Monday, 7 June 2010

Doggy detective

I love writing letters, as well as emails and the like. I also love the 'plop' of a letter back on the doormat as a reply.

A while ago, I wrote to my local RSPCA branch, to thank them for looking after Puffin before I found her, and to let them know how she was getting on. I thought that would be an end to it, but... they wrote back. And they wrote back with a) details of the people who found her and b) an invitation to their annual 'Open Day' next month - saying that they thought some of her siblings might be there. Now I know you don't need an invitation to an open day, but this delighted me.

I googled the name they gave me (and location) - obviously they couldn't give me more details than that, but it turned out that this guy was an inspector for an organisation called Waterford Animal Welfare in... Waterford, Southern Ireland (yes, the same place the crystal comes from). I found a generic email address for them, and sent them an email too. I gave them the info I had regarding Puffin (born in November, I assumed she was found sometime in December as I have the record of her first 'jabs' which were 31st December 2009), and...

...just after a day later, a nice lady called Isabel replied, saying that it was exactly the right place to email, she remembered Puffin and was happy to hear she was doing so well. She couldn't give me many more details about her heritage other than the slightly ominous, 'She definitely needs to be in a place with lots of love and cuddles'.

Poor Puffin, I hate to think that she went through. All I can gather is that she was taken away from her Mum too young, and then watched all her siblings disappear - one by one - until she was left on her own for a few weeks before I fell in love with her and took her home. No wonder she has abandonment issues...

She is currently curled up next to me (NO, NOT ON THE SOFA) well, yes - stretched out full-length on the sofa - but she will absolutely not be getting any tummy tickles from me in the next five minutes. OK, four minutes... well, yes alright Puffin, coming now...

Friday, 28 May 2010

Puffin #1

Now, I've said that Puffin deserves a post of her own, so here it is. (Or at least, the first one, more to come.)

Months ago, I decided my life was missing a furry-faced little companion. I love dogs, always have. But it never seemed right to have one in London, what with my busy hectic life an' all (ha).

So, last November, I registered with my local RSPCA branch to rehome one. This meant I had to get the whole garden re-fenced (thank you G). The fencing bit was sorted in days but the rest of it... took a while longer. Partly due to the Maxi dying, me spending a month over Christmas on an elongated tour of the West Country and mainly due to apathy on my part.

But after a nudge - well, that's to say a well aimed and fairly forcefully delivered boot up my arse from a good friend - I got my act together. I went to the RSPCA in Patcham, near Brighton. I went to the Dog's Trust in Shoreham. I went to the Raystede centre near Ringmer.

At the RSPCA I met a skinny little Lurcher pup called Puffin, just as she was being taken out for a walk by a volunteer. She reared on her back legs, stretched out both her skinny front legs to try to get to me, and just looked at me as if to say 'LOVE ME PLEASE, I JUST WANT SOMEONE TO LOVE ME'.*

After enquiring, and learning that someone else had already 'registered an interest' (meaning they had first dibs) I went to the other dog centres. But I kept thinking about Puffin. So I called the RSPCA and they put me as a 'second'. The first interested party were due to call back the following Sunday about whether or not they could take her or not. Apparently, they were worried that their fence wasn't high enough. Whereas I HAD THE BEST GODDAMN FENCE IN THE WORLD.

I called the RSPCA as soon as they were open on Sunday to let them know that I wouldn't be at home (I was in London for the weekend) but to call my mobile as soon as they heard anything. They called me at about 3pm, while I was having lunch with friends on Chiswick High Road. The other party had dropped out, and Puffin was mine if I still wanted her. I cried into my pizza and said 'Of course'.

She's now been with me for 6 weeks and I would feel like one of my arms was cut off if she wasn't. Yes, we've had altercations (usually involving her trying to eat my dinner if I turn my back for a second) or crapping on the living room floor (if I haven't understood her requests to go outside). But we're all good. So good.

She likes: food, more food, my food, her food, cuddles, tummy tickles (it's ALL about the tummy tickles), running by the river, company, toys (Mr Squeaky in particular), my shoes, my boots, my feet, her bed, my bed, the sofa (naughty girl), other dogs, other people, being brushed, being in the garden in the sunshine, chasing things around the garden, putting extra holes in my watering can, curling up in my lap, finding dead things while out for a walk - rabbits, lambs, other unidentifiable bits of carcass - and trying to bring them home, eating poo (her own, cow, sheep, horse, whatever) and much more besides.

She doesn't like: being on her own, the dark, having a shower.

So, I've been learning responsibility in all kinds of shapes and forms. But mostly a shaggy-haired, spindly Lurcher who loves to run fast but turns into a cartoon dog (with legs in all directions) whenever she tries to stop or turn.

The first time I let her off the lead (down by the river, she can't escape anywhere) she ran, then looked at me, then just haired off with her tail wagging madly. I think it was the first time she'd ever been allowed to just RUN. This almost made me cry with joy, until a few minutes later - when called - she ran happily back to me. That did it.

She's now sleepy beside me, trying to wriggle her head underneath my MacBook and into my lap.

Thank you RSPCA, thank you.

* Little did I realise at the time, but she does that to EVERYONE she meets, even now. Little wretch.

Do ghost dogs exist?

I spotted an ad in a local free paper the other day, requiring a dog walker for a 6-month old Lurcher pup. I emailed saying I had one too, and as I was already walking one, I may as well be walking two. Plus, I thought that Puffin would love to meet another pup. The lady replied saying that she usually worked from home, but that she sometimes had to work away, so just needed cover once in a while. Hmmm... sounds familiar, I thought.

So she brought her pup over the other evening - Flory. A beautiful jet black Lurcher with a smooth coat (and two white toes on each paw). We let them loose in the garden and after they spent the first 15 minutes grappling with each other (in some strange Lurcher wrestling contest), they settled down and happily chased each other around. Perfect!

Rikki said she usually paid for her other dogminder (who had since bought a business and couldn't do it anymore) but I suggested a kind of swapsie scheme instead, if she was willing to take Puffin on the days I need to work away. She agreed and we set up another 'play date' for the dogs before I look after Flory for a couple of days next week. All good.

About 10 minutes after they left, I went back out into the garden to find a small black dog sitting by the enclosure gate. Smaller than Puffin, but more sturdy. I have an area fenced off at the back (with 'That Bastard Fence' as it was referred to during construction), under RSPCA requirements that there is an enclosed space, with fencing at least 4 feet high. Not that it's made much difference to Puffin, she cleared it 2 days after being neutered (much to my horror).

Anyway, this dog was very timid and scared, she looked like she'd been sleeping rough for a couple of days and it took some gentle coaxing to get her to come to me. But she did, and submissively rolled over onto her back for a tummy tickle. All of her nipples were extended which makes me think she had recently given birth. She had no collar and no ID but a nasty deep scratch on her chest. She kept licking the roof of her mouth, so I (after securing the gate) popped back into the cottage to get her some food and water. I took about 30 seconds.

Coming back out, there was no sign of her. Puffin - swiftly shut in the cottage while this was going on - was bouncing off the walls by this point. She hates being left on her own at the best of times (she has severe abandonment issues, which I can only assume are due to whatever she went through before the RSPCA found her) and her yipping and barking was probably what scared the black dog away

Now, while Puffin can clear the fence, this mysterious little dog was too short and rotund to do likewise. So I was mystified. I spent about 20 minutes walking around the garden - there is a biggish area at the back which is overgrown with hip-high nettles and the like... but could find no sign of her. I left out the food, water, a dish of milk and something for her to sleep on and came back in.

Despite regular checks thoughout the evening, she didn't reappear and in the morning, all the food was untouched. Poor little dog. Hope she is OK, wherever she is. All very strange.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


One day, several weeks ago, I awoke to the sound of BANG flap flap flap BANG flap flap flap BANG flap flap flap...

Wondering what the hell was going on, I blundered sleepily downstairs and opened the living room door, to find a crow sitting on the back of the armchair. It took one look at me and tried to fly through what it thought was the window. BANG. It hit the floor, and flapped around, having failed to break through the mirror on the wall opposite the window. Then it saw the real window and headed for that. BANG flap flap flap (the window was closed).

I tried to open the window and realised the window locks were... locked. And I had no key. And all the while, BANG flap flap flap was going on, with Mr Crow getting more and more agitated.

I dashed off to find my pliers, hoping it didn't have a heart attack in the meantime. Mr Crow tried to hide under the sofa at this point, failed and tried to hide under the (then empty - this was pre Puffin) dog basket.

Eventually I managed to open both sides of the window, and after a couple more BANG flap flap flaps - between the closed pane of glass in the middle of the two open windows and the mirror - he flew out and off.


The only possible way he could have got there was down the chimney - it's an open fire place although I don't use it, as my landlords had said it was blocked.

I thought no more of it until I returned home from a couple of days away, about a week or so later, to hear shuffling sounds coming from the living room... hang on a minute, I thought, I know that noise. God knows how long this one had been there. (It was dark by this point). But I got the windows open, threw a blanket over him, and out he went.

This has now happened 6 times. Maybe it's the same daft crow every time - I don't know. But while it was getting a bit spooky around the third crow, I'm now a dab hand at getting them out in record time. Not a skill I ever thought I would have or need, but there you go. So if you ever find a crow in your living room, give me a shout.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A lively day

Today started with an early morning crow* down the chimney at 6am - perfectly timed with my alarm (most considerate). After chasing him out, Puffin** and I hopped in the car at 7am to drop her off with T and S and their canine/feline/equine family.

Then onwards to Haywards Heath, where I ditched the car and jumped onto the train, then the tube and was at my desk in Hammersmith by 9.10am (20 minutes early, to make up for being 20 minutes late yesterday). A productive day working in a building I've now been paid to write in for 3 different agencies.

Today involved lots of writing about a new drug to help with the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. My job was to turn fairly some dry, clinical copy into something a little more empathetic and human. I enjoyed the work, and it was nice to work alongside a bunch of people I hadn't seen since last summer (apart from yesterday - it was a 2-day gig). Lots of sniggery banter going on, while I always enjoy.

Then... back on the tube to Victoria station, where I found all the trains in complete disarray due to 'a body on the line' at East Croydon.

Now, don't think me unsympathetic (and yes, here's the) but... I think suicide is a selfish option most of the time (except perhaps, for people so mentally unwell that they know not what they do). Doing so in a way that you know will disrupt tens of thousands of people - all just trying to get home to loved ones at the end of the day - well, that pushes you from 'selfish' to 'spiteful' in my book. But who knows what the story was...

Just short of 3 hours later, I picked Puffin up and gratefully drove home. Arriving home about 40 minutes ago***. Total time spent working today - 7.5 hours. Total time spent traveling - 5.5 hours. Thank God I don't have to do it every day.

* Number 6 in the last couple of months or so. More on this another time.
** Definitely more on her another time.
*** Oh yes, I am most definitely enjoying a glass of wine as I type this.

It's been a while

Not sure why I stopped blogging other than, 'Worked at home, didn't speak to anyone, went for a walk, ate food and went to bed' probably wouldn't make for very interesting reading on one day, let alone a couple of months' worth.

Anyway, I have decided to dust off my blogging hat and get back to it. I'll update from now and chuck in anything of note that's happened as and when I can think of it. (The arrival of a very cute 6-month old Lurcher called Puffin definitely deserves a post of its own at some point).

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

People are nice

Now that sounds like a rather limp-wristed title for a blog post (and indeed one that doesn't smack of any meaty story or topic). But what the hell. I've come to the conclusion that, on the whole, when we're not trying to bomb/kill/strangle/shoot/stab each other, invade each others' countries (or indeed have altercations about boundary fences) human beings actually want to help each other. In a nice way.

My recent examples:

My neighbour helping me push my ageing and somewhat gnarly car down the hill to get it started. On a very cold morning.

The lady in a garage being incredibly helpful, after I'd accidentally filled up said car with diesel, instead of petrol. (It turns out that Tesco will get you off their forecourt - and to a nearby garage - for free. But they don't advertise this in case their forecourts are suddenly overrun with dodgy motors). Please note, this is an unrelated incident to the one above.

My Mum, and a man she kind of knows, helping me push said immobilised, full-of-diesel car out of the way of the petrol pumps.

The AA man who turned up at the Tesco garage to rescue me who a) Didn't laugh, b) Didn't take me to the nearest garage like he was supposed to, but instead took me to another garage which was c) Open on a Sunday afternoon and d) Much cheaper. Oh, and he e) Drove me to a cashpoint after remembering that they probably wouldn't take cards.

The lady who helped me push the SODDING car into a layby down the road yesterday after it wouldn't start (again). In the mud. (Unrelated to the two other car incidents above, my life is a bloody barrel of laughs, I tell you).

And all that within a mere 48 hours.

Other examples of niceness I can think of right now:

A couple of who came to my aid when I keeled over in Gatwick Airport a couple of years ago (had had a couple of crazy days working full time, plus freelance jobs on the side, plus legging back to watch my Mum get her PHD then trying to fly out to see my sister, with not much sleep and even less food along the way). I still have no idea who they were, other than one of them was a doctor, and they left me their phone number along with my passport and boarding card. And called me an ambulance.

A black cabbie in London who offered my friend Lou a free ride home on cold dark winter's night in Holloway, because he saw someone following her and wanted to make sure she'd get home all right (she didn't have any money, and he would have refused it anyway).

A now very good friend who offered me his flat when I was heartbroken and homeless a couple of years ago (after a bad breakup). I think he'd met me twice at that point. He was working abroad so his flat was empty and I badly needed somewhere to stay. He never asked for any rent either. His only reward? Well, he now gets lots of phone calls about how to build fences/fix cars/mend things I've broken. Usually a couple of times a week.

Oh, but there are many more examples. And not just in my life, but all over the place. Try this one for starters.

Take a look around you, and wallow in niceness for a change.