Sunday, 8 December 2013

Nico and the Vet

This post is actually less about Nico and more about Nico's vet. Vets get a bad name. They are often accused of trying to make the most money out of a pet owner as possible and giving an animal every test under the sun in order to do that. There are many vets that are like that but not all of them. My vet is not like that. I don't have pet insurance for Nico because of the vast number of things it wouldn't cover anyway. Instead I have money saved for him. My vet knows this and as a result always tries to do things the cheapest way that she can while still doing the best thing for Nico's overall health.

Nico has allergies and he bites at his feet as a result. It looked like a skin scrape would be required to work out what he was allergic to and that was booked in. But here is the fabulous thing; his vet changed her mind. She decided it wasn't worth it. She knew it was expensive but more importantly she didn't want to cause either myself or Nico undue stress and in his case, pain. The treatment requires scraping at the dog's skin almost until they are bleeding to get a suitable skin sample. Nico would either have to be awake for this or go through a sedation which is worrying for me and certainly not fun for him. The vet changed her mind, gave up the money that procedure would have gained the surgery which was a nice sum, and decided to try him on shampoo instead. The shampoo is expensive as far as shampoos go but way cheaper than the scrape and certainly less emotionally draining on me or my boy. If it doesn't work other steps will need to be taken but I think bringing this to light is important.

Nico's vet seems to put the animal first and I can go into the surgery feeling that Nico will achieve the best care in the best way. I can go into the room feeling the vet cares and not like they are plotting to take me for everything I have. From talking to friends that seems to be a rare thing. 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sam's Best Friend

Well, maybe not my BEST friend but he's certainly up there is my Nico. He has been through his grass ban and today was the first day the weather and circumstance made it possible to go out to the quarry together. It was wonderful to see him get so excited about it all! We were there over an hour with him sniffing at everything, going back and forth, and just getting to know the place again. I let him control our pace and just plodded along behind him really, enjoying the crisp air and the silence. I think he has really missed being able to run around on grass and take his time investigating his environment rather than just being walked around concrete pathways to protect his wee feet. It was for the best but wasn't the most riveting experience for either of us. The most interesting thing he will meet on our usual journeys is a house cat and the odd rabbit. If he is lucky he will see a squirrel dart across the path.

Nico with a treat post tail brushing. 

At the quarry he can see all sorts of creatures buzzing about and darting around when they think we can't see. He is not a chaser. He shows no interest in approaching everything but likes to sit and watch and learn. Cats he loves to walk up to and kiss on the nose because he lives with one but he always walks happily and his wee tail drops if they decide they want nothing to do with him. He's a good chap like that. He'd rather make pals with a cat than a dog really.

He can't 'tell' me that he's happy to be back at the quarry but his body language says it all. When you have a dog, they can tell you all sorts if you just look and listen in other ways. He is flat out knackered this evening after his adventures in the wild followed by a rather rugged tail brushing session but he seemed to have fun and that is so important to me. I don't have a dog for the sake of having a dog. I want him to be happy and take as much from life as possible. I want him to meet other animals, run around, have fun. I'm willing to brush the tugs out when he gets his tail wrapped up in a branch and pick up his poop every day. I knew what was I getting into getting Nico but I don't think I ever expected to get so much BACK in return. Seeing him happy makes me happy.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Of Mites and Haircuts

When I have pets, they tend not to get ill very often but do tend to get weird and wonderful problems. Nico has been diagnosed with an allergy to grass mites and this British summer has been wonderful for the little buggers to breed. He constantly wants to chew at his own feet despite the mites themselves being long gone now. He bites because it itched before and it itches now because he bites. It is a vicious circle. Steroids are an option but he would need them every couple of weeks until October and I don't want to hurt his overall health in the long run.

So, at the moment the answers are no more grass until October, a spray that gets rubbed into his feet until he stops munching on them and to make sure the spray actually gets in and things are less able to latch onto his wee feet, bald legs. He has a poodle coat. He looks like he is wearing pantaloons. It isn't a good look. He looks very big because of all his fur and then he has this skinny wee white legs poking out of the bottom. It is a wee shame but hopefully will work out for him. I just want to balance his comfort now and his overall health in the best way that I can. Unfortunately, the vet said he should get his feet shaved asap and my groomer couldn't see him asap so I had to get in there with my scissors. It took me 2 hours, looked like a small animal had exploded across my living room and left him looking very bedraggled but I got it done in the end. It was an adventure to be sure and I'd like to think it brought us closer together or something. Luckily the groomer did tidy him up in the end and he is all booked in to get a full groom soon so the rest of his coat can get cut off and he will look less....out of proportion.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Ice Lollies and Boiled Eggs

Summer has finally hit Scotland and it has sure done it in a big way. A heatwave by British standards has struck and while many parts of the world cackle at us Brits floundering they seem to remember we're on a level with Russia and Canada for the most part. We're just not used to these temperatures and that is what it is all about when it comes to change in the weather, what you're used to vs what you find yourselves experiencing.

I'm not impressed with this heat and Nico sure as hell isn't either. He goes mini walks, as I like to call them, in this heat. He pees, we go home, rinse and repeat as needed until after dinner when it cools down and he trots along happily. I'm lucky that we went to such as fabulous trainer in the beginning and continue to keep in touch with her. She often hands out tips for different occasions and that has proved invaluable over the Summer. Some tips should, I would think, be fairly obvious like checking the pavement with my hand to make sure it isn't too hot. If it is too hot for my hand it is sure as hell too hot for his paws and we need to wait or stick to grass ect. Others get scoffed at by people around me until they see them in action and more importantly see the benefits for Nico.

My favourite has been doggy ice lollies, Nico's too. I was scoffed at when I informed my parents why I was pinching a plastic Tupperware box but I carried on. It it as easy as boiling the kettle and making up some chicken stock, popping it in the box and freezing it on a normal day. When the sun decides to pop its hat on and make a rare appearance, bring out the box and if you're anything like me proceed to smash it to death with a rolling pin until some chips come off. What your dog doesn't want now pop back in the freezer but Nico loves them. He likes to carry them around in his mouth for a bit to cool down and then spit them out and have a wee chew, or you know play, before polishing them off. I gave him his in a bowl and when he wasn't eating it he tended to pop it in there so all the melted stock gathered there and provided a tasty cold drink when he was finished. It sounds ridiculous to make an ice lolly for your dog but a dog is part of your family so why the hell not? Only thing I regret is using a box. Next time I think I will use an old ice-cube maker and dedicate that to the wee man and his chicken stock. They are murder to pop out but might be cleaner than the explosion of ice I ended up with before. I needed an ice cold drink after that work for sure.

In other news Nico is 1 on Thursday. Sob. My wee man is growing up so fast. Plan to make him a wee boiled egg for his breakfast for a treat and there might be some home made scone involved in his dinner. He does love a wee egg and scone. I've not mentioned it before but Nico doesn't eat dog food. Nothing that wouldn't pass for human consumption is going anywhere near by dog. I get him meats and cheese that would actually pass inspections and actually have meat in them rather than insanely high percentages of grain. Grain that failed tests to be given to humans. Nico eats a mix of beef, chicken, ham, eggs and likes the off corner of toast and so on. People are often appalled when they hear this and say BUT THE VET, yeah the vet probably paid to advertise certain brands. Plus, what do these people think dogs ate before dog food? What do they think they eat in the wild? Nico is perfectly healthy and a perfect weight and very happy with his human food in his cat bowl. Cat bowl because I couldn't find a dog one he could get his wee face in. So yes, it is his birthday this week and he will be getting a wee bit of warm scone as his 'cake' and two of his favourite meals. Mushed boiled egg for breakfast and a half raw beef sausage for dinner. Wouldn't mind it myself!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Long time no woof

Oops. I kept thinking I should update and then I kept forgetting. Well, Nico has grown and is progressing with various milestones like big boy haircuts and not getting insanely excited when he meets new people. Just...mostly excited when he meets new people. As he gets bigger he can walk more and that is fun. He still has his limits as he has short legs and he will never be a 5 mile a day lab but still, it is fun. Having him is getting me to investigate all the nature that is on my door step that I never thought of before. There is an old quarry that has been dug out and turned into a heritage trail that runs down to the river and I love it there. Within minutes it feels like you're miles from the town and everything is green and lovely. Dogs run around off their leads and have fun, sniffing out rabbit holes and getting fascinated by wild rabbits darting to and fro.

I feel safe there, relaxed, and that is a big deal for me given my anxiety and how every time I leave my house it is a small victory. Nico's first walk around the top part of the trail left him knackered but every time we go back he manages to toddle a little further and having him down by the river is amazing. By that point you can't hear the cars at all and everything is so peaceful. We've had a big adventure there by losing the lead. Or shall I say, I let go and he waddles along investigating and checking I'm still there. I feared he would run off and I'd be chasing him down but he rewarded my trust and stayed close by. Given how much he's struggling to pick up recall that was a big moment for us. It is such a rush to feel like I've taught him something, that I'm developing this little pup into an adult and sometimes it feels like I've had him for five minutes and other times like forever.

I'm a lot more confident when we bump into other dogs now. I'm not scared and I don't fear being judged by others because I know Nico is well behaved and that I am doing the best that I can for him. I can now tell people I want them to call their dogs off and don't fear the consequences because I do it for Nico, because of Nico, and their opinion isn't really important to me any more. That is a big mental shift. We're at the point where Nico is ready to take on the sponsored walk for DiabetesUK with me next month and I'm very excited for that! Taking him on a sponsored walk is on my bucket list if you like~

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

'They' are talking again

Owning Nico has given me another rude reminder that people always like to think that they know better, even when their opinion is neither wanted nor asked for. Everyone thinks they know how to raise my dog and more importantly that they have the right to tell me this. They don’t. The fact is, Nico is my puppy and it isn’t like I’m going into this blind. I have been around dogs before with family and I’ve done my research. I’ve talked to behaviorists  vets plus I’ve read books and blogs and papers on the matter. I’m probably in the minority given I’ve done that much. I don’t pluck my facts from thin air when I defend my choices with Nico but the fact is I shouldn’t have to.

I think many people believe that they have learned about one breed of dog and therefore know about them all but a Pug is very different from a Labrador and a Poodle a very different kettle of fish than a Dalmatian. Different dogs have different needs and capabilities and all my readings and experience with dogs have taught me that I need to respect that. I’m not an expert on my dog and I’m certainly not an expert on yours but I’m not trying to be. I’m trying to learn and do the best for my pup. I’m learning about his breed. I’m trying to find his limits. To me, you can’t even compare Nico to adults of the same breed because Nico is not an adult, he is a child. His bones have yet to set and he is still learning about the world around him. He isn’t even in his ‘teenage’ years by dog standards. No, he won’t be walking the same miles every day that an older dog of the same breed might enjoy and he certainly won’t need, or want, the exercise regime of a working dog. He is a little dog, with little feet, that has his own needs and I aim to meet them and not the expectations of others.

So what is important? Loving him. That is what I really think. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

Trying to Help Out

This morning started like any other for Nico and I. I had my pastries and he had his sausages and I was halfway through my cup of tea when I heard that a dog had been hit by a car at our local Leisure Center and ran off towards the canal, near my home. At first I was going to sit and keep an eye out as my house looks onto one of the routes down from the canal but then I thought about it more.  It made me think of how I would feel if Nico was hurt and no one came to help look for him. A moment later I was a flurry of activity shouting for my mum to get Nico on his lead while I fell about looking for clothes and suitable footwear. A few minutes later I was out the door armed with treats for Nico and the number of an emergency vet.

Nico and I were out there for a good hour and a half searching through the wooded areas around the centre and canal but unfortunately had no luck in finding the injured dog. It was pretty disgusting work as being near the canal the ground is always wetter anyway and we’ve had a lot of rain recently so it was like sludge most of the time. Plus it was cold and generally rather bleak while trying to squirm through dead trees on the search. Nico was brilliant about following me through even though he got very muddy and probably had cold feet considering how deep the sludge was in comparison to his wee feet. He did not complain or try to stop once though and was always sniffing. Of course, he didn’t know what he was sniffing for but it made me feel better.  We got into a right mess but I’m glad that we did it all.

I wasn’t sure whether to take Nico at first, and had to weigh up the options.  On the one hand, he might scare the other dog or the site of him might cause the dog to panic and become aggressive but on the other he might be able to find the dog easier than I could alone. Obviously, I did take him but it was always on my mind that it might not have been the right choice until I bumped into others looking who had their dogs too. Nico behaved perfectly like he has been trained to and made some new friends on the search. It felt nice to be part of the dog community if you like, trying to help find another part of it. I’m glad that I did my bit and it was nice to think that if it was Nico these people would be out looking for him too.

For someone with social anxiety like me, it isn’t easy to do something like that. It was terrifying just getting up and heading out to help like that but I’m very proud of myself for doing it. Without Nico I would never have been out in that area of town by myself, never have met those people or spoken to them, and wouldn’t have felt the sense of community that I did today. Every person that I don’t know and talk to is part of my recovery process.

On our return to the house, Nico was muddy up to his knees and in dire need of a bath and I was utterly exhausted. Tea and bones were handed out and we had a hard earned rest but I do feel a sense of achievement and pride for what we have done today.  I hope the dog is found and that his injures are not too severe so it can recover and return home to its family.

Sam and Nico

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

Nico, post bath

2012 was a rather terrible year for me. I faced challenges I would never wish upon anyone and was so ill I wondered how I could ever possibly get better. The thing about being put in a corner, back against the wall, is that it makes you really re-evaluate things. I had time to think, so much time, because I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t go to university or work or read my beloved books, even watch a TV show without losing concentration and getting a sore head. It all took too much of something I didn’t have anymore, so I did a lot of thinking.

I thought about the places I’ve been, the people I know and the goals I had in my life and wondered who and what was really worth it.  I decided to take a chance and do something I have felt ready to do for years but never had the guts to and give a home to a dog. The decision has changed my life beyond my wildest imagination and while it has been very rewarding it has also been difficult and challenging. They tell you of the cuddles and amusing antics of puppies and many keep quiet about cleaning up poop on the carpet and trying to prevent them escaping the bath. It isn't easy, and though I'm loving having my puppy I hope that the Christmas puppies this year keep their homes. They really are for life. They become part of your life and can be one of the best parts of it if you are willing to let them. There is nothing like the feeling I get when I come home to his happy face and wagging tail. 

Nico has been amazing for my mental health this year and was without doubt the best decision I made in 2012. Bringing in the New Year with him by my side was wonderful and I look forward to many more to come.

Happy New Year

Sam and Nico