Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Sweet Progress

Over the past month, I've had little time to write and for this I do sincerely apologise.  The truth is that I have little to write about.  Caesar has been remarkably well behaved and sometimes I forget to celebrate that enough.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of just how bad things could be 26 months ago when I brought home a jumpy, mouthy, noisy staffy who would just about scare anyone let alone the people who had signed a form committing themselves to owning him.

He's curled up by me on the sofa right now and I feel as if he's always been there.  I don't have to worry about what he's doing because he's usually with me.  He knows where he stands when it comes to my lunch and dinner, even, occasionally, when it's left unattended.  And, by unattended, I mean more that 1m away from me - if it's in a room alone, it's anyone's!

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough I've experienced recently happened a few weekends ago on the same beach which we walked Caesar on in his early days.  The beach where, after being yelled at by a man with two handsome golden retrievers, we avoided for a good few months.  I cringe when I recall the noise that Caesar was making that day; the screeching, the wriggling, the howling as the two yellow dogs sniffed and nudged him.  "Get your dog under control," the man yelled at me from far down the beach.  I remember holding back tears as I tried to yell back an explanation.  For some reason I felt apologetic.  Apologetic for trying to walk this monster dog.

Naughty or misguided?

Back in the early days, Caesar couldn't walk within a few metres of a dog without causing a ruckus that was likely to make even the bravest of people think twice about walking past him.  People would cross the road to avoid us and I would return from most walks feeling exhausted and tearful.  Walking was not a pleasure; it was a trial.  Soon, my parents began to decline beach and forest walks and, largely, I walked alone.

"She wants me to bring Caesar," I chortled as I told Damien about the sponsored walk.  "Caesar!" I repeated, for dramatic effect.  Chris, our dog trainer, has enormous faith in Caesar and has done for a great deal longer than I have.  On our first training session, she pointed out that he was intelligent and willing to learn.  I pointed out that he was noisy and kept looking like he was going to bite people.

I lured myself to the beach that Sunday morning by convincing myself that, should Caesar maul any dogs, I would return later, alone, and do the sponsored walk with Caesar.  I had kept myself awake that night wondering what the outcome of the walk would be.  Wondering if I could trust Caesar.  I deliberated over putting his Flexi lead in the bag and then decided that it might be useful to have if we did the walk alone or held back from the other dogs.

Did I hear you say 'beach'?

Standing by the graveyard wall, looking down onto the beach, I did wonder whether it would be worth setting off alone.  However, Caesar seemed surprisingly quiet and I felt a little reassured by his almost-silence.  By the time we'd walked onto the sand it had become clear that, to some extent, the walk was not going to be easy.  Twenty off-lead dogs darted around on the sand; chasing, playing, barking and having a whale of a time.  Caesar attempted to do the same on the end of his 1m lead.  It didn't quite work.

However, after around half an hour, it began to dawn on the ginger mongrel that he wasn't going to be let off his lead.  And, after this realisation set in, he began to relax into the walk.  I won't say he walked noiselessly but he did calm down considerably and by half way through, he was running around on his Flexi lead.  I have had to become a pro at Flexi lead management as Caesar can run quite fast so needs a quick hand to stop him ploughing into people.  He didn't get close enough to many dogs but he did have a little play with a lurcher who outran him by miles as they sprinted along the beach.

Fun on the beach

The walk back went much the same and, as we wandered, I looked at Caesar sprinting back and forth and felt a little tug in my heart.  A sort of proud mother moment.  I get them every so often.  A moment where I looked down at him and wondered where that awful, naughty dog that I adopted had gone.  I think I'll keep this photo forever; the moment when I realised how far we'd come...

Caesar and I (far left) on the Sport Relief Sponsored walk

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The perfect collar...

Accidents happen all of the time.  More so, it seems, when you are constantly shadowed by an oversized and needy Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross who thinks he is a miniature poodle.  I have lost count of the times that I've tripped over, been knocked over by or stood on Caesar.  This is mainly because he likes to stay as close to me as is possible.  Sometimes, he's so quiet that I don't even know he's there!  Last night, Damien and I spent ages shouting him and looking for him when it turns out he was under the table by my feet.

Accidents happen.  And, I of all people, can vouch for that fact.  I've had some strange and colourful accidents in my time.  Including the time when I trapped my head in the shower door and gave myself a fat lip by smashing my face off it when I sprayed myself with cold water.  And I've lost count of the times that Caesar has knocked me over by running into me full pelt.

However, recently, I began on an accidental adventure that I didn't see coming at all.  It all started with a shopping trip to IKEA.  The same shopping trip that led to my buying Caesar's tent.  A few minutes after choosing the tent, I paused for an unknown reason at the fabric isle.  Standing on the end of the isle was a rather nifty looking sewing machine; small, compact and colourful.  My first thought was that, for £45, I could make a nice pair of curtains for Caesar's cage.  This should make it look a little more homely and mean that it has less of an impact on the dining room.  So, I chose some red spotty material and picked up the light weight machine feeling pleased with myself.

Since discovering I could sew, I've moved up in the world!

A few days later, I finally pulled it out of it's cardboard box and rummaged around for the instructions.  I'd put off using it because I wasn't exactly sure how to and the week had afforded me little time to learn.  When I had finally followed the step-by-step guide to setting up, winding, threading and eventually sewing, I decided that a crate cover featuring a set of curtains was a little pie in the sky for my current sewing ability.  So I searched around for something else to make.  To begin with, I found a few scrap pieces of material and made a tiny cat face with sewn on button eyes.  I smiled to myself as I completed it.  Although not exactly sure what to do with the odd looking cat, I felt as though, at the least, I'd experienced a minor sewing achievement.  However, still not ready to tackle the curtains and cover, I searched about for something else.  I had a few pieces of ribbon left over from Christmas but nothing more.

OK so I'm a bit bonkers about ribbon...

It was around this time that Damien's gym bag decided to break.  It had been looking a little worse for wear for more than a short time and, finally, the rip in the top had turned into a rather large hole.  Despite his best efforts to ignore this, it wasn't long before the strap of the bag fell of completely.  Damien was about to throw the bag in the bin when a thought crossed my mind.  On this bag were webbing, straps and clips.  I'd quite fancied having a go at making a dog collar but I wasn't sure that my little machine would hack it.

A week and several trips to the haberdashery later, I'd not only made one collar; I'd made several!  And, people were asking me to make them one too.  Suddenly, I was being offered money to create these collars.  Armed with left over Christmas ribbon and off cuts from Boyes, I began making little collars.  Suddenly, the collar world was my oyster.  If there was something I fancied for Caesar; I could make it!

Hello sailor?
100% British?
.....maybe not
....surely one of these must be right?!

This led to much dithering.  I kept making collars for him and then deciding to sell them or someone might simply take a shine to them and I'd feel bad for keeping them to myself.  Sometimes, I'd choose a random collar for Caesar to model but none of them grabbed my attention.  Now that I had a choice, I wanted a collar that defined Caesar.  More than Batman and Superman.  Something that spoke out loud about him and his nature.

It's alright....but is it really me?

Finally, one evening on Facebook, I spotted a post by a friend.  It was perfect!  The ribbon showed a simple paw pattern and 2 very important and very true words.  The very collar that would define Caesar:

I chose yellow for the webbing because Caesar is a 'yellow dog'.  For those of you who have missed the yellow dog campaign, give the website a visit (Yellow Dog UK).

Thank you to Sue at Sue's Pet Tags  for the wonderful ribbon and support with the business start up.  Sue provides excellent pet tags made to match collars beautifully.

STOG for your dog is now officially a business.  If you would like to order a collar or discuss custom made collars, please follow the contact on the STOG website.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Test your dog's IQ...

Firstly, I apologise to anyone who has found this post and does actually want to test their dog's IQ!  Anyone who is a regular reader will know that, for the vast majority of the time, I offer completely moral-free tales of a dog who quite possibly has an undiagnosed special need.  However, this was always the aim of the blog.  To let others who find themselves in a similarly difficult situation know that they're not alone.

Wonderful and absolutely bonkers all at the same time!

When you have a dog like Caesar, the worst thing to feel is alone.  Without the support of many people telling me 'this has happened to me too,' I may well have given up on Caesar within the first few weeks of ownership based on the fact that I just didn't understand what was going on!  However, I've come to not only accept this but embrace it due to the fact that many others have let me know that they have experienced similar and sometimes worse scenarios with their own dogs.

It's bad...but it could be worse.  Right?

Last night was the first time for a while that I'd felt alone with Caesar.  It wasn't because he had done anything naughty or damaged anything or eaten anything; these things I have learnt to live with.  For a change, it was my silly behaviour that had caused him damage.

To understand my behaviour at all you first need to know this fact; Caesar likes to jump.  In the short time that I've owned him, I've seen him jump fences, walls, stair gates, chairs....and more.  His current favourite hobby is jumping on and off the coffee table in the lounge.  And, when that bores him; on and off the window sill.
Caesar likes to jump on and off of the coffee table.

Close to where we live there is a beach and on the beach there are fences that section off parts.  Parts of the fences cover about 20m in width and range from 50cm to almost 2m in height.  When walking Caesar on the beach, I used to allow him to jump over them until someone kindly pointed out that I didn't know what was on the other side - thankfully before I found out the hard way that people don't necessarily look after our beaches and leave broken glass or shards of metal lying around.  I stopped this game as soon as I realised.

Caesar LOVES the beach.

I'd always dreamed of doing a sport such as agility or flyball with Caesar and would love to see him running a course.  I'm certain he'd be great as he has a good attention span when it comes to training.  There is only one problem; other dogs.  When I last attempted to get Caesar to do flyball he abandoned the run in favour of jumping a fence and chasing after a load of other dogs.  It's not that Caesar doesn't get enough exercise or variety because I'm constantly being told that he does.  However, like a proud mother, I can never escape the feeling that he could achieve more so I'm always looking for new things to try.  Failing that, I look for safe things to jump over on walks for a bit of fun.

Caesar sitting on a wall he'd jumped onto

Yesterday, on the beach I spotted a mild looking wall.  It was waist height on me and so, at a jog, I pulled Caesar, on his flexi-lead, toward it.  I let the lead loose and kept running as we approached.  Caesar seemed to be enjoying the run and began to make headway in front.  When he reached the wall, I gave the usual "up up up!" command....

Caesar can run really fast if once he gets going.

The next thing that happened was a blur.  Caesar hit the wall with a thud travelling at quite a speed.  He had seen the wall approaching yet somehow failed to jump and just ran face first into it and then collapsed into a pile.  My first, and very unmotherly reaction, was to laugh; fancy not noticing there was a wall there.  But then, having noticed the nasty looking mark on his cheek, I suddenly felt very concerned.  How would you explain to a vet that you ran your dog flat out into a wall?!

Ouch!  How much of a bad mum do I feel?!

In summary, to test your dogs IQ level; run them full pelt towards a wall and see if they jump.  If they do they have a higher IQ than if they don't.....simple!
And, since I'm now far too aware of legal mumbo jumbo that I shouldn't be bothered about, please do not do the was a joke!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

For Crufts sake!

Last week I made possibly the most brave decision of my life so far.  No, unlike the friends I was talking to the previous weekend, I didn't jet off to Australia alone for months or decide to use the deposit for my house in order to leave work and travel the world.  I booked myself a train ticket to Birmingham.

Uh oh...she's packing!

If you ask Google to define 'brave' this is what it will tell you:
Brave (adj) ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

If you had to pick an adjective to describe me, it wouldn't be 'brave'.  Perhaps 'anxious'.  My dad used to call me 'windy' but I had to stop him because I was worried that people might take that the wrong way.  Worried.  Always worried about something or other.

One of my many phobias....bees!

For most people jumping on a train to somewhere a few hours away may seem like a walk in the park but for me it required bravery.  Firstly, I'm not a keen lover of trains.  That, though, is the least of my troubles.  I'm also worried about travelling alone and I don't much like getting in taxis alone either.

However, one of my worst fears is missing out on something amazing because I was too frightened to do it.  And this was the reason I boarded a train, alone, one evening at 5:05pm.  The train would arrive at Birmingham over 3 hours later and from there I would climb aboard a smaller train to Birmingham International Airport.

Thankfully, the reason for this was not because I needed to catch a plane - perhaps I'm not yet brave enough to go that far and certainly not alone.  The reason was that, for the first time in my life, I was going to Crufts.  And, I was going with some online friends from the lovely Staffies R Us.

Nearly ended up with another dog after this little angel jumped up to give me a kiss!

There's something about being a member of a close-knit forum.  It feels like meeting some kind of extended family.  People who you feel extremely connected to but, at first, you're not exactly sure who is who.  I ended up finding myself asking "what's your dog called?" in order to recognise each person.  Caesar got a few smiles and his blog was mentioned too.

By the morning of the show, I was thrilled that I had made the trip and could not wait to begin exploring.  For anyone who has somehow managed to avoid ever hearing about Crufts; it's the world's largest dog show.  And, around the hotel there were many nationalities of people and dogs staying to attend.  I'd watched the show on television since being a child when dad and I would tune in just in time to see the weekend showings and I'd always wondered what it would be like to attend.

The show itself was amazing and I couldn't believe that it only cost £18 to enter!  It's impossible not to spend the first few hours in absolute bewilderment.  I've never seen so many dog products and stalls or breeds of dog or dog sports all in one place.  There were so many rings and halls and stalls that getting lost was virtually inevitable but it was like being lost in an dog lovers Disney Land.  I was gobsmacked by the crowds of people and some of the amazing sights that could be seen around the National Exhibition Centre.

...And I thought they were called 'sheep!' 

By 4 o'clock, I had just about stopped gawping and got into some serious shopping.  Here are Caesar's goodies:

Sheep fleece!

Union Jack Polar Collar

Leather Staffordshire Knot Collar

Who has been to Crufts?  Share your experience in the comments section.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Why not to excite your dog at 11pm

I felt extremely proud on Wednesday evening.  Prouder than I've felt in a while.  I drove home at 10pm with a huge smile on my face and Caesar staring out of the boot window, fascinated by the evening lights illuminating the dark road.  

Staying 'down' is not Caesar's forte!
Perhaps my positive energy was contagious because Caesar bounded into the house with unusual gusto.  He skidded into the lounge, banging into the television cabinet as he did, and screeched to a halt in front of Damien where he attempted to say "I'm very proud of myself!" but it came out as "Yow yow yow!" as usual.  After telling Damien the results of that evening's training class competition and explaining how proud I had been of Caesar who had completed a 2 minute lie down and stay without many problems at all, I stepped into the kitchen for a late night snack.  Caesar followed as usual and, when I stopped, his ears went back and he began scampering madly up and down the hall and kitchen.

Caesar, mid 'Scoob'!
This isn't the first time he's done this and we've fondly come to know these moments as "doing a Scoob!" but tonight he was particularly full of it.  Damien and I laughed as he skittered forward and backward looking as if he were being chased by a gang of super villains.  Then, when he stopped for a second, Damien said "Boo!" and started him all over again.  This was hilarious as he bowled around running circles around us.  

After some time, Caesar appeared to have ran off this unusual night time energy and I decided to retire to bed.  Turning on the heel of my trainers, I made my way to the stairs and placed my foot on the first when I heard the noise of skittering paws I barely had time to turn around and I was on the floor.  Caesar had charged into my ankle in full on Scooby Doo mode and my whole leg had given way twisting my ankle painfully to one side.  

Then, realising he'd done wrong, he charged up the stairs and I didn't see him until the next morning.  Where was he?  Where do you think....?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Another check point on the road of life...

Good mood: awwww
It dawned on me today that it's been a while since I have written.  I could make all sorts of excuses as to why; heavy work load, new ventures, illness and, within the last week, it would all be true.  It's not that Caesar hasn't done anything recently; he has.  On one of his latest ventures, he broke into my sewing room, climbed on the table (while I was sewing) and knocked everything flying.  Later that day, I went out and returned to find that he'd been in there again doing the same thing.  Except this time, he had knocked everything all over the floor.  This included 300 buttons which I then needed to pick up one-by-one.

Mad mood: Arghhhh
The truth is; I've been attempting to reach a mini-target that I had set myself; to reach the end of my book "Saving Caesar."  It's all OK writing a book but reading it is something different.  Some days, I will find that I like one way of saying something and others, I find that I want to say it completely differently.  Some days, I'm in a humorous mood and others, I'm feeling nostalgic and sentimental.  Sometimes, my mood depends on Caesars;  one day I might want to write him as a lost soul in need of guidance and other times as a nightmarish nuisance sent by some unseen power to test everything I thought I knew about my own levels of patience and sanity.  This makes proof reading your own writing equally hard as the shifts in mood and attitude stand out from time to time.

Also, it's fun to write something and record all of your memories and experiences on a page but to read it again and again is not so fun.

Tonight, I read the last chapter - the final chapter of my first draft.  I have made notes for myself to improve the book and there is certainly a lot to do before I attempt to take my writing any further.  But, as I closed the word document for the first time in weeks, something occurred to me.  In a sense, I don't mind if this book never makes it beyond my computer.  I'd be sad of course because it would mean that this hard work and time would never be witnessed by anyone other than me.  However, I would always have a record for myself and for my family of this special dog and how he turned our lives and our house upside down.  I think, at the end of the day, that's probably more important.

Monday, 10 February 2014

2 years ago...

Today has crept up quickly, landing on me when I least expected it and requiring a last-minute, after-work panic visit to Pets at Home.  Of course Caesar doesn't know that this day is his 2 year adoption day and he doesn't know the progress he's made since the day we brought him home.  I, however, do.  And when I look at him, I feel proud of what we've achieved together and how far we've come from the 10th of February 2012 when I brought home a rather nervous, rather bustly mongrel from a local rescue centre.

Happy adoption day Caesar!


Music:  Sweet by Tamara Laurel

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