’t her usual bark. When I looked out of the window I noticed a wet patch on the patio slabs around the pool and one dripping Kitti Kat. The cat had slipped into the pool while having a drink so Teddi was notifying me, Lassie-style.

‘Come quickly, cat nearly drowning in pool, hurry up, mum!’

I rushed outside to discover Kitti Kat had a near miss that day.

Teddi and Kitti Kat

Teddi is most precious to me. I leave work most days at around lunchtime and even on my way home I think about her, and about the wonderful greeting I will receive. I can’t imagine life without her.

What a lovely post and a gorgeous dog. Thanks for sharing Mandy.

The characters in ‘The Island Dog Squad’ novellas are featured earlier in this blog series. Learn more about the books here.  http://smarturl.it/ru5uye

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“I have nothing but the highest of praises to sing for this thought-provoking, tear-jerking tale of torture, death, hope and survival.” Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite – 5 stars”

Dog Squad Blog – Pip, A Giant Amongst Dogs

This week my good friend John Wolsey writes a moving tribute to Pip.

The Passing of a Friend. 

I feel quite uncomfortable writing about Pip, our beloved Parsons Russell Terrier, because he was very much part of our life and he passed away on 3 May 15, leaving a massive void. So, I thought about what I should write, and in doing so I welled up uncontrollably. Quite irrational really, but the act of remembering Pip was so profound and the memory of him still so raw. Emotions eh! Non-dog owners would tell you that is silly. But to those, who have been fortunate enough to have had the companionship of a dog in our life, well, it’s a whole different “ball game”, so to speak! They are family, in a way non-dog owners will not fully understand. You see, to me, Pip wasn’t just a dog, he was a giant amongst dogs. 

Pip came from a farm, in Dorset, and his Mum and Dad were working dogs. When we asked his name, the farmer said, in a broad West country accent, that he did not have a name, they just called him “the little sod” because he was so mischievous. And so it was. He was mischievous to a fault, and energetic, and playful, and happy. He loved digging (all terriers do) and when you tried to stop him, he would run around the garden in circles at high speed, with his bottom tucked up under his back legs, swerving and dodging and side-stepping. He also had that classic terrier trait of running on 3 legs, especially down stairs! 

And slowly our life changed, to accommodate Pip. The once tidy sitting room was semi littered with toys and his teddies. Blankets covered the sofa. Water and food bowls filled the kitchen, and assorted towels, brushes and leads hung in the hallway. 

Despite his size, Pip was as brave and fearless as a lion. Once, when attacked and bitten by a much larger dog, he would not give up the fight despite the odds stacked against him. But he had a soft side too, and would paw you for more, when you stopped stroking him. And at night, he would cuddle down (usually on my feet, under my duvet) with his favourite teddy. 

We moved to Austria in 2011. Pip took to the move like a duck to water and grinned at everybody (he had always “smiled” at people from early puppyhood). Indeed, Pip helped our integration into Village life, and we were often asked “Ist das der Hund, der grinst?” (Is that the dog that grins?). The move also coincided with one of the coldest winters, often minus 20, and Pip would return home covered in icicles and snow balls. What have I come to, he must have quietly thought as his garden was covered in snow for half the year. 

Just chilling

It was with some trepidation we adopted a kitten, given Pip’s penchant for chasing anything small that moved. But the kitten loved Pip, and Pip tolerated the kitten. In time they became the best of friends, and Pip gave up sleeping under my duvet in favour of snuggling down on the sofa with the kitten. They would often happily stare out of the window together, watching the world go by. And the kitten would practice her attack and pounce moves, on his head, when he was sleeping. 


Stop messing with my head!

Pip was always busy, and had a character that could melt your heart. He was loyal beyond question and loved our family unconditionally. He never judged us, but always met us, tail wagging and grinning from ear to ear. As time went by he did slow down and would sleep more and more. And then came the heart-wrenching day when, quite out of the blue, he had a stroke. It simply broke my heart. But that is what dogs do to you, don’t they? You don’t own them, but they fill your very heart and soul. And so it was with Pip. And I realised at that moment that I, too, had loved him unconditionally all along. I was there for him at the end, in the same way that he had always been there for me. 

The house is now very empty without Pip and his leads and towels and bowls lie redundant in the dusty attic. His teddies are there, too, in a box. And all his memories. But in some ways the process of writing this blog has been both cathartic and uplifting as we remembered him, and laughed and cried out loud, all at the same time. 

So, keep your dogs in a special corner of your heart, and love them dearly, for one day, too, they will be sadly gone. But never forgotten.

What a moving tale, thanks for sharing John.

The characters in ‘The Island Dog Squad’ novellas are featured earlier in this blog series. Click http://smarturl.it/ru5uye to learn more about the first book in the series.

“I have nothing but the highest of praises to sing for this thought-provoking, tear-jerking tale of torture, death, hope and survival.” Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite – 5 stars

Dog Squad Blog – The Lady of the House

Today’s dog story is from Mandy. We met at netball training years ago and have been friends ever since. Mandy lives near Monchengladbach in Germany with her husband Richard and their dog.

Hi I’m Mandy and have a wonderful little Mini Schnauzer named Lady. She is my first dog. I never imagined I’d own a dog, as my husband Richard has never wanted one. We have four grown up boys and they decided to buy me a dog for my birthday. They checked with Richard first and he agreed the day after. I knew I wanted a Mini Schnauzer and two of the boys came to the farm to look at the dogs with me. This was supposed to be an initial visit with a view to picking a dog at a later date. There were three Minis there and I was drawn to Lady who was the smallest. As soon as I picked her up I knew she was the one so decided she was coming home with us. 

I think I need a haircut mum

Lady didn’t have a good start in life. I’m not sure where she was born but she was taken to the farm in the Netherlands and that’s where we picked her up. She already had a pet passport and all of her vaccinations were up to date. She was five and a half months old when she came home with us, and I believe whatever happened to her as a young puppy has caused her to be anxious. When we visited the vet to get Lady checked over, she had quite a bad ear infection. Luckily it cleared up within a few weeks with the treatment and she hasn’t had one since.

Hello Flower
Hello Flower


Lady is quite small even for a Mini. She is great with people but is quite anxious around other dogs. She’s never really played with them and even at puppy school she would hang around my legs. Saying that, she loves to play and also loves lots of cuddles with her human brothers and her people parents. Richard is smitten and has welcomed Lady as a big part of our family.

A Cuddle Break

She can be quite a stubborn little madam at times and refuses to go out when it’s raining, but she absolutely loves the snow. We enjoy the outdoors especially walking holidays and Lady travels well in the car so we take her with us. Thankfully, many hotels and guesthouses in Germany are dog friendly so I’ve never had to leave Lady in kennels – she’s a sensitive girl and I don’t think she would cope.

Yay, snow!

Lady sleeps in her crate at night in the front room but only goes in there when I go to bed. She’s usually sleeping on the sofa by then and I lay her in her bed like I would a baby, and of course I give her a kiss goodnight (but don’t tell anyone). 

Since Lady came into our lives I am much more confident with other dogs. I was always apprehensive of them as a dog bit me when I was a child. It’s also amazing how many people stop and speak when you’re with a dog; including people that I have lived near for years but have never noticed me. 

Lady is intelligent and learns quickly. She loves her food, which is a great incentive when teaching her anything new. Her favourite thing is tummy rubs and she always paws for more – just as she’s doing now. 

Like most dogs, Lady loves going for walks and this is good for me too. I take her out at least three times each day and try to make one of the walks an hour long. This has started to show on my waistline so it’s a win, win situation. 

Coming for a walk?

Lady is almost nineteen months old and has such a sweet nature. It doesn’t matter if I go out or even leave the room for five minutes or three hours, I get the same welcome and she goes bananas when I return. She’s my little shadow so maybe that’s what we should have named her. On second thoughts, no. Lady suits her because she’s our little Lady. She’s brought lots more love to our home and now we can’t imagine our lives without her. 

Lady is loveable, just like the main characters in ‘The Island Dog Squad’ who are based on real dogs featured earlier in this blog series. Click http://smarturl.it/ru5uye to check out book one.

“I have nothing but the highest of praises to sing for this thought-provoking, tear-jerking tale of torture, death, hope and survival.” Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite – 5 stars

Dog Squad Blog – Lovely Little Lexi

Today’s guest blogger is Charity Rowell-Stansbury. Charity has been a blogger for over ten years and an avid reader for as long as she can remember. She adores her 10-year-old rescue dog Lexi who isn’t part of the original Islan Dog Squad, but features in Book 3. Here’s their story, told by Charity. 

Lexi has been my constant companion and muse for two years. Our story almost ended before it even began. 

In April 2015, I was diagnosed with PTSD and I lost my job shortly after. A little over a year into a marriage with my now ex-husband, Kyle, we decided that it would be nice if I had a companion who could stay with me at home while Kyle was at work. We were both determined to adopt a dog; however, we also knew it would be difficult because I have asthma and allergies, which means I can only tolerate certain breeds. Since the dog was more for me than him, it was up to me to filter through the hundreds of dogs in our local rescue agencies to find one that might be a good match.

After a couple of weeks of searching and following local rescues on Facebook, one of the local agencies posted a picture of a dog named “Coconut.” Her story was incredibly sad because she had an owner who loved her very much, but he wasn’t able to continue to take care of her. Unfortunately, she had heartworm and the agency was trying to raise funds to cure her. I expressed our interest in her and even offered to pay a portion of the heartworm cure, plus the adoption fee, for the opportunity to meet her. Over the course of two weeks, the agency seemed receptive, but I started receiving private messages from complete strangers on Facebook telling me that the agency was just stringing me along to receive a donation. When I pressed the rescue agency for a specific date when Kyle and I could meet Coconut, I was told that she had been promised to someone else. I was crushed and was ready to put my search on hold for a few weeks because I didn’t think I could handle another rejection. 

Coconut

A couple of days after my horrible experience, I decided to look just one more time at another agency’s site before taking a break. During that search, I found this picture:

Lexi, pre-adoption 2016

Her name was “Lexi” and she was a Maltese; one of the breeds that several allergy and asthma foundations said I should be able to tolerate. I could see the wariness in her eyes but there was something else behind it, curiosity and a bit of playfulness. I imagined she was looking at the camera saying “Whatcha doin’?” I saw a couple of other dogs on the site that I also liked, so I sent an email expressing my interest. 

A little over a week later, I received a phone call from Nancy, a foster guardian with the rescue agency. She said that all of the other dogs were adopted, except for Lexi because she was shy and reserved during adoption events. I immediately empathized with Lexi because I can be shy and reserved around groups of people, and it takes me a while to warm up to new friends. I admitted to Nancy that Lexi was my first choice, but I was a bit wary of mentioning it in the email because of my experience with the other rescue agency. Nancy and I set up a date for when she and Lexi could come by the apartment. At the end of the meeting, Kyle and I had a new furry family member. 

Lexi, day after adoption

Since Lexi is the first dog I’ve ever had, I was overwhelmed at first. When we spent our first day at home alone together, we did a lot of staring at each other and thinking, “What am I supposed to do with you?” After a couple of days, I learned that she was timid about exploring her surroundings and I needed to be calm and confident to encourage her when we went outside. After a week, she was more confident about walking outside and decided that she wanted to introduce herself to some of the people in our apartment community. This forced me to come out of my shell and connect with neighbors. It didn’t take us too long to figure out our individual strengths and weaknesses, and we soon learned how to emotionally support each other.

Lexi, 2016

Today, Lexi is a completely different dog. We’ve been through a lot together, including a precipitous change of address and a divorce, but we have overcome these challenges together. I can’t imagine going through the past couple of years without her, and I’m looking forward to going through the next few years with her in my life.

Lexi, 2019

To read more about Charity and Lexi, check out Charity’s wonderful blog and book reviews here: https://www.onmykindle.net