Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Things always come in 3's

They say things come in threes, especially at this time of year.(Thinking of three wise men)

At about 5.00 am this morning, Blue was barking relentlessly, on inspection, a Milk Float was delivering down our road. 

This is not an unusual or isolated event, we all managed another 20 minutes sleep, then it was time to do the early morning walk, at 5:45 am

With darkness all around we walked up to the main road, a barking session near a hedge, revealed no hidden critters,....

Walking along the main road, Blue became very alert and agitated behind me, as I turned around, a milk float emerged from a side road. Blue was not having this, to which end, barking twisting turning and spinning round in circles the intensity grew as the vehicle approached even closer.....

Barely being able to hold this intense behaviour, I backed Blue up into a drive of a  house, to allow the milkman pass. Then to our dismay the milk float came to a stop, right by where we were stood, well when I say stood, I had planted my feet firmly on the ground holding a land shark going into a deaf roll like action. Mr Milkman said he needed to go into the house which we stood outside, so through much heaving and tugging, we made a path for him to pass.

Having got Blue up the road a little, we waited for the milkman to return to his float and drive up the road, that cost half a pocket of treats. 

When I say drive up the road, he only went about five doors down and stopped again, so we stood passionately waiting, finally, milk delivered the float drove up the road into the distance.

Blue and I then carried on with our walk, up to the end of the road, where we always cross over and return home.

Amazingly what was in the distance, waiting at the traffic lights, yes you guessed, a milk float, ironically not the same one coming back but a different one. So we had to wait for it to pass and fortunately not stop!!

So there we have it 3 different encounters with probably 3 different milk floats, (the first two instances may have been the same one just at different times.

Or was it history repeating itself; Three wise milkmen delivering their gifts.

So in tribute to the Three wise Shepherds 

Blue pays homage

Friday, 12 December 2014

6 Years ago to the day.

The world renowned Noel Fitzpatrick met Blue and changed his life and destiny.

11th December 2008 Blue got up in the morning as a bouncy 7 month old pup, full of his usual energy and vibrance, Blue being his normal self.

The day was quite unremarkable going into the early evening, when for no reason, Blue was unable to stand up, he did not seem in any apparent pain, but was becoming distressed.

Without delay he was a mile down the road, being carried by my wife and me into the vets (Abbey Vets), for an emergency appointment. Here he was seen by the vet Adrian Caunter, who carried out a close examination following our description of the events leading up to Blue's sudden change.

Adrian was a young eager vet, who had come to look on Blue as a favoured visitor; It was Adrian's handling of the situation that set the path of Blue's destiny. He told us of this practice in Surrey "Fitzpatrick Referrals"who had the ideal set up for what he feared was a spinal issue.

A call was made by Adrian, and after checking we had the means of travelling to Godalming in Surrey, he booked us an appointment. Though Blue was now clearly in discomfort, he explained that we needed to keep Blue still and calm and make the journey for an eight o'clock appointment.

Of the journey we recall very little, driving with half a mind on the road half on Blue, how we found such a remote place i do not recall.

Our car at the time was a Landrover Freelander, and by chance in the back was a plastic storage tray, we used this as a carrier, as we walked into the reception.

They were expecting us, we were on time, and guided into the consulting room. 

In walked Noel, who was busy assessing Blue, as we described the reason for being there.

Then without any indication the bomb was dropped, Noel explained that Blue was in a lot of discomfort and pain, there was a spinal issue, which needed surgery, but it was essential that it was carried out.

Blue was carried away by Noels team to begin further detailed assessment, x-rays and pain relief.

We stayed in the waiting room for news, it was confirmed, Blue had excessive bone growth on his vertibrae, causing the spinal cord to be compressed. 

Noel explained that he would carry out a "Spinal Laminectomy" to Blue's spine.

The operation was carried out and Blue was to remain in residence for three days and nights. 

There was no doubt ever in our minds that Blue had been very very lucky, he was seen by the right people who made the right decisions who brought their training, knowledge and dedication together to ensure he had the best outcome we could ever have wished for.

That is really the start of a long road to recovery, where good use of his crate, managed and monitored exercises, hydrotherapy were all part of his rehabilitation.

One year on, after the operation, we felt confident enough to travel to the Highlands of Scotland

Blue with trusty crate

Blue had missed out on his first Christmas, his second was to be in Scotland on holiday, and the old Blue returned, demonstrating that a traumatic year was now fading into the past. Does the picture below show signs of a dog that had undergone major spinal surgery 12 months previously.

It is pleasing to see Noel's work being shown on National TV, and we can only endorse everything he and his team do, as you see them on the TV, that is how they truly are, wonderfully dedicated people, from the reception ladies, to all the support team.

Thanks must also go to my wife, Sue; She has been so instrumental to Blue's recovery.

So just one final thing of caution; If you are walking your dog off lead in open spaces and you see another dog on a lead, he may be another Blue, recovering from a major injury that needs to be kept calm and stable.

Blue will never "play" with other dogs, he missed out on that side of socialising along with his limitations of twisting and turning, causing loss of stability to his back limbs.

Aside from that he leads a healthy active life, often amazing others that see him on some of England's highest mountains, as he was in the Lake District this summer.

Blencathra summited and a well earned rest

High above Cat Bells in the Lake District.

You can follow Blue's outlook and opinions on life on his dedicated Twitter page

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Etched in glass, and summary of mountains walked in England

Blue etched in glass

The picture above only captures a small amount of the intricate detail and splendour of this masterpiece. Detail is key, but his fur looks so soft it could be real, we asked for the lead to be omitted, from the impression, and below is the photo they based the glass etching on. 

If you have enough money to spare, check out their web site, you will be amazed by the detail.

Blue has been keeping well since his last blog, continuing in his own happy way, no new news to report. I thought though how good it would be to share some summary information about the mountains he has ascended in the Lake District over the years. It is worth remembering, we are not mountaineers and only holiday there once a year for a fortnight.

Mountain Height (m) Comments
Barf 468 Nice detour after summiting Lords Seat from Whinlatter Forest
Barrow 455 Summited in strong winds
Blencathra 868 Summited in strong winds
Broom Fell 511 Large Cairn behind fence on summit.
Carlside 746 Following Forest track, leave forest turn left, long steep exposed path
Castle Crag 290 Mini mountain but varied access terrain.
Cat Bells 290 Best summited from Derwent Water
The Old Man of Coniston 576 Via Goats Water
Dodd 502 Set above Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwent Water
Fleetwith Pike 648 Summited from Honister Slate mine, but lost in low cloud very quickly
Green Gable 801 Summited from Honister Slate mine, only accessed by going under a fence !
Grisedale Pike 791 Bit craggy getting near to the top, amazing views.
Haystacks 597 Summited from Gatesgarth Farm via Warnscale Beck and Dubs Quarry.
Helm Crag 396 Shared access with many sheep descending as we ascended
Helvellyn 950 Long long trudge up and down, 3rd highest mountain in England
Kidsty Pike 950 Was aiming for High Street, but driven back by wind and rain, bit of a scramble in places
Latrigg 367 Easy climb and great views over Keswick and Derwent Water.
Lord's Seat 552 Great walk via Whinlatter visitor centre
Maiden Moor 575 Steep narrow access in places from Cat Bells
Raven Crag 461 Real unusual walk, and great views along Thirlmere
Skiddaw 931 Large flat summit, often busy, hard part is the beginning. 6th highest mountain in England
Skiddaw Little Man 865 Nice diversion on the way to Skiddaw
Walla Crag 376 Great view point over Derwent Water after ascent from Springs Farm Road

Monday, 6 October 2014

Lake District holiday 2014

Below is a short video capturing some moments of my latest adventure in the Lake District

Only one bad thing happened !

We share a message from Blue to the unknown thief

To the person who came into our holiday home while we were out, and took every last penny of cash we had!

We are truly sorry that Blue did not get a chance to welcome you.One day, he would love to greet you and show his gratitude.

We can not say too much, as it is the hands of the Cumbrian Constabulary.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Not our finest hour.

Today was the day for Blue's booster, which means a trip to our local vets.

This didn't go well, to say the least. The main thing that suffered was pride and dignity, first off, is what happened, then I will say why we think it happened, finally what we are going to do, to put right any wrongs.

Arrived home from work, collected Blue and my wife Sue, and set off on the short journey into the London Road vets in Reading town centre.

Parking in the car park, Blue was taken out of the back of the car, and his muzzle was fitted. As we crossed the car park he was pulling like a train, as if eager to enter, but reality is something I will explain in due course. We entered the waiting area, where we always check Blues weight.

51 kilos (112 pounds) the biggest he has ever weighed in at, far too much for a six year old German Shepherd, let alone one that has undergone spinal surgery as a pup.

So as we waited Blue was unsettled, nudging and barging into both Sue and I, as we waited our turn in the empty waiting room.

The door opened and we were summoned in by the vet, Sue first and then Blue literally dragging me through the door. With the vet keeping her distance, talking was difficult, Blue was very vocal and boisterous, this is not unusual for him, but there was a determination and menace in his actions. The vet began explaining that she would like to listen to his heart, but was concerned about his temperament and stress levels. Generally by now he settles down sufficiently to be manipulated into a corner or against a wall to allow the vet to do the deed as they say, but not today, Blue was having none of it.

At this point i took him out of the consultation room into the waiting room, where sat a gentleman and his elderly dog, it was then i knew Blue needed to be taken outside to calm him down.

As we strolled around the car park he did calm down, Sue looked out to see how he was, so I beckoned her out, to say this is not a good idea.

She came out, and told me that the vet was ok, but she had just been told by the fellow with the other dog, "it's bad owners, not bad dog's; it should have been nipped in the bud when he was a youngster" This had made my mind up, an anxious dog and now an angry owner, would not be suitably minded to return into the vets. I said to Sue, Blue would not be going back in, not today.

Blue was put into the car, and Sue had returned after informing the vet we would re-schedule Blue's booster appointment.

Sue also had told the man with his dog who had made the comment about bad owners, "He did not know Blue or us and should keep his opinion to himself".

That is what happened, why is more difficult to explain, when you don't know, but here goes.

Blue has had some hard times at vets over the years, and this seemed one visit that was ill fated before it began. We have always had to cajole, and man handle Blue upon each and every visit when he has needed treatment or assessments. Sue has over a period of time done the familiarisation, where Blue is almost treated like a celebrity visiting, popping in to say hello. Those work out fine.

Blue is a very strong willed German Shepherd, who loves to be top dog. Most of the time it has been dealt with, but just lately it has been creeping back in under the radar. Only little things, but when you look for reasons, you can find a fit somewhere.

The road to peace and tranquility;

Like a marathon, it will be one step at a time, looking to achieve three specific goals, which will lead to a more sociable Blue

  • Loose some of the weight, cutting out the already sparse treats
  • Avoid opportunities for Blue to assert dominance, namely by distraction
  • Improve his doggie and human social skills
Three steps easy to write, three steps needed to enable Blue to live a longer and happier life.

I know Sue is not a bad owner, I feel that I too am not a bad owner, but neither of us are ostriches, burying our heads in the sand.

Blue is a terrific dog, who has had a difficult start in life, and through no fault of his own missed out the key socialising skills that a pup goes through because of his spinal surgery at six months of age.

Today "team us" have taken that first step forward, Blue enjoyed playing ball in the park, on his long training lead, a good run, puffing a bit, but enjoying every minute.

Finally to the man in the vets, don't judge what you don't know, instead offer some supporting or constructive advice.

Timing, like training your dog is key.

Blue resting after a hectic day.

Monday, 11 August 2014

New "Ezydog" harness for Blue

Model dog ;-))
With our holiday to the Lake District approaching, it was time to seek out a new harness for Blue.

As Blue is not able to go off lead, both for his temperament and the safety of livestock, and some humans, previous harnesses have worked well, but his current one had a few issues. They were namely, both front feet had to be lifted into the harness and then buckled up. Some days this became a battle of wills or costly in treats, but once on, very effective. Previously it had shown signs of stress, and deformation, curling up. So time to part with a few pennies down at "Pets at Home" our local pet shop.

We settled for the "Ezydog" mainly due to the size of dog it could accommodate. Blue was in the shop with us when we brought it, along with his squeaky toy and treat. But it did not seem right to try it on in the store, and they don't have fitting rooms, so off we went home to try it on.

With the extra large fitting, it was a little snug on his chest, but by loosening up the neck it was a better fit. Adjustment is very easy with sliding plastic buckles, and fitting is a doddle, with the aid of a few treats. Two fittings were all that were required before the strap length was suitably adjusted.

Fitting could not be easier, necessitating in only needing Blue to raise one paw, and the rest did up around him.

The webbing felt softer, and with high visibility stitching would aid visibility, the breast plate sat nicely on him. Time for the true test, how would he tolerate it on a walk.

We took Blue to the local University, for a decent walk in the spacious grounds.

The harness looked comfy, and the fact that Blue was taking no notice of it, meant he was relaxed with it on. It has a metal ring suitable for attaching any lead clasp to, and both buckles make a good solid snap when pushed together.

As we walked along, the harness started to "roll" the "x" part of the lead was lying further down the shoulder on the side that the lead was being held. Alarmed at first, I just lifted it back to the centre of Blue's shoulder blades, but it soon became evident that this was happening due to the fact that, a long lead on a large dog, is going to be different to a short lead on a little dog. 

On closer inspection, the breast plate remained dead centre of his chest, the straps were allowed to move freely, but maintain position of comfort. 

Our walk was just under an hour, changing sides periodically the harness had a natural roll on either side. Design or not, my gut feeling is that it is designed to remain static. Could this be a problem for eccentric wear in the future, who knows, only time will tell.

Tightening up the buckles, may prevent "rolling" but may also impede on chest heave, when heavy breathing through excessive exercise is required.

After the walk, Blue showed no signs of distress or discomfort, no chaffing or redness on any part of his body, we vote it a success.

Cost was £22.00 so not budget range, nor top end. 

The colour black suites Blue as you can see in the various shots below.

Because Blue has his own Twitter page, @BluetheGSD he had to share with +Pets at Home 

As seen above his tweet was favourited and replied to;

With his harness off Blue was ready to play with the old "Jollyball" once more

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Something old, something borrowed, something new and something Blue!

Something old
Having a bit of a spring clean at home, and found Blue's old buster collar, before we threw it out we put it on him, a little bit of a squeeze but on it went, he looked so chuffed, it stirred up the memory of what it was used for, his rehabilitation fro his back surgery, when he was less than one year old.

Safe to say we have had a change of heart, and it is staying.

As you can see from comparison to a new one his has been modified.

We had already gone through a couple, the modifications were essential to allow Blue to enter and exit his crate safely, the duct tape was to reduce the splitting which occurred on a regular basis.

So for sentimental reasons, we will put away safely for memories another day.

Something borrowed

When I say borrowed it is more like found. While on our walk this morning, out of nowhere Blue walked straight up to a hedge and pulled this ball out. He has been known to do this on many occasions, so we rarely have to buy him replacement footballs to play with. I can only assume he finds them through scent, as often they are out of sight, he will rummage through the undergrowth or hedge and pop out proudly with a ball in his mouth.

Something new
After a bit of exchange on Twitter, it was decided to buy Blue a new Squeaky, this took the form of a duck. What made this a little more unusual, Blue actually went into the shop and help select it.
This morning Blue got his new toy and a whole new experience of shopping. We went into "Pets at Home" Rose Kiln Lane, Reading. To say Blue was excited is an understatement, the phrase like a kid in a sweet shop springs to mind, sniffing everything. However he was a bit like Bambi on ice, he struggled to get a grip on the slippery floor with his big furry paws, but after a few moments he soon learnt not too pull so hard. The staff were great, just allowed him to do as he pleased, and Blue was a model dog on his shopping expedition. No free samples on offer, but that did not seem to bother Blue. He will return no doubt, his favourite shop now.

While we were at Pets at Home, we purchased a new harness for Blue, which will be reviewed in his next Blog.

Finally something Blue

Blue standing majestically in his garden

Friday, 18 July 2014

A trip to the seaside

With our holiday not being for a couple of months yet we decided that with the recent decent weather, a trip to the seaside was what we all needed, actually the main reason being, that Blue would not have his swim session this week, due to Aquadoggies having their own break.

So with both of us taking a day off work, our destiny was Milford on Sea, taking along all that is necessary, others take less for a weeks holiday, but man and dog must have their gadgets, so I keep telling Sue.

In less than two hours we were parked up, looking out across the Solent to the famous landmark that is the Isle of Wight, The Needles.

Our walk would take us due West along the cliff top walk, which has shown a lot of signs of erosion, parts where the path is now on the beach below, there are no guard rails or fences, but Blue is on a lead, so we are all pretty safe. 

After about a mile there is an opportunity to climb / scramble down to the beach below, now for the fun to begin, time to get Blue in the sea, and swimming.

Well that was my plan, Blue had a different one, maybe test the water first.

Coaxing was needed, so into the water I went, so that Blue would follow

This was not working, so would the thought of treats help

Blue would overcome most things for a treat, not swimming but at least he is in the sea.

As soon as the treat was gone he returned to shore, time to try again.

As the waves were filling the pockets of my shorts, Blue decided it was not worth the risk so as the wave crashed against the pebbled shoreline, he was off, back to sit safely with Sue further up the beach.

This what being with Blue is all about, fun in the sun, a bit of a splash in the sea, but he knows what he likes and how to have fun his own way. He even found a ships buoy washed up on the beach, a bit too big to pick up, but he sure gave it a go.

Our play on the beach was followed by a walk back up on the cliffs, returning to the car 3 hours and 30 minutes later, we had enjoyed a good trip out. The part cloudy sky meant we were not in full sun, but long enough for Blue to need his "Cool coat" on.

Blue just loves to be with you and have fun, while I was in the sea he was torn, whether to come and see if I was OK, or would it be too much to get back in the water. As i didn't want to stress him i made the decision for him and got out, below are just a couple of more pics of Blue on the day out at Milford on Sea

and finally

Blue at the seaside

Happy Days!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Swingball and other fun Blue-style

From out of the shed the old "swing-ball" was taken, not sure it has seen the light of day in Blues days.

So with a sacrificial ball tied on with string the games commenced. See the clip below;

or follow this link; Blue and the swing-ball

With Sue filming and Blue taking centre stage, there were some very funny moments.

  • The tug of wars
  • Leaping up for the bubbles
  • 5.11 Getting a bit close for comfort
  • 5.51 Not heard, but a loud burp from Blue as I go to blow the bubbles.
Amazing with Blue's strength and weight, the flimsy bit of string survived it all. 

Since the clip was filmed I have changed the string  over to sash cord, as off camera later in the day in his keenness to catch the ball, the string wrapped around his upper and lower jaw. (Looked like the "Crocodile hunter" had caught up with him.

Strangely enough, throughout the whole of this playing, Blue did not bark once. Yet he has spent the rest of the entire weekend barking, at anything and everything that moves.

Apologies for the rigger boots, not exactly summer shoe wear, but they were the closest thing to the back door at the time.

As you can see, Blue does always want to be an al-rounder, but has not got the hang of the racket yet.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Summer is here

Well it has been a while coming, but it looks like summer has arrived, enough rain to keep all things in the garden growing and happy, this includes Blue.

Blue adores being out in the garden, just lolling about or playing with his football or bubbles.

His allergies have now all cleared up and are now a memory, an itchy painful memory. We never did find out the root cause, it could have been seasonal or something in his diet, but he sure was suffering for the first four months of this year, just like the last two of the previous year. It is hard to believe how long we all had to endure, his suffering. Wearing his buster collar for those long periods, saved some of the fur removal, but I can tell you we are pleased that that episode of Blue's life which was a painful one to endure, is now behind him.

Those of you in the UK would have recently seen the documentary "Bionic Vet" of "Fitzpatrick Referral's" a very talented veterinary practice located in Surrey. This was good to watch, as it was the founder Noel Fitzpatrick who assessed, diagnosed and carried out the surgical procedure on Blue when he went lame. December 2008 Blue was on the operating table having a "Spinal Laminectomy" a procedure to  remove sufficient bone from the spinal vertebra, as this was causing the disc to bulge and press on his spinal column.It was interesting to watch others go through their own challenges with their pets, but reminding us how far Blue has come from that day on the operating table.

On that note, Blue demonstrated that it is not a full recovery, as he sometimes has lapses, where exercise has been too much, one such incident was when, he decided to take interest in another German Shepherd in the local park. By surprise, he had caught my wife, Sue, as she was changing her grip on his lead. Chasing this other dog, he was in the zone as they say, off at full pelt. But not too long into the chase, Blue stopped and laid down, obviously too much for his weakened back. For a few days he would often lift the weight off his back right leg. Rommel the other dog was just relieved, to have got away. It was a reminder of the socialising Blue missed out on because of his operation. But Blue is built for distance and not speed, that same Blue would walk up to 8 miles in nearly nine hours in the Scottish Highlands back in May this year.

Blue is showing a few signs of ageing, the odd white whisker, the grey under the chin, but inside there is still that beating heart of the German Shepherd puppy, who came into this world six years ago.

I have read and seen many things about the bond that people have with their dogs, we had one with our Shep, who sadly passed away six years ago in May. There is something different about Blue, it is a bond like he is part of you, not just part of the family. We have sometimes spoke of differences and similarities of Blue and Shep, but never compared them, as they are so very different in their own way.

What was nice, I had recently tried drawing a sketch of Blue, in pencil. Though it was a sad looking Blue,  it inspired Sue to commission a drawing from a follower on twitter @helenyatesart
and what she achieved from the emailed pictures was incredibly talented.

Shep and Blue


So as Shep was leaving our home and lives, Blue was making his way to us to help fill the massive loss we felt that day in May 2008 when our dear Shep was sadly put to sleep. They both fill our hearts and are a large part of our life, as they will always be.

Finally my drawing of Blue

Think of a caption to suit this!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Just another weekend for Blue

Well it has been an active weekend for Blue.

It all started Friday tea time, we headed off to the local B&Q  

Because it was too warm to leave Blue in the car, I stayed with Blue in the car park while Sue went and got the plants.

Hastily she had returned with two bags of bark, which I loaded onto the trailer, while she returned to get some plants.  

This was an opportune time to get Blue out of the car, and wander around the parking area, though you can see what he enjoyed most.

Admirers were kept at bay, anyone approaching was barked a warning, but few people get too close to Blue, he has a selective audience.

He was well behaved and enjoyed his trip in the trailer, probably would have sat in there while we drove off, but that is never going to happen.

Friday evening, he played with his bubbles in the garden (See video clip below)

Saturday was spent lazing around, except for "Tweeting" with #TheAviators

But Sunday

Once up, he was walked for 30 minutes, home had breakfast, and expected him to rest, no chance.

A squirrel ran along the garden fence, and Blue went berserk, trampling and scattering anything in his way, all as he was barking his warning to the squirrel. This would not be so bad, but we are talking before 7.00am on a Sunday morning.

No sooner he was settled, then he heard a noise and went barking to the side gate.

Neighbours or wife not impressed, time to take control, but there was one last hurrah, when the neighbours dog barked, guess who joined in.

Eventually, we reached nine o'clock and began some gardening, along with Blues trusty assistance. 

Some of the moments are captured on this short movie, on YouTube.

Blue has had a break from swimming recently, due to an ear infection. The treatment prescribed by the vet has been successful, so Blue will be swimming on Wednesday.

If you want to follow Blue on twitter search for @BluetheGSD