Monday, July 25, 2011

Son, you are a bachelor boy

The son in this instance is Piglet, about whom we have to make a decision. Daisy, you see, is a little girl who will, in a few months time, become a Big Girl in an interesting condition, which will make having the two of them in the same house one of the visions of hell. There is absolutely no way that Piggy can be allowed to gain his manhood, but I have little doubt he'll disagree and will work himself into a terrible state of stress which would be very bad for him at his time of life.

We've been running through the options:

1. Piglet could be boarded somewhere for those few weeks. The disadvantages of this are that I wouldn't trust just anyone enough to look after him properly; Piglet's tricky at the best of times and being away with strangers ... I don't think so. He's never been in kennels - I don't think it'd be fair. Boy might be able to have him at his place - he's the only person I'd trust.

2. Daisy goes away - I know from experience how careful you need to be with in-season bitches; not many people do. Kennelling would be out of the question for her - the trauma to the other dogs there of such a tantalising aroma adding to the usual kennel stress would be very unkind.

3. One of two options for Piglet; chemical or surgical castration. The surgical option is the most certain, but at nearly 12 he's not a good anaesthetic risk although he's very fit and it's not a long operation. It would, after a few weeks, guarantee that he wouldn't be able to sire pups, although the desire and ability to try aren't always lost.

The chemical option - an implant called Suprelorin - is supposed to be good; I've had both good and bad reports of it. It takes between 3 and 6 weeks to take effect and lasts about 5 or 6 months before fertility starts to return. Again the desire isn't always lost.

I'm dithering about what would be best longterm. We can't possibly have puppies; just keeping them apart will be a nightmare of noise and stress; but I don't want to risk Piglet's health. We've got about a month to decide.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Another pleasant valley Sunday

Daisy had a really good day today, despite starting it at 5.30 which had this result by 9 o'clock ...

She still hasn't overcome her carsickness, so we're trying to do short journeys which end in something fun, so that the car begins to be associated with Good Things. She's stopped the desperate salivation at the mere sight of the car keys, so that's an improvement.

Today the weather was gorgeous so we decided to indulge ourselves; a ploughman's, with a well-kept pint, in a pub garden sounded ideal. The dogs were loaded in the car and off we went to Wroxton, a chocolate-box village near Banbury. When we arrived (before she'd been sick, hurrah!) we reckoned a walk in the fresh air would cheer her up - luckily we know the footpaths (to several geocaches!) fairly well, and both dogs enjoyed running through the long grass and flowering Ladies Bedstraw, stretching their legs after the albeit short car journey. We met a couple walking their dog who was only 8 months old, and she and Daisy had a wonderful game whilst Piglet looked on, doing the canine equivalent of rolling his eyes and sighing heavily.

By this time the pub (the North Arms) was calling us

and we made our way to the only empty table in the beer garden. Now, normally when we go anywhere with the dogs it's to the accompaniment of children's voices crying "Ooh, dalmatian, a dalmatian, look, a dalmatian!" sounding very like a flock of seagulls. Which is why were surprised to hear a child say "Oh no, I don't like dogs". Tough luck, we thought - they're on the lead, behaving perfectly - shut up and deal with it. The child's mother, on the next table, told us he was afraid of dogs. "Oh dear, that's a shame" I said, smiling at the brat, saying "Don't worry, we won't let them off the lead so you'll be perfectly all right." And he was - it was his mother who was teaching him her fear; the child was actually quite interested in them, asking all sorts of questions ("Do you know how many spots they've got?" "If she's 4 months old, how old is that for a person?" and so forth). I hope we helped him override his mother's influence even a little bit.

By the time our food was ready (the ham took a while because it had only just been cooked and had to cool down slightly) another table, with an umbrella against the hot sun, had become available so we took our quiet, calm dogs and moved away from the noisy disruptive children to enjoy our lunch in peace.

By this time Daisy was quite tired and full of the lunch I'd brought for her, so was on a charm offensive, gently kissing everyone who wanted to say hello to her, and offering them a paw, and won everyone over. Poor Piggy didn't get much of a look in; nobody notices the elderly gent when there's a pretty little girl around.

She wasn't sick on the homeward journey either, so the good experiences of the outing (a fun walk in an exciting new place but with Piggy for security, playing a proper game with another puppy, watching children and learning they're not Dangerous, making friends with Strangers - all of enormous benefit when learning about Life.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Let's watch the flowers grow

"The stately Lady-Hollyhock
Has graced my garden-bed for years,
Sedately stiffened in a frock
All frills and ruffles to her ears
Sarah J. Day

Several times in the past I've tried to grow hollyhocks; they're high among my favourite cottage garden flowers, tall and stately and beautiful colours. But every time I've failed; they've either been eaten by slugs, or hit by frost before they were established, or didn't like the soil or succumbed to rust. However because they flourish in the village, even growing in cracks in the pavement, i knew the soil suited them, so two years ago we collected seed from the feral plants and sowed them. They dutifully germinated, were hardened off and planted out last year when we'd finished the new fence.

And they survived! They were sprayed against rust every so often but otherwise pretty much let alone. They coped with the harsh December with its sub-zero temperatures for weeks on end, and valiantly flourished in the warm spring. One even reached a height of at least eight feet.

Because they were random seeds we had no idea what colours they'd be; among the parent plants were yellows, whites, reds and many shades of pink; and of course being hybrids they could turn out any colour, which made planning the colour scheme a real gamble. But it paid off. The four plants made a very pleasing row of dark red, cerise, salmon pink and pink blush in order of density of hue.

The front garden's only tiny but I can't tell you how much pleasure the success of the hollyhocks has given me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Give me your answer, do

She's growing up.

Daisy, 4 weeks

Daisy, 6 weeks

Daisy, 12 weeks

Daisy, 15 weeks