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Monday, 29 July 2013

Kennel ready for guest dogs/behaviour case(s) from Friday

Great news!  Finally the first kennel will be arriving this week and we are ready to roll.  I already have two dogs booked for September with another 5 showing interest.  It will be so nice to have dogs here and see how they enjoy their play area - both their private one and shared one.  There are still jobs to do - but we have enough in place to "start".  I'm also ready for a workshop and hope to let everyone know a date for the first one soon - I might aim at the beginning of September or end of August.  We have a lovely working space and shade for most of the morning.

We have also been enjoying a few evening events in Alhama.  One Flamenco and one "dúo cómico musical" Los Sabineros, in a tribute evening to Joaquín Sabina.  The first was held in the square outside the church - a lovely setting and everyone clapping and enjoying the evening.  The second was at the ayunatmiento and was such a joy, with Los Sabineros showing great humour and they were wonderful entertainers.  I would thoroughly recommend - even if you don't have a lot of Spanish.

A couple of short tasters below!

Betsey - Perfect Small Foster dog Looking for Forever home

Betsey has been with us just over a week and already she has changed enormously!  She has put on weight, has a shiny coat again and has learnt so much!  I have included below a demo of her showing how good she is at "leave it" off leash already.  She no longer tries to take the other dog's treats or dash for her own.

Walking with Betsey is great and she is mostly right with me but even if she has an explore off leash, she recalls so well even if out of sight in the bushes.  On a walk the other day a hare shot out almost from under her feet. She ran only about three metres and listened to me! She also has great recalls from out of the olive groves, even when she is onto a really good scent. Here is a list of her plus points - all of which tick my boxes when for "looking for a great dog"...

* House trained
* Good recall
* Doing a superb leave it even when dropping food next to her
* Takes treats politely from the hand and does not snatch
* Can now lie down and ignore us when we eat and not starting fixedly at us in the sit
* Not a yapper/annoying barker
* Sleeps quietly through the night
* Loves other dogs but loves her humans even more
* Great through town
* Great on the leash and off
* Learns fast
* Sits to have her leash on and does not just get up and shoot off the moment it is on
* Sits to have her leash off
* Great in the car
* Great at the vet - no shakes, fear or crying
* Happy to meet all people male and female
* Has shown no particular worry or fear of smaller people - children, even when running and shouting
* Has shown no particular interest in push chairs
* Has not chased bicycles, cars, motorbikes etc even when off leash and close to her
* Is friendly with the family cat
* Passes sheep, horses, chickens and other cats without concern
* Baths well and easily - including hosing off under the hose pipe
* Can sit and give focused eye contact before taking her food
* Can wander around the other dogs while they are eating but is no longer trying to dive into their food
* Understands a few simple tricks - on the block, out, sit, not rushing out of doors and gates under people's feet, sit to get in/out of cars
* Can shake both paws
* Doing a reasonable down although needs help sometimes but really getting it - will lie down before going out and lets us out first, has much more patience.
* Can lie on her bed and knows not to wander into places she is not allowed
* Does not steal cushions, human clothes, shoes or other items to chew or destroy
* Does not chew or destroy her own bed
* Does not "mouth" chew or bite on people
* When excited still jumps up a little but does not nip or bite

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A Response from Hills Pet Foods - and my reply

Hello Tamasine,

First, I want to sincerely apologize for not responding to your original email. We all get busy and life gets in the way, but this is no excuse. You mentioned in your post that this is about politeness, and I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately time is limited and this is not what happened in your case - I let you down.

Your post is very complimentary of our products, which I appreciate and want to acknowledge. Sadly, my lack of communication gave a very false perception of who we are at Hill's. Hill's is an amazing company; an organization made up globally of pet lovers. We strive to fulfill our mission "to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets " and care deeply about the people and pets who allow us to be part of their lives every day - which brings me to your blog post.

You make some great points about the hubris some large companies have, and I find myself in similar situations in my own life. In this case, I was able to see the entire path you took; the emails and communications, your frustration and how a company you supported seemed to turn its back. I was also able to see if from the inside and how a few missed connections send a very strong, but incorrect message to the people we truly care about the most. It made me stop and think about some of my own recent customer experiences and why they took the path they did.

Please know it was never my intent to be arrogant, imply our individual customers are unimportant, or treat the people who matter to us most poorly. I understand your position and what drove you to write the post. I feel it is important to ensure you receive a response from me and hope you can understand.

We at Hill's are passionate pet owners - my dog Cici and Cat Roady are my life. One of the things I love most about working here is the wonderful opportunity to have a personal connection with people who also have a true passion for their pets.

Your journey is incredible and I wish you the best.

Kind regards,

Dear Lori,

Thank you for your email and professional response. As promised I will put it on Facebook and the blog now - I assume that you are happy for me to do this?

I understand that sometimes things slip through the cracks - we are all human after all. But is does seem a shame (and somewhat supports my view of corporates) that none of my follow up emails elicited a response, but I got a very quick one when I posted my views on Facebook and Google+.

I obviously accept your gracious apology, but ought perhaps to point out that the reason for the post was the lack of response to what was a sponsorship request. Your letter, however apologetic, even now and after all this time, still does not address this issue.

I should perhaps inform you that things have moved on a little with my plans since I last emailed you. I am still walking the camino - my next phase starts in October this year. However, in the meantime, I have connected with a dog charity group here, called Axarquia Animal rescue, and have discussed with them my plans to do the camino again, but this time with a dog drawn sulky (two wheeled dog carriage).

It is my belief that we can raise a substantial amount of money and arouse great interest in this unusual journey which should significantly help Axarquia in their excellent work with dogs in Spain, a country where, sadly, this work is badly needed.

As you know, we are long term Hills customers, but in the absence of any interest from Hills in response to our sponsorship request, we plan to present our case to Royal Canin (which would of course mean that we also switch to them as suppliers of our dog food).

I mention this, because it seems to me that you might be interested in marketing hills more heavily here in Spain, given that Royal Canin is so much more available here (and therefore more strongly supported) than Hills.

I might be wrong, but I would have thought a story such as ours might be worth telling, and worth supporting by your company.

I would be grateful if you would just let me know whether or not you are interested in supporting us. Until then, I will hold off for a short while before contacting Royal Canin, in the hope of hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Monday, 22 July 2013

Hills (the pet food people) Don't Care!

I am really not one for negative blogs, rants and moans but I have to say that I feel more than a little disappointed in Hills Pet Foods.  Michael decided to write this as he felt it was important to say and I agree with him.  It's about common courtesy and politeness, it's about acknowledging people and it's about communication.  I am going to let Hills know that this has been posted and I will offer them a chance to reply - if they do, I promise to post it here.

I hope that you will bear with us and take a moment to read through this blog message:

Ndzilo and I congratulating ourselves on making 470km
from Valencia to Toledo
"We have been loyal customers of Hills Science diet products for twenty years. We have three large dogs and regularly foster dogs looking for good homes, so Hills have done pretty well out of us over the years, both from our direct purchases and from our recommendations.  One of those dogs is now 12 years old.  She is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and has been fed Hills all her life.  She still has all her own teeth, has never had a day sick in her life and the vets examining her before her trip from South Africa to Spain a year ago said that she had a heart more like that of a 4 yo dog than an 11 yo one!

When Tamasine started walking the Camino with our dogs, it occurred to us that things could be a little easier financially if we sought sponsorship. We felt that Tamasine walking the Camino with our dogs would be a good story for a company willing to back us. So we thought that we would contact Hills, and see what they thought.

The first difficulty is that it is extremely hard to find someone to communicate with at Hills.  Harder than most companies in fact.  But, with perseverance, persistence, and a little out of the box thinking we managed to get in contact with someone there, who promised to pass our story on.  Nothing.  We waited a while and tried again.  Nothing.   And again.  Finally we got a response from someone, which was encouraging. They said that the story sounded interesting - they would take a look at the blog and get back to us.

Many months later, and several follow up emails, and guess what - nothing!

Don't get me wrong. This is not sour grapes because we didn't get sponsorship.  We have always been impressed by the Hill's food and sponsorship would have helped, but we didn't hold out all that much hope anyway.  This is about politeness.  If Hills had come back to us at any stage and told us politely that they weren't interested, then fine. We would have said ok, and walked away.

But large corporations like this get arrogant. They think that they are big enough that their individual customers are unimportant, and do not merit normal polite behaviour. They think that they are above their customers.

But what actually happens is that  long term customers like us, think they don't care.  And if they don't care abut us, we should we care about them.

This is why we are in the process of investigating other brands in order to switch our dog food soon.

Hills don't care enough even to write to us. And so we don't wish to stay with them anymore.

We are in the day of large corporates and globals, there is no mistaking that. And they do have a habit of becoming unreachable and untouchable. It is up to all of us to make it our job to change that, and do it in the only way we can - with our feet".  


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Progress at Leadchanges, HelpX experience and Sulky Training (Driving Dogs!)

Ehud from HelpX who did a great job on weeding and
strimming our work area ready for the kennel, agility
and dog run area to go up
Lots has happened since the last update!  The first and good news is that things are really changing and the place is starting to come together.  The playground/agility area is looking like what it is supposed to now (!) and the fences for the kennels and runs are up.  There are still bits of tidying up to do but it is looking like the facility I want it to be now.  Our HelpX helper, Ehud from Isreal, was with us for a week and really got on top of all the strimming and weeding, so that made a huge difference.

It was wonderful meeting someone from a completely different country and learning about the history and culture.  Ehud was particularly great as he is a tour guide there and very knowledgeable.  I would thoroughly recommend anyone who would like some help

Kaishi after her swim in the lake - she found some lovely
soft ash to lie in!
around their home, farm, garden or a project, to join HelpX.  You provide food and accommodation in return for work - usually around 4 or 6 hours per day - and some time off during the week.  You get to meet great people, make new friends and learn lots from them.  You can usually check out their different skills as well - so you might want someone who is good at carpentry, or good with animals and there is a way you can track these helpers down on the site.  You can invite them to come to you and they might look out for you on the website also and ask if you are needing help.  The site is easy to use and you can include lots of detail and photos.  Check out

Ehud was a real "fish" and spent most of his

The agility/play area coming along nicely - the bridge
and tunnel are under construction here.  You don't need
to make huge expensive investments to create a fun
obstacle course for your dog but it does need to be
spare time in the pool, at our little river pools or in the lake when we went walking with the dogs.  For those who love to swim, this is a great place to do it with lots of different swimming options!  It inspired us to go swimming in the lake the following week and it was wonderful to actually swim next to the dogs!  We are going to have our next HelpX visitor in August - a Spanish lady who is going to come and help with painting our shed along with doing a language exchange.  She is working on her English (although it seems excellent!) and will help us by talking in Spanish.  It's a fabulous way for anyone learning a language to have "private" conversational practice!

The tunnel/bridge with the added ability that I can keep
the tunnel out of the sun when not in use, the hoop, jumps
weaving poles and in the background the fenced
runs for guest dogs.   Each will have their own lying
platform, shade area and play sand as well as a raised
kennel with raised bed.
With the kennel and agility area we are so nearly finished but having trouble finding the right kennels.  We found one that was sustainably produced, raised off the ground and good for both cold and hot weather, but it was too small - even the largest size!  The quotes we have received are outrageously expensive and to make them ourselves will take Michael away from the work he needs to do.  We have finally tracked down a place not so far away and hope they might be able to help.  If they can they will receive a huge mention on here!  The obstacles are almost finished and the playground looks good and you can see some of this in the photos.  We had a wonderful meeting with the Axarquia rescue group - Diane and Sam came to visit and they are wonderful and friendly ladies and I hope very much to give them lots of help and support, help raise some funds with the sulky (eventually) and the workshops and also with behaviour issues.  I have three people I'm chatting to about doing a case study - for Unit 14 of my Diploma with the BCCS (British College of Canine Studies - and a new foster dog will come to live with us from Friday via Axarquia Animal Rescue  Her name is Betsey and she is like a long legged Jack Russell.  It seems like she is a Ratonero Bedeguero Andaluz - a dog of medium size, measuring between 34.9–43 cm at the withers and with an appearance very similar to that of the Jack Russell Terrier.  This has led to the breed being called the Spanish Jack Russell.  They are apparently agile dogs with a lean and athletic build so we could be in for some fun!!  I know Ndzilo loved her JR friend in RSA so I'm hoping Betsey will fit right in here too.  From Wikipedia:

The Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz (Andalusian wine-cellar rat-hunting dog) is a Spanish breed of dog of the terrier type. Its name reflects its main occupation: hunting rats and mice hidden between barrels in the wineries of Andalusia in Spain. It was recognised as an indigenous Spanish breed in 2000 by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and by the Spanish Kennel Club, the Real Sociedad Canina de España.[1]

Akina at the specialist's in Granada
Kaishi hanging out in the shade
of the tunnel!
Akina has been to see an eye specialist in Granada - an excellent and friendly vet who has given her a course of drops and eye washes.  We still have no idea how she did it, but one eye turned much darker than the other and none of the vets could find any problems.  The only thing they can think of is that it got a seed or something in it which caused and infection, but they never found it.  Various treatments did not work but it seems like we are on top of it now.  She has been amazing - vets poking her eye about, putting in many drops several times per day, putting a pressure tester right onto her eyeball and never a growl nor a shake of nervousness!  She got on and off the high table and was so good.  I am very proud of her, her patience and her trust in us.  Hopefully at the end of the course of treatment the inflammation will not return.  Her eye is likely to always be a bit darker but some of the light chestnut colour has returned.  The important thing is that she can see fine!

Building confidence - I drag the tyre first
The project for teaching the dogs to pull a sulky is coming along.  Finally after some back and forth with customs we got the harnesses that I had ordered from Chalo Sulky (take a look at the Driving Dogs tab on the website - and hitched up the tyres we had made into a drag obstacle when we were still in Chella.  With the right harness and attachments it worked perfectly as the harnesses did not slip and they kept the tyre stable.  I started just as I used to with the horses when teaching them to pull a log on a rope - dragging ropes each side and rewarding the dogs for doing well. I then progressed to dragging the tyre myself so they could get used to the sound of it bumping over different surfaces and sometimes bouncing if it got stuck on weeds or rocks.  Rewarding a praising all the way, giving them fun things to do around and through the tyres to build confidence, we progressed to pulling them.  Kaishi just loves it and is a natural and was trotting along next to me in the first few minutes, making her way with her tyres next to me all the way to our neighbour's house.  The leash was slack and she just ran with me.

Attaching the tyre to the side 'D' rings either
side of the harness "saddle".  The straps are
just like on my western saddle - front cinch
(girth) and rear cinch - for the same
purpose too!  
Akina also did well but wanted to look at the tyre much more and also did most of the first pull at the walk with a little bit of trot.  She requires more encouragement but for a dog who has always been more shy she was a superstar!  The pics here show Akina in action, as does the video clip.  I also received reins for the driving from behind part, although I still need the driving collars.  I made do with what I had and on the second day (only yesterday) I asked them to follow the bicycle while I gave the commands to "line out" (go out straight and stay straight - and also when they "whoa" to stay straight) and to go ahead and "pull".  A couple of times they got a bit distracted and also a little unsure of who was commanding - not sure if they should wait with me or go with the bicycle but they soon realised that I was really cheering them on when they got it right.  We ran around the little circuit here (not ready for gee (right) and has (left) yet as they still needed encouragement to pull) and they did follow the direction of the reins and were pulling confidently and happily with wagging tails and happy bodies.

Akina pulling her tyres
They understand the left and right commands from the bicycle and even from off leash work, but on the reins we just focused on the "pull" and encouragement to move out and ahead with the tyre.  After the short run they got an off leash quick run with Michael as a reward.  We will progress with this over time, but I really, really need to get saved up to buy the actual sulky now!!  They will move out too fast for me to keep up on foot!  I had to do very little to get them used to the harnesses because they are so used to working in their backpacks and in preparation I have been making the backpacks a little tighter around their ribs.  They wore them the first day they arrived for about 15 minutes in the house and just hanging out in them while I supervised, but seem totally comfortable and confident in them.  They see them and they know that fun is about to happen and this is an occasion where I want the dogs excited and keen - because they are going to need to run and pull!

Over time the weight increases as the dogs get stronger and they learn to pull more resistance.  I will proceed exactly the same way once I get the sulky and then you start to weight it until it is carrying the same amount of weight as the person it is going to pull.