Happy Christmas!

Dog and christmas tree

Willlow and family wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a happy and healthy year in 2014.

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Walkies – finally!

As I’ve previously mentioned we’ve had a few problems taking Willow for a walk. We live on a quiet road but at the end of our road is a pretty busy main route which has a pretty much constant flow of traffic on it. Two hundred yards or so down this road there is a public footpath and bridleway where it’s nice and quiet and you can walk for quite some distance without having to go on a public road – ideal for walking a dog. Or rather it would be ideal for walking a dog if the dog was happy to walk there.

It became apparent on the first day we had Willow that she really did not like the noise and business of the main road. She refused to walk down it point blank. I thought she would probably be OK once she got onto the bridleway so I picked her up and carried her for the two hundred yards. She trembled the whole way down the road but sure enough was happy to walk once she got away from the road.

The first day we didn’t walk very far down the bridleway, she got to the first corner and decided it was time to come home. This involved being carried all the way back up the hill. The second day she walked twice as far and on the third day twice as far again, but each time would not walk along the main road and had to be carried, trembling each time. In addition, any time we passed another person, with or without a dog, she would pull to get away from them.

The first conclusion I very quickly drew was that it was better for Willow to wear a harness that I could clip her lead to rather than just a collar. To be honest, she’s such a dinky dog that her collar, even done up on the tightest setting, is quite loose and on the first walk she nearly slipped her head out of it in her struggles to get away from the traffic.

I worked on the theory that if we did the same thing each day, eventually she would start associating the main road with going for a walk and would eventually get used to it and hopefully walk down the road by herself. By the end of the first week, although she was relaxing more while on her walk, she still wasn’t walking down the road.

Which brings us to today. The weather here was vile today – windy, horizontal rain, cold and generally miserable; however, being half Cairn Terrier, that doesn’t seem to bother Willow. Daughter, Husband and I donned waterproofs and took Willow for a walk, you can guess which one of us enjoyed it most. However, Willow walked all the way down the road to the bridleway, did a short loop along the paths and then walked all the way back up the hill to come home. She wasn’t entirely happy about doing it, judging by her body language, but nevertheless she did it.

Result!

I have a theory on why she has suddenly succeeded. It may be that she has just got used to the road, however, the difference today was that Daughter was with us and she was holding the end of the lead. Previously it has been either just me, or both Husband and I walking her as the children were at school. By letting Daughter walk Willow and by me walking ahead of her, Willow was effectively trying to catch up with me, the person who usually walks her. Alternatively, it might be that walking her on some different quieter roads while we were away at the weekend gave her a bit of confidence. Either way, I hope that’s the last time we have to carry her for a walk!

An Eventful Weekend

As it’s the weekend before Christmas we needed to exchange some gifts with friends and family. Setting off on Saturday morning we drove down to Tintern Abbey to meet up with a friend and her beautiful one year old white German Shepherd, Millie in a car park.

White german shepherdSo far Willow has been rather nervous around other dogs, despite having been fostered with three other dogs, including the most enormous Bull Mastiff I have ever seen, and initially this was the case with Millie. Millie is a very bouncy excitable dog, but ultimately very sweet and gentle. Initially Willow tried to keep as far away from Millie as possible but once we started walking with the two dogs, she relaxed and happily trotted along on her lead while Millie, off the lead, bounded and bounced all around us.

After our walk we retired to The Anchor Inn for coffee and cakes. The staff were more than happy for us to take the dogs inside but we opted to stay outside where the dogs didn’t have to be on best behaviour. Willow had obviously relaxed really well by this point as she started playing with Millie, which was lovely to watch. I actually had to check with our friend that that was what they were doing! The funniest thing was watching Millie trying to be submissive to Willow because, given the size difference, she had to get down very low to be below the level of Willow’s head!

We will definitely be visiting The Anchor again, but in the meantime leaving Tintern we drove on to see Husband’s brother and his family. Because she was in a new environment, Willow spent the first couple of hours sat in a corner watching everything happening around her. Eventually, again, she relaxed and quietly wandered around getting to know everyone. She was extremely well behaved the whole evening, either sitting quietly or gently making everyone fall in love with her.

This morning we had more giant steps forward. We took her for a walk along a canal towpath which is very popular with dog walkers. To get there we had to negotiate some quite busy roads. So far Willow has been very nervous around roads, scared to walk near the cars and having to be carried. As mentioned above she has also been very nervous around strange dogs. On this walk she dealt really well with both. She was obviously not happy but she kept walking when there were cars around and also allowed some strange dogs to come up and touch noses with her.

I think, having made such progress, she’s allowed to take a little nap.

Sleeping Willow

Willow

As I said in my previous post, Willow is a cross between a Cairn Terrier and a Pomeranian; she has the body and coat of a terrier, with a Pom’s tail and a face that’s somewhere between the two.

Dog on rug

It’s fairly obvious that she has not been properly socialised as a puppy as she jumps at any strange noise. We brought her home from the fosterers late afternoon on Saturday and she spent a good half hour or so exploring the ground floor of the house, going back and forward through the rooms smelling everything. Unfortunately she soon learned that the kitchen is a source of lots of strange noises – the washing machine, tumble drier, the click of the microwave door, the kettle… and promptly decided that the safest place to be with all these noises was behind the Christmas tree in the living room, wedged into a corner. She stayed there for quite some time and wouldn’t be tempted out until Daughter budged in behind her and gradually ‘budged’ her out. To be fair Willow has adapted really quickly and yesterday decided she could be next to the Christmas tree when she was worried and not behind it.

In the meantime we’d put the blanket that we’d brought from her foster home into her crate and covered the crate with another blanket so it smelt familiar. She soon decided that was an alternative safe place to be. She has gone into the crate overnight both nights and apart from some quiet whimpering for about a minute on the first night she has been really good. This morning when I let her out of the crate I was met with a very energetic ball of fluff who danced all around me and whose tail was going nineteen to the dozen trying to tell me how pleased she was to see me.

The one thing she doesn’t appear to be scared of is people coming into the house. She’s been quite happy to go up and greet the two visitors we have had with a wag of the tail, which is reassuring.

She seems to be quite an intelligent dog. Although she was allowed on the furniture at her foster home she has only tried it a couple of times here and has soon picked up on the fact that she’s not allowed on the sofa. If she wants a fuss one of us will sit on the floor and fuss her, but she’s not allowed up for a fuss. Cat, however, is allowed on the sofa, a fact that Willow is not happy about. She and Cat seem to have reached an uneasy truce. They’ve touched noses a few times and had a good smell of each other; Cat has thumped her once for some impertinent sniffing and Willow has chased Cat once when Cat was daft enough to run away. Willow isn’t allowed upstairs but Cat is so that she’s got a safe zone to retreat to. Everything is fine until someone makes a fuss of Cat, especially if they’re sitting on the floor doing it. Willow may be happy to be bottom dog at least for the time being, but I’m not sure she likes being bottom cat. I’m making sure we keep an eye on them as much as possible but it does seem positive so far and I hope given time they will become much more tolerant of each other.

So that brings the tale up to date. Today both offspring were at school and Husband was out at a meeting. I was working from home and Willow spent the time that I was working curled up in a basket next to my feet, very well behaved. It has been a pretty positive start to Willow’s rehoming but it is still very early days.

Dog-shaped hole – filled!

Cairn Terrier crossThis is Willow. She’s a seven month old Cairn Terrier-Pomeranian cross who spent the first four or five months of her life living in a barn on a puppy farm and was rescued by Friends of the Animals RCT.  She has spent the past two months living with a foster family with other dogs and cats.  Last night she left her foster family and came to live with us.

I’ll tell you more about her in a day or two, once she’s more settled.

A Tale of Two Home Visits

Or should that be a tail… no, let’s not start on the puns.

When we decided to start our hunt for a rescue dog we decided to start at Battersea Old Windsor as it was fairly local, had quite a large number of dogs and a good reputation. We paid a visit, filled in the required forms, had a quick chat with a re-homer and then had a look through the kennels.

There were about five dogs I would have taken home there and then. All Staffies.

The procedure at Battersea is that you fill in the forms to adopt a dog and then you get a general home visit to check that your home and garden is suitable before you start really thinking about which dog you would like. Consequently the home check is not specific and effectively covers any and all breed of dog. About 5 days after we’d been to Old Windsor I had a call from one of their home inspectors and we set a date for the following week for her to come and see us.

Garden and plantsThe home inspector was very helpful, she came up with lots of suggestions about settling a new dog in, especially with Cat. She outlined how Battersea check to see if a dog is likely to be able to live with a cat and we discussed feeding and training and everything involved in looking after a dog. However, she wasn’t happy with our garden, specifically the fences. We have a relatively small garden surrounded mostly by 6’ fences. There was one area of 3’ tatty mesh fence which really did need replacing and I couldn’t disagree with her on this. However, as we have a 4’ high bunker next to a 5’ shed against the 6’ fence, she was concerned that a dog could jump up onto these and then jump over the fence and break a leg falling the 6’ on the other side, despite the fact that our neighbour has shrubs growing against the fence at this point. She wanted us to raise the height of the fence in this area to prevent a dog jumping over it, and suggested putting trellis along the top of the fence. The bottom line was that until we had done the work and she had come back to inspect then we couldn’t go any further with adopting a dog from them.

So, that was pretty disappointing. Husband and I had a chat about the work that needed doing and determined that putting in trellis was not going to be particularly easy. Husband started applying his not inconsiderable DIY skills to thinking about the problem and ten days later the 3’ fence was a 6’ fence, which only left the trellis.

In the meantime, however, I had found a dog being offered for adoption by a much smaller animal charity who looked ideal so I filled in an application form and a call from the adoption co-ordinator followed fairly swiftly. She thought that we would be an ideal home for this particular dog, currently being fostered about an hour’s drive away from us, and set things in motion. A phone chat with the dog’s fosterer followed which only served to convince me that this could be the perfect dog for us, so a home visit was arranged.

I wasn’t aware but the smaller rescue charities tend to help each other out in terms of fostering and home checks. Consequently, this morning we had a home check from a local lady who fosters for another animal charity. The difference this time was that she had the details of the dog we were interested in and checked the garden for that particular dog. She saw the new 6’ fence and the existing fence (no trellis) and the small hole in the gate that we had temporarily blocked. She came inside and chatted to all four of us, asked about our routines, our holiday plans, our thoughts on training. She also recommended a particularly good dog training class locally.

Then she told us she was more than satisfied that we were a suitable home and that she would report back to the adoption co-ordinator to that effect as soon as she got home. Home check passed with flying colours! (And no more garden DIY required from Husband!)