Shine on my sparkly one

 

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This is not the blog I thought I’d be writing this week. This is not a blog I ever wanted to write but it’s the best way I can think of to share news I never wanted to have to share. This afternoon we lost our gorgeous youngest dog, Boswell, and my heart is broken.

Last week, Luce and I were at a party in Belgium, drinking beer until dawn with Luce’s brother and his family and being ridiculed by 100-odd giddy Belgian football fans. That is the blog I was going to write when we got home. My mum looked after the dogs for us while we were away and they had a great time.

Things happened very suddenly. On Monday morning, Bos was fine. He ate his breakfast enthusiastically and went for his usual romp in the woods that afternoon. That evening he refused his dinner, which is most unlike him. He seemed uncomfortable and his belly was tender, so we made him a vet’s appointment the following morning, thinking he probably had a stomach bug.

They kept him in for tests, which proved worrying. He was anaemic and showing signs of an internal bleed, so we rushed him to Liverpool veterinary hospital for a CT scan. Sadly, this confirmed that he had highly aggressive malignant tumours which had started in his kidney. They had already spread widely and could not be treated.

The surgeon advised that he was very unlikely to last the week but that, as long as we were careful, we could take him home for a couple of days to say goodbye and spoil him rotten, so that is what we did. He also reminded us that Bos had no idea how ill he was and sure enough, he trotted into the room with his trademark smile and our hearts broke for the second time that day.

His last two days have been full of everything he loved. He has been fussed and kissy-faced constantly, slept on our bed all night, had sausages galore and his own portion of fish and chips. By chance, he also saw most of his favourite people over the last couple of weeks; his favourite aunties (our best friends) came to see him just before we went away, he was looked after by his grandma and visited by Lisa the dog sitter/walker and we arranged for his auntie Sarah the vet to visit him at home this afternoon. He passed away peacefully, being loved and adored until his very last moment.

Despite the sad subject, this will be quite a long blog because I also want to tell you about his happy life. He was such a special dog. I know everyone says that about their dogs but even amongst the array of characters we have rehomed, he stood out as unique.

He was born at Dogs Trust Shrewsbury (Roden) in 2008. We went looking for a friend for our terrier girl, Etty, as my old dog Honey was 15 and not in the best of health. Etty could be wary of other dogs so we thought a young male would give her the best chance of bonding easily. We asked if they could put us on the waiting list for a puppy and they said “can you wait 8 weeks? There’s a litter being born right now!” Obviously, it was meant to be. Of course, being us, we also took home a 14-year-old Labrador while we waited (and got a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ deal) but that is the story of Sandie, which is another blog.

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His mum was a big blonde Labrador and Dogs Trust had been told that dad was a pedigree black Labrador. This is him at four weeks old. I think it’s pretty obvious that dad was actually an opportunistic border collie. We cuddled all the puppies and chose the daft one who fell asleep on me once he got bored of trying to eat my earrings. And my ears.

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We named him Boswell, which sounds very literary or historical but we actually had Charlie’s Angels in mind, as he lived with three female dogs. The character we were thinking of turned out to be called Bosley but (what are the odds?) we already had a friend with a dog called Bosley. In any event, it suited him perfectly. Honey was too old by then to find him of much interest but taught him the value of rules and good manners. Etty taught him how to be a good sidekick, how to play with toys and the importance of ‘pack’ (and how to turn a watering can into a watering can’t).

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Sandie, who looked a lot like his mum, took all the ear-nibbling and puppy snuggles.

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He grew up ridiculously handsome. I mean seriously handsome. Movie star good looks.

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It also became apparent that he was very bright and incredibly sensitive. I’ve never known a dog who could pick up on moods as well as he could and he felt personally responsible for cheering you up if you were upset.

He had such a sunny personality, he woke up every morning dancing and ‘singing’ around the bedroom with the sheer joy of being alive. Most mornings he would shove a slipper into my face before playing his favourite game of hiding one or both of them. He was quite sneaky and there would often be one hidden in plain sight and one that was more fiendishly camouflaged:

 

 

He loved socks too but never chewed them He never once chewed anything he shouldn’t, even as a puppy, but he loved to carry them around. For years to come I will be wearing odd socks and feeling disappointed every morning when my slippers are still where I left them.

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He was very tidy and routinely ‘filed’ his toys in his basket, the communal baskets and bedding and sometimes the sofas. He could put his paw on anything he needed and if I wanted to wash a blanket I was carefully supervised to make sure I put it all back in the same place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of all, he was a ‘people’ dog. He adored everyone and everyone loved Boswell, even if he could be a little overenthusiastic at times.

 

 

 

 

He knew the command ‘whiskery kisses’ but didn’t always wait for it.

 

We will miss him so very much, especially as he was only nine years old and things happened so suddenly, but it’s impossible to remember him without a smile even now. We will always be grateful that he had such a happy life, full of love.

It’s also hard for us because our usual response to losing a dog is to go straight out and rehome another dog but Etty is 16 and quite frail, so unless she is sad and tells us that she doesn’t want to be an only dog we will let her live out her dotage first.

Instead, I will do what I often do if I read something about a dog that makes me sad and make a donation to the Dogs Trust so that another dog will be happy. If you would like to make a small donation in his memory, you can do that here: Dogs Trust Donation Page

In any case, I hope that his story has made you smile because he loved to make people happy. He may have left us too soon but we would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Farewell Boswell, our beautiful boy.

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So you’re super-connected now, all the freaks gather round

New idea… a short blog every week, rather than attempting to rewrite War and Peace every time and not blogging for ages. What do you reckon?

Thing is, especially with all the recent GDPR bobbins, it’s getting more difficult to reach people and (as I am my own PR department and there’s only one of me) I’m going to have to try and direct my efforts more efficiently.

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Allow me a quick moan about Facebook to demonstrate? I promise it has a point which isn’t just ‘woe is me’ but also ‘woe is you, because Facebook says you can’t see what you’ve chosen to see’. And a couple of useful suggestions to put that right. Ta. If you don’t fancy that, just skip to the end to listen to a pretty tune. Oh yes. ALL the new things.

Facebook is still the biggest social media platform there is and it’s free, so hurrah. I don’t just use it for work, I use it to keep in touch with friends and family and follow stuff I’m interested in too. But… I can’t help but notice that every time a useful feature allows me to choose my audience or organise my feed, they remove it.

For example, ‘interest lists’ used to allow me to arrange all the pages I ‘liked’ into different categories, like ‘bands’ or ‘dog charities’ or ‘greetings card makers’ so I could keep up to date with them or shop from them easily. It also allowed me to keep a ‘Poochweasel recommends’ list via my page and share other small businesses I thought my customers would like. This feature was quietly removed and now I have no easy way to organise the 3000-odd pages I follow.

Most recently they also removed the ‘targeted audience’ feature from business pages. This used to allow me to tag my posts with relevant interests, so if I made a little Roman Emperor dog, like this (which I did)…

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… I might use ‘dogs’ ‘history’ and ‘Ancient Rome’ and Facebook would prioritise showing that post to people who liked pages related to these topics. Now it’s just pot luck. Yah boo.

There are ways around these things but they’re clunky. You could choose to ‘see first’ and get notifications every time I post to my page but that’s annoying and intrusive and you’d soon get fed up. I could choose to pay for ads but I resent being bullied into it and, let’s be honest, how much do you enjoy seeing sponsored and ‘suggested’ content on Facebook? Exactly. Me neither.

So how *can* you choose what you see? Well, a lot of pages now have groups you can join (shameless plug: mine is here: Poochweasel Facebook Group). Group posts will show up in your feed and you can turn off notifications to avoid irritation. You can chat with makers, get to know other people who might like the same things as you and often grab special offers. I try not to just duplicate what’s on my business page (because having everything appear twice would not endear me to anyone), so you won’t necessarily see everything I make in my group but it will remind you that I exist and I always try to post interesting or entertaining stuff.

When it comes down to it, Facebook is all about interaction and the single best way to see pages in your feed and keep them in business is to visit them and interact with them. Facebook doesn’t show you everything, it ‘filters’ your newsfeed. If you don’t visit pages you ‘like’, it assumes you’re no longer interested and excludes them from your feed, which means you don’t see them. And if you don’t see them, you don’t visit them and… do you see how this works?! If you ever think “I wonder what happened to that page I liked?”, maybe take a second to look them up? If they pop up in your feed, spare a second to hit ‘like’ or post a quick comment. The same goes for your friends or family’s posts – it’s the only sure way to influence what you see.

Ok, so that turned out to be a bit longer than planned! I was going to talk about some of the other platforms I use, like Twitter and Instagram, but that will have to wait for another blog I think. Otherwise we’ll be back to ‘War and Peace’ and I’ll be posting this in October.

I’ll sign off with another bright idea; sharing a ‘thing’ on my blog that I’m particularly enjoying this week, just like I used to on my Facebook page. Take that, Zuckerberg! 😉 This week, I’m loving the new album by Courtney Barnett, an Australian singer/songwriter who you might not have heard. As it’s a beautiful day here in darkest Shropshire, I’ve chosen a song from an album she made with Kurt Vile which has jangly, ‘summery’ guitars and a sweet, silly video which swaps their vocals and makes me laugh. Enjoy!

You can read more about Courtney Barnett on her website   or  Wikipedia and follow her on  Twitter or Facebook

As ever, if the title of this blog post means anything to you, or you enjoyed the video I posted, come and chat music with me! 🙂

Everyone hail to the Pumpkin King

WhooOOoooOOOOoooooh… it’s nearly Halloween!

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In case you hadn’t noticed, I absolutely love Halloween. I was an only child but my parents were great sports, letting me and my friends decorate the house, dress up and make the kitchen look like a tractor accident at a pumpkin farm.

Not being American (and growing up in a part of South London where knocking on strangers’ doors demanding sweeties would guarantee you some free ‘life advice’ and a clip round the earhole) I never went in for Trick or Treating. Apart from the odd year when someone threw a party my Halloween was all about staying up late and watching scary films.

Nothing has changed much as I’ve got older, except that it tends to be at least a Halloweekend now. We have a tradition of inviting friends round for a nice meal which sometimes involves costumes and inevitably becomes hilarious but for Luce and I there will always be a few nights of beer, snacks and horror films while the house looks like a poorly constructed 1970s ghost train. Luce is *great* value watching horror films. Jump scares could have been invented with her in mind.

Speaking of which… BOO! It’s a scary Labrador! …*ahem*…

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I also have a tradition of carving pumpkins. A few years ago, I had a go at the kind of pumpkins that people make with intricate stencils and fancy tools. I just sketch the design on freehand with a pen, then use a kitchen knife, a spoon, a scalpel and a couple of old lino cutters. I’m so high tech. Here are a few of my favourites:

Happily, I really like pumpkin soup. I’ve carved so many now that my main problem is thinking up new ideas. All suggestions gratefully received!

Our dogs also love Halloween because it often involves their favourite aunties visiting and bringing them sausages and people dropping food on the floor after one too many glasses of Vino Collapseau. They do *not* do costumes though. Sandie (pictured above) would happily wear anything in anticipation of a sausage. Etty and Boswell will tolerate the occasional hat but only for the few seconds it takes them to consider they have earned a treat. And forget taking photos, because you get these faces…

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If I want to see how adorable they would look dressed up as, say, Dracula and the Bride of Frankenstein, I make a model. Like this.

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All my Halloween models (and lots of others!) are available on my website So what are your Halloween traditions? Got any good recipes? Pumpkin carving ideas? Horror film suggestions? Let me know!