22 August 2009

Gator, the Service Dog...+ Mia Update

Pension Milou welcomed two American 'allergy' dogs this week. One to visit and she'll stay here shortly. The other - Gator - he arrived yesterday. Both are Goldendoodles. Labradoodles and Goldendoodles - and other mixes - are dogs specially bred for people with allergies. How it is that the Poodle manifests itself in the coat and not the Golden Retriever (which is the allergic bit) I'm not clear.

And then I learned that one of them - Gator, the beautiful two and a half year old dog you see in these photos, is also a registered Service Dog.

Gator is trained to visit sick people in hospital and retirement homes - in other words, a therapy dog. He also does rescue work. His owners hoped he'd also be trainable as a water rescue dog but unlike poodles and golden retrievers (of which he's both) he's not crazy about water!

One of the massive side benefits of owning a service dog in America is that the dog is permitted to go everywhere with the owner - this means restaurants, hotels, shops, all places normally forbidden to a dog in that country. And airplanes. So when Gator flew first class with his owner from Florida to Nice, he flew in the cabin, lying at the feet of his owner. Now you know why he's called Gator...he comes from Florida.

Today, his family are taking a cruise from Monaco to Corsica and were really surprised Gator wasn't allowed on board. France and Monaco doesn't recognise the American Service Dog badge - or at least the owner of this cruise ship didn't. Apparently a small dog would have been allowed (Gator is a BIG boy) and perhaps a Guide Dog for the Blind (not sure about that tho) - so that's why he arrived at Pension Milou yesterday and he's a pleasure to have around. He's so good, so obedient - as you gather, I'm all for Service Dogs staying here...he's one beautifully behaved dog, yet he's having great fun playing with a little Westie pup who is staying here. As you can see from these photos, he settled in immediately.

Update on Mia: Mia has now been here for 8 months and you'd not recognise her. She is in great physical condition - adores playing with the other dogs. Sometimes I think she's a puppy, she so loves playing. She's still scared of strangers who call, but is getting better and better - rarely barks at them and 'wants' to come into the house when they are here but isn't quite brave enough. But still there is a vast improvement. And now, when I go out, I can leave via the front gate, rather than lugging up the back garden and out the back way. Such progress. And best of all, she is the most loving adorable dog when we are all here together - just the dogs and me - finally, she's happy. Again, thank you so much for all the comments and support during the last months with Mia and earlier with Mistral.

29 May 2009

The Solution

As I mentioned in the last post, things got pretty difficult for Mia. When I went out I couldn't leave her shut in the house as she wrecked it, suffering as she does (since Mistral's death) from chronic separation anxiety. I couldn't leave her downstairs because she was so fraught that she passed blood - and lots of it (I even took a photograph but don't worry I'm not showing it to you!) and I couldn't leave her in a cage upstairs because she cut herself to pieces trying to get out.

I tried her again downstairs, with even more medication to calm her, but it was even worse than before. Not only did she pass blood but when I got home and let her out she walked around the garden, stomach in spasm, passing blood every five minutes.

What to do? I couldn't leave her and yet I 'have' to go out. Around three weeks ago I was ready to put her to sleep. In fact I'd spoken to the vet about it. Sounds awful I know, but she was so fraught, so sick when I left, it was no life. A dog sitter wasn't an option. I'd be wary of leaving other people's dogs with a dog sitter - it's such a responsibility - and anyway, I never go out for very long and often it's at short notice, depending on the weather, for instance - when I want to take photographs.

Then my American friend, Candy, suggested I try leaving her outside in the garden/terrace area. I couldn't imagine that this would work. Had visions of Mia fighting to get out of the gate, howling (believe me, she has a real hound's howl) and upsetting the neighbours with the noise, perhaps even hurting herself even more than she already had trying to get out. However I had noticed that when I walk up the track to get the newspaper and mail, she didn't seem to bother if I went up the back way and out the top gate. If I left by the main gate, she went bananas. So one day I walked up the back way, drove the car to the top of the track ready for my escape. I came back down, shut all the dogs in the house except Mia and Beau - it seemed she would do better with company. Then I walked back up, as if I was simply going to the mailbox. My wonderful neighbour, Agn├Ęs, was on full alert, listening for crying, barking, scratching. I sat in the car up the top of the track for a while but all seemed well. Eventually off I went and when I got back - miracle - Mia and Beau were fast asleep on the terrace chairs.

Mia is saved!

Since then I've been out endless times - always walking up the back way to the top gate (great fun if you are a dressed up and it's raining) but now, instead of having to come back down the same way, I can drive down the track and enter by the main gate. I can also drive away from the parking area (no need to take the car up in advance) - she knows I'm leaving (I presume?) and if I go out the back way, no problem. Don't ask me the logic of it. I don't ask, I'm just happy. If I ever go out the main gate though - even for five minutes - she goes berserk.

She's in super condition now, skin healed, eyes clear, ears clean, she's put on weight and she's even stopped eating the Jade plant. She's terrified of people as I said but has no fear of the vacuum cleaner yet hates brooms. And she has started playing, particularly with little Choupette, the pug, who is a new client. They just love playing together.

Choupette had a tough start in life - she had to be operated for kidney stones at 8 weeks and also had demodectic mange (fortunately not contagious) which is now cured. She's put up with a lot in her young life but like all pugs, is so brave and such fun and has no idea she is a little dog. She started the games with Mia and Mia just loves her. When Mia plays with Choupette, she's like a puppy.

And now that we've solved the problem of my going out, I do believe she is a happy dog. What happens in winter, when it's cold, I don't know. I'm not addressing that problem yet. One step at a time...

Thanks so much to everyone for their support with Mistral and Mia. It's really been so helpful - you have no idea. Certainly Mia has had the most problems of any dog I've ever adopted but happily it seems to be working out for her at last.

24 April 2009

The Melodramas of Mia

We've had a lot of rain lately - grumble, grumble - but now the sun is shining and summer appears to be on its way. Soon I'll be complaining about the heat! Dogs love to eat young fresh grass and we've got than enough of that. Sometimes I think I'm looking after a herd of cows rather than a bunch of dogs. I've heard people say there must be something wrong with a dog if it needs to eat grass. I've never found this. In the wild a dog would first eat the stomach contents of their 'kill' and that would include grasses. My late lamented Milou ate grass once a month and then vomited bile. His way of getting rid of it. Far better than buying medication at the veterinarians.

Mia, not only eats grass, she chomps happily on my Jade plant - a succulent, often called a 'money tree.' There is a Chinese tradition that you place a Jade plant outside your front door to encourage the money to come in and another outside your back door to stop it leaving. Thanks to Mia my Jade plant is getting smaller and smaller. Perhaps a bad omen for my bank account. Maybe the world is in such a bad financial state because all our dogs are eating the Jade plants. Now that would be something new to blame, wouldn't it?

Mia has problems though. When Mistral died, she seemed not to bother at all - didn't look for her, didn't seem to miss her and then I realised she was becoming more and more attached to me. I had become 'her Mistral' and so when I went out, she suffered massive separation anxiety and then went berserk. It started small and got bigger until one day, returning from a trip to the market, I found curtains pulled down, curtain rail down too - bent screws, no less. Paintings off the wall, books all over the place, chewed this, chewed that. A nightmare.

I called the vet who told me there are two medications for 'separation anxiety.' One I was familiar with. Bosun, a dog I used to look after was given it but it made him very dopey, almost depressed and his owner eventually stopped using it. Sadly Bosun is no longer with us but you can read about that wonderful dog by clicking on the link.

The other drug is called Zylkene and is apparently made of a product that resembles the chemical in mother's milk and so, in theory, calms the dog. I started Mia on this and the next time I went out left her downstairs in a spare room. This room has an internal kennel - something I installed years ago in case I ever had a difficult or a sick dog needing isolation. It's not been used in years, in fact, it was full of my old suitcases. I cleared it out and made it comfortable for Mia. I left her down there for short periods to begin, got her used to it. When I went out though, it didn't work - she'd poop and pee and make a dreadful mess and the poop had blood in it. The vet told me this is because she is so upset, the poop gets bloody.The next time she'd poop - in the garden - perfect.

So then I hauled a very large cage upstairs into the living room so that she could be confined but would be with the other dogs. En principe, I don't like cages but I know they have their uses as a training device and some dogs see them as a secure sanctuary. My hope was Mia would do this. I started feeding her in the cage and she's quite happy with that but wants to come out immediately. I practiced with her during the day. 15 minutes at a time and eventually left her in the cage when I went out. For a couple of short periods, it worked, but then one day I came home from visiting friends for lunch - I was out 3 hours - blood everywhere. Not from her rear end but from her nose where she'd bloodied it try to get thru the bars. Her front feet were swollen too, where she'd gone crazy trying to get out . She had difficulty walking that evening and she was in one hell of a state about it all.

Since then I've not been out.

But obviously we have to solve this problem. I have to go out at times. We need food, I love my photography, I like to see friends. I've already cancelled a four-day trip to Italy and have declined several social invitations locally. That's all OK but we have to solve the problem. Indeed, five blogger friends are coming to visit in a couple of weeks - two will stay here, three in an hotel in Menton and I will be 'tour guide' and so will be out a lot of the time. I'm really looking forward to their visit. So, the problem of Mia has to be solved. Mia hates the cage and hurts herself. She's not happy downstairs but at least she doesn't hurt herself. But then she is alone. She can't be left upstairs, free, with the other dogs, because she goes bananas and wrecks the place. Oh dear.

I called the vet. We've doubled the dose of medication. Friends suggest a Kong toy filled with some interesting food to occupy her. Another suggested a hollow bone. I happened to have one of these and tried her in the cage yesterday (I didn't go out) but her concern at being shut in the cage was far greater than her greed for food.

On the other hand, there are improvements. When strangers come to the house, she doesn't stand outside barking non-stop. Yes, she stands outside but at least she doesn't bark. When she dares to enter the house, she'll sneak past the dreaded visitor and go sit in an armchair. This happened last night when a friend came to dinner. After dinner, he went up to her, gently - but she jumped off the chair, over the coffee table, onto the sofa. She is capable of relaxing tho - remember how she was with Mister Brian?

She is also in much better condition physically, she's put on weight, her skin is better although still quite dry but she has Omega oils for this. And when we are all here alone, she's content - even plays with other dogs on occasion but rarely takes her eyes off me.

This afternoon I have to go out as I need more of her medication. I'll put her downstairs where she can't hurt herself and with that hollow bone stuffed with soft cheese which I know she likes.

Let's hope it works.

25 March 2009


It's been nearly a month since the last Mia and Mistral report.

At first, the days passed pretty well - life was good. Mia was still scared when a stranger arrived, yet there was and is improvement. She now plays with other dogs when we are all here alone. Mistral just ate (always hungry) - and the pair of them decided thievery was their forte. One day. whilst I was out, they broke into the kitchen area, pulled down the rubbish and wrecked it, grabbed a 15 kilo sack of dog food off the counter and promptly ate a quarter of it. Mistral's stomach was 4 times its normal size - I don't know how she walked. After that, I invested in four chains and four padlocks and now have to lock each babygate when I go out.

Then I noticed that Mistral seemed to be deteriorating.

To go back to the beginning, or rather the beginning of their new life here which seems ages ago but actually it was on the 30th December that they arrived here from their Hell Hole. Not that long ago.

On the day they arrived I remember thinking that Mistral could be pregnant. Her stomach was too big for her body - distorted somehow. Or perhaps she was full of worms but then she'd been wormed the day before she left Beziers.

When I took her for the first vet's visit we talked it over, we both knew she couldn't be pregnant and I put forward the idea that perhaps she had a tumour. The vet said she'd take a look when she opened her up to sterilize her. In the event, she wasn't able to do this as she was only dealing with the area of reproduction. When I collected her she suggested she should go on a diet. I put her on a Light Diet but within a week she started losing weight around the ribs yet that distended stomach never left her. I wondered if perhaps it was her disgusting habit of eating poop but I have to say the thought of a tumour never left me.

Last week I took her to the vet for a checkup. Her mammary tumours seemed hot (the vet had told me these can shrink back after sterilisation and mostly they had - the idea being that eventually they'd need removing). My vet took one look at her and said she had gone downhill since she'd last seen her. Her skin was much dryer and more flaky, and her stomach was bigger. She made an appointment for her to have an ultrasound. On Tuesday mornings (yesterday) a specialist in ultra-sound comes with her machine from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Cap d'Ail.

I knew we were going to find the worst so for the last few days, Mistral has been thoroughly spoiled eating whatever she wants and as much as she wants. You can see in the photograph above - taken three days ago - how big her stomach was and that's before spoiling her with extra food.

We got her up on the table and within a minute, the specialist found a tumour on one of the adrenal glands, which are attached to the kidneys. The ACTH hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, moves through the blood stream and signals the adrenal glands near the kidneys to produce corticosteroids. In a healthy dog, it is a self-balancing system. However, when a tumor develops in the pituitary or adrenal glands, the level of required corticosteroids is compromised. This leads to Cushings disease and that is what Mistral was showing signs of - poor coat, distended stomach - eventually it would lead to worse symptoms.

These tumors send inaccurate signals to various systems and cause an imbalance in the otherwise balanced body functions. All attempts made by the body to restore normalcy are of no use, and once Cushings disease has been contracted, it doesn't go away. This is why Mistral was crazy for food - (and eating poop) - all the wrong messages were being sent to her brain.

Some of these tumours are benign and can be treated to a degree, with the dog having a reasonable quality of life and some are malignant. The expert told me Mistral's was malignant and that eventually it would spread to the liver and lungs.

Mistral wasn't going to get better. I asked if she was in pain and the vet said probably not pain but that she'd be uncomfortable. I'd noticed an awkwardness in her walk and some difficulty in getting up off the sofa. We talked long and hard and I could see it was the moment - that it wouldn't be right letting her get sicker. Mistral has never been a happy dog, incredibly needy, craving affection all the time and never playing with another dog. She always had a look of desperation in her eyes - she always looked so sad. Even when lying next to me on the sofa - me stroking her - she was never able to relax and enjoy it but was continually tensed, pushing me, pawing me for more even as she got it. Nothing was ever enough. I don't know if this was caused by her early life - the endless litters she had and the abuse she suffered - and perhaps by her illness too - desperation for food, desperation for affection - the messages to the brain had got muddled.

So yesterday morning, she went to Doggy Heaven, eating a handful of biscuits as the vet put the needle into her.

I'm glad now that the vet didn't find the tumour earlier - at least she had nearly three months here living in comfort. I do wish though she'd had longer. God knows, she deserved more, so much more. But thank God that at least she didn't die in that dreadful place - she'd have suffered so - they'd not have taken her to a vet, they'd have left her to die.

In the photo below you see Mia on the coffee table with Dotty and Peggy, pug visitors - Mistral is yawning on the sofa behind her. So you can see how well Mia has come along. Mia, who was absolutely in the worst condition of the two on arrival, is now glowing with health physically - and learning to cope with people, albeit slowly.

And since yesterday, I have worried that Mia would keep looking for Mistral but so far - and it's now over 24 hours, she doesn't seem at all bothered.

I'm sorry to give such awful news. And thank you so much to everyone who has been so encouraging. You know, despite all this, I'd do it again. At least we got her out of that dreadful place and she had nearly three months of comfort and good food and love - yes, I'm sure she knew she was loved. Poor sweet Mistral. I do so wish it had been longer...

20 February 2009


The two new dogs are doing well. Both are now spayed, stitches removed. Mistral has no obvious physical problems and isn't scared of people although she is a much sadder dog than Mia and incredibly needy, frenetically needy, and goes up to everyone for affection. She has been beaten tho and if I tell her off for eating poop (yeah!) she cowers, sure I'm going to hit her so we need another solution. Jicky, a reader of this blog, tells me Tabasco sauce will stop it for good and when I find a place that sells it in France, I'll be out in the garden sprinkling it on you-know-what. As it is, you'll find me half the day rushing about with a pooper scooper trying to beat Mistral to it. And you thought life in the south of France was sitting by the Mediterranean sipping champagne, didn't you?

Mia is terrified of the world, but at the same time, when no 'Big Bad Stranger' is here to scare her, she finds joy in life, she's naughty, she's funny. This morning - drum roll - she was playing with another dog for the first time. (see last photo) She's slowly gaining weight even though she eats three times the amount I give other dogs her size but I've seen this before. It can take a year for a very out of condition dog to come right. Her skin is much better, special baths no longer necessary as she rarely scratches now.

This though is the story of Mister Brian and Mia.

Some of you may have read 'The Day Lou was Stolen,' which tells the story Brian's French bulldog, Lou. Mister Brian has a wonderful food shop in Monaco called - you guessed it - 'Mister Brian.' Brian is Monaco's famous caterer, supplying superb prepared meals to everyone - from the person living alone who doesn't want to cook, to a party on a luxury yacht in the harbour to a full-scale society wedding. His chefs are superb and in all the years he's done this, he's never lost his personal touch. Any Brits reading this might have seen the ITV programme, Piers Morgan on Monaco, where Brian was interviewed several times.

Inviting Brian to Sunday lunch means you get a response such as, 'I'll bring the first course so do you prefer prawns, salmon or crab?' I wish I had more friends like that. Of course when he arrives, there's usually a to-die-for chocolate dessert and a bottle of very good wine as well. He and Lou came to lunch a short while ago. Brian's girlfriend, Ester, is in Costa Rica at the moment. If you'd like to see a photograph of the two of them wearing plastic bags (!) - honestly - click on the link.

Mia, as I said, is terrified of any stranger and in particular, men. When a visitor arrives, she'll bolt out of the door as soon as she can get past them, and then she'll stand outside on the terrace barking non-stop. Not helpful. Later, she'll come to the open door, peer in and run away again. When I go outside and catch her, which is no easy task when a visitor is here, as I go to put a lead on her, she'll cringe, eye tight shut, waiting to be beaten. I'd like to get hold of the person who did this to her...

After Brian and I had lunched - and lunched very well, as you can imagine - I got Mia back indoors. Brian adores dogs - he's rescued dogs in Costa Rica and it goes without saying that Lou and he are inseparable. Whilst I was making coffee, I looked up and saw Brian trying to make friends with Mia. He spent a very long and uncomfortable time sitting on the edge of the coffee table, talking to Mia (sweet Lou putting up with it). Mia was on the sofa (yes, there's something wrong with who sits where in this house). He stroked her, he kissed her, he worked on getting her confidence. He was determined she'd not end that day without knowing a man can be kind to a dog - and how kind is that.

Well the photos say it all really. I'm sorry they are rather blurred. It was the way the light was that day - well, that's my excuse, but I did want to show you.

Brian's time with Mia is an example of how patience and love can sometimes overcome anything--even something as horrific as Mia's previous life. Of course, she's still scared of every new person, and it's almost a pattern that needs breaking, but I feel sure time and good friends will help her. And sometimes she's scared of me - for instance if I put on different clothes to go out, then she'll run away from me. Who is this 'new' person? But Brian's time with her has really helped her on her way.

It's so worthwhile to adopt a dog from a refuge. Mistral and Mia's Hell Hole was an extreme situation but most refuge dogs just want a home of their own again. The rewards of opening your heart to a shelter dog are beyond category. When you see them relaxed, in good condition, asleep or better still, playing and having a good time, it's so worthwhile. So if you are looking for another dog, do go look in the shelters - you'll find old dogs, middle aged dogs and puppies. There is a choice but no one ever wants the old dogs, so do consider one of those. People don't want old dogs because they'll not have them for long and they don't want to go through the sadness when they die but when they die, get another in their memory because that's what they'd want - the love continues - we don't run out of it. Suffice to say we get back far more than we give - that's for sure.

04 February 2009

'Les Girls'

And update on Mama Mia and Mistral - 'Les Girls' as Virginia, their avid supporter from Birmingham, Alabama calls them.

Mistral - well basically she's fine. She was spayed and is now over that. She in pretty good form - incredibly needy (more so than Mia who was in the worst condition of the two). Mistral weirdly has an uneven face. One dewlap is normal and on the other side, it's very short. The vet doesn't know why any more than I do. Was she born like that, was she beaten? There doesn't appear to be any scaring but she's certainly one lopsided looking dog.

Mia has problems (she's the one photographed here) but on the other hand you can see she is looking much better. She has been eating three times the amount of the others yet has only gained a little weight. Her skin is improving but it's not right yet. Last week she went to the vet for a check-up and the two special baths she was having have been stopped. The vet felt they were perhaps drying her skin too much.

And on Monday she was sterilised. (these photos were taken before the operation) She bled a lot and she needed a lot of anaesthetic. When the vet opened her up she found enlarged lymph nodes - perhaps not good news, we have to wait and see. She also wanted to remove one toe. It's infected and is three times the size it should be. After x-ray, it was hard to tell if it was a tumour or what, so removal seemed the best option. Because she bled so much tho and because she needed so much anaesthetic, the vet decided not to do anything with the toe for the moment. The x-rayed showed it's not a tumour but is badly arthritic and could be painful for her. So we'll see how it goes. At the moment it doesn't seem to bother her and as the vet said, if she has lymphoma why bother her with another operation. Once she's over this op, she can be given anti-inflammatories, of course and that might help. She also has a heart murmur. Lots wrong with our lovely Mama Mia.

And Mia is a dog who is sick in the car. Boy is she sick in the car, even if she hasn't eaten, she'll manage to throw up something...

Yesterday, the day after the operation, she was still poorly but today she is much better, eating well and taking note of life.

So sad if she does have cancer but on the other hand, even if she doesn't make much older bones, at least she has a comfortable sofa to sleep on and that was the whole point - to give these dogs a good ending to their hard lives.

She is still terrified of men, of course, and the camera - she looks at it and thinks a bullet is about to hit her between the eyes.

So everything is now done. They've both been sterilised, they've had their innoculations, loads of wormings, skin treatments, good food. Now it's just a question of time and getting healthier. I know from the past, this takes time and we've lots of that.

Thanks so much to everyone who has been so encouraging and taken such an interest in these two dogs - they say Woof Woof and thanks to you.

24 January 2009

The Blind Dog

No, the light hasn't caught her eyes, Goldy, the cocker spaniel is completely blind. (I didn't see the grass on her nose till later but then Goldy uses her nose all the time).

Goldy has been coming to Pension Milou for a few years now. She's eleven years old and was bought in a shop in Nice when she was just four months. She lives with a beautiful French lady called Catherine and her two children in Monaco and in La Turbie where she enjoys the garden. Two years ago when Catherine went through a divorce, sweet Goldy was there for her. And Catherine has always been there for Goldy - it's a relationship that is beautiful to see.

When Goldy was one year old, she was diagnosed with degradation of the retina and Catherine was told she would eventually go completely blind. She deteriorated but for years still had the tiniest amount of sight and so she managed very well here, finding her way down the steps to the garden. She'd even go on the ski lift with the family when they visit Valberg - and she still does.

Catherine and I used to discuss how Goldy would manage when she went completely blind and I told her I was sure , because she was so familiar with her Monaco apartment and with this house and garden, that she'd do fine.

I was wrong. One day Catherine called to say that Goldy had suddenly gone completely blind and that she was at a standstill. She wouldn't move. It took a month before she found her confidence and could find her way around her apartment alone. The same happened here. She was terrified, frozen to the spot, and I had to guide her everywhere for the first few visits.

But you know, dogs are amazing. Goldy is so brave. She now walks around, nose glued to the ground - that's how she finds her way about - she moves slowly, especially going down the flight of steps to the garden. But she manages. She won't be rushed. She trusts her nose more than me. She sleeps in the kitchen, behind a baby gate. I feel that is best for her. She has security with no other dogs to bother her. I was concerned some of the dogs wouldn't understand why she doesn't react as other dogs do and so perhaps could hurt her. In fact, at times, when she's with the dogs outside, they are fine and she always likes to sniff them and say hello. She knows the kitchen area though - she can find the water bowl, she knows where her bed is located.

Her head is always on one side, cocked, listening for sounds. When I go into the kitchen, she perks up - is it food time? Goldy loves her food. And she is so trusting. When it's 'biscuit time' before bed, she stands there waiting - she knows I won't forget to give her a biscuit. Or two.

Dogs astound me. They are brave, they don't complain, they even enjoy life despite their physical problems. Didn't someone say, 'Everything I learned, I learned from my dog?' That is surely so.

Every dog I've owned has taught me something different and some of the dogs who come to stay teach me too. There are new challenges with Mistral and Mia. With Mistral I'm learning patience as she won't allow me to relax on the sofa. If I'm reading she'll paw the book out of my hand for attention. She isn't yet able to sit beside me, me stroking her, she has to continually push and prod me for yet more. Not very relaxing when I want to watch the television. Patience, Jilly.

Mia is scared of strangers and has obviously been beaten by a man as she goes crazy when she sees one, wanting to get as far away from him as possible and telling me with her continual barking that this dreadful creature is in the vicinity. Yet, she's not as needy for affection as Mistral. She's happy to sit alongside, just so long as she knows where I am. With her though I have to deal with her mad crazy barking when I prepare the food. Any other dog I'd tell to be quiet. With Mia, I'm trying Cesar Millan's (The Dog Whisperer) technique of saying quietly and calmly - but definitely - 'Psst' - and slowly we are getting there. There is improvement with strangers - she too is brave - she sometimes ventures up to sniff a hand, but then runs away again. We'll get there...

From our dogs, we learn how to love unselfishly. We learn compassion, patience, how to fall about with laughter and so much more. Goldy taught me about courage and not to complain. It can't be easy for her to stay at Pension Milou and when Catherine comes to collect her, she goes crazy and is truly happy again. It's almost as if she knows Catherine has to go away sometimes and so she bravely puts up with the time spent here. Goldy is a kind dog. Another lesson.

16 January 2009

Post Op Blues

Update on Mistral...yesterday she was sterilized and whoopee, no bad things were found. The vet did remove a polyp from her insides and explained that is probably why I saw blood coming from the vulva.

She does have loads of mammary tumours though but the vet said these might get smaller now she's been spayed. Apparently they are hormone dependent, so fingers crossed. If not, she'll need those stripping out at some point. Hopefully they are not cancerous. She's obviously been over-bred and has also had puppies left on her for too long.

And she's also on a diet but I've not told her yet. Now that she's been sterilized I know from experience how important it is to keep weight off during those first months whilst the hormones are going crazy. If you don't, it's so hard to get it off later. In Mistral's case, she really had too much weight before we started but there was no choice - it had to be done.

She's doing well today, staggering about a bit but wouldn't you? She must be very uncomfortable but she ate some breakfast, so all appears well with the world.

In the not very good photograph below, you see the Pension Milou Sick Bay - Beau on one side with his bandages and Mistral on the other - a small plaster in the centre of her stomach.

Mia, meanwhile, is progressing. She needs more weight, the skin needs to improve but it is. Time is what she needs and hopefully we've both got plenty of that.

So far so good at Pension Milou. And thanks again to everyone for their support. En pension at the moment, is Maya, the Golden, Maggie, the Red and White Irish setter and Daisy, the Border Terrier - all are spayed so they are all being most understanding of Mistral!

15 January 2009

Beau's Bandage

This is Beau, doing his best to look pretty pathetic. He's had enough of the new girls hogging this blog and decided it was his turn.

In fact, this operation had been planned a while ago. When Beau first came here from the refuge nearly three years ago he had a four and a half hour operation to remove both eardrums - his ears, neck area, down to the saliva glands, were full of infection. Indeed he still has a staph infection within himself. For two years following that operation he still kept getting abscesses on each side, just below the ear area. Then about 9 months ago one side (fingers crossed) finally healed up and since then no more abscesses but on the other side, he's had what the vet calls an 'open abscess' for months. The vet offered to operate again - free of charge, which is much appreciated - to see if it could be cleaned out and so solve the problem. Antibiotics by the way did zilch. I should think Beau has kept one of the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture antibiotics in business these last two years or so.

So a couple of days ago he was operated on but really there wasn't much the vet could do. Apparently he has loads of lumps and bumps - scar tissue - (he'd already been badly operated before the ear drums were removed) and this scar tissue is muddled up with nerves that operate the eyes, the throat etc. The vet said that unless we do an MRI scan and then micro-surgery it can't be done. It's too delicate and dangerous. So he's all bandaged up and really that's that. As the vet said, at his age - we don't know Beau's age but think he's over 10 - we'd not put him through a fourth operation. So hopefully, the clean-out might have helped a little, if not, we are back to cleaning the area every day as it oozes pus and sometimes, if we are lucky, just clear liquid. Beau accepts all this and even wags his tail when I bring the bowl of water to clean the area - he's that used to it now.

Note, in the photo below, Beau sitting on my coffee table. This cushion was put there for small dogs, not big ones! Note also how scratched the wood is. I suppose you could say it's dog antiquing. So, not only do I not have a proper sofa (you see the wrought iron daybed in the background) but I don't have a coffee table and I also don't have a comfortable chair. Beau takes that when he's not on the cushion and the new girls take the sofa along with various dogs who stay here en pension.

Update on the girls: Today Mistral goes to be spayed. Hopefully the vet will not find anything amiss and I'll report on this blog tomorrow. Mia, meanwhile, is eating like the proverbial horse but not putting on any weight that I can notice. Her skin is marginally better but she has a long way to go yet. In herself though, she is a much happier and more relaxed dog, unless a man appears and then she is terrified. Thank you so much to everyone for your comments and support. It means so much.

08 January 2009

The Visit to the Vet

Mama Mia and Mistral have now been here for 10 days and today we went to the vet for a check-up. We got back half an hour ago but as both were sick into every nook and and cranny of the car, I've been busy cleaning up. Yuck. I should know better and not have fed them this morning, but they weren't sick on the drive from the Languedoc so I thought they'd be OK. In hindsight, probably they weren't fed before that trip. Thank God, for leather car seats.

The day after they arrived, Mistral came into season - or so I thought. The blood tho stopped within a few hours then about 4 days later it started again. This time I checked her thoroughly and whilst it was coming from the vulva, she definitely isn't swollen or in heat. Two possibilities occurred to me - 1. that she has something wrong inside, like a tumour. 2. That she's pregnant and is aborting a re-absorbed pup!

So the vet checked them both over thoroughly.

Mistral: She doesn't think she's pregnant and we've booked her in for sterilization next Thursday. If she does have pups, they'll be removed. (If you are 'Right to Life,' sorry, there are too many adult dogs seeking homes, let alone unborn pups) Mistral is in far better condition than Mama Mia. Mistral's heart is good, teeth pretty clean, no ear problems, skin pretty much healed and she is even getting too fat now. We have to wait and see what the vet finds when she opens her up.

Mama Mia: She's in a far worse state even tho there is vast improvement from when she arrived. She has a heart murmur, her skin is still very bad although it's far less inflamed than before. We continue the baths for both of course but Mia has been given some special fatty supplement to help her skin. Her ears are disgusting and we now have a different treatment for them. She also has an infected toe which I didn't notice till this morning so that needs treating. She doesn't appear to be putting on weight but she is looking better. I can't give more food else she gets an upset tum.

Both continue antibiotics for several more weeks. Both cough occasionally but vet says it's a throat problem, not heart - simply from the conditions they've been living in. Should improve with luck. They cough after drinking water.

Getting them into the car was easy. Getting them out was easy but walking them through Cap d'Ail was a nightmare - at least it was was Mama Mia. My friend, Laura, met me and she walked Mistral (Mistral loves everyone and was no problem). Thank you, dear Laura, I couldn't have managed without you. I took Mia's lead and she practically had a heart attack every time she saw a man. Really I had to drag her through the street. She is absolutely terrified of men. If a man comes here she runs off and doesn't stop barking until he leaves. Last night a new dog arrived for interview (all guests at Pension Milou have to undergo an interview) - well she was terrified of the husband. Next time a man visits, I'll shut her in the kitchen, behind the babygate, and hope she settles. She's obviously been beaten, abused, whatever and by a man.

As for Beau, my beautiful Bruno de Jura, he didn't speak to me for two days after they arrived. You can see Beau - big black hound - in the smaller photo. How he knew they weren't normal visitors but were here to stay, I don't know, but he did. Beau came from a refuge nearly three years ago so he's a needy dog too. Then suddenly on the third day (and of course I fussed him like crazy and told him he was my very best and number one dog) he relented. Wagged his tail, came and sat with me and amazingly now totally accepts the two new girls. He doesn't care for dogs approaching his chair (re-read that - he doesn't care for dogs approaching MY chair) but now, when Mama Mia and Mistral approach, he accepts them - indeed, some mornings I find all three asleep together on the sofa.

Mistral has been trying to escape. Someone needs to tell this dog she's onto a good thing here. I told her if she keeps this up, she goes back to the Hell Hole. Only kidding... Hunting dogs have such a strong instinct to hunt and all around here are wild boar and all sorts of good smells so it's understandable. Anyway, she can't escape even tho she looks and hopes.

Progress. Now to air the car out and try and get rid of the smell. What fun...

If you think saving these two dogs is good news, I tell you it's nothing. Please take a look at Bibi from Belgrade's post today. This woman is a saint! 250 dogs and counting - all looking for a home.

04 January 2009

So where am I supposed to sit, then?

These two poor dogs are getting somewhat above their station. After the horrors of the Hell Hole, you'd think Mama Mia and Mistral would be happy with the two comfortable beds I provided for them. Nice and big, with soft cushions and vet beds on top. Oh no! Yesterday they got up onto the sofa twice. Twice I told them to get down. And then, when I woke up this morning, there they were - and so here they are... (Please click on the link if you are new to this story).

So Beau has my chair and sometimes the cushion on the coffee table (usually the domain of the smaller dogs) and now the sofa has gone too. So where do I sit?

I hear you say this is a very strange looking sofa and you'd be right. I used, in another lifetime, to own a normal sofa, but when you look after dogs for a living it doesn't work. Someone comes in and pees against it, another is sick on it. Forget it! It's easier to have a wrought-iron day bed like this - you can wipe it down if necessary and change the bedding all the time. I keep telling myself that one day I'll get one of those deep sofas, enormous soft cushions, preferable white - but of course I know I never will.

Yesterday I went shopping for the first time since the new dogs have been here - left them for just over an hour. I so hoped they'd behave, not wreck the place, not pull stuff off the kitchen counter, not attack the closed door. I so hoped because tonight the plan is to leave them and go out to dinner in Menton with friends. When I got back, I listened outside the door. Not a sound. Opened the door and nothing...everyone was fast asleep. Mama Mia opened one eye and went back to sleep again. Mistral got up slowly. Beau didn't move, as per normal. The three little bichons, en pension, barked like crazy and Goldy, the blind dog in the kitchen, got up to say Hello. All was well. What luck, eh?

Another two baths each tomorrow and then to the vet mid-week for a check-up to see how they are doing, how their skin in particular is doing. I'll report after that.

02 January 2009

Heads down, Tails up!

More progress...today is the first day Mama Mia walks around the garden with her tail up all the time. Apologies for her head being blurred - she's the one in front. Mama Mia has yet to hone her modeling skills.

Yesterday was bath day and thanks to my wonderful neighbour we managed it. They were shampooed in two different products, each left on for 5 minutes and today Mia's skin is so much calmer - less red, less inflamed. Mistral doesn't have anything like the skin problems of Mia. Next bath on Monday.

I walked up the track to the mailbox just now and shut the front door with a key as if I were going out for a while - just a test. I was away perhaps 7 or 8 minutes and when I got back, much barking and howling was going on and papers pulled off the kitchen counter. Next time I leave, I'll go for a little longer and slowly they'll realise I'm not abandoning them. Mind you, I've a feeling they might be enjoying the chance to get into what they shouldn't...

01 January 2009

Looking outwards...to their new lives

It's the morning of their third day and already they are getting more confident. (Scroll down for the dreadful story of Mistral and Mia - which gets better by the day!)

Last night, when they heard fireworks, they barked (howled) like crazy and wanted to go out. Most dogs are scared. They went off to investigate - I think they thought they heard gunshots and were off to hunt...

And a clean house this morning and already Mia, the worst at walking, is beginning to trot about the garden so much more easily.

Today is bath day - two different products for the skin and each to be left on for five minutes. This should be fun!

Thanks for all the kind comments, but you know looking after dogs is what I do - so it's easy for me.

In the last photo, you see Mia with a couple of the dogs en pension for the New Year - Maya the golden and little, Snowy, the bichon.

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