Saturday, 29 August 2015

Throwing a ball...and getting it back again...

Tonight I had one of the most pleasant experiences I've had for a while.

Tonight I took Kim into the field behind our house and I threw the ball for her.



This is a momentous occasion for two reasons.

1. It has been nearly two years now since I threw a ball for a dog.  Sparky was pretty blind in his last year and used to crash into things, thus we rarely played.  My throwing arm is way out of practice - man it feels so good to finally throw a ball extra hard.  I forgot how far I could make it go.  After being pregnant, having a c-section and going through recovery it feels so good for my body too to be so physical again.

2. It has taken me the best part of six weeks to teach Kim how to play like this.  And to see her wag and stand up tall (and boy, is she tall!) and hang her tongue out of the side of her mouth as she smiles -just, wow! Seeing her happy like that, seeing her run and chase and bring back joyfully, then lolling on the ground, exhausted is nothing short of awesome.

Teaching a previously abused dog how to play has been interesting.

If you don't know Kim's story, read it HERE.

I suppose if I had to pass on any tips, it would be, let them build their own confidence.  Don't push.  Let them find their own ground.  They'll show you when they are ready.

At first, I didn't know what to do with her - she is such a different doggy to all of my other doggy experiences.

All the dogs I have ever come across have been motivated by something; be it treats or toys or whistles or clicks.  They've all been responsive and eager to gain their rewards, whatever that may be.

Kim is different.

Kim's just happy that you are being nice to her.

She isn't at all interested in treats or food - I get the feeling that she was a very submissive bottom of the pack, and judging by how thin she was when we got her, rarely ate her fill.

She views the gift of food with almost-suspicion like someone might tell her off or smack her away.

It almost feels like she is scared of getting food, so I'm always very careful in how I offer it to her.  I want her to be certain that it is for her and that she is entitled to it.  She never seems to believe me though.

Toys were equally suspicious.

To Kim, toys were a huge source of fear.  Initially I thought she might have some kind of hunting instinct - after all we were pretty much told that she was used to catching her own food. You know, because they didn't feed her.

'Something that squeaks', I thought.

Nope.  She was terrified.  She hid from the one squeaky toy we bought her.

We spent a few nights in the garden trying to get her interested in a football.  Instead of chasing the ball, she cowered from it.  Our kicking terrified her and she cowered down like we might kick her.

Wary, we tried throwing a small ball to each other, but throwing is basically the lifting of hands, and so, Kim was again scared.  She ducked down, crawling on her belly, pretty much begging us not to hit her.  It wasn't going well.



Of course the weeks went on, Kim never got hit by any of us and she was getting used to what to her appeared to be some kind of dream life.

She gradually accepted treats.

She carefully discovered that she could be petted without having to earn it.

She discovered the joys of meeting other humans and dogs and was taken on long, happy walks in all weathers, off lead and on.

She got to know that when we lifted our hands that it was to peg washing, to dance and to wave - and that it wouldn't end horribly for her.

And that it was nice to interact with us closely, because we would carefully stroke her ears, we would hug her on the couch and we would always reassure her when she was unsure.

Gradually we gained her trust.

Then our next door neighbours got a puppy.

A 13 week old collie pup, who, when she got to come and play over the fence, showed Kim how to play.

She showed Kim how to chase a ball.

She showed Kim that dog toys were in fact for her and that it was fun to run, and throw and chase each other with them.

And Kim payed attention.  She wonderingly learned how to play and stand her own ground and how to have fun.



It was so nice to see.

Every time she played, she got a little taller.  Her tail got a little bit more waggy.

Soon, she was dashing out into the garden to find her ball.

HER ball.

She knew it was hers.

Now she finds her toy and runs to greet it.

She throws it up in the air and rolls in the grass with it.

And she looks so happy.



And she lets us join in too.  She brings it to us to play.

It is then that we realise that we haven't just been teaching a dog how to be a dog again, in the nicest possible way, but we have taught her how to trust.

And that we have earned her trust.

And that is the greatest reward of all.




Friday, 28 August 2015

Every day is a dog day! #NationalDogDay

Today is National Dog Day, and if you know anything about me at all, you will know that I don't need any excuse at all to celebrate doggy life.

Having been an avid dog lover all of my days, I have been and still am absolutely enamoured with pretty much every dog that crosses my path.

Losing my old doggy, Sparky, after nearly 19 years together was and still remains one of the most heartbreaking things that has ever happened to me.



There'll never be another boy like my boy.

We did however end up recently rescuing a collie dog, called Kim.

She's a beauty.

She's also one of the most loving dogs I have ever had the fortune to meet and I really still cannot believe that we got so lucky as to have not only met such an even-tempered or well-behaved dog, but that she gets to to live with us and we with her.

I guess when the time came for us to get a new dog, I felt a bit like a kid in a sweetshop. 

There was a world of possibilities out there - the chance to have a puppy, make a life-long buddy and to mold a life.

I never imagined that we would end up with a dog in the way that we did.

I'll be the first person to tell you the ins and outs of getting a dog, ESPECIALLY if you have children.

Here are my no-mess rules to getting a dog:

1. VET any potential breeder/seller of pups.  Do not buy a pup where you cannot see the parent - there are far too many people breeding dogs for profit and shipping them in from horrible puppy farms where they do not care about the welfare of the breeding bitches, nor the pups. DON'T do it.  Be aware and use your savvy.

2. ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE EXAMINED THOROUGHLY, because any breeder worth anything at all will want to know where those puppies are going to end up and also, that you are going to bring them back to them (i.e, the safest place) if things don't work out.  They want to make sure you have time, you have space and you have the energy in order to give a dog a good life.

3. ASSESS yourself.  Do you work a lot? Do you have young children? Can you commit to at least 3 walks a day PLUS playtimes? Are you prepared to accept some mess? The possibility of your things getting chewed? The expense? Have you thought about where it will sleep?  What they eat? Getting them spayed? Have you thought about what you will do with them if you want to go away for the weekend or a big day out? Are you okay with yellow stains on your grass from dog pee? Picking up endless poop? Can you take a dog with you through the next possibly 15-20 years? Will you be able to deal with an ageing animal? Will you be able to provide all-of-life care, no matter what?

4.KNOW your breed.  Research, research, research. Know that even an individual dog will challenge it's own breed stereotype.  Know that you must see your dog as an individual.  Know that dogs use body language and learn what it all means; it's all your dog has to communicate with you.  Know how to enact positive reinforcement in training and that you never really train your dog, but rather, your dog trains you on how to interact with him/her. Know what kind of food is best - this is a basic thing which will affect a dog's health and behaviour in the same way it affects you or I. Know what makes your particular dog tick and know that if you know this stuff, your dog will be your best bud.

Did I follow my own rules? Kind of.

Kind of not.

I was stupid.

I had never owned and had never had any experience of a border collie before.

My baby was 4 weeks old, I was recovering from a C-section and I had two kids who, lets face it, are unpredictable (they run and scream and cry and shout and are basically noisy, crazy children)

While I am on maternity leave now and my husband is on a long time off work, this will not last.

We were however pushed into something which kind of ended up happening beyond our control...and no, you should never actually go and see a dog unless you are prepared to go home with a dog, because basically if there is a modicum of love in your heart, said dog will be going home with you.

Kim is a failed sheepdog.

There is something you should know about working dogs: they are not kept in the same way as pet dogs.  A lot of them are literally just a way for a farmer to earn money and if that dog is not earning his or her keep, he or she becomes just something that should be disposed of.

Kim is the most loving dog I have ever met.  She is loyal.  She is so gentle. 

She approaches everyone with hesitation and loves nothing better than just to be cuddled and petted.

When we got this poor loving dog, she was a shell of herself.  She cowered when you went to pet her - she was very hand-shy.

She approached everyone crawling along on her belly because she was so scared of being hit.

When we fed her, she wouldn't eat until we left the room, and if we came back in she would duck away.

She had muscle wasteage in her back legs, she was underweight, covered in fleas and had a kink in her tail from being kept in a cage.

She refused to sleep anywhere but on the floor, and when she slept, after flinching every time came in the room, she slept curled up as tight as possible, as if she was still in the box we saw her crated in when we went to see her.

When we went to that farm to view a dog that day, it was a road trip.  We had no intention of coming home with another family member.

But there was no way we could have morally left her where she was.

We couldn't have left her to goodness knows what.

It was with a huge raft of concern and worries and warnings to my other half about what to do and what to expect that we took this dog with us.

She was never to be left alone with any of the children.

The children were not to eat beside her.

The children had to be watched at all times, the baby was NEVER to be left at her level.

She must be kept downstairs and not in the kids rooms.

She can't be out in the garden on her own.

She must be watched in case she nips - border collies have a herding instinct, she might try to herd the kids.

If under any circumstances she nips, shows aggression, has any badness towards anyone, we seek help, we get her another home with someone who understands.

As it was, we definitely needn't have worried.

We have a dog who took 6 weeks to discover we had stairs in our house. First she wobbled up them, terrified.  Now she gallops up two at a time, accompanying me when I go up to get the baby or express milk.

It took her 4 weeks to accept that we were not going to do her any harm. Now she rises up o meet a hand instead of cowering down.

Two weeks ago she discovered the comfort of the carpet in our bedroom and now she watches vigil while we sleep, getting up occasionally to wag her tail sleepily while I feed the baby in the night.  She now stretches out, and she has legs so long, sometimes we trip on them.  When we do, she never ever grumbles. She didn't flinch when we took her for her vaccinations at the vets either; she didn't care bout the pain.

She graciously accepts treats, carefully mouthing them before nibbling them delicately, grateful for every single crumb, disbelievingly enjoying them.  She stays well away from the children's food, waiting until we point out the crumbs that she doesn't even begin to think she can have.

She just learned how to play, first learning that when we throw toys it is not to hit her, but to have fun with her.  Now she is slowly discovering the joys of 'fetch'. Find out how we taught her how to play HERE. She still balks at 'tug of war', but will gently play it with the puppy next door with a daffodil leaf through the fence or the guide rope on the gazebo when she thinks no-one is looking.

It took her two weeks to be brave enough to bark.  At first we didn't know she could - until one night we heard her bark because she was scared of something in the middle of the night.  When we went down to get her, she was glad to see us, relieved that we were still there.  A hug and then back to bed was all she needed.

Now she comes for a sneaky hug in the mornings, after the baby is fed, she waits patiently until it's her turn.  She has free reign in the garden, lying in the grass or watching us do some weeding.
She's had a couple of leaps over the fence, but all we have to do is say the word, and she stays by our sides.

We have been incredibly lucky.

Everyone who meets her tells us this too - she is a real people dog.  And a doggy dog - she has yet to have a run in with any other dog.  She is ridiculously submissive and even-tempered.

What a lady.

She is completely an individual within her breed - she still very much carries the characteristics in a lot of ways, but she is not a stereotype.

I highly recommend rescuing a dog.

Maybe not the way we did it - as I said we were incredibly lucky - but yes, if you are considering getting a dog, please consider a rescue.

Imagine saving a life.  Making it happy. Giving it a chance.

Go on. Give a dog a home.










Monday, 24 August 2015

That time I worked as a Chamber Maid

I am a hard worker.

That's what I tell myself at night, when the flashbacks of the things I have seen play over and over in my head...

Ah, the things I have seen.

*shudder*

If you ever need to know the highs and lows of being a casino worker, cleaning turds out of a urinal, chopping up used dildos so that nobody can return them, or fingering tinned sardines - I'm your gal.

*Tips cap*

I was 16 years old when I got the job at my local chain hotel.  The guy-I-kinda-fancied's (read: now my husband )mum got me the job (not because she got me the job), and soon I was placed in a highly skilled team of three cleaners to clean the 24 bed brand-standard hotel.

I say highly skilled, I mean highly chastised and severely punished if we left so much as a smear on a mirror.

We cleaned HARD.

The thing about cleaning is, that it never ends.  Especially in a place where there are strange people walking about at all hours of the day and night.  Here's the thing - people are WEIRD when it comes to staying somewhere foreign to them.  It's like they feel invisible, or like they aren't being watched, or like they have entered some kind of alternate universe where they can do things they have never done before.

Here are 5 kinds of people who use hotel chains:

1: Family folk.  Generally okay and clean enough, but will totally ignore you.  They are never organised enough to leave a room on time (which is a bugger if you are set to clean it, because you will have to come back to it with your trolley later on.  The trolley with all the stuff on is heavy and a pain in the ass and has to be refilled!) They come with children. Mess makers. Toothpaste on the mirror bastards. Grubby hands on your newly Brasso'd door handles. Mud on the floor.
2: Travelling workers.  These guys are smelly. So smelly.  The good news is, in the main, they rarely use towels.  Less to carry and chuck in the washing. However, the ones they do use will invariably have shit stains on them. Great. They leave the room early to get to work and some even haven't slept in the bed (though goodness knows where they sleep). These are the guys who leave porn on the pay-per-view and a ton of beer cans/whiskey bottles in the rubbish pail. A nice stereotype.
3: Kinky couples.  A bit of a cliche, but yes, kinky couples - whether they have been married for eons, or if it's just a cheeky one night affair - do use chain hotels for their dirty, dirty times.  As a chamber maid, this is kind of the ultimate ming-fest.  Not only are you most probably going to walk into a darkened room mid-shag while someone shouts 'clean towels please' in the middle of their lust-fuelled romp, but you will invariably be picking condoms out of the sheets, or even better, the shower plug hole.  Any stains in this room, wherever they are, should only be approached with disinfectant and rubber gloves. Also, you will become highly skilled at picking false eyelashes out of the toilet bowl rim. The room smells like a mixture of sweat, sex and CK one.
4: Groups of children. Obviously chaperoned by adults.  These adults are not related to said children, therefore will be at the bar, drinking their weight in real ale and completely ignoring the carnage wrought by the small boys or horrible, awful pre-teen girls they are supposedly looking after.  One time we had a group of cheerleaders stay.  They laid their mattresses end to end down the corridors in order to practice their cartwheels at 3a.m.  Every other customer complained and got their rooms for free. There was confetti in every nook and cranny and popcorn stuffed in between the bed frame and the mattress.  Hell hath no fury like a chamber maid with a hoover crevice tool.
5: Elderly residents.  This is weird.  Like, really odd. But there are older folk who stay in a hotel because, well, they like staying in a hotel.  For a long time.  They aren't between houses, they aren't on holiday, they just really like staying in the ill-equipped and VERY CLEAN rooms.  They get to know you by your first name, and oh yes, they are the first to let you know (or your manager - sneaky bastards) that your standards are slipping.
Like, WHY!?
Just go home, crazy old people!

The leader of our band of merry troops was a very discerning (and sweaty) mature lady.
Let's call her, Jane.
Jane was unfortunately having a very menopausal time when I happened to be working under her.  Poor Jane.  Jane had the sweats at the thought of changing a bed sheet.

Poor woman.
That is not a job that should be undertaken by someone who suffers in such a way. She must have lost about four stone every shift just from water weight alone.

Jane loved cleaning. Jane loved cleaning so much that she earned that particular hotel the status of cleanest in the UK. No joke - there was a plaque and everything.
Jane taught me how to make the bathrooms SHINE!

Jane loved cleaning so much that she got her husband to lift her carpets on her DAY OFF so that she could HOOVER UNDERNEATH THEM.

Oh Jane.

She was very, very good at her job.  She taught me how to check how clean a toilet REALLY was, by standing back at a huge distance and looking underneath the rim, in natural light to see if there happened to be any scum under it.

Honestly, life is too short. And yes, I am still doing it. Some habits are hard to kick.

She spoiled me for, lets face it, any other hotel, because no hotel will ever be as clean as that one - there was never a pube out of place when she was around.  Which is no mean feat.

Unfortunately, my career as a chamber maid was cut short by the call of the bar - yes, I left a place where the toilets shone and sparkled and went to a place where men regularly missed the toilet altogether and peed all over the floor. Excellent.

Thanks to Jane however, I had learned that a mop and bucket filled with bleach and near-boiling water will scald pretty much everything away, which came in very handy one night when I was trying to hose a shit out of a urinal after a 12 hour shift.

Thanks, Jane.






Friday, 14 August 2015

Learning to Walk Again

Sometimes life hands you melons, and well, you all know the saying - if life hands you melons, you make...melonade?



No?

That's not it.

Today was a bit disappointing.  I had an interview for a job I kind of already do, and for whatever reason (maternity leave?  I'm rubbish at my job?  Someone is much better?) I didn't get it.

It's a bit of a smack in the face not getting hired to do the job you already do, and I'm not shy about saying that it kind of sucks.  But hey - melonade, folks, all the melonade I can drink.

It's a bittersweet moment for me.  Ever since I started my current job, I've been hoping to do it on a full time basis, but as I went to interview I kind of realised that if I got this job on a full time basis, I would have to do it FULL TIME.

I mean, yeah, money and stuff, but what about the kids?  What about school runs and watching T.V in the evening and homework and snatched evenings at the beach walking the dog?
And Owen is so small, and well, if I wasn't here, he's in full-time nursery or something. Poor kid.
I was scared of getting it.  And scared of not getting it.  And I'm a bit of a fate-ist.  I decided to let fate handle the outcome: what's for you won't go by you and all that.

So, while I'm gutted not to be pursuing my career on a full-time basis, there's a realisation too that it is probably for the best, the kids are still young yet and, well, I'm not wonderwoman.  And I cannot in fact 'have it all'.



Oddly, this is kind of refreshing.

And yet again, I find myself at another very interesting crossroads; the exciting and addictive part of being, what my husband affectionately calls, a 'butterfly'.

Not because I'm a total beaut (although I'm sure that's what he means...no?) but because I am in fact a bit of a fluttery butterfly when it comes to life.  I never am happy with just one flower - oh no, I like to consider my options, take a small sip of the nectar and move on to the next flower.

 

Now I am free to consider other things: further education, running some children's groups locally, sewing, reading, thinking about other possible career paths and so on.

When we had our third child, after getting through 7 years of raising the other two to school age, we got a lot of questions about why we were indeed having yet another baby: how we could even contemplate starting all over again?

The public reasons varied, depending on which day you caught us on, but the reason we gave each other in private was that it was exciting, it was fun, the possibilities and you know, we had done it twice before. We knew that we had struggled and it had been hard before, but that also, it was amazing and often hilarious and we had learned so much. An act borne out of pure love for each other and our family. We had experience. And with that came the knowledge that we would enjoy it all the more. And we are.  We are very lucky people.



But that crossroads...

It's a gift.  What will happen next?  Where will we end up?

It's amazing, this time last year I had absolutely no idea Owen would ever exist.  We had no idea we would be in a house of our own, let alone a gorgeous house in the countryside with fab neighbours and a red collie dog. 

If you'd told me that this time last year I would have exploded with the idea of it.

But here we are - drinking a shit-load of melonade with beer.  And tequila.  Hell, let's have a melonade party!

Change will come. Learning to walk again is fun.

Cheers!



Monday, 10 August 2015

Wee Blethering Baby Boy: Introducing Owen Henry, and other tales

*Drumroll please!*

It's been very very quiet here as of late, but I have a really good excuse - honest!

These last few months have seen some very major changes in our lives, and it's taken (and is still very much taking) some time for the dust to settle.

Firstly, I would like to introduce our newest addition.

Meet Owen Henry Millar, born 17/6/15 at 12:05p.m weighing 8lb 12oz.




Born at 39 weeks via c-section after some hospital time for me with what can only be described as the longest and most horrible month of my life including full-blown contractions, some water breakage and lots of waiting and blood pressure checks at various locations, it is safe to say we are all very happy he is here.  

He is now 7 weeks old and thriving, having slotted right into our busy wee family.  The boys are very pleased indeed to have a new wee brother and love showing him off to anyone who comes to visit (or indeed, anywhere we go!)

And after 7 weeks of summer holidays, I can firmly say that he is definitely the easiest and more amiable of the three boys at the moment!

I love him to death.  He's a gorgeous wee boy - so bright and happy, and he loves nothing more than a snuggle with mummy, which is so lovely.  And being the last, I am of course savouring every second.  I am all too aware of how quickly it all goes. It's already gutting how he has grown out of his newborn clothes, and although I am really pleased and proud that I am growing a big healthy boy with my boobs (seriously how amazing is that?!  It's my first real proper time of breastfeeding and it is really amazing me a lot that my boobs are not only keeping something alive, but also making him grow!  What wizardry is this?!) I am so aware that before long he'll not be a baby anymore! 

 

While I had a leisurely (!) week in hospital, 2 weeks before Owen was born, we were also fortunate enough to have closed the deal on our forever home.  Yes, we have now moved into a country cottage and have officially become country bumpkins (although it's not that far from the city really, so it is cheating a bit. But I say anywhere which requires it's own septic tank and calor gas tank supply is off the grid enough to qualify for bumpkin status).
Cottage de Millaro!

Plus, well, our view front and back is fields, so that totally counts, right?

The view from our window

                                                              Of course being 'off the grid' as it were, it has been extremely difficult to get an internet and phone provider.  Nothing ever seems to happen at speed, which has been incredibly frustrating, especially as everything needs to be done online!  Try fitting that in with children, hospital visits and new babies!  It's not easy!

Of course, if you wanted to add to the crazy, you could.  And why not?  Let's get it all done in one go!



So...meet Kim!

Kim is a 3 year old red merle border collie who we inadvertantly rescued from a bit of a rough gig on a farm.  More on her story later, but after my initial reservations, she is in fact a very well behaved, very very sweet and very very loving little lady.  It appears we have come to each other at the right time.  People keep saying to us that we have landed on our feet with her as she is so good, but really it is us who have landed on our feet with her.  I have never known such a well-behaved and chilled out little lady - especially after all she has been through, and coming into such a manic household!  We are very lucky indeed.

It's been a bit of an uphill struggle lately, to say the least.  Factor in a couple of weddings, celebrations, job interviews (yep, really!), school transitions, cleaning and packing of rented accomodation and attempting to decorate and you have some pretty crazy times!  Luckily we have had a lot of help (and some beer) to get us through.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to getting the boys back into a school routine next week so I can start getting some normality (and some proper cleaning done!)

So, if you have been looking for me - these are my excuses!  And I hope to be more present soon!