Good afternoon friends! I’d like to open this blog post by directing your attention to its title, ‘Day One Hundred and Twenty Two’, like really?! How quickly time has flown! The memory of myself sitting on our balcony in Halkidiki, Oliver’s Ipad in hand and flip-flops on feet, triumphantly typing out ‘Day One…’, still feels so fresh in my mind. Only the other day, we revisited those same holiday snaps and were taken aback by the first shots of Luna. How small she was, how slender and most of all, how innocent did she appear. The key word here being ‘appear’.
Yes, our little angel has more recently proved herself to be more of a madam than modest. Alongside her new partner in crime, Leia, this troublesome twosome have been causing quite the stir in the Hargreaves household, and by stir, I mean complete and utter chaos. This rampant devastation, which we can only assume is the result of them being left together unsupervised, has escalated over the past couple of weeks to the point where I dreaded coming home to the carnage of their mischievous play.
Warning: Graphic Images Below.
From emptying the contents of the bins, fridges and freezers…
to tearing the wallpaper off…
to pinching belongings…
“Oh…these were your socks?”
It’s been no easy ride. After the first few incidents, we decided to install a webcam to catch the culprit but photographic evidence later proved that the two were working in tandem. Leia, with her super long legs, was caught red-handed on several occasions springing up onto the counters and demolishing the contents of the bread bin….
…whilst Luna could be seen tearing strips of wallpaper from the walls, tail-awagging. It’s the kind of thing that seem comical now I’m writing about them but were far from funny at the time.
I remember my breaking point. My parents were away on holiday and so Oliver and I were house-sitting, dog-sitting, budgie/cockatoo-sitting, plant-sitting, fish-sitting etc. I had just finished a twelve hour shift and walked through the door to find that, despite fitting TWO locks, Luna and Leia had managed to break into the freezer for the fourth time this week. Frozen pasta dishes, pies and veg were spread across the floor and the perpetrators gazed up, piously, with frozen sausages between their jaws. I slumped down against the cupboards and cried. Ridiculous, I know.
As dog owners, we often take things personally. I’m sure every dog owner has looked at their companion at one time or another and thought, ‘how ungrateful can you be’. Whether they turn their noses up at that food you prepare, destroy a new toy you presented to them only moments before or, as in our case, devastated a home which you lovingly provided, it can sometimes feel like a love that is unrequited. But that’s just it. Humans and dogs do not perceive things in the same way. They think differently, in a way which science is yet to fully understand. They don’t perform such acts out of spite or to hurt us, they do it for a million and one other reasons: because it’s fun, because it’s shiny and it caught their eye, because they’re bored, because it looks like a toy, because they bloody well feel like it.
So, we decided to enlist the help of a dog trainer so that we could better understand their destructive behaviour and communicate better, species to species. There were other issues to address, besides the chewing, Luna in particular had become increasingly difficult on the lead, so much so that I was struggling to manage her alone and with a new playmate on the field, her recall had also become poor. The dog trainer, Paul, identified Luna’s hyperactivity instantly, pointing out her scorpion-like tail which connotes arousal, her constant attempts to play-fight with a more laid-back Leia and her struggle to stay still and relax the constant chatter in her brain.
He showed us several techniques to calm her down including putting her in a long lie down, massaging her and even doggy relaxation music! As for the chewing, he helped us realise just how much had changed for Luna and Leia recently. Suddenly, not only did they have a new play-friend in each other but I wasn’t around as much with starting work and with their recent kennel cough episodes, they weren’t able to attend doggy daycare for several weeks, meaning a much greater amount of time was spent at home alone. They were frustrated, bored, big dogs with lots of energy and a lack of stimulation. Being a dog parent is all about learning. If I had never taken a step back to look at things through their eyes, I would never have realised the kind of changes we’d need to make.
A few weeks on and we’ve seen a massive improvement. The changes we made were relatively simple. Firstly, we made things secure. Everything edible is properly secured or removed from reach and doors which conceal valuable belongings are locked. Secondly, stimulation. Aside from leaving out more toys, puzzles and bones to snack on when in the house, Luna and Leia also received their kennel cough vaccinations, pictured below with Oliver in the waiting room, which meant they were able to return to The Collar Club doggy daycare! Hurray!
My work schedule means that I work twelve hour shifts, three days per week so luckily, I can be at home more than anyone else in the house. So, if the girls go to daycare twice a week, it means they’ll only be at home, unsupervised for one day, which often will either fall on Oliver’s day off or a weekend when my mum and dad are in. Plus, with the addition of going to daycare and the increased exercise, they’re more likely to be tired out with less energy to burn on this day, should they be home alone.
And how do I know this? Well I can tell you for a fact that The Collar Club doggy daycare is definitely worth every single penny. I’m currently writing this blog after collecting Leia from her first day attending and, with big sis Luna accompanying her for support, they’re both now sprawled out completely zonked, on either side of me. The staff took these lovely pics-
As for Luna’s lead-walking, we purchased a Halti lead. For those who aren’t familiar, a Halti lead is a head collar and the theory behind it is simple, you wouldn’t use a collar or a harness on a horse so why use one on a dog? By using a head collar, you gain much more control in that the dog’s body will follow its head. It’s a miracle! I would definitely recommend to anyone struggling with lead-walking. Accompanying it with clicker training works really well, from the first moment we took Luna out with it, her walking has improved dramatically. We plan to continue with it for a couple of weeks and then begin to phase it out in the hopes that she will have learnt to associate good-walking with treats and praise. For more information on the Halti lead, click here. Luna wears a Halti Optifit, size medium. We’ve also ordered one for Leia who wears the Optifit Small.
No matter how much of a handful this pair can be, our love for them is unconditional. Being a dog owner, particularly to a rescue dog, is difficult. It’s not always a smooth run as its sometimes advertised and has, especially in these last few weeks, proved harder than I ever thought it would be but you have to persevere. I have no regrets when it comes to Luna and would never considering returning her, as others do, because although she can be hard work, we’d never give up on her. She may be challenging at times but the love she repays us with, even if its just a cuddle after a long day or a little wink from those soppy brown eyes, and the successes she has, from a successful recall or an obeyed command, make it all worthwhile. I’m so proud of her each and every single day. When I see them running together in the fields, Leia like a bullet and Luna not far behind, ears flapping and tails wagging, it really melts my heart and makes those more difficult times a distant memory.
Since their union, the pair have grown completely inseparable. They share everything: from toys,
to this iconic pose from Day Sixty Four…
But their most favourite activity to do together, taking top spot but closely followed by running, is napping.
Causing utter destruction is a hard days work you know?!
In human news, I officially graduated from University on Thursday! It was a lovely day spent with my wonderful family. I secretly wished Luna could have been in attendance but I made sure to tell her all about the ceremony when I got home. Here are some pics-
The search for a house is still on. We’re hoping to be moved out by New Year. Very thankful that my parent’s are so supportive and understanding otherwise Luna might have had us evicted sooner! We’ve purchased a dishwasher and a washing machine in preparation. Are these the types of things you get excited about as an adult?
That’s all for now and I wanted to finish by sending a message to all dog owners out there who are struggling, who feel that their efforts go unheard or that their affections are one-sided. You are not alone. But don’t give up on them, persevere, get your head down and do your research, don’t be afraid to contact someone more knowledgeable or experienced for training advice. It’s hard, but when they look at you like this…
know that they love you and that you’re doing a great job.
Till next time,
Charlotte, Oliver, Luna and Leia x