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Monday, November 09, 2009

Our Dogs

We have two dogs, Poppy and Alfie. Poppy is a Shitsu/ West Highland Terrier cross and Alfie is a Yorkshire Terrier. Poppy doesn't like this time of the year as she is really not happy with fireworks going off all around the house and the minute there is any sound she will disappear upstairs and hides under our bed. Alfie doesn't seem bothered in the slightest by these sounds. Poppy is just over six years old and Alfie is two years old. Poppy was living with Carol before I came on the scene, and we got Alfie from a dog breeder near March, Cambridgeshire.

Poppy can be as stubbon as she likes at times. You call her when she's been for a walk and you let her off her lead and she wanders off. Then, when it's time for her to be put back on her lead she will make it as difficult to get hold of her as possible and refuse to obey you. She will walk to heal, and can be really delightful. She knows certain words, the minute you say the word 'walk' she gets really excited. Even if she sees you putting your coat on and pick up the leads she knows that she will be going out for a walk.

Alfie, on the other hand, when he was a puppy, would make the most awful noise if he thought he was being left alone in the house. He got really stressed at one time and would spin round and round, but he has gradually got better as he has got older. He would never go out in the car without there being a great deal of barking and whining and his lead would get tangled up in the gear shift in the car and would want to sit on you knee if you were driving or whover was sitting in the passenger seat. His first outing in the car was to Stowe Landscape Garden, and I was attempting to hold him on my knee when I was the passenger. He was sick and we had to stop the car. We have since bought a cage to go in the back of the car, which he travels in whenever we take the dogs out. At first he didn't like it, and would make a lot of noise, but Poppy travels in the back of the car with him, with the parcel shelf over the cage, and Alfie seems to enjoy this, perhaps as he has Poppy for company. There may be a few little whines, but in general he has settled down and knows that he is going out for a walk and behaves a good deal better. Poppy has always sat in the car on the back seats and is quite happy to sit there when we go out, but there are times when she will insist on sitting on the lap of whoever sits in the front passenger seat and likes staring out of the window. It's difficult to know why Alfie gets so stressed out, but I have a feeling at all Yorkies behave like this. It may be he doesn't like the movement of the car, and being able to see the road and everything outside the car moving passed.

Alfie was no trouble getting to walk on a lead and seemed to take to it really well. He is a really bright little dog and will now walk to heal quite easily.  It was really amusing taking him to Salcey Forest for one of his first walks. It was autumn and there were leaves on the gound and he didn't like them getting stuck in his coat and made a real fuss to have the leaves pulled off his coat!

Both dogs are real creatures of habit, Poppy in particular. I always feed them in the evening at around 7.30. We watch "The One Show" on BBC 1, and once this is over I get their dinner ready. Poppy will get up when she hears the closing music and if, for any reason, I have forgotten it's their dinner time, she will sit in front of me and start doing a little shuffle. She will stare at the television screen when she hears "The One Show" music, then at me, make a sort of sneezing sound, and if I haven't made any move she will bark. If I continue to ignore her she will come up to me and poke me with her paw.

I know some people would tell us off for allowing it, but both dogs sleep on our bed. Well, they are small dogs and they don't take up a lot of space. In the morning, just before we get up, I make tea and we drink this in bed. We always leave a little bit at the bottom of our mugs and the dogs drink it. Poppy had got used to this routine each morning before Alfie arrived, but it didn't take him long to get into the habit of having his early-morning drink of tea. If we forget to let them have their tea, Poppy will tap on the mug you are drinking out of to remind us that she hasn't had her drink.

There are several places we like to take the dogs for walks, one being Stockgrove Park, near Leighton Buzzard, and the other is Salcey Forest, going out north of Milton Keynes towards Northampton. Both have cafes, so, when we've finished walking the dogs we can have something to eat and a coffee. Salsey does really nice soup and crusty bread, really perfect for cold days.

I wasn't sure what Alfie would do when we let him off his lead for the first time, as both dogs really love to be able to run when we take them out. I needn't have worried, as he didn't go far, always running ahead of us but remaining within a short distance and always looking round to make sure we weren't far away. He runs miles, going backwards and forwards and coming when he's called.  He runs for miles, and is like a little hare when he's running. For a little dog he has lots of energy. Poppy likes to just amble along, looking at this and that, but we have to be careful when she's near water as she loves to jump in and have a smile, regardless of how cold or muddy it is. Then she comes out, generally covered in the blackest, thickest mud, which covers her coat and usually smells awful. She won't go in anywhere which has a steep bank where she can't get out. We went to Stowe Landscape Garden not too long ago, and she had to jump in the lake there, even though dogs aren't supposed to swim in the lake!

Alfie isn't good at mornings. If he's asleep and you touch him by accident, he doesn't like it and growls at you. I think it's just to warn you not to come too close, but he hates being woken up.

Poppy had an adventure a couple of years ago. It was a Saturday, and we went out for the day. I have a feeling we must have visited a National Trust property. I think it was one near Stratford-Upon-Avon.

We came home at around 5 o’clock and went in the front door. This was before we got Alfie, but we couldn’t find Poppy, she wasn’t in the house. Usually when we go out and we don’t take the dogs they come bounding up to us, barking and generally getting excited when we come in the house, but on this occasion there was no sign at all of Poppy. We had left the French windows open into the garden so she could get out.

When we went out into the garden we found that the gate, which used to lead from the garden into the front of the house, was open. I remember that I had closed this gate before we had left the house and was surprised at it being open. It was at this point that we became concerned and we thought that we’d ask some of our neighbours further along the road if they’d seen her at all. Most people said that they hadn’t, but then one neighbour said that they’d seen Poppy being taken by the Police in a car, and that she’d been picked up on the main road. It seemed obvious to us that she’d got out of the garden through the side-gate. We then learned that two boys, who play football regularly near our house had kicked their ball over the wall into our garden and had gone in through the gate to retrieve their ball and must have left the gate open, which allowed Poppy to get out of the garden and wander off, presumably ending up on the main road and then being picked up by the Police who were going past in a patrol car.

It wasn’t until the following morning that we went to the local Police Station in Milton Keynes centre and got Poppy back, having had to pay out £25 for her return. The two boys who had been seen entering our garden had denied ever going into the garden when we’d gone to their house during our visit to our neighbours. But, as they’d been seen going into the garden, it was obvious to us that they had lied, which made the situation regarding Poppy escaping even worse. It was really the fact that they’d left the gate open that was the worst part. Also, the fact that we’d had to pay our £25 for her return.

Our new neighbour was something of a problem to us, and both dogs were involved this time. One evening this neighbour came to our door, and Carol spoke to him. He was quite demanding and aggressive. He told us that, according to the deeds of his property, the right of way we had along their driveway was not correct and he wanted the gate into our garden closed off so that he could have a small piece of land which was actually part of our garden. He wanted us to clear the rubbish that was there so that he could have it. This would mean, once the gate was closed off, the only way we could get into the garden would be through the garage. He wanted all this sorted out within two weeks. This could be dealt with by our solicitor. It didn’t mean much to us as we no longer owned the property and he’d have to deal with our landlord, Copper Homes. We managed to clear the rubbish away, as demanded by Mr Aggressive Neighbour.

It seemed as if all was going according to plan (but these things never seem to, for some reason or other.), until a few weeks later. It was a Saturday morning. Our beloved neighbour got really aggressive and took away the fence, so that there was a gap where it should have been. The dogs were let out into the garden (as was usual). The fence, not being there, meant that they could get out into the road. Poppy ran one way, Alfie another. Poppy has some sort of road sense, but not a great deal, but Alfie becomes completely stupid and would easily have got run over as he really has no sense at all once he’s outside and not on a lead. We managed to get Alfie back, and Poppy ran along the Grove and went to a friend’s house, where she sat on their doorstep, safe and sound. As for our beloved neighbour, I’m afraid be became really abusive to me and threatened to punch me, as I came out of the house and found him in the front garden. He could have come to us and told us his intention to remove the fence before we let the dogs out.

On discovering that the dogs were loose in the road, and fearing for their safety, I rushed into the front of the house and confronted the neighbour, who became exceptionally aggressive, goaded on by his son, who seems to have the same anger problem as his father. Mr Neighbour threatened to hit me in the mouth, and at this point his wife intervened. We did manage to get the dogs back, and the police were brought in to attempt to pacify the neighbour. I believe he had a visit from them and must have been told to keep well away from our property. The whole situation really got out of hand and could have been avoided if the neighbour had been a little less aggressive towards us. It was such a simple matter. The fence which was taken down was going to be taken to the tip, and was moved away to near our garage, ready for disposal, but a day or two later Mr Neighbour’s wife came round and told me that her husband was going to use it as part of the fence-replacement, which seems now to be really absurd, when you think of the problems all his bluster and noise had caused. He did eventually fill in the hole where the gate had been, and gained a piece of ground about 6X6 feet, which is so small that it seems trivial and pathetic. We have had no problem with this neighbour since, thank goodness, but I have an idea that he has some sort of anger management problem. He can be quite nasty, so it’s really best to keep out of the way of him.
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