Squirt - pin up boyHi everyone!  Welcome to this, my latest Scribbling.  Since the Scribbling I wrote about anipals was so well received by many of you, I thought I’d tell you some true stories about some of our anipals at home.  All animals are unique and we each have our own traits that make us special individuals.  I, naturally, am very special indeed!  But for once, I’m not going to talk about myself.  First, I’ll tell you about our two dogs.

BarneyBarney the Border Terrier is an amazing fellow and an inspiration.  He’s fourteen and a half years old, at the age of five he injured his back quite seriously and was given a fifty per cent chance of ever walking again.  But he’s a strong character and refused to give up. After about six months he was able to take very short walks and now, here we are nine years later and he still lives a full and happy life.  Permanent nerve damage means he has very little feeling in his hind legs but that’s never seemed to worry him and it certainly hasn’t stopped him running about like a ‘normal’ dog.  Now, Barney is facing another challenge.  A few months ago he was diagnosed with a liver tumour.  Because of his age and with the vet’s complete agreement Staff decided not to put him through the ordeal of a long and possibly aggressive course of treatment.  Instead, he’s on a special feeding regime and a homeopathic liver support tincture, and it goes without saying that he is being closely monitored.  Barney and I are the very best of friends and I sincerely hope he continues to feel well and enjoy a happy life for many more months to come. 

Our other dog is called Pippin and she is a……well, a scruffy thing.  Pippin came to Staff as a rescue dog at a year old, she’ll be sixteen in three months but she is still very fit and healthy.  At a few years old Pippin exhibited a strange talent.  Staff used to live next to a woodland path where Pippin and Barney were walked every day.  Once, Pippin absolutely refused to go on the usual walk.    No matter what Staff did to encourage her she refused to move but went off quite happily in the opposite direction.  When they arrived home Staff was flabbergasted to see that an enormous oak tree had fallen down right onto the path they would have been on!  How did Pippin know that was going to happen?  Did she hear something?  Did she feel some sort of vibration beneath the ground?  A year or so after that she did exactly the same thing on another path and about thirty minutes afterwards another big tree fell down!  Predicting when a tree is going to fall may seem like a strange ability for a dog to have but Staff has reason to be grateful for it and I think she’s secretly quite proud of it as well!

As well as the dogs and me Staff has a horse, two ponies and two owls.  She used to work with birds of prey in an Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) centre.  Briefly, AAT is proven to be beneficial to children and adults with a range of challenges and difficulties.  All sorts of animals can be used in an AAT programme but Staff and her friend used birds of prey.  They took the birds out to schools, care homes and homes for the elderly as well as a range of special events.  Staff’s best AAT bird is Boris the barn owl who is now enjoying her retirement. That’s right, Boris is a female.  She was named after a certain well known British politician because as a very young bird she was blonde, scruffy and made a lot of noise! 

BorisThere are many tales of Boris’s successes, I’ll give you two examples.  The birds were always very popular at homes for the elderly.  After introducing the birds individually, Staff would give everyone the opportunity to wear a special protective glove and to hold Boris on their hand.  Because she’s a small and very gentle owl most people were keen to try this and occasionally something truly remarkable would happen.  At one home an elderly gentleman held out his hand for a glove and Staff gave him Boris to hold.  He didn’t speak until Boris was sitting on his hand gazing curiously at him, then he immediately ‘connected’ with the owl and started to talk to her.  The lady who managed the home watched this interaction with tears of delight running down her face and explained quietly to Staff that this gentleman had lived at the home for almost two years and in all that time had never uttered a single word.  His few minutes with Boris are an example of one way in which AAT works, a person will feel no pressure to respond to an animal because the animal makes no demands and expects nothing; this in itself often produces a response or reaction.  The physical contact (stroking a cat, holding a bird, patting a dog) produces an instant connection, a relationship, and this is often the prelude to something quite magical happening.

Another time, Staff and Boris were at a large event in Edinburgh.  Staff was showing Boris to the crowds and some took the opportunity to hold the owl.  When they weren’t so busy a lady came up with her ten-year-old grandson and said “I understand Tyler wouldn’t be able to hold a bird…” “Why not?”, interrupted Staff.  The lady said her grandson was blind.  Staff didn’t see that as a problem at all and asked him if he would like to hold Boris.  “Ooh yes please!” he said, so Staff put a glove onto Tyler’s hand and clipped Boris to the glove.  The look on that boy’s face was pure joy!  And it got even better because Staff realised that the only way for Tyler to ‘see’ Boris was with his fingers so she spent a long time with him, letting him gently run his fingertips over the whole bird to feel her feathers, beak and talons.  Boris sat as still as still can be except when she obligingly stretched a wing out so that Tyler could ‘see’ that too.  Having raised her since she was ten days old, Staff knows and trusts Boris completely or she would never have done this.  It turned out that Tyler was doing a school project about owls, he was so excited that he had met some owls and actually held one and his grandmother took lots of photos for him to take to school.  She was very grateful because, she said, most people just saw Tyler as a blind boy and didn’t look beyond his disability.  Staff did, and to this day she says that of all the hundreds of people she has introduced Boris to, Tyler was her favourite.  

Over the years Staff has owned been blessed with a succession of animals and there are stories to tell about each one of them.  Some of them were before my time but Staff and Manstaff still talk about them and the happy, comical things they have done.  I’ll end this Scribbling with just one funny tale about a dog I never knew.

Tweed was a Border Collie.  He was a proper gentleman of a dog with lovely manners and he would never dream of stealing anything.  But if something was left within his reach well, that was different......after all, if something you’re not really supposed to have is left on the floor that’s not stealing……is it?  One day Staff and Manstaff came home to discover that one of them must have left a bag of boiled sweets on the floor.  Why on earth a dog would want to eat boiled sweets I’ll never know but they were greeted by a stack of empty sweet wrappers (yes, he’d unwrapped them!) and a dog with a very guilty, sticky face.  The funniest thing though, was the fact that he’d eaten every single sweet except for the green ones!  After they stopped laughing Staff said that if she ever wrote her memoirs she would call them “Dogs Don’t Eat Green Sweets”.

Well, she can’t do that now because I’ve pinched the title!

Squirt xx

You can catch up with Squirt on Twitter: @SquirtTheCat 


A Cats Purr

"Cats make one of the most satisfying sounds in the world: they purr ...

A purring cat is a form of high praise, like a gold star on a test paper. It is reinforcement of something we would all like to believe about ourselves - that we are nice."

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