Pet Breavement Counselling Services
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Paws for Thought

Introducing Alfie

Well here we are 6 months after losing our lovely Bonniedog and we have decided that life without a dog is just too difficult.

So we’ve scoured the pages of Margaret Green Rescue, taken a three hour drive to Devon to their rescue centre called Wingletang and there we found Alfie. Alfie is an Irish Wolfhound Cross - we are not sure what he is crossed with, but by the size of him possibly a small pony! He is eighteen months old and doesn’t yet seem to have control of his very long legs. He is playful and cheeky was in need of a home - so that was it, he was in the back of the car and coming home with us.

His first meeting with our cats –Boris and Billy, was interesting! Alfie can’t understand why they don’t want to play and Boris clearly had no idea that any dog could be this big. Billy on the other hand just thinks Alfie is a bit ridiculous and should be ignored at best and growled at if he sniffs him too hard.  So given a bit of time, we think they will all get along just fine.

So just as winter sets in we are getting used to dog walks three times a day again and re-call training sessions where we have to be more interesting than anything within smelling distance – we find hotdogs in our pockets are doing the trick – he’s very keen on those!

Our very own Pet Bereavement - Bonniedog 2003-2016

It makes me very sad to have to write this but Bonnie, known here as Bonniedog, has died.  She was the poster girl of Pets Past and Present and was a much loved member of this family for over 12 years.  Her story with us started at Margaret Green Animal Rescue.  We had taken the decision that we now had the lifestyle that would allow a dog – my husband had made me wait over twelve years – and so I was keen to find a dog to bring into our home.

We had no particular breed in mind, we knew it would be a rescue dog but other than that we had no pre-conceived ideas at all.  We went down to Margaret Green and they have this great system, where you see the dogs photo and mini CV which tells you things about the dogs, before you meet them. So we needed a dog who could live with cats and wanted a fair bit of exercise.  Before I had really got past the ‘can I have them all’stage, my husband drew my attention to one of the dogs that he said ‘this could be the one.’

It was a German Shepherd, who could live with cats but would prefer to be the only dog in the house. I have to say, I had always had my reservations about big dogs and was really not sure. I agreed she was a possible and so one of the staff went to get her to introduce us.  

Well she was so timid and afraid she would barely walk with us. She was however, big by my standards. My husband fell in love. It was clear to me that this one called Bonnie was the one and I was going to have to get used to the idea. So for a couple of weeks, everyday I went down to Margaret Green to walk Bonnie by myself to see if I could get used to the idea of this big (and a bit scary) dog. Of course I also fell in love and that was it, she became part of our family. At the time we had a cat called Bonnie and so had to decide what to do about names. We decided that we couldn’t change her name, for some reason it didn’t feel right and so she became Bonniedog and the cat became Bonniecat. So that was sorted!

Bonnie was so timid that for the first 2 weeks she had her bed in the corner of our kitchen under the table and she rarely ventured out.  She didn’t bark, we worked out eventually that she didn’t really know how – so we taught her. As you can imagine that was hilarious – goodness knows what she must have thought! She was incredibly intelligent and was very quickly off the lead, walking to heel and learning to play.

As time went on she became more confident and went everywhere with us.  She would sit under tables in restaurants, stay in hotel rooms and holiday cottages, everyone would comment on how well behaved she was and of course we were very proud of our girl.

She ran miles and miles with my husband, they were running partners and covered thousands of miles together over the years. Even in her dotage she was his cool down partner; he would go out for an early morning run and then come back, pick her up and take her for a ‘doggie jog’.

Still eventually after a long and happy life with us, her time came. We were lucky, there was no drama, no vets, just an old lady who slipped away in the arms of someone she loved and loved her very much. We will always be grateful for that.

And then comes the grief.  I am writing this a full six months after the event. I certainly couldn’t have written it sooner and I still sit here with tears in my eyes.

So here I am, a bereavement counsellor, feeling yet again the pain of grief at the loss of a pet.  I know it won’t go away and I will always feel her loss however I also know I will always feel the joy and pleasure in the happy memories.

Our lovely girl, Bonniedog.



Halloween – No Scaredy Cats Allowed!

While Bonnie, our lovely German Shepherd, wouldn’t been seen anywhere dressed up, her cousin Buffy – named after the Vampire Slayer – is always happy to be dressed up to the nines and will of course be wearing her best vampire cape for Halloween.

Your pet may love it too or may be more like Bonnie and really not enjoy this kind of fun.  Either way the decision to dress up your pet should be taken with their best interests at heart.  If they don’t appear to like it, don’t do it – they won’t thank you!

For some Pets the whole idea of strange people knocking at the door looking like ghouls will be too much to handle and so keeping them safe needs to be our number one priority.  

Three Reminders for Halloween Pet Safety ;

  1. Keep your pet away from the front door if you are likely to get trick or treat visits, then they won’t be frightened by your little visitors.
  2. Remember to keep the Treats in a place they can’t get at –we’ve heard of Pets opening cupboards and jars to get at something yummy, so remember your pet is clever – particularly when it comes to treat time!
  3. If you are having carved pumpkins with candles in them, remember tails and noses get everywhere, put the pumpkins out of reach to avoid singeing and scorching



Bonfire Night and Fireworks

I can’t remember a time a pet lover told me that their pet loved fireworks, so I think it’s safe to assume that most Pets find the banging and crackle of fireworks at the very least disconcerting.

From their point of view, what could possibly explain all the noise and strange lights?  They must assume that someone or something they can’t see is trying to hurt them, after all they have probably never heard of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot!

So while we get busy deciding which display to go to, or whether to do sparklers in the garden, we need to factor in what our Pets need from us at this time of year.

I was talking to the owner of a kennels recently who told me that they have regular visitors every year who come to stay because their kennels are sound proofed and have shutters that are pulled over at night. This means that any noise and light caused by fireworks is practically eliminated.  The cats and dogs who stay with them can be sure of a much quieter and less stressful night than those Pets who live in areas where fireworks can be going off for many nights around November 5th

However, not all of us have the luxury of such great care locally, so how can we do this for our Pets at home.

The first step is to ensure your pet is in their safest place.  For many this is likely to be inside the house, however for bigger animals this is not always practical.  Small animals that live outside, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, ducks, chickens etc. can be brought inside if that is the least stressful option for them.

For larger Pets and any animal that doesn’t ever come indoors they may be better off outside with some extra protection, such as thick coverings to cages etc. to muffle noise as best as possible.  Any animal with a house/stable etc. should be encouraged inside their house and kept in if possible.

All of us, including our Pets benefit from a bit of company when we are frightened, so a radio or tv can be used to provide a bit of music or voice distraction if you can’t actually be around. Maybe record yourself and leave that playing while you are out – as long as your pet won’t tear the house apart looking for you of course!

If you are intending to spend Guy Fawkes night in the house with your pet, then lots of reassurance and cuddles will usually be just the job!

There are of course a variety of calming medications available from herbal remedies to prescription only drugs.  Your veterinary practice will always be happy to offer advice on what may be the best option for your particular pet, so don’t be coy and ensure everyone in your household gets November


Nearly Christmas!

So with the Christmas Countdown almost upon us, it is time to start thinking about which Advent Calendar the kids – and grown ups!- will want this year.  Of course for many of us the kids also includes the Pets!

My childhood memories of Advent Calendars were so much simpler than the festive confections we have today. Back then cardboard shaped Santa’s with a pull string that made the arms and legs move gave my December that little bit of magic, and prising the tiny windows open to discover a miniature Christmas scene was delightful!

Now however, Advent Calendars seem to be mostly about treats with chocolate the daily reward for opening those fiddly windows.

Looking around the pet shops large and small, local and on-line there seems to be an enormous selection of Advent Calendars around for every type of pet.  I’ve seen a small animal advent calendar with yoghurt coated treats – looks scrumptious if you’re a rabbit or guinea pig – and I’ve also come across ideas for Advent Calendars for horses and know of one horse owner who has sewn their own advent calendar for their horse with pockets for treats – now that is love!

So however you decide to spoil your pet this Yuletide, don’t let them miss out on the lead up to the big day, remember;

Advent Calendars are for All not just for Children!

Winter in Pets Past and Present HQ

Shorter days and colder weather seems to make quite a difference in our house.  Bonnie, our lovely dog, refuses to out in the rain.  Boris and Billy, our naughty boy cats, always manage to find the warmest bit of the house – even when that is in the most inconvenient place for everyone else.

Looking out at the garden things look quite beautiful but not very colourful and so often this is a time of year when house-plants and bringing bits in from the garden is so appealing.

It’s worth remembering the poinsettia plant’s brightly coloured leaves contain an irritant sap.  The plant is poisonous if ingested in large quantities for humans and pets. It is unlikely your pet (or you!) would ingest enough of the plant because of the taste and irritation from the sap.  Other plants to take care with include Holly and Mistletoe, Lilies, and daffodil bulbs. Better to keep them out of reach to be on the safe side.

We all love a warm cosy spot for a nap, but remember a warm engine can be cosy to a cold cat, if not yours then maybe your neighbours’.  Why not give your horn a honk before you start up and then you can be sure to have woken any snoozing visitor before you start the engine!


Christmas and New Year are now just a lovely memory…

Well here we are in January and the tinsel is back in the loft and the tree is chopped up ready to go on the wood burner.  Life has returned to the usual routine, which means that walkies and breakfast time are earlier in the morning than they have been during the holidays.  Walks can’t be timed to coincide with sunshine – ok we didn’t get too much sunshine but at least we could choose to walk when the rain stopped!

Our two naughty boy cats – are miffed in the way only a cat can be, about not being allowed to have access to the whole house when we’re not around. They miss their special places on the sofas in the sitting room and the conservatory sofas are just not quite as soft and warm.

Of course for all our pets and indeed ourselves, the biggest readjustment is the reduced access to festive sweeties!  Although we only bought a small amount of  special treats for our pet family other human family members bought our pets lots of sweets and treats that they do not usually have!

Every time we walk past the treats draw there is much licking of lips and rubbing against our legs, which is really hard to ignore.  I feel so mean not giving in and just offering a little treat, however the Festive period is over for all of us and so I am trying to maintain my self-control by allowing them a treat when I treat myself to a biscuit.  

This means I have to think about their welfare at the same time as mine – it’s a great way to reduce my intake of biscuits, after all I am a responsible pet owner and overweight pets suffer just as much as overweight humans.

Mind you I am already looking forward to Easter!

Valentine Boris looking for Love  

How could any lady cat, looking for love resist this handsome boy? Boris has all his own teeth and a great coat and is looking for someone to share his hunting ground.  He is seeking a companion who is also a great hunter and shares his love of the outdoors.  

He has a great sense of humour – he once brought his humans a gift-mouse.  Unfortunately it was a speedy mouse and Boris lost sight of it somewhere in the house.  Fortunately though, his man human found it at 5am when the mouse ran across his pillow on the bed he shares with Boris’s woman human.  

Boris was pleased to hear all the noises that ensued and was sure this was because they were so pleased to find his kind gift. He couldn’t quite understand why his humans put the gift outside after all the pleasure they had clearly had in the recapture exercise.

Anyway, if you are the sort of lady cat that thinks this handsome boy is for you, please contact Boris on Facebook, he can be contacted at the page called PetsPastPresent.



It’s official - Spring is here! The clocks have sprung forward and all the pets in our house were delighted to be fed an hour earlier than expected this morning.  Evening walks can be later and of course longer and no torches are necessary for those early morning starts.  With a bit of luck it will stop raining as much now and wellies can be replaced with walking boots.

We are starting to think about summer holidays and are busy trying to find holiday cottages that take us and the dog.  He likes the beach, I like the countryside and Bonnie the dog likes anything as long as she is allowed to come too!

The horses in the field opposite are put out into the paddocks more now and they are such a pleasure to look at and watch as they prance around enjoying the Spring sunshine.  And we are so lucky to have Highland cattle in the field behind the house.  The new calves are adorable and later in the year when they start to challenge their Dads we will watch with awe the power in these wonderful animals.

At the opposite end of the scale we are having fun trying to work out who will take up residence in our bird boxes.  Last year we had a family of house sparrows move in, which was lovely – even if the babies woke us at 4.30am some mornings demanding their breakfast.

Bad weather, grumpy walkies …

“I just wanna get to the end of the day without it raining” – Campbell Scott, Film Director.  

If Bonnie, our lovely German Shepherd, could speak she would agree whole heartedly with this sentiment.  She hates the rain so much but she loves her walks too, however as she gets older she is choosing not to walk in the rain anymore.

Now, all of us pet owners know that animals really do make these kinds of decisions when they want to.  People who are not pet owners of course may dispute this but I promise you when Bonnie doesn’t want to go for a walk, she’s not going!

It usually goes like this in our house; we think Bonnie wants to go out because she is giving us that “look” and is pacing around us expectantly when we go into the kitchen and utility room.  We open the dog walking cupboard – that’s where her lead is kept and our walking boots.  Bonnie starts to get excited and running around our feet knocking us over as we are trying to get our boots on.

Then the back door is opened and she hears the rain.  She sticks her nose out and sniffs at it, then looks back at us over her shoulder.  She is clearly not keen. We jolly her along and tell her that we’re going for a nice walk but you can’t kid a kidder!

We get out of the garden gate and start walking towards to the forest – about 3 minutes away- and her favourite walk.  We pass the post box, then the smashed up phone box and Bonnie is starting to slow.  We try not to catch her eye, she keeps looking up at us and we know if we look back the walk is doomed.

We walk across the little bridge that goes over the Ford and she has a couple of sniffs and perks up a bit.  Then when we reach the grassy lane it is clear she has no intention of going any further than the corner.  We take the lead off and say “off you go” which usually results in her bounding off up the lane.  She usually likes to catch up on her “wee-mail” and darts from patch to patch picking up all the local doggies news.  Today however, she just walks off to check out the main “wee-mail”sites and then decides enough is enough.  

At this point however are using every encouragement we can, from squeaky voices, running up the lane ahead of her shouting “come on Bonnie!” and pretending we have found something interesting to look at. But she knows that it’s all a ruse to get her to walk further than she wants to.

So she watches all our efforts and is clearly deeply unimpressed, if not a little embarrassed for us and saunters back to the start of the lane. Once there she sits down waiting for us to walk back down the lane, put her lead back on and take her home.

The only saving grace from her point of view is when we get home she gets a good rub down.  She loves having her face wiped dry and so we have a good game of rub your face in a towel before she wanders off to lie down on her special rug.
So walk over from her point of view, but we know as soon as the rain stops she’s going to want a “proper” walk.  We can only hope our boots have dried out by then, because wet walking boots make for grumpy walkies for us!