Monday, 12 December 2016

Going great guns

This year I have really limited my art commissions to accommodate my own health needs however the ones I have drawn have been a wonderful challenge.

Had you asked me at the time that is probably not how I would have worded it!  One secret commission( for christmas so yet to be unveiled) proved very tricky.  Indeed the first subject, one of three, was restarted three times and once drawn the other two flowed like I had been unleashed.  On letting the commissioner know of my difficulties she found it spookily appropriate as the subject himself had been a tricky soul who took some time to settle and bond with!

I have one small commission to finish, another shhhh commission, that delights me.  Something about the bright shining face draws me literally in.

Whilst the drawing tends to envelope me completely whilst in the process I find the jewellery design both fast, invigorating and makes me strip down to the bones of a design.  It is also a delight to work alongside someone who I rely on totally.  All of my work is dependent on me and the jewellery design has been the first collaboration that is powered by a more dominant partner.  I may design however I am no silversmith so design I can I certainly can't make the design come alive ( baring using another method).  We work well as a team and its a process I have come to really enjoy.

I am surprised how much it has improved my eye and I have also shaken up my mouse like  promotional self.  I have always found it excruciatingly difficult to promote my work yet can happily promote others and because the jewellery is a collaborative piece I have grown.  The process of opening my Etsy shop was a challenge yet I enjoy the adrenalin hit when I sell a piece!

So I am looking forward to 2017 to see what challenges are brought to my door!



Time to review

Not unexpectedly I am having an extended break.  Literally broken haha.

With some time to plan and time to prepare the preparations for me were more about adjusting to new routine, pattern and potentially a new direction.

The time has allowed me to realise there is a reason I draw, a reason I am Petnanny and a reason I design jewellery.

I simply love it.

Not for me a full time artist life, the whimsical hard cut throat business is not for me.  The drawing is a need for me to put pencil to paper and to connect with strangers who tell me of their loved animals asking me to recreate what they say and loved about them.  The jewellery is about speed, leaving things out and learning to shave down to what is necessary.

The dogs well it isn't that simple is it.

I see all the new fresh faces full of drive, trained in social media, business studies and clear path towards a defined goal.  It could be a multifaceted company with employees and raining facilities, larger. bolder, brighter than before.

I revel in their enthusiasm and breath.  Could having no children change my prospective?  I have nothing to leave, no requirement to provide a start for children and subsequent generations.  That doesn't mean I don't want to leave a positive legacy.

For me I want the daily heady contact, training the dogs themselves, sharing moments.  I had no urge to teach people and that hasn't changed.  I miss the ones moved on, miss the ones passed on.  I look forward to their little foibles and funny ways.  I am lucky enough to enjoy that for years and it is valued above all else.

Of course as a business sometimes decisions have to be made a delicate balance between heart driven decisions and sensible head decisions however they aren't often wrong.

I wonder whether destiny chooses whether you are a small fish in a small pond, or a big fish in the sea swimming and thrusting for opportunities. No, I am sure it is the old nature, nurture equation and time reaching what you need to fulfil you.

During my break I have been training hard, always learning and trying to improve.  With all the phenomenal handlers, biologists, ecologists and trainers out there there is always one fundamental thread.

The relationship between you and your dog.

And for me that sums it up, the relationship between me the dog and the dog's family.

So I patiently heal, allow myself whatever time it takes and look forward to getting back to those I know and love.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Bottom line

It seems to me lines are the new flexi lead.  Understandably flexi lead's have their many detractors and something has to fill the gap.

Why use a flexi lead or longline?

I would use a flexi lead in places I felt I couldn't safely let my dog off yet wanted to give him more freedom, allow him to sniff and have a mini lollop.  I would also use flexi lead to test his attention to me before I considered letting them off.  I have a very high prey drive dog so a Flexi lead can be a life saver albeit a shoulder wrenching, feet flying whoa there moments.

The same can be said about a line.

They can be an excellent aid, helping to extend your 'power', allow more freedom and distance whilst training yet still have contact.

An aid to move your dog along:

- if he should happen upon a tasty morsel and not listen to your enthusiastic leave or

- more often allow close access to food without being able to grab it whilst you wait for your dog to choose the better option( for us maybe not the dog haha) of leaving it.

I value the slight inhibiting effect they have on my hunting dogs, reminding them they belong to someone, that they should keep in mind and not lose themselves in the hunt.

Professionally, when walking other people's dogs, I use them for training and an added safety measure when I am unsure of a 99% response.  They help me back up my requests and ensure, should we fail as a pair with a task, I can quickly stop anything escalating.

For example, recall training in a young dog:

1. start with him and I.

2. progress to him and I and, if available, another handler so I can do round robins( a recall game where each handler will call and reward in turn producing a fun running game).

3. bring a couple of my experienced dogs for the pup to copy making a recall fun yet consistent.

4. bring the pup out with a few experienced dogs, ones I can rely on to help keep the pup within the social dog walk boundaries.  This allows me time spent out and about, teaching the pup on line with the help of others who know the way the fun group walks work.

It all takes time and dedication, a luxury available to me having only long term consistent dogs.  For me a dog walk is time spent teaching them safe play, good manners and how to handle many things they come across.

What do I think handlers ( professional and pert owners training their own dogs) should avoid when handling/ training with long lines? A running line left dangling behind a dog on a walk is a serious liability to the public whilst out walking.  Not only could the line be stood on, if you have ever done this with a running dog on a line you will soon fine how easy it is to flip a human!
They can wrap around your legs nasty burns can happen.

Should a dog be caught up in a line that your dog is attached to either could panic which could flare up any anxieties either may have, consequences I simply don't want to even have to think about.  Most people appreciate the risks for the dog being caught in a tree or fence and unable to escape, that simply isn't a problem if you keep the line in your grip which is the 'correct' way to use a line if the dog has an unreliable recall.

Safety must also be paramount, when using a line, with the dog that is on line.  A well fitted sturdy harness should always be used with a line, ensuring any force created by the line is dissipated through a harness not on a collar and all the delicate structures underneath.

How do I see lines being used?

Most lines I see being used are by commercial dog walkers.  Many have multiple dogs with multiple lines in the same group.  As commercial walkers we all need to earn money however this should be within the boundaries of safe care, numbers of appropriately trained dogs and with thought to all the other public space users.

If we think of why lines are used, how they are used correctly and safely then thought has to go into the use of multiple lines with numbers of other dogs whilst out in the public.

- Is it possible to slow down and work on smaller numbers whilst still earning enough to run a business?

-Could a system of one dog on line along with a dog on a short lead and alternating so each get exercise, education and entertainment with no compromise on safety?

-What about talking to our clients so they understand how valuable it is to have a professional who will put safety and training needs above overall profit thus allowing you more time to create that perfect walking group that listens and understands the freedom training allows?




Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Hark a change is afoot.

There is nothing like a change to open your eyes.

To see with fresh eyes just what you have in front of you.  I always thought I was the smell the roses kind of girl, spotting the little important things yet it seems it takes a jolt to really freshen things up.

I've had to slow it down, each foot placed and tested, walking with the little people no longer about slowing down so they could walk at their speed, it is as much a walk at mutual speed. The walks with the active guys has been a challenge in mental aptitude, what was lost in speed and distance is made up with activity and thinking games.  Any frustration is dealt with standing still taking stock and waiting until human and canine are back on track....

For so long now I have shared my walking.  Sometimes for training, other times for contact.  Then it became a form of security, a need for a safe place...one of shared need.  Shared walking means more dogs, fun interactions and increased need for control.  We saw friends playing games and well trained interactive dogs enjoying the great outdoors yet always aware of how we appeared to others, both handlers responsible for their dogs yet also managing them as a group of fluid individuals.  How did other see us?  Maybe they saw numbers and breeds, insecurities and potentially fear inducing interactions?  We counteracted it with control, respect and never passing without pulling to one side and sitting calmly for anyone to pass.

The time has passed now though with new lives filled with new business adventures, baby and wife duties and I continue walking with dogs.

Now its my time for change and change sometimes just presents itself.  Fear of the unknown can be equal to the fear of continuing as we are.  So much of life is packaged and fitted into neat little boxes only to find it is so fluid it oozes out and continues its own sweet way oblivious of our protestations.  And protest I have!

Dog walking is a curious business.  Even the word Business seems incongruous to what we do.  Yet business it is, we walk to live and many of us live to walk.  For the lucky few we get to share our walking with dogs who are old friends, walking through life as we walk through woods.

So when the walking stops, does that mean everything I know and love stops?  Who am I if I don't walk or indeed draw?  What is left?  Well stripped bare you find exactly who and what you are.  Find out I will, as certain as what will be will be.

For many the change knocks them flat, all they work towards gone, in a flash.  I see people around me get up and reinvent who they are or indeed just find out who they are again.  I am lucky mine should be a mere blimp on a road well travelled, like many before.  What I come back to only time will tell and I try not control it or to fear it.

As the leaves fall ever faster off the trees and Hugo baits me to catch him I revel in the ability of life to continue on.

Keep on walking!












Thursday, 15 September 2016

Eeeh I saw her just sitting

I'm currently sitting, just sitting at the van.  Rez is staring, the kind of staring that he wishes had kinetic powers to make me move, when that doesn't work he will whinge and soon Louie will join in.  Bob is doing his memory walk, walking and walking just him and the field.  It's the only place he can just walk and as far as I've ever seen the only place he wants to just walk alone. Funnily I think of the aborigines, how they walk with their ancestors.
Still sitting I hear the pugs, Oscar and Hugo settle down for a nap, Winnie and Raymond are still playing mouth wrestling though I'm sure Angry Pug, Winnie wants her annoying little brother to go to sleep.
The wandering, sniffing and check ins are well underway whilst I sit and watch. I can see Louie is going to start a game with Rez then Charlie will join in.  Montanna gets to Rez first and Charlie cuts them apart as smoothly as any knife.
Louie is now playing with Molly whilst Rez and Montanna return to their game.
This fun little game play doesn't happen on a walk, they are all business, they focus on the new smells the new 'sights' they've all been friends for so long, we have all walked and walked for many years. 
So why am I sitting? Because I don't want to be a dog walker.  I don't want to just tire them out and toilet them. Not for me just the miles around the clock. 
I do all those things of course however for me I want to challenge the dogs, educate them and provide all the necessary ingredients for a fulfilled life.  
Their owners are their all. Then I fill the gaps and extend their world a little.
We went swimming on Tuesday, everyone should swim with their dogs ( if you can and like swimming and likewise for the dogs haha), just like lying in the grass as they roll just because it feels good.
I want to show them new ways to behave, new ways to cope and refresh old ideas. It might just be to cope if they are in a lovely big field with their friends and not have their nanny do anything but watch. Not to have their human DO something. You can see who they are by sitting. The people dogs hang about hoping for something from you, the independent guys slope off happy to do their own stuff and for some it's just being able to lie in the sun before a game.
I want them a little bored, it's not the end of the world indeed it's a vital life skill to be able to cope with boredom.  I want to see a bit of frustration, to face nail trimming when maybe they really don't like it. They may never learn to enjoy nail clipping but I can certainly teach them to COPE with it.
They may not even enjoy all of the dogs company, we all know a person we just don't like and can't think of why we have never liked them. Most of us are perfectly capable to dealing with it as long as we have the room to ignore or move away from that annoying way he gets too close when he talks to you. 
Some days I just walk and get them tired but rarely do I do that three days running. I want Harvey to play his favourite nose games or for Truffle to go fetch the frisbee at the end of the line that just happens to have my boy Flute on. 
To have them not go in a wild Frenzy when I open a van door, let them out for a wee without the expectation for a hike maybe it will be a hike equally it may just be for a wee.
What about to smell sheep and horses? Or to watch some kids play ball.  For me I feel no guilt not letting them join in, that is life, I just want to see them content to watch sit and know they will get out again later.
So if you see me sitting or hear about me sitting not walking come say hi. Watch the dogs with me and slow down. Only don't do what I'm doing right now, put your phone down!
Ask me who they are and what they are doing, only don't talk too much..... That's my job 😏

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Lest we forget

She rushes around ticking off her things to do in her mind whilst shouting down to her daughter to not forget the key.

Just as they glance back to check nothing has been forgotten she realises the old boy is wandering.  Argh she trots to the car to free up her hands and with a sigh she goes in and asks Bob if he wants out.  He thinks he heard something but all he can think about is he needs to go toilet.  He gets a fright when she pops her hand on his collar and shuggies him into the garden.  Needless to say little Milo is bouncing up and down excited at the prospect he might have a dash about outside and her face softens, eeh Milo makes me laugh with his silly grins and daft wiggle she thinks.

Bob relieved wanders for a sniff, eager for those fabulous smells. Desperate to get her daughter settled in she collects Bob asking him to hurry up, impatient and already wound up about the day.  Milo is dashing over already heading for the toy box.  He dashes back and forth with his squeaky toy whilst Bob is put in the kitchen in case he messes.

Back at the car Mother and daughter are both excited and anxious it's such a big step, leaving home for the first time.  The daughter can't wait to make her flat her own whilst her mam worries.  Will she eat properly, remember to lock the house up before she leaves and most of all will she see her daughter as much?

The boxes just need unpacking, the kettle is found and on, soon they settle down with a cup of tea an affection teary smile passing between the two women.

Soon enough she heads home both proud and sad.  Time passes so fast, she wishes time would slow down so she can savour those moments before they flit away.

As she walks through the door she smiles at the young dog dreaming and walks straight over to Bob. She normally winces at his breath as he comes close for a tickle however today she needs to be with someone who has been there with her.  The connection had faded along with his sight, it was easier to enjoy the daft antics of Milo, Making her laugh and enjoying the trip to her favourite woods. Bob just wants to mooch about taking in the smells and no longer gallops through the streams dashing back to bark for the ball to be thrown.

She hugs him close, revisiting those fun times and he leans against her grateful for the contact.  He starts to rub against her trying to get her to scratch that itch he just can't reach.  The sigh that comes from him, the little groan shows her she has hit the right spot and she smiles grateful to the old lad.



Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A short story....

He didn't even look back,  amused and only a little upset she smiled and our eyes met.  I was careful not to show how I was feeling,  his clear delight at me meeting him again made me glow inside.

It isn't always like this, sometimes they look back almost wistfully or even cheerfully and I just carry on always grateful for our snatched moments.  We have wonderful, delicate relationships where you enjoy those moments passionately but ultimately they are borrowed from another deeper love. A love that isn't yours to own.

We walk, mostly in silence, until I need to stop.  As I rest my back he leans in, his face brushes next to mine and the hairs tickle my cheek.  Some are tentative, others more forceful and direct.  Occasionally the hairs at the back of my neck lift as I turn and see her, the little one ( there are many) just watching me.

Once again we walk, more briskly now, feeling we need to get our hearts pumping and stop our minds from wandering.  Taking in the smells, enjoying the precious moments.  There are invariably funny moments when one of them tries to make me laugh, glorious nearly carefree moments where no one and nothing else matters.  If the phone rings it goes to voice mail, if people walk past we are polite and long for them to pass so we can go back to you and me moments.

We sit in the long grass and he moves behind me wanting the contact, he nuzzles into my neck and then his tongue connects with my ear, skilfully trying to seek my mouth.  She is there again, she may be small however there is an intensity to her, she is watching me.  She moves silkily towards me and pushes him aside and with a very practised move she pushes me over and slurps Tacky Trevor  Tongue straight across my face before diving on him for a game of chase.

He goes home spent, delighted to be back with his mam.  He may love his walks with his Nanny but his heart is where his mam is.

Hehe
What were you thinking?
Today was time at the field being loved, entertained and yes slurped yak. How was your day?

Sunday, 17 April 2016

New Charity event

I thought it was time to support a charity close to my heart with a random act!

As many of you know Flute has a thing for his beloved horse Ella and hitches a ride when he feels like it so I thought it was time to see what we could do with it.  Ella is actually nicer to ride with the daft pod on board than on her own at times.  Now Jumping is beyond her capabilities at present, though with Ella never say never, so I thought I would make it a real challenge for us all.

Dressage.

Also known as Stressage.

Now for many it the sport you do after you give up jumping whilst others love it from the beginning however for me it is my nemesis.  It makes me so nervous, wondering if I will get lost and forget a movement or career off and leave the arena unannounced haha.

Then it would be a challenge would it if I found it easy?

Did I mention Flute will be on board whilst I do my dressage test, with a judge attempting to judge us on fluidity, partnership and accuracy of movements....finding a judge was no mean feat?

Anyhoo, we will be judged at the lovely welcoming High Plains and entertaining the lovely Jools Howard.  Check out her great place http://www.high-plains.co.uk

We are currently at £377 raised for the Pet blood bank, a charity I chose in part because each and every dog in the uk could require their services should a nasty accident or illness happen.  The Pet Blood Bank always requires volunteers and support.. http://www.petbloodbankuk.org


I hope you can support us in some shape or form and a £1 would go a long way to help support the charity.

https://www.justgiving.com/FluteDressageCompetition

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

House of rules

As a good friend and trainer says to me, I have a lot of rules.

Things like ' Don't eat people', 'Don't eat other dogs', 'Don't eat Nanny', well they are obvious of course.  All of my rules have either come from actual personal experience or seeing the consequences.  

When I used to stay over in the surgery to help a vet friend I've seen dogs with sticks at the back of their throats, broken teeth. It's just awful to see.  Then from personal experience you see the dogs who scavenge or have been used to picking up sticks that get the wood or bone jammed sideways across the roof of their mouths, distressing them and often causing abscesses.  I don't see them now simply because for many years now the rules has been no sticks, don't pick them up and certainly don't carry them.  Dogs being the wonderful malleable souls that they are understand and learn quickly even when they are allowed to pick up sticks at home.  

You would never consider your dog chasing a sheep or cow to be ok yet many will walk their dogs on crops, loving to see their dogs leaping through the, nearly ready to be harvested, barley or wheat....obviously ( presumably) crops don't feel pain the way sheep and cows may however the cost to the farmer can be on a similar level.  A knee length grass field is not just a park, it's likely to be a silage crop or hay crop, I don't want to buy hay with dog poop in it any more than the farmer wants faecal waste in his stock's feed ration.  So I have a rule, don't walk on farm crops unless I have full permission to be on the land and it is stubble ( left over from the corn harvest) or grass field that isn't ready to be cut.  This includes freshly sown fields that just look like grass is growing in orderly lines.  

I try my best to have a personal rule to not attach lines to collars when free running ( thankfully I have not had an incident however I have worked with my physio enough to know the damage done when the lines are stood on or caught up, so i am working towards a 100% harness+line .  Flexi leads attached to halters I can barely face to watch, the whole point of a halter is to help turn the head when a dog starts to pull the forces work that way.  Than add the leverage that a long lead produces you can easily see the damage that can be done.

There isn't enough time or space to work through my many rules however they are all based in sensible safety measures.

Now I know I am already given the nickname Nee Naw the fat police so I can take it on the chin to be Nee Naw Mrs Rules however you can't call me the Nee Naw fun police .....our guys and gals have a lot of fun.  They have safe full on fun. My role in your dogs life is to enhance their life and yours, not be at risk of causing any harm.  

I often wonder what everyone else considers to be a vital safe rule....


House of rules

As a good friend and trainer says to me, I have a lot of rules.

Things like ' Don't eat people', 'Don't eat other dogs', 'Don't eat Nanny', well they are obvious of course. All of my rules have either come from actual personal experience or seeing the consequences.

When I used to stay over in the surgery to help a vet friend I've seen dogs with sticks at the back of their throats, broken teeth. It's just awful to see. Then from personal experience you see the dogs who scavenge or have been used to picking up sticks that get the wood or bone jammed sideways across the roof of their mouths, distressing them and often causing abscesses. I don't see them now simply because for many years now the rules has been no sticks, don't pick them up and certainly don't carry them. Dogs being the wonderful malleable souls that they are understand and learn quickly even when they are allowed to pick up sticks at home.

You would never consider your dog chasing a sheep or cow to be ok yet many will walk their dogs on crops, loving to see their dogs leaping through the, nearly ready to be harvested, barley or wheat....obviously ( presumably) crops don't feel pain the way sheep and cows may however the cost to the farmer can be on a similar level. A knee length grass field is not just a park, it's likely to be a silage crop or hay crop, I don't want to buy hay with dog poop in it any more than the farmer wants faecal waste in his stock's feed ration. So I have a rule, don't walk on farm crops unless I have full permission to be on the land and it is stubble ( left over from the corn harvest) or grass field that isn't ready to be cut. This includes freshly sown fields that just look like grass is growing in orderly lines.

I try my best to have a personal rule to not attach lines to collars when free running ( thankfully I have not had an incident however I have worked with my physio enough to know the damage done when the lines are stood on or caught up, so i am working towards a 100% harness+line . Flexi leads attached to halters I can barely face to watch, the whole point of a halter is to help turn the head when a dog starts to pull the forces work that way. Than add the leverage that a long lead produces you can easily see the damage that can be done.

There isn't enough time or space to work through my many rules however they are all based in sensible safety measures.

Now I know I am already given the nickname Nee Naw the fat police so I can take it on the chin to be Nee Naw Mrs Rules however you can't call me the Nee Naw fun police .....our guys and gals have a lot of fun. They have safe full on fun. My role in your dogs life is to enhance their life and yours, not be at risk of causing any harm.

I often wonder what everyone else considers to be a vital safe rule....