The Dog Squad Blog returns with a post from my good friend and netball buddy Sarah.
Benji joined our family in 2012. He was six months old rescued from a family that didn’t want him. That’s all we were told about his background, except that apparently he’s a Patterdale Terrier. That explains his wiry coat and the way he chases anything that moves, and he is so fast. His favourite pastime is chasing squirrels, cats or pheasants but Benji doesn’t appear to like cows. On his walks past the fields he barks if they come too close to the fence.
It took a little while for all of us to get used to having a dog. More planning was involved when arranging family outings or days out but it is lovely to come home and have someone running to the door who is happy to see you – especially now as we have three teenagers!
Like most dogs, Benji loves being with his human pack and enjoys going for walks come rain, shine or snow. He also loves snuggling up in any place where he feels secure and especially when this is close to his people parents. He still gets a little nervous when his pack leaves the house and stresses when he hears fireworks or during thunderstorms. He also hates Christmas Crackers! We have tried calming drops to help alleviate his stress but I’m not convinced they work. Saying that he is starting to calm down now and is slightly slower than he used to be but loves activity and always wants to play with anyone who comes into the house, whether they’re friends or random visitors.
Benji can be a naughty boy when the mood takes him. Sometimes he’ll decide he doesn’t want to go to bed when he’s told to and goes to hide under the bed in our room. Either that, or he’ll scarper out to the garden and try to hide under the trampoline, or even in the washing machine! All of these are minor irritations, and part of our lovely dog’s colourful personality.
Benji shares his love amongst us all and doesn’t appear to have an obvious favourite. Now that our daughter is at university, Benji is quite happy to snuggle up in the bedroom with our lodger, or with one of our sons. We did have a stair gate when we first brought Benji home but if he wanted to get into one of the bedrooms, he just tried to leap over it. We had a few near misses and our poor dog almost injured himself so having decided it was dangerous, we had to remove it.
I don’t know about training Benji but I think he’s trained all of us and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s our wonderful dog and I can’t imagine life without him.
In April award winningauthor Jean Gill told us all about her four-legged friend Sherlock. This time it’s Watson’s turn.
In November, 2016, I started re-taking the online quizzes as to which dog breed would suit me, and I knew it was time to bring a second dog into our life again. A friend for Sherlock, whose story I told here https://debmcewansbooksandblogs.com/2019/04/10/dog-squad-blog-elementary-my-dear-watson/. One of the breeds suggested by my online quizzes was a Khortals, a wire-haired pointing griffon and I took a fancy to these beautiful feisty red-coated gun-dogs. I was checking out breeders and refuges, torn between getting a puppy and adoption, when one description smacked me in the face.
Donald. A Khortals cross.
No dog deserves that name, whatever your politics. I took it as a sign. My Long-Suffering Husband had already said yes to the principle of another dog and he leaves the detail to me. So we headed up the motorway for an hour to Donald’s refuge, one of the better ones.
Even if you don’t understand French, you’ll see that Donald is 21kg, slim and cute. The drab dog that waddled out to see us was overweight and would be 32kg when he shaped up and gained some muscle again. Too big for most people but we were pleased – we’d thought 21kg was very small as we were used to Pyrenean Mountain Dogs.
Shelter information on a dog has a kernel of truth and much that is either behaviour induced by the situation or even well-intentioned invention, like Donald’s size and weight, intended to attract new owners. So, in direct contradiction of the ‘facts’ in his description, Donald pulled like hell on the lead, growled at Sherlock when lunging after rubbish on the verge.
We later found that he is the most chilled dog we’ve ever had about us going out and returning. He was supposed to be prone to anxiety separation, which was why he was returned to the shelter. Nope. No anxiety. That was supposed to be his failing but – don’t worry! – we discovered other reasons behind him being dumped twice. He’d been picked up as a stray in February, no ID; transferred to the refuge; adopted in July for the summer holidays and brought back in September when his owner went back to work. So he’d spent most of 2016 in the shelter, getting fat and being called Donald.
What was true about him was that he was confident and affectionate with people. That would be a nice change, I thought, but I was worried because he’d growled at Sherlock. Two male dogs at loggerheads would not be fun.
I wasn’t sure but I knew he’d be easy with my husband and with visitors, and that it was up to me to create a respectful relationship between the two dogs, with – hopefully – friendship developing. So I went for it, encouraged by the volunteers at the shelter saying to each other that ‘Donald le doux’ had found a home. Surely the nickname ‘the softie’ had some basis? Unless it was a joke like Little John in the Robin Hood tales – a giant.
When the newly-named Watson came home with us, I tested my theory about why he’d growled – and why he was fat. I kept Watson on-lead but in the same room as Sherlock, while they both ate, each from his own bowl, with some distance between the two. Watson gulped his food down and would have had Sherlock’s if he hadn’t been restrained by the lead. I was right. Food had been competitive in the box Watson shared with some adolescent hunting-dogs – and Watson had won more than his share for months.
Over a few months, Watson slowed down in his eating habits and respected Sherlock’s food bowl. He lost his ‘every dog for himself’ mentality and learned to trust me. The detectives are a great team, more comfortable with each other than I could have hoped. At twilight one day, wild boar were grazing in the orchard outside our fenced garden and the biggest of them charged right at me. Sherlock, the ex-hunting dog, shivered in total panic. Watson, who’d been raised as a pet, didn’t hesitate. He charged back at that boar, to protect me. The boar ran away and the fence prevented any disaster but Watson had shown true courage and I won’t forget that moment.
He’s not a morning person so will just wave a leg at you from the comfort of his bed, and accept a tummy tickle, while Sherlock does his happy dance at seeing you again each new day. He has a slight problem with his joints but that doesn’t spoil his life or ours and he’s always up for a little game of frisbee.
Now we know Watson, do we have an idea as to why he was abandoned, twice? Maybe because he has an extreme hatred of bicycles and cyclists. I suspect something happened to him – perhaps an accident or perhaps he was forced to go on walks attached to a bicycle. I’ve trained him to lie down if a cyclist comes past when we’re out on a walk but I wouldn’t trust him off-lead. He has plenty of room to run around at home so that doesn’t matter.
Or maybe it’s because he does weird howls in the night sometimes. The total Baskerville experience.
I showed this private video, taken with a stealth camera, to our vet who was no more worried than Sherlock seems. The vet’s only suggestion was that Watson’s a werewolf. I think he sees dead people. If I’m there when he does it, I can say ‘No’ and he stops, so he’s in control of himself and he’s not ill. It’s very weird and we’re lucky our neighbours aren’t too close. Visitors who stay overnight here are warned.
He is also territorial in the car and barks at a passing fly, much to Sherlock’s confusion. When we’ve taken the detectives on holiday, Watson’s rendition of ‘Are we there yet?’ has been deafening but we’ve managed to drive three hours into the mountains and enjoy a week with these two amazingly civilised ex-shelter dogs. A filled kong toy to chew when travelling has been an ear-saver.
Am I glad I said yes to Watson? Look at this photo. Pure joy. That’s what life is all about.
Thanks Jean. If you’d like to read more, Jean’s latest novel, an eco fantasy for nature lovers, takes the original viewpoint of bees as central characters. At special pre-order price here https://www.books2read.com/QueenBee and the Publication Date is 7thJune. I loved it.
www.jeangill.comJean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two big scruffy dogs, a beehive named Endeavour, 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 so life was hectic.
Publications are varied, including poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.
Sign up for Jean’s Special Readers’ Group at http://eepurl.com/AGvy5for exclusive news and offers. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions. She loves to hear from readers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
This week Jill Stavrou-Shaw tells us about life in Cyprus with Snoopy.
Snoopy was a Daddy’s girl, she never forgot the man who stopped his car and rescued her. She was the only puppy left alive from a litter of 3 who were abandoned by the side of the road in Cyprus. She was only weeks old, far too young to be taken from her mother, and even the vet didn’t expect her to survive. However, with his advice and several weeks of bottle feeding at home this little white puppy, who looked more like a rat, slowly started to turn into a bundle of curly white fur.
She was a Cyprus poodle apparently? To her newly adopted family she became “Snoopy”.
Snoopy’s new human Dad always felt completely responsible for her and never having had a dog before, and Snoopy never having had a human either, they made things up as they went along. Life, work, family and Snoopy all now had to be juggled. Snoopy’s human Mum worked away a lot, so that left lots of Dad and dog time; the bond between them grew and they became inseparable. The best part of each day for Snoopy was when her human Dad came home from work. She would sit on top of the sofa looking out of the window. Her joy at seeing him erupted into this yapping, crying, bouncing bundle of flying fur who couldn’t wait to be scooped up into his arms and kissed and cuddled.
Snoopy’s human Dad thought her delight to see him was just about being fed and walked and having someone home again for company but for Snoopy it was so much more, this was the human who had saved her. They both were beginning to learn what unconditional love was really all about.
Snoopy loved to sun bath, crazy really for a dog with so much fur? She would happily snooze in the sun for hours; her short bursts of activity were all saved for her Dad. Walks to the park were tolerated as cuddling at home was far preferable. Drives in the car were much better but sitting in the basket on her Dad’s little motorbike and having a drive around was simply amazing. This special treat was usually saved for the annual trip to the vet, the delight of this mode of travel soon made her forget about the horrible but necessary jabs and potions a dog had to endure to stay well.
This blissful life in the sun was to change when Snoopy’s human Mum and Dad had to go to England for a while, her humans were far more anxious about her travelling on a plane than she was. The suitcases, boxes and crates that had started to fill the house were confusing, but having tried to sleep in them all, Snoopy much preferred the suitcase full of her Dad’s clothes. If her pack were on the move then of course she would be going with them, she probably hoped the motorbike would be the chosen form of travel?
Snoopy was eventually temped from the suitcase to a crate with regular tiny treats of chocolate. Nothing else would work. A lovely old jumper smelling of her Dad was put in there for her to snuggle up to, she knew he was too big to fit in too, but she would have much preferred that. Seeing Snoopy sitting in her crate, being lifted by a folk lift truck at the airport to be taken to the plane was almost too much for her humans to bear. Thank goodness we were all on the same flight!
On landing at Manchester airport in the grey and rainy weather Snoopy’s humans were feeling a terrible mixture of emotions, their unspoken anxiety made even worse when suitcases started being taken from the plane on a conveyer belt, surely Snoopy would have her own fork lift truck here too?
Snoopy had now been away from her humans for hours, her human Dad’s need to be reunited with her was now exactly the same as her wait for him to come home from work every day. This was going to be emotional!
The drive to collect Snoopy from the cargo part of the airport seemed so wrong – she wasn’t cargo, she was family. We were mildly reassured by the “Flying Vets for Pets” signs. But we almost missed them as they were totally obscured by the driving rain that was now lashing the car. Maybe she would forgive us for not bringing the motorbike with the basket after all?
We finally found “arrivals for animals” and were met by a lovely vet who was here to hand over our precious cargo. She had clearly seen the anxious faces of so many humans who had come to collect their pets, she greeted us with a welcoming “You must be Snoopy Stavrou-Shaw’s” Mum and Dad?”.
We were slightly surprised at the formality of using our family name for the dog? but of course that’s who she was, Snoopy Stavrou-Shaw. Our voices confirming we were just that, were soon drowned out by that familiar happy, yapping and barking that greeted us every evening in Cyprus.
A delighted flying bundle of fur came running towards us. For the first time Snoopy seemed torn as to who to greet first, then we were both jumped on by the happiest overwhelmed Cyprus poodle.
Snoopy Stavrou-Shaw had arrived safely in England, the formality of her new extended name rather suited her, so we kept it. She was back with her pack now and looked rather smug as she sat on her human Daddy’s lap as we drove to our new home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com with comments or questions. She loves to hear from readers.
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
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.
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 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 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
“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”