Sunday, 12 April 2015

An Update from Collie Towers

It's been a month since Florian wrote his letter home, and what a busy time and his big "brother" Hector have been having of it.  Both are now walking beautifully on their leads, have been and stayed in a real live castle, had two beach outings, stayed with their Granny in Hampshire, and Hector now has his adult teeth coming through.  Florian no longer has little stumpy legs and the pair of them are eating me out of house and home.  So, here we go with a run down!

Hector gets more handsome by the day


Daddy's Boy, Florian. And doesn't he just work it?

Walking on the Lead

Some dogs refuse to walk on leads, some dogs pull like crazy, some stay miles behind you, some get aggressive towards others if they're on leads... and then we have rough collies.  Pop a collar on (or better still, a soft harness) and off they pottle almost instinctively by your side.  Florian in particular didn't seem to even notice he had the lead on.  That might be because he's really quite dumb, but more of that later.  In any case: lead training: so, so easy.

Oscar striking a pose
Oh look, Hector doing exactly the same
I love the above two gorgeous photos.  Hector now walks daily around Oscar's woods.  And he's got the same fabulous "movie star head over the shoulder" collie pose as his great uncle.  It must be genetic.  I thought Hector's tail was ridiculously long and bushy until I refreshed my memory: yup, Oscar's was just as fluffy and huge.

When Ste isn't here, I'm incidentally walking Hector and Florian separately twice a day, as well as together, so they get one on one bonding time with me as their "pack leader".  It's also easier to get them into good habits on the lead when they're on their own, and I want them not being dependent on each other, everywhere they go.  They get enough time together, so this is a great set up.

Astley Castle

Astley Castle near Coventry is a moated castle that's been continuously inhabited for pretty much 800 years.  Apparently three Queens of England have lived there.  It was heavily damaged in a fire in 1978, then had an architect prize winning contemporary conversion with lots of glass and wood inserted into the ruins.  We were lucky enough to visit for a few days and the collie boys rather decided they liked it there.

Gates designed to keep cats and sundry other foes out


Great Puppy Exploration and Fun Potential
Magazine Shot!

Surveying the moat.  More ideal cat defences

 
Proud Daddy


The Beaches

I'm lucky enough to live not too far from the Suffolk Heritage Coast, and North Norfolk is also an easy afternoon excursion.  So the boys got to sniff the sea air, shove their noses in the sand, build a sand castle, meet lots of other doggies, and generally have a blast.  What's more they had BOTH daddies with them on the two trips, so it was extra special.

Sniff, sniff, sea air. But WHY all the photos?!

We totes built this sand castle ourselves. Honest.

Holkham Beach is fun. But let's not get our paws wet (applies to all 3)

Someone shoved their snozzle in the sand

Glorious, glorious. Dunwich Beach, Suffolk

Good Boys

I'm still really trying to bring the boys up as well as I possibly can.  They're eating their food out of separate bowls, a few centimetres apart, with no squabbling.  They adore each other and cuddle up constantly.  They also play endlessly, making the most funny little collie noises as they do so.  It's Hector who normally starts it, but Florian (who is still a fair bit smaller) often gets the best of him.

If they do fall out, they get told "NO" and split up for 5 minutes as punishment.  During that time, we've seen them staring at each other longingly through the glass door with one in the kitchen and one in the conservatory.  It's completely adorable.  And of course they are never allowed up in the bed when Ste visits.  Heaven forbid.

Cuddle time at Granny's. With some of their (many) teddies around them
Play time! Hours are spent "attacking" each other like this

3 hour car journeys to Granny's are no issue: they sleep the whole way
Florian is definitely winning this round

Peeing on command. Go Team Collie!

No dogs in the bed. Ever.


Collie Love

I just love them both so much.  It's a delight watching them play, wolfing down their supper, taking them to work, even watching them sleep.  Getting two together was the best decision ever - it's a lot of work, but they're so happy having a friend and exercise each other wonderfully.  I also realise acutely what Oscar missed out on when he was in his kennel, the first 10 months of his life, and want to make their puppyhood as beautiful and perfect as I can.  I just adore them.

Hector is the wily, clever one, who is far easier to train, but who is a little more skittish.  He is a bit more reserved with people he doesn't know, but is so extraordinarily affectionate and cuddly to me now.  Florian is the Golden Boy: the little prince.  He's also a naughty bugger on the quiet, and likes nipping my toes, jumping on Hector's head, but he's so little and cuddly you can forgive him almost anything.  The few times he's overstepped the mark and actually been told off, he gets SO upset and wants to get back in my good books as soon as possible.

Hector tends to lead the way and Florian follows. If Hector ever becomes frightened, Florian's natural confidence seems to reassure him.  I'm convinced Florian is really quite thick (his father, Percy, regularly falls into his owner's hot tub, and runs the opposite way when you roll a ball for him) but Ste disputes this....

I suspect Ste doctored this to make him look brighter
The beauty of Hector's markings... just stunning

Florian: Butter wouldn't melt
My boys. 4 and 5 months old now.

These puppies are the best thing to happen to me since meeting Ste, which is 3 years ago now.  Sharing your life with a dog is an absolute blessing: having two is beyond a dream.

They've been asleep as I've been typing this - Florian at my feet (he's not nibbling them for once) and Hector in his basket, lying upside down with his legs in the air for large chunks of it.  Now they're in the garden, playing with a squeaky toy.

I hope I've managed with this post to bring you a little of the sunshine that they're bringing me every moment.  It's wonderful to share my joy and, as ever, thank you for reading!

Peter x

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Florian's First Letter Home

Florian, the 10 week old rough collie baby, had a very big day today.

He recorded it all in a letter sent to his breeder at the wonderful Lynmead Collie kennels.

I carried him to the post box.  He wrote " - sealed with a lick -' on the back of the envelope, and off it went, along with the photographs below.

What an adventure.



3 March 2015

Dear Mummy

I wanted to drop you a line and let you know how well I'm settling in my forever home and what a good boy I am.

It's a bit like being back at Lynmead HQ, but with fewer big collies to tease me about being a mummy's boy. I am getting lots of cuddles and have only had one accident in the kitchen.  My new big brother Hector and I go and pee together at exactly the same time.  It's fun and I'm normally faster. 

I'm eating my fill and check Hector's bowl every time to make sure he has done too.  One day I'm hoping he'll forget something and I'll get seconds.  I can see myself resembling a little furry cloud more and more.  Don't worry, I won't get fat, though.  I'm on a strict regime of ball chasing and wrestling with Hector.

I've been travelling the globe.  Well I think it's a globe - I'm not entirely sure what one is.  But I've been to the tropical rain forests of Yaxley Hall and the grasslands of Brick Kiln Farm.  There was a PEACOCK at Yaxley Hall.  Imagine.  Uncle Ringo would eat it for supper, I'm sure.  I just pretended I was scared and hid.  I wasn't really though, honest.

I've spent my hard earned pocket money on a fancy new collar in red with white polka dots, and a matching lead.  I've also got a new name tag on order, also in red.

Today I had my first day at work.  Mummy, it was hard.  I was given a comfy work station, but had to type things on my iBone for minutes on end, with only a few hours of nap time in between.  Fortunately I got a very good appraisal:

WORK APPRAISAL 3 March15:
FLORIAN MCCORMICK EDE
Rating
Cuddles
Excellent
Squishiness
Excellent
Wet Nosedness
Excellent
Brightness of Button Eyes
Excellent

I hope you are very proud of me. I've enclosed some photographs from work today. I promise I will come to visit you with my daddies when it's warm, so you can see what a big collie boy I've become.  Send my best to Horace and all my furry relatives.

With love

FLORIAN








Sunday, 1 March 2015

Florian

I'm becoming the most massive puppy bore, aren't I?  I'm sorry, but I'm sure someone is interested in these photos and if nothing else it's a record for me for the future!



So, FLORIAN is here.  Mutti and I went to visit his breeder in West Sussex on Monday and had the most extraordinary afternoon meeting 14 stunning show collies, in pairs, in the form of a beauty (aka cuddle) parade.  Hector was of course there and endeared himself greatly to everyone by trying to rape 10 week old Florian, followed by his sister.  Apparently this isn't that unusual, but I was suitably mortified.

Dad: Percy
We met his dad, the esteemed Champion Lynmead Amalie Loves a Lover (pet name, Percy) and his gorgeous mum, Champion To Be Lynmead Amalie Ours to Love (pet name, Pepsi) - photos below.  They look like no other collies I've ever seen: massive, beautiful fur coats, giant manes, teddy bear faces, and amazing postures.  They're also so incredibly friendly and happy: it was just a delight to see.

Mum: Pepsi
Despite Percy being sable and white, and Pepsi being tricolour, all the pups came out sable and white.  The breeder is keeping one boy; one girl has left already; the other will be going to Holland, and I'm unbelievably honoured that after 6 months of emailing and phone calling on and off, she thinks I'm a suitable owner for Florian, the only other boy of the litter of four. 

Dad, again.
We talked for 5 hours in total and I decided that I definitely was up for giving Florian a try.  I know the challenges, I know the time I will have to put into this, but it is my dream.  I have two stunning dogs in my life again.  What's more, both are directly related to Oscar's daddy, Champion Lynmead Lust in the Dust.  If I'm counting the generations correctly,  both Hector and Florian are Oscar's great, great nephews.



So on Saturday Ste and I headed back down to collect young Florian.  You can see him in the photo above in the middle between his brother and sister.  Hector was a lot less boisterous this time round, which was a relief.  The pups obviously remembered him and they got well.  What a difference 4 weeks growth makes!  Hector at 14 weeks is so much bigger than the puppies at 10 weeks.


It was a 2.5 hour drive home and given we didn't set off until 11pm, after a Chinese meal and another multi-hour long chin-wag with Florian's gorgeous breeder, that meant we got home at 1.30am.  Florian settled in immediately and slept snuggled up to Hector.  As there were no squeaks, we can assume no sexual crimes we committed over night either.  Bonus!!

This morning I got up at 6.30am to let them out, feed them, play with them, and cuddle them. Consequently just a bit shattered and that's my excuse for the state of the photo below.  Also, yes, I have no trousers on.  Whatever.  I love that Oscar is on the wall looking down at them both.



Ste is of course a lot prettier and also has a full set of clothes on below.



It's been fascinating watching them adjust to each other.  Hector has been here for 4 weeks and has been brilliant in allowing Florian in to his home.  They play, for the most part, very nicely.  I'm not leaving them together unattended for a moment and whilst friendly rough and tumble puppy play with clicking teeth is absolutely fine and normal, any aggression, jealousy or nastiness isn't going to be tolerated. 



Therefore if they get a bit possessive about toys, greedy over snacks, or jealous over affection etc. the offender (and they've both done it!) gets an immediate 5 minutes in the kitchen, behind the dog barrier, to calm off.  I shout "TIME OUT" so they will hopefully get to learn quite rapidly that's what happens if engage in this type of behaviour and they hear those words.  I'm the Alpha Dog in this pack and my pups won't be unruly spiteful little shits. They can play nicely, from the very outset, rather than having to deal with entrenched behavioural problems later.  I can currently deal with breaking up snappy pups - but I obviously wouldn't want to get involved between biting male adult dogs.  I know I've got to very tough, but fair, with clear, consistent ground rules they understand to make this work.  

Feeding is also carried out with the dog barrier between them to make sure there are no supper time scraps.  I have been playing with them both with different toys to make sure they realise Daddy is there for both of them equally and there's no favouritism going on.  

There's a big risk with two puppies that they end up bonding very strongly with each other, rather than with their human, so I want to avoid that by giving them lots of person contact, cuddles, smoothing etc.  I will also make sure they get individual training and walking time with me too, rather than always being together with me.  That should also help with separation anxiety for when they are split up at any time.  For example today I deliberately left Florian alone in the cottage to sleep while Hector came for a car ride to take Ste to the railway station.  That allowed for Hector 1-on-1-time and hopefully taught young Florian that being left involves our coming back, so he needn't stress out.

My, this is all going to be one full time job!




Florian is a tiny, beautiful little bundle.  He has a very different build to Hector - far lighter, a much larger rib cage, and it feels like he's a big, hollow, caramel puff.  It's genuinely like there's nothing inside him at all.  He's due a growth spurt, and if he follows in his dad's paws, he'll be huge in size, but very agile and light of build.  He's not even quite 6kg right now (Hector is 10kg), which explains Dominic being able to snuggle him so easily below.


I adore them both.  Florian is physically like no other collie baby I've ever seen.  He's going to be the most perfect sable when he's older.  He's more immediately affectionate to people and cuddly than Hector - but Hector wins in the cheeky, friendly, naughty imp stakes.  Hector's dappled blue merle coat also makes him the most striking looking puppy, along with his deep, shiny little button eyes.  They are both beyond beautiful.

Earlier today they had their naps and it nearly melted my heart.  They followed each other round the cottage and snuggled into each other wherever they went.  If this continues I will have a real dream come true in every sense.  Two happy, loving, well-adjusted, confident, friendly, well-trained adult collies is my aim.  That won't happen by magic, but it's been a great start today. 


Now, is it bed time for me yet?  I think the expression to describe myself is "dog-tired"!!  And thank you again Ste.  You've been an absolute star with all your support, intelligent suggestions and help all weekend long.  I love you, but you know that, I think :-)


Saturday, 21 February 2015

Puppies Galore

Hector has been here three weeks.  After a start where I had moments of thinking "god, can I really cope with this?!" we have settled in beautifully with each other.  We've got a perfect routine of play, sleep, brushing, training and "leave Daddy while he pretends to do serious things on his computer" time.  The real anxiety I was feeling about whether I was doing things right has been replaced by complete joy at having a little collie in the house again and the excitement of going downstairs at 7am, wishing him good morning, and seeing him throw a little puppy joy fit in response.







He's 13 weeks old on Sunday, has had all his jabs, and is turning into the little world adventurer I'd like him to be.  I'm desperately trying to "socialise" him to as many experiences as possible in the 16 week window before his brain shuts off to new things.  I completely misunderstood in the past what that meant: I thought it was just about meeting other dogs.  It isn't: it's about taking him to town on market day, meeting people, hearing loud bangs, watching ducks at the pond, going inside other people's houses, experiencing noisy motorbikes, not being freaked out by my carrying an umbrella etc.  At his age he's open to it all, especially if it's from the safety of Daddy's arms.  From 16 weeks he won't be, and overcoming frightening new things will be so much harder.





His socialisation practice included a 3 hour drive in the car on Sunday, to visit his Granny in Hampshire.  I kept him up and tired him out beforehand, but he was as good as gold.  He was even better on the way home, when I decided going via London would be a cunning plan.  Oscar used to shake and get panic attacks with all the traffic, sirens, horns etc going off, even from safely inside the car.  Hector just took it all in.  Meh, he's going to be a tough little Lassie boy.  We stopped off for a visit with my best friend in Islington, but in total he spent 5 hours in the car that day.  Just like a baby, the motion seemed to send him to sleep and there wasn't even a squeak out of him.


Oscar used to be the supervisory foreman at our farm spa project, watching all the building works going on with interest.  Hector has stepped into his paws and is now carefully checking budgets from the comfort of his basket in my office.  Or something.  It's so amazing to be able to have him with me all day and know there's a big secure garden outside for when he wants playtime.


Hector is a complete bundle of energy and joy and I just can't get over how different his character is to Oscar.  Oscar, the zen, shy, calm, wise old collie who spent hours in his basket meditating... and Hector, the excitable, bouncy, lunatic puppy who will go rushing up to anyone with his tail going ten to the dozen.  Every day he has a play date with Bertie, his border terrorist friend.  At first Hector just fell over and waddled round as Bertie charged by.  Now he's giving Bertie a hard time of it, trying to knock him over, launching his whole body at him, and playing tug of war.  Watch out Berts, your time as Alpha Dog is coming to an end!





He's growing up fast.  Really fast in fact: his weight has gone from 6.8kg to 9.2kg in 17 days.  That means he's piled on 35% of his own body weight in just over 2 weeks.  I'd have to put on 4 stone to achieve the same!  I'm feeding him solely on Lily's Kitchen: superb, holistic, organic dog food with 60% actual meat content: not derivatives, boiled up skin, carcinogenics and all the other crap that isn't fit for human consumption you find in the mainstream stuff.  You can actually see the vegetables and meat in the food and he can't get enough of it.  It isn't cheap (I've worked out he's already costing £1000 a year on food, plus treats) but the results are so clear.  His coat is amazing, he has bright little button eyes, and genuinely doesn't smell.  Farts, smelly coats and all the rest of those delightful doggie odours are often just down to bad diet.



He has a basket of toys, including his favourite, a "road kill fox" which has a flattened middle complete with a set of tyre tracks across it.  Okay we're venturing into slightly dark humour there, but whatevs.  All the toys go back into their box when playtime is over, so he knows how the day divides up and gets into a nice routine. 

And the training is going well!  He just rolled over the first time I put the lead on him.  30 years ago people would have taken the approach that you just try to drag the puppy and force it to walk.  Now the way you go about it is that you pop the lead on and let the puppy wander around in the garden getting used to the fact it won't hurt him.  You pick it up, tell him to come, bribe him with a biskwit, and he learns good things come from this attachment.  Within 2 days he was walking hesitantly, and yesterday, his 3rd day he was prancing along the street with me, ignoring the traffic, off on his first proper little walk.  I also use a soft harness as there's no pulling on their neck, which can cause a panic attack or a tantrum.





NOW the big news.  Meet Florian.  He's 9 weeks old and I'm meeting him on Monday.  He's the long awaited beautiful, chunky, sable and white puppy from Oscar's dad's breeder.  As such, he's a distant relative of Hector and will become his little adopted brother if the two get on, and all goes well.  And of course they are both related to the one and only, late, great Oscar.  How happy he would have been to have seen two collie babies in his cottage, looking after me, and giving me collie snuggles.



Two puppies in one go... am I crazy?  Possibly, but to be honest I can think of nothing more wonderful than a house full of collies.  The two boys will play with each other, exercise each other, destroy everything, and keep each other company.  Hector has settled in so well, and the timing is therefore far better with the 4 week gap between them.  Ive talked through fully with the breeder the challenges of bringing them both up at the same time, and think I'm up for it.  So watch this space.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Car Crash

To Liam T. [Name and Address Redacted]
Sent 1st class today
6 February 2015



Dear Liam

I'm the driver whose car you ploughed into head-on on the A140 on 5 August 2013, 18 months ago yesterday.  I've waited to write to you until the personal injury aspect of the case settled, which it did today when I accepted a formal offer from your insurers.

I'm writing mainly for my own benefit, because there are a number of things I'd like to say before finally closing this chapter and moving on.

I've never been involved in any kind of road collision before, except a bump once to the back of my car years back.  That sunny afternoon I was coming home in my 3 week old car, which I was enormously proud of and which was to all extents still brand new.  You came out of nowhere on the wrong side of the road, on a bend and on a hill, overtaking.  I was doing exactly 30mph.  I had a second to react before the airbag went off in my face.  In that time I slammed my foot on the brake.  My leg was outstretched rigid when you drove into me head-on.  My right hand was tensed up as I gripped the wheel.

A brand new Mercedes is capable of stopping very rapidly from that speed, in the dry, with brand new tyres.  I've been back and paced out the distance from where I think I'd have first seen you, and where the photos show the cars came to a rest on my side of the road.   I'm absolutely sure that I was stationary when you hit me.  The full force of that impact had to go somewhere.  You were probably doing what, 30, 40 mph in a 30mph limit as you overtook?  One witness behind you said she was hanging back because the nature of your driving had scared her and she was worried you were going to hit someone.

The impact went into the front of my car, up my outstretched leg and straight into my spine.  My hand also took some of it and I was lucky it did not break.  Two of the discs in my back ruptured.  You caused £29,500 of damage to my new car.  It is one of the heaviest, safest cars on the road, yet the force was so powerful that the main front chassis member buckled.   The damage was so extensive that the insurers wrote off the car and a £40,000 replacement had to be ordered.  I had waited 3 months for the car; I had to wait another 3 months to factory order another.

The accident hurt, Liam.  I was in A&E until 10pm that night.  I had cuts, a sprained wrist, and I was in shock.  A few days after, my back started really giving me pain.  18 months on I still get terrible lower back pain, tingling in my right foot from nerve damage, and my right knee aches after walking.  I still go to the osteopath regularly and 4 experts I have seen, including a consultant spinal surgeon, don't think it will ever completely heal.  I never had the slightest back problem before this.  Thanks to your driving that afternoon, I will probably have this for life.  I am only 43, so that is quite some time.

It isn't just physical pain either.  I loved driving.  I'm a safe, competent driver, who has driven in 30 countries from the US to Australia.  Now I suffer hesitancy, anxiety and the enjoyment is gone.  That's all as a result of your being in a rush that afternoon.  The nightmares started shortly afterwards too, and the waking up at 4am religiously form an entire year, until I paid for post-traumatic counselling.  Thankfully that's now stopped finally.

I wasn't the only one in my car.  My collie, Oscar, had been with me 10 years that day.  He was my life.  I'd rescued him and he relied on me to look after him and keep him safe.  I couldn't keep him safe from you that afternoon though.  He was behind his dog-guard, but he was still hurled forward with the braking and the impact.  Oscar died on 5 August 2014, 11 years after I got him, and a year to the day that you hit us.  You made the last year of his life excruciatingly painful.  He started limping because of horrific problems with his back after the crash.  In February he suffered a total collapse and I thought I was going to lose him, Liam.  He ended up being on powerful daily painkillers, had to wear 3 braces on his little paws, and had to go to hydrotherapy sessions to get him walking again at all.  When he eventually died it broke my heart, knowing his last year had been so difficult.  That's all because you decided to overtake on a busy road one afternoon.   I hope whatever you were in a hurry to get to was worth it.

Then there's the stress of your refusing to admit liability after the crash you caused.  I lost my no-claims for the year, had to risk running up an enormous hire car bill, chase my useless insurers endlessly, and hear you saying it wasn't your fault because you were suffering "memory loss".  I'll remind you what happened: you were overtaking on a bend and on a hill in a 30mph zone, gambling nothing else was coming northwards.  I was, and you hit me.  You know that.  There was no reasonable explanation for your actions and you could have owned up to them.  It was only finally in December 2014 that your insurers admitted your negligence caused all of this.

Do you remember what you said to me when you got out of your write-off?  I do, as clear as day: "Sorry, mate, no idea why I was on your side".  Then you sat there on your phone making calls for 30 minutes.  I don't call that an apology.  That's why I want you to know what and I and my dog went through.  The look on his face as he couldn't get up and the pain of his last year.  The pain in my back now, that may never go away.

The case is settled.  I believe you cost your insurers around £102,000 in total (2 new cars, my hire car bill, my expenses, my personal injury sum and legal fees).  It was an expensive decision to overtake.  It could have been much pricier - what if I'd been a young mum in an old Vauxhall Nova?  My 1900kg Mercedes probably saved both our lives, absorbing the impact for us both.  You could so easily have killed.  I don't want an apology from you: I want you to reflect on all of this and to learn from it.  I want to know that you realise arriving 15 or 30 minutes late for a meeting is infinitely better than doing what you did.  Risking actual lives.

You were so lucky not to have been banned, as considered by the magistrates.  You were so lucky not to have killed.  Please, Liam, learn.  Slow down.  Don't be a cock.  Think, next time, and every time you drive.

Now let us both draw a line under this and move on.  I need to, and I bet you wish to as well.

Peter E.