The Best Dog

One of my favourite sayings about dogs is,

Everyone thinks they have the best dog.

And none of them are wrong.

W.R Purche 

Dembe since coming home with us on 11th January 2019 has proven time and time again that he is not just the best dog but an exceptional dog. Highly intelligent and intuitive especially when it comes to matters of my health. It started when he was very tiny. He would some how know that I had a migraine and would lie quietly beside me with his face pressing against the side of my face that was hurting due to the migraine. He wouldn’t leave my side unless dragged away. I just put it down to him being impossibly cute but there are so many instances over the last 12 months that have made me realise that his behaviour isn’t just a fluke but something very real.

Around 3 weeks after we brought Dembe home I came down with a chest and sinus infection. I was floored by it, it was probably the closest I have come to feeling like I had the flu without having it in a few years. Dembe would have been around 10-11 weeks old and full of beans. Due to the fact we were still toilet training him I couldn’t go to bed, I simply didn’t have the energy to be going up and down the stairs every 30 minutes ( I couldn’t have done that on a normal day let alone this). So I would lie on the sofa counting down the hours until Jay would be back home so that I could crawl into bed.

A pup of this age is normally a live wire, yes they sleep quite a bit but when they are awake they are into everything. Normally Dembe would have been, however he seemed to know that I was poorly. Instead of running around playing with his toys, for 4 days straight he would lie on my feet or chest up on the sofa and sleep, as I slept. At the time I thought it was odd that such a young pup would alter his behaviour so radically. As soon as I started to be on the mend the crazy pup came back and yes sometimes it was a little too much for me as I was still feeling pretty rough but to contain all that energy for 4 days whilst I waited for the antibiotics to kick in was pretty weird.

 At the time I just put it down to a fluke, that I was projecting and seeing what I wanted to see after losing my beloved nurse Frankie. 

There have been a couple more instances over the year, where it was clear that Dembe was picking up on health stuff to deal with me. We have had a couple of dog training sessions where Dembe has wanted to just get back to me where normally he will quite happily ignore me. One night I was sat quietly on the sidelines when I suddenly lost the vision in my right eye, I knew I had a migraine brewing but as there was only 30 minutes left in the lesson I didn’t see the point in making a fuss. In the end I did have to speak up though as Jay and the trainer couldn’t understand why Dembe wasn’t focusing on the lesson like he normally would and all he kept doing was looking back at me or attempting to get back to me.

We had the same thing happen a few weeks ago during an agility training session. Out of nowhere earlier that morning I had been hit by vertigo. I had taken my medicatiom to attempt to stop it in its tracks but my head was still spinning. I was having to be careful how quickly I turned my head. Dembe again was really unsettled, every time he was off the leash he was back at my side. One of the fellow spectators commented on it and I just said “It is because he knows I am not feeling well, he gets very protective of me if he senses something isn’t right.” I then went onto explain something that had happened just a week or so earlier.

To the uniformed observer this way look like a cute photo of me and Dembe having a cuddle. Although it was cute and comforting it couldn’t have been any further from the truth. I had been feeling not quite right all day. Jay had just gone back to work after coming home for lunch when I had the strongest feeling that I was going to pass out ( even though I was sat down, you see I can pass out in any position it is my super power). Initially I tried to fight it by clenching my buttocks and calf muscles in the hope that this would get the blood circulating. However when I started yawning ( this is a key indicator that my blood pressure is dropping rapidly) I knew I was going to have to get myself to the floor as quickly as possible and then get my legs raised. Dembe was asleep beside me on the sofa.

I quickly got myself down on the floor and got my feet up on the coffee table. I expected Dembe to sleep through this. Instead he got up and then curled up beside my head resting his face against my face. Normally when I lie on the floor this signifies play time. I was fully expecting to be licked, trampled on and toys dropped on me as he would think this would be part of the game. However he didn’t move he just snuggled beside me, I took the photos after I had been down on the floor for ten minutes as I couldn’t believe that he was doing this. I tried to get up but he wouldn’t let me, he had me pinned to the floor for a good 30 minutes. If his face wasn’t against my face he was lying on my arm making it almost impossible for me to move.

What I find incredible is this is not something I have ever taught him to do, this is something he has done on his own. He was also just 14 months old when he did this, he is now 15 months old.

I still find it hard to believe that he is so in tune with me that for whatever reason he knew that I was very unwell at that time and needed him to look after me. Feeling that ill, whilst alone is scary. Thankfully I had my mobile phone on me as the top I was wearing has  what I call a kangaroo pouch pocket. I always try to wear clothes with pockets so that I always have my phone. I managed to get in touch with Mr Myasthenia Kid and explain what had happened I got really tearful when I explained what a wonder Dembe had been. He asked if I wanted him to come home but I said until I knew if I could sit up or not unaided there wasn’t any point. Around 30 minutes after I first hit the deck I was able to sit up, resting my back against the dresser. Another ten minutes later and I made my way up to bed and spent a few hours lying down . Again Dembe behaved beautifully, he just came up to bed with me and slept beside me.

Which if you had ever met Dembe you would know what a normal active, annoying pup he can be. Who regularly crawls onto my lap and knocks the chromebook from my hands because it has been at least 15 seconds since I gave him a cuddle. Who throws his crocodile toy, well any toy of his choosing that day around the lounge and to hell with the consequences. So to adapt his behaviour on his own accord is really quite amazing to me.

This is what I am battling against at the moment trying to write the blog post

 He is not a quiet pup, he isn’t massively high energy but if he wants your attention he has ways and means of ensuring he gets it. Who could resist that face peering around the computer screen.

I thank my lucky stars everyday that we were lucky enough to have Dembe choose us to be his human parents.

I do feel like I need to point out that just because of Dembe’s unique ability doesn’t mean I love our previous dogs Travis, Mollie, Willow and Frankie any differently. Life will always be marked in sections before the Weims, after the Weims. Life goes on but it goes on around a huge Weimaraner shaped hole. And it always will. Dembe is not a replacement but our boy and the beginning of a new chapter. He is currently our best dog, same as Frankie, Travis, Mollie and Willow were when they were with us.

Raynaulds Phenomenon / Syndrome / Disease

My memory is shocking, particularly over the last year so I can’t remember if I have written about this before or not. Last night when we got home from dog training ( sat in an open Barn with temperatures just above freezing ) I took off my gloves to find my hands looking like this.

The photo was taken at least 10 minutes after we got home, as I suddenly thought whilst taking my make up off, “I really ought to take a photo of this because this isn’t normal”. When I first took my gloves off my fingers looked like they had been scalded they were so red. What shook me was the straight line just beneath the knuckles on my hand ( which had gone by the time the photo was taken) but you can sort of see the remnants of on my left hand. It looked so strange that I couldn’t help but keep examining them. It was only as I finished removing my make up that I realised that a photo could finally prove what I have been telling doctors for years, that I have Raynauld’s Phenomenon / Syndrome / Disease. For years I have had this condition mildly but last year it  ramped up a gear, weirdly being at its worst during the months of July and August – the height of summer.

My hands took an age to warm up, well the whole of me did. My legs were frozen despite wearing tights under my jeans, a long coat, knee high Dublin River Boots and multiple layers on my top half. I also sit with a blanket over my legs to ensure I stay warm. So its not like I don’t dress for the weather. I have even been known to secret a hot water bottle on my person during the lessons.  I hadn’t been uncomfortably cold until the last 10 minutes of the lesson. I had been crocheting all the way through but had to give up as my hands had really started to hurt and become difficult to manoeuvre. It took a good 3 hours in bed with my electric blanket on it’s highest setting to warm my legs back to normal. I have been the same after being exposed to changes in temperature ( it doesn’t even need to be cold weather) for as long as I can remember. When we had a bath ( we removed it as I wasn’t safe climbing in and out) I would get in it after walking the dogs ( when I was well enough to) as even when I had been walking, well wrapped up for an hour, my legs would go white and become like blocks of ice. 

My legs have always been the most painful when exposed to drops in temperatures. They take hours to warm and it is very painful. When I say drops in temperatures, I mean even the slightest things like a cool breeze on a summers day, the sun hiding behind the clouds for a few minutes, being caught in a blast of cold air from the air conditioning. These are all enough to set me off. It has come to the point now that when travelling in the car no matter how short the journey, I have a blanket over my legs. It is the only way I can limit or stop the pain the drop in temperature will cause. It also stops the rows with my husband when on a sweltering summers day I am begging for the air conditioning to be turned off in the car as the draft it is creating has set my legs off.

I have spoken to my doctors about this for again, as long as I can remember. I am greeted with blank stares. They can’t explain it or they just decide it is just another one of my myriad of weird symptoms that are possibly all in my head. You know with me being female, I am obviously bored and just crave attention from the medical profession. I love being poked and prodded wasting my days in hospital. Honestly who enjoys that shit ? So as usual when I am greeted with blank stares or the refusal to acknowledge the symptoms I just leave it because life is hard enough when you have the diagnosis of PoTs and EDS. For many doctors that just translates to hysterical female patient. They don’t believe it until they see my heart go nuts on a monitor with the slightest of postural changes or after they have seen my bendy body tricks. Some of them can’t understand how someone can be in pain all day everyday, with no break. Well I am here to tell you it’s possible, only because I know no different. I can’t understand how people can not be in pain everyday or wake up feeling like they have slept. I just can’t remember the last time I felt like I had slept.

For years my hands have been going pale and my nail beds would go blue. I have even had it where one hand is a normal colour and the other is paler with dark blue nail beds. I have even shown doctors this and been told I just have poor circulation. Which yes I agree with due to PoTs I do have poor circulation. But they mean peripheral circulation not whole limbs, like legs.

This last summer I started noticing the tip of my nose kept going white. It was so white you could see it through foundation. It looks like I have drawn a white heart onto the end of my nose. Then when the whiteness goes my nose goes a deep red and starts to sting as the circulation comes back. Now it is quite difficult to capture photos of the tip of your nose going white so you will have to bear with me, with these. However it is more obvious in the last photo with how white it has been when my nose flushes red.

The 2nd and 3rd photos were taken 5 minutes apart. The first photo was taken the day I had first noticed how white the tip of my nose was. I also had a bad hormonal breakout when these photos were taken! thankfully since changing up my skin care regime and taking some supplements my skin is much clearer although I still get the odd breakout – menopause related.

My ear lobes are also prone to becoming ice like and white – but its almost impossible for me to get a photo of my earlobes and it doesn’t always happen when hubby is in the house or that I can be arsed with getting a photo. I mean it’s not as if I haven’t got any other health stuff going on.

With this possible Raynaulds ( I say possible because I am not going to self diagnose although I believe that’s what it is ) it is the pain it causes that is the most difficult thing to deal with. It’s what I call a down to your bones pain, no pain relief will help it just never has tackled that pain be it morphine or paracetamol. The only way to get on top of the pain is to apply heat. Which means if you are out and about and have no access to hot water bottles or an electric blanket the gnawing, throbbing deep in your tissue pain it will just get worse. Which means by the time you can apply heat it will be hours before the pain is under control. Get  exposed cold again, even just a little bit within the next 24 hours and expect it to all flare up again as bad as it was initially. That is the situation I am currently dealing with. On top of being tired from last night which then impacts my ability to maintain my body temperature. So I am now wrapped up indoors like any normal person would be for venturing outside the house. Very shortly I will be getting out my heated throw so I can cover my legs with that as they are resembling blocks of ice. 

It is just yet another thing that is escalating on top of all the others. 

For more information on Raynaulds Disease

https://www.sruk.co.uk/raynauds/what-raynauds/

Reflections

The start of a new year always makes me a little reflective. I always think that now I am in my forties I should have my shit together. When I was a teenager people in their forties all seemed to know what they were doing, were confident and self assured. Now I am in my forties I realise like everyone else my age that those forty year old’s I admired were just winging it. No one has got their shit together and we all are just making it up as we go along. All that those 40 year old’s had that I didn’t as a teenager was life experience. I don’t think there will ever be a eureka moment in my life where I feel like I have figured everything out. I think I will forever be winging it and pretending that I know what the hell I am doing.

As you get older I do think you appreciate the simpler things in life. You put home, happiness and friendships above the material things. You also start to refuse to put up with so much crap or maybe it is you finally get the courage to start putting yourself first for a change. At the end of last year I made some quite sweeping changes. I reassessed some relationships, I binned some, I reinvigorated others. I pushed myself to make an effort with those I didn’t want to lose. It is funny during the hard times you really notice who runs towards you and who runs away. And there is the third group of people those that in public or on a public forum make all the right noises but do nothing practically to help.I have noticed this a lot over the last 4 years.

 Those of you who follow the blog or know me personally know that basically over the last 4 years Mr Myasthenia Kid and I have been to hell and back. Briefly ( which is a laugh as even briefly so much has happened each event is a blog post in itself) in 2016 I developed a CSF leak which left me confined to my bed for much of the year and if not in bed lying down. It made socialising very hard, several of my friends were wonderful but one in particular would make all the right noises you know the “just let me know if you need anything” and when you did ask you were met with radio silence or a long list of excuses as to why they couldn’t help. I will never ever be able to repay Imogen for how she helped us during that year, looking after the dogs at the drop of a hat for 8 hours whilst I got treatment at a hospital an hour away. Same for my parents who when Imogen couldn’t help would come up and drive me back down to the hospital a journey of over 100 miles. 

In 2017 we lost our dear friend of over 20 years, Andrew, in a car accident, his passing made me realise I needed to make more of an effort to stay in contact with my friends as none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow let alone a next week. In this year I also lost a family friend of many years who I would have regular conversations with via Facebook Messenger and telephone calls, although we never met in person. Later that year I was to learn my Grandmother and my dear friend Pam ( my neighbour twice and the person I saw most other than my husband) had both been diagnosed with lung cancer, Willow our 11 year old Weimaraner passed away on December 15th and it broke my heart. Due to the events of the following January I don’t think we ever mourned her passing properly. Both Imogen and Heather rushed to my side that day. Another friend offered but I realised at that point that I didn’t want her there at the time I was surprised by my feelings but let it pass thinking it was grief.

In January 2018 we lost both my Grandmother and Pam, despite knowing that both their diagnosis had been terminal we had lived in a bubble that it wasn’t going to happen. I had many conversations with Pam, she moved between despair and complete denial. It was emotionally hard going for me, which probably sounds quite selfish and self absorbed but I challenge anyone to listen to your friend of over 20 years talk about the fact they are dying and walk away untouched. Pam passed away the same week Andrew had a year earlier, which I have always found quite bizarre, especially since Pam had accompanied Jay and I to Andrews funeral less than a year earlier.

 We had no idea then at the ticking time bomb that was contained within Pam’s body. Looking back now there were subtle signs that something wasn’t right, she had looked really tired all the time etc a whole heap of little symptoms that added together were something deadly. Even if we had known then I doubt much could have been done but it makes me angry that mistakes were made in her care and the people that made those mistakes have got away with it. 

When Pam passed away both H and Immie rushed to be by my side again. The other friend basically told me she was coming, despite me saying that she wasn’t needed. It was uncomfortable, for everyone as it was like there was a cuckoo in the nest.  I didn’t know why I didn’t want her there, I just knew that if I was hurting she was the last person I wanted present. I should have listened more to what I was feeling and realised that those feelings were a huge red flag. But instead I blamed myself, telling myself I was cruel and unreasonable to be feeling like that. 

Reflecting back on the situation the lesson I take away from this is don’t ignore those feelings / intuitions / gut instincts. If I hadn’t of ignored them I would have saved myself another 18 months of being treated like shit and only being visited when she thought other people may see her doing it. It was very much a keeping up appearances situation.

There are still a lot of emotions to process from the January of  that year. I haven’t stopped crying since starting to write this and the grief has come out of nowhere as I certainly wasn’t feeling sad before I started writing today.

In the July of 2018 my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a very rare type at the same time I had stuff going on in my life that was extremely stressful. I was already suffering from terrible anxiety and depression after losing by now 5 people from my life and one dog ( in the February I lost a school friend who I had known from the age of 11 and we used to have regular chats on social media, just last night I thought I must ask Jon what planet I can see in the nights sky currently, as Jon had bought himself a telescope not long before he passed – totally unexpectedly and I had to remind myself that he isn’t here). I struggled to get up and out of bed as the stress was doing a real number on my chronic health conditions. I was passing out frequently and had issues with ptosis. The heat of the summer didn’t help either.

My mum then had major surgery in the August, in the September we had good news that although what had been removed was cancer, it was tiny, the size of a pin head and very unlikely to return. She is currently in remission, no one is cancer free until they have been 5 years clear. She has regular checks at the hospital and will do for another 3 years.

I finally thought that we may get some peace, after all what the hell could happen to us next? Surely the universe was done toying with us now? But no, 2018 was going to end badly and 2019 wasn’t going to start any better. On 29th December 2018 we lost our beloved boy Frankie aged 12 ( a Weimaraner) and his Mum Mollie (Weimaraner) followed him over Rainbow Bridge exactly a week later on January 5th 2019 aged 14. Both had incredibly long lives for the size of dog they were but at the time it felt like my world had imploded. I had spent every day with my dogs since 1st June 2008 ( except for hospital stays ) They were a huge part of my life and most of the time the only company I had except Jay.  I didn’t know that I could be in such emotional and physical pain and yet still wake up day after day. I thought Mr Myasthenia Kid was going to drop dead from a broken heart he looked so fragile and  broken. Even with Dembe our Labrador puppy coming into our lives on January 11th 2019, we were struggling.

This was where I noticed this friends  persons absence even more, no messages checking on how I was doing. No card, no flowers, no visit. Yet again H and Immie were there by my side, along with Paul, Pam’s partner. I will be forever touched by Paul coming over on the Sunday after Frankie passed and then coming over again the following weekend when Mollie passed. He sat and shed tears with us and told us not to worry that Pam would be looking after them until we all met up again.

 I had cards and flowers from friends and cyber friends and yet no call to check how we were, beyond the initial messages of me telling you what had happened. That is when the penny finally dropped, that when I needed you, you disappeared as you had done so many times before, unless there was an opportunity for you to be seen as a “good” person. There were so many people I only knew on Facebook who came to visit to check that we were ok or who messaged me out of the blue. I have never felt love like it, so many people hugging us, looking out for us, physically being present. 

When Dembe arrived oh my goodness, so many visits. I have never known a puppy get so many toys and presents. I had baby gates offered within minutes of me asking on Facebook if I could borrow some, the same with crates etc. Nothing was too much trouble for people. It was overwhelming and it was something I have never experienced before and I am so touched by all those people. However it made this persons lack of action / concern even more painfully obvious. That hurt, even with all the pain I was in already the fact that we could all be so easily forgotten was another huge red flag.

Initially I made excuses,  maybe I hadn’t said I was struggling? Maybe you didn’t realise I was grieving? Maybe you didn’t understand the depth of my grief? But even to the village idiot it would have been glaringly obvious. Contact over the year became less and less. It felt more and more like it was one way traffic which indeed it was. I was lucky when I messaged you if I got more than a couple of sentences out of you. Again I made excuses, you were busy with your new life now. You certainly made me feel like I was interrupting you living your best life. When it got to 4 months since I had last spent any time with you and even longer since we had spent any time alone, the decision was made. I had waited a month at that point for a message to be answered. I snapped. I was faced with the prospect of you turning up on my birthday and I knew I couldn’t pretend for 5 minutes let alone several hours that everything was ok and that I was grateful for the few crumbs of attention you had thrown my way.

You would have never put up with being treated like that by anyone, yet I was just supposed to accept this? The last 2 years had passed in a haze of grief but I was starting to feel stronger. I knew that your behaviour  was now emotionally damaging to me. I couldn’t move forward if I was going to continually wound myself, wondering what I had done wrong, why I wasn’t good enough or why you felt you could take advantage of my good nature. So I ripped the band aid off and called time, reasonably amicably. I had been hesitant about hurting you when it was clear from your actions you had no concern about hurting me.

I suppose I am reflecting on all this as that is what the new year does. December and January are full of anniversaries of people and pets passing they are hard months. It’s only now on 22nd January that I feel like the weight has been lifted . That I realise that the last few years I have been operating / functioning with a low level depression going on in the background. That the anxiety has lessened enough for me to see things clearly.

 You had changed or maybe the real you had come to the surface? Perhaps I chose not to see the real you or the nasty comments you made on a regularly basis. I put those down to you being verbally clumsy despite the fact you claim to be a writer. I realised I had put up with far more than I had ever credited myself with. I was right to call time and that belief is unshakeable now. I’m not the only one that has noticed that you have changed, grown colder and more bitter than you have ever been. I feel sorry for you as your world is shrinking and you are so full of yourself you can’t see it. One day you will come crashing down to earth with a bump and you will be all alone. Maybe you want it that way, so you can perpetually be the victim?

I reflect back and realise I should have found the strength earlier. That I should have seen the pattern that I could never depend on you. That you liked to take and use, yet giving absolutely nothing in return.  You may think you have everybody fooled but truthfully more and more of us are seeing through you. I hope you find some peace because only someone who is utterly miserable with their own life finds joy in hurting others.

DRI’s

Having a puppy is fun, they are cute, adorable and bundles of energy. They also have the capacity to be incredibly clumsy. I am constantly covered in bruises from what we refer to as DRI’s – Dembe related injuries. Currently I am sporting a bruise on my chin that goes onto my neck, that one is from where he smacked his head into my chin climbing onto my lap during a break at agility training on Sunday. It was only yesterday ( Tuesday ) that I noticed the bruise…. just goes to show you how much attention I paid to myself from Monday through to Tuesday at 6pm. My chin was sore but not sore enough for me to bother looking. It actually just looks like I have smeared dark eye shadow across my face. I just wish it felt like that. As you can see it has made a bit of a mess. Thankfully with my head in a normal position its not really visible.

I have really noticed that I am bruising much more easily since stopping my contraceptive pill back in December. I sported a similar bruise in the same location that turned a lovely shade of yellow in the week leading up to Christmas. That again was a DRI, caused by him running through the tunnel at agility training and barrelling into me with excitement. I hate the fact I mark so easily. The way I injure myself by doing the simplest things is just so frustrating. Just Dembe climbing onto my lap is enough for me to come out in bruises up and down my thighs.

Some of it has been caused by puppy exuberance, which is to be expected. Back in December 2006 Willow ( Weimaraner ) managed to slash my eyelid open ( completely so you could see the yellow fat beneath the skin ) . All she did was bat me with her paw as we were playing. Her nails were razor sharp and that was enough to tear the delicate skin of my eyelid. As I couldn’t get the wound on my eyelid to close, weirdly there was very little blood, I ended up having to get Jay out of work to take me to the minor injuries unit so I could have my eyelid steri stripped together ( paper stitches ) . I had to wear those for a week, thankfully the wound closed beautifully and bizarrely for someone with EDS there is no scar. Normally I heal really badly and get strange looking scars, thankfully with this it didn’t happen.

I forgot to mention as I was putting my shoes on last night Dembe managed to poke me in the eye with his nose. I am still trying to work out how the hell it happened and it bloody hurt having your eye ball prodded by a 30 kilo Labrador. I was minding my own business when he came up and did it. So it isn’t down to me being clumsy that these injuries are occurring. Sometimes the injuries are my own fault as I have been playing with him and have got him too excited so he then moves around without thinking. Bless him as soon as I yelped last night and put my hand to my eye, he rushed up onto the sofa and was trying to kiss me to ensure I was ok and he wasn’t in trouble. It is very hard to ever be cross with him when he is just so bloody cute.

I have to be really careful when Dembe is excited as he is like a very exuberant toddler chucking himself around. He is so funny as his whole body wags along with his tail when he is very pleased with himself. His ears go flat to his head and he likes to parade around with whatever toy it is he has in his mouth. He loves to clamber up on to my lap no matter where we are. He has always done this at home but on Sunday for the first time he did it at Dog Agility training – which is where I have got my bruise from and in a break last night during obedience training he decided that he needed a cuddle from his mum and made himself comfortable on my lap, much to the amusement of everyone else in the room. The fact that he is 14 months old this week and no longer a tiny pup seems to have passed him by. As the dog trainer said last night “mum why has your lap shrunk?”

By far the worst DRI I have received to date was my eye injury in April, April Fools day to be precise but this was no laughing matter. Again it was a total fluke kind of accident and about 80% my fault as I had been playing with Dembe and messing about, bringing him up to fever pitch. How this didn’t end up more serious than just a flesh wound I have no idea. I only managed to close my eye at the very last moment.

I shudder to think the damage that could have been done had my eye been open and he had dragged his claw against my eyeball. This one hurt a lot and I screamed, poor Dembe freaked right out and ran upstairs into my bedroom and hid. Despite the fact my wound was bleeding and it was just sooooo painful, I slowly made my way upstairs to console Dembe and ensure that he was ok and he knew that everything was alright. The thought that my scream had upset him was far worse than the DRI I had endured. Of course as soon as he knew it was all ok he showered me in kisses. He hates to think that he has done anything to displease you or hurt you. In that respect he is very self aware. Its just a shame he is such a bloody clutz….like me!

Just quickly as I bring this blog post to an end my trapped nerve in my neck has come back and it is worse than ever. I see the physiotherapist next week. I haven’t seen her for far too long. You’d have thought with all the sewing I was doing in the run up to Christmas it would have flared up then but there was absolutely nothing. I got out of bed one morning last week, turned my head and bang it was back. It is the first time it has come on like that. So I have spent quite a lot of time in my soft collar trying to help lengthen my neck and un-trap the nerve. 

Happy New Year 2020

Welcome to the first post of 2020, doesn’t it just sound so weird 2020? I keep expecting someone to add in the word vision. This year will mark our 20th wedding  anniversary, it will also be 23 years that we have been together as a couple. How on earth did I get so old to be celebrating 20 years with someone. At 46 it now means that I have spent half my life with Jay and scarier still that 50 is looming ever closer! 

A New Year can make you sit and take stock, it brings about all the New Year New Me bullshit but for those of us facing some bereavement anniversaries the only thing we ever want to do is just get January over with. The first anniversary of Frankie and Mollie’s passing was far harder than I could have ever imagined. I spent both days in floods of tears pretending I was ok to Mr Myasthenia Kid so he didn’t worry about me whist attempting to deal with his own grief. The day after Mollies anniversary it was the 2nd anniversary of my Gran passing and this year it hit me harder than the first. 

There have been so many times over the last 12 months I have gone to ring her and got as far as picking up the phone only to suddenly realise she is no longer with us. I still haven’t deleted her number from our phones, it is the same with Andrews. Towards the end of this month marks three years since Andrew passed away and his number is still the first on both mine and Jays phone, along with the home phone. In the same week it is the second anniversary of losing Pam, one of my oldest friends I made in Exmouth and my next door neighbour twice. It would have been her birthday the week before. So as you can see January is an exceptionally shitty month for Jay and I. A month where we grit our teeth and try to just get through it.

Thankfully this year we have signed ourselves up for training courses for Dembe, so last night we had our first session of the advanced class. Dembe did really well and we got a bit of one to one time at the end with the trainer Martin as we are trying to get Dembe to walk, next to the mobility scooter with me holding the lead. I find this nerve wracking as I am always terrified that he will get too close and I will run him over. This bit of training is as much for me as it is Dembe. We do love going to training and Dembe enjoys it too. On Sunday we will be going to Agility Training for Non Beginners, this is a fun course which leads on from the agility course he did last year. He enjoyed it so much particularly the tunnels we decided we would do the next one on. It also gets us out of the house on Sunday and Dembe just loves going and doing something different. Our whole lives revolve around him, making him happy and providing a stimulating environment for him.

Thankfully we had a lovely Christmas despite knowing what the end of December and the whole of January would hold for us, with all those anniversaries. We received a truly wonderful gift from two of our friends, I burst into tears when I saw it ( I am blaming the menopause for ability to cry at the drop of a hat at the moment). It now has pride of place in our lounge and we have since added some more photos to the wall around it.

We were both so very touched by the thoughtfulness behind this gift. It contains a photo of ( going left to right) Willow, Mollie, Travis. Frankie and then Dembe at the bottom as a tiny pup. I can’t believe that this Saturday will mark the end of his first year with us, what is known as amongst dog people as his Gotcha Day. We will be celebrating his Happy Gotcha Day and we thank our lucky stars that we have such a wonderfully affectionate dog as Dembe.

Dembe was thoroughly spoilt by our friends this Christmas, it was crazy the amount of gifts he got and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who got him something. We certainly didn’t expect it.

Not in the photos, his Uncle Paul also got him a new food bowl, Sam gave him a tin of sardines which he had for breakfast Christmas morning, some tennis balls and a bone shaped chew, he also got bags of treats from various people as well. He was a very lucky little pup. We got him the huge tugger you can see in the photo, along with the grey puppy. We also got him a pop up tunnel which he went through twice on Christmas morning but has flat refused to do it again. We are hoping after Sundays agility class he will be happy to go through it again.

I planned to do as much of a #memadechristmas  as possible. At times it was incredibly stressful, wondering if I would manage to get it all done. I did and thankfully all my gifts were really well received. I also made the majority of Jay’s gifts, which was a bit of a nightmare as I am useless at keeping secrets and nearly gave the game away on so many occasions. Also I was using the day time to make presents for family and friends, whilst at night in bed when I was watching TV or couldn’t sleep I was crocheting him a hat and scarf set. I can’t remember if I have said anything on my blog about the fact I have been teaching myself to crochet since November 2nd. When Jay opened his hat and scarf from me, he didn’t initially believe that I had made it. The only way I could get him to believe me was to ask him to find the labels on them. He was thrilled with them both.

As he worked Christmas Eve I let him open one present from me, purely as I couldn’t wait to see his face. This was another gift that I had been working on in secret, a quilt made from a pre-printed panel ( so not cutting / patchwork ). He had seen this panel on several occasions when it had been featured on the now defunct Sewing Quarter tv channel, every time he had raved about it and what a lovely quilt it would make. I purchased it in secret and then when I could worked on it. He was over the moon with it.

Christmas was a bit of a Dembe and Daddy “love in” which was a gorgeous to see. Dembe loves it when his daddy is home and makes a real fuss of him. He is my dog but he loves his daddy very much as well. I managed to get this shot of them on Christmas morning

Dembe sat on Jays lap as often as he could during Jays time off form work. They really are devoted to each other.

I had some really lovely gifts from friends and family. I took part in a Secret Santa organised in a Facebook group I am part of and received a pattern – The Humbug Bag and some beautiful fabric ( and some zips).

From Jay I got a little travel iron – which I had asked for to help me when I need to iron small pieces of fabric or small seams on quilts. Ironing is a bit of a nightmare for me so anything that makes it easier for me is brilliant, I hate having to wait for help. I also got two books on crochet,

And I have already made a small dog from the book – a weimaraner, it looks dog like but not Weimaraner like but that is down to my skills at crochet that need a lot of practice.

I am currently working on a giant Labrador made out of chunky wool. It is HUGE! Dembe keeps barking at it as he wants to play with it. Currently it is limbless and ear less, although I have embroidered his nose on. Which is what is probably making him bark.

We got so many lovely presents we really are very lucky to have such lovely friends who spoil us alongside our families.

Even with all the gift making I managed to gift myself this Christmas Quilt which I made on my embroidery machine. I am very proud of it as it is the first quilt I have done on it and until October 2019 I had never done applique on my Embroidery machine as the thought terrified me.

I was very sad when my quilt had to be packed away along with all the other Christmas decorations but I am really looking forward to getting it out again later on this year. 

I hope that those of you who celebrate at this time of year had a wonderful time. Wishing you better health, happiness and peace for 2020.

 

Life Laundry – moving on.

Me and Travis

 

I don’t know what it is about October but it seems to be a catalyst for me to have a look at my life and change things. Remove those things that are causing me unhappiness / hurt. To assert myself and decide that those who do not treat me with respect will no longer have that option. I have no idea what makes me so brave in October, maybe it is because it is my birthday the following month? Is it because I don’t want another year of feeling unhappy, unworthy, stressed out by people or things or events? Maybe I just don’t want another birthday where I compromise and don’t put myself and my happiness first?  October as I have written about before is a month of sadness for me, even more so this year as it is full of anniversaries now of dogs and people I have lost. 

First it is my Grans birthday, I miss her more than I imagined I would. That may sound strange but for much of my childhood she was someone I spoke to on the phone and perhaps saw twice a year as she lived at the other end of the country. I stupidly believed that life would continue on as normal when the time came but I have to admit there have been so many occasions that I have gone to ring her and realised that she is no longer here. She would have loved Dembe, she loved dogs and told me on more than one occasion that if she had owned Buster ( her dog ) first she would never have had children. I miss her sense of humour and Jamie’s face when he tried to speak to her on the phone but struggled due to her Aberdonian accent.

The following day it would have been the babies – Frankie’s and Willow’s 13th birthday. I wasn’t really conscious that day due to the hemiplegic migraine I came down with. I knew it was coming and I was feeling sad so I do wonder if both those anniversaries triggered or played a part in triggering the migraine. It wasn’t something either of us was talking about it was the elephant in the room. Plus that birthday is shared by our niece who was celebrating her 30th birthday which left us feeling ancient. She was just 8 years old when I met Jamie. 

Today 16th October Dembe celebrates his 11 month birthday. He has celebrated in style this morning by having his very first swim in a pond on the common. He has been really funny about water outside of the home, he leaps over or avoids puddles at all costs. He would barely get his feet wet by paddling in ponds when very small and ran away from the sea when we took him down the beach.  So to hear he has had a swim is really funny. Unfortunately Jay thought he had videoed the event on his phone but when he came back to show me, he had taken about 1 seconds worth of footage. It’s not the end of the world Dembe will probably now be a regular swimmer and Jay will take better footage. 

I’m glad that it is only this year that we count the months of Dembe’s age. As our first dog Travis passed away on 17th October 2006, 13 years ago and in all those years there is not a day that goes by when he doesn’t pop into my head. Of course I know that the chances are that he would have passed away by now but to lose a dog before his 3rd birthday is a unique kind of hurt. When you get a puppy you expect to have at least 10 good years with them. Believe me those ten years fly by. If you get longer, which we have been incredibly lucky to do with Mollie ( Travis’ sister), Frankie and Willow, (Mollies children), the loss isn’t so hard to bear. Its tough believe me especially losing Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I have said it before and I shall say it again, I thought I would drop dead from the pain of it all. However the pain you feel when they don’t reach that milestone of ten years is a pain like no other. I don’t think I will ever be able to say that the pain has truly gone.

October 25th marks Travis’ birthday, we first saw him when he was three days old. At that point we had no idea which pup would be our boy but his name was already chosen and we were so excited already that we were having problems sleeping. It seemed such a grown up thing to be doing, even though we were both 29! Three days after his birth on a Tuesday we moved into our home and have been here ever since. I can’t believe it has been 16 years already, it still feels like it was just a few years ago. But the little boy two doors down is now coming up for 21 and works and the same place hubby does.

There doesn’t seem to be a week in October that doesn’t hold a significant anniversary. For years I always used to hate October, I would start to feel down the minute the clock struck midnight on October 1st. I would just feel sadder and sadder until the 17th and then I would spend that day blubbering on and off, trying to deal with the overwhelming grief that I felt over losing Travis. Some years are easier than others. Last year it was a terrible day, I sat on the sofa all day crying being comforted by Frankie not realising how little time I had left with him. This year it doesn’t feel so bad. Probably because we have our little ray of sunshine Dembe to keep us on our toes. He is such a happy dog it is pretty impossible to stay sad for more than a few moments as he will do something that will either melt your heart or make you dissolve into fits of laughter. I also think after going through that double loss at the start of the year all other grief / pain pales into insignificance.

Whilst October has for many years been a sad month for me, it also has become a significant milestone for my friendships. I am an extremely loyal friend who will fight to the death for you. I am the place you run to when you need help or comfort. Wrongly I put you before me and sometimes individuals take advantage of this and abuse my friendship. I don’t deliberately ever plan to sit and take stock of my friendships at this point in the year. It seems to be something that happens. I think it is because with my birthday the following month I think to myself “would I want to spend my birthday with this person?” Would I feel comfortable accepting a gift from them knowing how I feel about them?” I normally just look at the people I have been moaning to Mr Myasthenia Kid. He will tell me quite honestly if this is a conversation we have had many times before. He will ask me “if next year will we be having the same discussion?” Some years I do nothing, I soldier on determined to make the best of things as due to my health conditions friends who come and see me are in short supply. I do have wonderful friends on Instagram and Facebook but sometimes you need to actually speak to someone, share physical space with them. If it has got to the point where I don’t want to spend time with a person and would rather spend days on end alone then I know it is time to move on. Be it a friendship of two years or twenty. I have no desire to flog a dead horse. I won’t beg, I won’t demand, I just leave and move on with my life. I have done it before, I will probably do it many times.

I don’t expect much from friendship, I certainly don’t expect to be the centre of your universe, we all have our own lives and all the demands placed on them. I do expect to be more than an afterthought. I do expect manners, loyalty and respect. I also like communication, conversation that is two way. I will hold my hand up and admit I can be crap at remembering to message people but I do make an effort for those who I consider in my  close circle. I will always be there for my friends like they are for me. 

To be fair it’s not just my friendships that have come under scrutiny in this life laundry. I have done a lot of sorting out of clothes, belongings etc Donating a lot to charity as both hubby and I are on a diet and so much of our clothing has become tent like. I have been taking a look at each room and trying to reduce the clutter. It seems again to be a pattern of mine in October! probably because I want the house looking nice for our birthdays or Christmas.

As a friend told me its Life Laundry, as in it’s a spring clean of relationships. You get rid of the crap and the unnecessary. As she said “it’s tough but necessary” and she is right. You shouldn’t cling to things that no longer make you happy.  

I already feel so much happier and uncluttered. Even though there is a huge anniversary for me tomorrow I am not facing it with the usual dread.  It is time to move on.

Frankie

 

Mollie and Willow

 

Gran & me

Update on Dembe

For this week’s blog post I thought I would give you an update on Dembe. For those of you who would like to see more of him, he has his own blog over at http://www.thedembediaries.com, where I publish what we have been up to over the previous week, with video’s and photographs.

Dembe was 10 months old on Monday (16th SEptember 2019). He now weighs 32kg and is 23 inches to the shoulder. I can’t sing his praises loudly enough, he is a simply adorable pup. He is so loving, sensitive, clever and just happy. I have never known such a happy dog whose tail only really stops wagging when he is asleep but he has also been known to wag it in his sleep as well.

We are training him to become my assistance dog, so we have been doing lots of training going into various different environments, so that he can cope with strange noises, people, smells etc. He becomes a different dog when his yellow vest goes . He knows he is there to work and is on his best behaviour. Like anyone though he has his good and bad days . His bad days though most people wouldn’t even notice, Jay and I are acutely aware.

We passed level one basic obedience training and handling back in July and we are now attending level 2/3 with him for the next few weeks. We all enjoy going to the class and being able to ask the trainer questions and for advice. Dembe loves seeing the other dogs and his time spent with Jay is creating a fantastic bond between them.  When I look back at how he was at the first training class in June to how he is now the transformation is magnificent. We have a dog that listens to instructions and walks beautifully to heel. In fact on a few occasions Jay has been asked by complete strangers for hints and tips on training. Which always makes us laugh.

He is a really sensitive soul, he hates thinking he has done anything wrong. If he accidently hurts me ( which all puppies do clonking you with their paws etc)  he panics and smothers me in kisses. He is such a very loving boy who likes to be touching you when he sleeps or sits next to you. He is a mummys boy but it is wonderful to see how excited he gets when Jay comes home or Jay goes to give him a cuddle.

He is very clever, it took me a matter of minutes to train him to remove my socks. He can retrieve various toys from his toy-box when you ask him to. If you say “where’s crocodile?” “find him” he runs to the toy box and will retrieve his favourite crocodile toy. He will do this with a few toys like piggy, doggy, baby bear, baby blankey and blue dinosaur. I have also had him retrieve his empty kong from upstairs. We were talking about this at dog training last night and apparently this shows he has an aptitude for searching or being a search dog. This isn’t something we have trained him to do. One day I asked him to get crocodile and he did it. I thought it was just a fluke so I asked him to do it again later and he did. I then waited for Jay to get home and showed him. The next day I asked him to find Piggy wig and he did. Now it is our party piece when we have visitors!

As he is 10 months old there are things we still need to work on, things that we have let slide that are now becoming an issue. He is very keen to be as close as possible when you are eating. Which is a bit of a nightmare on the rare occasions we have guests. We need to stop the sitting next to you attempting to get your head in your plate nonsense that is happening . The other thing that needs working on is his need to jump up at me when I am on my mobility scooter and I have come to a stop. However that needs Jay to keep him on a shorter lead and to stop him getting the ability to jump. That will be a huge challenge as he never will see that he influences or has control over what Dembe is doing. Despite doing all these hours of training so it can be a bit annoying at times when you are having the same conversation over and over again. 

One thing I am very sure of is I want a dog and not a robot. I love his character and I don’t want him to feel like he can’t be himself. 

It was very funny on Sunday as we were taking a trip around a supermarket. This one was laid out differently and had a huge precut cheese section at the end of the deli counter. There is nothing in the world that Dembe enjoys more than cheese. He will literally spin in circles if you get the cheese out of the fridge. So here he was confronted by his most favourite thing in the world at Dembe height and easy to access. I closed my eyes fearing we were going to have to pay for a huge block of cheese because he had sunk his teeth into them. He sniffed for ages, every piece of cheese got a sniff but he was very restrained and when Jay told him leave he did indeed leave it. That was a massive test in self control for him and I was so proud. 

But even prouder when my friend who was the duty manager told me the story about the guide dog that visited their store. When you think of Guide dogs for the blind you think of superbly trained dogs that would never be tempted by food whilst working. They are the dogs that are so well trained they put many other dogs to shame.

At the side of the fish counter in her store they have a freshly cooked pasty section. At dog height…how perfect. Beccy told us that as the owner of the guide dog was talking to the fishmonger, the guide dog took a sly lick of a pasty  at the front of the shelf. Then stared down the fishmonger who had watched him do it, in almost a dare to see if he would tell the owner. The fishmonger said the attitude from the guide dog was hilarious and he did indeed keep quiet! That really made us laugh and made him obsessively sniffing the cheese not such a big deal, I mean if guide dogs get a bad day!

Dembe makes us laugh on a daily basis. I didn’t know it was possible to love a dog as much as I love him. He likes walking around carrying stuff in his mouth and he walks around with his antler chew like pipe. When we first brought him home it was really hard, we were dealing with so many conflicting emotions initially it felt like I was just going through the motions. I didn’t feel that bond with him like I do now. I was constantly reminded that I didn’t know him like I knew Mollie, Frankie and Willow because I had known them years. It fueled my anxiety because I was constantly worrying that if there was something wrong with him I wouldn’t know or I would miss the subtle signs that I wouldn’t have done with them. Now however I feel like I know him more and we do have a wonderful bond. I know I love hima crazy amount whereas before I was always doubting myself that I did.

At times I wondered if we had done the right thing by getting him so soon after Frankie and Mollie passed away. But I credit him with getting Jay and I through that awful dark time. We wouldn’t be without him and he brings such joy to us both.

Everyone who meets him, falls in love with him and his gentle nature. In all the time we have had him I have never heard him growl. Bark yes, he likes to do that a lot. Which makes me laugh as everything I have read about Labradors says they seldom bark. Obviously Dembe didn’t get that memo! 

He is also very good when I am poorly and he adjust his energy level accordingly. He did it when I was poorly with a chest and sinus infection about three weeks after we brought him home. He would sleep all day on my feet and only run around like a maniac when Jay came home for lunch and at the end of the day. If I am feeling crappy he will sleep beside me on the sofa having a cuddle. If I am feeling brighter he will want to play more and have more engagement with me. Again this isn’t something we have taught but this is something he has done instinctively, just like his Uncle Frankie.

I could go on and on about Dembe the wonder dog but I won’t bore your further with this quick update.