Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bella Goes South

         Some people don’t own a dog because they say it restricts their social life. In a way they may be right! When we go on holiday, we book Bella into the local boarding kennels, and when we go away for a day, i.e. over her wee-walk hours, we have to ask a very kind neighbour to take her out. (Look back over other blogs to see why we can’t leave her out in the garden – which of course would be the best choice when going away for a day!)

     Sometimes however she can come along for the ride. Bella travels very well i.e. she doesn’t get excited in the car, doesn’t clamber over the seats, doesn’t whine and doesn’t want the window open when it’s snowing outside! Ok so it wasn’t snowing in Surrey yesterday! UK law requires dogs to be restrained in cars – I suppose it makes sense for those dogs who do get out of control, are misbehaved, disobedient etc. - so Bella is harnessed in - a clip which attaches very simply to one of the fastened seatbelts and gives the dog the freedom to move a little but the same restraint on a sudden jolt.
(Ok, so not Bella, and not the sort of thing she'd do!)

      So yesterday as we drove past the turn-off to the boarding kennels, Bella was still sitting on the back seat, suddenly wondering where we were going! It took about an hour on the motorway before she eventually gave in and lay down comfortably!
('Bridge over River Thames' ('Dartford Crossing'/'Queen Elizabeth Bridge' - on a sunny day!)
       Two and a half hours later we arrived Down South and walking from the car to Auntie Elaine’s house was really exciting! So many new smells! So much to see! So much not to miss!! New cats?!

     I’m sure the kitchen under-floor heating helped her relax more quickly than normal, and after smelling around slept quite happily under our feet, waking up only to take her favourite treats from Auntie Elaine’s hand – a show of trust. (Thanks for your patience Elaine!)  She slept through discussions about how awkward she could be and how good she was being and fortunately slept through Graham’s comments that he thought she was ‘odd’ – however you want to take that!

     A neighbour popped in with her alien looking black pug snuffling and grunting, and happily Bella behaved and greeted the little black thing reasonably politely, while the little black thing subserviently sniffed Bella’s backside – quite the polite thing to do in doggy etiquette!  Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – Elaine’s tiny lounge is not big enough even for a little black pug to go wild in, but at least it could dash under the low coffee table, while Bella had to leopard crawl and couldn’t get out the other side, so simply lay down and just watched!  We decided not to take her with us when Elaine and I walked down to the little art gallery since two excitable little fluffy, jumpy, attention seeking dogs lived there so the men baby-sat and Bella got the gallery gossip from the smells left on me!

     After lunch – with Bella sleeping under the table and creeping unnoticed towards Graham!! – we walked up the road to check out the bonfire preparations. Once again, far too much smelly gossip to catch up with in such a short time! Bella pulled ahead, stopped behind, criss-crossed and generally didn’t listen to a word I said, but I think I stayed calm and by the time we’d reached the ankle-deep straw pathway to the bonfire field (straw? Fireworks? Wonder if that was a good idea!!) she was quite happy to stand and look around, like us. Although she might have wondered what Tower Bridge was doing in the middle of a field, no water underneath, and a huge pile of trees packed behind it. “London bridge is burning down….” !  (Watch it! Link to Puttenham bonfire 2012!!)

      Her excitement grew along another muddy, gossip-soaked path and in the next field she got to greet an almost-out-of-control black lab. After the nose hug, it was obvious they both wanted it to go a little further so we humans curtailed the meeting and continued past the hops and back to the house.

     Rather than dirty a towel cleaning her paws so Elaine’s light coloured carpets wouldn’t end up patterned carpets, we decided to make our way home. This time it didn’t take her long to lie down in the car and 2½ hours later she was so very glad to be back in her own custom-chewed bed, almost to the point of not wanting to go out for the bedtime wee!

The trip south exhausted her! 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Bella's Autumnal Report


                It’s been a while – mainly because Bella hasn’t done anything to bring attention to herself for a while! Which is good! So what has she been doing?!

              The Friendship Milestone - Shiba Inu's are a fairly private breed of dog. They don't fuss over you when you come into their home and they don't want to be fussed over by you. So making friends with our friends is a big thing.  But Bella certainly knows on which side her bread is buttered, or rather she knows whose house to go to for biscuits!  Our friend’s house is just around the corner en route to her regular toilet spot! Sometimes he barks at her (this is our friend, a human, who barks at Bella - the dog!), and sometimes she’s invited in to his home and gets spoiled with biscuits and if she’s really good, biltong!  Even when our friend comes to visit us he has treats in his pocket. Talk about buying friendship!  However, now Bella digs her heels in if it looks like we’re about to by-pass the biscuit-house! And literally she appears to dig her heels in; she puts her head down and anchors all four feet firmly on the grass. Fortunately, she knows we love her lots more than biscuit crumbs and a little coaxing and a gentle pull quickly persuade her to move on!

              The Walking Milestone - The path I take with her down to Pin Mill is narrow and at this time of year, muddy. It’s really frustrating having Bella walking ahead of me because she needs to stop and smell the gossip on the path every few seconds! And she does prefer the path to the grassy sides! So I hold the lead behind my back and she’s learnt to walk elephant style behind me! She learns so quickly! So sweet!

               The Sound Milestone - In Bella's early months with us, she didn 't like loud noises. She'd walk out of the room if someone sneezed; although she likes sitting with us, her Shiba Inu Greta Garbo status kicks in and she'll remove herself quietly when she's had enough of our 'noise'.  When I used to open the freezer which is quite near her bed, she'd immediately bolt out of the kitchen as if the icy mist was going to eat her! So a couple of weeks ago I tried a Dog Whisperer trick - offer a treat as you open the freezer door - or any other appliance that your dog might run away from. It worked! For about three days she got a treat every time I needed to get something out of the freezer, then after that she watched very suspiciously and sat without getting a treat while the door was opened and now, she doesn't move away from her bed, although she does keep a beady eye on that icy mist! Yay!

               Maybe her chilled (good) mood today just reflected the outside all-day-misty, dull, autumnal English weather, but she happily gobbled the doggy biscuit treats (not the friend's 'human' biscuit treats!) after having the after-walk de-mud rub! These pics were from this lunch-time’s trip to Pin Mill at low tide. All the time we were here, she happily stayed close by while I enjoyed the view, she didn't chase any seagulls fighting over mussels in the shallows, and wasn't even bothered when a dog greeted her excitedly from one of the boat-houses! Good dog!

The Butt & Oyster pub

It may be Autumn. It may be misty. It may be muddy, but this place still has a beauty that is captivating! Even Bella thinks so!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Doing what comes naturally?

     When we first discovered we had a Shiba Inu x, we were aware that Shiba Inus were originally bred for hunting and possibly for small animals.

This morning sweet, obedient, loving Bella....

...... confirmed her ancient breeding DNA.     WHO? ME?!

On her early morning walk, as the sun was trying to navigate the maze of clouds on this cool autumn morning; as the birds were waking their families with sweet songs wafting across the tall swaying trees; as the bunnies were stretching their legs and collecting breakfast in the recently harvested field ….  one little bunny didn’t look right or left and ran just metres in front of …. BELLA!

Bella on the other hand had been awake for at least an hour, had been walking (always on the lead) for about 20 minutes and was most certainly not asleep when BUNNY appeared in front of her! She pounced and Bunny didn’t stand a chance L.  Poor little Bunny needed to be extracted from her attackers mouth, not once but twice! 

Needless to say the walk ended and she was marched back to barracks.

The whole incident made me look again at the characteristics of the Shiba Inu, even if she’s a cross-breed and once again it all painted Bella just perfectly!

First, a refresher course from Wikipedia:
"The Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting." Yep, knew that!
"It is one of the few ancient dog breeds still in existence in the world today." Yep remember reading that!

"The breed also interacts fairly well with cats." What?! Please define ‘interact’! Please define ‘cats’!

"A spirited boldness, (Oh Yes! As Churchill would say!) a good nature, (absolutely!) and an unaffected forthrightness, (interesting description) which together yield dignity and natural beauty. (Oh yes! Dignity and Beauty!) The Shiba has an independent nature (agree) and can be reserved toward strangers (our friends can witness to that) but is loyal and affectionate to those who earn his respect. (Ahhhh! That’s us!) They can be aggressive toward other dogs." (Well, not sure about that. It looks aggressive but it’s proven … so far … to be playfulness!)

"The terms "spirited boldness" (悍威 kan'i?), (remember this is a Japanese breed)  "good nature" (良性 ryōsei?), and "artlessness" (素朴 soboku?) have subtle interpretations that have been the subject of much commentary." (key word here is – Subtle!)

"Recent DNA analysis confirms that this Asian spitz-type dog is one of the oldest dog breeds, dating back to the 3rd century BC.  Originally, the Shiba Inu was bred to hunt and flush small game, such as birds and rabbits." (That is, little Bunnies who don’t look right and left    :(    

Second, the ‘professional’ opinion!

"Temperament:  The Shiba is alert, (Yes, usually) confident, (yes) courageous, (yep!) and bold. (Oh yes!)  Loving, kind, trainable and brave. (All these things!) They are clean and most try to avoid puddles and are relatively easy to housebreak." (Initially she avoided puddles, but now walks through them if there’s no other way, but would prefer that I walk through them and she walks on the narrow dry strip around them!)  


"They bark little (yay!) and bond closely with their handler. (She loves us!)  
Playful and delightful, (makes us smile!) a well-adjusted Shiba is good with kids, (maybe once she’s got over the reserve part of her)  other dogs (plays delightfully with CJ!)  and cats." (Seriously, I’m sure they’ve got his bit wrong!)


"Active, lively, agile and fast. (Definitely, especially the agile and fast bit!) Socialize this breed well as a puppy, as they can be reserved with strangers." (It’s taken our friends almost a year of coming into our home once a week before she’d sit next to them for a rub!)  

"If the Shiba is not completely convinced that its handler can handle the pack leader position and regards himself as stronger minded they will become a bit stubborn as they will believe they need to make up their own rules." (Mum Discipline needed!)

"Proper human to canine communication is essential. A natural hunting dog, the Shiba should not be trusted alone with small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents and small birds. (and CATS!)  Be careful when taking them off leash as they like to chase, (don’t let them off the leash!) especially if they do not regard their owners as a strong pack leader. Adapts well to travelling. (Not a problem to take on holiday! Bella settles down on the back seat quite happily! Doesn’t slobber over necks or even the window!) Make sure you are this dog's firm, confident, consistent leader, providing daily pack walks to avoid behaviour issues." (Lots and lots and lots of patience and perserverance needed!)

"Living Conditions:  The Shiba….  is moderately active indoors (when she goes manic, she goes totally manic, but never knocks anything over and all you hear is the scrabbling on the carpet and the plastic carpet protector!)  and will do best with at least an average-sized yard. (that she can’t escape from. Preferably with 20foot high concrete non-climbable walls!)
The Shiba's waterproof, all-weather coat protects it in both cold and hot conditions, so it can live outdoors if you have a secure yard of reasonable size. (That’s one thing we noted last winter, that she seemed to be totally happy lying relaxed on the grass when the temperatures were just above freezing!)  However, it does regard itself as part of the family and does not like to be left alone outside. (Maybe that’s why, when we do let her out in the garden and I keep an eye on her from my upstairs office window, I keep catching her looking up at the window!)  This breed would be much happier living indoors with its family." (Nice to know we’re not depriving her!)

"Exercise:  The Shiba Inu is an undemanding dog that will adapt to your circumstances, so long as it gets a daily walk. (I suppose this is right. She is content to wait until we are ready to take her out for a walk, although she does make it clear, or at least her ears make it clear, that she needs a wee… NOW!)  It is a very active dog and will be healthier and happier with regular exercise. (She loves her walks and sometimes gets a bit stroppy when we turn around to go home before she’s ready!) This breed can walk for hours on end as it has tremendous endurance." (She might, but I don’t!)

"Some of the Shiba's talents include: hunting, (as proven recently with bunnies, and anything else that rustles along the path) tracking, (definitely not going to let her go to prove or disprove this!) watchdog, (fortunately not had the opportunity to see this but hope it’s true!) guarding, (she’s obedient and stays, so that might count)  agility (that’s something I’ve thought of pursuing, but am wary as to whether she’ll do a runner!) and performing tricks." (now what other tricks can we teach her?!)

Third : these quotes from one of the first websites  / blogs we looked at:

The Shiba Inu is a beautiful Spitz dog. You will get many compliments and turn many heads while walking next to a Shiba.

The Good……

1. A Shiba Inu is a dog that is more like a cat (I think the writer was referring more to the grooming habits than to the climbing over fences!)

2. He naturally dislikes soiling his living space and even prefers not to go in our backyard. (Useful, less landmines to pick up!)

3.  Shiba Inus like having their humans around in the general vicinity. (So sweet! Bella sometimes gives a little cry when it’s all quiet downstairs and she knows we’re upstairs in our offices! And I admit to leaving the radio on to give her company; she’ll go and sleep in another room if it gets too much for her!)  However, they are aloof like cats, and do not need or want human affection much of the time. (We are not offended when she walks out while we’re watching TV, but we do call her back to watch The Dog Whisperer – she loves it!)

4.  A Shiba Inu is not a noisy dog. However, when there are strange people or strange noises around the house he will bark to alert you. (Like when the neighbour’s dog barks at 11pm every night!)

5. A Shiba Inu is graceful and agile. (Ha ha! Agile in this case is not a recommendation!)
He can leap tall fences in a single bound and can scale walls like Spiderman. (Oh Yes! Why didn’t I think of the Spiderman word!) If properly directed, his super powers can be used for good. (Like how!?) However, when left on his own, the Shiba will likely turn towards the Dark Side. (Oh Yes!!)

6. A Shiba running is a sight to behold and a Shiba at play is poetry in motion. (Running, I totally agree – but it’s not something I want to see again, ‘cos it means she’s off leash and won’t come back! Play, like any dog or cat is fun and stress-busting to watch!)

7. A Shiba Inu is a doggy Einstein!  A Shiba Inu can learn many dog obedience commands and he can learn them very quickly. (Very quickly!) He also thinks that he is much smarter than you, and will only obey you when it suits him. (Like the “I’m sitting on the outside but I’m chasing that rabbit on the inside!”)

8. A Shiba Inu may be small in body, but he has a ginormous personality. If a Shiba were a person, he would either be an extremely successful egomaniac or in prison! (Now that’s a good one!)

The Bad…….

1. A Shiba Inu is bold, strong willed, and stubborn. (Sounds like some children!)

2.  He has a “Never give up, Never surrender” attitude. (I wonder how many Shibas are called Churchill!)

3.  To successfully live with a Shiba Inu, you must be extremely patient and have a good sense of humor. (ha-ha-ha!)

4.  A Shiba Inu has a sly, rougish intelligence. A Shiba Inu is super intelligent.

5.  “In another life my Shiba was probably a Catholic priest. He can guilt me into doing almost anything for him.” !!!

6. Beware the Shiba look – it is one of his most powerful weapons and he will use it to great effect if he senses any weakness in you. Before you know it, your Shiba will have gotten you trained to fetch, stay, and rub tummy. (hee-hee! Ahh isn’t she cute! Oops! Fell for it!)
7. A Shiba Inu is like the evil, black Spiderman. He is capable of great feats of agility but if untrained, he will use it to destroy and cause great havoc in the household. (Bella’s not done too badly since chewing the Sky TV cable, the fish pond hose, and various garden ornaments! She’s even stopped un-stuffing her bed regularly!) If bored and lonely, he will escape by jumping over or burrowing under your fence. (Oh Yes! Wally next door can concur with that! And neither of us can find where she’s got through!)  He can squeeze through small holes, (could the Staffie genes in her perhaps be responsible for this not happening? Or does it happen?!)  bite through leashes, (No! you don’t think she chewed her lead so it would deliberately break on a lead do you? Ahh, just look at that face! No way!)  and achieve amazing great escapes that will make Houdini proud. (proven a good many times – and how she escaped more injury during her 10 hour AWOL, considering the scratches she came back with, no-one knows!)

8. Shiba Inus are extremely sensitive to the energy of the people and dogs around them. If I am scared or stressed out, he picks up on that immediately and gets that way too – except with a thousand times more gusto! Remember that he can sense your inner energy, not just your outward appearance. (The Dog Whisperer’s mantra exactly! Take note, again and again!)
9. A Shiba Inu knows he is dog royalty:  He wants his subjects close enough to serve him but not too close as to sully his royal person.

10. A Shiba Inu can be a good citizen at home, but he must be properly managed. (Always the model dog at home, no-one believes us when we say how awkward she is on a walk!) Shibas are strong willed, independent, and bred to hunt. Aversive training does not work well on them. Shiba owners need to be creative and flexible when interacting with their dog. (Maybe we need to read the parenting books for hyperactive children!)

11. A Shiba Inu is not to be trusted off-leash unless in a fully enclosed area. (Never underestimate this statement!) Shiba Inus are a primitive breed and they lose control more easily than other more domesticated dog breeds. (Lose control? She just thinks she’s Always in control!)

The Quirky

A Shiba Inu is a grass connoisseur:  He likes grazing, but he is picky about what grass he will eat. Dogs may sometimes graze when their stomachs are upset to clear their digestive systems, but a Shiba Inu just enjoys eating grass – if it is the right kind of grass. (So now we’re not sure if a Shiba Inu is in fact a dog, or a cat, or maybe even a sheep, or cow….)

So there we are! Bella fits her breed quite well, which is unfortunate in some ways!  However, she is still beautiful, loved, and obedient (when she wants to be ... which is increasing day by day!)

Except when she does what comes naturally and Kills Baby Rabbits  :( 

(Glad she thought the hedgehog on the path was a little more than she could chew!)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

That blows that theory!

      If the early morning walk is ‘good’, that is Bella isn’t pulling at every floating leaf or smelling every footstep, then the lunch-time walk is horrible!  This morning’s walk she was, apparently, bad! So I confidently set out on the lunch-time walk expecting a reasonably obedient and happy doggy.

      Our village butcher has a half-day closing and perhaps the rabbits thought they were safe to run around, or perhaps the undergrowth creatures didn’t want an afternoon siesta. Or maybe, just because it’s a cooler and more pleasant day than it has been all week, it was just the afternoon for country lane games!

      Whatever the reason, it wasn’t the afternoon to take Bella across those fields!  She pounced into the nettles, nearly tripped over her own nose on the ground, and snorted as if she was being strangled.

      Consequently, by the time we’d got halfway through the walk (after only 20minutes) she was emotionally exhausted and far more obedient. :)

      The last 15 minutes of the walk were pleasant moments of owner and dog enjoying the gentle breeze, watching the cottony seeds floating across fields and happily traipsing home!

      Which is why she is now .........

... tuckered out on the lounge floor!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Bella's Mixed Bag!

      Not much happening in the life or times of Bella lately. She goes for walks, sleeps, eats just a little, kills her duck (soft toy!), and generally hangs around!

      Last week she needed a new collar so for the first time went with us into the big Pets At Home shop.  So many strangers passing so close! So many smells, including guinea pigs and rabbits, but the experience was too stressful and confusing to bother!  A few people stopped to admire her and ask about her breed, as expected, and not only did she come away with a new collar but also an un-stuffed duck soft toy, with a squeaker in its head!  Quite a hit! After just a week the duck’s eye is hanging by a thread, but otherwise it has so far survived! The special present Megan brought back from Zambia lies untouched next to her bed! She’s a soft cuddly dog and doesn’t like the hard raw-hide chew toy, so she also hasn’t found the treat which is apparently hidden inside!

      A couple of days ago hubby was not feeling up to the early morning walk so I (reluctantly) shuffled out and ended up being out for an hour and a half! Bella was really good on the short lead – I don’t use the flexi-lead anymore – and was responsive …. mostly! Once we got to the really muddy bits alongside the River Orwell which she didn’t mind one tiny little bit, but since I only had trainers on, I did mind, we turned around and trudged back home. A 4½km walk which was fairly pleasant – straight out of bed!

     This morning, hubby was again not feeling too well so instead of going out for a walk, he opened the back door and told Bella to do her thing on her own!  She was OK until I greeted her at the bottom of the stairs but I didn’t pick up the lead. It was then she must have decided to take herself on a walk and once again found the secret (that is, we don’t know where it is) opening into the neighbour’s garden!  8am was a bit early to knock on said elderly neighbour’s door to ask for our dog back, so we waited about half an hour, and kept an eye on her from upstairs knowing she couldn’t escape but she might trample a prized flowerbed! Fortunately elderly neighbours are very understanding and allowed her to leave their paradise! Needless to say she was confined to her own bed in the kitchen for the morning and any attempt to sneak into the lounge was met with a stern reprimand from Mum!

(Mine, not theirs!)

     At tea on Sunday evening someone brought up the subject of whether animals have consciences! Despite hearing a preacher adamantly say that dogs don’t have consciences, this someone could tell many a story of how his dogs had shown human childlike traits....... like after stealing the chicken waiting to be Sunday’s roast!

     So life goes on as normal! An early morning ‘good’ walk generally means a lunch time ‘bad’ walk and vice versa! Pleading eyes and ears pinned back beg forgiveness and eagerly accept ................... and forget!

But we love you Bella!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bella Survived the Boarding Kennels!

Some people don't own dogs because, they say, they wouldn't be able to go away on holiday! Some people don't like leaving their animals in the care of others - especially 'institution' type places like Boarding Kennels!  In South Africa, where your home security is an added factor, people don't stop going on holiday! There's good business in House-sitting ... and Dog-sitting (include cats, fish, hamsters, birds etc!) The cost of someone looking after your house is simply part of the holiday budget - just like putting a dog in Boarding Kennels!

We left at 6am Monday morning so had to take Bella to the local Kennels before they closed at noon on Sunday. She was quite distracted by so many different smells in the reception and didn't even know I'd handed over the lead :(  Plus her blankie and Green Fluffy Thing Piece (about a third of the original). And I walked out :(
(Bourne Hill Kennels, Wherstead, Ipswich)

So there was no Bella to play ball with on Sunday afternoon in the garden; no Bella to take for a wee walk before church on Sunday evening; no Bella to wag her tail when we got back from church on Sunday night; and no need to wake up early to take Bella for her morning walk - except that we had to get up early to get to the Midlands by mid-morning!

Hubby was REALLY looking forward to not having to wake up at 6.30am on Tuesday morning to take Bella for a walk, part of the holiday feeling - so he woke up at 4am and went fishing instead!!

Did we think of her and wonder how she was managing in the Kennels? Of course we did, but she was being well looked after!

(Plenty of space to walk the dogs!)
We got back after closing time on Friday and got another sleep-in on Saturday, except that we needed to go shopping and planned to be at the Kennels at 10am when they opened!

"Bella's been fine!" was the expected comment! We caught a glimpse of her being brought to reception and saw her turn aside to say goodbye to a friend behind the bars! What went through her mind when she suddenly discovered on Monday I wasn't there? Had I abandoned her? Did she have flashbacks to her time at the Blue Cross?

Whatever she thought then, she was very pleased to see us on Saturday and soon settled back home. Bella is a quiet dog - she doesn't bark much and doesn't like noises when she wants to rest! If she's in her bed in the kitchen and we come in and start talking, or if I put a machine on in the kitchen, she'll move into the lounge. If the TV noise gets too much she'll move away from our company and into the quiet kitchen. So I reckon the fact that she seemed to sleep the rest of that Saturday was probably from lack of sleep and rest in the Kennels - sorry Bella, it wasn't a holiday for you!

It may be that having been around other dogs for a week, seeing them next door, hearing them bark, whine, cry etc. that she may ... here's hoping! ..... have got a little more used to dogs and that on walks she won't get over excited! Maybe! She certainly didn't react as excitedly as she has when the dog-behind-the-big-wooden-fence barked madly at her smell on the other side!

Another couple of weeks and she'll be back there again - I wonder if she'd be crossing off the days on a calendar if she knew!!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Don't turn your nose up at my Rescue Dog!

In the first few weeks and months of having Bella, quite a few comments were made on her ‘Rescue Dog’ status. She is a ‘Rescue Dog’ so the allusions were taken as quite harmless and true. However, eight months on and the ‘She’s a rescue dog isn’t she?’ comments are starting to niggle; the smug smile and the tone of voice are making some of the ‘friendly’ comments sound quite snobbish! Sorry, but it’s true!

Yes, my dog is a Rescue Dog; we found her at the Blue Cross having been taken in with a broken leg, but we love her and she loves us and she’s part of our family.  She may look ‘aggressive’ to you when you and your pedigree Spaniel / Jack Russel / Labrador meet us on walks, but just because she’s part Staffie doesn’t make her an aggressive dog. She’s excited! She wants to play with your dog and if you have a miniature breed, she doesn’t discriminate. She is strong, it’s the Staffie in her, and combined with the long history and dignity of a Japanese Shiba Inu she is also strong-willed. Having only discovered her mixed heritage earlier this year we now know how to handle her and hopefully train her while out walking. It’s an ongoing project.

Bella is impeccable indoors: she doesn’t jump on the furniture - like some dogs do, she did it once, was disciplined and never did it again; she doesn’t chew our human things - like some dogs do (e.g. slippers), she did it once, was disciplined and never did it again; she doesn’t need to be shouted at or cajoled to go out of a room - like some dogs, simply point to the door and she’ll go. She knows that just because the door is open, it doesn’t mean she can go out; she waits for us to step out or in first and follows – unlike some dogs. Only on the first night in the house did she ever mess inside. She doesn’t bark at dogs or people unnecessarily – like some dogs do.

She’s nervous of people, it’s a characteristic of her breed, not the fact that she’s a Rescue Dog. She’s excitable, she’s a hunting dog, nothing to do with the fact that she’s a Rescue Dog.

“You never know a Rescue dog’s history” you say, feeling smug that you got yours from an expensive breeder and have pedigree papers proving that his mother was Queen Patty and his father was Sir Pan. Bella was given a second chance by someone who knew they couldn’t give her the life she deserved. We’ve given her a loving family and friends, she doesn’t need to look back to the past!

So please don’t put our Bella in your ‘class system’ of dogs; discrimination is dead!  

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Ins & Outs of Boarding Kennels - and my purse!

The downside of owning pets is having to make two holiday bookings if you can’t take them with you! The next human excursion won’t exactly be a ‘holiday’ but a necessary long weekend away from home. I doubt whether Bella will think being away from us, being fed by strangers, having many noisy house-mates and no home comforts, will be a holiday!

An earlier seaside holiday!
Choosing a home-from-home for man’s best friend is not easy. In South Africa, in the interests of ‘home security’, one pays a house-sitter who will also feed, walk and clean up after your animals, in the comfort of the animal’s own home.  In the UK the security risk is a little lower in many areas, so we need to look at kennels.

Nothing like a bit of love!
Three of us set off to two local kennels to check them out!  It was a Thursday during an entire week of rain, but the morning had stayed dry. We walked into reception to be hit by that characteristic doggy smell, not a good start! (Vet surgeries don’t smell doggy and not even the Rescue centre smelled doggy!) Before the usual question of breed came up, one lady came straight out with, “I’d say there’s some Shiba Inu there!”  

For a complete stranger, who knows her dogs, this was quite a surprise to us and at the same time a confirmation of what we thought. So for the next five minutes we talked Shiba Inu characteristics – just enough time for the rain to gather so that when we toured the kennels we managed to get soaked!  Bella was left with a dog-sitter while we walked round and she did us proud by not growling or crying as we walked away leaving her leash in the hands of a complete stranger!

Got to climb!
By the time we got to the second kennels, she remembered the drill and once again sat quietly with a dog-sitter while we were taken around – still in the rain. These kennels have infra-red lamps for heating (although it probably won’t be necessary in summer!), and “hammock beds” – not that they hang from trees, and I’m not too sure how Bella will feel sleeping a little elevated, although she does like to climb!

The fees for both kennels were about the same, except that the second one had a half-day charge, which was a plus.  The first kennels didn’t insist on the dogs having the Kennel Cough vaccine, which was a little worrying.  The second was also closer to home (and the golf driving range!), so with the score 3-0 to the Second Kennels, it was decided.  This decision was celebrated by one human hitting 30 little white balls across a piece of grass with distance markers scattered down the centre!  Bella tried to shake the rain off numerous times from the car to the undercover driving range ‘kennels’. She doesn't usually bother with rain, however, the reverberating ‘clonk’ of several golf clubs against white balls sent her scampering under the bench behind my legs. It was time to swim back to the car and wait patiently while listening to the soothing sounds of BBC Radio Suffolk!

At home I made the vet appointment for her Kennel Cough vaccine and (stupidly) asked how much it would cost! £36?!  Bella’s ‘holiday’ is going to cost more than ours at this rate!  Her appointment is next week – I have a few days to plan a ‘discount attack’!!

(  November/December issue of the Kennels and Cattery Management Magazine.)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

18. A little rain, a little freedom!

        Ok so it’s been more than a ‘little rain’!  A TV news reader or weather person recently said, quite seriously, “It’s been the wettest drought on record.”!  The last two days have been a little drier, with just the odd shower, but the country lanes are still puddled and the country pathways are still muddied.

       The little bit of freedom belongs to Bella.  In the intervals of sunshine we’ve been able to get into the back garden to cut the grass and pull up weeds which catapulted out of the ground into the lawn and the garden with the deluge of rain throughout April. Since we were in the garden, Bella was granted a reprieve and allowed out with us with no restraint.

       She sat in the middle of the lawn, lifted her head to the sun and closed her eyes – what a sun-worshipper!

       Keeping an eye on her at all times enabled me to give a sharp ‘No!’ whenever she started wandering over the threshold of The Corner (where she’s previously climbed over the fence into the school playing field.)  She was totally obedient and turned back immediately, as if she knows that’s a boundary not to be crossed!  Even with her nose sweeping the soil beneath the grass following the black and white cat’s scent single-mindedly all around the garden, she has stopped at that boundary line and retraced her steps! Amazing!

       So she deserves a bit of freedom, in the garden that is.

       On a bedtime wee walk last week, she found a hedgehog! Fortunately a good jerk and distraction ensured Hedgehog’s safety and he was last seen crossing the quiet cul-de-sac road with his teeny tiny nose just visible.

        One of the ‘problems’ we have had with Bella is her utter excitement at meeting other dogs – she’s not aggressive, she just wants to play. But as I think I’ve said before, a lot of the dogs in this neighbourhood are about the size of her head and while they have no fear, she plays rough!  Tuesday afternoon’s walk zig-zagging around the puddles and trying not to slip on the muddy path (me trying not to slip, she’s quite sure footed!), we met a dog who was just as excitable and still being trained, and her owner was struggling to keep her under control.  Bella behaved more or less impeccably! The sniffs then the play, but I think the other dog’s owner was more nervous and pulled her back causing her to climb further up the scale of excitement.

       On top of that little CJ the Jack Russel came bounding up. He seems quite the popular one as everyone says he gets on well with their dogs! Again Bella stood calmly for the sniffy greeting before trying to play but knowing she was restrained. While three owners stood nattering about dogs (it’s like mums chatting about their babies and nappies!) the three dogs had a good sniffy natter amongst themselves and by the time the humans were ready to part, so were the dogs – well, Bella was anyway.

     Now that was quite an achievement. It felt like Bella is growing up! Of course she still comes into the lounge at about 10pm every night asking to be ‘tucked in’, or at least ‘please switch the kitchen light off I want to sleep!’

     So a little freedom and a little growing up and it’s all looking quite positive for Bella’s future……………..

Thursday, 26 April 2012

17. In memory of ........

Dogs and Cats are the epitome of enemies! Which makes the pictures we see floating around Facebook and emails, of huge Alsations and tiny kittens so very, very adorable!

Take for example …. !