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Doodle dashing in Wiltshire

April 1, 2013

Took Rory to visit a friend in Wiltshire and he started a bromance with my friend’s little deaf dog, Rudy. Fun was had by all mostly by them!

We took a six-mile walk near Calne, up to the Cherhill White Horse and back again. I recommend it. It is mostly away from roads with lots of room for enthusiastic dogs to run off excess energy and the views are lovely. Wrap up warm at this time of year as it’s quite windy but, compared to most of Wiltshire, not that muddy. The day we went there were sheep near the beginning of the walk. My friend, who lives in the area, almost had heart failure when she saw them – apparently they are not normally there but it’s something to bear in mind.

Rory and his new deaf dog friend #nofilter

Five things I learnt from my first Crufts

March 18, 2013
best dog show, big dog show, biggest dog show in the world, biggest dog show on earth

For the first time ever in my life, I visited Crufts this year. Apparently no-one at work can believe it was my first time, so I’ve clearly been pegged as the token ‘crazy dog person’. Although I had my doubts after the Pedigree Dogs Exposed programme, I really enjoyed it. Obviously the more extreme breeds are not going to change overnight, but most of the dogs I saw appeared to be happy and healthy.

As always, any new experience is a learning curve, so I thought I’d share my top five tips for first time Cruft-goers (Croers? No?)

1) Weekdays are better than weekends for shopping I did my rounds of the hundreds of dog stands in the five halls on Friday and I was glad I did. A) It got all my essential shopping out of the way (Rory needed a new harness for going running, but perhaps not the dog tea bags I picked up) and B) It was actually possible to browse. On Saturday, it was heaving with people. Even getting around when you knew where you wanted to go was a challenge.

Here is a shot I took in the Discover Dogs area to give you some idea:

crowds at crufts, discover dogs, people at dog show, people at crufts

2) So point one, actually leads into point two – two days are better than one. Crufts is big, really big. In two full days at the show, I saw almost nothing in any of the show rings. There is so much going on all the time, from obedience trials and agility, to heelwork to music and Guide Dog displays, and they are not all in one place. Even if you are lucky enough to have two days, I’d recommend planning what you absolutely can’t miss, what you’d quite like to see and what you are not bothered about. Then if it’s on the ‘must see’ list, start moving to the ring well ahead of time to allow for people congestion and finding a seat.

3) Think temperature control! The NEC has very high ceilings and I found I was either boiling or freezing. I’d recommend wearing layers and, while we’re talking about dress code, sensible shoes. Unless you are planning on sitting in the main arena all day you will do a lot of walking backwards and forwards.

4) Watch out for dog wee! And worse. There are a lot of dogs all in one place who, as I understand it, are only allowed to toilet in small sawdust areas around the edges of the halls for most of the day. Accidents do happen, I even had to dodge one male dog who was weeing out of the side of his crate as his owner was pushing it along. Just something to be aware of. Don’t just merrily walk through that ‘dropped drink’.

5) It’ll ruin most other dog shows for you. I like to compare it to the Toys R Us advert that promotes ‘everything under one roof’. If you like any aspect of living with a dog, if you enjoy watching canine sports, if you like doggy shopping or you just like looking at good examples of different dog breeds, there will be something for you. No other dog show can compare.

I’m going again next year. See you there? (I’ll be bringing my own food though, did I mention lunch of a sandwich, Diet Coke and crisps cost me over £8? No? Well, I have now.)

Here are some of my Instagram shots from my two days:

 

 

Review: Holly&Lil collars

February 7, 2013

Holly&Lil collar review

Let’s be honest, when you are looking at dog collars it tends to be a choice between practical or pretty. And at the time you justify your choice. ‘Well yes, it’s not the prettiest, but plain leather/rope/plastic is very hardwearing’ or ‘It won’t last five minutes on a normal walk, but he’ll only wear it in the house anyway’. (I’m hoping it’s not just me that talks to myself about collars.)

The good news is I’ve found a brand of collars that tick all the right boxes for practical and pretty. The bad news is they’re not cheap, so unless you’re very lucky you are not going to be stocking up with one for every day of the year. However, I’ve found them to be so hardwearing you won’t need one for every day. Honest.

I stumbled across Holly&Lil about four years ago. Based in Bermondsey Street, London, they sell bespoke handmade collars and leads. Most are made to order but some are available off-the-rack – you can find these in their store, in Harrods pet department and on the Holly&Lil stand at shows. Designs range from tweed, to cowskin, to leather union jacks, to charm collars and much more.

Rory wearing Holly&Lil

Rory has four Holly&Lil collars (pictured at the top of this post). I have bought one a year since I discovered the brand. They are lovely to look at and sit nicely on Rory’s neck. I have both tweed and cowskin finished products and they have survived everything from regular dunking in local lakes to fox poo rolls (although I’m not convinced they’d survive one of Rory’s worst rolls, but then nothing could. I once put a leather collar in a bucket of bleach for half an hour after a particularly bad roll – it still didn’t get rid of the smell).

They are backed with leather which Rory has found comfortable – quite a big deal because he gets rubs under his collars (he’s ridiculous). I like that there is a separate ring on the back of the collar for your lead – it really does save time and stops having to twist the collar. Rory is quite enthusiastic when off lead and I like to be able to fit a whole hand between his collar and his neck – the cowhide collars do slip around so the main ring finds its way to the front occasionally, but once I put the main ring back on top they tend to stay. The tweed collars don’t seem to slip at all.

When out walking I can grab Rory by the ring on the top to hold him while we pass a runner or similar and then let him go. This separate ring means that your dog’s tags are attached to the front buckle keeper, out of the way. Just be careful while trying to get them on – the thick, good-quality, metal keeper means opening your dog tag coil wide enough to get them on is fiddly and has resulted in me breaking several nails.

Holly&Lil collar tag

Collars for a Labradoodle-sized neck start at about £100 depending on the design. However, keep a look out for the sale collars because you can get some real bargains. I’d also advise signing up for the Holly&Lil mailing list to receive special ‘newsletter subscriber only’ deals and early notification of sales on the website.

Here are some pictures of Rory wearing his Holly&Lil collars from my Instagram feed.

"I'm not taking my eyes off that ball" - Rory

Rory in his @hollyandlil collar. #colorsplash

To jump in or not to jump in... #dogtweet

A labradoodle in the snow

January 20, 2013

The inspiration behind this post are the stunningly beautiful pictures of Kobi over at girl a la mode, so make sure you take a look at those, too. Rory loves the snow and since it is the season for snow (apparently, damn you Mother Nature), I thought I’d snap and share the obligatory ‘dog in the snow’ pictures with you. (Don’t tut, if you have a dog then you’ve taken them, too). I hope you like them! Now let’s see yours please!

Rory in the snow

Rory in the snow 2

Rory in the snow 3

Dogs Trust Hope Project

December 16, 2012

HomelessWithDog

Image from Beverly & Pack’s Flickr. While reading The Big Issue recently, I came across an appeal for readers to knit dog jumpers for those dogs living on the streets with their homeless owners. The ‘Keep Canines Cosy’ campaign is part of the Dogs Trust Hope Project. The appeal received over 1,000 knitted jumpers, which are going to be included in special canine Christmas hampers. I feel all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.

Unfortunately my knitting ability is hugely lacking (it took me about seven months to knit a shorter-than-average scarf), so I think I might start knitting now in time for the appeal next year. Embarrassingly, I do actually own a dog jumper knitting book. I know, judge me all you want – in my defence, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I now own several different sized knitting needles, two boxes of wool, the book and a whole stack of guilt from not doing anything with it. I will keep you updated as to whether I make any process with this. (Don’t get too hopeful.)

The Hope Project does a lot more than giving out doggy jumpers. They also run a veterinary scheme which offers free and subsidised veterinary treatment to those who are homeless or considered to be in ‘housing crisis’ and support dog friendly homeless shelters. And I wasn’t even aware this project existed, so I thought I’d tell you about it, just in case you didn’t either!

You can find out more about the project here and you can see some of the wonderful knitted offerings on the Dogs Trust blog here. And if you can knit, get involved!

Review: Thermatex Dog Coat

November 13, 2012

Thermatex is a well-known name in equine circles. Thermatex horse rugs are a saviour on many yards. They are made of a breathable, wicking material which actually works. They’re warm. They look smart. They wash well. They are available in a whole range of colour combinations and offer customisation options. They are a flexible option as they can be used on their own, as coolers, as layers under other rugs and as travel rugs. Everyone wants a Thermatex.

So, when I got myself a dog who loves to get himself wet and muddy, I was delighted to discover Thermatex make dog coats from the same magical material. It has been everything I was promised and more.

If you’re looking for a coat that easily dries your dog off without the risk of him overheating afterwards, then this is the dog coat for you. The wicking material leaves your dog dry and warm, but is also breathable. Perfect for not only the winter, but also autumn and spring days. I’ve washed it more times than I can remember and it has never shrunk, and the bright blue colour has not faded. I have never tried to tumble dry it because it is bone dry in a couple of hours.

Rory is happy to wear it for hours, which is a new thing for him as he usually tries to chew coats off. On the left, he is wearing it in our holiday cottage after a long Scottish walk. It might have something to do with fact these rugs are made of one piece of material and have no central seam, specifically designed to avoid rubbing and make them as comfortable as possible. It does up with a simple velcro fastening that leaves plenty of room for deeper chests – necessary for Rory, he is half poodle after all.

I’ve used it after baths in the house, under other dog coats for layering in the car and my friend has walked him in it. It is possibly the most practical dog item I own… and I own a lot of dog stuff. Rory’s coat is an off-the-rack option that I bought at a horsey event, but if you are willing to wait you can choose the material colour and the binding colour, and it will be made to order at no extra cost. You can add double-binding, cross-surcingles or embroidery, too, but they are extra.

Dog coat prices start at £13.95 and for bigger dogs it’s not a cheap option, but the value for money is off the scale. A note of caution, Thermatex coats are measured differently from other dog coats, so if in doubt give them a call. They will probably want the measurement from the centre of your dog’s chest to where you want the rug to end. If dog coats aren’t really your thing, they also offer dog bags made of the same material – just zip your dog in and keep your boot mud free while drying him at the same time. I kid you not.

Doggy holiday review: Achiltibuie in the Scottish Highlands

November 1, 2012

Standing on a very damp road in the pouring rain and gale-force winds, screaming at the dog, who was merrily bounding after a sheep who came from nowhere, was not how I envisioned my relaxing Scottish Highlands holiday to be. Luckily for all concerned, the sheep fell over. Rory, who has absolutely no killer instinct, stopped dead and looked back at me as if to say, “Why did it stop running? This is completely your fault.” And not giving the terrified and luckily unharmed sheep so much as a backwards glance trotted nonchalantly back up the hill towards me. Needless to say from that point onwards he stayed on lead.

In my defence (if there is any), this was day six. Day one and two he had stayed on lead and ignored the fluffy white things with spindly legs completely, even when they were right next to the path. Day three through to six, he had been off lead when there were no sheep in sight, on lead when I caught a glimpse of their fluffy little backsides. The flaw in this plan is that in bad weather – which appears with virtually no warning – visibility in the Highlands drops to nought. On day six, I made the mistake of thinking I could see further than two feet in front of me. Shame on me.

Lessons for you to learn from my mis-endeavour. One, there are a lot of sheep in the Highlands and some of them choose to hide cunningly near the road in bad weather. Two, weather in the Highlands changes quickly, so ‘be prepared’ like a Scout. Three, dogs who appear to have no interest in sheep might decide they are much more interesting later.

This incident aside (and ignoring The Curious Incident of The Dog barking at the kitchen roll in the Night-Time), the Scottish Highlands have won me over as dream doggy holiday destination. We stayed in Achiltibuie, a small village on the northwestern coast of Scotland, which has lots of dog walking options straight from the door or within a short driving distance, albeit with lots of sheep.

One of our favourites was the climb up Stac Polly, a circular mountain walk which takes in far-reaching views from all sides. It’s not for those scared of heights though, as some parts of the path drop away rather spectacularly on one side. This also makes it not an advisable walk in high winds. Probably not advisable for dogs with no self preservation, too. Reaching the peak itself is described as a ‘scramble’ and best left to those with a bit more experience and balance but the main circular path, although a workout for those not used to walking up hills (ie me), is accessible for regular walkers. You might have to take a few breaks though! Most information says it will take you between two and four hours, so don’t be trying it at dusk.

Stac Polliadh

Another favourite was Achnahaird Beach, considered to be one of the best in Scotland and only about a five-minute drive from Achiltibuie. This sweeping expanse of sand was always quiet when we visited at the end of October. Although it’s only a short walk down to the sand from the car park, armed with a ball thrower it was perfect for successfully tiring Rory out for the rest of the day. The scale of it is impossible to show in a picture, so here is a selection.

The beach continues past the rocks behind Rory…

labradoodle, highlands, scottish

 

scottish, highlands

The river on the far side of the beach.scottish highlands,

Scottish highlands

Rory loves beaches. They are his favourite thing. And there was another beach within walking distance from our self-catering cottage – Achininver. Again a sandy beach, it is accessed by a twisty path down the rocks. It’s not anywhere near as big as Achnahaird, but leads on to a rather lovely coastal walk.

If you are in the Highlands, then take the 15-mile single track road to Achiltibuie. The view from the road is lovely – don’t look if you’re driving, drops ahoy! – and the view from the village to the Summer Isles is so stunning that even Rory couldn’t stop taking it in (or maybe he was looking for that sheep).

scottish highlands, scotland

Incidentally, the prize for the best views from a road goes to the back road to Lochinver, but that is quite a scary drive if you’re not used to high narrow roads!

Scotland, Scottish Highlands

The Summer Isles Hotel is open April until October and boasts Michelin-starred chef Chris Firth-Bernard if you do decide to visit. Our favourite eatery was the Am Fuaran Bar, a pub based in Altandu, just 5 miles from Achiltibuie. Run by a brother and sister team, this atmospheric pub is full of dark wood and historic knick knacks, and the food is fab but not cheap. On our first visit, we were bought wine by a friendly local. On the second, we had to wait 15 minutes for the haddock to come from the fisherman – now that’s fresh! – but we didn’t mind. When you’re on holiday, what’s the rush? They also run a campsite just across the road, if that’s your thing. They are open all year round, but the pub is closed during the day outside the tourist season – call ahead to check. Although both these eateries do have a limited amount of outside seating, neither allow dogs inside. This was fine for us as it was cold, so Rory stayed in the car, but it is something to bear in mind if it is hot, as our holiday cottage had the standard ‘Do not leave the dog unaccompanied in the house’ clause.

I loved the Highlands and so did Rory, so we’ll be going back. Maybe I’ll see you there?

On the right trail – scentwork for all dogs

October 3, 2012

Photo by Lucy King, Paws for Success 

Scentwork. Solely the domain of bloodhounds hunting escaped convicts on wooded mountain ranges, patient spaniels on drug-hunting duties in airports and canine saviours sniffing out bombs on the front line? Not anymore! Now scentwork can be for any dog and any owner, because if there is something that dogs do well it’s following a scent.

Don’t believe your dog can do it? Think of all the times you’ve been wondering what he’s sniffing out walking to find him bolting something down the next minute or how he is able to find a well-used ball in impossible looking brush. I remember finding Rory, my labradoodle, with his head in my handbag – something he had not done in the four years I had been owned by him. I was fuming, until he pulled out a dog chew that a friend had given me. How could he know it was there if not by scent?

Rory loves searching for things – just one look at his tail beating the ferns from side to side as he searches for a ball I’ve accidentally thrown in the wrong direction confirms it. It was this thought that drove me to sign up for a Talking Dogs Scentwork workshop, and it was there that I discovered the speed of Rory’s tail wagging is actually an ‘indicator’ that he is on a scent or has found something. Other common indicators include double-checking areas and air sniffing, but each dog has their own personal scentworking style.

There is no definitive information on how much better a dog’s sense of smell is than our own, but it’s safe to say that it’s much more sensitive. As Pam Mackinnon, founder of Talking Dogs and an ex-customs dog handler, says: “If you can smell it, they can smell it – times 1,000!” The six dogs in my class proved this beyond any doubt. We used pre-scented stuffed mice as the search object to teach our dogs to ‘find’ and after teaching the dogs what they were looking for – ie a mouse that smells like the chosen scent – we were off with blind searches in and out of cardboard boxes and on, under and behind other objects in the room. Rory was having a ball, this was the best thing since chicken was invented as far as he was concerned. By the third search, he needed almost no direction. Who knew a dog could be so motivated just for the reward of play?!

We all had the opportunity to watch the others work their dogs, too, and it was an eye opener. The most interesting part was learning how motivating your dog to take part in a game of ‘find it’ can help their focus, your bond with your dog and even help ‘problem’ behaviours, such as debilitating nervousness or dog-on-dog aggression. A couple of the dogs in the class were very reactive to other dogs at the beginning of the day – barking and lunging. When they started searching, nothing mattered except finding their mouse. Even though the other dogs were in the room, to the dog mid-search, it was as if they didn’t even exist.

I definitely would do it with Rory again – he loved it! I even took home a starter pack so we could carry on searching at home. You can see Rory’s very first search here. Unfortunately I was standing in the wrong place to guide him around – you’ll see what I mean.

For more information on courses near you, visit the Talking Dogs Scentwork page here. The workshop I attended was organised by Paws for Success.

 

Hazy canal dog days: ten things before you book

September 1, 2012

 

Ever wondered what it would be like to go on a canal holiday with your dog? Well, wonder no more. I've given it a go so you don't go in blind and I've even come up with ten top things to think about before you book.

1) Canal boats are small. I know it sounds obvious, but when you're told your boat is 32ft long it sounds bigger than it really is, particularly when you consider the boat is only a few feet wide. We took two dogs on our 32ft boat – the smallest in the company's fleet – and we spent most of the holiday tripping over them. If you own Leonbergers, then it's probably not the holiday choice for you.

2) Someone has to drive. If you want to actually travel any distance on your holiday, it will involve someone driving the boat for fairly long periods of time. On our boat, there was no seating at the driver's end so the two of us spent most of the holiday apart. Not a huge problem as long as you're not on a lover's getaway, but something to think about. Take a good book.

3) Not everyone is a natural driver. Don't expect that you will be able to share the driving equally. I was a more-than-hopeless captain of our pretty narrow boat. I managed to beach the boat no less than twice and both times in pretty spectacular fashion. One of those times I managed to get stuck on a bank on the opposite side to both the dogs and my friend, and had to punt myself off. No, I looked nothing like one of those effortless gondoliers in Venice. Think more harassed, more swearing and less singing. Did I mention it's virtually impossible to stop? You have to put the boat into reverse and then deal with the fact that in reverse you have absolutely no steering. I'm not very good at not being in control and the less said about that the better! My friend, Lucy, on the other hand was a natural so, lucky her, she got to do the lion's share of the driving… and apparently quite enjoyed it, so there you go.

4) Dogs can jump. More specifically, they can jump off the boat. I recommend life jackets for the less able bodied canine companions in your life (and perhaps for the less able bodied humans, too). In our experience, the dogs were not that interested in jumping into the water, but instead made leaps at the bank when they thought they could make it. Perhaps this was a reflection of my driving skills? The elderly dog on our crew jumped off once without so much of a sound and just watched as we chugged away.

Rory on the other hand led me on a right song and dance in front of a pub garden full of people at a lock. He jumped off with me to do the lock then refused to get on the moving boat, leaving him stranded on a grassy hillock with a canal on both sides. He was essentially water locked and whining his head off, while I stood on the back of the boat screaming, “WAIT… WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIT… WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIT” along with matching hand signals. When I jumped off on the opposite side 200 yards down the canal, he was still waiting on his hill, bless him (that's not what I said at the time). I whistled and he somehow managed to negotiate his way across two locks by walking across the thin boards attached to the gates while people were using them. Unbelievable. Unfortunately that wasn't the end of the story (and the pub people are well and truly hooked on the action by this point). I put Rory on the boat. He runs the entire 32ft length of the boat and straight off the other end. Yep, I know. Then while putting him back on for the second time, I miss the boat myself and end up hanging in the canal with one leg, laughing my head off in a manic 'she's gone mad' sort of way while trying to push myself out backwards. Best pub viewing ever. If you have a choice, it's always a good idea to choose a pub with a view of a lock. Which brings us on to…

5) Locks. They're an integral part of the canal boating process, so if you have the option, give it a go. However, watch a few people do it first and be prepared, if you're the person doing the legwork, to bring your best muscles. Or, if you are a girl and have very little shame, your best, 'Oh no, what do I do now' face. We did seven locks in a day. By last one, I was taking any help offered. You might judge me, but when you give it go imagine doing a lock with only two people when one has to drive the boat. Then times that by seven. Apparently some people do them with just one. They're either superhuman or insane.

6) Canal pubs are a godsend. They are also very popular, so think about where you are going to try to moor way in advance, so you don't have to float by the cheery people drinking wine and beer in the warm and then trudge two miles back along a very muddy towpath past all the better prepared people's boats. They are also really helpfully marked on canal maps.

7) Put your stuff inside. This is for two reasons. First, people steal. It's a fact of life. Second, it will fall off the boat. We lost a mooring pin in a lock. Caused all sorts of chaos when we came to stop for the night.

8) Walking the dogs is easy-ish. You have all the towpath you could possibly want and it can also give you a chance to blow away some cobwebs by walking alongside the boat if you don't want to lose time. Wear boots or wellies though because towpaths ain't what they used to be. After all, horses don't walk them anymore. Also, watch the dogs. Rory thought it would be a good idea to check the boat from IN the canal.

9) A basic understanding of mechanic and boats is not essential, but it helps. Diesel engines like to warm up for fifteen minutes before they get going and propeller shafts like being greased every morning. There is also a 'weed hatch', which, despite the name, is not used to hide illegal substances. It's for putting your arm elbow deep in canal water to pull dead/discarded/mangled items off the prop so you don't overheat the engine. Your introduction will cover all this and there should be notes on the boat, but it's quite handy to know rather than flicking through a massive manual in a challenging situation.

10) Have fun. Mooring up in a quiet spot with tired dogs at your feet, drinking some wine, reading a little, makes all the stressy bits more worthwhile. And although canal boats are small, these days they are well equipt – gas ovens and hob, coal burner for the winter, covers for the outside areas, everything for all eventualities. Our canal boat even had a TV but limited coverage (apparently a common problem now that we've gone digital) but a working DVD player, so take some films with you if that's your thing. I'd do it again… just give me some time to build up my energy. Relaxing canal holiday? Ha!

 

Eye trouble – the chronicles

August 31, 2010

Rory's improved eye – no really

Edited to say: All the vets I have seen have been brilliant. It’s not their fault my dog is an odd ball and incredibly difficult to diagnose. Thanks for all their help this far… I’m sure I’ll need more of it. 🙂

Rory is suffering what I like to call ‘undiagnosable eye trouble’ or UET. This eye problem is causing me both mental and financial strain – about £600-worth so far, plus a trip to the doctors for me because he gave me conjunctivitis (a byproduct of whatever is wrong with him).

The timeline of stress (that’s its official name)

Friday PM All ok as I go to bed
Saturday AM – Eye so swollen I have to take him pretty much straight to the vet, he can barely open it and I’m not loving the idea of having to rush him to the vet on Sunday. Vet has a good poke around, says she can’t see anything in the eye, that he’ll probably be fine on a course of eye drops – very strong, stinging eye drops I might add – until Thursday. If he is fine by then the vet says he will probably be fine and doesn’t need to come back in. There is a passing suggestion of Rory having to be knocked out so the vets can have a proper look. It’s glossed over. I’m relieved it doesn’t seem necessary.
Saturday PM to Thursday PM Swelling gradually goes down. Eye is almost back to normal by the end of Thursday. I follow instructions and stop putting the eye drops in.
Saturday AM Eye is looking a bit more swollen again. I call the vets and make an appointment for Monday evening.
Sunday AM Rory’s eye is back to being so swollen he can’t open it and as it is getting progressively worse I have to take him to the vet. I time it so I go within the clinic times (ie tiny percent cheaper than total weekend out-of-hours). I see another vet, she’s lovely. She pokes around in his eye. Tells me she’s never seen anything like it. Recommends putting him back on the eye drops and coming back on Monday evening. I have to cancel the Monday appointment I’ve already made and make another with the practice partner. Me and Rory head home again.
Monday PM Me and Rory meet the very lovely practice partner. He tells me that he’s not sure what’s wrong with it either. Pokes around in it and still finds nothing.  He recommends putting the eye drops in for a full course of seven days and coming back the following Monday. He seems to know what he is talking about so I agree. I feel much calmer after meeting with him. He mentions the eye specialist based nearby in passing.
Monday PM to Wednesday AM I put the eye drops in, as directed, every day, several times a day. Rory hates it because it stings. (At this point none of the vets have told me the eye drops sting, so I’m left thinking the dog is completely overreacting.) His eye gets progressively worse, not better. By Wednesday it’s absolutely huge and closed. I have a work photoshoot so I make a vet appointment and organise for my grandparents to take him. It’s another different vet. She’s never seen anything like it. She gives him a steroid injection, and as per my note arranges an appointment with the specialist for the Friday. She recommends I keep putting in the eye drops.
Friday AM Rory’s eye looks completely normal as a result of the steroid injection on the Wednesday. It shouldn’t do. The effects normally wear off in 12 hours. The specialist does every test he can think of and they all test as within normal ranges. He steps back, looks at me and sighs. He says that as far as he can see the eye is normal but clearly it is not. Without seeing it blown up he can’t tell me what might be wrong – we do discuss the potential for an allergic reaction or a foreign body in the eye. He sends me away with instructions not to do anything and if it blows up again to bring him back in. I ask if there is a reason the eye drops didn’t work the second time around, he says no, if they work once they should work again. Not doing anything means no eye drops, no medication at all. As I leave he says ‘hopefully it will all be resolved and I won’t see you again’. I say ‘I guarantee we will be back’. He nods knowingly. He says to contact him whenever I need to. He is very helpful, makes lots of helpful suggestions and tells me straight what he’s thinking. I like him. He allows me to vent about how disappointed and frustrated I am with the situation. He agrees. Me and Rory head home.
Saturday AM Rory’s eye has already started to swell. I call the specialist and make an appointment for Tuesday evening. I speak to a veterinary nurse who agrees I should probably put the eye drops in over the weekend but to make sure I stopped Sunday night so it would be flared up for Tuesday.
Sunday AM The eye is significantly worse. I am nervous and uncomfortable about it. Rory is depressed and lethargic for the first time in the whole process. He is clearly in pain and is not interested in anything. About mid-morning I notice there is a small amount of bleeding in the conjunctiva. I keep an eye on this but it stays pretty much the same. He spends most of the day sleeping.
Sunday PM Rory is getting more and more uncomfortable. Suddenly he goes from being completely asleep to violently scratching at his eye. I look at it. The bleeding is significantly worse. He is now pacing and clearly upset. I call out-of-hours at my vet (for the third weekend in a row – what was I saying about Timing), discover that they are very expensive and remember that they could do nothing last weekend either. I call the specialist practice. Another vet at the practice is on call and advises I bring Rory in. My friend who is visiting at the time drives us there. This vet, another new one, the sixth now, also is floored by Rory’s swollen eye and looks genuinely shocked at his appearance. We discuss the drug options in order that the specialist can see Rory the next day without too much masking, but also makes Rory comfortable. More poking around in his eye. Some talk of potential nerve damage or allergies. I go home with Rory on ‘speed’ so he’s buzzing. Before I leave I make the appointment for the following afternoon. Once home Rory settles down to sleep. When he wakes up three hours later his eye is stuck together, when he opens it a whole load of bloody pus comes out. Gross.
Monday PMThe eye is looking better but not completely healed. The specialist is frustrated that the other vet did not call him in the night before and says that the medication means there is no chance of taking swabs or of him being able to see the reaction full-on. I’m not charged for the emergency call the night before because of this. We wouldn’t have been able to take swabs anyway because of my eye drop application over the weekend. Rory is apparently a mystery still. The specialist says he can now see that it is not an allergic reaction which leaves the most likely cause to be something that either had been or is stuck in the eye. He switches him off steroids and on to other drugs. Other drugs that amount to 10 tablets a day (4 different types) and 2 different eye drops, 3 times a day. We’re to stay on this for two or three weeks. I’m given drugs for two weeks and asked to keep in touch. Specialist calls me in just before I leave to take some photos, apparently Rory is going to be in lectures or something. He’s that *special*. Yes he’s certainly special… *Rolls eyes*
Tuesday AM – Tuesday AM I continue with the course of treatment. It seems to be working and Rory’s eye returns almost to normal, with one difference. There is a lump in the corner of his eye. I take photographs of this and email them to the vet. Monday evening I start reducing the medication down as discussed with the vet.
Tuesday PM Rory’s eye is already looking a little more swollen. The lump is no longer visible. I continue with the treatment.
Wednesday AM I realise I only have enough medication to last until Monday  when I am supposed to be seeing the specialist again – except Monday is a bank holiday. I am *not* having another weekend/bank holiday vet visit. I call the specialist’s practice. There is some confusion over how many drugs I do or do not have – mainly from my side. The specialist is to call me back.
Wednesday PM Specialist calls me back. Tells me my photography is another league (well… you know… *blushes*) and suggests I take all his photos from this point onwards. We discover I have been given less drugs than necessary. Specialist arranges for me to pick them up from my normal vet the next day.
Thursday PM – I drop by the vets to pick up the drugs. They aren’t all there and my vet is busy. I have to rush off. Later I have a long and complex conversation with my normal vet where he tells me Rory is on the top level of drugs he can safely have. I arrange to pick up the missing drugs. All the drugs now have different names and doses so it’s like learning a whole new system.
Friday AM – Tuesday PM (TODAY!) – His eye seems to be stable on the medication at the moment and I’ve finally got to grips with the dosages. We’re in a routine. Next appointment is next week and the drugs will run out two days before. Wish us luck.

By the looks of it, Rory might need to be knocked out to have a look at the lump (*sad face* scary stuff), but maybe not, so I’m not thinking about it. Dogs eh? Lucky we love them. And the vets have been fab, the vets receptionists now know me and Rory by name. Unfortunately it’s not just the eye thing we’ve needed them for. Fortunately we’re insured!

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