Welcome everyone Sandra in Spain - FlamencoI’m Sandra Piddock, and I’m a freelance writer, dividing my time between Spain and the UK. I’ll write about anything that interests and/or challenges me, and I like to focus on the lighter side of life whenever possible.. Read more
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Blogging the Book

I’m in the process of writing a book about our experiences since adopting a rescue dog in Spain. Since I always have a lot of writing work on, it’s likely that this section of the blog may be neglected for long periods – unlike our rescue dog Paddy, who is always our main priority.

Chapter 3: Teddy becomes Paddy: Settling In

Our first 'official' photo with Paddy

Our first ‘official’ photo with Paddy

Having paid over our €50 donation to the K9 Club, and begged a harness from Kayla so I had something to hold onto in the car, it was time to take Teddy – now Paddy – home. Although the harness Kayla had given us had to be adjusted to the smallest setting, we were under no illusions that we were going to have a big dog on our hands, and that the website’s statement that Paddy would grow into a medium-sized dog was optimistic to say the least. His paws were enormous, and totally out of proportion to the rest of him, but we weren’t about to change our minds. He’d won us over the moment we saw him on the website, and now he was part of the family.

Kayla warned us that probably the only car journey he’d undertaken in his 7 or 8 weeks of life was the almost fatal one to the canal side, so we might have a problem in the car at first. And this turned out to be the case. Until that point, Paddy had nestled calmly and contentedly in my arms, but as soon as I opened the car door, he was hell bent on escaping.

Once more I silently cursed the evil person that had caused so much trauma in this young, innocent puppy’s life, while at the same time thinking that if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t now be taking Paddy home with us. There would be a lot of this dual curse/blessing thinking over the coming months, and even now, it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend. I suspect that’s the case for most people. Whether you’re an animal lover or not, right-thinking people can’t get their heads around the horrible things that other people do.

Eventually, I managed to settle Paddy a little, but we had a 20 minute journey ahead of us, so we decided to take a break at Rojales so I could get some food, treats and a lead for Paddy, and he could have a rest from the torture – as he obviously viewed it – of riding in the car. Presumably the poor boy thought he was being dumped again, because he came to love the car, to the extent that even now, almost a year later, if he sees a car door open, he’ll try and get in.

Whenever I take him out in the car, he sits on the back seat, safely plugged into the seat belt with his restraining lead, master of all he surveys. He starts off on the right side of the seat, and when he’s fed up of the view, he moves to the middle and looks through the windscreen. After a while he’ll try the view from the left, and if we stop at a junction or a traffic light, he’ll look through the rear window to investigate who is following us. He’s a real Travelling Man now, but on that first day, he found travelling in the car a very traumatic experience.

When we arrived back at the apartment, we placed him in the middle of the lounge carpet, so that he could explore his new home at his

Paddy and Mummy - Day 3

Paddy and Mummy – Day 3

leisure. For a while, he just sat there shivering, and looking bewildered, but soon the natural curiosity that is ingrained in all puppies kicked in, and he began to investigate his new surroundings. He was very cautious – which was understandable given his recent history – but eventually his tail began to wag and his confidence increased. Within a short while, the feistiness that had helped him hold his own as the smallest pup in the kennels was once more in evidence.

Once Paddy seemed at home, I couldn’t wait to get the camera out and get some photos of his first day at Piddock Place. However, it soon became apparent that this was not going to happen. In fact, by the end of the day, I was wondering whether we should have called him Macavity instead of Paddy. If the reference escapes you, let me remind you of these lines from T. S. Eliot’s poem, Macavity the Mystery Cat:

‘You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air—
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!’

And that was the problem on that first, precious day, when I was trying to take photos of Paddy. The photo opportunities were many and varied, as little Paddy has got his big paws well and truly under the table in Piddock Place. He fought – and seriously injured – my sheepskin rug; ‘helped’ me make the bed; wrestled with a broom that was at least as big as him, complete with the handle, which he also used to practice his show jumping moves. And he sat sweetly in the garden and on the sofa, in those rare quiet moments.

So, there were photo opportunities aplenty, but he was fascinated with the camera – or more correctly, with the carrying strap dangling enticingly in front of him. So, I have a lovely photo of a rumpled, crumpled, moulting sheepskin rug: an equally rumpled and crumpled duvet; a charming study of the corner of the sofa with two upended cushions, and a broom draped artistically over the coffee table.However did he manage that without breaking the glass top? Obviously it’s toughened glass. Then there’s the photo of the trunk of the palm tree, and the empty terrace steps. The only thing missing is Paddy. Just like Macavity, he’s not there.

Paddy on Day 3 - sitting on the sheepskin rug instead of trying to kill it!

Paddy on Day 3 – sitting on the sheepskin rug instead of trying to kill it!

The first ‘official’ photos of Paddy at home came a couple of days later, when our friends took some photos while we posed with him. Within a few days, he was actually a seasoned pro in front of the camera, happy to sit and pose as soon as it came out. The trick was to tuck the carrying strap out of sight, and now we must have thousands of Paddy Pics. However, I still wish we could have captured him on camera on his first day in his new home. Still, we have Paddy in the flesh, and that’s better than all the photos in the world!

Something else that concerned us during those first few days was toilet training Paddy. It had been at least 30 years since either of us had had any dealings with a puppy, and we envisaged weeks of puddles and piles, not to mention stepping out of bed and feeling something soft and warm oozing up between our toes. And I’m not talking about the pile on the sheepskin rugs in the bedroom here!

However, as it turned out, we were incredibly fortunate with Paddy. It’s pretty obvious when puppies want to ‘go’ – they get very fidgety indeed. Whenever Paddy got like that, and as soon as he woke up after a nap, I’d take him down the terrace steps, and ‘Good Boy!’ for all I was worth when he produced a puddle or a pile for me. It took him less than two days to realise that he got extra cuddles and treats for going into the garden and doing stuff, and on that first Wednesday afternoon, he astounded our friends by actually asking to go out. Since that day, he has never done anything in the house, although a couple of times excitement has got the better of him when we’ve been visiting friends.

One drawback of my enthusiastic praise for his downloads was that for several months, Paddy had it fixed in his head that the garden was where I wanted him to ‘go.’ So, we’d head out for a nice long walk, then he’d come home, rush out into the garden and do the necessary. No amount of cajoling could persuade him to part with his surplus digestive by products until he was safely ensconced in his own garden, although if he was really desperate and we could find a patch of grass, he would oblige.

Since, even at a very young age, he seemed to have a bladder the size of Murcia, it wasn’t very often that happened. However, when we went with friends to Benidorm when he was just 4 months old, it was a different story. We parked the car on the underground car park in the Old Town, and as we emerged into the sunlight, Paddy had a wee on the grass. It was another 8 hours before we returned to the car, and the poor little lad held on until we got back to the grass before discharging again. Our suspicions regarding the size of his bladder were confirmed, because he peed a small river before we got back in the car!

The other thing we had to get used to in those early days was Paddy’s determination to always be in contact with one or both of us. That meant if he lay down to sleep, his preferred position was between us on the sofa, with his head on my lap and his feet touching Tony. Then if either of us moved, so did he, even when he seemed deep asleep. We suspected – and the vet confirmed – that this was down to him being abandoned. In his little puppy mind, if he was touching us, he’d know if we moved, and he could follow us to make sure he wasn’t left behind ever again.

A year later, he still does the same thing, although by now he must realise that, unlike his original owners, we are never going to abandon him, and our home is his forever home. Little puppies have big memories, it seems, and we would have quite a battle on our hands to overcome Paddy’s separation anxiety.

Blogging the book: what’s all that about then?

New Year, new start! Finally I’ve made a start on my book about my first year with Paddy. That’s my beautiful rescue dog, and this will be my first book. I’ll be publishing it as an e-book in the first instance, and then, if I haven’t lost the will to live by then, I’ll maybe bring it out as a ‘real’ book. We shall see. This is all new territory for me, and I’m not very good at new stuff. Still, now it’s a work in progress, and I’m looking at publication in late March or early April if everything goes to plan.

I’ll be blogging it into being, so please feel free to make any comments or observations. A couple of other writer friends have done the same thing, and they reckon it’s a great way to get feedback and help with revisions. The working title is Educating Paddy, but that’s not cast in stone.And I’m looking for a strapline, so if you have any ideas, why not share them?

Anyway, I’ll be posting each chapter as I write it, and I’ll be really grateful for any constructive comments and critiques that will help me to make the book into something all dog lovers will want to read. So, join me on the journey through my year with Paddy. It’s been interesting, with lots of laughs and a few tears, but mostly it’s been a year filled with joy, and I hope I get that across in the forthcoming chapters. If I don’t, please let me know!

From La Marina to La Finca: Paddy Comes Home

Paddy - settling into his new home

Paddy – settling into his new home

As I explained in Chapter 1, it took me a long time to persuade Tony that we should have another Dog in Residence. So, why did he finally change his mind? I really don’t know. On New Year’s Eve, 2013, when four of our friends pitched in and pleaded my case, he got stroppy and said something along the lines of ‘Never mention dogs to me again, or else,’ yet less than three months later, we were collecting Paddy from the K9 Club Animal Charity in La Marina.

Maybe it was down to the lucky red knickers I was wearing on New Year’s Eve, or perhaps it was because he was having one of his ‘What’s Sandra going to do when I die?’ moments. He’s been having those quite regularly since he hit 70 – he’s 81 now, so there have been a lot of them. Anyway, we were sitting in the sun on Sunday 16 March, 2014, and he suddenly asked me if I still had the Coastrider.

That’s the local English language newspaper for the Torrevieja area, and I wondered what he wanted it for. Tony said he wanted to look in the Classifieds, and I got a bit concerned then. You see, in Spain, along with the adverts for plumbers and removal men, you’re likely to see adverts for – er – ladies belonging to the oldest profession in the world. I wondered whether Tony was perhaps trying to hasten his demise and wanted go out with a smile on his face, but what he said was even more of a shock than if he’d asked me to book an appointment with ‘Janine, busty, long-legged blonde, 37. Will meet at your place or mine.’ His next words were:

‘Pick yourself a puppy from one of the animal shelters.’

First of all, I ignored him, thinking I’d heard him wrong. When he repeated it, I went indoors to check the levels on the whisky bottle. That didn’t seem to have ‘evaporated’ since last night, so I went back to the sun loungers, and asked him if I’d heard him right. Apparently I had, because once again, Tony repeated the words I’d resigned myself to never, ever hearing.

I checked the Coastrider, and the Courier, and the Round Town News. And there were puppies aplenty – too many puppies, because I wanted all of them, yet none of them actually said to me ‘Take me home – I’m yours.’ Well, they couldn’t have, could they? Not from the newspaper and not in person, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

I was quite happy to wait for next week’s papers, but once Tony wants to do something, he wants to do it now, or even yesterday. He can be so impatient. A religious friend of ours once suggested he should pray for patience, and he said, ‘Please God, grant me patience, and I’d like it immediately.’ And he was only half joking! But I digress.

Anyway, Tony suggested we look on the websites for the various charities, because he reasoned there were so many dogs needing homes, they probably couldn’t put them all in the newspapers. Before I did that, I tried to do my duty as a Responsible Wife and told Tony that if we had a puppy, it would be hard work for a couple of years. Wouldn’t it be easier on us to get an older dog?

Tony’s answer to that was that with an older dog, we might not know what sort of life he’d had before, or how it could affect his temperament. He had a good point, actually. Although we don’t have any young children at home, we do have grandchildren and great grandchildren in England, and we didn’t want to put any of them in danger from an unpredictable dog. As Tony said, if we started with a puppy, even if he’d had bad experiences, we should be able to get him over them with love and attention, and train him so we had the kind of dog we could take anywhere.

We wanted a dog that wasn’t too big, but what we didn’t want was what we call ‘a rat on a string.’ Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas are okay if they belong to somebody

Teddy - soon to become Paddy. Our first sight of him on the K9 Club website

Teddy – soon to become Paddy. Our first sight of him on the K9 Club website

else, and we’ll make a fuss of them, like we do with any dog, but it would never be our choice for a pet. Having had a Border Collie, we did think some sort of Collie cross would be ideal for us, and when we went to the K9 Club website, we saw Paddy – or Teddy as he was called then.

It was love at first sight for both of us – now I’d found a puppy who looked at me and said ‘‘Take me home – I’m yours.’ I think the main reason we fell in love so completely was that he reminded us of Patch. He wasn’t pure Border Collie, but there was more of that than anything else, and he had a white blaze on his face, white socks and a white chest. When we actually hunted out our old pictures of Patch, he wasn’t much like him at all, but at the time, it struck a chord.

Now we’d found our boy, I was impatient to get to him before anyone else did, so I called the kennels, even though it was Sunday teatime. I reckoned that looking after dogs wasn’t a 9 to 5 weekday thing, and I was right. Kayla answered the phone, and told me all about Teddy, as she’d called him. And what she told me made me cry, and made me want to bring Teddy home and make it up to him for the rotten start he’d had in his short life.

A week earlier, Kayla had been exercising some of the 11 dogs they had in the kennels at the time near the canal. The dogs got excited, and Kayla thought she heard a noise, so she investigated. She found Teddy, covered in mud, freezing cold and whimpering, by the side of the canal. Next to him was what she presumed was his brother, and he was already dead. The puppies were no older than 6 or 7 weeks, and Kayla said if she hadn’t found Teddy when she did, he too would have been dead by morning.

Kayla had no way of knowing whether the dogs had been thrown in the canal and managed to struggle out, or whether they’d just been left on the canal bank. She was distraught that the puppies had not been left at the K9 kennels, which backed onto the canal, because then both of them may have been saved. She took Teddy home, bathed him, fed him and, because he was so tiny and cold, she allowed him to sleep with her in her bed, rather than putting him in the kennels with the other dogs.

By now, I was determined to have Teddy – although he would need a name change. As Tony said, he had no intention of standing at the top of the steps and shouting ‘Teddy, time for dinner!’ I mean, you never know who might be passing, and if somebody sees an 80 year old calling his Teddy in for dinner, they might decide to call the Ambulancia to take said 80 year old to a place of safety.

Kayla called him Teddy because he was such an affectionate little chap, even though he’d had such a rotten start in life. As we were chatting about names that evening, we thought a Spanish name such as Pedro, Paco or Pablo would probably suit him, but we decided to leave the naming ceremony until we’d actually met him.

The next day, we headed for the K9 Kennels bright and early. When we arrived, Kayla took us to met Teddy. He was in a pen with two other Collie cross puppies who were a few weeks older than him, and twice his size. They were bounding over him as if they were on elastic, knocking him over, and he was just getting back up and back in the fray. I fell in love all over again, and although the other puppies had on their best ‘Pick Me!’ faces, I knew that Teddy was coming home with us, and so did Tony. When Kayla let him out of the pen, he just strolled over to me, wagged his tail – which was as long as him with a little white tip – and gazed at me. I picked him up, and he nestled in my arms. Teddy was home.

Kayla explained that we did not have to make a donation unless we wanted to, but we wouldn’t have felt comfortable about taking Teddy without giving something to them to cover his keep for the week he’d been waiting for us. And we were so pleased to have found him, so we handed over €50. I don’t think many people give as much as that, because Kayla was over the moon. She filled out a receipt for the donation, and as I signed it, I noticed the date – 17 March, St Patrick’s Day. We finally had a new name for Teddy. On such a day, what else could we call him but Paddy?

Chapter 1: In The Beginning: The Years BP (Before Paddy)

New Year, new book - I'll drink to that!

New Year, new book – I’ll drink to that!

I come from a family of animal lovers, and there’s always been a dog or a cat in the family, from the days of our beautiful Tortoiseshell cat Tibby, who was bitten by a rat when defending her new kittens. It ate away half her face, and she died. I was around 7 years old at the time, and even now I still fill up when I occasionally think about her.

Next up was Pip, our Sealyham Terrier. He headed out into the snow during the bad winter of 1962/63, and he was brought back, frozen solid, when somebody else’s dog had discovered him in a snowdrift. We thought he was dead, but he thawed out in front of the fire, and we had him for a good few years after that.

When Pip popped off, we got a black Miniature Poodle called Sooty. He was rather partial to postmen and paper boys, but he was sneaky about it. The house we lived in had a side door rather than a front and back door, so he’d hide around the back of the house, quiet as a mouse, and let them deliver the goods. Then, as they made their way to the gate, he’d appear from nowhere, a furious, flying bundle of black curly fur.

The postman and paper boy became experts at sprinting to the gate and vaulting it, saving valuable seconds by not having to open it. So thankfully, Sooty did not often feast on tradesmen. However, it was a different story when the regular people were on holiday. Mum or Gran would find Postie sitting on the step, terrified to move. Obviously the regular guy hadn’t given him the training talk. The relief post boy had received the training talk, but as he weighed a stone (14 lbs) for each of his 13 years, sprinting and vaulting the gate was not an option.

Actually, Sooty was lucky to see his first birthday. During his first Christmas, two of my older cousins thought it would be a great wheeze to empty the dog’s water bowl and replace it with gin and tonic. Sooty drank the lot, and he was comatose for two days. When we called the vet, he said he’d either sleep it off or die of alcohol poisoning. He must have picked up on the family capacity for alcohol consumption, because when he came around, he was as right as rain. He didn’t even have a hangover!

By the time Sooty shuffled of this mortal coil, I was married, and pestering my husband for a dog. Unfortunately, our landlords didn’t allow pets, but we did acquire a budgerigar. His name was Albert, and his owners were going to wring his neck because he was vicious. We couldn’t believe a budgie could be so bad, so we took him home – and regretted it almost immediately. That budgie was psychotic. He’d bite everyone who went near him – even the hand that fed him, which was usually mine. And he’d bend the bars of the cage back with his beak and escape, as well as pushing out the glass panels behind the food and water dishes.

When we moved to our own house, we acquired a couple of kittens, and one day, after we’d been out for the day with the children, we arrived back to find the cage bars rent asunder. Albert had escaped again, and we were sure we were going to find a heap of feathers somewhere. What we did find was Albert holding court on the kitchen drainer and the kittens, mesmerised, watching him from a safe distance. It was a real relief when Albert fell off his perch, I can tell you.

The kids then developed a yen for gerbils, having looked after the school ones for a couple of weeks during the Easter holidays. Of course, we had to have a male and a female, didn’t we, and in no time, we were keeping the local pet shop supplied, as well as the rest of the estate in Telford.

As well as being very fertile, the male gerbil of the original pair was something of an escape artist, which led to us changing his name from Gerry Gerbil to Houdini. His favourite hiding place was behind the boiler in the kitchen, and one Saturday morning, I was trying to tempt him out before the cat got to him when the butcher arrived with our meat delivery for the week. David – my eldest – let him in, and he found me on my knees in my dressing gown. Being a helpful chap, he joined me down there, and we did eventually capture Houdini. But not before my husband got in from the night shift and saw us on the kitchen floor, me in a state of undress, and both of us with our backsides in the air …

Our next pet was the ugliest dog I have ever seen in my life, and nothing has come close since. He was a stray Jack Russell Terrier crossed with Lord Knows What. His mother must have had her head in a tin of Pedigree Chum and failed to see what crept up on her, because there were all sorts in there. His head was huge, and such a peculiar shape that one of our friends dubbed him ‘Pineapple Head.’ We preferred to call him George. He was a feisty little lad, and we had a few adventures with him. The one that sticks in the mind is the day we took him for a walk through the countryside in Telford, where we were living at the time.

We rounded a corner, and saw a beautiful country pub. George saw the chickens pecking away happily, and thought it would be fun to chase them. The chickens weren’t so keen on the game, and ran, squawking, towards a donkey, tethered to a fence and grazing contentedly. That contentment was destroyed when the donkey spotted the chickens and George, who was barking excitedly, heading his way. The donkey left the building, taking the fence panel with him, and the pub landlord came out to see what all the fuss was about.

By this time, my husband had managed to catch George, and he backed away apologising profusely to the landlord. If he hadn’t been backing away, he might have noticed the greenhouse behind him. As it was, he caught the open door, and it slammed shut, aided by a rogue gust of wind. To put the lid on the whole debacle, the glass in the door shattered. Even now, 35 years on, I won’t go in that pub, just in case it’s the same landlord and he has as good a memory as I have.

George lived to the ripe old age of 17, but my marriage died before he did. When I got together with Tony – who would eventually become Husband Number Two – I was delighted to find that, once again, there was a dog in my life. Tony had a 10 year old Border Collie called Patch, and he often used to ask me if I fell in love with him first or Patch. Well, it was a pretty close call, but I wasn’t going to tell him that, was I?

Anyway, Patch was a great character – he loved everyone, whether they had four legs or two. Except for German Shepherds. Once he was attacked by one, and for ever after that, if he saw a German Shepherd, he’d go for it, presumably thinking he’d get in first.

The abiding memory I hold of Patch is the day we took him for a run on Yelverton Common, on the edge of Dartmoor. He was around 13 years old then, but still acted like a puppy. He bounded around the common without a care in the world. Then he spotted a sheep that had wandered away from its companions to try and scrounge some of their picnic.

Quick as a flash, he was behind the sheep, down on his haunches and driving it back to the rest of the mini flock. It was pretty to watch, and I asked Tony how long it had been since he’d been on the farm. Apparently, he hadn’t seen a farm – or a sheep – since Tony’s family had adopted him at the age of 9 weeks. What we had just witnessed was instinct in action, and it was marvellous to see.

Patch also made 17 – pretty impressive for a breed whose average life expectancy is 10 years. He just went off his food one day and lay down and died with his head in my lap. He left a huge gap in our lives, and even now, 17 years after we lost him, we still think of him often. When you have a dog, he always holds a place in your heart.

I’ve nagged Tony on and off ever since we lost Patch, but he always steadfastly refused to have another dog. All that changed on March 16, 2014. That was the day he caved in – ironically, just as I’d given up hope of ever having another dog to share our lives. The following day – March 17, St Patrick’s Day – we brought Paddy home. This is the story of our first year with him. The highs, the lows, the laughs, the tears – it’s all here, so settle down and enjoy the ride as I tell you all about it.