A few months ago I noticed that Sophie had developed a small lump under the skin on her lower abdomen ; it wasn’t bothering her so I left it alone but kept an eye on it, however quite a while later I noticed it had grown and two more lumps had developed close to it so I booked a visit to the vet’s. I was told that these were probably mammary tumours and she would need an operation called a ‘mammary strip’ – it wasn’t a small operation though and the recovery time would be quite lengthy so as I was due to go to Ireland at the end of November I postponed it until after I’d got back home.
I finally booked Sophie in for her operation on December 17th but when I took her in that morning I was dealt quite a blow – she had developed some more lumps on the other side of her abdomen near her chest and though they were only tiny at the time they would grow and would eventually need removing. The vet said that all the lumps were probably caused by a hormonal imbalance and recommended that I have her spayed asap, which left me with three options – (1) have the original operation which I’d already paid an expensive amount for, then have a second operation at a later date which would be another expensive amount, (2) have the original op plus the spay (an added cost) then the second op another time (again, another expensive amount) or (3) have the whole lot done at once, in which case they could reduce the combined extra cost. It was a no-brainer really, apart from keeping the cost down I couldn’t put Sophie through two or even three separate operations so I agreed to have the whole lot done there and then.
I’d been told I would be able to collect Sophie that evening but I got a phone call to say that even though the operation had gone well and she was in recovery they were keeping her in overnight just to monitor her. I finally collected her at noon the following day along with three lots of medication and strict instructions – plenty of rest, peace and quiet, no walks except once round the garden on a lead, no running, no jumping, no picking her up etc. and I had to take her for a post-op check three days later.
Now I personally don’t agree with confining dogs in cages unless it’s for transport purposes but knowing that I would need to keep Sophie separate from Poppie I’d put them both in a cage each before I went to Ireland. For one thing it was easier for my friend Lin to deal with them while I was away and also it would get them used to being separated, although the cages are next to each other. So since Sophie came home she’s been in her own little den with a new bed and a hot water bottle, and post-op care has consisted of medication three times daily, a slow circuit of the garden every three hours and a hot water bottle refresh 3-4 times a day. For the first couple of days she was a bit subdued but since then she’s come on in leaps and bounds (almost literally) and for the last few days has been back to her lively little self.
Today I took her to have her stitches out and the vet was very pleased with her. The test results showed that the lumps were non-cancerous, the mammary glands and all the lumps had been removed and she has also been spayed to sort out the hormonal imbalance, so there is now only a very very slim chance that this will ever reoccur. So Sophie has been given a clean bill of health and can now start going for walks again, although they will only be short ones to start with. The whole procedure may have been a very expensive business but when I get a paw on my leg, a tail wag and her little face looking up at me I know it was worth every penny.
Just as in June circumstances beyond my control decided to wreck my recently planned 10-day holiday away so instead of going to Norfolk as I normally do at this time of year, a change of destination and departure day saw me heading off on Thursday morning last week for another few days on Anglesey. I stopped off en route to visit my blogging friend Eileen and just as I was leaving there it started to rain – and that set the tone for the next couple of days. It was still raining when I finally reached the camp site, it was windy too, and with no chance of putting the tent up I spent the rest of that day and all the following day living in the van. It did turn out really nice later on Friday afternoon though so I took advantage of it and took the dogs down on the beach, and with not many people around it was vastly different to when I’d been there in June.
I woke early on Saturday morning and found that the wind had gone, there wasn’t even the whisper of a breeze, so I took advantage of it and got the tent up while the going was good – I was really only using it to store most of my stuff as I’d already decided to continue sleeping in the van. The day was really grey and cloudy but after spending most of the previous two days cooped up in the van I was still determined to go out somewhere, and after having the van cleaned as part of a charity car wash at the local fire station I went over to Llanberis on the mainland to explore round an old castle which I’d found out about in June. The only part of it still standing was the tower and it was possible to climb the steps inside it but being extremely steep and narrow they are definitely not for anyone with claustrophobia or vertigo.
Also while in Llanberis I looked round a lovely old church and the Snowdon Mountain Railway station – and with the high prices charged for a ride to the top of the mountain I certainly won’t bother going up there. On the way back from Llanberis I called to see my cousin Dave in Llanrug then with the weather improving I stopped off at Port Dinorwic, where I was lucky enough to see a heron ‘posing’ on the end of a seaweed-covered breakwater.
Sunday started off cloudy but came nicer as the morning went on and by lunch time it was lovely so I took myself off to explore a part of Parys mountain I hadn’t previously seen. From there I went to Llanbadrig church, which I’d missed while on my quest to find Porth Wen brick works in June and where I learned some interesting history, and my final stop – via a cheeseburger from Pete’s Burger Bar at Penrhos – was Soldier’s Point and the marina at Holyhead.
Monday was just like the previous day, starting off cloudy but coming nicer as the morning went on, and this time I went to explore a corner of the island I’ve never really been to – a stretch of the coast towards the south side of the island alongside part of the Menai Strait. From there I went to the outskirts of Newborough to find the Giant’s Stepping Stones then into Newborough itself and through the forest to Llanddwyn Island – by then the weather was getting better and better and the views across to Snowdonia and the Llyn peninsula were beautifully clear. There was a BBC film crew making a documentary about life on the island at the beginning of the last century and though I couldn’t go near the old cottages I was able to wander round the rest of the island and I got some beautiful photos.
Tuesday was coming home day and the morning was partly sunny/partly cloudy and also very windy – taking the tent down wasn’t too much of a hassle but I had to fight with the groundsheet before I finally bundled it up and got it into the van. I left the site at 10.45 am, much earlier than I would normally leave but with it being so windy there was no point staying any longer, however over on the mainland the weather got better and it turned into a gloriously sunny day so I stopped off for an hour or so in Conwy. As a long-time follower of the Quest tv programme Salvage Hunters, just for curiosity I went to look in Drew Pritchard’s shop, and though there were a couple of things I liked most of the items were grossly overpriced and horrible – it beats me why anyone would want some of the things that were on display.
On the way from Conwy I called to see Eileen again but unfortunately missed her this time as she was out somewhere, so I continued homeward and arrived back at 3.30pm – and since then I’ve really known that the holiday was over. Less than a couple of hours after getting home I had a call from the PA at my evening job, she had mistakenly thought I was back at work that day so wondered why I hadn’t turned up. At my morning job yesterday no-one had done anything in my absence so I had lots to catch up on, then later on I went out to the animal hospital to collect Aphra’s ashes for my friend Janet, though she’s asked me to keep them until she feels more able to deal with things.
We also have workmen in the empty house next door, yesterday they were rewiring the whole place and the drilling and banging were horrendous – Michael is currently working 12-hour night shifts but couldn’t get any proper rest because of the noise, and it was so loud at one point that we couldn’t hear each other speaking even though we were only three feet away from each other. After the previous few days peace and quiet on a relatively empty camp site that sort of noise is the last thing I want to hear – fortunately they seem to have been fairly quiet today but any more noise like yesterday will have me wishing I could go straight back to Anglesey!
*Larger versions of these photos and more will eventually be part of a full update on my camping blog, including some interesting history and facts about a few places I’ve seen while away – now all I have to do is get round to writing everything up!
Today has been such an emotional day that there’s no way I feel like sorting out photos and writing a Monday Walk page – sadly my friend Janet had to have her lovely dog Aphra put to sleep at the animal hospital and as she was in no fit state emotionally to drive herself there I took her and stayed with her.
Aphra was a Bearded Collie and only six years old but for the last couple of years has been beset by one medical problem after another, with visits to the vet’s every few months and being on an almost constant supply of various forms of medication for whatever was wrong at the time. A few weeks ago she started with what we thought could be a urinary tract infection – a course of antibiotics failed to clear it so she was booked in for tests and scans and it was found that her bladder wasn’t functioning properly. Janet had to take her every day for a week for a particular injection and tests at the end showed that things had improved quite well, however she then developed a bacterial gut infection for which she had yet more medication.
Last Wednesday evening Janet phoned me to tell me she wouldn’t be in when I went to do her cleaning the following day and also said that Aphra had become very listless and didn’t want to eat or go out – indeed when I went up there the dog was very quiet instead of being her usual bouncy self, and though I did manage to take her for a short walk she just trailed miserably along behind me. Late on Friday afternoon I got a very distressed call from Janet to say that she had taken Aphra to the vet’s earlier and they were transferring her to the animal hospital nine miles away as she was so ill, then yesterday the vet at the animal hospital rang Janet to say that Aphra’s kidneys were damaged to the point of shutting down, and though they would make one last ditch attempt to stabilise her she would probably have to be put to sleep.
This morning Janet rang me in tears again to say that the vet had phoned and told her Aphra was no better but they were willing to give her until 3pm to see if there was any positive change – unfortunately there wasn’t, Aphra was now suffering so it was time to say goodbye, although Janet asked them to wait until she could get there. With a heavy heart I picked her up from home and she was in tears all the way to the hospital – we were taken into the family room, and though I expected to see Aphra lying semi-comatose in a cage she was brought out to us, and to see her it was hard to believe anything was wrong. Although she wasn’t her usual lively self she was happy and her tail was wagging, and she made a big fuss of both of us, although she tired very quickly and went to lie on the blanket provided for her.
The vet made us a coffee and said we could take as much time as we liked to say our goodbyes – Janet was too upset to make any rational decisions for afterwards so with my guidance she asked for Aphra to be kept at the hospital and arrangements would be made direct with the pet crematorium tomorrow for her collection and individual cremation, then when she was ready she signed the consent form and sat on the blanket with Aphra, holding her and stroking her while she went to sleep for the last time. We were then given as much time as we wanted to sit with her until Janet felt ready to leave – there was a big white board on one wall of the room with a glue stick and a supply of leaf-shaped post-it notes for people to leave memorial messages, so I wrote one for Aphra and stuck it on the board before we left.
Janet has asked me to make the arrangements with the pet crematorium as, according to her, “I know what I’m doing” so that will be my first job tomorrow morning, although it’s not something I’m looking forward to as it seems so final. Although Aphra wasn’t my dog I’ve become quite fond of her over the years so today hasn’t been the easiest – and though I mainly managed to keep my emotions in check at the animal hospital I’ve cried since I got back home. Although some people might say that Aphra was ‘only a dog’ she was Janet’s friend and constant companion – mine too when I looked after her during the times Janet was away – and she will be very much missed in many ways.
Just over four weeks ago, on the Monday of that week, I got a text from my friend Lin just after I got to work at 4.45pm – “Could you possibly pick us up from the vet’s when you finish work please?” Thinking there was something wrong with their little dog Oscar I rang her straight back, only to be told that she and Dee were on the way to the vet’s by bus and it was a long story – fortunately the vet’s isn’t far from my evening job so it was no trouble for me to meet them there after I’d finished work. They were still waiting to be seen when I got there and I was surprised to find that it wasn’t Oscar they had with them but four very tiny kittens in a cardboard cat carrier, and that’s when I got the full story.
Apparently Dee had been walking home from work early that afternoon when she heard the faint sound of a kitten crying; at first she couldn’t see anything but tracked the sound to some nearby bushes where she found the litter of kittens underneath, very tiny and obviously very dirty, cold and weak in spite of the warm weather, and with no sign of a mother cat. So she rang Lin who went down to meet her with a towel to wrap them in and they went back to the nearby pet store where Dee works to get the cat carrier, then went to the vet’s along the road to get them checked over, coming out with formula milk, syringes and feeding bottles and with instructions to feed the kittens every two hours.
Unfortunately the smallest kitten, a girl, wasn’t doing very well so a couple of hours later they rang their own vet’s, which is where I met them, and were told to take them in straight away. The other three kittens were boys and for the sake of the vet’s records the four were named Smokey, Sebastian, Tiger and Hope; the vet estimated them to be no more then ten days old but unfortunately Hope was the smallest and weakest and riddled with maggots inside – nothing could be done for her so sadly she had to be put to sleep. Dee bravely cuddled her while she drifted off, which took only seconds, and even I cried although she wasn’t mine. To be on the safe side Lin booked the other three in for overnight care and when we collected them the following day we came out with antibiotics which had to be given by syringe before feeding them.
Unfortunately though, things weren’t exactly straightforward, and at 7.30 that evening Dee came round to ask if I could take them back to the vet’s asap as Sebastian wasn’t doing well. As soon as we got there he was taken away and put on oxygen but he was failing rapidly and turning blue so sadly he had to be put to sleep too, though the vet said the other two were responding well to the medicine so with lots of TLC they should be okay. We weren’t taking anything for granted though so every day they survived was a bonus, and every evening for a couple of weeks I would call round after work to see how they were getting on. They progressed very well and their feeds went from every two hours to every three, then every four, and now they are sleeping longer they just get fed whenever they wake up – and their progress has come on in leaps and bounds.
Going off the day when the kittens were found and the vet’s estimation of their age at the time they will be six weeks old tomorrow. They are now at the weaning stage and even though they are a bit smaller than they should be, thanks to Lin and Dee’s constant care they have grown from the tiny pathetic little scraps that Dee found into lively and playful little kittens, so playful in fact that when I was trying to take photos of them they wouldn’t keep still and the only way I could get them was for Lin to hold them individually with both hands.
I’ve also had an occasional hand in feeding them and though they are both absolutely adorable my favourite just has to be little Tiger, who also happens to be Lin’s favourite. I’m not even remotely thinking about having another cat as I’m quite happy with the three I’ve got, but even if I did want one there’s no way Lin would let me have Tiger – and Dee wouldn’t let me have Smokey either so I’m happy to just be an honorary ‘auntie’ and cuddle them whenever I call round there. It’s so sad that we lost Sebastian and little Hope but we console ourselves with the thought that at least for a few hours they had some care and affection and didn’t die cold, hungry and unloved under the bush where they were found. I haven’t written about them before now as we weren’t sure if or how long Smokey and Tiger would survive but thanks to Lin and Dee they are coming on in leaps and bounds, so in view of the condition the four were in when Dee found them I think a 50% success rate is good – and for these two little bundles of fur things can only get better from now on.
Last Sunday evening I went round the corner to visit my friends Lin and Dee, only to find that even after three attempts an hour apart they weren’t in, so it was Monday evening after work when I finally caught up with them. Apparently another friend of theirs , Nick, had invited them over his place for a barbecue and they hadn’t got home until later than intended – and the reason was in their bath!
Now to put you in the picture, Dee works in a local pet store, they both love animals, and anything they can possibly rescue they’ll take – they already have seven rescued bearded dragons and a rescued dog, and only a couple of weeks ago Dee was thinking about taking on a couple of rats which needed a new home until she realised that it wasn’t a wise idea with having Oscar, who’s a terrier. So during the course of the barbecue Nicks mother ‘just happened’ to let it slip that someone she knew was looking for a home for two young ducks, one of which (the female) is supposed to be partially paralysed on one leg – and if they weren’t gone within a couple of days then they would be destroyed. Well of course that couldn’t be allowed to happen so Lin and Dee said they would take the ducks – Nick drove them over to collect them and the ducks ended up in Lin’s bath with a large carrying cage for shelter until an alternative could be found for them.
When I went round again yesterday I found the ducks in the temporary shelter of a large 2-tier rabbit hutch and with a pre-formed garden pond for them to swim in, both given to Dee by someone she works with at the pet store. Now although the larger duck is plain brown and looks very much like a female Mallard they’ve been told it’s a male, and no amount of Googling on my part has come up with any other possible breed, anyway they’ve called it Jeremy – and the smaller duck, which is more or less all white apart from her head, has been called Jemima. It’s obvious that she’s still quite young as she still has a bit of yellow baby fluff on the back of her neck, but she’s really cute and she sat in my hands for ages, squeaking rather than actually quacking. As for the ‘partially paralysed’ bit, well she does have a slight limp but other than that she walks quite well, and the pair of them swim like – well, ducks!
It’s lucky that Dee works where she does as she’ll be able to get any food and anything else they need at discount cost, and Nick is coming over at the weekend to section off part of the garden to make a dog-free duck area. I know the two of them will be well cared for so I hope they get to live long and happy lives.
Yesterday I took my friend Lin and her daughter Dee to the Bleakholt spring open day, and even Michael came along with us too, something which he’s never done before. After the last few gloriously sunny days my heart sank when I got up in the morning to find it dull and raining – the last three open days have been blighted by bad weather at some point – however by the time we were setting out at lunch time it had brightened up and the sun was shining.
The open day runs from 12 noon until 4pm, we arrived at 12.45 and already the place was swarming with visitors; Lin and Dee headed straight for Dee’s favourite place, the book shop, and after telling Michael where everything was I left him to wander off on his own while I went to look at the stalls in the barn. From there I went to look at the donkeys but they must have been out in the field somewhere, however near their enclosure a couple of kiddies rides had been set up and I got a great shot of the little train as it went round and round on its track. After that came the owl rescue stall with its birds sitting quietly on their perches or on the gloved hands of various visitors – two of them were only tiny but I couldn’t get a decent photo of either of them as so many people wanted to stroke them.
Next came a look round the dog section, and if I hadn’t already got Sophie and Poppie I would have been adopting Disney – a 4-year old Yorkie/Shihtzu crossbreed he was the cutest little thing I’ve seen in a while. A few kennels further along was Sasha, a 10-year old Lurcher crossbreed, rehomed once but returned for being over protective in the home – she was a lovely looking dog and quite happy to pose for me while I took her photo.
From there I went to the cat section where I saw what looked like the scruffiest cat ever. She was sitting so close to the wire that I couldn’t get her full body in the shot but she looked like she’d just been through the worst grooming session possible. Her fur was stuck out in various places and at the lower end of her back she had three tufts sticking up like little wings – she was a lovely colour though and in spite of her scruffiness she was beautiful and would have been my choice if I’d been adopting one. The kitten section was so full of visitors that I couldn’t get near any of the little ones so I took myself off to the oldies room and spent some time with them instead.
When I finally got back outside I found that the sunshine had gone and it had clouded over considerably but it wasn’t enough to put people off, and with visitors still coming in the place was the busiest I’ve seen it for a long while. I met up with Michael while I was wandering round so we went in the cafe for a brew and something to eat; we had corned beef hash with beetroot and red cabbage and it was so filling that neither of us wanted anything else when we finally got back home.
Just as we left the cafe we bumped into Lin and Dee, it was trying to rain by then but it didn’t amount to anything, so we had one last look round the stalls, where I managed to get a brand new pair of beach sandals for just 50p, then made our way over to the motorbike display near the car park. The bikes belonged to The Cogheads, a local motorbike club, and on one Sunday every year they do a charity petfood run, collecting donations of pet food, pet supplies and money and ending up at Bleakholt. This time their run just happened to coincide with the sanctuary’s open day so there was the added attraction of 29 bikes and 4 trikes all lined up on display.
Once we’d looked round the bikes I left the other three near the cafe and went to get the van. Between us all we had a fair amount of stuff to donate and because of the narrow lanes and one way system in operation on open days I’d had to park quite a distance away, which was too far to carry everything, so it made sense to wait until the crowds started to thin out then I could drive down to the donations shed. When I got there I found Lin and Dee had disappeared – Michael said they’d gone to the office and when I caught up with them I found Dee in the process of sponsoring Chesney, a dog she fell in love with a while ago but one which currently can’t be rehomed because of behavioural issues. When that was all sorted out, and with all our donated items unloaded from the van and everything Dee had bought loaded in their place, we finally headed for home. In spite of the sunshine disappearing it had been a good afternoon with what seemed to be a record number of visitors – the afternoon’s final takings will be the amount they will be trying to beat at the next open day in July, so fingers crossed the weather will behave and it will be another really good day.
No doubt many people will be familiar with the Disney film Homeward Bound, in which two dogs and a cat trek across America to find their family; well this story is in my local paper today and though the journey is nothing like crossing America it’s still impressive for a little dog so I thought I’d share it.
Lost dog Patch’s incredible eight-mile expedition to find his mother
PATCH the Jack Russell has an extraordinary ‘tail’ to tell after he went missing and turned up eight miles away at his mum’s front door.
The little five-year-old was out walking in Hall i’th’ Wood on Sunday evening when he got lost in the woodland. His family desperately searched for him to no avail . . . but the next morning he was found sitting on the doorstep of his mum Bess’s home in Westhoughton.
Patch has lived with Lisa and John Hilton and their children Annabel, aged 15, Oscar, aged 12, and Millie, aged nine, since he was a puppy while Bess, aged 12, lives with Lisa’s father, Edward Horrocks, aged 90. The family, who live in Crompton Way, were shocked and delighted to discover he was safe and sound, but are completely amazed by the unusual journey.
Mrs Hilton, aged 47, said: “It has been a traumatic experience, but we are so glad it’s a happy ending to the story. We have always gone to my dad’s house in a car. Sometimes the windows are open and maybe that’s what led him there. I said to the kids, ‘when you are vulnerable who do you want? It’s your mum’.
“That little dog of ours, we can’t believe he made it all that way and what he might have gone through when you think about all the roads and roundabouts he would have had to cross without getting run over. We don’t know how many miles he ran – he’s absolutely exhausted now but he’s our little hero!”
Patch — who is microchipped — was walking in the woods off-lead with Mr Hilton, aged 53, when he disappeared at around 4pm. Panicked, the family gathered around to hunt for him, handing out numbers to passing dog walkers and posting Patch’s picture on Facebook. Meanwhile it’s believed the dog made his way to Crompton Way and started his journey west.
It is not known exactly what route Patch took, but his family believe he could have travelled along part of MossBank Way and through Johnson Fold before arriving at Landedmans in Westhoughton some time between midnight and 6am, when a neighbour spotted him sitting obediently outside Mr Horrocks’s front door.
That morning, after a sleepless night of worry, Mrs Hilton received a call from her dad. She said: “He asked if I was sitting down and I thought the worst, then he said ‘You’ll never guess who’s sitting next to me!’
“It went from tears to thinking what a clever dog we have got. He wasn’t hurt, just a little shocked and tired. We are thrilled he’s back home now though and just hope he doesn’t do it again!”
I know the place names won’t mean anything to anyone else but the Hall i’th’ Wood area isn’t far from where I live and I’m familiar with where little Patch ended up – I know it’s quite a trek from one place to the other so it beats me how on earth he managed to find his way. An in-built homing instinct maybe? A desire to find his mum driving him on? Who knows, but whatever it was it just shows that dogs aren’t as ‘dumb’ as many people think they are.