A new definition of ‘dry’

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See, I always thought that ‘dry’ was the opposite of ‘wet’. That is; without moisture, or at least with a very low moisture content.

But I bought a pack of Morrison’s ‘Dry Cure’ ham a few days ago which was anything but dry. It was covered with a sheen of moisture, and there were actually droplets of water1 on the surface of the meat.

MorrisonsDryCureHam

So what on earth is up with that? It says ‘Dry Cure’ quite plainly on the label and yet when I opened it up, there it was practically sitting in a puddle of water!

Dry cure? Pull the other one.

Morrisons, please explain. I’m listening. Meanwhile, the only one who’s going to be eating this crap is Sid2.

1 Well. I say ‘water’, but in fact it is probably a kind of chemical soup composed of preservatives and salts.

2 Which is why there are a couple of slices missing. I didn’t eat them, Sid did – and with every appearance of enjoyment. But then, he can’t read.

Sad news

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It’s been a while, and that’s because I have been feeling wounded. I guess my way of dealing with emotional wounds is to stop communicating, because I remember doing it when I lost two dogs at once, and also when my mother died. It seems to be my way.

Oh, I function, on a day-to-day level, and fulfill my commitments – those that can’t be avoided – and after a few days I smile and carry on, but when it comes to putting myself out there, I don’t. Not after telling those who are in the know, as it were. Then after a while I peep outside my little shell and do non-personal stuff, like Facebook games and the wildlife pages, and that phase can last quite a while.

This time it was my lovely, sweet old Jeffie – the dog I didn’t want to keep. The dog I tried to send back, but nevertheless fell in love with (as you do) and who became my friend, my clown, my daft old clumsy, barker-at-doorbells and runner-into-things. My lovely Jeffie had to be put to sleep a few weeks ago, just shy of his thirteenth birthday. We’d had him three years.

He was called Ranger, when we met him. And he was smart enough, when we went to visit him in his foster home, to sell himself to OH by play-bowing to him – something no potential dog had ever done for him before, and which charmed the socks off him. He didn’t want a black dog1, but being play-bowed to swept away his prejudice on that score and we brought Ranger home.

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The first thing I noticed was that he was head-shy. When anyone put a hand anywhere close to his head, he growled and leapt into the air as if he’d been burned. There is usually a reason for this, and though it took me a week, I finally got a peek inside his mouth and … yep. There was a reason for it. The poor dog had a huge, red, thumb-sized ulcer where a canine used to be. When he went in to be treated, the vet said he had bits of loose bone left in there, and a fistula nearly through to his nasal cavity, so I can’t imagine how sore the poor old guy was. It was cleaned and debrided under GA, and I cleaned and cared for it at home – with much growling and bronco bucking.

Then he would run into things. He ran into his food stand (solid wood) and broke a metatarsal. He ran into a brick wall in our garden at about 1am and cut himself badly, and unfortunately, one of the things he regularly ran into was Sid, who really didn’t need running into, and this was why I tried to return him. Equally unfortunately, though the convention is that a fosterer does not fill a foster dog’s place until everyone is absolutely sure that he is not going to bounce2, this fosterer did so, and when I rang to ask her to take him back, she said sorry, but there was no room.

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She said, don’t worry, Sharon will take him back. Well, yes, Sharon would certainly have taken him back, but who was going to adopt a ten-year-old black dog who growled at his people, body-slammed the existing dog and kept running into solid objects and injuring himself? He permanently had shaved patches and dressings. He didn’t like his feet touched or his nails clipped and would growl at me for that, too. Let’s face it, he’d have spent the rest of his life in the kennel.

So we kept him.

Once I knew we were kind of stuck with Ranger, I decided to change his name for a fresh start. Nobody quite knows why3, but it often works, and so it did for us. I told him he could stay, and that his name was now Jeffie, and he – miraculously – stopped running into things quite so often. He still body-slammed Sid, and to be frank, he was the reason Sid needed so many pain-killers, but we all got used to having him around, then we got fond of him, and then … the daft old dog and I got very close. In fact during his last illness he didn’t want me out of his sight and if I left the house, he’d mope and whine till I got home. So my lovely pink fringe grew halfway down my nose and the grey crept from the roots and took over two inches or more of the pink from that end, as I became a little bit of a recluse.

The thing was, he had Canine Cognitive Disorder4, degenerative myelopathy, and finally – and disastrously – liver cancer. We were managing the first two quite well, but bless his heart, the liver cancer made him very unwell. He had intractable diarrhoea and simply could not hold it. Sometimes he didn’t even seem to know he was doing anything. Mostly he’d make a mad dash for the back door and try desperately to get himself out, but even when the door was actually open he often couldn’t make it. We’d have a small, but very smelly, trail to clean, often spanning three carpets and sometimes more. We were so very glad we had a new Vax carpet machine for a fairly easy clean-up.

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So. There was a medication routine two or three times a day, cleansing and nursing routines, dry-foam oat baths to ease his itching, and many gallops through the house to the back door in the wee small hours, followed by much carpet cleaning. There were also many snuggles and gentle scritches, and the cooking of tasty titbits to tempt the failing appetite and now that Jeffie’s gone, Sid is wondering if the world has run out of chicken breast5.

Right up to his last day, Jeffie was perky, seemed happy and interested in life and loved a fuss. He ate his tablets wrapped in corned beef or meat paste. His appetite wasn’t great, but he enjoyed his little – his very little – walks, and he was able to go off-lead for his last couple of weeks because if he’d got startled and tried to bolt, he wouldn’t have got far before collapsing. And he did enjoy that.

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I called the vet out twice and said I thought this was it, but we managed to carry on a little longer – mainly because he was so alert and content. But on the last day, though he got up and met the vet at the door to greet her, she looked at him and said ‘I think the time has come’. He had got so thin that he was like a skeleton covered in fur and his medication was no longer working.

And so the deed was done, in his own bed, with Sid next to him. I felt like a murderess and cried for about three days solid, but now I can see that it was the only humane thing to have done. I still cry. I am crying now. But it was time, it really was.

Sid … I think Sid does miss him. But he’s finding it so much easier to jump in and out of the car without a second bed in there, and now that he isn’t being body-slammed life is less painful for him, and he’s OK. He hasn’t pined as previous dogs have pined on losing their companion, and I think it was because he was there when Jeffie left us, and was able to sniff his body. I will never again take a dog into the surgery to be put to sleep, if I can help it. It’s so much more peaceful at home.

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It was time.¬† Looking back at the photos of that last week, it’s easier to see.

I don’t miss the carpet cleaning, the medication and nursing, or the huge amount of cooking I had to do to get food into my little sick dog. I don’t miss the cost of the drugs and vet visits, or the smell of excrement or the puddles of urine or seeing him fade to almost nothing. But I do miss my silly, funny, loving little old black guy. My companion and friend, who loved me probably even more than I loved him.

1 Black dogs are unpopular in rescues. It’s a combination of a myth that black dogs are more aggressive, and the fact that they don’t show off to advantage in a kennel situation.

2 ‘Bounce’ is a term we use to describe a dog that returns to kennels after being rehomed.

3 The truth is, changing a dog’s name probably helps the owners to change the way they react to the dog, which in turn can change the way the dog responds. I was aware that we’d got off to a bad start, and felt it would help us to turn things around. It did.

4 The dog form of Alzheimer’s Disease.

5 He got lucky the other day. We had a power cut ten minutes after putting four chicken breasts into the oven. No way to finish cooking them, so …

6 Yes, I know there isn’t a six. Congratulations for reading this far!

It’s A Greyhound Thing …

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It is, it really is. Greyhound owners are known for it. You think it won’t happen to you, but … yep. We end up talking about poop. Shh! It happens.

You see, greyhounds are a breed which can have delicate digestive systems. To be fair, there are many greyhounds out there who’ve got a cast iron gut (like Sid), but for the rest, we worry over what might loosely be called ‘output’ – or as OH calls it, ‘product’ – and sadly, the word ‘loosely’ is all too apt at times. For example, when you first adopt a greyhound, you may notice that all is not well in the product department because the stress of leaving the kennels and adapting to home life can cause what is known in some circles as ‘pudding poop’. Pudding poop is somewhat less than pick-up-able. But not to worry, because it settles down fairly quickly once your dog has settled in and you’ve found the diet that works for him1 and stopped trying to feed him too many treats.

There are times, however, during any dog’s life, when he finds himself under the weather and the digestive system can give you clues as to what is going on. So the dedicated owner will Pay Attention to the Output of their Sick Pooch. Because when you get to the vet, Questions will be Asked, and you’d better have an answer or there will be the tiniest hint of an un-heaved sigh in the air while the vet silently wonders why nobody pays attention to these things.

So anyway, on this occasion, it was Jeffie whose product was being noted, because Jeffie wasn’t doing too well. He was not eating properly, he wasn’t drinking much, and he seemed more tired than he should, even for a twelve-year old greyhound with degenerative myelopathy and Dogzheimer’s2.

We often get separated a little bit on our walks because one dog will hang back, or want to go on ahead. You know how they are, and I had stopped to pick up after Sid, and when I caught up, OH was just tying his little green bag having done the same for Jeffie.

OH (discreetly jiggling the bag in my direction): ‘This is very odd!’

Me: ‘Is it orange?’

OH: ‘Yes! Well, part of it is … How did you know?’

Me: ‘Because Sid’s is the same. It’s the food they had for breakfast’.

OH: ‘What did they have?’

Me: ‘Wainwrights tray food. It has a lot of veggies in it’.

OH: ‘Wainwrights .. oh, yes. That’s the one in the orange box. Well, there you go, then.’

There was a pause. And then:

OH: ‘We should get the one in the blue box next time, and see what happens!’

It took me a while before I got it and then the old mind kind of boggled a bit.

Although I have heard stories3….

1 Which usually isn’t the one the kennel told you he was being fed with absolutely no problems.

2 Since writing this (I’ve been busy, OK?) Jeffie has been to the vet and had a thorough examination. He is now on a short course of antibiotics and is looking a lot better. He has his mojo back! Yay!

3 They mostly involve stolen sweets swallowed complete with their wrappers, or Christmas tinsel, but sometime other, more unsuitable things. The funniest of which is always pieces of brightly-coloured, chewed up greyhound basket muzzle, placed on the dog to (yes, you guessed it) stop them chewing things.

Walking in the Sunshine

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Walking in the sunshine .. and not forgetting the blustery wind!

It would have been a really spring-like day today if it hadn’t been for that wind. It was really warm in the sun, but when the wind blew, which was most of the time, the temperature dropped like a stone. It was one of those days when it can be hard to know what to wear when setting out for a walk with the dogs.

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Jeffie is old and frail, so he wore his tee shirt which gives some protection against wind without adding too much warmth on a nice day. Sid, though he is now eleven years old himself, has a nice thick fur coat and enough meat on his bones that he doesn’t need a coat unless it’s blowing a gale AND raining AND the temperature dips to near freezing1.

This morning we set out in their favourite direction: north towards the open fields. In the verge by the footpath, we saw the first daisies of the year, looking as fresh as … well, as daisies!

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They can only go this way if they’re both feeling reasonably good, because there are three stiles to negotiate and they’re really made for dogs with a maximum height of about one inch shorter than Sid or Jeff2. With Sid’s tendency to muscle cramps and Jeff’s wobbles, they are not for the ‘less good’ days. But oh, how they love to get into the fields and sniff, and sniff, and sniff, and then pee on the really good smells. So many other dogs pass this way, and there are rabbits and foxes and mice and birds, and probably weasels and hedgehogs and badgers, too. A veritable banquet for the nose.

Because they are neither of them spring chickens, we decided that halfway across the fields, OH would leave us and go back for the car and bring it to meet us on the other side. There is a little country road at the end of this section of the footpath and it has space for one car to park up for a few minutes at the end.

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Crossing the first field, I heard the green woodpeckers and the jackdaws (probably complaining about our unwanted presence) and noticed that the wild arum lilies3 are showing well above the ground now, and the first celandines are out on the banks There is plenty of rabbit activity in the form of holes and shallow scrapes in this, and the second field and for that reason, I am nervous about letting Sid off the lead there. If he broke that single hind leg I have no idea how we’d get him home.

The third field, for us, consists of a bare path between small, scrubby trees, right at the edge by the dyke. It’s quite short, which is good, because it’s pretty much single file through there, which isn’t easy on a winding, muddy track with two greyhounds, one of which is a stubborn old three-legged fool who’d rather fall over than give in when he feels the leash tighten, and the other of which is pretty much only able to see light and dark these days.

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The last section is more open and has a steep drop to a small dyke on one side, and a set-aside field on the other. We saw a white shape by the water in the distance and in a few more steps I realised it was the heron. Sadly, with only my phone camera with me today, I didn’t manage to get a good shot, but it was nice to see him. He took off before we got anywhere near close and flew back alongside the dyke and quite close to us, but all I got was a very blurry picture.

And then the taxi4 came into view and both sets of ears pricked up.

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Jeffie was glad to see it. By this time he was tired and needed just a little run-up to get into the car, whereas usually he manages a standing start. Sid, old fart that he is, was not so glad, and walked slower and slower, and sniffed more and more, the closer we got, and though I gave him his usual run up to get in (which he always needs, being a rear-leg amputee) he baulked at the last minute like a show jumper refusing a fence and had to be walked round and run up again. To give him his due, though, he never tries to jump out again, but settles down quite quickly for the ride home. Unlike his companion who never, ever lays himself down until the engine starts.

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1 I call it discrimination. A Jack Russell is small enough to squeeze through all but the smallest gap, a labrador is hardy enough and well-padded enough not to mind scraping through a narrow space between bits of sticky-out wood, but a greyhound is neither small nor well-padded, nor is he (in this sense) hardy. Last year, Jeffie caught his shoulder on a piece of the stile and got himself a deep graze which healed fairly quickly, but has left a large-ish, triangular, and completely bald scar.

2 And even then he loathes it and it’s a struggle to a) get it on him, and b) get him to actually walk in it.

3 Otherwise known as Cuckoo Pint or Lords and Ladies.

4 Other people might call it a Toyota Yaris Verso. It’s my car, the one I use as a Dogmobile.

Playing With Words

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We really thought we were going to lose Jeffie last night. He’s an old dog, and he’s old in that way that you see with dogs sometimes1, seeming to be physically older than his years. He’s just so skinny all of a sudden, and looks really quite skeletal. Last night he didn’t eat all of his dinner, refused to get up for his bedtime milk, which is pretty much unheard of, and just looked so … dull. But this morning he seems a lot brighter, ate his breakfast (and some of Sid’s) with enthusiasm, enjoyed his foam bath2 and was eager for his walk.

Possibly this contributed to the frivolity which ensued as we approached our house on the way home.

Me: ‘Oh look, there’s the post lady!’

OH: ‘Yes, she’s late today, isn’t she?’

Me: ‘We may have some post, after all.’

OH: ‘It’ll be a bill. Oh, you might get something else. You’re always getting post … but I suppose I don’t really do post like you do.’

Me: ‘Mmm… It might be my new CD!’

OH: ‘What new CD?’

Me: ‘The Great Nef!’3

OH (Sighing): ‘Haven’t you got enough yet?’

Me: ‘I could be facetious and say ‘You can Neffa have enough!”

OH: ‘Ha! That’s a very good pun.’

*Pause*

OH (Muttering disconsolately) ‘And it should have been mine!

And Jeffie? He seems to be back to his usual self, thank goodness!

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1 And with people , too, for that matter. I could name some names … but I won’t.

2 A while ago the vet gave me (Ha! Gave me and charged me for it .. ) a kind of foam shampoo for dogs called Ermidr√°. You squirt foam all over them and rub it well into the coat, then a couple of minutes later, brush it out. Their fur comes up so beautifully shiny and clean, and it keeps Jeffie’s dandruff in check. Both Sid and Jeff really love the massage that comes along with it.

3 ‘The Great Nef’ is what OH calls my new favourite Italian singer. His name is really Giovanni Pellino, but he goes by the stage name of ‘Neffa’. Neffa doesn’t seem to have a translation in Italian, but in English a nef is ‘an elaborate table decoration in the shape of a ship for holding such things as table napkins and condiments’ Somehow I don’t think Sr. Pellino meant that.

If you so wish, you can hear one of my favourite Neffa songs here. It’s about the end of a relationship as far as I can tell, and he goes on and on about how he’s not going to miss her. Uh-uh. Not at all. Yah boo sucks to her, and so on.