31 December 2008

Meet Mistral and Mama Mia

Meet Mia and Mistral. They were called Maya and Miss but for their new lives here, they have new names - but names that sound similar.

When they were taken out of their Hell Hole yesterday, the owner had to sign papers and apparently he shed a tear when they left! Oh really! As my best friend, Candy, in America wrote:

"I truly think the guy who kept them in that condition should bloody well be put in a pen and forced to live on top of his own shit for 8 years. Punishment fits the crime. Asshole." Too right!

Within about 15 minutes of their arrival, they seemed to know it is 'OK' here and since then have followed me everywhere. A miracle! Their temperaments are absolutely superb. Mistral (the blacker one in last pic below) is confident with everyone. My neighbour came to visit them yesterday evening and she went right up to her. Mia on the other hand is terrified of people, but as I said, now trusts me. They freely wander the garden, even tho, they wobble a bit. They have absolutely no muscle and when they wake up, they have some difficulty in getting up. Hardly surprising as they've been confined to a 2 metre square area of excrement for 8 years.

Both are in bad physical condition, particularly Mia who continually scratches and bites herself, poor dog. Her skin as you'll see in the lower photograph is very bad. Both are on antibiotics, have had special baths after the flea infestation was removed and tomorrow, they get more baths. It will take time. They have a bacterial skin infection caused by the conditions under which they have lived for so long. They have both had loads of litters too, as is obvious by their large nipples - particularly Mistral.

Feeding time is crazy - both are frantic for food, even tho Mistral is actually quite fat - fat with bad quality food tho. They are used to eating out of the same bowl but I've learned I have to separate them - and then encourage Mia to eat. She is the timid one and it is Mistral who has eaten most of her food in the past.

I woke to two enormous puddles this morning - tonight I'll let them out in the middle of the night, which is no big deal for me as I wake up anyway. And Mistral is in full heat today. Wot fun! Once they are in condition, they will be sterilised, of course.

Tomorrow, pictures from the garden and more progress - and a big thank you to everyone for their encouragement. It will take time but really the main thing I worried about was their temperament with other dogs and it's perfect. They totally accept and interact normally with other dogs. Just people are a problem for Mia. As for letting them out free in the garden - they love it, wander about and come back in when they are ready.

30 December 2008

Out of the Hell Hole

Today is going to be a big day at Pension Milou. Two new dogs are coming to live - forever - at Pension Milou. And no, that's not Pension Milou in the photograph - that's the hell they've been rescued from. (Thanks to Michele for the photos)

The dogs - two female hunting dogs around 8 or 10 years of age - have been living (if you can call it that) in the Languedoc - around Beziers (about 4 or 5 hours from here) - in a roughly 2 metre square run for about 8 years. Never let out of this small area, never cleaned out and living on top of 8 years of their excrement, estimated at about 2 or more feet of it. Can you imagine?! Their food and water bowls filthy with poop too. The food was simply thrown over the top of the fencing and was mostly stale bread and I suppose some dog food, else they'd be dead. Look at the photos and look away - happily they were taken out of here yesterday morning.

Let me explain how it is they are coming to live, for the rest of their lives, at Pension Milou.

Two nights ago I got an email with the photos you see here. I nearly didn't open the email. I can't bear to look at suffering animals and we all get dreadful emails, don't we? This was addressed to me though (not spam) by a great lady called Michele, who runs an animal rescue organisation (Comite de Soutien a la Cause Animale) in this part of south -western France. She'd been told to write to me by another organisation, Sans Collier Provence, who knew I already had a rescue hound.

Well life is good or bad timing, isn't it? First of all, I had several trips away this year and even though I had a good time, for the first time in my life, I found myself missing home. Old age? Anyway I'd made the decision I don't want to travel again. To say never, is a long time, but that's how I feel at the moment. In addition to this, I missed out on saving an Old English Sheepdog last Christmas. I still think about that and regret it dreadfully. With hindsight she could have been saved, although at the time circumstances didn't allow it. Hindsight is a fine thing! She was put to sleep. One day I'll write about but it's still painful to think about and caused me sleepless nights for months. 'My breed' too, as I used to show and breed Old English, which made it even worse somehow.

So when the email arrived, with photos of these poor dogs, I had to do something. Not just for them but for me.

After one phone call, Michele said she'd arrange to get the dogs out the following day - that was yesterday. I had one proviso tho - they must be tested for mange. There is no way I could take a dog with mange, particularly sarcoptic mange, as it is highly contagious and difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate properly.

Getting the dogs out and into a car was not easy. The dogs were traumatised. Imagine living in such a tiny space for 8 years, never let out. They were taken to the vet immediately. Just think of the smell in the car? The vet treated them for their massive infestation of fleas. He took skin scrapings and after checking under a microscope, confirmed there is no mange. Thank goodness. They do have a dreadful bacterial skin infection tho. Later they were taken to a dog grooming salon where they were bathed in an anti-bacterial veterinary shampoo and again in a special gel to help rid the skin of bacteria. This must be done twice a week for a month. They are on antibiotics for their terrible skin and also they've been wormed and this morning, apparently, they passed loads of tapeworms (hardly surprising with all the fleas on them as the flea, of course, is the host for the tapeworm). Thankyou so much to the ladies who coped with getting these two dogs out of this hell and into the vet and later to the grooming salon and then back to one of their homes.

The story of these two dogs is that they used to belong to a hunter who gave or sold them to a woman in the area. She wasn't cruel as such (meaning they weren't beaten and they were fed) - although I would definitely consider these conditions to be cruel. NO question. She recently died and her son wanted the dogs OUT. Either he would kill them or send them to another hunter, who apparently keeps his dogs in even worse condition. The mind boggles. There are four other dogs left behind but living inside the house. Apparently in dreadful conditions too but at the moment, he won't allow them to be removed. I've been involved in these situations before and whilst there are veterinary authorities, too often the attitude is, 'Oh they are country dogs' and so it's OK. It's NOT.

The brown and white hound is an Ariégeois and is called Maya. The black one is called Miss and I'm told is a Basset Bleu de Gascogne but I think her legs look too long to be truly that breed? I may change their names just slightly - so they recognise the sound but so they have a new name for their new lives here.

Of course I'm a little worried. I've been told to walk them in the garden on lead as they don't understand the concept of space and would freak out. I'm also told they are very strong and I have an arthritic neck and shoulder (caused by an untreated whiplash injury forever ago) - so I worry I can cope with strong dogs on a lead - but then someone sensible said 'Worry is interest paid on trouble before it becomes due.' Try telling that to a worrier... In fact, I plan on walking the dogs around the whole garden tomorrow and hopefully it won't be long before they can go out off-lead and be FREE.

I had a call about an hour ago and they are en route. Should be here mid-afternoon. Come back tomorrow and I'll show you photographs of them living in a bit more comfort than before... I've been cleaning for them all morning although this place at its worst would be the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo for these poor dogs.

27 August 2008

Nice-Matin's article


Vous avez vu ma photo et l'article qui parle de moi dans Nice-Matin du 27 août 2008 et j'en suis très contente.

L'article cite un des mes blogs dont le lien correct est: Menton Daily Photo. Chaque jour, vous y trouverez une photo accompagnée d'un petit texte sur Menton, Gorbio, Roquebrune Cap Martin et les autres villages. proches. J'habite la région depuis 18 ans. J'en suis tombée amoureuse et j'adore la photographier pour vous faire partager mon plaisir.


Nice-Matin today shows a photograph of Yours truly and my dog Beau - that's him in the foreground and little Rolf, who is staying here, near my feet. The interview was about local bloggers and in particular my Menton Daily Photo blog but, this blog was mentioned instead. Please click on the link above to enjoy photos of Menton and the nearby villages.

There is also a Monte Carlo Daily Photo blog if you live in Monaco and Riviera Dogs.

And for regular readers of Postcards from Pension Milou - apologies - you can see the photo blogs have been taking me away from my writing. I'll get back to it soon, I promise!

Article in Nice-Matin - click on the link.

14 April 2008

The Dog who loved Carrots

Taco, a Welsh terrier mix, was a regular client at Pension Milou and proudly shared his birthday, March 14th, with Prince Albert of Monaco. Prince Albert celebrated his 50th this year but Taco missed the day by three months - on December the 7th, three months short of his 17th birthday, off he went to doggy heaven.

Taco had Cushing’s disease and he had a tumour but he was a game little dog and you’d really not have known anything was wrong with him. When he stayed at Pension Milou, he’d play like a puppy, flirt with the lady dogs and roll on his back with the simple joy of life. He always told me what he wanted with a very definite bark. Every day, at 4 p.m. for instance, he had a raw carrot and perish the thought that I might forget. If I did, I soon got to know about it – woof woof.

Taco was Xavier and Sheila’s first dog, although Sheila had had childhood dogs. When Taco died they were devastated. For Xavier, Taco was the dog of his life and he’d never have another one. Sheila thought – perhaps, one day?

As often happens when our dogs leave us, we eventually start to make surreptitious little enquiries. In January, Sheila started browsing the Internet looking for Welsh terrier breeders - a rarity in France. One day she found an advertisement for Welsh terrier puppies in the Pyrenees. The pups’ photographs were displayed and of course, they were adorable. Xavier, though, wasn’t interested but he did take a look. Suddenly he said, ‘Look, these puppies were born the day Taco died.’

Gucci & Peggy, the pug, at Pension Milou

No further mention was made of the pups and soon Sheila and Xavier went off to Ireland on holiday. When they got back, Xavier said to Sheila,’ Well, when are we ordering the puppy then?’ At first, Sheila didn’t know what he was talking about. ‘What puppy?’ she asked. ‘The puppy that was born on the day Taco died.’

So, the decision was made. Taco was re-incarnated! They would get a puppy. Taco would come home. Sheila called the breeder and found there were two boys available. They booked one and when the puppies were old enough, off they went on the long journey from their home almost on the Italian border to the Pyrénées, way over on the Spanish side of southern France.

Once there, they booked into a hotel for the night and then drove to the farm to see the puppies. They’d make their choice that evening and then pick up their new puppy next morning.

All the puppies were in pens. There were Welsh Terriers, Airedales and Jack Russell terriers. He let out the two available Welsh terrier puppies and their mother, a beautiful gentle creature with a superb temperament. The pups though came out of the pen like bats out of hell. One instantly came running to Sheila – jumped on her lap and starting licking her face. The other puppy was more aloof.

After spending time with them, Xavier and Sheila made their choice. They chose the puppy they considered to have the better head and foreface – he had the look they were after and he was a stronger puppy than his brother - the one who’d jumped on Sheila’s lap and given her little kisses.

Back at the hotel after a nice dinner, doubts set in. Had they chosen the right puppy? Surely the puppy who’d licked Sheila’s face was Taco saying, ‘I’m back, I’m back – choose me!’ She didn’t sleep all night.

Next morning, they collected their puppy, who’d been bathed and was ready for the long journey. Now called Gucci, it was not an easy trip for him, as he threw up endlessly on the 69 kilometres of windy roads, until they got to the motorway.

Eventually, they got home and Sheila, who’d been worrying if they’d made the right choice, if perhaps it was Taco who’d licked her the night before, decided to test Gucci. You’ll remember that Taco adored raw carrots and had one every day at 4 p.m. She took a carrot out of the vegetable rack and handed it to Gucci. Sheila says puppies don’t normally like raw carrots. Personally I don’t know, as I don’t recall ever giving a carrot to a puppy.

And what happened? Gucci ate it immediately.

Taco/Gucci was home.


14 February 2008

'Pearl Drift'

Milou & his friend, Tallulah, the fox terrier

At last we have sun again after a week of rain. Goodness knows the garden needed it, although rain and a pile of muddy dogs don’t make for a clean house. Milou’s rose, however – he’s buried under a rose called Pearl Drift – needed rain to break into leaf, and it is doing just that. So perhaps I’d better stop complaining.

It’s nearly three years since Milou was put to sleep. The dreaded deed can be done properly and kindly or very badly. It’s always something we don’t want to think about but thank goodness we can help our dogs on their way to a peaceful end with no more suffering. But it must be done properly.

The veterinarian who put Milou to sleep made a botch of it. I’ve not written about the way it happened till now because it was too painful and it made me upset and angry just to think about it. Read this and remember. Don’t go thru what I did and more to the point, what Milou did. When we put a dog to sleep, we shouldn’t have to be worrying about ‘how’ it is done (that’s the veterinarian’s job) – it’s bad enough just going thru it but I learned a lesson on the day Milou went to doggy heaven. Even when we are desperately upset, we have to take responsibility.

I’d taken him down to the vet that morning following a dreadful night. I knew it was his time without asking the vet but she x-rayed him and confirmed that the tumours in his lungs had multiplied. Mindful of the night before, when he’d been gasping for breath, I had no intention of letting him go through another night. I’d had him up on the bed with me trying to soothe him so he could breathe more easily. So I was prepared for what had to happen and had put several small biscuits in my handbag. [I’ve always fed my dogs their favourite treat when it’s time for the needle to go in. That way they are so occupied with eating they are not watching what the vet is about to do. Of course sometimes a dog is too sick to eat but if not, I’ve found this to be a helpful and distracting thing to do.]

It’s always difficult to choose the right day to put a dog to sleep. Ideally it’s before pain gets too much but not too soon. If in doubt, look in your dog’s eyes. He’ll often tell you. Indeed, sometimes – not always - when a dog is really ready to go, he’ll get a film over his eyes as if he’s blanking out the world in advance.

Hiking on the hills above Gorbio

And although it’s not easy, we owe it to our dog to be there with him at that final moment. Some people simply can’t face it but if you can, your dog will leave this world in the arms of the person he loves most - you. Let him think this is no more than the usual yearly jab – or at worst, the taking of a blood test.

The decision was made. ‘Put him on the table, Jilly,’ my vet said. I lifted him up, cuddling him, crying. Milou was the dog of my life. I’ve had many wonderful dogs but had never had a relationship with a dog as I did with this wonderful American cocker spaniel. My handbag was already on the table and he could smell the biscuits. He’d always had a wonderful ‘nose’ and whenever Candy, my best friend in America, sent him tennis balls, he could smell them before I'd removed the wrapping paper, let alone opened the box.

So he was digging his nose into my bag, trying to get at the treats. How can you put a dog to sleep who is healthy enough to want a biscuit? And now, he was breathing quite well too. No matter, I’d seen the x-ray, I’d witnessed the difficulty he’d had during the night and I knew we had to go through this before he deteriorated further.
The vet prepared the needle. The first would send him off to sleep the instant she withdrew it from a vein - an anaesthetic. Then when asleep, she’d inject a further chemical to stop the heart. Easy peasy.

I gave Milou half a biscuit, which disappeared in a trice. Then another half. Then another half. The vet seemed to be taking a long time with the needle. I looked up. She was standing there, ready, needle in hand. ‘What are you waiting for?’ I asked. ‘I’m waiting for him to stop eating,’ she said. I’d explained to her earlier that this is the way I like my dogs to go – distracted by food and doing what they enjoy most – eating. ‘It doesn’t seem right that he should be eating when he dies,’ she said.

Of course, I should have insisted but I was totally choked up. I couldn’t argue with her. I shut my bag and put it on the floor. ‘Hold on to him,’ she said. I held him and she put a tourniquet round the top of his leg. He immediately started struggling, fighting, desperate to get off the table. It took all my strength to hold him. Probably, looking back, the tourniquet was far too tight. Was a tourniquet even necessary? ‘Hold him tighter,’ she said. I wanted to yell, ‘Stop, you can’t kill a dog like this – it should be a gentle easy passing – there shouldn’t be a struggle. He deserves better than this.’ And then I thought – all in a split second of course - ‘But he’s got to go and I’m just being stupid.’ And all the time, sobbing, sobbing. One of Milou’s legs had come off the table in his desperate attempt to get away. I got it back and held him as tightly as I could. Eventually, and it seemed like minutes but of course it wasn’t, she managed to get the needle into his leg – I manoeuvred myself around, whilst holding him and the last image I had of my darling Milou was his face, eyes wide and staring, scared and fighting - fighting so hard, for this not to happen. And then he collapsed. I’ll never forget the terrified look in his eyes. Then she put the chemical into the vein to stop the heart, took my money and I brought him home to bury him on the hillside above the house. And today his rose is about to burst into leaf.

But I couldn’t forget the fear in his eyes. My darling dog deserved to go gently into that good night, not with terror as he did. Of course, I’ve re-lived it a million times. I should have brought him home, let him relax for a while, fed him something he loved. Then later, given him sedatives before taking him back to the vet when he’d have been too sleepy to know anything. Or I should have got the vet up here and made her do it gently, allowed me feed the biscuits. But most of all I should have stopped it that day. I was appalled at myself although I’d never had a ‘bad’ death before and just hadn’t allowed for such a possibility. I wasn’t prepared and so didn’t stop it – couldn’t get beyond my emotion. I can’t forgive myself for not stopping the fiasco. He deserved better, my kind, beautiful Milou.

Two days later, and still distraught, I went back to the vet to ask her why she’d allowed this to happen – why she’d let him suffer so much in his last minutes. She said, ‘You are a dog person, Jilly, with years of experience and so I didn’t think it would have bothered you.’ She was plainly amazed that two days later I was still so utterly distressed. Good God in heaven! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I told her that had this been someone else’s dog (in other words had I not been emotionally involved) I’d have stopped the process immediately until the dog was calm – then we’d have started again but with Milou, I was too upset to even speak. To be fair to her, she then told me that she'd seen I was upset and just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. It wasn’t right though; it wasn’t the way it should have happened. I don’t think she’ll put another dog or owner through a death like that in a hurry. At least I hope not.

She sent me a note of apology a week or so later. Too late - too late.

Obviously, she didn’t intend for this to happen - any more than I did. She should though, with her experience, have done it properly. I’m not sure I’ve forgiven her but the anger has gone. Milou, who was the kindest dog in the world, has doubtless forgiven me long ago. He loved me too much – and me him. I haven’t yet forgiven myself though and certainly I can’t bring myself to go back to that particular vet even though it’s convenient as she is far nearer to me than the vet I use now. I never will go back to her.

Of course it was the vet’s fault. Not mine. We should all be able to trust our veterinarian to do things properly and kindly. But I wish I’d stopped it and I didn’t. My advice would be to discuss, in advance, exactly what procedure is used - just to put your mind at rest.

Since Milou died, Flavia, my lovely old retired Guide Dog for the Blind, went peacefully and easily on my terrace, thanks to my current vet. She munched carrots, which she adored, as the needle went in and she knew nothing. That’s how it should be done and when it’s like that, you don’t feel terrible. You feel relieved you were able to ease a dog beyond its suffering.

That’s how it’s always been when I’ve had to put a dog to sleep, except with the one dog that meant so much – Milou.

Pearl Drift, Milou's rose - plus his, now, very weathered tennis ball

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