Often our clients and friends ask about our travels and our house and pet sitting experiences and we thought that a blog would be a good way to share our stories both past and present.

We have met and made friends with some lovely humans, canines and felines over the past 5 years and we hope that you enjoy reading about our pet sitting and house sitting experiences as much as we enjoy regaling our "tails"!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Pet Portraits

Whilst out walking into South Brent on a beautiful sunny morning, I had a kind offer of a lift into town from a lovely local lady named Rosemary Bishop.

She does beautiful watercolours of pets and country scenes which capture the character of the animal very well.

Check out her website at www.devonwatercolours.co.uk

Beautiful Avon River, South Brent

Friday, 29 November 2013

Friends of South Gloucestershire Strays

Della had an opportunity to help out at one of the many fund raising events that Friends of South Gloucestershire Strays hold.  This one was at Thornbury, near Bristol.  They had a street fair and the Christmas Lights were being turned on.  There was a fair and lots of stalls selling food and drink, as well as charity stalls.

The Friends of South Gloucestershire Strays had an assortment of home made goods, some dog coats, toys and leads etc.  The big pull however was a Teddy tombola, every one's a winner.

Teddy Tombola "Every one's a winner"

It was a freezing cold night, but luckily dry.  There was a steel band playing Christmas music and a couple of rescued dogs gave an appearance to encourage people to come and have a chat.

These events totally rely on the volunteers making stuff to sell, turning up to set everything out and then staying to greet the customers.

I am sure that the dogs appreciate the efforts made on their behalf.  They have a Facebook page as well as a website, link below.


Friday, 20 September 2013

Indoor cats

We look after a number of cats and a few are indoor cats.  They tend to be the more exotic breeds, like Burmese or Pursian.

They seem to do very well indoors, not looking to go out.  In all cases these cats have plenty of toys for them to play with and activities for them to keep alert.

There are many items on the market to meet the need of indoor pets.  There are videos that show birds or fish on the tv screen, there are even  pet strollers to put your cat in, or dog for that matter, and take it for a walk.

Here is an extract from the PETA website, advising cat owners on having a happy housecat

1.. Bring joy with toys. From paper bags and rolled up balls of paper to motorized “mice” and laser pointers, toys perk up even the laziest feline. All-time favorites are Cat Dancer and Cat Charmer.
2. Scratch that itch. Cats love to scratch. Doing so enables them to remove broken claws, stretch muscles, and mark “territory.” The best way to save your furniture is to provide lots of “approved” places to scratch. Cat “trees” and posts, cardboard scratching boxes, and those ingenious “cat tracks” (a ball in a circular, partially open plastic tunnel surrounding a cardboard scratching pad) are big hits. Sprinkle catnip on them weekly to keep cats interested, and be sure to replace cardboard inserts when they get worn out.
3. Provide a room with a view. Windows are cat “TV”—a birdbath or feeder placed near a window can provide hours of entertainment. If window sills aren’t wide enough, build or buy a cushioned perch (which are available from pet supply stores and catalogs) to attach to the sill. (For safe window-sill perching, make sure that double-hung windows are propped open to prevent them from falling down on cats, and tuck the cords of blinds up and out of the way so that legs and other body parts don’t get entangled in them.)
4. Porches bring purrs. A screened-in porch or an enclosure accessible through a window is a great way for your kitty to safely commune with nature. KittyWalk Systems makes enclosures in a variety of configurations that can stand alone or be attached to a cat door. If your yard is fenced, another option is Cat Fence-In, a netting kit that attaches to the top of the fence. No existing fence is necessary to install another escape-proof system called Purrfect Fence, although it is advisable to supplement it with sturdy fencing of some kind to keep dogs and other predators out.
5. Take your kitty out for cat walkies. Cats can be taught to walk on a leash—just be sure to use an ultra-lightweight, retractable leash that’s attached to a harness, not a collar. Let your cat get used to the harness for short periods indoors, and then pick a safe outdoor area to explore.KittyWalk Systems also makes a “pet stroller” that allows for longer, brisker walks and provides a measure of safety from free-roaming dogs.
6. Plant a garden—of catnip. Cats will nibble on it and roll in it. Other healthy snacks are wheat grass, alfalfa, and oat grass. (You can buy seed starter kits at companion animal supply stores.)
For more information about how you can make your feline’s life more felicitous, read PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk’s book, 250 Things You Can Do to Make Your Cat Adore You.

Read more: http://www.peta.org/living/companion-animals/caring-animal-companions/caring-cats/indoor-cats/#ixzz2lxCfAxMG

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The lengths we go to for our pets.

Recently we have had assignments where a little extra thought has had to go into the care for a beloved pet.

When faced with a  situation where a pet could potentially be put down due to a health issue, some resourceful owners really pull out all the stops to see if the obstacle can be got around.

Whilst on a sit in Wolvercote, near Oxford, on the beautiful expanse of open common land called  Port  Meadow we regularly came across a little dachshund with a set of wheels attached to his rear end.  We think his back legs were damaged, or perhaps his spine.  He was able to run after a ball and get about quite easily.  The dog we were looking after thought it was a weird sight though, not quite sure what to make of it!

We have just sat for a new client in the Bristol area with three West Highland White Terriers, a breed very close to our hearts.  One of the female dogs has a condition, Atopic Malassezia, which affects her feet and having run out of solutions to cure this condition, our client has come up with the idea of putting socks on her feet to protect them from the irritants affecting her, and to stop her licking her feet.   As it was difficult to keep the socks on her, a 'suit' was devised to hold the socks in place, forming  a 'onesie'.

She is able to walk about, doing her bodily functions normally.  This seems to have done the trick.

Daisy in her 'PJs'

She does not have to keep this outfit on all the time, she is currently just wearing socks at night.

Our current assignment near Worthing on the South Coast has a different problem.  The dogs in question are a small breed called Papillons, named after the shape of their ears resembling butterflies.  They are an affectionate breed, loving nothing more than to cuddle down on your lap at every opportunity.

These dogs have house training issues having to wear pads whilst in the house to stop them from marking.  The dogs wear a band of material with a velcro fastener.  Inside the band is a sanitary towel which absorbes the urine. 

Louis in his band
For the female dogs there is a similar band with an extra flap which has a hole in it for the tail to pass through.   These are useful tools for incontinent dogs or females in season.

Holly in her pants
Holly has recently gone completely blind, so finding her way about to get outdoors can be a bit of a challenge.  Until she has got used to her new world in the dark, these 'pants' avoid accidents.

There are a number of websites selling items for all types of health issues.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Sheep drama in Devon

July found us in beautiful Devon, at the start of the lovely hot weather, officially known as Summer in other countries!

Rural Devon in the Summer
We were in a very rural spot just outside of Exeter.  The pets, our first sit for these clients, were very sweet, comprising of two dogs, two cats, three horses and 24 sheep.

The sheep were Jacobs Sheep.  There was a ram and two wethers, (castrated rams),  and 21 ewes and lambs in a separate field.

Jacob Sheep
We had to check on them twice a day as they tend to get their horns stuck in the fencing, especially the young ones, or get into another field.  We made sure they had plenty of water and that they looked well.

One day Tracy came back from the morning check and reported that one of the ewes had a "protrusion" from its behind.  We went to investigate and discovered that the ewe was having difficulty walking and looked like she was in discomfort.

We phoned the vet and he came out to take a look.  We were at pains to explain to the vet that we did not know how to catch the ewe, ( we have seen James Herriott films, where the sheep is waiting in a pen for the vet)  We were willing helpers though.  We were assured that this would not be a problem.

David, a lovely welsh vet arrived, and after confirming that indeed the ewe required attention, we set about trying to catch said ewe.

We managed to separate her, Tracy did a sterling job of holding her nerve as a flock of horned sheep came hurtling towards her, dividing as they reached her, The ewe went towards the hedge where David did a great rugby tackle.  

With the ewe secured I got hold of her horns which made excellent handle bars, keeping my knee on her side to keep her into the hedge.   David got to work on the prolapsed womb by firstly pushing it back up inside.  He then put a stitch in to hold it in place, after administering an epidural.

We had only known David for half an hour but we became very intimate as I was bending forwards facing head-wards, and David was bending forwards facing bum-wards, we were subsequently pushing against one another bum-wise to give each other some purchase.  Where is a camera when you need one!

The poor old ewe was very good, she held steady with a bit of panting, but soon it was all over.  We let her go and she seemed much more comfortable.

We kept an eye on her and each day she improved.  Her lamb got caught up in a big bramble bush, carrying the long tendrils around with him for a day, we tried to get close to him to grab hold of the brambles but he was too quick.  Trouble obviously runs in the family.  luckily he managed to get free himself.

Ewe on the mend

Things we have learned from this experience.....

When looking for a flock of sheep in the summer, look in the shade first they will probably be there. 

Prolapsed wombs can be pushed back inside and stitched up. 

If you want to keep sheep, the ones with the horns are easier to hold!

Something to add to the CV.

Monday, 8 July 2013

In Memory of Dylan.

In Memory of Dylan.

A few weeks ago we were very sad to learn that Dylan, a lovely old boy had become very frail and too ill to stay with his humans.

Dylan lived to be 17 years old and was the sweetest boy. We had the pleasure and the privilege of looking after this dear soul on two separate occasions - we are truly sorry that we will not get to play with him for just one more time but we know that his time had come.

A gentle and loving dog, Dylan was playful despite his advancing years and enjoyed his little ambles around the block. He recently relocated with his owners to a new home and he was enjoying his new garden.

Dylan loved Schmackos and we loved him. We will miss  him  but know that he is now running and playing free in the doggy park in the sky.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Our first sit for a Shar-Pei


Baggins, lovely Shar-Pei from Kettering


Breed: Shar-Pei
Temperament: territorial and dominant
Lifespan: 10 -12 years
Maintenance: low
Recommended for: experienced dog owners wanting something different
An ancient breedoriginating in China, the Shar-Pei would protect its owner's farms and property and was believed to have been used in dog fights.  Its dominant tendencies has prevented the breed from achieving a broader popularity.

The wrinkled folds of skin are most abundant whilst the dog is a juvenile. However the wrinkles may not be apparent in very young pups. As the dog gets older the wrinkles will become more apparent until the dog starts to approach full size and maturity. The dog will eventually 'grow into its skin' and the wrinkles will only be apparent on-and-forward-of the shoulders. Some small wrinkling may still occur on the tail dock.
It is likely that the wrinkles in the coat were developed as an ornamental feature of the breed, rather than the common belief that it allowed the dog to turn on its opponent when fighting. Chinese breeders are noted for their love of the grotesque variation, such as the bubble-eye and lionhead goldfish.
The coat appears in two types.
  1. Horse coat: Very short and prickly. Stands up away from the body.
  2. Brush coat: Longer and softer than the horse coat but still up-standing. Both coats are regarded as course.
Shar-Pei may appear in any solid colour except white. It is a mid-size dog, standing as tall as a boxer but much more square and compact. Bitches are generally smaller than dogs, but may be longer in the body. Average weight is about 25kg.

Aloof and wary of strangers, the breed has a very dominant temperament and requires firm training from an early age. Puppy preschool is essential as the Shar-Pei is a very stubborn breed and if not properly trained can be very difficult to manage. Any owner must be experienced enough to hold control over the dog from the outset. The dogs are very loyal to their owners and breeders say that past aggressive tendencies have been eliminated, however one must always satisfy themselves that they are buying a pup from a reputable breeder. Have a look at the parents and be satisfied that they are manageable, non-aggressive dogs. Males will generally remain aggressive towards other dogs. Shar-Pei can be very social with humans and are said to prefer the company of humans rather than dogs. They are also very territorial.

The dogs are moderate eaters. Breeders say that high protein diets can contribute to skin problems.

Health and lifespan
The wrinkles make the Shar-Pei prone to skin disease and dermatitis. The skin disease may first become visible from 10 months of age and an odour will generally accompany the disease. A natural moult does occur in the breed and breeders say that this will sometimes resemble the disease. No odour will accompany the natural moult.
The deep-set eyes, combined with the loose folds of skin hanging over the brow can also result in eye problems such as entropion (turned-in eyelids). The brows can be stitched back at three to four weeks of age if it is likely that the dog will suffer from entropion. Surgery may be required. Lifespan about 10-12 years
The Shar-Pei does have a tendencies to drool - it's wise to keep a face cloth handy for those messy moments. Grooming is not often required, the breed will moult twice yearly, though a intermittent wipe with a hand mat will usually suffice. 

Ideal owner
These dogs are not for the first time dog owner. One needs to make a commitment to training this breed and must be aware of its possible aggressive tendencies. The uniqueness of the breed does make it popular with those who want something a bit different. The breed is popular with those who have time to make the commitment in training and socialising and are capable of showing dominance over the dog.

This was our first experience of this breed.  Baggins is a lovely dog and we enjoyed our time with him.  He was very clever, although he looked dopey his brain was working overtime.  If there was mischief to be made, he was usually in the middle of it!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Best Friends Animal Shelter, Kanab, Arizona. USA

Visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

In May we went on a road trip across America, starting in Orlando, Florida and ending up in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We were very fortunate to stay in Kanab,Utah,  a small town which was used in the film making industry for the early Western films.  Just a few miles from the town is the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary at Angel Canyon.

There is a tv programme called Dog Town which follows the work of the volunteers and workers at this amazing establishment.  Here is the link to their website Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Cat Section
 There are different areas, one for cats, dogs, horses, birds and small animals like rabbits.  They have a no kill policy and are funded by donations.

Dogs are grouped into personality  groups
 The dogs, once assessed are given different collars to show potential new owners if they are good with children or other pets or if they are needing more expert handling.
Tracy helping dog with his socializing skills

 We were given a tour around the facility and we met one of the rescue dogs, currently being socialized.  We gave him a treat when he sat for us.  Dogs are walked and played with and it is possible to take them home on a foster basis to get them used to a home environment.  Everything possible is done to get them a forever family.  There can be as many as 500 dogs there at a time.

Beautiful surroundings to rest in
The center is situated in a beautiful canyon, with coloured rocks all around.   They have cabins which volunteers can rent and help out.  We hope that we will be able to do so in the future.  In the meantime we have become members of the charity. 

Here is a Youtube clip showing some of the great work they do. 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Millie goes to Rainbow Bridge

Millie from Ludlow

Sadly another of our furry friends has passed on to Rainbow Bridge.  We only had the pleasure of sitting for Millie and her brother Barney the Cat, on one occasion, but we quickly grew to love them both.

Millie was an old girl and had trouble hearing and seeing her way around, but she managed very well, and after the first day of meeting, she quickly took to Della and followed her everywhere.  She enjoyed her little walk over the common and came to the shops in the back of the car for a ride out.    She loved her food and looked forward to meal times with great relish.

It is a shame we will not be seeing her again, but are grateful for the special time spent having cuddles and walks around the beautiful Ludlow countryside.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Eye swelling remedies.

We are battling the high winds and snow this week in the Cotswolds.  Spring is almost here and the snowdrops have appeared.

The weather is so cold the snow is staying on the fields.

One of our charges, a mischievous pony has injured his eye trying to escape into a much more inviting field.  The eye was undamaged but the surrounding area was quite swollen.  A good tip I learned from the groom was to soak a teabag in some warm water and hold it over the affected area.

It was amazing, I applied the teabag and held it there for a while and within a few hours the swelling had gone down dramatically.

Tea bags work well because they have natural tannins that act as astringents.

We will add this to our bag of tricks to take with us.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Car safe in Carcassonne

Della has been sitting in the lovely Southwest corner of France for 3 weeks.  The weather, although windy,
is very pleasant, and although it is February, it is very Spring- like.   The sky has been mainly blue and the blossom is out on the almond trees.  There was a sprinkling of snow towards the end of the month, which picked out the rows of vines which are abundant in this region.

We have a regular client with three little dogs in this area,  They are rescue dogs and all have their issues.  One issue is being frightened of traffic of any kind and other dogs.  So finding a safe and quiet spot to take them on their daily walk is very important.

Luckily a little car journey is all it takes to find quiet off road walking through the vines around Carcassonne.  It is so peaceful and the views are amazing.

The dogs are secured in the car by a nifty little gadget which clips onto their collar or harness and then connects into the seat belt holder.  It allows the dogs to sit on the back seat of the car without them being able to jump into the front or being thrown forward in the event of sudden breaking.  It is adjustable for different size dogs.  We found this such a simple little tool and costs about £6.  Great idea.

Car Seat belt restraint for your dog


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Year on the Cote D'Azure

Tracy and Sydney walking in Antibes
We have been to the South of France for holidays and house sits in the past but with a new client situated in Vence, in between Nice and Antibes, we found loads of places that we  hadn't visited before.

We went inland, away from the more familiar seaside towns, and found towns impossibly perched on top of  rocky promontories,  Gourdon is one example, a number of bastide towns, Turettes-Sur-Loup being our favourite.

The light and weather is unique in this part of the country and we enjoyed a respite from the dull, cold weather we normally experience in January.  It was cold enough for snow on the surrounding ski slopes, but down at the sea shore it was very pleasant.

Tracy enjoying the January sunshine

Our charge was a young jack russell who was impossible to wear out, so we all enjoyed some great walks in the mountains, with fabulous views out to sea, we looked at the huge houses clustered around the Cap Ferrat, there is a footpath around the cliffs of the Cap. We went to Menton one of the last towns before the Italian boarder.  There is an annual lemon festival held here in February,  we will try to get to see it one year.

Della and Sydney on a walk to St Paul de Vence

As well behaved dogs are allowed in restaurants in this part of France, we were able to visit a favourite vegetarian restaurant called Chez Helen in Antibes, it is a modest place, but the food is excellent as well as the service.  We really got the most out of our time here as we were able to take the dog everywhere with us, and being so young, it gave him different experiences.  We walked along the beach at Cagnes Sur Mer, we hiked the mountain trails and followed the coastal paths.  We are looking forward to seeing Sydney again in the future for more exploring.