It’s been a while …

IMG_0144Well it certainly  has. Excuses? None. I’m sure that I’m not the first to start a blog, post a few things and forget all about it amidst the everyday goings on … I doubt I’ll be the last. Let’s try again.

What can I tell you about Toffee’s blogging interval? Plenty of things, but that is all material for future posts …

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Doesn’t every dog own a lipstick?

When Toffee goes to stay with the Other Family (see my last post) she has baggage. We aren’t just talking a plastic bag with some food and poo bags in it. We’re talking the dog equivalent of a 3-part set of luggage and a vanity case. That dog needs a lot of stuff over the course of a weekend, let me tell you. If she were flying there would certainly be an excess baggage fee to pay. Thinking about it, last weekend she had more luggage than I did which is strange considering she doesn’t wear clothes or need several hardback books and a range of cold and flu remedies to lull her to sleep at night.

This is her overnight list (yes it’s sad but I do have a Word document):

  • Poo pen – for those who have never heard of a such a thing, a poo pen is a portable fence that links up so that you can contain your pooch whilst she poos and has a wee. This is very important if your dog’s hosts have a beautiful garden like ours do. I am sure that they would be less keen to dog-sit Toffee after she had scorched their beautiful lawn with her number ones and had ‘evacuated’ on their veg patch. ‘Evacuated’ is a medical term that I rather like: ‘I’m just off for a quick evacuation.’
  • Bed – of course, complete with pillow and blankets.
  • Food – including: bowl, tupperware with dog food including measuring scoop, dog snacks, and treats for bribery purposes (they say that dogs can’t understand you but Toffee knows what ‘go for a poo poo and then you can have a treat’ means and man, she ain’t the cleverest canine in the compound)
  • Water bowl – including ‘dog rocks’ to prevent aforementioned scorch marks on the bowling green (at a cost of about a tenner – Pets At Home didn’t see me coming!)
  • Leads – including an everyday lead for street walks and a stretchy lead for field-type walks as well as a harness to stop her choking herself when she sees a leaf that must be captured at all costs
  • Toys – I try to limit this to about 3 of the most hygienic for holidaying purposes
  • Towels – for mopping down dog, spillages and any unfortunate accidents
  • Poo bags – loads of them
  • Spray – in case of accidents (I often say a silent prayer when I am dropping the dog off with the Other Family: ‘Please God, do not let there be any accidents.’)
  • Hair equipment – dry shampoo and comb (I don’t expect Toffee to have received a canine coiffure when I pick her up, but one can be optimistic)
  • Seat belt – there has been talk of the Other Family putting Toffee in the back of their truck for a quick blow dry on the way back from the beach, but I am sure that this is just a joke
  • Vet contact details – best to be safe
  • Lipstick – Toffee prefers No.17 in a bubblegum pink

The lipstick is a new thing and replaces the dog crate that Toffee used to have. I think this is a good swap and certainly cuts down on the weight. Needless to say I no longer have to put the back seats down to get everything in the car.

To be honest I think the lipstick threw them when Toffee last visited the Other Family. The text from the eldest daughter read: ‘Hey mum found a no17 lipstick in Toffee basket but we forgot to put it back in’. I think the sub text was: ‘why does your dog have a lipstick, crazy woman?’. I certainly hope that they didn’t use it themselves!

I did think about explaining Toffee’s need for Boots cosmetics by text, but teenagers have a skill that I don’t possess – the ability to compress a paragraph of information into a stunted sentence without grammar or even real words (which I don’t always understand). I just can’t do this. Let’s face it this post is about why my dog has a lipstick and I haven’t even started to explain and I am already 614 words in . . . .

Toffee’s need for a lipstick surfaced about a month ago. The Boss is besotted by Toffee. Sometimes I watch him stroking and cossetting her, cooing and cuddling her and I think: ‘Perhaps he needs reminding that she is just a dog and he does in fact have a wife and daughter’. But then again I think: ‘Oh well, at least I have some peace and quiet with which to concentrate on my Sudoku and the Daughter is otherwise engaged with producing membership cards for her latest club.’

It was whilst the Boss was giving Toffee a full body Indian Massage that he discovered a minute lump. He was concerned – very concerned. So concerned that I was ordered to take the dog to the vet the following day (yes, ordered). For the sake of marital harmony I obliged. I got an early appointment and was quickly ushered in to see the vet. I explained that my husband had dog obsession issues and that it was probably nothing. The vet looked sympathetic and then she asked me to show her the offending nodule of doom. Let me explain that Cockapoos have a lot of fur and it is very curly. Trying to find a tic tac under a deep shag pile carpet would be easier. After what seemed like a couple of minutes I started to panic. The vet, sensing my impending anxiety attack, told me that this was common and sometimes people had to go away and come back another time. ‘Not on your Nelly,’ thought I: ‘I’m not paying two consultancy fees just because my husband is a pooch fixated hypochondriac.’ And then I found it and saved myself the best part of 25 quid for a return appointment. Phew!

It turned out that it was probably a seed or something that had got caught underneath her skin and had become infected. Not life threatening but costly. However, I did get my money’s worth because the vet also weighed Toffee, informed me she was verging on obese (what!) and told me of a trick to avoid future anxiety in the veterinary surgery.

So that is why Toffee has her own lipstick – it is to pinpoint pussy pustules that potentially require pricey prescriptions. Try saying that after you’ve written a cheque for £45 for a few dog antibiotics. So next time you see a dog sporting a pink splodge on one side, you’ll know why.

Now I defy anyone (teenager or not) to be able to explain that in one text!

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The Others

We are very lucky to have some very good friends who love Toffee nearly as much as we do. They don’t have a dog of their own and don’t intend having a dog of their own. They like dogs though and they love Toffee. If you are reading this and have your own dog you will no doubt realise that these friends are worth their weight in gold . . . or oil  . . . . or whatever is the most valuable commodity on the earth at this given time. The reason that they are so highly treasured is that they are happy to look after Toffee when we are away. Amongst other things of course!

I won’t be sharing their names with you because you might know them and if you have a dog you might try to get them to look after your dog instead of ours. And if you tried to do that I would have to hunt you down. Please do not underestimate how important these people are to me. . .

Their eldest daughter would love her own dog. To be fair she would be a brilliant dog owner and she has a paper round to boot – although, having said that, Toffee is not allowed on her paper round because it triples the length of time it takes her to complete it. She is great with Toffee and Toffee absolutely adores her. Any teenager that is willing to pick up the poo of somebody else’s dog whatever the weather deserves such adoration. Sometimes I feel that I should try to help persuade her parents to let her have a dog . . . but I am not stupid.

When Toffee is on her holidays with the Other Family I have a deep suspicion that her every whim is catered for. I have heard rumours of TV watching on the sofa, visits to the beach, long rambles over hill and dale, custard creams and roast dinners with homemade gravy. Whilst it is not rocket science to deduce that Toffee loves going to stay with the Other Family, I know this to be a hard fact because :

a.) we cannot walk past the Other Family’s house whithout her choking herself to get up their drive

b.) if we see any member of the Other Family when we are out she will garrotte herself trying to get to them as quickly as is caninely possible

c.) she doesn’t eat when she gets home (I am not sure whether this is because she is so stuffed that she cannot manage another morsel, or because she will no longer eat the boring dog food we give her, or because she is in mourning for the Other Family)

d.) the next day we often come downstairs to be welcomed by a big, cold poo in the middle of the kitchen floor as if to say: ‘I resent being brought back here. Can you see how much I resent it? Yes, that much!’

Sometimes I wonder whether Toffee just loves the Other Family a lot more than she loves us? Surely not! It must be the roast dinners. It must. When it comes to priorities in Toffee’s world, they go something like this:

1. Food

2. Food

3. Humans

4. More Food

5. Strawberry (the cat, not the fruit – see previous post)

6. A stick – the larger the better

7. Ok – a walk if you insist

I am aware that food rates pretty highly and could be a deciding factor if she had to choose between us and the Other Family. (Indeed I am convinced that this might also the case with the Boss – I must keep an eye on that.) It was with this knowledge that I dropped her off at the Other Family’s house last weekend. Now it is true that the vet has told me that Toffee is on the verge of being obese and, considering she is not even one yet, this is something to be taken seriously. As for whether I needed to stress the requirement for “no snacks at all” so earnestly when delivering Toffee and her kit (which is pretty extensive) to the Other Family – I’ll leave that one for your consideration. However, I would just like to point out that I do not feel in the slightest bit jealous of my dog’s undying love for the Other Family . . . .  at all . . . . honestly . . . . I don’t . . .

But if the Other Family are reading this, please remember: No snacks at all!

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Snowy rant

Before you say anything, I am aware that the snow has been and gone. Excuse my tardiness but it’s January and I’ve spent most of it with my head in a bowl of Vicks working through an industrial box of Antibacterial tissues. However, the British weather being what it is, it is not inconceivable that we might enjoy another bout of the white stuff before the winter is out – so please bear with me.

Before we go any further I feel the need to have a little rant about the phrase ‘the white stuff’.  This is not THE rant to which the title of this post refers, it is simply a side rant or rantette. It has absolutely  nothing to do with dogs whatsoever, but is important nonetheless (to me anyway). ‘The white stuff’ is a favourite and incredibly annoying phrase used by local newspapers, regional radio stations and Look North. They use it to make what is a terribly dull story about the fact that we have got some snow in January (can you believe it?) sound a bit more interesting. Why do they report snow in the first place – it’s just snow. We get half a centimetre of it and they go crazy. I’ve seen greater accumulations of ‘the white stuff’ when the Child has been baking buns – but I don’t expect Christa Ackroyd to make it a headline story. Other weather types don’t get such a fanfare from the media. They don’t say: “We’ve got some of the transparent stuff coming our way”. It’s snow – CALL IT SNOW!

The thing about snow, or weather of any kind for that matter, is that you have to walk the dog come what may. Dogs, unlike weather-obssessed Brits, don’t worry about snow or rain or hail or sun or anything. They just think: “Wey-hey a walk, I’ll be having one of those thank you very much. The longer the better in fact. If there is mud so be it. If there is half a centimetre of the white stuff so be it. If there is a force 10 gale so be it. If a nuclear bomb has just been dropped on Yorkshire so be it . . . Let’s be getting the lead and the poo bags and let’s be off owner-person.”

Toffee loves the snow – absolutely and completely. Being part cocker spaniel she thinks there is stuff under the snow that requires flushing out. She doesn’t know what the stuff is but there must be stuff because there’s an underneath to snow. Snow to a dog is merely a tantalising play blanket covering a trove of exciting bits and bobs. To get to the underneath you just have to get your nose down and give it a good snuffle. Who knows what treasures might be found? A twig. A crisp packet. A piece of moss. The meaning of life. . . . . . Another dog’s poo.

And so we arrive at THE ‘snowy rant’. Dog owners that think: “It’s snowing and the snow will cover up my dog’s poo so nobody will ever know that it was my dog that pooed on the pavement and anyway my hands are cold and I don’t want to take my glove off and put my hand in a bag to scoop up poo and a load of freezing snow to boot so I will just leave it aren’t I clever.” No you are not clever selfish dog owner, because snow does in fact melt revealing squashy poo for small children to tread in on their way to pre-school. The thaw has been and gone and I am absolutely appalled at the amount of dog poo on the streets. It gives decent dog owners a bad name. Nevermind a £50 on the spot fine for dog owners caught not clearing up their dog’s mess – I think that they should have to scoop it up in their bare hands and carry it home wearing a glow in the dark tabard sporting the words: “my dog is dirty but not as dirty as me”.

Snowy rant complete. And to counteract my grumpy outburst please enjoy some photos of Toffee wearing a lovely pair of snow boots and showcasing her snowtache (that is a snow moustache in case you didn’t know).

IMG_0032 IMG_0030

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Dogs and cats can be buddies . . . sort of

Let’s be honest, dogs and cats don’t really hang out much. Most people would say that this is because they have little in common, but that is not true:

  • Both lick their bottoms incessantly.
  • Both have a poo in full view whilst you are trying to having a meaningful conversation with a neighbour.
  • Both like trashing your slippers.
  • Both feel it is their right to sleep on your bed.
  • Both have in-built clocks when it comes to tea-time.
  • Both know when your guests don’t like their particular species and seem to get great pleasure from tormenting said guest by trying to get on their lap or nuzzle into the back of their legs.

Having said that, I will concur that there are several fundamental differences between cats and dogs:

  • Cats are way smarter than dogs – you can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through the snow. How stupid would that be.
  • Dogs are more loving than cats – if a dog jumps on your lap it’s because she loves you – if a cat jumps on your lap it’s because your lap is warmer than the floor.
  • Cats won’t be trained – dogs come when they are called, cats take a message and get back to you.

We have a cat, so before Toffee came to live with us I spent a lot of time researching ‘integrating dogs and cats’ on Google. The advice was not to leave a puppy alone with a cat (the puppy would come off worst), make sure that your cat’s claws are trimmed (to limit the damage to the puppy), give the cat plenty of high up spaces (to escape from the puppy), and introduce them slowly. I did all of these things and it worked! . . . . Mostly.

The best way I can describe the relationship between Toffee and our cat, Strawberry (foodstuffs are a common theme in our house), is that between a hyperactive toddler and a slightly miffed teenager.

Strawberry is older so she knows a thing or two, and anyway she is a cat so is smarter. Strawberry spends most of her time looking at the dog like a 15 year-old whose Dad has gate crashed the lounge whilst she is trying to watch Twilight with her friends: “OK I have to tolerate you because you paid for the 27 inch plasma TV, the Pepsi Max and the Cheese Doritos but you are seriously an embarassment to humanity in that sock and sandal combo and if you dare to try and make conversation I will just absolutely die.” Come to think of it, the cat spends a lot of time looking at me that way too.

On the other hand Toffee is like a 3 year-old who has just discovered the joy of coco pops and that if you burp really loudly your buddies think it’s funny. She is not interested in being cool and understated, she just wants to play and be in your face.

This is not always a great combination.

I have noticed that Strawberry likes to be in Toffee’s company. Like her human teenage counterpart she is bored and what else would she do any way. She also likes to wind Toffee up by sitting on top of the sofa arm and swishing her tail . . . just out of reach. (This reminds me of when I was a kid and my brother would just point at my head while I was trying to watch TV – seriously, he did that and man he could do it for a long time.) This tail swishing sends the dog absolutely nuts but as she is getting bigger and is learning to jump higher (Cockerpoos can jump super high), every now and then she is making contact with that tail and I can’t help a wry smile.

Toffee also loves sniffing Strawberry’s behind. If the cat is walking across the kitchen, you can bet your bottom dollar Toffee’s nose is attached to her bottom. It’s like watching those little magnetic trains you used to have when you were a child. Strawberry, being too cool for school, pretends that nothing odd is afoot. Or maybe she just likes it? Who knows? It all kicks off when Toffee tries to pat Strawberry on the head by way of saying: “Thanks for letting me sniff your derriere, that was really kind of you. Perhaps you might like to sniff mine some time?” As far as Strawberry is concerned bottom-sniffing might be acceptable but head-patting is well out of order. Out comes the hiss and claw combo, which Toffee mistakes for play fighting: “Cool – you mean I can sniff your butt and we play fight too – this is like the best day ever!”

P1000216Like most ‘siblings’ they do get on and, interestingly, when Toffee had her ‘operation’ Strawberry wanted to be near Toffee all the time. This is when Strawberry loves Toffee the most – when she is working off the effects of a general anaesthetic and is incapacitated by abdominal surgery.

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The crazy dog walkers of Hampstead Heath . . .

Did you know that the average person watches 3 hours of TV per day? I’m not sure about this statistic (how do people fit this into their day?) but it was in the Daily Mail so it must be right. Personally, I am lucky to watch 3 hours per week. I tried to watch a rerun of Grand Designs the other night whilst listening to the Child read and having a conversation with the Boss on FaceTime. FaceTime is great because it means that wherever he may be in the world, we get to see the Boss in his pants propped up in bed in some swanky hotel or other and he gets the pleasure of seeing if he can get Toffee to respond to him barking at her from the other side of the globe. The Child also gets the opportunity to recount the minutiae of her day including highlights such as the fact that Verity Swithinbottom lost her trainer during cross country and Billy Flabberthwaite doesn’t concentrate in class and the teacher really should do something about that. The bad thing about FaceTime is that the Boss can tell that I am in fact watching Grand Designs and not him.

Having missed out on Grand Designs and having put the Child to bed, I returned to the TV to see what else might be on. “Dog Walking” followed, so of course I watched. This programme was basically some woman hanging out on Hampstead Heath (not in a dodgy way) to see the kind of people that walk their dogs there (not in a dodgy way). It was one of those programmes that lasts an hour and you think: “maybe I should not waste 60 minutes of my existence on this” but it sucks you in and before you know where you are the credits are rolling.

It seems that the dog walkers of Hampstead Heath are either a.) Alcoholics (recovering or otherwise), b.) Bereaved or c.) Completely Bonkers. The breakdown was something like this:

Alcoholics: 20%

Bereaved: 10%

Completely Bonkers: 70%

The Alcoholics (recovering or otherwise) clearly found their dogs a huge support and not just to help them find their way home after a heavy session down the The Old Nag. It was clear, for one at least, that her dog was perhaps the only reason she got up in the morning.

The most heart-rending story was that of a couple who had lost their son in a paragliding accident. They were open about the fact that they got their dog as a distraction and that he was doing a good job. He looked like a Cockapoo and judging by his nutty behaviour he certainly was one in spirit if not in breed.

The most interesting were of course the Completely Bonkers brigade. This included one woman who gave her rather rotund dog Benecol every morning: “It keeps her cholesterol down” and a city slicker who had 5 Bichon Frises and what can only be described as a servant who followed him and his pretties on their walk to pick up the poo (the dogs’ not the city slicker’s). He was always 10 paces behind and I don’t think that was simply so he could spot the poos.

The best of the Completely Bonkers, however, was a lady who was 82 but looked about 50. She walked her dog everyday on the Heath on the lookout for dead bodies. “Oh, I’ve seen a few, Betty always manages to sniff them out.” Now I know Hampstead Heath is in central London, but I was genuinely shocked. Whilst filming, her friend came lumbering down a hill with the dog: “There’s one over there. I’ve called the Police.” “You see,” says the excited 82 year-old: “Is it dead?” The Camera cuts to two Police Officers tentatively approaching the said corpse . . . which suddenly sits up looking rather annoyed about being woken up, clearly having had a good night down The Old Nag. “Oh” says the dejected 82 year-old, with a disappointment so intense I was glad I didn’t walk my dog on any kind of Heath that she frequented.

This programme got me to thinking about dog owners in general. Are we all a bit bonkers in some way? Of course not, these fruit loops just made great TV. And then I thought about the Boss – on FaceTime – in his pants – in a hotel in Istanbul – doing an impression of Shitzu . . .

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Doggy superpowers

toffeeblogI remember a few years ago the Child telling me that her teacher had superpowers: “Mrs S is amazing mummy. She can tell if I’m chatting even when she has her back to me and I’m talking to my friend silently. How does she do that?” I explain that “talking” and “silently” are mutually exclusive terms and therefore impossible. However, the ability to hear even the slightest sound is an inbuilt skill that all teachers have and is indeed a superpower: “It’s a bit like when daddy tries to pretend he’s been working late but he’s actually been to the gym – I always know. That’s a mummy superpower.”

Toffee has two superpowers. Firstly, she can always tell if you are going to leave her. Secondly, she can make you feel intense guilt for even thinking about leaving her.

When I say she can always tell if you’re going to leave her, I don’t mean just when you’re going to leave the house. Any dog that doesn’t know when you’re planning on leaving the house and doesn’t try yo make you feel bad about it has either had a lobotomy or simply hates you. I mean when you’re going to have a shower, or a wee, or to get the milk from the front step, or to get the washing in when it’s raining, or just to get five minutes to yourself for goodness sakes. She can be fast asleep on the floor in my office and as soon as I think of nipping downstairs to put the kettle on her head pops up like a jack-in-the-box. I haven’t even moved – it’s like she’s wired into my brainwaves. I’m thinking: “Mmmm 10.30 in the am. Haven’t had a drink since 7. Perhaps I’ll” and bang that dog is giving me the look: “Are you leaving me? Why are you leaving me? How could you leave me? Please take me with you or I’ll die of loneliness.” I’m only making a cup of tea for goodness sake, I’m not heading off on a gap year!

It’s freaky and I don’t like it. It reminds me of when the Child was a Baby. She would wake up in the night and I would go and soothe her back to sleep by stroking her head or something, but the very millisecond I stopped the little toad would open her eyes. She couldn’t talk of course but if she could she’d be saying: “yeah you reckon you’re going back to bed? do you wanna risk it? do you? you’ve put a good 15 minutes in on the head stroking and you’re gonna blow it? you wanna go back to square one? if you’re sensible and if you wanna get some sleep tonight I suggest you carry on with that head stroking for a little bit longer.” Memories of those long nights still give me the shudders.

On the rare occasions I do manage to extricate myself from the Tofster, I somehow feel guilty about it. This is completely irrational of course. She is just a dog and I feed her, take her for walks and she is with me when I am working. But that clearly isn’t enough for her or for me. I’ve even put her lead on and taken her with me to put the bins out – how sad is that? Why do I feel guilty about leaving a dog to put the bin out?

It has to be those superpowers. Either that or I’m a soft touch . . .

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