The Last Post

Well everyone, I’m very sad to say this will be our last post.

My initial intention when I started blogging about rehoming Bertie was to help other adoptees who might have some of the same questions and problems I had, and I hope I’ve achieved that.  But it’s 4 years down the line now and Bert and I have a pretty settled life.  If I’m honest, so little happens I find it hard to find anything to write about.  He has some health issues but other than that we just go about our business, which for Bert looks something like this:

  • Wee
  • Eat
  • Tummy rub
  • Sleep
  • Walkies
  • Eat
  • Cuddle
  • Walkies
  • Tummy rub
  • Eat
  • Wee
  • Sleep

There really isn’t much variation in his day 😉

I’d like to thank my loyal followers for being on this journey with Bertie and myself.  We’ve made some lovely friends who we would never have met if I hadn’t started blogging.  Thank you all for your helpful suggestions, sharing your own stories with us and for your encouragement which in the early days I badly needed.

Through Bertie I found not only my bestest pal and faithful companion but a new found hobby, my photography, which I would never have taken up if it weren’t for having to take Bert out every day.  I have so much to thank him for.

I’m going to leave the blog up as we still get new visitors most days and if anyone wants to leave a comment I can still reply.  Take care and give all your furry children a pat goodbye from us.

With love from Jak & Bertie xx

Photo of Miniature Schnauzer hugs

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Exercise

One of the reasons I adopted a Miniature Schnauzer was that I’d read they didn’t have huge exercise needs and were very adaptable.  My last dog was a Labrador/Border Collie cross and ran for 7 miles every day (thankfully my Dad used to train for marathons) and would have run another 7 if any of us humans had the energy 😉  As someone who now lives with a chronic disabling illness, I knew there was no way I could undertake this level of exercise so was very careful in my choice of breed when it came to getting another dog.

The first few months I had Bertie he was taken on a 30 minute lead walk in a morning by the dog walker and a 10 minute off-lead run around/ball chase in a nearby field in the afternoon by me as I was too unwell at the time to do much else.  He thankfully seemed fine with that amount of exercise, despite only being 2½ and still a very young energetic dog, and inbetween we’d play indoors, with him searching for treats, or using one of Nina Ottosson’s dog games, plus during the first year I did heaps of training with him which helped to stimulate his mind.

Adoption year 1

Adoption year 1

Thankfully as my health stabilized a bit, and I upgraded my mobility scooter, I was able to take him for longer afternoon walks, although they were always on-lead on the road.  I’d take him to the edge of my village and back, which I measured as being just under 2 miles and which took us about 30 minutes, sniffing every 2 paces (Bert, that is, not me 😉 ) and chatting to everyone we met.

During the second year of Bert’s adoption my health improved to the point where I could walk short distances, so I’d take him on my scooter through the village in the afternoon, but was then able to let him off in the surrounding woods or fields and walk with him for 10 minutes as he ran off-lead.  These were magical times for me, as by then I’d been unable to walk any distance for about 15 years, and just to have the freedom of walking through the woods or by a river and watch Bertie running around like a loony toons was heavenly.

Photo of Bertie by the river

In the third year of Bertie’s adoption I seriously took up photography, and was often out for a good hour in the afternoon just pottering around on my scooter or by the river taking pictures.  Bert is really good, and after his initial run around is happy to just wander next to me, sniffing all in sundry or chewing his rubber ball in the long grass.  He’s definitely settled down a lot now he’s 6, although he will still take off like a bullet if he sees a deer, rabbit or pheasant and completely ignores my frantic calls to “get your furry arse back here!” 😉

Me and my shadow

Me and my shadow

Then last summer disaster struck when I partially dislocated my hip, which turned into Greater Trochanteric Bursitis in both hips and made walking impossible, and I was back to taking Bert out on-lead on the road with my little scooter.  He didn’t seem to care less, but I really missed our romps in the countryside and being able to take my photographs, so in December I used every penny I had (and borrowed some off my parents) and bought a knackered third hand all terrain mobility scooter which could go over rough ground, so at least I was able to go to some of our favourite haunts and let Bertie run around again off-lead.  It even has its own Bertie carrier on the back (which he hates 😉 ).

Drive Sport Rider with Snoozer Dog Carrier

It took 9 months for my hips to heal to the point where I could walk without my crutches, but I’m now back to being able to walk short distances again and am loving being back down by the river which was too far to travel with my scooter.  Bert, who will soon be 7, now still has his 30 minute on-lead walk with the dog walker in a morning, but is usually out for up to an hour with me in the afternoon, all off-lead.  I reckon he walks/runs about 4 miles every day which must suit him as the rest of the time he’s really placid and often just sleeps (I’m typing this at 4.30pm and he’s spark out with his head on my legs 🙂 ).

When I first adopted Bertie I had no clue how much exercise he’d need and worried myself stupid when I was ill and couldn’t walk him as much as I thought I should, but Bert has always just adapted to any situation and has never climbed the walls or been destructive in the house, so obviously the exercise I was able to provide was enough for his needs.  As long as he’s with me he really doesn’t seem to care much what he’s doing and for that I’m truly thankful 🙂 .

Plodding along

It’s been a month since my last post but to be honest we’ve just been plodding along and I don’t have anything new to report.  Bert’s still on the Bionic Biotic and his poo is definitely better – no more pale yellow slop, all his poops are a good brown colour, and he’s only doing 2-3 per day.  The first couple are definitely harder than the last one, but none are overly-loose or covered in slime.  I’m also only feeding Bert the Lamb & Rice variety of Wainwrights wet food as it’s the one he seems to do best on, although to be fair he also does well on the Salmon & Potato – I just can’t stand his beard smelling like Billingsgate market 😉

He still has dandruff though, which is a huge disappointment as this supplement is supposed to do wonders for dog’s coats.  I’ll persevere for another month, but am fairly sure he’ll have to go back on the Coatex oil even though the Biotic already contains omega 3 and 6.

His beard is also still orange and I have to admit I’m gutted.  The Biotic has both pre and pro biotics, so in theory should do the same job to his gut acidity as the yoghurt did, but so far it doesn’t seem to be working that way.  Again, I’ll give it some more time but I can’t say I’m all that hopeful.  I can’t put him back on the yoghurt, as it made his poop all slimey, so I may just have to live with him and his manky belisha beacon mush.

Having a dog can become stupidly expensive.  I spend about £70 ($108) per month just on food, insurance and supplements, and if I include dog walking fees this jumps to a massive £150 ($232)!  Taking on a dog, and looking after it properly, is a huge committment.

Speaking of which, my dog walker, who is brilliant with Bertie, decided to get a puppy recently.  She has 2 young children and spent months discussing the pros and cons of whether having a dog was the right thing to do and which breed to go for, so didn’t take the decision lightly.  Their last dog was a Border Collie and, although they knew the exercise needs of a Collie, still felt that it was the best choice for them and chose a puppy rather than an older rescue so that it would integrate with their family and they’d be able to train and socialize it properly.  She asked if, eventually, she could walk it with Bertie when she takes him out in the morning and I said that would be fine, providing Bert took to it OK (they chose a bitch, as we knew for a fact Bert wouldn’t tolerate a dog).

Unfortunately, however, it just didn’t work out for them as a family.  Theoretically discussing the needs of a puppy, and actually living with the reality, are two very different things and having 2 children and a dog was just too much.  She was heartbroken about it, and cried for a week over her decision to return the pup to the breeder, and I really felt for her.  I came within an inch of returning Bertie after having him for a month as the stress and needs of a rescue dog made me physically ill, so I had absolutely no judgement about her taking the pup back so that it could be given to a more suitable home.  All the planning in the world simply doesn’t prepare you for the reality of having a dog, which is much harder physically, mentally and emotionally than anyone ever imagines.

After missing two ticks on Bertie, and finding one crawling up my arm in bed, I’ve reverted back to doing a spot-on monthly treatment (I use Prac-tic).  The ticks still attach, and I still do a tick check after our walks and remove those I find, but any I miss are poisoned as they feed and at least if they drop off they’re dead.  I still can’t bring myself to use the Bravecto, which still seems like one chemical too far.

The weather has warmed up in the past week, and we’ve made the most of our walks being as though it’s reverting back to 11C on Sunday (what the hell, doesn’t it know it’s June?!).  I’ll leave you with some photos of the Bertster having fun in the sun.

Photo of Miniature Schnauzer in buttercup meadow

Photo of miniature schnauzer in tree tunnel

Photo of Miniature Schnauzer running

 

Poop, pain & pills

This time last year we were in the grips of a spring heat wave and Bertie and I were having lovely walks in the warm sunshine watching wildlife come alive and the flowers bloom.  This year, May has felt more like November with biting winds, lashing rain and overnight frost.  It sucks and going out every day in a gale driven monsoon bundled up like we’re climbing the north face of the Eiger is no fun whatsoever.

Bertie has had 3 ticks in the last month.  We live surrounded by woodland and it’s just an occupational hazard.  In the past I’ve used all sorts of tick repellents and spot-ons and he gets them anyway. Last time I was at the vets he gave me some very expensive new tablets called Bravecto which last for 3 months, but the thought of Bert ingesting toxic insecticides which live in his internal tissue for 12 weeks horrifies me so I haven’t used them.  Neither have I used any spot-on treatments.  They don’t stop ticks attaching and take between 3-12 hours to kill any that do.  By that time I’ve usually spotted them anyway and take them off myself with my Tom O’Twister tool.  So I can’t much see the point in putting all these chemicals on Bert if I can simply remove the damned things myself.  However I may change my mind as the warmer weather arrives and the tick population explodes, so we’ll just have to play it by ear.

I’ve been meaning to mention, since Christmas, that Bert’s raised feeding bowls are fab.  They are just the right height for him and he’s now no longer in pain with his back bending down to eat.  The only downside is they’re a bit of a pain to clean.  Available from Pets at Home.

Raised dog feeding bowls

Apologies for the poor picture – the bowls aren’t as huge as they look in this photo!

Bertie’s now been on the Bionic Biotic for a month and is up to the full dose of 1 tsp per day.  His poops are definitely a better colour and more consistently firm plus he’s only doing 2-3 a day instead of the usual 4.  He still has dandruff, but it is less that it was and I’m hoping if I give the powder a 3 month trial it will disappear.  Being both a pre and pro-biotic I thought his orange beard would disappear but so far no joy.  It did take a year of being on yoghurt though for it to fade last time, so again I’m hopeful the supplement will eventually help.  In the meantime he looks like a minger 😉 .

As I expected, I’ve had to increase Bert’s dose of Gabapentin for his back pain from 1 tablet every other day to 1 tablet daily.  It really is a wonder drug though and helps his pain when no normal pain killer touched the sides.  As a knock-on effect of controlling his pain he’s obviously sleeping better and has bags more energy than he’s had in ages – it’s lovely to see 🙂 .  Now we just need some decent weather so’s we can get out and explore, me with my camera and Bert chasing anything that moves!

Miniature Schnauzer BertieSpeaking of cameras, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that some of my photos have now been accepted by iStock, one of the largest stock photography sites on the internet – you can see my portfolio here.  It will take a while to upload all my images, and Getty are notoriously slow at adding them to the site once I have, but you can guarantee that Bertie will be on there – there’s no show without punch 😉 .

 

Catch up

Apologies it’s been so long since my last post.  My health has been rubbish so far this year and when you spend a lot of time in bed there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything which needs doing done.  I seem to spend my entire life saying sorry: sorry for not posting, sorry for not emailing, sorry I haven’t rung you in 3 months.  Such is life (well, my life at any rate!).

I’ll start with some good news.  After weeks of waiting, the insurance company finally accepted my claim for Bert’s back pain 🙂 .  Considering this is likely going to be a life-long, and expensive, problem the relief is enormous.  Of course, they will now put up my monthly premiums, and I’ll never again be able to switch to a more competitively priced insurer as I’d lose cover because it would be classed as a “pre-existing condition”.  If they bump up the payments too much, however, they’d better be ready for a fight, with the Ombudsman if needs be.

Bert’s poop still isn’t quite right.  I re-introduced his daily teaspoon of probiotic yoghurt, only for his stools to become slimey and covered in mucus!  So I had to stop it again, but now his beard is bright orange *sigh*.

He’s still having 2 normal poops, and then 2 increasingly soft and sloppy poops, every day so I have no clue what he could possibly be eating that’s playing havoc with his insides.

During his colitis attack I also stopped the Coatex oil he has on his food for his dandruff.  He’s been taking it for years now, so I thought I’d try him without and see how his coat responded.  Sadly the dandruff’s back so it looks like dry skin is another life-long issue.

Not sure what to do regarding any of the above I’d heard really good things about Bionic Biotic, a natural supplement which is supposed to help with both itchy skin and soft stools.  I’m not a huge fan of supplements, preferring to use food to give all the nutrients you need as they’re much more readily absorbed by the body, but as nothing else is working I’m giving this a go.  For Bert’s weight he needs 1 tsp per day sprinkled on his food, but you have to work up gradually.  He only started it 3 days ago, so at the moment we’re on ¼ tsp and he’s tolerating it fine – I’ll increase to the full dose in the next week or so.  It’s not cheap, but it does have a 3 week money back guarantee which is great if I find it hasn’t helped.

The Vet has agreed to keep Bertie on the Gabapentin for his back pain long term, and will give him a liver function test in 3 months time just to make sure he’s coping OK with the drug.  He’s currently on 1 tablet every other day, but I fear I might need to up this to a daily tablet because just recently he’s been in obvious pain and discomfort again first thing in the morning.  He can take up to 3 tablets a day, so increasing the dose isn’t a problem, but as he’s only 6 and could have this for the rest of his life I didn’t want to start him off on a high dose because if it gets worse there would be nowhere to go.

Other than all of the above he’s doing well 😉 .  He had his first clip of the year at the start of April as we were having a warm spell, but of course it’s now freezing again so he’s still got his electric blanket on his bed at night, the wuss!

My photography is still going really well and I found out recently that some of my pictures have been accepted by Getty Images, the number one stock photography site on the internet.  You only make an average of £1 for each photo sold, but every little helps especially when you’re stoney broke 😉 .My camera club has finished now until September, but I did attend the awards dinner a couple of weeks ago where I was presented with two trophies: the Millennium cup and the Blencathra cup, both for my ‘Couch Surfing’ photo.  We now have a set theme of ‘Glass’ to keep us occupied during the summer for which there’ll be a competition when we return in the Autumn.  I’m also still waiting to hear if I did any good in the Northern Counties Photographic Federation’s annual club competition – I think the results are announced any day now.  Here I am with my trophies (apologies for blurring my face – I don’t want some nutter downloading a photo of me and using it lord knows where for lord knows what!):

Canine Confessions Part 2

I’ve already blogged about my own confessions as a dog owner, but today I think Bertie should fess up about his own weird and wonderful habits:

  • He likes to eat the crud I take from the corners of his eyes.
  • He comes back from his walks, with a muzzle smelling of other dog’s pee, then expects me to kiss him.
  • He likes to eat compost, straight from the bag.  It’s his idea of helping me with the gardening.
    Mini Schnauzer eating soil
  • He likes to sniff my wee when I’m tinkling.
  • He makes a nest with his bedding.
  • When he has his tummy rubbed he likes to lick my hand at the same time.  The free hand will not do, it has to be the hand doing the rubbing.  So he ends up like some kind of circus contortionist trying to lick a hand which is down by his navel.
  • He likes me to chuck his ball but never brings it back.  Instead he worries it like a rat.

  • When I’ve eaten my breakfast he stands on my chest and licks toast crumbs off my pjs.  He wishes I wouldn’t starve him.
  • He likes to sit in the middle of the bed when I’m changing the sheets.
  • If you stop stroking him he will put his head under your hand, lift it up and place it back on his body.  I am just his personal masseuse, lest I forget.
  • He likes to bring back the odd twig from his walks.
    Mini Schnauzer with stick
  • If he doesn’t have a toy handy to carry round in his mouth he’ll pinch a sock off the laundry pile.  Then I wonder why I have a drawer-full of lone socks missing their mate.
  • He sticks his head through the cat flap, woofs at “intruders” then sniggers when he sees them jump.
    Photo of Schnauzer and catflap
  • When he’s eaten his breakfast he climbs onto the duvet and rubs his beard all over my white sheets to dry it.  My bed smells of cod.
  • He doesn’t like the taste of clean, fresh drinking water preferring instead the slime, leaf and dead insect riddled water barrel outside.
  • He likes to warm his bits in front of the fire.
    Photo of Mini Schnauzer in front of fire
  • He pinches the wild bird’s food, with a particular penchant for mouldy peanuts.
  • He eats back his own lumpy vomit.

It’s a good job I love him <3.

New Photography Site

As many of you know, after adopting Bertie I became interested in photography and include odd posts on the subject in this blog.  I’ve been taking pictures for about 3 years now and six months ago joined my local Camera Club, where I’m now entering beginner level competitions.

Amateur photography is a really complicated subject and once I’d bought my second-hand DSLR camera it took me a whole year just to understand the manual 😉 .  Two years after that I finally understood how to take a picture!

I read several photography books, and looked at various sites online, but despite being aimed at beginners they always seemed to assume I knew things about photography that I didn’t.  I had no clue what “depth of field” was or what a “focal point” was.  I couldn’t even get my camera to focus on the things I wanted it to and when I printed my pictures they looked nothing like they did on my computer screen.  At one stage I was so lost, bamboozled and frustrated that I nearly gave up on the whole shebang.

Now I have some idea how to take a decent photo I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with other people and have created a new blog called ‘The Amateur Photographer’.  It’s been much harder than I imagined trying to put the basics of photography into words, the reason being that everything is inter-connected – it’s hard to write about Aperture without also mentioning Shutter speeds and ISO!  But you can’t learn everything at once and trying to break it down into logical steps has been tough.  However, I’m giving it my best shot and I hope other Amateur Photographers out there find it useful 🙂 .