Getting there

Brief update – her hips, it seems, need no intervention except conservative management for the time being.  Her digestion system is thriving on the raw diet and I think she is beginning to gain weight.  The barking at visitors is still happening but seems to be her way of conveying her nervousness and uncertainty rather than plain aggression.  So now we just reassure her, ask whoever she is directing the bark at to ignore her and keep their distance so she does not feel her space is invaded, and just wait.  Eventually she trusts and now seems quite happy that our semi permanent “lodger” Nigel is part of her family.  Patience definitely pays off.

The remaining challenge is persuading her to go out and have a last wee – she will not budge once it gets dark.  Short of dragging her at the end of her lead and making it an ordeal with no definite result except terror, I scratch my head about how to entice her or encourage her to wee.  Sometimes there is an accident during the night.  Only occasional.  Hmm.  All suggestions gratefully received.  We are getting through our weekly Guardian newspaper supplies.

The adorable Dora – guarding my slipper in case anyone else wants it.IMG_7383

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A few challenges for us and Dora

There’s been quite a lull in my blog about Dora, our beloved rescue dog.  This is mainly because a few things cropped up which have needed time to sort out.  Having settled in to our routine, however haphazard it is at times, we then had a few problems trying to get to the bottom (sorry for the unintended pun) of her upset tummy and consequent nocturnal accidents which started to happen quite frequently.  The dry food recommended by the vet in order to increase her weight was completely useless – and as I have since learned, was mainly carbohydrate of dubious origin, and served the purpose only to bulk out in her digestive system when she drank water.  Her poos were copious and mushy – not easy to extricate from our Cornish gravel garden or between the floorboards of our bamboo sitting room floor! Needless to say, she lost weight rather than gained.

The other challenge presented itself when our eldest grandson came to stay.  She really didn’t know what to make of him and barked whenever she saw him.  This completely threw me as she had seemed completely passive previously when I had had friends staying quite soon after she came over from Spain.  She also barked at grandson No.2 as if she found him a threat also.  She remained unmoved by toddler grandson, thank goodness, as he was far more likely to approach her than the other two who were quite scared.

Challenge No.3 was that at times she struggled to get up from lying down and limped quite badly on her back left leg.  This was not apparent when we first had her and started probably after about two months.  I thought we should watch and wait before jumping to any conclusions as to the cause (in my mind, she had hip dysphasia or cruciate ligament damage – my glass half empty mind racing ahead).  Perhaps she needed shorter walks, perhaps we were letting her leap about too much on the end of her long line on the sand dunes, perhaps, perhaps….  the scenario lent itself to me worrying about vet bills and long term prognosis.

Priority was given to challenge no.2 which was the behaviour around grandsons – so we managed to find an amazingly enlightening dog behaviorist (thanks to Nick Benger) at West Cornwall Dog Training who paid us a visit (primarily we had enlisted her help for our reactive little bugger of a Jack Russell, Dobby) and showed us how we should encourage visitors to give Dora space, not engage in eye contact or any interaction that would make her feel any more anxious and to slowly show her that strangers in the house meant extra dog treats and all things nice .  We also learned to recognize body language which showed when a dog was uncomfortable, nervous, afraid etc.  All things about which we had little knowledge previously but which would have been so helpful.  From Carolyn we also got information about someone who has spent a lot of time researching a raw food diet for dogs and who has been a fount of knowledge for us to tap into.  This dealt with Dora’s digestive problem almost from the word go – so both she and Dobby are now fed an entirely raw chicken/turkey diet which has made life so much easier.

The lameness continued so after a consultation at our local vet, they suggested hip x-rays and poor Dora had to be carted off for sedation and hip x-rays.  Apparently these showed that her hip sockets are not normal, with possible dysplasia and the films were to be sent for an orthopaedic opinion.  The vet also surmised that her intestinal walls looked thickened and jumped to the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease with suggestions of more blood tests etc etc.   I had to stem the flow of things he was wanting to do by saying that I was not surprised about her bowel as we had no idea what her nutrition had been like before we had her, that she had undergone a huge amount of stress over the last few months BUT for the last few weeks her new raw food diet had transformed her digestion and I felt that we should just monitor this and not do anything else.  The vet acknowledged that at her young age she should not be on a regular non steroidal anti inflammatory for her hips as this would conflict with any inflammatory bowel disease.  He recommended a supplement (interestingly only available via a vet) for her hips and agreed with me that Metacam should only be used as a last resort if she was really in discomfort from her lameness.  When I told him that we were giving her goats milk kefir for her bowel – he had never heard of kefir.  So I think we will need to temper the conventional and go with the nutritional, devils claw and all, until we know a bit more about what we are dealing with and whether she truly does have a degenerative hip problem.

The month of September will pose a bigger challenge for her in accepting strangers as we have visitors staying throughout the month, ranging from family to previous neighbours, to old friends and new.  All of them will need to gain her trust and we will need to ensure that there is no conflict.

It is still early days and because her character with us seems so gentle but also shy and apprehensive, it will take time for her to feel properly at home and unthreatened.  IMG_7151

Dora joins us for this 4+ mile walk along the Cornish coast – circular route between St Keverne, Porthoustock and Porthallow

We last did this walk way back in April, long before the holiday season, but even though it is now August, this part of the Lizard is only mildly busier and we met only one small group of dog walkers on our route.  Dora and Dobby were on best behaviour and I even managed to negotiate the steep, wet, slippery descent into Porthallow without Dora pulling me over although it was a close thing at times.  When we have our meeting with our saviour from West Cornwall Dog Training I will  add this to the list of guidance needed to safely walk the coast paths with her!

The pictures yet again tell the story. How lucky are we to walk with such views around us.

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The locals seemed strangely still

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Half a pound of butter with no ill effects

Dear Dora – she’s a true food detective and whilst I was hanging out the clothes this morning, carelessly having left the butter on the work surface (where I always leave it!), she managed to “retrieve” it and when I walked in, was licking out the container on the kitchen floor.  Must have slipped down really easily as it was all soft in the current temperatures.   Not used to a dog being so tall when on her hind legs – so now I need to rethink my work surface husbandry – I am amazed that the Star Wars birthday cake left on the hob, didnt end up the same way.

Two hours of walking on Porthkidney Sands and back along the coast path over the dunes was the usual scenario of Dora pulling me as if I was a dog cart (there were such things in my grandmother’s day – we have a photo of one) along the rabbit scented coast path.  On the beach, she just looks vaguely bored and wistful and ambles along at our side.  So tempted to let her off the lead but still an image of rescue dogs that have bolted stops me from taking the risk – until I have got the magic long line and have a semblance of control over her recall.  Oh and until I have had a FaceTime consultation with Nick Benger , after which I will be much the wiser – I hope.

Last but not least we need to check out her weight at the vets to see if we are half starving her or over feeding.  Difficult to know which when dealing with a dog who has obviously had to seriously forage for much of her life.  Also I have found a strange little pink warty thing between her “toes” on her front left leg.  Doesn’t look like something infected or containing a foreign body so hope it is just a wart.  She doesn’t seem bothered by it or by me trying to examine it.

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Butter? What butter?

Dora the Explorer loves her Cornish countryside walks

We hardly dare go near the understairs cupboard – Dora knows her harness and lead are hung on the door and goes into a frenzy when it’s time for a walk –  slipping and sliding around, jumping, falling over and absolutely DESPERATE to get out the door (although I am pleased to say she has understood about not barging ahead and makes a less frenzied exit than previously).  She leaps into the back of the car – where she and Dobby now share the space and leaps out again the other end – which is something I am working on controlling.  At great expense we have ordered a bespoke tail gate guard for safety and to allow the boot to be opened without dogs leaping out.  Dobby good naturedly puts up with her clumsy physical moves and Dora still does not read the most obvious Dobby body language, barging  her head under his leg when he is cocking it, seemingly oblivious to the fact he is weeing on her head, so sure is she that there must be a rabbit scent he’s hiding.

She is quite self sufficient in terms of being comfortable with her own company and chooses to take herself off to lie either in the garden or upstairs on the bed, rather than being wherever we are.  The cat beds are popular and she seems oblivious to the fact they belong to the two elderly felines.  In the evenings she does not join us in front of the telly – perhaps she considers this to be beneath her.  Anyway I assume her choice of being in her own space means she is relaxed; she appears instantly at the sound of any dog or cat bowl being touched and lies along the bottom of the kitchen cupboards when I am cooking but apart from that, she is happy with being stroked and chatted to on her terms and at times when she asks for it.  She’s no lap dog like the small Jack Russell who curls up on whichever lap is available.

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Occasionally we see glimpses of frightening things that have happened to her in the past – she jumps at loud noises, looks scared if we move too quickly and shrinks away from sudden arm raising or similar.  I hope that with time and reassurance, she will gain in confidence and forget bad things.  She sometimes stares at passers by as though she might recognise someone or possibly be looking for a familiar face – I do hope she is not still trying to find whoever abandoned her.

Today we walked on Tregonning Hill – with amazing panoramic views from St Ives Bay to the North West across to Mounts Bay and St Michael’s Mount to the South West, right along the coast as far as the Lizard.  Dora is strong and pulls like a train on these occasions so I am a little nervous when it is downhill, in case she pulls me over.  I have little success in preventing her pulling but can occasionally gain her attention by presenting her with a tasty bit of home made liver cake.  Distraction is only for an instant, then she is off again with this 68 year old crone leaping after her hoping upon hope that I dont fall over or there is no angry adder lurking on the bracken covered  paths.  Just to keep us on our toes on these countryside walks, this part of Cornwall has some particularly tricky stiles to negotiate, namely vertical banks with a few random granite stepping stones up one side and down the other or the famous coffin stiles with granite boulders laid horizontally across a ditch with a crevasse between each one!  Leaping along at the speed of light with Dora pulling me ever faster, I have to hope that my judgement of where to put my feet is good enough not to disappear down said crevasse, skinning my shins and probably breaking an ankle or, worse still, a leg.  Fractured neck of femur is a popular injury of the aged.  Please take care of me, Dora!

When grandson Leo was little, he had an imaginary friend called “Dor Dor” – Dora now answers to that as well – it seemed a logical addition to just “Dora”.

 

Poldark inspired circular walk from Cape Cornwall

Adorable Dora, the rescue dog, has kindly granted me permission to do one blog about a walk which she did not do!

Cape Cornwall is pretty impressive in itself so starting our walk from the National Trust car park overlooking the promontory of the Cape gave a wonderful photo opportunity, but I suggested we had wasted enough time (drinking coffee in the Old Chapel in Zennor) and should explore the actual cape and take photos on our return.  I was not to know that the rain would have set in and visibility impaired by the end of the walk!

Seeing the engine houses of the Levant and Botallack mines was interesting because they look very stark and bare compared to their representation in Poldark, where elaborate sets have been built around them.  We looked in vain for the dark haired hero galloping over the headland.  There was neither sight nor sound to indicate this was hallowed ground where he had trod.

Every coastal walk in West Cornwall stimulates comment about the views and this is one of the best.  We ate our picnic overlooking the sea by Levant mine and marvelled at the range of wild herbs and flowers.

Try this walk – it is a comparatively easy one and takes in a good variety of scenery and paths.

Three and a half weeks – things we have learned together

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front, mainly because friends from Chichester have been visiting and the intensity of the female interaction (mainly nattering) has put dog observation down the list.  But they are now long gone and focus is back on our Dora.

She continues to delight and has also shown some interesting foibles.  When my guests first arrived and were being shown to their rooms etc, I suddenly discovered that after weeks of showing no inclination whatsoever to explore upstairs, there she was upstairs with the rest of them and making a beeline for a guest bed and then our bed.  Since then, if it’s not suitable weather for her outside places, then she likes to take herself off to our bed – on the pillows where Dobson usually sleeps at night.

Another foible is that generally she prefers her own company for a snooze and has not attempted to come and sit with us on the sofa in the evenings.  She can be found in diverse places: the raised vegetable bed (putting paid to any expectations of mine that we might have beetroot to harvest later in the summer), across the stones at the back gate, on my recliner chair on the patio, or on the cats’ bean bag.  She seems to like variation.  At night she retreats into her crate, preferring this to the sofas (good girl, Dora).  Both dogs are extremely interested in any food preparation in the kitchen; Dora on hind legs often investigating what lies on the work surface.  Have to watch that.  Her manners around her food time/bowl, however, are impeccable but she’s a greedy girl and will go to search out Dobby’s if she’s wolfed hers down first.  However, touch wood, there has been no food guarding and both dogs accept treats together without a problem, yet….

The excitement that is created by unhooking her harness and lead from the understairs door knows no bounds: she slithers around on the bamboo floor, bounces into things, rushes to the front door and then starts the whole process again until eventually we get outside for the walk.

Her outdoor behaviour is generally good but in true “gun dog” fashion, she weaves from side to side finding scents and this is in need of modifying if I or Jon are not to trip over.  If there are no rabbits around or we are somewhere without scents, she lollops along beside us with little interest in what’s around her.  On the beach this evening, I could almost hear her saying to me  “this is a bit bland, and no, I am not over keen on the waves or swimming.  Look over there at the dunes, there are millions of rabbit smells I could find up there”.    She meekly greets every dog that shows interest, only having given a warning growl to one persistent bottom sniffer.  She tries to greet Dobby but he’s a bit wary and doesnt want to show his feelings yet, it seems.

What I now need to do is start in earnest on recall training – with a long line.  Once she has the scent of a rabbit, she is completely disinterested in any titbit (even liver) and when she decides to run, she is strong and difficult to pull back.  My anxiety is going down steps or downhill if she is in this mode as I do not want to be pulled over.  Think I need some words of wisdom from Nick Benger here or I need to find someone who will spend an hour or two on reassuring/training.

Three and a half weeks of  loveable, clumsy, quirky, nervous, funny, adorable Dora.

Gracias to the bastard who didn’t love her enough to take care of her in Spain.  Your loss is our gain.

And as ever, huge admiration and thanks to Colleen and Julie (Paradise Kennels and El Arca Animal Sanctuary) for their amazing work to ensure dogs like Dora end up in forever homes.