I have a daughter who trained as a vet nurse, and a groomer and for many years now has been attached to a kennel in Newport Shropshire, and a son who is a mechanic and class 1 HGV driver, phone calls usually include dogs, cats and vets, engine changes and conversions, motorway driving and overnight locations.
I’ve been around animals all my life. As a young child I lived in Middlesex, our family dog was a Lab X Retriever called Kim, very much a family member, I could tell him anything, that dog knew more that went on in my life than any one else ever will.
We had rabbits and tortoises and in the junior school holidays, we fostered the schools small animals.
The bottom of our garden was animal safe, the rabbits and tortoises had their own houses but could go in and out as they liked, at the top of the garden, we had an aviary of budgies, budgies in the house too.
My elder sisters first job was with the PDSA, which meant various small animals and birds would come home for fostering until ready for release. It was not unusual to find chicks in the bath and hedgehogs in boxes when you went in the loo. I remember a young seagull taking over the bathroom too, broken wing I think.
As a child I was painfully shy and didn’t speak away from home unless I absolutely had to.
I remember my mother being asked to visit the junior school to have a meeting with the head mistress, evidently I was being watched from the staff room window at play times.
The day after my mothers visit, there was a teacher to class talk first thing in the morning.
First question, did anyone know why Iris Thomas (as I was then) hid round a corner at play time and didn’t play with every one else.
In junior school they all seemed to run around screaming and shouting.
I was about 8 or 9 years old and sat in the middle of that classroom, why not just dig the hole for me.
Anyway the outcome of Mrs Knowles head teachers meeting with my mother, meant I was given the schools small animals to look after.
A line of outdoor cages along the wall of an old air raid shelter, banks of grass up three sides and a grass roof, but otherwise a sturdy brick building where the animal feed and bedding was kept, play time heaven.
One thing was always sure, when I got home, I could always put my arm round Kim and talk to him.
In the months before we moved on to senior school our cat Felix left us an abscess from a bite on his head that had pushed inwards instead of outwards, then came the news that we were going to move, an aunt had our tortoises and last rabbit Harvey, we lost Kim, my whole world went with him. No one I could tell my secrets to and know they wouldn’t judge me.
Horses and dogs were my passion, I rode at weekends while at junior school and from about 10 years old, my parents would drive myself and two friends that rode at the same stables to Woldingham in Surrey, where we would spend the weekends and school holidays staying in a caravan, working at the stables in return for lessons.
At 14 I won a scholarship to train at a stables in Alconbury Hill in Huntingdonshire. Luckily there was only riding and handling involved in the interview/trials, anything written or read was pretty much out of the question for me at that time.
I’m so glad the world has moved in understanding more about learning and more teachers are adapting methods to help the individual learner, without ridicule and abuse.
Now there is even recognition that dogs as best friend listeners can help kids learn to read, non judgemental and the kids and dogs can both feel valued.
My brother had no problems with school, my sister was at the top of the grammar school system, while I was at the bottom of the lowest grade at the local secondary modern, as long as you were quiet and kept your head down you got left alone.
It was only through my passion for horses and dogs, and the desire to learn more about them that I eventually muddled my own way through. I had a good friend Brenda that filled in forms and wrote essential letters in the early years of work.
I only stayed in Alconbury Hill for a few months, I was 15 and would not be not have been old enough to take the BHS exams for at least a couple of couple of years.
I spent the next 10 years living, training and working at the stables where I’d spent school weekends and holidays.
6 years in Woldingham then moved to Crawley Down for the last 4 years, with the same yard.
I think we all loved dressage, I was never interested in show jumping.
I was given a horse, a 4 years old part bred Arab, Double Diamond, (Sox) while I was in Woldingham, by one of the livery owners, he was turned out in their own fields. Before they moved to our yard with his brother who they were riding.
Sox had been broken and backed as the term goes at another yard, then turned away to mature, he had a tendency to rear, and had come over backwards a few times with the owner and she had lost confidence in him.
I started from the beginning with him no problem, he just had a very soft mouth. One hell of a buck when spooked, not much eye brow left even now after face surfing along a cinder track one summer.
I had my first own dog that was my best mate when I was 15 too, an OES bitch, suggestion of names were many, like Shep and Lassie, wasn’t having any of that being a teenager, I called her Captain Pugwash which got shortened to Puggy, in Woldingham we lived in a tiny caravan in a field.
During the day she was one of many dogs. There always seemed to be wafes and strays finding their way there too. The permanent residence were GSD, Boxer, Lab X, Beagles, American pocket Beagles, good old fashioned mongrels and my Puggy, who would sneak off hunting with the beagles but once she hit the property boundary at the top of a 52 acre field she came back as they gave tongue.
Could fill pages with detail but easier to fill another page or the end of this post with photos as I find them.
I can say hand on heart that when it came to the the animals, horses, dogs and cats their welfare came first, they were well cared for, and rough treatment by any livery would not be tolerated.
I still have a contact with Sylvia who owned the yards in Woldingham, and Crawley Down, also with Brenda that wrote my letters and filled in any forms.
Then I moved to the Rodanieh Arabian stud for the next 6 years in Colegate, Black Hill Stud, with my 4 legged crew.
In the first year I was given a Anglo Arab mare, Rodanieh Maddalena, (Maddie.) Because they didn’t have the Mothers paperwork, a thoroughbred mare out of racing, Maddie was registered part bred, although an Anglo by breeding (Arab x Thoroughbred)
Maddie was 2.1/2 but from a foal they did not know where her future was heading or if there was a future. She was teeth and feet, and her box had to have the top door shut when visitors came to the stud. Maddie split a strong wooden door on one occasion flying out to get a passer by, how she didn’t do herself an injury I’ll never know, she had a bar across the top of the door too.
We backed her at 3.1/2 and once under saddle she was a different horse, there was no turning her away for a year, that’s very young, but because of the temperament it was keep it light but keep it going.
The Soanes would have been broken hearted, but an alternative had been considered if she and I couldn’t work it out as a ridden partnership. We did bond but even then I wouldn’t have walked out in an open field with her, there were strategies for bringing her in, she always wore a head collar with short rope attached, a feed scoop with horse & pony nuts to entice her to the fence, head over, heart in mouth but once you were attached to her she was fine.
The Soanse’s had a GSDs and were well known for their Rodanieh Shelties, Edna had made up many champions over the years. Edna had the “Dog World” that featured her Shelties and I had “Our Dogs” that gave more coverage to my OES, so there was a weekly swap of dog papers too. We both had the “Horse and Hound” of course.
While I was lucky enough to ride at all the major shows, my love was dressage, many of the Arabian classes at the bigger county shows were week days, most dressage competitions at weekends, the stud belonged to John and Edna Soanes, and John also had an interest in dressage, couldn’t have worked out better.
Then I freelanced for a couple of years. I had cottage on the property of a pop star of the past and his wife who had been a known professional dancer. We knew each other through a dressage trainer we shared, I looked after their horses, great facilities big indoor school acres of land and I still rode at the major shows for the Rodanieh Arabian stud. I also had a house full of hairies, they had Afghans and a king Charles.
I was also given another young horse while I was with them, a youngster with no issues, other than a big buck just for the hell of it when the wind got under his tail, a bit like a young dog having a hooley.
Brown Sugar, (Demie)
Your never going to leave your involvement with horses when you have been so involved, but life changes.
I’ve found block off and move on the best way to go, dogs have always been there but just recently horse talk has raised its head again that was a big chunk of life there.
Over many years I have had many four legged friends that have taught me so much, more than any teacher could. They got me reading and writing where teachers failed. And to this day I’m so grateful to Kim, the Lab Retriever that was there for me.
I can list certificates and accreditation but quite frankly I don’t think they are worth the paper they are written on any more, many accreditation now are kept, providing the yearly fee is paid, saved a fortune once I gave that up, and life moves on so does research you have to move on with it.
I have taught for Mid Wales in the past and ran my own Scruff Pots School for Smart Dogs. I have a big interest in dogs that are nervous or get triggered, most of these issues are lack of confidence.
To be honest, in writing this I’m wondering if that interest has come about as a kind of giving back to Kim for being there for me, Sox and Maddie for their individual take on the world that taught me so much.
I’m a groomer, trained first in Westerham Kent when I was with horses, dogs kept being put my way to sort out their knotty problems. It was thought because I had and showed full coated OES, that I could do magic on any neglected coat. Some years later I also trained at the London International School of Canine Beauticians, as it was then.
I’ve competed for years in agility, was running 4 dogs at one time, so 12 to 16 runs each day, knew I should have given up pastries when I come out of agility.
My husband Bill made agility equipment, we had eight sets at one time for hire to shows.
Started competing in HTM in 2007, could only get to a couple of HTM shows a year, would have started earlier as I loved the HTM and Freestyle training as did my dogs.
Dogs mixed with music what could be better, I had dogs and one in particular Boogie that just lived for agility.
Boogie carved an extra special place in my heart. I picked him up from a farm about 15 miles away, he was going to a rescue Manchester way he was about 7 months old. The bitch had had him up in the mountain, they knew she had had the pups but couldn’t find them, eventually found dead pups. The bitch was working but getting skinny and still disappearing off.
Eventually they found her with one pup by this time toddling around. It was one of these farms that is just out buildings and barns in the middle of nowhere, no house.
The story I was told by the farmers girlfriend was that she had persuaded him not to euthanize the pup hard line farmer style, but he was just left to fend for himself take his chances. I think she made sure he was fed the days she was there, she then rang the rescue as he was surplus and another mouth getting bigger, so she should get rid of him or he’d get the gun.
Nature had stepped in early though and made sure he was set to survive, a good few feral tendencies, still have the scares, too long a story but the outcome was a dog that would grab and hold on to a rubber bone, of which we left a good few around, it was a case of, if I’m gripping this tight and biting on it, I’m in control of myself.
I swear that dog went out of his way to get it right to avoid making a mistake, when he was getting aroused he would so obviously look round to for one of those rubber bones to hold.
Agility so was his sport and it gave him the outlet he needed, lost to cancer at just 7 years old in 2012 such a heart break to have come so far.
Complete move to HTM then.
So many easy lovely dogs have been part of my world, its funny how the ones you struggle with get to dig in so deep, and grip so tight.
My husband Bill died at the end of 2010, before we met he was involved in a schutzhund club in Germany, over the years we have fostered and independently taken in many dogs that needed homing. when Bill was here he would happily weekend dog sit our extras, unless they were man haters.
I feel guilty that I do less now, but there are others around this area now that have stepped up. Never taken a penny for any dog I’ve re homed, but then I don’t remember the last time I paid for one either they tend to just fall in the lap, so maybe its just give and take.
I have a love of transit vans, just right for kitting out to travel extra dogs,
I’m far from academic, but I’ve never stopped digging and questioning. Just because its in a book or everyone is doing it, it still need exploring and questioning.
The majority may just be following and copying and repeating without questioning, that’s the fastest way to spread miss information.
Apart from my dogs things I wouldn’t be with out are.
Cable ties, WD 40, Hot glue gun, Staple gun, Gaffer tape, and my laptop with its spell checker, now what bright spark came up with that one, beats the three dictionary’s and battery operated spell checker I used to work with.