Sick as a Dog

Sick as a DogI realised something the other day.  As you know, my pooch has been very poorly for over six weeks now. Because of the illness he hasn’t been able to eat properly, he’s lost weight and his energy has dropped dramatically.

Here’s the realisation – through all of that trauma and difficulty he has remained the same silly, funny, sweet and ever hopeful little furball he always was, albeit he has been a little less greedy and a little more quiet sometimes.

I’ve noted below some of the ways he has been sick, that might help me and you, next time we’re a little (or a lot) under the weather:

  • He never whinges about his ailments (not even in doggy whimpers) – he just gets on with it,
  • He doesn’t worry about how bad it could get – he lives in the moment.  If he’s being ill, he’ll be ill.  Once that’s done, he goes back to his blanket and his toys and his routine,
  • He takes all the rest he needs.  This is an important one.  There have been days where he has struggled more than others.  On those days, he will just sleep more and play less.  He will slow down completely on our walks, to make sure I know he’s not really up for it, and as soon as I’ve figured it out (as a human it takes me longer!) and turned to go home, he practically races home so he can flop on his blanket and recover,
  • He doesn’t let it mess up his day.  He might have been ill in the morning, but if he’s feeling better in the evening, he’ll be there, in my face, with his favourite toy (Monkey) dangling from his mouth, ready to play.  If he’s feeling really good, he’ll pull me towards the park when we’re out on our walk, so I know he wants to stay out and play.  And if he’s feeling really good he’ll attempt to have a good old roll around in the grass.

Over the weekend we had three good days where the medication was kicking in, he wasn’t ill and there was lots of playing.  We’re having a couple of bad ones at the moment – but it’s in the mornings, and guess what?  In the evenings we still have a cuddle and he still wants to play with Monkey and investigate all movements in the kitchen.

So next time you’re ill, whether it’s a cold or something more serious, see if you can be sick as a dog.  It might just help you recover that little bit faster.

Leptins and Ghrelins

Leptins and GhrelinsThis week has been all about Leptins and Ghrelins for me. Leptins and Ghrelins you say? I can see you nodding intelligently as you head for Google.  Let me explain.

As you’re probably aware, my boy has been poorly for over a month.Which means I’ve been getting less and less sleep over the last month.  In addition, it’s been getting progressively more stressful at work this week, as we head into half-yearly reporting.  We hit out first reporting deadline on Friday and it was a long, long day.

So by Friday night, I was so tired that I crashed completely at about 11pm and fell asleep on my sofa, remote in hand, pooch in lap.  Although I kept waking up every couple of hours, it was only at around 6am on Saturday morning that I finally mustered enough energy to make it upstairs and get into bed for a few more hours.

I also saw the effects of the accumulated lack of sleep this week.  I have developed an insatiable and extremely unhealthy appetite.  No matter what I eat, when I eat or how much I eat, it doesn’t seem to be enough.  It’s not satisfying.  And it comes down to those pesky Leptins and Ghrelins I mentioned earlier.

So what are they?  Well, I talk about in much more detail in Chapter 8 of the book, but briefly they’re both types of hormones that influence our appetite.  And sleep, or lack of it, can affect the production of these hormones.  So lack of sleep can have a direct effect on how much you want to eat.

This week I’ve actually been able to (completely unintentionally) prove it for you (so you don’t have to bother testing it out yourself, lovely reader) – it’s all true.  Sadly, I can confirm that lack of sleep turns you into a greedy little food monster, who constantly needs to be appeased with anything and everything you can get your hands on.  It’s scary how easily it can happen, and I definitely don’t recommend it.

So my plan this week is to work on getting into a healthy sleep routine, and enjoy seeing the results of this extra sleep, not only in the reduction of those pesky dark circles under my eyes, but also by measuring how many times I do or don’t hit up the snack machine!  Hopefully I’ll be getting some shut-eye, saving some pennies, and reducing the lbs all at the same time.

(PS – it looks like the Pooch has turned a corner, and is finally responding to the new medication – hooray!)

New Neighbours

NEW NEIGHBOURSI have new neighbours.  To be more specific, I have new work neighbours. In the little corner of the west wing of the first floor of the huge office where I and two thousand other people work, there is a cluster of four desks and a neighbouring cluster of two desks.  I am in the four desk cluster, with one sometimes loud but always lovely full-timer and one very quiet part-timer.  There has been one occasionally chatty cat-lover in the three-cluster, so between us we’re a fairly quiet bunch. I like working in peace and quiet so this has suited me perfectly. 

This week we had two more contractors moving in – they filled in the remaining spaces on the three desk cluster.  Which has led to a little indulgence in one of life’s pleasures for me – people watching.  Well – actually, it’s more ‘people-listening’.  The way our desks are all positioned, the full-timer and I have our backs to the three desk cluster.

So here is what I’ve observed in the last three days.

New Neighbour Number One (NNN1) is very quietly spoken, has an even quieter footfall and is the manager of this tiny unit.  She’s very apologetic sounding, but seems to know exactly what she’s doing.  A lovely lady, but not much help when I’m looking for inspiration for characters for the new book.

Now New Neighbour Number Two is a completely different (and frankly much more exciting prospect).  The collection of attributes are unusual and interesting.  She favours a very ‘Goth’ style of dress, wearing head to toe black draperies.  Her long dirty blonde hair is normally piled into some kind of beehive style.  She has a really interesting sound – it’s a cross between a very relaxed, bordering on slightly drunk, drawl and the slightly high-pitched whine of a five-year old about to head into a full on tantrum. 

The resemblance to a stubborn child doesn’t end there – and I have to admit, it’s ever so slightly disconcerting to see and hear a mid to late forties (I hope!) professional adult exhibit the attributes of a recalcitrant and sulky child.  Today for example, she was advised that a process she thought she’d completed was actually missing a key component and therefore she needed to action it.  We were given a twenty-minute diatribe on the pickiness of those pesky authoritarians who require an authorising signature on paperwork, the huge inconvenience this would cause to her personally, the ineptitude of the staff pointing out her error and so on, and on, and on, and on.

On top of this indignity she got into a random conversation with her indulgent and meek mama of a manager about benefit scroungers. Mama Manager gently commented that not all benefit claimants are indeed scroungers and may have fallen on hard times.  Well!  WELL!  “Of course they are.  OF COURSE THEY’RE SCROUNGERS!” our woman-child practically spat out.  “I have a friend that used to work at the council and she told me all about it, about how they all play the system.  They’re all scroungers.  Let me tell you what real hardship is.”  And then we were treated to a half-hour potted history demonstrating the dire straits she and her family are in.

“I mean, I’ve bought no clothes – NONE – in years.  It’s been years, I’m telling you Mama Manager.  Well, except these shoes I suppose.  I mean, I’ve bought a few bits.  But it doesn’t count.” she reasoned before treating us to yet more of her potted difficult, dramatic history.

You get the gist.

I was initially a bit dismayed at this intrusion into and disturbance of our once peaceful little corner, but it hit me as I was pulling out my notes for the new book.  I can see it for the blessing it really is – what fabulous character inspiration, on tap, whenever I want it!

Let’s see if you spot her in the new book…

Pooch vs. Pipette

Pooch vs PipetteIt’s been a funny few days – and by that I don’t mean odd or weird.  I mean laugh out loud funny.  And I’ve found that laughter in the oddest place of all – in my dog’s new medication routine.

He is also fourteen years old today.  So as a way of sharing his birthday with you, I’m going to share our adventures over the last couple of days – this is just a flavour of what life with my dog is like…

As you know, he’s been put on an intensive medication and diet regime for the next thirty days to treat a very serious inflammatory disease.  We have to follow this routine morning and evening, and it goes something like this – we start with a tablet, then thirty minutes later a pipette of doggy Gaviscon then thirty minutes later some raw meat and rice, then thirty minutes later another tablet.

The first time we tried it, it all went ok, and I was mostly just relieved that he was eating again, as he’d completely gone off his food for a day or so.  Since then, there’s been an unexpected development.

A little battle has developed.  The dog has become sworn enemies with the pipette.  He doesn’t like have something a bit icky smelling (and probably icky tasting) being squirted down his throat. And it only took him two days to take against the pipette.  So I tried leaving the liquid in his food bowl, hoping he’d just lick it up.  Nope, no such luck.  I tried holding him with one hand and squirting with the other.  Not a good move – the result was a lot of mess and liquid everywhere except where it should be, and a slightly smug looking pooch.  So far, the score is Pipette 3 – Pooch 2.

Yesterday evening and this morning the Pipette and I became a little more devious.  I loaded it up, then hid it behind me, snuck up on him and whilst stroking his head with one hand and murmuring ‘Good boy’, snuck the other into position and squirted – success!  But at a cost.  Never have I seen him give me such a baleful disappointed stare.  “Not cool Mum, not cool.” his big brown eyes insinuated.

The thing is, this has all happened over the weekend, when I’ve had time to deal with it.  Tomorrow morning and a pre-work routine to add into the mix will make things…erm..interesting.  Luckily, if I do get a little bit stressed by it all, I came across an article which also made me laugh out loud, given our current situation.

It advised, rightly, that petting a dog is scientifically proven to reduce stress, in you and the dog. Ha!  I wonder if that still applies when your dog things you’re deceiving him so you can squirt horrible pipettes full of icky pink gunk at him?

It’s entirely possible that if it all goes awry tomorrow morning, you’ll find me hysterically trying to hug my suspicious and wary pooch, both of us covered in doggy Gaviscon, with the scoreboard reading Pipette 0 – Pooch 0.

It’s been an amazing fourteen years, full of lots of crazy adventures, learning, love and lots and lots and lots of laughter – and I’m looking forward to many more years of regaling anyone who’ll listen to tales of me and my dog.

Boxing Dogs

Boxing DogsIf you’ve been following the adventures (or misadventures at the moment) of my fur-baby through the blog, you’ll know he’s been really poorly. We got to the stage this week where he had been ill at least once or twice a day (often in the middle of the night just as he was getting some much-needed rest) for over a week, and even though he had been prescribed tablets to help with the sickness they were merely blurring the rough edges of the symptoms.


I also took the decision a couple of weeks ago to change his Vet.  He’d been with the same practice since he came home with me at seven weeks old, but recently I’d trusted their judgements and decisions less and less – it was a gut feeling and I finally went with it.  We needed a restart. We moved to another Vet, who is a little further away and a little more expensive but who I feel much more comfortable with.  Because it was a new Vet they started from scratch, redid some blood tests, re-assessed the long-term medication he was on and basically came at the whole issue with fresh eyes. And one of the blood tests confirmed my gut feeling over the last two years – there was a long-term medication prescribed which wasn’t warranted and could actually be causing some of the symptoms.  Apart from feeling guilty that I hadn’t challenged the original diagnosis I was just relieved and felt a little vindicated in following my gut instincts to move.


If you follow the blog you might also, if you’re particularly eagle-eyed, have noticed that this mid-week blog post is a day late. For good reason – yesterday evening (normally blog post time) the pooch and I were meeting with the new Vet to go over the results of all the exploratory procedures.  I was a little bit wobbly going in as we’d been referred to the head Vet for this particular appointment.  I won’t do what she did and go through every procedure and the results linked – I’ll just tell you – it’s treatable, manageable and he should be back to his old self within the next month or two.


It would be impossible to express how relieved I feel. Watching him go through all the traumas of being ill without understanding what’s going on, and not being able to do anything to help ease his pain has been awful.  The lack of sleep and anxiety over the potential results hasn’t helped.


That’s all done with though – I won’t have time for much worrying in the next month. The head Vet was very kind and but very firm.  To get the pooch back to fighting fitness we will be stripping away anything and everything that could possibly cause a problem.  He will be having big doses of medication to fight the inflammation, and he’ll be on a raw meat and rice diet.  We are literally doing the doggy equivalent of a thirty-day detox.  It will mean waking up early (bleurgh!) to administer the various tablets at the right intervals.  It will mean Herculean strength of will not to give in to his huge beautiful brown puppy dog eyes when he wants some of my food or a treat – that’s all off the menu.  And it means that I, a lifelong vegetarian, will be preparing two meals a day of red raw meat – eek!


It got me thinking though.  He’s been messed up, mixed up and churned up for almost six weeks.  And to get him back on track the first thing we did was Stop.  We stopped all the old medication and old food and old habits.  And now we’ve Stopped, we’re Starting.  Starting over, starting again.  We’re building back from basics towards his good health.


I’m an occasional boxing fan, and I noticed that some boxers have a similar process.  They’ve lost more than one important fight.  They can’t see a way through.  Everyone starts to write them off, to label them as ‘Has-Beens’.  Do they give up?  Nope.  They Stop.  They regroup.  They build themselves back up, they start with smaller fights and work back slowly but surely towards the larger ones.  Eventually you see them back up there, fighting the big fights, tougher, stronger and more successful than ever.


It’s something we could all apply to our own situations too. If there’s an area that you feel is messed up, that you can’t see your way through no matter what you throw at it, maybe it’s time to Stop.  We don’t even need to wait for things to go awry.  Maybe we just draw a line in the sand, strip everything back, focus on what our goal is, assess where we are with it, then go back to basics to build back up towards it. What do you think- shall we be Boxing Dogs where it matters?

Dropping balls

Dropping ballsThe first thing I want to say to you is ‘Thank You’ – thank you for the lovely healing vibes and messages on my FB page for the pooch.  I’m pleased and relieved to be able to tell you he’s had his exploratory surgery and is back at home with me, resting and healing and hopefully on his way to a full recovery.  We’re still waiting for tests results, so if you can spare another healing thought for the best outcome possible, that would be awesome.

Looking back on last week, I realise that the change from stress-bucket to milder smaller stress-bucket (I can’t say I’m completely calm, because that’s only going to happen when my fur-baby is back to full health) happened towards the end of a crazy week.

After I told you about the pooch going into surgery, I had to focus on him and only him.  In doing so I had to force myself to drop all the other balls I was juggling.  You might recognise some of them, but even if you don’t you’ll recognise the pattern – you might be juggling with different balls but I’m pretty sure you’re juggling.

My particular balls have been the contract, the dog, the new book, the current book, an online course, housework, eating more healthily, socialising with friends, seeing my family, reading, social media, a garden full of weeds.  And that’s just the jumble of larger balls that come to mind.

But juggling them all became impossible and on Thursday morning, as I dropped the pooch off for his surgery, I also very quickly started dropping balls too.  I didn’t have the time, energy or focus to keep juggling them all.  So all but the most important ones, the ones that I needed to keep juggling to get me through the next few days,  got dropped. And it felt like such a huge relief not to have to worry about them.  (Although it took a conversation with my coach to drop the ‘Guilt’ ball – that one kept bouncing back up trying to claim my attention for a while).

That’s what I want to share with you today – we all spend most of our time frantically juggling a whole load of balls.  When something big happens, it shocks us out of that pattern and we drop a few balls. That’s ok, it’s perfectly natural and necessary for us to be able to cope with the ‘something big’.  But what happens when we’re done coping, and we’re ready to juggle again?  The tendency is to pick up all the balls we had going, and resume our impressive but exhausting juggling act again.

I’m not sure that’s what we should be doing though.

Maybe what we need to do, you and I, is to look at each dropped ball and decide whether it’s really worth adding to our pile again.  For example, that bouncy little (or often not so little) ‘Guilt’ ball – do we really need that one?  Probably not, it’s just sneaked in there and become part of the action.

Once I’m ready to pick up the dropped balls, I think I might take a little time to pick and choose which ones I actually want in my personal juggling act – not all of them will make it back in.  And that’s ok.  What about you?  Which balls will you drop?

Virtual Healing

VirtualI’d like to call in a favour today please, my gorgeous reader.

If you’ve been following my little adventures via the blog you’ll know that my beautiful fur-baby hasn’t been very well recently. It’s been over a month, and rather than improving, he’s been deteriorating. So tomorrow he goes into fur-baby hospital, where they’ll do ultrasounds and x-rays and endoscopies and try to work out what exactly is going on inside his little tummy that’s causing him such big problems.

As the situation has gone on, I’ve become a bit of a stress bucket these last few weeks. The more my pooch has suffered, the more my stress levels have increased.  Completely normal and understandable, I hear you say. Well, yes, I guess it is. But (and it’s a big but – ha!) – it’s not helpful to me or to the pooch.

The more I stress, the more I focus on all sorts of ‘worst case’ scenarios. And of course that just makes me feel worse than I did before. Not only that, the pooch has his own little ‘feelings’ antennae and can pick up on my stress, so I’m not helping him either. Which means neither of us is getting much sleep or rest at the moment.  We’re waking up tired, which is a great recipe for the stress snowball effect to continue.

The worst thing is, I know better. As part of my NLP training, I learned how the brain thinks in pictures and feelings. I learned how the brain doesn’t distinguish between real and imagined, so of course it reacts to my imagined scenarios in the same way as it does the real ones, causing me just as much anguish and as many tears as if it had actually happened. Virtual scenario, but real pain.

I know that the best way for me to cope is to stop wallowing in virtual pain and to start thinking about what it’ll be like to see the pooch eating properly, sleeping well, rolling around in the grass in his usual flamboyant, inelegant, joyful style. It’s virtual healing – the more I replay that picture of the pooch at play, having fun in the sun, the more happy hormones will kick in for me, and the better I’ll feel. The better I feel, the better I’ll be able to cope. The better I’m able to cope, the more use I’ll be to the pooch.

So here’s where I’d like to ask for the favour – can you help me and the pooch please? If you have a minute to spare, can you also imagine my pooch rolling around in the grass, under the warmth of the sun, having a good old time. I’m sure that the more good health vibes we can send his way, the quicker his recovery will be. A different but just as important style of virtual healing 🙂

And I’m going to ask you for one more favour – I want you to help yourself too. If there’s something you’re struggling with right now, big or small, I want you to take five minutes to imagine what the best outcome would be for you. Imagine what you would see, what words you might hear, what smells might be wafting your way, and how all of this would make you feel.

Let’s practice our virtual healing together and make our little corner of the world a stronger, healthier, happier place.

Happy Father’s Day

Untitled designIt’s Father’s Day today – so I’d like to dedicate today’s blog post to my Dad.

I spent some time looking for the perfect poem, or the perfect little meme to demonstrate what my Dad means to me and what he’s taught me, but after much trawling of the internet, nothing seems to be quite right.

So instead, here are a few inelegantly put together anecdotes that stand out in my memory…

  • When I was a teeny tiny toddler, I wasn’t well.  To distract me from my pain my dad played horsey with me into the early hours of the morning.  Even when my mum pointed out that I might be taking advantage of this new development, he just shrugged and carried on until I got tired and eventually fell asleep.  This continued for many a night until the illness was long gone and forgotten.
  • When I was an annoying teenager, he once offered me a lift home from the school summer fair.  I was so incensed that he had dared to come and check up on me, I refused the lift and insisted on walking home.  He didn’t argue – he just followed me along the street slowly, until I came to my senses and got in the car.
  • When I was first learning to cook, my very first attempt at a potato curry was truly terrible.  Far too much turmeric and not enough of anything else.  My Dad declared it to be the most delicious curry he’d ever had and ate it all.
  • When I’d be diagnosed with cancer, he calmly talked me through the MRI procedure (he’d been through it himself six months earlier) and what to expect, to take my mind of the enormity of what I was dealing with – it worked.
  • Ever since I’ve had my gorgeous pooch Simba, he has walked him, popped in every evening to let him out for a wee, and has done more dog-sitting than I could ever have expected, hoped for or imagined.
  • He has turned up at my house at 3am, because there was a huge spider on the stairs and I was too scared to catch it, and too scared to leave it there.
  • He has supported me in whatever I’ve wanted to do, whether he understands why I want to do it or not.

For all of this, as well as the myriad other ways he has been there for me, loved and supported me, and generally been the most amazing Dad ever – THANK YOU.

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful men out there bestowing lifts, loans and love on their daughters. 🙂

A little adventure…

A Little AdventureI apologise in advance for the ridiculously short blog post you’re about to read.  It is for very good reason though.  Actually – it is for two very good reasons.

And the combination of those reasons makes me think of the last part of the quote I used at the start of Chapter 8 of the book

“…behind clouds is the sun still shining; Thy fate is the common fate of all, into each life some rain must fall. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow”

And the reason I think of that quote is that it has been raining a little bit in my patch of the world – my pooch is still poorly and we’re on the treadmill of vet visits, blood tests, medication, monitoring, more tests. I know he’ll pull through – as my brother has mentioned more than once, he’s a tough little mutt.  To be fair, if he can survive digesting a DVD, a pair of brand new leather gloves, almost an entire birthday cake and a walletful of credit cards and cash – not all at the same time, I hasten to add! – then he can survive this, we just need to work out what’s actually wrong and how to treat it.  So – that’s the rain part.  And one of the reasons this post is so short – I need to spend a bit more time with him and a bit less time on the laptop.

The other reason is the sun part of the quote – and it kind of counteracts the one above – I need to spend more time on the laptop.  For good reason.  I’ve started work on a new book.  So now I’ll have to be a bit more careful when I talk about the book so you know whether I mean the current published non-fiction book or the new unpublished but in progress fiction book.

And I’d like to invite you on this little (or not so little) adventure with me.  If you’re interested, I’d like to share some of the highs and lows (let’s hope there aren’t too many lows) with you – and in return, I’d love to hear what you think.

So – my first little share…I’ve been working on character outlines for the past week – I think I’ve got the rough outlines sorted, although I need to type it all up and go over it again next week – but it’s exciting.  These new people are starting to take form in my head and on paper, and I can’t wait for you to meet them!

Which leads me back to the apology – I have to rush off so I can take care of my pooch and my new imaginary friends – but let’s meet here again, on Wednesday, for the next step of the adventure?

Richard Branson – You’re Awesome

Richard BransonI don’t know if you’ve already seen it, but if you haven’t, there’s a great article on a new policy Richard Branson has initiated at Virgin – essentially the company is allowing new fathers a whopping twelve months of paternity leave, on full pay. I know, it sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

To be fair, there are some limitations – length of service being one – and it isn’t a policy available to all Virgin staff, only those at Virgin Management.

But in addition to being fantastic PR for Sir Branson and the Virgin brand, it does also highlight something that is becoming more and more important to employees across the globe. That something is our work-life balance and the willingness of companies to participate in the precarious balancing act that for too long has been all about give from the employee and take from the employer.

In a Forbes article I came across, only 13% of employees globally are engaged. Thirteen percent – that is a shocking snapshot of employee unhappiness. And it’s not all entwined in how much we’re getting paid either.

Which brings us back to Branson and his new policy. It might be a great PR winning headline grabber and as difficult to implement as his ‘Unlimited Leave’ policy, but what he’s got absolutely right is the underlying fact that the happier the employee, the more likely they are to be engaged and committed to the firm.

And I say that from very recent experience in my own current contract.  I’ve had a very poorly pooch to look after recently.  This has meant a lot of unexpected and unplanned time off work.  I’ve been worried about how my manager will see this, and today I had a quick chat with her.  Luckily for me, the company I am working for has some great flexible working policies, as well as managers that absolutely buy into those policies.  Which means I had an extremely reassuring chat with my manager, and now feel much less stressed about having to book time off (which I will have to do again next week).  That relief and gratitude has translated into me wanting to find a way to give back to the manager and company. I am willing and happy to go the extra mile for a company that has shown such understanding in a stressful time for me. And I’m actually only a contractor. I have no long-term vested interest to consider. Imagine the buy-in from permanent staffers…

It’s a win-win situation.  All that’s needed is some enlightened companies to show us the way.

So thank you Richard Branson, for shining a light, in audaciously inimitable fashion, for the rest of us to follow and add to. You’re awesome.