On Thursday, a very dear friend of mine got married. Nothing so unusual in that, is there? No – not at all!

However, that was only the beginning .. and I wasn’t even sure I’d get there at all, what with Sid being so poorly. I was so torn about what to do. There were times during this last week that I even thought we might lose him. For instance, when I gave credence to the girl-vet’s suggestion that perhaps it was an infarct, which would mean his beautiful personality was probably gone for good .. and of course, what with the pain the poor guy was in, it would mean that there’d be precious little for him to live for or us to hope for. It was a terrible week. If you read the last post, you’ll know that he was given an opiate painkiller. It didn’t suit him, and he spent two days not eating, hardly drinking, but panting heavily and wandering in and (mostly) out all day, never settling anywhere for long, unless it was far, far away from his people and his comfy beds, right up at the end of the garden. And, distressingly, he would run away from us, apparently in fear.

On the day before the wedding, after a consultation with the girl-vet (the only one I could actually get hold of), we had the potential diagnoses of 1) a fractured temporo-mandibular joint, 2) acute oesophagitis following acid reflux during the op, or 3) an infarct, which is basically a blood clot lodged somewhere important, likely the brain, and she wanted to send me to a neuro for the full work-up or at least x-ray his jaw*. And there was I, due to leave him with the kennel and drive three hours up to Bridlington to be a witness to my friend’s marriage and stay away for the following night. This was important to me not just because it was an honour, but because not even family were invited to this wedding, only the witnesses and their partners.

I actually rang my very dear friend, Heathrow Jen, and said I didn’t know what to do, but if he wasn’t a LOT better the next morning, I didn’t see how I could leave him and might have to be driving in the opposite direction to a specialist veterinary referral centre. She was incredibly understanding, despite the fact that it upset her hugely and was likely to spoil her special day, and I want to say here and now what a very, very special friend she is. Not many brides would be so supportive of a friend and her sick dog, even if they had a hundred other witnesses to call on at the last minute, but HJ was. Unbelievably so.

The tiny twinkling light at the end of the tunnel was that Sid had been given Vetergesic, the opiate painkiller, and I had just a suspicion that it could be responsible for his lack of personality and his odd behaviour. By the next morning, it should be out of his system.

And Hallelujah! By the next morning he had indeed begun to look a lot more like himself. I would no way have left him, even then, if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was going to stay with S (his trainer) while we were away, in her own house, and I knew he’d be looked after every bit as well as if he were with me. So we loaded up, dropped the dogs off with S, and hit the road, and I rang HJ to tell her we were on the way and Made her Day.

The wedding was as quirky as I would have expected from HJ and her groom. For a start, they referred to themselves as Butch and Gomez pretty much all day, and it was the groom who wore white. It was a registry office wedding, nice and low key, just as they wanted, but we all set off from the groom’s house, and walked the half mile to the venue through shoppers and passers-by and I’m sure I remember going over a level crossing at one point. HJ then went through the ceremony with her legs crossed because the registrar told her there was no toilet she could use, a friend ‘gatecrashed’ the ceremony with a bottle of champagne and was promptly asked to leave by the registrar**, and the groom took a turn behind the camera to take photographs.

After the ceremony, we walked down to the sea and took a ride on a pirate ship. The little chap in the orange jacket is the groom’s grandson, who said he didn’t want to be a pirate, but changed his mind once at sea.

It was a great day. Even with the worry over Sid at the back of my mind, I had fun, and was just SO glad I managed to get there to witness HJ’s wedding to her ‘Gomez’ and do my part. It was just lovely to spend time with them and see just how happy they were to be together. Of course, quirkiness doesn’t stop after the ceremony for some people, and for the moment, these two will be living in separate houses for a while yet while they sort out various things, but they are now man and wife, which warms my heart. ‘Gomez’ is such a great guy: intelligent, witty, entertaining and so damned nice, and it’s always a teeny bit of a relief when one of your best friends in the world shacks up with someone you’re actually rather fond of, isn’t it?

After the pirate boat ride, we returned to the groom’s place where HJ rang her mother to tell her the deed was done. Her mother answered the phone and said ‘So, how does it feel to be Mrs Robinson?’ which was rather a stunner, since that is not the name of the man she married. She pointed this out to her Mum, who replied, after a pause, ‘Are you sure?’

The funniest – and most disturbing thing – about this is that HJ does actually have a male friend whose name is Robinson, but she assures me she isn’t, and never has been married to him.

So. We got home to find that Sid had had another of his screaming-in-pain-and-running-out-into-the-garden-to-tremble-violently sessions, which was very worrying, but he was pleased to see us, and jumped in the car with no problems. He continued to improved, personality-wise, on Saturday, but was clearly still in pain even if it was a lot less than it had been, so today I gave him a dose of Tramadol.

I’d been avoiding the Tramadol in case he reacted as badly as he did to the opiate, but thankfully, he hasn’t. It has allowed him to relax fully and behave pretty normally. He clearly does still have pain, and I suppose if it’s pain from the extractions referring into the joint then I can equate that to my wisdom teeth removal and understand completely just how painful it can be, and for how long. I guess we just wait and see for now, but I do have the name of a specialist greyhound vet if I need to get a referral, who will be better able to judge the problem than a random ‘veterinary referral centre’, I think.


* To x-ray a dog’s temporo-mandibular joint, one has to prop the dog on his back and open his mouth as wide as it can possibly go – which is likely what caused the problem in the first place. The over-developed musculature around Sid’s neck and shoulders also means it’s possible that the pulling around under the first anaesthetic damaged something in his neck or shoulder muscles or ligaments, so you can imagine how I felt about putting him under again and repeating the insult.

** They have a strict ‘no alcohol’ rule on the premises – which includes an unopened gift bottle, apparently.

So, guess what I’ve been doing this week?

Well.¬† The plan was¬† ‘being busy preparing for setting up Brambleberry’s stand at the Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust/Kama’s Cave RGT dog show’.¬† Then it turned into ‘getting both dogs seen at the vet for two different things and coping with the aftermath’.¬† And then, inevitably, it turned into A + B and I found myself trying to prepare for the show between tending to the dogs, which turned out to be far more work than I imagined.

The show was going to be fairly straightforward, except that I had the idea of making photo pendants portraying some of Brambleberry’s long-stayers together with a card for each telling the new purchaser a little bit about each dog.¬†

Then, of course, I had to sort everything into boxes and make sure it was all labelled and pack it into the van, and make a new batch of dog cookies at the last minute and pack those nicely into bags with a list of ingredients etc.  And the vet visit turned into an appointment for each of them to have some minor-but-essential stuff done under GA on Friday.

Let’s roll back to the vet appointment.¬† Sid’s breath was smelling bad, and all the teeth I could see were in good nick.¬† As you may (or may not) know, bad breath is often down to bad teeth, but can also be due to stomach issues or failing kidneys, among other things.¬† I didn’t want to leave it without investigation, and sure enough, the vet managed a better look in his mouth than I, and found a bad tooth hiding right at the back behind the last big molar.¬† Poor Sid was booked in for a dental extraction plus scale and polish.

Jeffie had a small tumour growing on his lip, but it had started to grow quite fast.¬† It’s a bad place to be growing a tumour, and I knew that he could lose a lot of lip if I left it too long – or it may even become inoperable in practical terms – so in he went for evaluation.¬† The vet’s opinion was that it was likely a harmless histiocytoma, but it also looked remarkably like a mast cell tumour which can be one of the most unpleasant, causing systemic problems as well as the usual ‘may spread and eventually kill you’ problems associated generally with cancers.¬† So poor Jeffie was booked in for tumour removal – plus a dental look-see and clean up while he was under.

I spent the day scrambling round pricing things, packing boxes, and finishing pendants.

Sid ended up having four teeth out: both the rearmost upper (small) molars, and two very loose incisors.¬† Jeffie lost his tumour (lab report in a few days) plus one small tooth .. .and his remaining upper canine.¬† Now the canines have roots every bit as long as the tooth, so this was a Big Deal.¬† Both dogs were in a lot of pain that evening.¬† They had had painkiller injections, but Sid whined non-stop until 4am, and the next morning Jeffie wouldn’t eat, which meant he couldn’t have his pain-relief tablet.¬† I took him back for an injection of the same drug. Then that evening Sid wouldn’t eat, so he couldn’t have his pain-relief tablet.

The next day was¬† Sunday – the day of the show.¬† The vet was closed, apart from emergency appointments, and both dogs actually seemed OK with no pain relief.¬† I thought taking them out to dog-watch in the shade would be a nice distraction for them, and the vet had said she didn’t see why they shouldn’t go, so off we went.

The ‘van’ is actually a twenty-something foot motorhome with a low-access motorcycle garage in the rear which serves us as a large dog ‘kennel’. We set up the gazebo and my tables and I think they did enjoy the day.¬† Jeffie chose to lie in his comfy bed in the gazebo, while Sid preferred the privacy and comfort of the dog room on the van, next to OH, who sat reading with a cup of tea in the armrest of his foldy chair.

The day went well.¬† I sold a little of almost everything and several people took cards so they could get photo pendants done, or Brambleberry leaflets so they could consider getting a greyhound.¬† I didn’t make a fortune, but it was worth the effort.

Sadly, Sid came home in quite a lot of pain and is still not eating.  I tried to look in his mouth, but he screamed so much we both ended up shaking.  I think the pain from the extractions is worse, and I can only relate it to having my wisdom teeth out Рthe teeth Sid had removed are in the same position in the jaw and you get a lot of soreness and referred pain in the joint.  I think he wants to eat, but the act of moving his jaw hurts too much.

So, we’ve been to the vet again this morning and he’s full of anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and opiates. I have to go back this evening for more opiates, because it’s a controlled drug and they can’t let me have it to inject him myself even though I was a qualified vet nurse, albeit a long time ago. I do understand, but … *Sigh*

Many people would look at this photo and see a very happy dog. He is not happy, he is extremely stressed and in pain, and also high on opiates. Look past the ‘smile’ and see the pinned back ears, the unnatural chest and leg posture, the tightly drawn back corners of the lips, the narrowed eyes and the little puckers in his forehead. He’s not a good colour, either.

So there you have it.¬† For the moment, my life has pretty much shrunk to greyhounds and learning Italian, which I can do even while I transport the dogs to and from the vets by listening to music in the car.¬† This band is my latest discovery, and I’m particularly proud to be able to say I’ve learned to sing along with the second one on this vid, especially since the lead singer, Francesco Sarcina, sings the lyrics pretty damn quickly in places. Skip to 3’50” if you want to listen to ‘Vieni da me’.

Um … I hate to say this, but does anyone else think Sid isn’t the only one who looks high?

Yes, this blog is still running a bit slow, huh? Let me see .. what’s new this week?

Well, I think I’m nearly ready for the boot sale tomorrow morning, just supposing it isn’t raining. The forecasts have been contradictory; one day they say it’ll rain for the next two months, the next they say Saturday will dawn dry but it might rain later in the day. That would be OK. I don’t mind packing up at lunchtime, because by then anything that is likely to sell will probably have gone, but I’m taking a polythene dust sheet with me anyway, to protect the zillion books I’m trying to sell.

See, I love books. And I love ‘hard copy’ books. However, this house only has a finite amount of space, and all our many bookshelves are full – and they’re full with all kinds of literature from pulp fiction through the classics to reference books, passing through a small section of children’s books on the way. I have far too much pulp fiction, and we’re running out of room to keep the better quality stuff, so I’m trying to get rid of books I’ll never read again – and this is so much easier, psychologically, now that I have a Kindle.

The best part of those two middle shelves is going, for a start.

So, at least some of my clutter is now organised into boxes full of ready-priced stuff. If the boot sale is rained off, they’ll probably take root on the landing, waiting for the next opportunity!

And there’s something else growing roots ..

I have a pot of basil on the kitchen windowsill, which I use for cooking. Clearly I don’t use enough because it had grown leggy and was starting to flower, so I picked off the top few inches of the stalks and stuck them in a glass of water, simply because they smelled so nice. And I forgot them. And see what happened? They grew roots! So now I am going to try potting them up into two or three little pots and see what happens.

Me, I’m trying not to grow roots in the armchair from which I’ve been doing all the artwork, research and phoning for the fundraising thing. This week I’ve started back on the treadmill having had an enforced break due to young Jeffie running into my leg and causing quite disproportionate Pain and Suffering (he was fine, by the way, which made a nice change). The huge bruise/thrombosed area has gone back to being pink, but I’m finding that leg aches quite a lot in the evening if I’ve done much exercise. I’m going to stick with it. You see, the trouble with not using the treadmill is that the quite hideous amounts of excess avoirdupois I’m carrying around these days is another thing which is settling in for the long haul. Why is it that fat is so damn easy to put on, and yet requires superhuman effort to remove again?

Meanwhile, though this summer is a wash-out, the wildlife is propagating like mad. I have greenfly on my roses again, and my peas and beans have been decimated by snails. We’ve had a baby bird fly into the conservatory (which OH bravely captured and set outside again) and a late cockchafer fell down the chimney, but got out from behind the fireguard, bumbled off, and fell behind the TV before I could take his picture. I’ve photographed several interesting insects, though, including this gorgeous Lime Hawk Moth – which also flew into the conservatory and got trapped.

On the greyhound front, I’ve been trying a really stinky oil concoction this week to try to improve Jeffie’s dandruff. It’s highly redolent of garlic and they love it. In fact they’ve been looking at me askance when I put their breakfast down because they only get the oil in the evening. They want to know why the garlic seasoning has been left out.

It’s made especially for greyhounds, and R, of Newborough Dogs, very kindly lent me an opened can to try, since it’s not cheap and Jeffie has a notorious picky appetite and delicate digestion. So far, so good! And I’ll be very pleased indeed if it can address the skin flakiness.

And that’s about it, I think … except that I’ve found some mug a nice man from Freegle to take away a bag of old pre-recorded VHS tapes. ¬†You don’t seem to be able to shift them for love nor money these days, and I didn’t want to just throw them away.

So. What are you all up to then?

Um.  Yeah, OK  .. I need to get round to read your blogs, right?

Yes, you’re right. This blog has gone downhill. I don’t post very often anymore, and I don’t visit my blog friends as much as I should.

I still enjoy blogging, and I still take pictures thinking ‘Ooh, there’s one for the blog!’ and I miss keeping up with you all and seeing what you’ve been up to. You’ve provided me with a lot of laughs, insights and food for much thought over the years. I’ve enjoyed – and envied – your photography skills, your writing skills, and your ability to just get out there and be doing stuff. I’ve enjoyed giving my opinion to all and sundry – I mean, come on, who doesn’t like giving their opinion?

So I’m sitting here thinking ‘What happened to ABC Wednesday, and Friday Finding Beauty, Macro Monday and all those things? In a way it’s nice not to have the deadlines, but I still kind of miss them.

It’s true that my Italian studies take up a lot of time these days, but they don’t really stop me blogging. I still don’t have a job to go to and I haven’t taken in a lodger. So what has changed?

Well, you’ve read the title! Since I foolishly volunteered to do a bit of fundraising for Brambleberry Greyhounds, it has Taken Over My Life.

Brambleberry Greyhounds is a branch of the Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT). It is run by a lady called Sharon who has been in the greyhound racing industry for the better part of three decades and she is one of the good guys. There are many people out there who hate the whole industry because they only look for (and therefore find) the bad stuff, or because they see it as exploitation, forgetting – or not knowing – how much greyhounds love to run and chase. It’s certainly true that there has been plenty of bad stuff to find in the past, and there are still a few rotten eggs in the industry today – but things have changed. And you simply can’t make a greyhound race if it doesn’t want to*. Those of us who own these dogs have absolutely no doubt about that. Greyhounds are very, very good at Not Doing Things if they don’t want to.

It is no longer routine to kill any dog who doesn’t make the grade, gets hurt, or retires from racing or breeding. It is no longer routine to dope, fail to treat injuries (see Sid’s leg count) or fail to take proper care of the dogs**. And the RGT is there to get these beautiful animals adopted into pet homes after they are done with the track. With the aid of many, many volunteers and the trainers themselves, they have an increasingly good success rate – in 2010, the aggregate figure hit 50,000. Bearing in mind that there are many independent greyhound adoption charities and that some people rehome their own dogs without going through the RGT, that’s not bad.

Caring for the retired racers takes a lot of money, which is where the fundraising comes in. Kennel space is costly, feeding is costly, vaccination, worming, flea treatments and neuters are costly. People expect to walk their newly adopted dog out of the place on a free collar and lead and with a bag of kibble, and they also get a month’s free pet insurance. PR is constantly needed to find these pet homes in the first place, and that’s where the volunteers come in, because running a racing kennel (let alone a racing kennel and RGT branch combined) is a full-time job in itself.

So, having started out thinking I’d research a few items to brand and sell, and commit to doing a few Meet & Greets a year, I now find myself up to my ears. I have a Facebook group for Brambleberry, which needs attention, and I have people volunteering to help me, which is great. They all have ideas of their own for me to follow up, they turn up at Meet & Greets, and they deserve to be rewarded by organising things like fun runs for the dogs. I have shows to do, stalls to man, boot sales to think of, etc etc. Now I’m trying to open an online shop, which is proving to be a hair-pulling exercise. And then there’s sponsorship.

I have official letters to deal with. I have events to organise, and I have Responsibilities. I hate that, but it comes with the territory. What does not come with the territory is much in the way of Spare Time.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m enjoying my new role immensely. It’s just that it also terrifies me. I’m convinced I’m going to forget something important, fail to do something important, let people down, or lose documents, money or goods which have been entrusted to me.

Oh yeah, and my house has needed to be de-cluttered for a long time, and now there has been an explosion of new clutter!

So what with the Italian, the jewellery, and now this, my poor blog has slipped further down the list of Things To Do. As to movies and premieres and so on, you can forget it. I haven’t even seen The Rum Diary yet!

Maybe I should simply change direction and include the greyhounds more? Would my faithful readers still read ‘The Depp Effect’ if it became more like ‘The Greyhound Effect’? Or maybe ‘The Volunteer Effect’?

How about the ‘Drowning in Clutter’ effect?

Kidding aside, it may have to be done. My life has changed, so it’s only fair that the blog should reflect that, don’t you think?

* That’s why you’ll occasionally see ‘non-chaser’ in the descriptions of available dogs! They pretty much all love to run and chase, but racing is more focussed, and on the track some prefer to play with the other dogs while doing so, and this will get them banned.

** Although, sad to say, because of those rotten eggs I mentioned, these things do sometimes happen. It’s the same in any situation where men keep animals; farming, breeding, showing, pet homes, etc. You name it, it’s not immune.