Tag Archives: dog

Top Five Hound Walk Conversations

Having enjoyed the company of a hound (more specifically, a lurcher) for 2 years now, we find that we are regularly visiting the same conversation topics on walks. I thought I’d share our favourites. We have also had a terrier (a patterdale cross) for 3 years, but she doesn’t elicit a tenth of the interest that our lovely lurcher boy does (bless her! – we’re always so happy when someone directs a comment to her).

1: Yes, he is fast

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(sorry that the gif’s a bit amateur, but I do think it’s cute – it’s one Google+ automatically created from a couple of burst shots of the dogs – hence the sudden appearance of lurcher boy)

Amusingly, this is most often said when he’s jogging around relatively gently. The full-speed blasts are very short-lived but quite impressive.

2: No, he’s not a greyhound, a retired racer (or worse “an ex-greyhound”, as someone once asked us!)

Lurchers are not a breed as such; they’re a sighthound (greyhound, whippet, saluki, deerhound etc) crossed with something else (often a collie or a terrier). They originated from the days when only the nobility could have hunting dogs. Other dogs would be surreptitiously mated with the lord’s hounds to create a dog that could hunt.

Both our dogs are from Dogs Trust, so we don’t know his full history, but our lurcher seems to be part saluki (for those in the know: he has webbed feet and a rather lovely shawl) and we think part collie, due to the expressiveness of his ears.

3: No, he’s not too skinny/Yes, we do feed him

Actually, you’d be surprised how much he eats – and how much more he’d be willing to eat, given half a chance. I think lurchers are quite well known for being gluttonous, despite the skinny appearance.

4: No, he doesn’t take a ‘fair bit of walking’

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The poor soul actually gets considerably more walking than is necessary for him, thanks to living with a terrier. I don’t think we could ever walk her enough for her to not want more, but lurcher boy would definitely be happy with just a couple of half-hour walks a day, if allowed some free running. As it stands, though, he gets 4-6 miles daily (and often a good run, since he lacks the self-awareness to not run when he’s knackered). That’s why he has well-developed leg muscles which sometimes lead other lurcher folks to assume he’s a working dog.

5: No, we don’t ‘work’ him

I suppose having a terrier as well does kind of invite the assumption that we often dine on rabbit, but trust me: they are ‘just’ pets. As for the idiot who insulted us recently declaring this ‘a waste’, I can only pity you. On a related note, to the owners of the poor little ‘pampered’ pooches who aren’t allowed to be dogs: our lurcher does not think your dog is a rabbit. However, your little dog who is wriggling and wagging does want to play with our boy and might actually have fun running around if you’d just let it…

Finally, here’s a plea for the humble hound. They make fantastic family pets (but rubbish guard dogs due to their gentle natures, although I suppose you might still have the deterrent factor) and can commonly be found at rescue centres. Indeed, there are several hound-specific charities which specialise in rehoming former racers and related breeds. The Retired Greyhound Trust is one of the largest of these, with multiple branches across the UK. For more info on rehoming greyhounds and lurchers, Dogs Trust has some great advice.

Review: Emily and Patch by Jessie Williams

Adorable and heart-warming story of a miserable girl and a mistreated collie

from the City Farm series, aimed at the 7+ bracket.

emily and patchI really enjoyed this sweet and gentle read about a little girl struggling with her emotions and the dog she befriends. This is not the first book in the City Farm series, but it is the first I’d read (it will not be the last!). The set-up at City Farm is that it’s a kind of rehabilitation centre for children with special needs, whether those are permanent difficulties dues to disabilities or learning difficulties, or temporary ones due to family or other personal problems (as in Emily’s case).

Emily is suffering due to family changes and has anger issues. I particularly liked the way her feelings were shown so clearly, along with her (slightly disordered) reasoning. It was so easy to sympathise with her, whilst at the same time clearly understanding how and why her assumptions were mistaken leading to unnecessarily negative feelings. And all of this emotional complexity is handled skilfully in an easy read for children – no mean feat! I also liked that the book shows a girl character struggling with anger, and implicitly makes it okay for girls to feel this way, while carefully exploring how to get off of the rut. There is real emotional intelligence behind this book.

The other characters in the book were also well-defined and likeable. It was great to see the interaction between Emily and the other children on the farm (presumably they also feature in other titles), and of course the central relationship between Emily and the poor little collie pup was beautifully portrayed and worthy of Dick King Smith.

I can’t help but comment on this book as a teacher as well as a reader and parent, and I can see such scope for this series within schools. This title (and I assume others) would make an excellent class reader for upper primary, with tons of scope for SEAL and PSHE activities as well as plenty of literacy work. I wouldn’t shy away from using it with a weak or unconfident year 7 class, either.

I would definitely recommend this novel, and by extension, the series, to readers over 7.

From the publisher’s website

Ever since Emily’s mum died, she’s had trouble adjusting to her new life with her dad and step-mum. But when she joins the Harvest Hope project at City Farm, she makes new friends… and meets a very special dog called Patch.

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Out now from Curious Fox

My grateful thanks to the publisher for the copy received for honest review

Hellloooo! (General update – plus dog pic)

I’ve been pretty absent online lately. Sorry about that. It’s mostly due to starting a new job (yay!) and being pretty busy with writing projects (also yay!), leaving me little time for blogging (and tweeting, as it happens).

I just wanted to check in and say I am here, I’m ok and regular service will soon be resumed 🙂

Thanks for your patience. Here’s a cheery picture of our dogs to make it all better.

Reviews coming up include:
Witchfall by Victoria Lamb (loved it – read Witchstruck first; both are ace)
Emily and Patch by Jessie Williams (a truly lovely read – definitely recommended)
Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs (great for Tempe Brennan fans)

Time for a little break. But first: See the Dogs Run

No, I’ve not come over all Peter and Jane. I have, in fact, got this marvellous gif to show you of our dogs running. I recently changed phone and, helpfully, Google+ automatically uploads any photos I take. Naturally, as it’s a New Phone, I have been messing around with the settings and tested the ‘burst shot’ mode on the dogs running.

Back at home on the laptop after a walk, Google+ emailed to say my photos were available and, naturally, I checked them out (y’know – bigger screen to see them on and everything). Imagine my excitement when I saw that G+ had spotted the burst shots and animated them into gifs for me! So, to offset my guilt about not having a proper post for you today (and about needing to take a bit of a break), I thought I’d share this awesomeness with you 🙂

In case anyone’s wondering why the lurcher suddenly appears part way through, this represents two separate burst shots (they were running laps). I don’t know how to separate them 🙂

Anyway, hopefully this will make someone smile. As mentioned above, I’m going to be taking a little blogging break – all part of the looking after myself and getting my priorities right thing – and I’ll be back on the 15th July with more reviews and other stuff. It’ll be a bit of a relaunch with some changes. Nothing drastic, and (hopefully!) all for the better. See you then! I’ll just leave you with some more doggish loveliness…

Jessie, the Patterdale(ish) terrier loves water
This is Hunter’s preferred daytime position. What I’d give for that flexibility!

No longer lurching from crisis to crisis: a commitment

Warning: this is a really personal post, which may be helpful to some with similar difficulties, but if you want to back away now and come back for bookishness on Friday, no hard feelings 🙂

OK, here’s the thing: I’ve been pretty busy lately and have put lots of things on hold ‘until I’ve done x’ or ‘until things calm down’. I’ve only just realised that I’ve been doing this now for at least a year (yeah, I know – and probably a year’s a rather conservative estimate, if I’m honest). This behaviour is not good for my mental
health – depression and anxiety are generally not helped by lurching along from crisis state to crisis state.

So, here, for your benefit – although I’m sure you’re more clued up than I am – are my liberating realisations:

  • I’ve been consistently busy, although with different and varied projects, for a long time now: I should see busy as normal
  • If busy is going to be my normal state, I need to see this as my actual life, not preparation (sorry for the dramatic, but I bet some of you know what I mean!)
  • Staring at a screen for ten hours is far less productive than doing, say, six or seven hours of screen time spread across the day
  • How could I have been neglecting this?
  • Not only can I therefore ‘afford’ the time to go on the dog walk with my husband, but I positively benefit from doing so (duh!)

Review: A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean

Heartwarming tale of friendship and hope after loss for the 9-12 crowd (and teens, and adults…)

How much do I love this book? It’s a delicious piece of writing, warm and emotional without being schmaltzy or manipulative. I’m pretty confident that it’s the only book that both my daughters (aged 9 and 14) and I have all read within a short space of time and all loved. I think it was on the teen shelves in Waterstones, and it was the 14 yr old who asked for it and devoured it very quickly, telling me that I should read it. Then when I did, I realised that it was labelled as 9+ (thankfully the teen hadn’t noticed that…) and the younger one had it off me quick as a flash. I think a single book appealing to both my girls at the same time is pretty unusual and goes to show how fab this book is: gentle enough for a 9 yr old, yet also enough to sustain a teen’s interest. Pretty damn impressive, I would say!

The novel is narrated by Cally, who tells us in a statement preceding the first chapter that she hasn’t spoken for 31 days. Her narration is pitch-perfect and gives us privileged access to all her thoughts and feelings, even as she’s stopped sharing them with anyone else in her life. Poor Cally is mourning the loss of her mother a year ago, and struggling particularly with her father’s awkward adult response of never talking about her. She sees a vision of her mother, but no-one believes her, and then the wonderful dog (a silver wolfhound, no less) enters her life. This dog, being huge, is not always welcomed by everyone else, and her teachers and her father particularly don’t want it hanging around.

The plot moves along effectively, with all aspects of Cally’s life – home, school, family, friends – explored and changed in the course of the novel. I think Sarah Lean captured Cally’s grief and its effects on her beautifully, allowing us to share Cally’s feelings without being overwhelmed by them. The grief is there, but this is no wallowy book. Instead, it’s an optimistic read which offers up hope in the form of friendship, as well as the comforting subtext that adults aren’t always automatically right.

Overall, I cannot recommend this highly enough. Just read it, ok? 🙂

From the Book’s Website:

My name is Cally Louise Fisher and I haven’t spoken for thirty-one days. Talking doesn’t always make things happen, however much you want them to.

Cally Fisher saw her mum bright and real and alive. But no one believes her, so Cally’s stopped talking.

A mysterious wolfhound always seems to be there when her mum appears and now he’s started following her everywhere. But how can Cally convince anyone that Mum is still with them, or persuade Dad that the huge silver-grey dog is their last link with her?

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published in April 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s
For more info and an extract see the book’s website

Doing More Things: a happiness project of sorts

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more present, do more family things, that kind of stuff. It’s definitely working. I’m seeing the benefits in my own health (especially in terms of stress-related issues) as well as in that of the family. Here are some recent highlights:

Saturday mornings at the zoo

We joined Twycross Zoo‘s ‘Friends’ programme last summer and are now into our second year of membership. This month, they started a Junior Friends scheme where the kids spend two hours on activities with Education Officers, while we wander round the zoo for a bit (and sample the fabulous cooked breakfasts…). I think the kids’ highlight so far has been making papier mache pinatas to stuff with lemur treats. I’ve been really impressed with the activities and it’s a great start to the weekend.

Prioritising walks

With two lively dogs (a terrier and a lurcher), a day without walking is never possible, but I have in the past been guilty of letting dear hubby take them on his own so I could get some work done. I always knew, of course, that a good walk is a brilliant way of taking a break as it can recharge and refresh, but when you’re struggling to get everything done it can be hard. No more, though – me and my health first, then work. (And of course, work often improves too when you actually take care of yourself…)

A positive to-do list

This is an idea I got from the blogosphere somewhere (I’m really sorry I don’t recall where exactly), but it worked really well for us this summer. At the start of the summer holidays, we each made a list of things we wanted to do during the break. We pinned it up on the calendar board and used it for inspiration to avoid frittering away the summer. Not that we had no down time, or ran ourselves ragged! It’s all too easy to get to the end of the summer holidays and realise that you haven’t done anything special – this list helped us escape that feeling. Isn’t it ridiculous that we need reminding that we want to do fun things? But still, having recognised that, we were able to act on it. It’s definitely an approach I’d use again.

Tuesday Tidings: New Dog Joy

Actually, he’s called Hunter 🙂

We think he’s rather lovely. He’s a young lurcher, aged around a year, (we assume a whippet lurcher since he’s quite petite) and we got him from the Dogs Trust in Kenilworth on Sunday. They acquired him with five siblings as strays from Ireland. We saw two of the others being picked up at the same time as we were collecting Hunter, so good news there.

The pictures belie his true energy levels. I didn’t want to post pictures of a crazy blur with amazing speed despite poor limb control, so I caught him in his quiet moments. As you can see, he’s taken to his mat and soft bed quite well. 🙂

Although he may not have lived in a home before, he’s been quite good so far. At the time of writing (Monday night), we’ve only had one puddle in the house and he was much more hopeful of being able to get our dinner off us than our existing dog who’s lived with us for just over eighteen months on Sunday, but was less optimistic today. We also had a howl-free night (hurrah!). So he’s doing really well for a new dog and he’s been lovely with the girls and our existing dog. We can’t wait until he comes to his name well enough to be able to run free in the parks and the woods with Jessie the terrier!

Tuesday Tidings: Why we’ll stick to toys from now on

These days are gone …

We had a bit of a scary time on Sunday (but all’s well now) when our lovely little Jessie hurt her throat playing with a stick. She had run to fetch it and made the most hideous high-pitched noise. We ran to her, thinking she’d fallen and hurt her leg or something, and it took us a while to figure out what was wrong. It seems the stick had gone down her throat and bruised the back of it, making it difficult and painful to swallow. There was no blood, so we were confident she hadn’t cut herself, and we could see the stick on the ground, so we were able to check it was all there and not splintered in her mouth.

She was clearly a poorly girl, slinking home and then not moving around once we were home. Her gorgeous beard was all slimy with drool and we couldn’t get her to drink, so we had to call the vet and see if we could take her in (I should mention again that this was Sunday). They felt they should see her, and gave her an antibiotic just in case of splinters and potential infection, and a painkiller/anti-inflammatory, with instructions to bring her back the next morning. If she wasn’t better then, they’d anaesthetise her and explore her throat for cuts and/or splinters. Luckily, she was much improved on Monday morning and was her happy usual self by last night.

Don’t worry, she can still play!

Whilst seeing what we should do for her, I naturally googled for advice on dogs hurt by playing with sticks and found some very scary stories. We have had a lucky escape and a fairly light warning. Jessie seemed very unwell and unhappy indeed, but it must just have been bruising for her to recover so quickly. We won’t let her play with sticks again, and will make sure we always have a toy with us. She did pick up a stick within 100 yards of entering the park today, but thankfully she’s pretty obedient and knows “leave” and “drop”. Jessie has lived with us for just over a year now and she’s about two years old (we got her from the Dogs Trust). We ought to have many more years with her yet.

Please, if your dog likes sticks too, I would urge you to think about alternatives. We would never have thought something like this could happen, but it’s absolutely not worth it when there are other ways of playing the same game. The vet was all-too accustomed to dealing with ‘stick damage’, as they called it.

Family Friday: top tips for walking with kids

We’ve taken our kids walking for several years now. The youngest was probably three when we started regularly walking as a family (she’ll be eight in a fortnight). We’re not enormous distance hikers – five miles is a long walk to us, and we probably more regularly do around three.

One of these has been helpful but you absolutely can enjoy family walks without one! (She’s only been with us for a year, and is out first family dog.)

So, here are my top things that encourage kids to enjoy the great outdoors:

  1. Checklists of things to spot. This has easily been the most helpful single thing to get the kids involved. We have a book of family walks which helpfully includes checklists tailored to each route, but we also make out own for other walks. It’s important for the list to be a mixture of easily-spottable things (depends on the route and sometimes the time of year, of course, but cows, acorns, swans are good standbys for us), specific features of particular walks (a windmill, a standing stone) and sometimes number-based challenges (how many herons can you see etc). 
  2. Snacks – ideally hidden ready to be produced at a ‘flagging’ moment. As well as the obvious boiled sweets, dried fruit is good. Water is, of course, essential.
  3. Stiles, brooks and livestock (ideally separated from you by a fence!). I could never have predicted the amount that stiles increase the fun of a walk by 🙂 and paddling in or crossing a brook is also a joy. Spotting livestock is popular as well, but some kids are made nervous by walking through a cow or sheep field.
Do you have any to add?