Tag Archives: dogs

Smarty Pants

20180619_090513Smarty Pants … the new nickname AJ awarded Ms. Vivvy after she passed her Kennel Club Good Citizen’s Gold Award last week. She is incredibly pleased with herself, and I swear she knows that she’s done something of note, LOL.

It was quite a gruelling assessment (if not for the dogs, it was for the owners – phew!). We started at 10am and completed at around 11.45am. The tasks included: walking to heel along a busy road and not getting distracted by cars, people, noise and other dogs; A free run on the field where they had to come to an emergency stop when told (Vivvy was brilliant, and stopped immediately even when a swift decided to swoop down across her eye line at precisely the moment I shouted ‘stop’); and to retrieve a toy and bring it back to the owner. It also included being handled by someone unknown to the dog, leaving a bowl of food until given permission (which she’s been trained to do since puppyhood), and weaving in an out of bollards while staying close to heel.

There was also a two minute stay, thirty seconds of which required the owners to go out of sight of their dogs – something we’ve been working on for a while with little success, because usually as soon as I go out of sight she comes to find me, LOL. But bless her, she didn’t move an inch on the day.

Bronze Assessment Nov 15So, our golden girl now has the hat-trick: Bronze, Silver and Gold. We’re very proud of her.20160726_175911

Where to now? Well, we’ve been thinking about applying for her to become a P.A.T dog (Pets as Therapy). When my late aunt was in a care home, we took Vivvy and she was absolutely amazing. Lots of the residents wanted to make a fuss of her and she absolutely loved it. She was very calm and it was lovely watching her bring a smile to people’s faces. There is also the opportunity to work with children who have problems reading. It’s been discovered that when children read to dogs their confidence and reading ability greatly improves. So there’s much to think about and many options open to explore.

Whatever she does next, we know she’ll be a little star. We couldn’t be more proud of our Golden Girl.

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Taking a well earned rest!

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Puppy Update

It’s been a while since I did an update on life here at Puppy Central and the comings and goings of our guide dog puppies. Last year we seemed to have wall-to-wall puppies for boarding, with only a few breaks between to grab some time away. Not that we’re complaining, as we adore every moment – well almost. So I thought you might like to know what’s been happening to our little charges:

WoodyRemember Woody? Well, he went into training and took to it like the proverbial duck to water. At first the trainers had problems with his recall. He was never one to come back when there was a better offer around, like another dog to play with. But they managed to train that out of him and he is now a qualified guide dog. His new owner adores him and they have made a lovely team. Well done, Woody!

UshiThen there is our lovely Ushi. She was a sensitive little girl when she was small, but matured into a confident little lady. Like Woody, she qualified fast. Now she is working with a lady who recently lost her husband and older guide dog. She says that Ushi is her precious companion and it seems the two are inseparable. Ushi still has her lovely smile to greet people, and is much loved.

Whispa 7 months Sept 14What can I say about our lovely Whispa? Other than AJ spoils her when I’m not looking? Well, she is very spoil-able, and such a sweetie. Whispa is due to go into advanced training in June. Like Woody, she also has problems with recall but I’ve every confidence they’ll be able to train that out of her. She was recently spayed and didn’t have too good a time of it. We couldn’t free run her until she was healed, of course, and she struggled to cope with the lack of exuberant exercise. She is a high energy girl and loves to run and play. Having got the all clear from the vet, she is now happily off on her adventures in the fields and woods again. We’re hoping for another visit (or several) before she goes off to training.

photo0809Then there’s our little princess, Vivvy. Our cheeky girl! Nine months old now and too adorable for words. She’s always up for a cuddle and a play, but can be a stubborn little madam. I love her with a passion.  She’s just come through her first season, so is due to be assessed for advanced training in a couple of weeks. The only problem will be her sensitivity to noise. She gets worried about unusual or unexpected noises and backs away. The problem is that she doesn’t react to any noises in particular, so it will be difficult to pin down. She also shies away from going into the pet store, and makes a dreadful fuss about it. We’ve got our fingers crossed that she might grow out of it.

Sandy, Beauty, and Emily are all in training and appear to be doing well. So no doubt we’ll have good news about them soon.

We’re so proud of all our little charges. They do such an amazing job.

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New Year – New to the Community

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Hi Everyone,  I’m Marie Tuhart and I’m very happy to be here at Over The Back Fence blog. I’ll tell you a little bit about me, I’m a native Californian born and raised there until 2012, when I retired from … Continue reading

Warming up with Walkies

Since last April, it seems as if we’ve hardly gone a few days without being rained on here in the UK. Many places have seen flooding during the unprecedented rainfall, with homes and businesses being flooded over and over again. I can only imagine how depressing that must be for those people caught up in this miserable cycle, replacing carpets and furniture only to have them destroyed again as another deluge descends. Thankfully, the rain seems to have abated, and while we’ve had the coldest March since 1963, at least it has dried up a little and at times the sun has even peeked through.

We woke up to pretty chilly temperatures again this morning and they’re set to continue throughout the Easter weekend. Our favourite way to warm up is a visit to our local animal rescue centre where we are volunteer dog walkers. On the journey to the centre, we stop off at a farm shop for coffee/hot chocolate, sometimes accompanied by a tasty cake or bun. This morning we resisted the cakes as we’re both trying to shed a few pounds 🙂

Tricia with Daisy and CJWhen we reached the centre, we were greeted by Daisy, the German Shephard, and CeeJay, a Westie, two delightful sisters who are always eager to get out in the country lanes for their walk. They came to the centre when their elderly owner died and are absolutely devoted to each other. On the walk, if one of them stops to sniff or do the necessary, the other one waits patiently until they can both walk on together again. They are absolutely delightful, even if they refuse to look the same direction when having their photo taken 🙂 We were so pleased to know that they will soon be going home with their new owners who are thrilled to adopt them both. Such good news for these lovely girls.

TorWe also took Tor, a two year old Springer Spaniel and a real force of nature. Tor is very bright and gets bored very easily, so out on walks she’s all over the place searching for the next interesting thing.
AJ and Enzo 'Ferrari'Then there’s Enzo, who AJ has nicknamed Ferrari, because when he sits waiting for his walk, he’s like an engine revving for take off. He’s a beautiful two year old boy who is incredibly affectionate and really loves to be cuddled and stroked. A real delight.

What I love about these rescue dogs is that, regardless of the reasons they’ve come to the centre, often too harrowing to contemplate, they live in the moment. Even more amazing is how even after being ill treated they have this ability to let go of the past and put their trust in another human, often showering their love and affection even after a moment of meeting people. To continually put themselves on the line by giving their trust away so readily after it’s been broken, perhaps time and time again, is quite a thing and perhaps one of the reasons why dogs so easily capture my heart.

Photo0099Oh, in case you’re wondering, our guide dog puppy, Vinnie, has now entered full time training as it was decided that he’s basically too bright for his own good 🙂 We weren’t too surprised, believe me that boy is Oxford University equivalent material, but we were sad to say goodbye. We’ll be doing some boarding for guide dogs throughout the summer, so hopefully it won’t be too long to wait for our next charge.

Hope everyone has a lovely Easter weekend, and that the sun shines on you wherever you are.

The magic of a movie

We heard this week that Vinnie, our current guide dog puppy, has to leave us for four weeks because of ongoing behavioural problems. You can imagine how disappointed we are, but we really want to give him the best chance of fulfilling his future as an assistance dog, so we know it’s for the best. It doesn’t stop me from feeling a bit down in the dumps though, and while we’ll enjoy the break (he’s not been the easiest pup in the world) we’ll really miss the little chap.

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Today we’ll drive him over to his temporary home for the next month. On the way back, we’re planning to stop off for lunch and hit the shops for a little retail therapy. I think my hubby wants to keep me occupied as I get really attached to these pups and find it hard to let them go, even if only temporarily. But while lunch and some shopping is lovely, when I’m feeling a bit low the best remedy is losing myself in some feel-good movies. The movies of choice at these times are the ones where it’s possible to put reality aside for a couple of hours and enter into a world of movie magic.

Have you seen the movie, Love Actually? If so, you’ll recall the scene between Liam Neeson and the young actor who plays his stepson. The boy is feeling miserable and Liam suggests that they need Kate and they need Leo, meaning that scene in Titanic where the characters are on the bow of the ship and enjoying the freedom of the elements. Well tonight I’ll need Howard and I’ll need Jane and the fabulous movie that is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I think I was about eleven when I first saw it and fell desperately in love with the colour, the dancing, the singing, the costumes and … the brother in the red shirt  It has never once failed to lift my heart. Having fallen in love with films from an early age, I always wanted to be a movie director. My cousins still talk about the time I made them recreate scenes from Seven Brides in my parents’ living room, and insisted they use the correct dialogue and actions. I don’t think they’ve ever forgiven me.

Aside from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, other go-to feel good films are Field of Dreams, The Phantom of the Opera, Out of Africa, You’ve Got Mail, Dead Poets’ Society and all the Indiana Jones series. Of course, there are other movies in my favourites list, such as The Last Samurai, Shawshank Redemption and Saving Private Ryan but these are grittier, hard-hitting films that, while amazing, don’t qualify for my escapist requirements in times of need.

How about you? What are your favourite escapist movies?

A special boy, a beautiful girl and a summer full of loving

While we’re waiting for our next guide dog puppy, we’ve been keeping our hand in by walking dogs at the local rescue centre. Of course, we’ve fallen in love with all of the animals at the centre, but our special favourite is Alfie, a beautiful six year old golden labrador.

Alfie has been shoved from pillar to post. He was a sniffer dog but somehow got lost along the way and it’s thought he was possibly forced into dog fighting while lost on the streets in Europe. Not surprisingly, he now has a problem with aggression with other dogs and finds being in kennels very stressful. But Alfie loves people and is the most beautiful boy. He’ll do anything for a biscuit, is very obedient and affectionate. He loves playing in water, loves his big teddy and tennis ball. We would have adopted him like a shot, but couldn’t chance him with the puppies. We really hope some special person will come along soon and take Alfie home to be loved as he deserves and given the chance to learn how to live happily with other dogs.

While we’ve been waiting for our next pup (who hopefully arrives on 13 September) we’ve been looking after a couple of friends’ dogs during the summer. Our current houseguest is Tia who is also a beautiful golden labrador and is three years old. Tia is very much a lady and patiently waits for her treats and dinner. She even crosses her legs as a proper lady should 🙂 Tia loves the local woods, she loves her treats, adores chasing balls and playing tug with her red hoop. She does seem to have selective hearing though, and sometimes fails to hear us calling her, but strangely when the word ‘biscuit’ is mentioned she miraculously appears in an instant.

Most evenings she’s totally pooped from the day’s activities and sleeps soundly in her bed until about ten o’clock. Then it’s as if an alarm goes off and she’s up and ready to play, just as we’re thinking about preparing for bed.

We’ve loved having Tia stay and are hoping the next week goes slowly so we can continue to enjoy her company before our friends return from holiday. We’re almost tempted to put a sign on the door when they’re due to collect Tia saying “Gone Away. No Forwarding Address” but imagine they’d track us down 🙂

I saw a message on Facebook last week that said: “Without animals, our wallets would be bigger, our homes would be cleaner, but our hearts would be emptier”. I imagine animal lovers everywhere would agree with that.

The search is over …

Isn’t it weird how life always seems to know best? We’ve been searching for that new four-legged addition to the Joneses household for months now and despite visits to rescue centres all over the west of England, our search for our new dog has proved fruitless. Every time we got close, something happened to make it fall through. We’ve seen about six little honeys who have grabbed our affection, but there was always a reason we couldn’t proceed with the adoption. Either we were pipped at the post by another adopter, the dog had special needs and we didn’t have the experience or, in the case of a sweet little Jack Russell, the dog didn’t want to know us.

To say I was getting despondent was an understatement. It felt like the universe was conspiring against us. But then a chance conversation with a lovely manager at the rescue centre near Taunton, got us thinking about fostering. My first thought was that I wouldn’t be able to give them up. No way, it wasn’t going to happen. I mean, some of the dogs that go out for adoption are at the centre while their owners are prosecuted for neglect or abuse. How on earth was I supposed to give back an animal if the RSPCA lost the case and the dog had to be returned to its owner? Impossible. I had visions of us packing up and moving to the Outer Hebrides to avoid letting an innocent animal go back to that. But AJ was pretty keen on the idea (he’s an even bigger softie than me when it comes to helping animals), so I tried to consider the possibility. I just couldn’t get behind it.

Then another chance conversation led us to consider ‘fostering’ guide dog puppies (called ‘puppy walkers’ in the UK). The foster family undertake basic obedience training and generally care for the puppy from six weeks old until about fifteen months when the dog is ready to go into full training to become a guide dog for the blind. My first thought again was that I couldn’t give them up, but AJ was completely sold. We talked and talked about it and I realised that I could do it. Just thinking about the job these lovely dogs are born to do, convinced me that I could do it. For me, the gift of sight is one of the greatest in life and if we can be a small part of the process to help people denied this gift, then it’s a no-brainer.

All those delays, frustrations and disappointments have led us to what now feels so right for us. We are both really excited at the prospect of greeting our first little bundle of joy who will arrive (hopefully) sometime in July. We can’t wait…

Tricia