Home again

In my last blog I was dreading driving a total 800 + miles to spend a few days down South with a ‘crazy dug’ (sic) (Scots say dug) and you know what? She was great. Oh, she groaned a lot, and shifted around a lot, and it was four hours (no, seriously, FOUR HOURS) before she sat down for the first time – but no barking, yelping, or trying to attack passing cars through the windscreen, side windows, and back window.

On the way back she sat down for the first time only two hours into the journey and by the time we bypassed Glasgow she had started taking two-to-three-minute catnaps, so she’s really becoming quite the traveller.  Dear me, though, she is very glad to be home, as you can see in the photo.

wedding dress 020


The catnaps were wonderful because she stopped panting and this dog can pant louder and for longer than any dog in the history of travel. Not just hah hah hah hah, either. She manages to add bulldog sounds to it.  Sort of gnhHAH gnhHAH-HAH gnnnggnnnnhhahHAHgnn.  She particularly liked to sit next to the Satnav and pant at it, steaming up the screen, until The Voice icily asked her to desist.  Oh yes. I distinctly heard it.

Turn around, it told her firmly, when possible. So she did.



Dog days – lazy hazy crazy days of summer travelling with a dog

I’m insane. Potty. A couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. Missing on at least one cylinder. Nuts. A bampot.

I am about to tackle a 400 mile drive with a dog that hates cars. Not my car, she quite likes driving to local parks for walks. She’s good as gold when I leave her in it to do shopping, or pay for petrol. What she really resents is cars coming up alongside, or behind, or in front.  And trucks? She really hates trucks. Not keen on buses. Iffy about motorbikes.

She’s a bulldog, and she weighs twenty kilograms, and if I clip her in to her safety belt harness she hurls herself from side to side and barks, howls, barks, whimpers, barks, whuffles and, don’t know if I mentioned, barks.  If I release the harness – or, more accurately, when she releases herself – she jumps from back seat to passenger seat to back to front to back to front.  Wherever possible she digs her claws into my thigh in passing for good purchase – that’s twenty kilograms behind stubby claws. When we first met we drove from Cornwall to Scotland. She started the trip in a dog carrier but managed to break out after two hours. I kept thinking she would get bored, settle down, sleep – she didn’t. She was absolutely exhausted by the time we got here (fifteen hours, because of all the stops for my head to stop ringing, and to get her back in her harness), and sounding a bit hoarse, but still barking. And jumping.

She has three barks. There’s a yappy bark, which would suit a Jack Russell better than a bulldog, pretty piercing. Drills straight through the head. There’s a bulldog bark, steady, firm, which she can keep up for hours on end. And there’s the Rottweiler snarling bark, which she saves for cars or pedestrians that come into her ‘space’ (anything within ten feet) which startles even me.  Every time.

Oh, I know exactly what you’re thinking. Because she hates kennels, that’s why. She is a rescue dog and there are Real Issues there. She hates dogs, all dogs, and when she was handed into the rescue centre she turned her face to the wall, wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink, and apart from occasionally hurling herself passionately against the wire at the sight of another dog, settled into prolonged hunger strike. She was finally coaxed to take a treat by a volunteer, but had to be hand-fed for weeks. Most of her fur fell out with the stress. So if this trip is the disaster I’m fearing, she can expect to starve her way through a kennel stay in future, and with summer coming up, going bald isn’t too much of a problem.

Yes I could pay someone to stay in the house and look after her and the cat, but she’s a bit odd with people. Unpredictable. Hates casual visitors and has to be locked outside for nearly all. Houseguests – she was graciously welcoming to my daughter, who came to stay for a few days, for the first five hours. Then she attacked her, snarling bark and teeth, and bit her so hard through her trainer it left a bruise. Next morning, back to gracious. One reason I’m taking her is to introduce her to the rest of the family, specifically the ones assuming I’m exaggerating or handling her wrong. There’s a really, really good dog whisperer in Scotland, I had to wait weeks for an appointment and he laughed when he saw her and said we’d soon sort out my little dog. She threw a tantrum, flung herself around, then bided her time and bit him.  It’s practically impossible to bite a dog handler who deals with problem dogs all the time, they’re just too quick, but he did stop underestimating her after that.  He did her a power of good, too, but we never covered car manners, which I am now realising is a real oversight.

I asked the vet for dog valium, but they don’t like to give it to bulldogs as there are recorded fatalities due to their very odd breathing arrangements. He gave me an odd look when I said I was prepared to take the chance, and still wouldn’t give me any.

So what I’m really hoping is that when I get back I’ll write another blog saying she was fantastic and we had a wonderful time.  She will be travelling in a thundershirt, with the windows blacked out, her bed sprayed with calming spray, having taken her herbal calming tablet. If you should happen to be on the motorways between Scotland and Berkshire and notice a small white car with steamed up windows and a bulldog with redrimmed bulging eyes, give us a wave. You’ll know it’s us – you’ll hear the snarling rage as you pass.


A-Z Challenge – D is for dogs

My A-Z autobiography … dogs

I was born into a household of 19 dogs (that does include a litter of 9 puppies) and we never had less than 6 while I was growing up.  Dog food is cheaper in Africa, and it was a lot cheaper back then.  The many dogs that have brought me joy over the years all had distinct personalities, some gentle, some powerful, few as decided as the dog I own now. The most eccentric was one we had in my childhood, which used to lie in wait for passing male pedestrians, then rush up and tear out the seat of their trousers. It cost my mother a fortune in replacements and she was eventually the best customer at every clearance sale and every church fete within fifty miles, to keep a full range in stock. It took a while to dawn on her that the local male population looked on him as an easy, albeit alarming, way of getting new trousers.

When I moved to the UK in 2000 my current dog was too old to go through six months in quarantine,  and stayed behind with family. I was suddenly pet-free, for the first time in my life! I built a strong relationship with my garden (other gardeners will have noticed how, when you go out with a watering can, plants actually push out scents in greeting, right?) but eventually even a friendly garden wasn’t enough. At just the right time a friend’s cat produced an unexpected litter of four, and I was given a ginger kitten which learned to walk on the lead, come when called (sometimes) and greet me rapturously when I got home.

Six months ago I finally re-entered the world of the dog-owner, when I rescued a 7 year-old bulldog-cross which has completely turned my world on its head.   Sometimes I look back on my quiet, sedate pet-free days with a tinge of regret, and sometimes, especially in winter when I’m walking the dog in a blizzard, the nostalgia is quite overwhelming.   More often, when I return home to a dog wriggling from head to foot with delight and a cat, prudently halfway up the stairs and calling a welcome, I realise all over again that my pets have made my house my home.