Thursday, 22 May 2008

Birthday frivolity

Birthday Bingley

Bingley is one year old today!

It’s been 10 months since he came to live with us and although the time seems to have flown by it also feels like he’s been here for much longer than that. In fact it’s difficult to imagine him not being here, and even when he’s driving us to distraction I don’t think that either of us would want to be without him.

His birthday week hasn’t been one without trouble however! We’ve been up to the vet not once, but twice this week (I’m now on first name terms with most of the staff!). On Tuesday it was time for him to go and visit Rachel so that we could discuss what to do next in the ongoing search to find the cause of his allergies. Before then though, on Monday he had another day of vomiting. A thorough examination on Tuesday didn’t reveal anything too alarming, but it turned out that he was running a high temperature and required an injection of antibiotics. He’s also lost a bit of weight and has quickly become a skinny Bing.

We were up there again on Wednesday morning to see if his temperature had returned to normal; it hadn’t quite, but it’s getting better and another week on antibiotics should sort him out. Meanwhile we’re going to have to make a supreme effort to keep him away from nasty edibles, though I’m not certain if that’s going to be possible. On the way back from the vet I thought I’d take a short cut through Horsey Field (I know, I know – what was I thinking?!) but despite my vigilance, and even though I didn’t let him off lead, when I looked down I found him proudly clasping in his jaws a huge clod of horse manure. As I removed it I tried to explain to him that we’d just been to the vet because of stuff like this, but he just gave me a look as if to say ‘I’m not sharing any of this with you’.

Looking through our archive of Bingley photos it feels like only last week that we were going round to Brian and Julie’s to be introduced to Bingley for the first time. We were greeted by a river of puppies led, I can now easily imagine, by the ever enthusiastic Bing! He hasn’t changed that much: he’s just a bigger version now, and looking at the pictures of that tiny puppy we can very clearly see Bingley looking back at us.

Bingley’s Blog has also grown quickly: initially it was just going to be a little photo album to share with friends and family. But now it’s become a story which we both enjoy telling.

Making lots of new friends has been one of the loveliest consequences resulting from the arrival of Bingley and his blog. Over the past year so many people have sent gifts for Bing and shared their own wonderful dog stories with us. It’s been an absolute delight and one which we wouldn’t want to be without. I’m sure that if Bingley could talk he’d want to join us in saying a huge thank you to all of you.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Thursday, 15 May 2008

What's that smell?

Dogs smell. There’s no beating about the bush, it’s an unavoidable fact: they smell. Sometimes badly.

To an extent I already knew this from those occasions when I’d visited someone who had a dog. That ‘dog smell’: an odour which is impossible to confuse with any other smell and one which I didn’t find terribly appealing. There’s no way that I’d want my house to smell like that!

What I hadn’t appreciated is that the smell comes in a variety of flavours and that some of them really are quite lovely.

For example, every now and again Bingley takes on the aroma of roasting coffee! I’ve no idea why. Maybe it’s because he’s the same colour as a cocoa bean? But whatever the reasons, and it doesn’t matter whether I’ve been brewing coffee or not, there are times when he smells like a fresh cup of Italian dark roast. Delicious!

Of course when he first arrived he had that very distinctive puppy smell; but now when I push my nose into his fur there’s just this absolutely gorgeous smell of warm Bingley.

Gorgeous as long as he’s dry, that is. Once wet, the smell of his fur is significantly less than appealing and can make my nose wrinkle. There are sound scientific reasons to explain why we get that wet dog smell when a dog gets wet; but the bottom line is that they’re stinky when they’re damp. Bing’s no exception: he’s a poopy pooch on rainy days.

Even on dry days though, it’s easy to tell that we’ve got a dog. I can’t believe how much fur he sheds, and if I don’t vac it all up on a daily basis we can quickly begin to suffer the consequences of all that oily hair. I’ve also become accustomed to having to scrub the kitchen rug regularly: it’s a natural fibre covering and, as it turns out, it naturally absorbs the odour of a dog and can become pretty smelly, pretty quickly.

Bingley also generates a range of other unpleasant smells on a random and unpredictable basis, but usually when he’s lying asleep by my feet and always without warning. These can be bad enough to make me spill my coffee and sometimes so intense that he wakes himself up and has to leave the room. Fortunately though, these particular smells have become less frequent since we changed his diet to JWB Lamb & Veg.

A dog’s sense of smell is phenomenal. In my life BB (Before Bing) I already knew that dogs had this ability; but I had no idea about just how much they calibrate their view of the world through their nose. And Bing’s nose is amazing! When he sits down in the back yard, lifts his head back and starts sniffing, both nostrils seem to move independently as he filters through the wealth of scents that must be floating around invisible to the rest of us.

But his sense of smell is also beginning to wear me out. On-lead training involves a constant struggle with a dog who is heeling nicely one minute, and the next is off following a scent with incredible and unrestrained urgency.

To some extent I’ve learnt to anticipate these lunges and I now prepare to say a firm ah-ah as we approach lamp posts or bollards. That usually works, but we’re surrounded by invisible scent maps and Bingley’s a determined explorer. We can no longer cut across Bingley’s Field in a straight line: as soon as we step onto the grass his muzzle goes down and we’re off on a dizzying zigzag, back and forth, round and round extended sniffing session which usually leads us back to where we started.

But his sense of smell is also good fun, and getting him to find the lumps of apple or carrot which I’ve hidden in the next room is one of our regular games. I’ve also become used to all those doggy smells, even the ones that aren’t that pleasant; and even on the wettest days I’d now rather have a stinky house with a Bingley than a clean house without.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Bingley’s week of misadventures

What a week!

On Monday we all took a Bank Holiday walk down by the river where we met a very small dog who took great delight in bossing Bingley around!

Honestly, this bolshy but engaging little pooch wasn’t much bigger than Bingley’s head; but he was older, out by himself, and obviously street wise. No puppy was going to tell him what to do even if he was significantly bigger. When Bing’s exuberant greetings began to outlast their welcome this little dog simply reached up and gently cuffed Bingley on the side of his head. The effect was amazing: Bing stepped back, sat down and looked crestfallen! He then let himself get chased around for a few moments (all the while looking very worried) before running over to me and hiding behind my legs. Titch meanwhile curled up by Jane’s feet and looked very superior.

Clearly Bingley hasn’t yet learned that one bark from him would have turned the tables and sent Titchy Pooch running. But Big Pooch doesn’t bark much; though he does, I have to say, possess the repertoire. If he’s shut in his dog house and wants attention he sometimes tries a very feminine bark: a high pitched shout which, when ignored, never lasts for long. At the other end of the spectrum there’s the floorboard shaking deep chest bark of a real dog, used when he’s being very assertive and needs to put something in its place once and for all. That bark is reserved for the garden hose. Dangerous things, those hoses.

But on Monday, out in the real world, Bingley didn’t seem to think of barking. He just stayed close to my ankles as we walked away. Titchy Pooch followed us for quite a while, with Bing glancing back nervously and then looking up at me as if to say ‘Can’t you do something about this, Rob?’

In the end I gave my own bark and told Titchy to go home. Which he did straight away. The relief, it has to be said, was felt all round.

Wednesday’s encounter with another dog was, however, a very a different experience and absolutely no fun at all.

Before then though, on Tuesday I was back up to the vet with Bingley in order to get his stitches removed, and to discuss what happens next in this on-going search to find the cause of his allergy. I was a bit apprehensive about the stitches because I imagined that taking them out would be uncomfortable for him; he’s also very wary about people touching his head. But in fact they came out without any difficulty; Rachel and I held him in the corner of the consulting room and she just snipped and pulled them out – easy peasy.

He’s still taking steroids, but over the next fortnight we’re going to be reducing the dosage and seeing if the itching resumes. But in fact it’s pretty obvious that the itching hasn’t disappeared entirely anyway, so I’m certain that we’ll be back to the vet in a couple of weeks and arranging to see a dermatologist.

The weather on Wednesday was beautiful, as it has been all week. In the morning I mowed the lawn and let Bingley help me clear up. As it turns out letting him do that probably wasn’t a good idea, but I didn’t find that out until Friday.

After lunch on Wednesday I decided to take Bing out for a long walk and together we set off along the riverbank to Pelaw. Alex’s water bowl has come into it’s own this week; Bingley no longer even thinks about running off with it, but will push his muzzle in and start drinking as soon as I put it down. I always take plenty of water and we have lots of stops along the way.

It was a lovely walk: the bird song is always beautiful along there and there’s always plenty to look at. Bing enjoys exploring the hedgerows and we had great fun playing in the fields.

There are also other dogs being walked in the same area, so it’s good socialisation for him. On Wednesday however, one of those dogs decided that Bingley was being too attentive to its owner and attacked him.

We’d just left a large empty field; I clipped on his lead whilst we checked the lane and then I let him off again. If I’d realised that someone was following us out of the same field I would have held onto him, but as far as I could tell we had the whole place to ourselves. As I stood looking at the views down river, Bingley ran back into the field to say ‘hello’ to this new friend. Consequently I didn’t see the attack, but I heard it and it was heart stopping. The encounter was vicious and my first experience of one dog seriously trying to hurt another.

Fortunately it didn’t last long. As I ran up to them the other owner was pulling her dog away, and I managed to grab hold of Bing who clearly couldn’t work out what was going on.

The woman was apologetic and Bingley didn’t seem to be hurt; but I was furious and, once I’d made sure that Bingley was ok, I was keen to get away as quickly as possible. Once I’d found somewhere quiet I lay him down and checked him over: he seemed fine. In fact he appeared to be unconcerned and was back to sniffing and exploring straight away.

It was only later when, as we played in the back yard after his evening meal, I noticed that a narrow strip of fur had in fact been ripped off from his side. I can’t tell you how angry and sad it made me feel. But Bingley didn’t seem to be bothered by it at all; he let me examine the affected area without any complaints and the bite didn’t seem to warrant a visit to the vet.

In fact I think that both Jane and I have been more affected by this episode than he has.

Thursday, thankfully, was a quiet and uneventful day. But on Friday Bingley started vomiting after breakfast. This isn’t the first time he’s been sick; but normally it happens once, he eats it up and that’s that. On Friday though, it continued all day.

Bingley and I have the house to ourselves this weekend, whilst Jane visits her mum in North Wales. But I know that I’ll get told off if I go on about Bing being sick! I’ll just add that I examined the ‘contents’ and found traces of the mown grass he’d been munching on Wednesday, so I’m pretty sure that he simply had an upset stomach. Although with the high temperatures we’ve been having this week, along with the attack on Wednesday, the medication from the vet on Tuesday, and the humiliating encounter with Titchy Pooch on Monday: who knows?!

A short fast followed by some light meals seems to have done the trick and he’s back to normal today.

As for me, I’m absolutely exhausted! Apologies for the lack of entries this week, but normal service should now resume. Though I don’t for a minute imagine that Bingley’s misadventures have come to an end.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Friday, 2 May 2008