Willow in the Lakes

Well, strictly speaking she only went IN one lake – Derwent Water – for a little paddle, however I digress.

So somehow I have got to the ripe old age of *cough* without ever having been to the Lake District. When Daughter suggested it as an Easter holiday suggestion last year it took me a while to get into the idea, not helped by not being able to make up my mind which part of the Lakes we should base ourselves in. Eventually I found a cottage in Keswick and so that is where we found ourselves on the Saturday before Easter.

Having arrived at 4pm it wasn’t long before we decided to find some food and ended up at The Square Orange bar. Like many eateries in Keswick it’s very dog friendly, also like many eateries in Keswick it caters well for both vegetarians and vegans. We liked it so much we had to go back for another visit!

The weather forecast for the week, as is typical for the Lakes, was changeable however the first two days looked pretty good – clear if not warm. So on our first full day we decided to explore the lakeside around Keswick itself, which was the point at which Willow decided to paddle in the shallow edge of Derwent Water. She enjoyed the new environment, although the people pottering around in rowing boats confused her and she felt the need to shout at them.

Small terrier dog sitting on fallen treeThe following day was Husband’s birthday, the forecast was again good, so we caught a launch straight across the lake and did the popular walk up Catbells. Despite the fact that it was more of a scramble than a walk in places Willow channelled her Cairn terrier genes and, despite her legs being noticeably shorter than mine, she easily made the summit. I made the summit too, but with somewhat less elegance and more red-faced heavy breathing. We carried on along Catbells and made our way down to the lake again, following the lakeside path back to the landing area and caught the launch back to Keswick. Willow, as is her way, was happy enough on the launch as long as we were with her, however she did scramble off quite smartish once we got back to the jetty. Husband’s birthday supper came courtesy of The George – again dog friendly and highly recommended.

Tuesday’s treat was a trip to the Puzzling Place – unbelievably also dog friendly! I say unbelievably as it’s an exhibition of illusions, hands on puzzles and interactive elements – not the sort of place you would expect to allow dogs in; there was also a surprisingly good hologram exhibition. Willow was on her best behaviour the whole time and even took part in some of the interactive elements to great effect. It was a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours.

Wednesday afternoon found us climbing again, this time at Rannerdale Knots. This was a nice easy walk up above Crummock Water, although the wind was really strong – as shown by Willow’s coat. Small terrier dog on hill looking down at lakeWe came the steep way down which was a little harder, especially with the wind gusting around us. There was a lot of walking on loose slate on the paths (as with many of the paths in the Lake District) and when we got back home I noticed Willow was limping a bit on one of her front paws. It didn’t seem to bother her and by the time we’d been out to eat and returned home she was walking normally.

Thursday saw us exploring further down the lakeside from Keswick to the Centenary Stone and then taking the long route home through the Great Wood at the foot of Walla Crag and then cross country to Castlerigg Stone Circle. From the outskirts of Keswick the disused railway line provides a nice off-road route to get back into the town centre. Again, Willow took it all in her stride. Interestingly, although she has shown an interest in sheep when we’ve been on the Isle of Mull, here she has completely ignored them. Even when faced with this lot across the road in front of her, she was really calm and disinterested which was very reassuring.A flock of sheep spread across a public road Thursday evening saw us in The Bar Metro enjoying veggie/vegan burgers, again with Willow welcomed.

I have been really impressed with the number of places that are both veggie/vegan friendly and dog friendly here in Keswick. I should also give an honourable mention to Kat’s Kitchen a vegetarian and vegan speciality café about 50 yards from our cottage. It has been great to have such a wide range of places to choose from. No doubt there are plenty of other places that are either dog friendly or veggie/vegan friendly, perhaps even both, but it was impossible to try them all out in one week. I have also been incredibly impressed with Willow’s behaviour this week. She was a little unsettled in the new environment when we first arrived, but she has been a model dog all week. In restaurants she has settled down under whichever table we happened to be sat at and waited for us to finish. On walks she has been interested but not over-excited and she’s put me to shame with her energy for walking up and down hills! In the cottage she has happily used her crate overnight and not climbed on any of the furniture. I think all the walking may have helped though, at times she seemed quite worn out!Small terrier dog asleep on a rug

Firstly an apology that it’s been so long since I last posted, but despite that I’m going to carry on in the same theme as the last post!

Willow sitting on stone windowsill against a plain background and looking quizzical

I have to admit to being somewhat flummoxed by Willow’s behaviour demonstrated today and would be happy to hear any theories from experts or amateurs to explain it. Here’s what happened…

Everyone else was out of the house all day today leaving me working from home with just Willow and Cat for company. I had to run a quick errand in town mid-morning which took me about half an hour. When I got back home Willow was pleased to see me as usual but strangely seemed very intent on getting into the kitchen, which was NOT usual. I should explain that our kitchen door is usually kept closed and there is a cat flap (minus the actual flap) cut into it so that Cat can come and go. Although Willow can get through the hole she categorically refuses to do so and has to have the door opened for her. So before I even took my coat off, and somewhat bemused by Willow’s behaviour, I opened the door and we both went into the kitchen.

My first thought was that the floor was dirtier than when I’d left and closer inspection showed that the dirt was in fact dark feathers. At the same time Willow was hassling me to go out into the garden through the back door. Again, this door has a cat flap in it (with an actual flap in this one) and, being the quirky dog that she is, Willow usually waits to be let out of the door rather than use it but if she’s outside she will quite happily come IN through the cat flap without needing the door to be opened. There is an exception to this but that’s a whole other story…

So I opened the door and out we both went into the garden where Willow made a beeline for our garden bench which has a large cover draped over it. She dove headfirst under one end of the bench and then wriggled out backwards with something in her mouth which she dropped in front of me.

It was a dead blackcap.

We get a lot of birds in our garden, mostly sparrows, starlings and wood pigeons but this was the first blackcap I’d seen for a few years and it was decidedly dead.

So, what I think must have happened (judging by previous behaviour) is that Cat had caught the bird in the garden and, as is her wont, brought it into the kitchen. Willow had seen this, got through the cat flap in the internal door and grabbed the dead bird, taken it out through the external cat flap and stashed it under the bench until I got home.

The only question is… why?

What just happened?

Sitting at my desk just now I heard the cat flap bang, followed by a squeak.

‘Hmm,’ I thought, ‘neither of my animals make that noise.’ In fact, from past experience that noise is usually the result of Cat bringing home a still live rodent to play with so it seemed prudent to go into the kitchen and investigate. Sure enough Cat was sitting under the kitchen table, her go-to place where she takes her hunting trophies to play with. Usually there will be a small, still, furred or feathered body sitting in front of her which she will hit half-heartedly with a paw to see if it will move again (hint: it usually doesn’t).

Cat garden

However, this time there was nothing there. I had a quick look round to see if whatever it was had made a dash for freedom and was somewhere in the kitchen but couldn’t see anything. Then my subconscious nudged me that Willow had gone running in to the kitchen on hearing the squeak and I’d then heard the cat flap go again. Standing up, I looked out the window into the garden. Sure enough, there was Willow at the end of the garden sitting very still and watching something in front of her.

Willow garden

Taking my investigative skills out into the garden, I found a mouse trying very hard to burrow under a leaf on the lawn where Willow was sitting. I managed to pick it up without getting bitten for my pains and had a quick examination. There was no blood, all four limbs appeared to be intact and its eyes were open and it was breathing. It did, unsurprisingly, appear to be in deep shock. So I put it somewhere relatively safe and brought both animals inside and locked the cat flap.

I can only assume that Cat brought the mouse in and Willow promptly grabbed it and took it outside again. I admit to surprise that a) the mouse was still alive and in relatively good shape after being carried by BOTH my animals and b) that Willow didn’t tear it into bloody shreds as she’s half terrier and that’s what she’s bred for.

Here’s hoping it was that mouse’s lucky day!

 

Growing Old Gracefully

This appeared in my feed today and I found it quite moving. The process of aging in dogs happens so quickly compared to humans, especially in the larger breeds. And obviously older dogs are often harder to rehome when they end up in rescue. So, grab a coffee and take five minutes to appreciate the dignity of older dogs:

http://brightside.me/article/how-dogs-get-older-a-fascinating-and-deeply-touching-photography-project-11005/

And if you prefer younger dogs, this is Ms Willow catching up on her beauty sleep:

Asleep

Let’s Play!

One thing I have been struck by in the time that we’ve had Willow is the number of other dog owners who, whilst watching their dog playing with Willow, have said, “Oh, he/she doesn’t usually play with other dogs,” she definitely seems to bring out the playful side in her canine compatriots. This may be down to the fact that Willow is obviously on the small side but she’s also very non-threatening; I’ve also watched the way she initially ‘reads’ other dogs that we meet in the park and she seems quite tuned in to their body language. She will initiate play with a ‘play bow’ with some but just avoid the more aggressive, stand-offish ones.

I was interested then to chat to pet behaviourist, Jo Cottrell, when I picked Willow up from her first experience of doggy daycare in March. Apart from the fact that the first thing she said to me was, ‘What a cracking little dog,’ (proud owner moment), I mentioned that Willow had come from a puppy farm via a rescue charity. According to Jo, dogs from puppy farms often interact very well with other dogs but poorly with humans due to the fact that they spend their formative months with other dogs in poor conditions and have limited human contact. This may well be the case for Willow although she is a lot more relaxed around people these days.

I was also interested a little while later to read this blog about the interaction between cats and dogs. Cat is surprisingly tolerant of Willow and puts up with her ‘air nipping’ very close to her face. She obviously realises that Willow’s intent is not to hurt her but to play, even if Cat really doesn’t want to. This scenario usually ends with Cat having had enough and smacking Willow and running away. I wouldn’t say that I have ever really see them play together.

Until Monday, when I saw this:

Cat and dog playing through fence

To explain, Cat was lying in a very relaxed position in the flower bed poking her paw through the fence to Willow. Willow kept trying to put her nose through the fence to Cat and the to-ing and fro-ing of nose and paw continued for several minutes accompanied by lots of tail wagging on Willow’s part and very little on Cat’s part. Now, given that Willow can easily get over the fence and has done on numerous occasions to hassle Cat, this was definitely a bit of fun for both of them.

I have to say, I was very surprised but also very pleased at this latest turn of events. Later the same day they were back to normal with Willow hassling and Cat putting up with it, but I do think their relationship may be thawing!

Cat and dog on either side of a picket fence.

27 Reasons To Never Have A Staffordshire Bull Terrier As A Pet

I have always admitted to having a huge soft spot for Staffordshire Bull Terriers, even now I only have to see one and it makes me smile. From what we saw when we were looking at rescue centres, about 75% of rescue dogs at the time were Staffies or Staffie crosses and I always assumed that would be what we ended up with. Instead we ended up with this little bundle of joy:

Willow on rug

But my soft spot is still there so, as you can imagine, I had a big smile on my face when I found this webpage:

27 Reasons To Never Have A Staffordshire Bull Terrier As A Pet

Enjoy!

And smile 😀

In Praise of Small Dogs

This blog post was going to be about Willow’s Big Kennel Adventure, but I’m suffering from writers block on that one so you’ll have to have this one instead!

Regular readers of this blog might remember my friend’s dog Millie. As a huge favour to my friend we had Millie to stay overnight at New Year and, as an even bigger favour, she’s now back for the entire weekend. Don’t get me wrong, Millie is a beautiful dog:

Millie

… she has a lovely temperament, is a real softie and not particularly big for a GSD but, compared to Willow she is HUGE.

And it’s hard not to make comparisons. So, my list of the advantages of small dogs:

1. They physically take up less space. I know, it’s in the name – SMALL dogs. But when you’ve got a small house and a dog that’s in the way, it’s a lot easier to step around/over a small dog (and when they decide to get under your feet it’s also easier to step ON a small dog, but this is not an advantage.)

2. They are physically less intimidating (obviously not a plus if you’re looking for a scary dog). If Willow stands on her hind legs, she comes to about the top of my thighs. If Millie stands on her hind legs, her face is level with mine. Not only that, a primitive part of my brain kicks in at that point gibbering with fear that I’m about to be eaten. If you don’t believe me try it – stand up eyeball to eyeball with a dog that’s big enough and no matter the temperament of the dog, there is something about being that close to a mouth full of canine teeth that kick-starts the ‘I’m prey’ part of your psyche.

3.  Talking of eating, small dogs need a lot less food. I buy my food in 1.5kg bags one of which will last about 2-3 weeks. The largest size bag I can quickly find is 30kg which, by my calculation, would last Willow about a year. Buying in bulk is obviously cheaper but buying food for a small dog is cheaper still.

4.  Because they eat less small dogs excrete less. Today I found myself thinking ‘Do poo bags really only come in one standard size?’ Because one standard size is fine for clearing up after Willow, but really not up to the task of clearing up the mountain of excrement that Millie deposited shortly after arriving. And the odour is definitely in proportion to the quantity….

5. Small dogs make much better lap dogs. We don’t encourage Willow to be a lap dog, but when stretched out on the sofa if she decides to lie on top of me it’s not a problem. Many years ago Millie’s Mum owned a Rottweiler/GSD cross who took a real shine to Husband and frequently attempted to sit on his lap. Well, it was funny for the rest of us but not a pleasant experience for Husband.

6. Small dogs are easier to control. We took both dogs out for a walk at lunchtime, or rather Millie took me out for a walk and Husband and Willow trotted along behind trying to keep up. By the time we got to the field to let the dogs off the lead, my arms and legs were aching from trying to keep Millie in line. Big dogs are just that much stronger and have the weight to put behind it. Conversely, as a last resort you can pick a small dog up and carry them to where you need them to be.

Having said all that, it is by no means a criticism of Millie as a dog. She and Willow have a great relationship and it’s really sweet to see them together: Willow and Millie

So what have I missed? Any other advantages of having a small dog? Let me know in the comments.