Tag Archives: animals

High Noon Over The Dog Fields

A daily chore task I carry out each morning is walking our beloved lunatic Labrador Chester. Post school run I gradually open the front door to see if he has destroyed anything in our hallway (his bedroom) while I have been out for the 30 minute round trip. I am eternally pleased that our Postman likes a lie in so that our post is not ripped to pieces before I return. We adopted Chester last summer from a rescue home. He is a Pedigree Labrador but as he was being rehomed due to his excitable nature (what do some dog owners expect?) we got him at a reduced price, a sort of spoiled goods price. He was a gangly 6 month old pup who slotted into our lives perfectly. He turned 1 in November and is still as highly spirited (mental) as when he arrived but stupidly docile with the kids, with the added advantage of looking quite tough (though he really isn’t) so hopefully quite a good burglar deterrent.

Handsome chappie

Handsome chappie

Despite the fact that I spend the majority of the day with him, feed him, walk him then shower the mud off him, clear up the chewed kids toys, re-wash the stolen socks and pointlessly hoover up the coarse golden dog hair, he is still very much a Daddy’s boy! Me and Chester hang out all day, the minute hubby puts the key in the lock I am literally pushed aside while Chester does a sort of dog samba dance in the hallway to greet his master.

As an adolescent dog he needs a lot of exercise and as I spend a majority of my day working on the computer, the only way I can avoid trying to type without a huge dog lying across my lap, is to give him a long walk as my first job of the day. We are fortunate enough to live across the road to a series of farmers fields, they are privately owned for growing crops but have public walkways that we can use, which I bet the farmer just loves! On the edge of the first public walkway a local fellow has acquired a little paddock where he houses a rescue pony and two white goats. The kids love overfeeding his farm animals with carrots and apples and Chester has still not learnt to avoid a headbutt from the goats by sticking his head through the fence each time we visit them. The main downside of this mini farm is that the owner also has a big scary Mastiff effeminately named Lucky.

Mud Mud Glorious Mud

Mud Mud Glorious Mud

The main reason for using the fields for Chester’s walks, apart from the convenient location of them, is that other than Lucky you really don’t see that many other dogs or people over there. My pleasure at walking without others doesn’t demonstrate that I am in any way a recluse, but anyone who knows my dog or has read my blog about my one stab at dog training (please scroll back to Just Call Me Barbara for a reminder) will know that Chester is sometimes a little hard to control. My fear isn’t that I think he may attack another dog or person but that he will most definitely jump up excitedly at the person thus ruining their clothes, whilst over-sniffing their dog’s bottom to the point of vulgar and we are talking dogs here remember! Chester is a very friendly dog, a very very friendly dog, he is also a big coward! If he begins to violate a dog in the cherished way he likes to do and that dog decides to bark/growl/make a sudden movement, then Chester yelps and runs with his tail between his legs to hide behind me. He actually had this reaction when a dog that looked like Toto from the Wizard of Oz growled at him, it’s embarrassing sometimes honestly. So my tactic is the (how Cesar would hate me for this) not to try to train him but to avoid dog/person contact at all times.

Yesterday morning Chester and I were on our usual dog avoidance walk over the very muddy fields (snow melts – mudbath begins) and found myself walking in the direction of Lucky and his owner. Thankfully, Lucky was on the lead but the way in which his owner was being dragged towards us and frantically pointing for me to go into the neighbouring field away from them, I gathered he didn’t have that much control. As I switched direction to avoid them, I saw a huge Alsatian in the field we had now entered. I have seen this Alsatian before, I always avoid him, he is in my eyes devil dog. I quickly retreated back to the previous field where Lucky and his owner were, then tried unsuccessfully to signal ‘Alsatian coming’ in a really bad mime. He thankfully slowed down to let me run (wade through mud) ahead of them. Next thing I know Chester has put himself in a crouched position on the floor with his head bowed down, then I hear the gentle padding of the Alsatian in stalking mode behind us. He steps up to Chester in stealth mode and sniffs him with a quiet growl, Chester is looking at me for help but to be honest the Alsatian is giving me the ‘I can take you both on’ look as he comes and sniffs my wellies. I pointlessly mouth ‘good boy’ to Chester who looks like he would cry if he were in human form. The owner, a very fragile looking woman is still making her way from the other field and my life is literally in her faraway hands as she neglects to catch up with her dog. And just as the Alsatian is menacingly circling Chester for the second time he suddenly stops then runs off with his tail between his legs. His owner finally catches up and explains, ‘he is scared of the Mastiff’ and then carries on after her devil dog. I then see that Lucky and his owner have caught up and scared him off, I have never been so pleased to see them. Stuck between two dangerous dogs, you have to pick a side I suppose. Lucky didn’t even bother to growl at Chester as he came closer to us as Chester was still in his crouched position, looking a bit pathetic now. Chester slept well that day which resulted in a very productive day for me. Not that I would want to repeat the experience  again.

Dreaming about Alsatians

Dreaming about Alsatians

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Eight Legged Freaks

I love Autumn, it is definitely my second favourite season. The bright blue sky, sunny days with a little chill to them, the beautiful colours of the leaves, the arrival of conkers. However, there is one major problem with Autumn… massive huge spiders! It is the season for normally rational people like myself doing a weird dance when walking down the garden, flinging my arms about like a maniac after walking through a million spider webs.

I know I’m not alone with my lack of love towards the Arachnid. In my 20s my fear of spiders was at an all-time ridiculous which came to a point after a face-to-face with a spider as a tenant at my parents house. I was alone one Saturday morning and decided to run a bath, I glanced at the plug hole as I went to run the hot water, there was something dark there, I reckoned it was probably hair so left it and ran the tap. As the water splashed down and I guided the plug towards the plug hole, the ‘hair’ sprouted 8 legs and started running, in a weird sort of race I headed in the same direction to get out of the room as the spider ran to the end of the bath. I closed the door and weighed up my options. There is a massive huge spider in the bath, the hot water is running and I need to deal with it. Not brave enough to do anything about it and with no-one to help I remembered that next door had some landscapers in to redesign their front garden. So in my irrational panic I forgot that I was in my pink towelling dressing gown and sheep slippers and went outside to get help. Obligingly, one of the gardeners agreed to ‘help the little lady’ out. “Where’s the  monster then darling?’ he asked giving his co-worker a wink as I pointed at the bathroom door murmuring, “Spider, bath”, unable to speak in sentences as if I just been discovered in some wild log cabin. Mr Bravado swaggered in as I cowered behind the door, I heard him shout ‘ Jesus he’s big!’. He emerged about 5 minutes later (presumably after he calmed his nerves) balancing the spider on the end of his trowel. I responded with a strangulated whimper and then shouted ‘Thanks’ just before the door slammed. When I retold the story to my parents later, they decided it was time to take action on the basis I could crash my car if a spider popped up in it. I said I would probably pull over calmly and happily donate the car to the spider and walk back home. This was again enough reason for them to seek help for me.

So, for my 24th birthday my parents gave me a ‘Arachnophobic day’ at London Zoo. We were asked to arrive bright and early for our day course to cure our fear of spiders. It was quite a big class which was mainly female with a few embarrassed looking men. There were a lot of very nervous looking women that you could probably hiss ‘spider’ at and would reduce them to tears. But I wouldn’t do that, I was one step away from nervous wreck and was suddenly ecstatic to be there. First up was the ‘why spiders are good for the world’ lecture taken by the spider zoo keeper who informed us he was once as scared as us but now owned 3 pet tarantulas, everyone raised an eyebrow, no-one believing this statement. We were all told about how spiders are good for the environment, how they rid the world of pests such as flies and mosquitos and we would literally be over-run by bugs if we didn’t have spiders. My initial thoughts were ya da ya da ya da, I knew this, I agreed with it, I didn’t want to kill them, I just wanted to re-train them to not enter my house and if they accidentally did then to walk slower and immediately go back out the way they come in rather than run towards me. We also learned how spiders mate in September and is the reason why during this month you see bigger spiders as they are the females looking for a male. Again, is there not a way we can re-condition them to have a meeting point in the garden for their reproductive needs. We were asked individually to say how we got rid of spiders, my response was ‘phone a friend’ or not re-enter that room until someone comes home’, lame I know. The woman next to me said she wore socks on her hands while on her own and would walk in loud steps to scare any from running into the room, she was so petrified that she couldn’t eat tomatoes due to the spider-like green topping. I stared at her in disbelief starting to feel a bit less of a scaredy cat. When they asked one of the few men in the room what he did to remove spiders, he explained that he was a carpenter and would see quite a few in his work shed. The way he dealt with them was by turning on his electric sander and liquidising them, the zoo keeper looked almost tearful.

Next we were taken into a room and told to sit down, a charismatic American man introduced himself as our hypnotist who would re-train our brains to like spiders, I glanced over at the sock woman who was shaking her head. We were asked to lay down and close our eyes, keeping completely still. He then asked us to visualise 10 steps leading down to a water’s edge, we had to imagine ourselves at the top of the stairs looking out to sea. We then had to imagine a big white cloud drifting towards us, we had to focus on the cloud and walk slowly down the steps as he counted us down. As we reached the last step he informed us that we were now in hypnosis, I tried to open my eyes and they felt stuck together, my arms felt weighted down, it was a really strange feeling. He told us to look at the cloud and push all our hatred of spiders into the cloud and to turn it to grey, after which we had to blow it away and watch it drift out to sea and disappear. We then had to mentally re-climb the 10 steps and were told to open our eyes, which I could now do quite easily. And then we had to clap our hands to congratulate ourselves on our freedom of hatred to spiders. I wasn’t convinced yet and was nervous at what was next as we were led from our function room and into the zoo.

Once inside, our zoo keeper suddenly re-appeared as if we were now in an episode of Mr Benn. He led us into a room off the ‘creepy crawlies’ section where a large clear plastic box with a lid was full of house spiders scampering about. Before we had time to protest and still sleepy from our hypnosis, a plastic cup and a card was shoved in my hand and I was suddenly in a queue in front of the spider box. With a semi-forceful ‘lets see you catch a spider’ request, the zoo keeper picked up a house spider released it on the table and we were expected to put our cup over it, card underneath and then told to walk round the room and release it back into the box. Sock woman was rifling through her bag, I suppose looking for her socks and I was third in the line. Everyone seemed to be either brainwashed or cured as one-by-one they completed the exercise. My turn was up, zoo keeper smiled as he flung a spider on the table, the spider as if briefed by the zoo keeper, started to run towards me, without knowing how I did it I put my cup over it and my card underneath then circled the room the fastest I’ve ever walked and literally threw my cup at the box. I had done it, slightly still in hypnosis and a massive amount of pressure on my shoulders, but I did it. Then zoo keeper shouted over the excited/hysterical squeals the word ‘Next…’ to which the whole room went deathly quiet, there’s more?? He continued, enjoying the atmosphere he was causing, ‘Next, we meet Freda.’ Who is Freda? His colleague? his girlfriend? Wrong! It’s his pet tarantula! The hypnosis wasn’t that good! He held Freda in his hand as if it was a gerbil gently tickling it. Most of the people took a few steps back, sock woman I think was now vomiting in her handbag. ‘Who wants to hold Freda and I’ll take a picture?’. A line started to form, how were these people cured enough to do this? Suddenly, I found myself in the queue and before I knew it I was holding my hands together for the zoo keeper to place Freda on top of my grip. As he said ‘smile’ to take my picture, I looked down and actually realised I was holding a massive huge spider with fur, it felt warm, it didn’t seem scary until it moved a leg onto my wrist and I nearly threw it far enough to make a home run. Zoo keeper sensing my change of heart, unhooked (!) Freda from my hands, wasn’t till then I realised that’s how they climbed walls! He gave me my Polaroid, a photo of  me holding a tarantula with an expression that would probably warrant me an overnight stay in an asylum!

I’m sad to say it didn’t cure me. It has eased my irrational fear. I no longer run into the street in my dressing gown to find someone to help me. I can deal with smaller ones with the cup and card technique and I have allowed a spindly one to live in my conservatory. I think the hypnosis has made me love them a bit too much, I can’t bear them to be hurt and when I get a big one, which I still can’t deal with, I tend to cover it with a mixing bowl until hubby returns or my long-suffering neighbour gets called in to chuck spider outside, all the time I worry if there is enough air for the spider and if he is lonely in the bowl! We’re halfway through September, I have had 4 big spiders this week in my living room. It is true what they say, knowledge is power, I know that September they will mate, the female then kills the male, the female produces her egg sack and fills it with spider eggs, then she dies and the spider orphan babies start the cycle again. Roll on October….

Our Four Legged Friend

Apologies that my blog is a little late this week, the reason being is very much due to the subject of the blog…. Our new dog!

I must be mad. That is the general consensus from my friends and family when I decided to add to our family unit with a puppy. Raised eyebrows was a common reaction from most people I told of my intentions. Many of our nearest and dearest are dog lovers so appreciated my ‘need’ but were also of the opinion of “you have 3 children, the twins have just started school, why are you giving yourself the extra work?” . Or I was accused of falling into the category of getting a dog instead of having a baby, as a lot of Mums once all their children are at school, have that urge to pop another one out. This is SO not true in my case, after twins I have pretty much had any broody bone ripped from my being. The only urge I have when I see a newborn is to appreciate the fact I don’t have a sleepless night ahead of me. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing “Auntie” to my friends offspring but I will happily hand them back without a moments thought of wanting another one for me.

But that same insane need you have to get pregnant, I felt a touch of it recently on the hunt for a puppy. When you decide that you want to get pregnant, and in most cases there is often a wait involved, you go from being a rational person to a slightly mental one calculating ovulation dates like Carol Vorderman, introducing strange ‘fertility’ foods into yours and hubby’s diets and dribbling with bump envy at every passing pregnant woman. And why is it that there are so many pregnant women around when you are feeling a bit barren? Do they radio through to each other when they see you coming, “Desperate to get pregnant woman approaching Costa Coffee, all pregnant women fall in immediately, over!”

My need for a dog started a few weeks ago when we met up with some dear friends of ours over the country park with the kids and their new puppy. I had thought about getting a dog since the twins had started school, hubby wasn’t keen so I brainwashed encouraged him with the usual mantras of, “it’s good to teach the kids the responsibility of owning a pet” and “I feel I need that added security when you’re on a night shift”, but we had agreed that it would be too much to deal with. So quite like handing a baby to a reluctant husband to hold, we met our friends new dog so I could manipulate encourage his heart strings. Their puppy is adorable and the kids loved it so was able to add “it will enrich our family unit” to the list. My hubby was tempted, as he does loves dogs, but was able to hand it back and forget about it, but it had switched something on in his mind and had also got the kids on my side to bug him about it too!

Two weeks later I had been ‘keeping my eye out on dog rescue sites’ which really meant scouring every dog home in the country for my desired breed, a Labrador puppy. To buy new from a breeder they are £600+ but it wasn’t just the expense that put me off, I really wanted to help a dog in need of a home. Sadly there were endless offers of other breeds such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Collies being the most available. I was tempted with one Collie puppy called Chaos but thought would sound a bit mad shouting that across a park, like I was trying to incite some sort of riot!

Ironically enough it was hubby who finally found our dog via Gumtree whilst looking for motorbike gear, he reckons. He found a 6 month old Golden Lab called Chester who was looking to be rehomed as his owner was moving and couldn’t take him. He was a pedigree so would still have to pay for that privilege but at a second-hand price – bless. We made the fatal mistake of making a visit to its foster home to see how we felt about him, well unless you are pretty soulless, visiting an Andrex puppy in cramped conditions looking at you like the cat from Shrek, it was pretty impossible not to say yes to him.

So Chester has come to live with us. He is very kind natured although has a habit of nipping which we are trying to stop, he is great company, loves the kids and is so at home with us already. The kids are happy to walk him with me and my son hasn’t even picked up his DS since Chester arrived so I think I’ve fulfilled all my previous mantras. All except one that is, the security issue. Last night while hubby was working a night shift, there was a noise in the garden next door, Chester shot up and ran to the door to be let out. I opened the door and he looked at me as much to say “come with me it’s a bit dark out there..” I had worked out it was next door’s Springer Spaniel so wasn’t worried so I accompanied my ‘guard dog’ out into the back garden at which point the Spaniel barked and Chester went flying back indoors with his tail between his legs leaving me outside in the dark, on my own! Oh well at least he is starting to look a bit big and scary, even if he isn’t!