Tuesday, December 29, 2009

RIP Honky Duck

We had a sudden death in the family, but not the one I was dreading. Honky Duck has honked his last honk. He was a short-lived Christmas present for Holly. Honky Pheasant is three years old now, and a little threadbare, so I thought a duck in the same vein might be fun. Holly didn't think so.

Herbie's lump hasn't been to the vet. The snow and ice a fortnight ago were too dangerous, I couldn't drive the two miles to the vet. She very kindly said over the phone what she'd have said to me in person - if it's less than a centimetre, leave it be for now. So I'm just keeping an eye.

Happy New Year everyone, and hope you all last a bit better than poor Honky.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas

We've had loads of snow, no way will this all melt before Christmas, so it's a white Christmas for us. Herbie's staying snuggled up in bed, but Holly is out hunting - so many footprints to sniff, so little time. Happy seasonal whatsits to everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lumpy knee

As if there wasn't enough to worry about, Herbie has something that isn't quite a scab, and isn't a tick either, a small round lump just under the skin, about the size of a piece of lead shot. The vet can't see us till Friday morning, because it's not an emergency. I never tell them that things are urgent unless I'm pretty darn sure, but I worry anyway.

Snow predicted for tomorrow night, and the following night, and the one after that. I've got one new book to read, thanks to Borders closing down and everything is now half price, but it's sad to see the empty shelves, the last few books huddled together like refugees. It was once the bright future of book-selling, but now... It's my own fault for buying books from Amazon. RIP Borders UK.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dude, Where's My Car?

The car's been out of action for a few days, the brake warning light came on, threatening dire things if I didn't stop immediately. Herbie's been in a sulk all weekend. The weekends are for car trips, and he was quite annoyed that I was deliberately depriving him of his outings.

Fortunately the garage couldn't find anything wrong, and think the switch may have become waterlogged with all the rain we've been having. But it'll be Saturday before Herbie gets another car ride.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

First Ice

Slippy this morning, and Herbie refused to walk down the hill. Last night's rain had frozen in the night, and though the ice-flowers on my car were pretty, it was treacherous underfoot. We scuttled back home and had an extra helping of breakfast.

The arboretum has now shut for the winter (presumably to let the grass grow back), so Herbie's going to have to get used to walks up and down the hill close to home. Right now he's curled up on the red dog bed, while the stove pumps out heat, and Neil Oliver talks about Scottish history on TV. Holly has turned a dog bed and a duvet into an intricate nest. We are settled in for the night.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Dark and Stormy Night

... again. Nothing to report, but at least we're not flooded, like all those poor people in Cumbria. My roof was fixed just before the storms started, so I'm dry, my roof tiles are all still on, and I'm grateful. The dogs are both in their fleece jackets for the night, and I'm off to bed. Less than a month now till Christmas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wet and windy

... so the dogs are curled up in front of the fire. I've just used a "Chimney Cleaning Log" on my cast-iron stove - I stupidly used some damp wood on the fire a couple of days running, and ended up with sticky black creosote inside the stove. I'm hoping this log thing will be a miracle cure.

One of the things I like at the arboretum are the old tree-stumps that have been carved to look like toadstools. Someone has added little doors and windows to a few, and for some reason it amuses me.

I'm already bored of winter evening walks, juggling two leads, torch, poo-bags and gloves. This evening the wind stole the poo-bags from my hand, and trying to find black poo-bags in the dark is impossible. It's not often I miss street-lights, but tonight... Only another three months until it starts being a little lighter. Something to look forward to, eh?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Sunny Day

... at the arboretum, Kew at Castle Howard.

As usual, I have plenty of photos of Herbie's bottom disappearing off into the distance, and far fewer of him actually looking at the camera.

One of my favourite trees here is the Arizona cypress. There are several, and they seem to do well in the cold damp North Yorkshire climate.

Herbie seems to be a little better this week.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Thank You

... for all the kind thoughts. Herbie has rallied a little, though he's still drinking too much. Cowprint is right about needing to find new foods. Last weekend things were looking pretty bleak, but he's wanted to go for walks again, and he is finding things he can eat.

I'm not sure how long he can keep going, but he's just been hunting round the kitchen in case I've dropped any food in there. And he was happy to say hello to the three young witches who stopped by on Saturday night. The green face paint didn't upset him this year.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kidneys failing

It's been a bad weekend. Herbie's drinking double or triple his normal amounts, and not wanted to eat much. On Sunday I managed to persuade him to eat a yoghurt for breakfast (normally a rare treat) but he wouldn't touch his evening meal. We went over to my father's, and after Herbie had done his "I'm a poor old dog" routine, he ate the cat's food, and was rewarded with more cat food. Later I heard an odd scraping noise in the kitchen, and realised that Dad had left a chicken carcase near the edge of the table, and Herbie was helping himself.

Being allowed to steal food is currently working, but we've reached the stage the oncologist warned me about in January 08. There's nothing can be done about failing kidneys, though there is some good advice from Greyhoundgang about low phosphorus diets (rather than low protein) that I'll follow. He's lost a lot of weight in the last three or four days, and my policy of "keep 'em fat" (again, advice from someone with a cancer hound - normal rules of dog-keeping go out the window) is no longer working.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nine and a half

The new red dog bed has been quite successful, and the old brown and gold stripey one has been scraped off the top to use as a pillow. These pictures show the odd kink at the end of Herbie's tail, where I think he's broken it at some point in the past. The second bone up is much thicker than the ones above and below.
I've just done some Quantum Touch training - more powerful than reiki, and I need practice now. It's weird how a short course can completely change your point of view. I've never particularly wanted to practise on humans, but for this, I can see the point. Without the feedback from someone who can speak, you don't know if you're making a difference. Many of the other people on the course were already professional therapists of one kind or another, and it showed in their professional manner, putting the "client" at ease, and so on. I'm so used to dealing with dogs that my idea of calming signals is to make little burbling noises, and say "Who's a poor old dog then?" rather than ask people to relax, take a deep breath, etc. etc. Lucky for humans that I don't intend to practise on them professionally.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Must Take More Photos

I had a day working from home today, which was great because it meant we could go to the arboretum at lunchtime. Herbie was so happy sniffing round all the trees, and as he hates to get his feet wet, I don't have to worry about him jumping into the lake. (We occasionally see spaniel owners trying to push a bedraggled muddy heap back into their car at arms length - no matter what colour the dog was when they left home, he/she's black now!)

Holly has a new red dog bed which she's happy with, after an initial day of uncertainty. What with the new bed, and the new stove, she is toasty-warm - and so is Mr. Herb. Winter is allowed to happen now, we have heat.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Slowing Down

... or not? I've spent the last couple of days worrying because Herbie's been lagging behind on walks, not showing much interest, and I've been thinking "uh oh, bad sign".

Tonight he saw Guinness, the black lab, a few hundred yards away, and sprinted off to see her. I think he's just bored. The trouble is, he's also a very conservative dog who doesn't take well to change, and if I take him somewhere new, he spends a lot of time trying to herd me back to the car. Greyhounds may have no interest in herding sheep, but they can definitely herd humans - put a pair of greyhounds on the lead on a rainy morning and see what happens!

Monday, September 28, 2009

More Ramblings

Herbie seems to be tiring more easily now. He's asleep nearly all the time now - more than usual for a greyhound. He had a nosebleed last night.

There's someone out there trying to raise the profile of canine cancer - take a look at "2 Dogs 2000 Miles" and the walk to Boston. I'm with them in spirit, even though we're 3,000 miles away.

And for light relief, I've been reading about a tragic Saluki hostage, forced into servitude with (shock horror!) a completely ordinary family...

Sunday, September 20, 2009


At weekends, I take the dogs to an arboretum nearby, 100 acres of trees and paths that they can wander round. It's a favourite place for dog-walkers to go, but also for people to take children to, so they can let off steam.

As we arrived, a toddler was being carried back to the car. She saw Holly and did that backwards lean that always alarms parents, and shouted "Zebra!"

Her mother said, "No, dog."


"Greyhound", I said.


"Just because it's black and white doesn't mean it's a zebra", her mother said.


We all gave up. Holly's a zebra.

Monday, September 14, 2009

You Know How Sometimes

... you're just idly wandering round the web, and then you find something so random, you have to come back and tell people about it? I was following a link that said "cancer survivor" and I found this:

The ingenuity of people never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sire, sire...

... the pheasants are revolting... so now I have 18 pounds of minced pheasant in the freezer that the dogs won't touch. My local Freecycle doesn't allow adverts for food...so how am I going to offload this stuff?

Holly has decided she won't eat raw food at all now, it offends her principles or something. Herbie is happy to tuck into raw tripe, and the diced heart was a huge success - though it seems to leak a huge amount of blood all over the kitchen, but he wants a cooked evening meal. If I give him raw food in the evening, he ignores it and tries to barge Holly off her food if I turn my back on them. They are fed in separate rooms, so in theory this shouldn't happen, but if I walk away, or answer the phone, an element of "What's in the other bowl?" creeps in.

I thought I was being so clever, doing a bulk buy of raw food. Erm, apparently not.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Two Years Ago

...today, Herbie got his diagnosis of lymphoma from Cambridge Veterinary School. It was a nightmare drive, six and a half hours due to something on the motorway, and I was jammed between junctions and couldn't get off, so I was late for my appointment, and I phoned them in complete hysteria and they told me to calm down and just get there as soon as I could.

I had to leave Herbie with them for tests, and as soon as I reached home (four and a half hours this time) they rang, to say "It's lymphoma". It hadn't shown up on an earlier biopsy, despite removing the entire swollen node. This time it was obvious from drawing fluid off one of his nodes, but they kept him in for x-rays, to see how far it had spread.

The next day I drove back to pick him up, and he was so happy to see me again - I hope he didn't think he had been abandoned for good. I was then handed a piece of paper that told me his chemo protocol, 26 weeks, mean survival time 6-8 months. I thought, you do 6 months of chemo and then the moment you stop your dog dies? This does not sound good.

And now Mr. Lumpy is still here, and had just refused to eat his yummilicious raw pheasant, so I'm going to have to cook the stuff to see if that makes any difference. It had better, I've just bought a freezer-full because it's nearly organic. I didn't think Herbie and I would be arguing over diet this far down the line.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Not Yet Autumn

... even though it feels like it. To add to the autumnal feel, I have been reading animal ghost stories at Project Gutenberg.
Not that I'm particularly haunted. The only things in this house that go bump in the night are greyhounds. (The Cornishman's prayer goes: "From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us.")
Herbie's already playing with Christmas Teddy. (Mainly because Easter Chickie is still in the car.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Monthiversary

... on the 16th, and Herbie is now 9 and a third. Still plodding along and looking under his bowl in case I may have hidden more food there.

I've just finished another one of my birthday books, "Wesley", about a barn owl of that name, whose human now blogs here. I know what everyone's getting for Christmas! It's like Marley and me, except with a badly-behaved owl instead of a lab. I laughed out loud when Stacey O'Brien described running down the hallway shouting "Not for owls!" whenever Wesley was poking his beak in where he shouldn't - it's pretty much what I say to Holly and Herbie: "Not for nogs!"

And funnily enough, they know what I mean.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Would Buffy Do?

I asked Holly that very question, and she said "Kick the fridge door open with one mighty blow, and devour the entire contents". Hmm, what about the slaying? "Oh, yeah, right, the slaying... there's some fish pie in that fridge, you know."

Herbie's more of a Xander - if there's trouble, it's best to head the other way. As you may be able to tell, I was given a copy of "What Would Buffy Do?" last week for my birthday, froma dear friend who knows I'm a big fan. It was also the week of Herbie's fifth "Gotcha" day - dog birthdays aren't always a known date, particularly with rescue dogs, but you can always celebrate the date you got your dog. It's odd, Herbie's been sick for two years and four months, almost as long as the time he's not been sick. Two years and eight months of healthy life with me - even if the first few months were spent putting weight on him, and hoping his fur would grow back (it did!)

And while on a film/TV related title, I received a surprise comment from the Real Lumpy Addams - now indeed all grown up!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hard to Know

... if Herbie's in any pain or not. He seems older and stiffer than he was last summer, and he doesn't particularly like having his lumps pressed. He doesn't flinch, he just gives you a look that says "Do you have to?" I've talked to the vet about this, because she says pain is inevitable at some point, but if he doesn't seem too subdued, and isn't flinching when you touch him, he might be OK. It's the "might" part of the sentence that worries me.

Equally, long-term use of painkillers can have side-effects, so giving drugs unnecessarily ain't good either. He's on glucosamine for the stiffness. He ran a few races in his day, and he's just come back from pinging up and down on the lead trying to get at Billy Blue, the opposite neighbour's cat. It's like a Wii Fit for greyhounds - show them a fleeting image of a cat, and they're jumping up and down. My arms are growing longer by the day. I'm sure if you took measurements of people's arms BG and AG (Before Greyhounds and After Greyhounds) there'd be an inch or two difference.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another week

... another peculiar photo, and no real news. Herbie is lumpy, Holly and I need more exercise, and this morning a large brown hare came running towards us at full pelt. It took the hare a few seconds to realise I was walking two greyhounds, and then it stopped with an expression that clearly said "oh carp" (to quote Dilbert) and turned. Herbie set off in pursuit, but he's not up to a lengthy run these days. Holly stood on her back legs and yelped with excitement, and frustration at not being off-lead.

The one piece of quite old news I have is that Raven, who had a full bone marrow transplant in Australia, has had a recurrence of lymphoma. It's sad, because I thought it would fix lymphoma for good, but obviously not. It's not available in the UK, and rare in the US, so Raven is a pioneer in many ways - as well as being an agility champion. My good thoughts go with Raven and her people.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

OK I was wrong

It was swine flu after all. The woman who infected a load of people at work was lying when she said she'd been tested and it wasn't swine flu. Someone else at work who passed it on to their asthmatic kid had the test done, and the child tested positive for H1 N1. Great.

As soon as I realised I wasn't well, I stayed home, but I spent a day or so in the office feeling strangely tired, and one of my workmates is on immunosuppressant drugs for a longstanding illness, while another is asthmatic. They've all been exposed to my boss, and are still fine - the incubation period is quite short, so I don't think I've infected them.

All I can say is, it's not as bad as ordinary flu - if you're a healthy adult. The dogs behaved beautifully, they understood I wasn't well. My sister posted groceries through the letter box, I quarantined myself for five days, and now I'm fine. It's odd having flu in summer. Glad that's over.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Poor lad.

He's been refusing his CV247, so he's now on a lower dose, which isn't really keeping the lymphoma at bay. He's also been spitting out his homeopathic medicine, and once you've touched it apparently the potency is gone. I found a cache of little white pills when I hoovered under his bed. Richard Allport has said to crush the pills and add to his water - all the "goodness", or whatever the right word is, is in the outer coating, so if he absorbs a bit in his drinking water, it will have some effect. I learn something new every time I speak to him.

Not too brilliant myself. There's a summer flu doing the rounds at work that ISN'T SWINE FLU - so we're calling it Piglet Fever, and I seem to have come down with it. A couple of days of feeling like I've just had 15 pints, without any of the fun. I've slept lots, and hope it's shifting.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

It'll Be Lovely...

... When It's Finished. That's what I keep telling myself. The spare bedroom has been a no-go area ever since I moved in. I knew it would be a horrendous job,pulling off several layers of peeling and torn wall-paper, and this week I'm proving myself right. Two of the layers are vinyl, that just melts onto the wall if the steam-stripper gets too hot. And the walls are full of nails and staples - where a strip of wallpaper was coming loose, the previous occupants just stapled it back.

The dogs are happy because I'm home - I've allocated a week of precious holiday to redecorating and being At Home With Herbie - but work is beginning to look like an easy option. This project could take months. It's more like archaeology than decorating.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Just Chilling

... on our very cold tiled floor in the hall. It's warm outside, but the hallway is cool, so we've each got a mat on the floor.

The dogs are happy first thing in the morning, and roll over for tummy inspection time - a morning ritual. As soon as it's obvious I am actually going to get out of bed, rather than lie there groaning, they like to roll over and wave their legs in the air. Then of course I have to get up to tell them what marvellous tummies they have. By evening, they're both giving their celebrated impressions of a dead dog by the roadside, lying with their necks at impossible, fractured angles, and with their breathing scarcely visible. If I go over and check on them, they huff at me.

I had a great trip to Woolfest at the weekend. It's a long drive from here, 3 and half hours each way, but worth it. I've come away with a year's worth of inspiration and addresses. I now also want some North Ronaldsay sheep, that don't need shearing, their wool just falls off, and they're little and cute, and... I have nowhere to put a sheep. And Angora rabbits are out of the question, given Holly's hunting abilities.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bad IT Day

Just as some people have bad hair days, I've had a bad IT day at work, with no connection - problems with my log-on apparently. When I had the nerve to say, after lunch, that I couldn't do anything until they fixed it, the IT helpdesk guy said it was all the fault of our department's service level agreement. Huh? We signed something saying we agreed it would take all day for the helpdesk to fix anything?

Very glad now to be at home with Herbie. Home is where the PC works first time, and there is food in the fridge - oh, and a giant ironing heap left over from yesterday. Went to the annual Jerry Green dog show - could have happily acquired a 3-legged Staffie and a brindle boxer with half his jaw missing. I always take family with me to these things, so they can talk sense into me. The boxer was very bouncy, and Herbie's in no fit state to be bounced on.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Confined to Quarters

A quiet weekend in, but not by design. Driving home after work on Friday, the gearstick came off in my hand as I was changing gear. Panicking, I managed to jam it into third, and succeeded in limping home the last four miles. There's a steep hill just before home, and you really need to be in first or second... just made it.

It's moments like this when you realise how English villages have had their services cut in recent years. Our village shop closed down three years ago, there's no pub, bus twice a day to Malton, er... that's it. Oh, and the lady with bantams down the road occasionally sells eggs on a cardboard box outside her house. If you want proper-sized eggs, it's a three-mile walk to the next village with a shop, and three miles back.

Still, it's left me with plenty of time for Herbie-observation. Miraculously, the nodes at the back of his knee have shrunk again. The CV247 is doing something. If only it could do more.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Little Better

I've had some world-class reassurance from Richard Allport's team at the Natural Medicine Centre and they think that even reducing the dose of CV247 down to 1ml twice a day would help. I've tried that this evening, and Herbie ate his yummy organic mince and red cabbage without noticing that I'd sneaked the drug in. We'll see how it goes.

Someone else who could do with a good thought or two is Laurie Kaplan, author of "Help Your Dog Fight Cancer", a book I found massively reassuring, and that I've recommended to a number of people on Greytalk and elsewhere. Laurie has recently had spinal surgery and is in recovery - read about her journey here. The pictures show just what a big deal this is - I hope she recovers well, and continues her good work helping dogs with cancer.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Totally Given Up

I'm veering between apathy, despair and a teenage sort of a sulk. Herbie has been refusing his CV247 the last couple of weeks, so I've been resorting to trying to squirt it down his throat, which doesn't work and he spits it all up and... I've given up trying. Disguising it with a little curry powder in his favourite scrambled eggs doesn't work, he can detect it in sardines, he's doing everything he can to tell me he doesn't want any more. This weekend I finally listened. And cracked, and gave him biscuits, after he's spent 18 months on a carb-free diet.

Two years ago, I would have wrestled demons at the gates of hell to save him. Now, I can't even stop myself giving him a dog-biscuit. What is wrong with me? I think I may have finally accepted that I can't change the outcome, and I've given up. Last year, I echoed Edna St.Vincent Millay: "I know. But I do not accept. And I am not resigned." Now, I've reached: "Whatever..."
So tired. CV247 was supposed to save him, but I promised him after the last chemo I wouldn't do anything invasive. Holding him by his sore neck to syringe bitter liquid down his throat is invasive. I had to admit that to myself. So, really no more treatment. Painkillers when he needs them, that's all. And strangely enough, he's been bouncing about like a wallaby ever since.

Monday, June 01, 2009

No news

... from me, but sad news over at Jenna's Tail - Jenna didn't make it. Sometimes blog silence means there's nothing much to say, but sadly it sometimes means there's plenty say, just not enough strength to put the words together. Run free, Jenna.

A sunny and quiet week here, but my attempts to put some weight on Herbie have led to dire rear. He's not losing weight any more, but I've had to mop the floor a few times. Still trying to get his stomach settled. Sigh. He's been baking himself silly in the back garden, lying out in the sun until he's too hot, then coming in and panting like a steam train. There's plenty of shade, but he likes to sprawl in full sunlight, and I haven't the heart to stop him.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Garden Envy

This weekend has been the local village's "Open Gardens" weekend, raising money for the village hall. For payment of a small fee, you can nosy about in the gardens of those brave and industrious souls who are prepared to show their gardens to the public. I have admired golden hens and blue Lutyens benches, and rows of currant bushes and giant compost heaps, but I know deep in my heart, if I had an acre of garden, it wouldn't look like the ones I'm wandering round.

Any garden I have would be "Designed by Dog", and there would be no delicate little alpines in the borders (that die when wee'd on), nor would my lawn look like a bowling green. There would be long patches of couch grass (Herbie's favourite snack) and a long smooth bit for Holly to sprint on, as opposed to the cunningly curved vistas with artfully posed statues. One garden today had a lifesized fibreglass cow. I wouldn't have one of those, either.

On that subject, I went to the hairdressers, and Sharon gleefully told me of the tourist who had come in for a cut earlier in the week, and then asked the salon manager for colour as well. "But not like yours, it looks common. I want something more subtle." Of all the people I'd want to insult, it wouldn't be the woman with scissors (and peroxide) in her hands...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Losing Weight

Not me, unfortunately, but Herbie. It looks like the CV247 was only able to stave off the inevitable for so long, and now he's going a little further downhill. His appetite is still excellent, so I'm giving him extra cottage cheese after breakfast. Maybe he'll eat tripe again. It was a tip I gleaned from Lurcherlink a long time ago, as a way of getting weight onto a scrawny sighthound, but Herbie was fed a lot of tripe when he first developed swollen glands, and was losing a pound a week despite eating till he was barrel-shaped. He ate tripe through the early weeks of chemo, and then started refusing it. I don't know if he'll associate it now with chemo, but it might be time to try again.

Tripe, even uncooked, is vile stuff. The Scary Parking Attendant in Helmsley has adopted a new Great Dane, a young male (of course he'd intended to get a middle-aged bitch!) whose owners were emigrating to New Zealand and couldn't afford to fly the dog out with them. The Dane was used to cooked tripe, but after cooking it once, the SPA's wife said "Either the tripe goes or I do." An intelligent woman, who had realised that the dog certainly wasn't going.

Fortunate for me, then, that I need to lose weight, I'm excused the tripe diet myself - but if that was all I had in the house, I would definitely rather starve!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back Again

Bit of a long haul, almost as if we'd had to invent fire from scratch. But finally, we have Stove (yet to be named - apparently named objects work better) in place, and although there's a fair bit of decorating to be done, I have a major sense of achievement. Also an empty bank account, but I know that as soon as winter comes, I will be very happy I've spent my money on heating.

Herbie let it all wash over him - he wanted to go investigate the builders and the heating engineers for ten minutes, then he'd had enough, and went back to bed. Holly, on the other hand, spent days waiting for her chance to escape, and finally took it, the one day I'd gone back to work and left the engineers to it. They managed to catch her (in fact she got bored, and trotted up the garden path and waited by the front door for them to let her back in) and were quite embarrassed when I got home. After all my careful warnings. She can't open the front door, but she can open all the internal ones, so Keep The Front Door Shut.
Slowly the house is returning to normal, or what passes for it in this part of the world. I wouldn't want to have to install new heating again in a hurry.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More From My Collection

... of terrible photos.

Someone told that humans get red-eye in photos because the light from the flash reflects off the blood vessels in the back of the human retina. So what do dogs have in the back of their eyes, to get this green glow?

The dogs have been enjoying the warm weather; it's the first time this year that I've been able to leave the back door open all day, and they can potter in and out. Unfortunately Holly has discovered a bird's nest in the golden privet, and barks every time she can hear rustling. I've told her a hundred times "It's a bird, not a c-a-t." However she keeps on barking, up the wrong tree, and I have to go and haul her in and shut the door before the neighbours complain. If she spends the entire summer barking at this tree... I'm going to be keeping her in.

Herbie is plodding along. His nodes were shrinking the tiniest bit, but then I gave him some Metacam because I was wondering if he didn't look rather stiff - now they're back where they were. He seems a little stiff in the mornings now, but it wears off once he's walked a hundred yards, so it may be arthritis rather than cancer-related. He's been on so many other supplements I'd given up on the glucosamine. Back to the drawing board.

We may be offline for a little while, with the builder coming next week, and my only phone point is right next to where he'll be demolishing the old fireplace. I'm moving everything I can upstairs, including the computer, but we'll be back as soon as we can.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to Meee!

Herbie was nine on Thursday. If I'd known he'd reach this age, there'd have been fewer tears along the way - when he was seven, I thought it was his last year ever. Here he is, peeing on a branch brought down by the snow in January. I didn't saw it off then, and now I don't have the heart, it's his very most-favourite pee spot.

The trouble is, I only have a cheap digital camera and there's a long delay (1.6 seconds according to the manual) between my clicking the shutter, and the camera actually registering the picture. Greyhounds move fast when they want to, so however carefully I set up that perfect image of the hounds, most of my photos end up looking like this:

That's why I don't post pictures all that often. I have so many pictures either of their rear ends, or sleeping, that I'm bored. I don't have the patience to wait for days for that one perfect shot. I don't have Angela's talent for photography, that's for sure.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Grey Easter

Cloud, then rain, then cloud. I have been trying to spring clean, but Holly thinks this is very boring, and will only let me do boring things for half an hour at a time. Then she barks and runs around, until I take her out in the garden to play.

Herbie no longer wants to walk as far, so Holly isn't getting as much exercise as a young girl needs. If I take her without Herbie, she tries to herd me back towards the house, and lets me know plainly that I've forgotten something very important, i.e. Herbie. Mad moments running round and round the clothes airer are about all we can do without taking/tiring the old lad. He stands on the back doorstep, shaking his head, before plodding back upstairs to bed. He has to have morning and evening walkies, but no more than half an hour these days.

He's still swallowing his CV247, but he seems static. It's better than some of the alternatives. In a couple of weeks' time, a builder's coming to open up the fireplace to install a wood-burning stove, and I'm worried it'll affect him. It's been hard even keeping him stable, but I've waited four months for this stove to arrive. We may have to spend a few days in the car, parked somewhere with rabbits to watch, while the builder builds, or unbuilds. Some weeks, I think I've done nothing, but keeping things on an even keel is not nothing. I keep telling myself.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Almost Famous

I was pleased and surprised to find Herbie inside this month's copy of Dogs Today. I'd emailed the editor to ask about CV 247, and subsequently sent an update on his progress, which appeared on the blog for pets trying CV247, but I wasn't expecting to see Herbie in print. I showed it to him, but he didn't seem too impressed. I think he wanted a photo of himself in his younger days, before his face went white.

There are still no miracle cures, but given that I wasn't sure he'd last long enough for the postman to deliver the first bottle, he's doing OK. He's stopped going downhill at least.

He's currently nursing a sore ear, after trying to sniff a cat's bottom. The neighbour's ginger tom didn't want his bottom sniffing, and swiped across the top of Herbie's head. Blood everywhere, and I think it's a vet trip for antibiotics tomorrow. At the time, I was mostly pleased that Holly hadn't despatched the cat, and hadn't realised Herbie was hurt, but later I found the trail of blood up the stairs, and realised Herbie had taken a direct hit. That cat has zero nerves. I do a cat-scan every time I open the back door, to make sure the garden is cat-free. This one decided to jump over the garden wall and stroll across a lawn with two greyhounds on it. I am trying to make sure the neighbourhood cats survive, but they're not making life easy for me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Fraction of a Shade...

... of an improvement - the nodes at the back of Herbie's knees, his popliteal nodes, are softer and smaller. No longer like liquorice torpedoes, but not quite as small as the jelly beans they're supposed to resemble. It's not a big thing, and from the front he still looks like a bull-frog, but it's the first time since we stopped chemo that a node actually got smaller. It might not be much, for 3 and a half weeks of CV247, but it's something.

Holly, on the other hand, is trying to head for extinction as fast as she knows how. I don't know what an electric fence would do to a greyhound, but I don't want to find out. There's a footpath runs across a field near the house, and the owner of the field has fenced the path off with an electric wire (and it's live, I can hear it clicking) to keep a shaggy Shetland pony enclosed. I spent an exhausting walk trying to keep Holly away from the wire, but some kind of deathwish meant she couldn't stay away from it. I was pretty cross with her by the time I came home.

I was tempted, briefly, by the thought of fostering - Greyhound Gap is crammed to the gills again - but given I'm struggling to keep the two I've got alive, I'm probably not ready to foster just yet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Week 2 and a half

..of CV247. It's been a bad week, Herbie's been reacting badly to something, breathing too rapidly. I stopped all his medications, his breathing went back to normal, and then I tried again. The CV247 is OK, so are the zinc pills, but the mushroom capsules aren't going down well, he went all saggy and limp within 12 hours of re-introducing them.

It's difficult with Herbie, he's sensitive to so many things. I always thought I had a cast-iron dog, he could eat anything without ill-effects (OK, except the entire dish of cauliflower cheese meant to feed four adults - a pint of cheese sauce was probably a bit much), but he was younger then, and now he seems to react to every change.

So, he's no better, but then again his nodes aren't any worse. Given that they'd been growing noticeably, perhaps this is progress. I've bought some wheatgrass and some compost. The first batch is soaking. I don't know if he'll drink wheatgrass juice, but it's something we haven't tried yet. Other people are writing happy optimistic posts about miracle drugs, but we're just standing still here. I suppose there are worse places to be standing. Sigh.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vodka glasses

... are very useful when it comes to mixing up dog medicines. 10ml of medicine is an inch or so in the bottom of a shot glass, easy to add a tiny scoop of Vitamin C powder, then syringe up and squirt into dog. Don't remember when I last used them for actual real alcohol.

Herbie's stabilised again - he wasn't brilliant last week, but he found the car sponge again on Friday and shredded it, so it can't be all bad here.

The place where it is all bad is over at Ari's - Alfie has gone to the bridge. Run free, Alfie. I'm not sure what happened, but it sounds like every dog-owner's worst nightmare.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Herbie's not great. I think I've discovered CV247 too late. I think "just too late" are the saddest words in the English language (a novelist friend, asked the same question, said "posthumous acclaim". It's the same thing). He's become more plodding, and reluctant to walk downhill, because that means on the way back, he'll have to go uphill. He's still eating, and yesterday evening he was happy that I'd come upstairs to bed, and was rolling on his back, waving his legs in the air (aka roaching). Even so, he's somehow fading.

We'll carry on with the CV247, since it's not supposed to have any side-effects (I tasted it though, it tastes oddly metallic). It's the first time I've tested one of his medicines, but it has been used on humans, and is meant to be safe.

The only spot of light relief has been my father, who kindly offered to fetch a variety of tins of catfood from the supermarket, for my sister's already fussy Maine Coon cat. He announced that he'd got one of everything, even the supermarket's own "Guts in Gravy".

My sister, who is very protective of her cat, rushed off to inspect the tin, while I thought, "That's remarkably honest of them". She came back and said "Were you wearing your glasses?" "No".
"It says 'Cuts in Gravy'. " But it's too late, the damage has been done. Tinned pet food is now known in our family as guts in gravy.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Waiting for the Post

We've had a postal consult with Richard Allport (my own vet had just done a blood test, checked Herbie's weight and manky teeth) and now I'm waiting for Herbie's meds to arrive. His nodes seem to be another notch bigger.

He's currently in disgrace for standing in some poo in the dark, then running upstairs. I've had to sponge poo-ey footprints off the stairs, the rug, his bed... fortunately by the time he reached my bed, his feet were dry. Small mercies.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Once More Unto the Breach

... dear friends, once more. I've asked my vet for a referral to Richard Allport in Potters Bar, to see if he thinks it's worth Herbie trying the drug developed by the late John Carter. There's a blog up and running for people who are using this drug, CV247.

Herbie ran miles this morning. He saw a rabbit and that was it, off over the horizon. I spent ages staring into the distance, at the spot where he had disappeared, and suddenly he popped up behind me. To do that, he had to have done a huge loop round. There's life in the old dog yet.

Tonight, the dogs had pink and purple mince - beef mince boiled up with red cabbage. The meat goes purple on the outside, but when you mash it up with a fork, it has a pretty pink and purple look to it. The cabbage doesn't look great though.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eight and Five-Sixths

I'm back to counting. It's mostly been degrees centigrade (supposed to reach the heady heights of 8 degrees C, I am so happy it's above freezing!) but today it's Herbie part-birthdays. His nodes seem to have taken another leap forward in terms of growth. We're seeing the vet tomorrow for a check-up. She's agreed to refer us to a vet who will prescribe CV247 but wants to see Herbie first. She's understandably wary of a drug she has no personal experience of, but the Editor of Dogs Today, bless her and her house for always, has given me a list of vets who will prescribe.

It's pretty late in the day to be trying experimental (in the eyes of the licensing authorities, anyway, I know the drug has been around for a while) things on Herbie, but there are meant to be no side effects. Either it works or it doesn't, and it's worked on some mice with lymphoma in trials. I swing between wanting to leave Herbie be, and refusing to give up without a fight.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The more it snows...

... tiddly pom, the colder my toes, tiddly pom (as Winnie the Pooh once said). And the blacker the bruises. At the moment I have one black elbow, a matching shoulder, and a green and purple knee. I have spent the weekend resting up, because my right arm has been out of commission after falling on the ice at the Park and Ride at Monk's Cross. The concept is, you get out of your nice warm car into an ungritted skating rink, and if you're still alive by the time you reach the bus, it then takes half an hour to get to where you really want to be. Funnily enough, numbers of passengers are decreasing.

Herbie and Holly are both being little asterisks (as in ****s) and refusing to leave the house with the new dog walker. I've told her they're both adult dogs, they can make their own minds up, they just can't use a door key, so as long as she opens the door to the garden, it's up to them if they want to go out and wee. Maybe a walk is a bit ambitious at this stage. I'm worried though. She said Herbie bared his lips at her this morning and growled. Is he becoming possessive over the house? It's so unlike him, he'd normally run and hide at the first sign of trouble. I need to be at home.

There's a programme on telly tonight about how the over-40s have little chance of finding jobs anyway. What with that and the chance of developing Alzheimers before I even retire (TV programme on Terry Pratchett's illness) and... there must be some chocolate in the house somewhere. I'm off to look for it.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Yes, more snow. Sigh. I was supposed to be running a workshop today, but can't get there, and nor could half the participants. It was a lot of work to arrange, and now I've got to do that work again. I like snow when I don't have to go anywhere. This isn't one of those days.

I read some interesting news on Beverley Cuddy's blog about CV247, a potential cancer cure. I need to find out more, and see if my new vet's open to trying to contact a vet in Hungary. One can but hope. Herbie's as OK as he's ever likely to be at the moment, but his nodes are so big, and his crusty nose seems to be getting worse.

Oh, and my dogwalker has winter vomiting virus, so in a way it's just as well I can't get to work. The dogs and I can all stand on the doorstep together, shake our heads, and go back upstairs.

Wherever you are, stay warm.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

We're IN

... but so much work still to do. It's taken me a while to sort out the PC (I left the main power cable behind!) and we have no central heating, and the roof leaks in the tiny back bedroom I was going to use as a study, so my PC is balanced on a small folding table. I have very little furniture, because the last place I owned was too tiny to fit any in - 18th century weavers' cottage, mine was the only single one not extended - 18th century people must have been weentsy, and equally they would have had no furniture. Older people in the village remembered when the beaten earth floor in my house was concreted over (1930s), and when the well in the path that ran past the cottages was paved over (1950s).

This one is much newer, 1950s, and obviously had a bit of a makeover in the 70s, but nothing's been done since. Now I've put down dog-proof flooring downstairs, carpeted upstairs and I'm about to have the place rewired. Everything's been work, from the leaking and corroded connection to the washing machine... I could go on.

Herbie's accepted that this is his new home, and likes the little lane that leads downhill to a succession of wet fields. However his teeth have become noticeably worse, and I have a dilemma. It may be too dangerous to give him anaesthetic, and certainly my old vet was reluctant to risk it, but equally Herbie's teeth are getting browner and browner, and he has very limited tolerance for toothbrushing. I'm going to have to get to know our new vets down the road.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Going, Going...

...almost moved. Beyond stressed out, I have no idea how I'm going to get everything packed tomorrow. I spent today painting while the carpet men put in stair carpet - I can't risk little greyhound feet slipping on the stairs. The carpet men disassembled the bed I had just painstakingly assembled. Tomorrow I will put the bed back together. And go in search of more boxes.

I have an insane amount of books. If only I'd been brave, like Ari was last year, but I just don't seem to be able to get rid of them. Now I'm paying the price, in terms of packing anxiety. I never ever want to move again.