National Pet Month – An update on our International Animals

Emma turkish dog in wales
Emma, smiling
As it is National Pet Month I thought I would give an update on our animals. We have been back in Pembrokeshire for just over two years and our Turkish dogs are now Welsh dogs, thicker of coat and used to the doggy free for all of the beaches and fields where people are unlikely to heave a brick at them.

Shadow is now well into her middle years, her muzzle is greying, the white patch on her chest spreading and by the evening she is a little stiff but she still lopes with that glorious graceful stride and lies waiting for Nick with her front paws delicately crossed. She takes her role as Senior Dog and Pack Leader very seriously.

Emma, known as the Junior Rocket, remains flighty, pretty, of high dancing step, scared of rain, and impossibly stupid. She loves her routines; biscuits after walks, biscuits before bed, trips out in the car after breakfast and before nap time.

shadow turkish rescue dog
Shadow in the summer fields
Despite the extraordinary care and love they received from PAWS, the company that transported the two dogs and the late (and much missed) cat Mr Evils, all the way from Turkey to Wales Shadow was traumatised by the trip. She has attachment issues having been abandoned before and she was sure that Nick, the love of her life, had left her forever. She has barely left his side in the two years since she got here and our trips away have had to be carefully planned so she can stay in the house and there are familiar things and people around.

Emma, being the dippy thicky dog that she is suffered no trauma at all as a result of her long journey and actually didn’t notice she was back with us for a few hours! When she did notice her joy was boundless.

Nick, always keen to be seen as “best owner” still lies to the dogs, he gives them rich tea biscuits and tells them they are chocolate biscuits, he says the dogs like them better! He tucks them up at night. He chats to them whilst he mixes their feed, “ooh do you want McDonalds today” (McDonalds is tinned food, a fast food treat for dogs fed on home made food), “putting in some olive oil to make you shiny” Tails wag wag wag. “Little bit of milk for calcium” – Shadow barks, high pitched because she can’t keep the excitement in. Emma sits alert, her long curling tail sweeping smiles across the tiled floor. It’s a competition; Nick will make them love him best!

Emma turkish rescue dog
Nick and Emma
Our new addition, who came after we lost Mr Evils, is Terror, my Norwegian forest cat, and she firmly believes this house is hers. Now nearly two years old she is still a teenager in Wedgie (as they are known) terms, they don’t reach their full growth until four or five and their behaviour reflects this. Terror, also known as The Pterodactyl or just The Monster, is true to her breed, she likes to be carried like a baby but refuses to sit on laps, she is vocal in her demands for certain types of food, now, her throaty cries rising is volume at any delay. She like our company; when Nick works on his computers at the desk in the library she lies on the top of a nearby stack of boxes, sleeping soundly. As I work at the kitchen table she lies beside my laptop, snoozing in the warm air from the fan.

She likes high vantage points; lying at the edges of the gallery, paws over the edge, looking down on potential victims. Her racing attacks on all the dogs are legendary; a flat out tail fluffed streak, a rapid stop and a lightning fast flurry of boxes across the face that sets astonished canines back on their heels. No dogs will go upstairs in Terror is lying, tail twitching, at the top. Emma won’t go to bed is Terror is lurking, evil of eye, under the wardrobe. Shadow, from her position as Senior Dog, refuses to engage in play fights but if Terror is determined to snuggle up to her in front of the fire on a winter’s night then, with a sigh, Shadow will allow it.

india chocolate labrador
The home menagerie is supplemented almost daily by India, my daughter’s chocolate Labrador. She was born just up the road and our house was her first home as she came to us as an eight week old puppy just after my husband died. Despite being first comer she is very much the follower in our small pack. Her amiable nature, secure from a life with an abundance of love, makes her less pushy than the others, apart from at feeding time when pure blood Labrador takes over and there is jostling for anything Emma, slight of appetite, leaves.

I can’t imagine a house without animals, every home needs some, and we never for one moment considered leaving our animals behind in Turkey when we came back to the UK. Owning animals doesn’t work that way and fortunately everyone involved in their export across Europe was super flexible as moving countries is never straightforward and schedules go awry.

I don’t know if Shadow and Emma prefer Wales – there is a distinct lack of sunbathing opportunities – but they have more freedom and less casual dangers to face. They go to beaches, they travel, they explore, they are met with pats and strokes wherever they go and they seem relaxed and we’re proud of how far they have come, our international animals.

European & Turkey Animal Transport Service

When we moved from Turkey to the UK in 2014 we researched all sorts of options for transporting our animals. At the time we had two dogs and a cat that would be coming home with us. After looking at airlines, both where the animals were treated as luggage and specialist carriers who shipped them independent of us and reading loads of horror stories we settled on overland transport via an experienced private carrier PAWS a British run company operating out of Bulgaria.

Our animals were collected from Turkey the day before we left ourselves, they were taken to Bulgaria via Greece and there they stayed (in the lap of luxury, all together) until the company’s scheduled trip across Europe and onto the UK a few weeks later.

We collected our pets from just inside the Welsh border as they swung past on their way to deliver other animals throughout the UK. Everything went without a hitch and the dogs and the late Mr Evils were obviously well loved and cared for and we had received regular photographs and updates whilst they were in Bulgaria.

Below are links to the carrier we used and whom friends have since used to bring their much loved animals to the UK from Turkey. We highly recommend their service and they are well informed about any changes to legislation (happens frequently!) and highly experienced.

PAWS Kennels Website
PAWS Bulgaria Facebook Page

Mr Evils – the killer in a fur coat

The Christmas Kitten
First there was Shadow, then there was Vinnie and then Evils arrived. Evils was my Christmas Kitten, he arrived on Boxing Day all big eyes and baby fluff with the sweetest, cutest, most adorable long lashed expression on his little face. He looked like the sort of kitten that gave Garfield nightmares. He was small enough to sit on the palm of my hand and he did, perkily upright, bright white bib smartly groomed and pale pink nose twitching. He was utterly beautiful. I loved his soft fur and his fat little baby tummy and his plump little paws. As you might have guessed, I have a very soft spot for cats. I love dogs, and I am used to them, but cats make me go gooey.

We called him Kimi after my much loved and long mourned Maine Coon cat which Phil had bought me years ago back in Wales. I had adored Kimi, with her tufted lynx ears and bright chirping call she would run to greet me when I came home from work and she was loyal and loving as most Maine Coons are as they tend to bond to only one person.

So Kimi the kitten moved in and very shortly we realised that he bore as much of a resemblance to my beloved Kimi as Hilter did to Mother Teresa. He was a holy terror. He wasn’t destructive, but he was arrogant and imperious, fearless and cunning, brutal and revenge driven and he was, in short, a howling psychopath.

Within four hours of his arrival his name was changed forever from Kimi to Mr Evils as he casually clawed Nick’s arm to bone when Nick carelessly stopped stroking him. If Mr Evils wanted something he got it by demanding it with menaces. He yowled his head off when he wanted feeding, stamping around the place and sneering at the staff until a bowl of chicken livers was provided and he was lifted up to snack on it. He locked eyes with Shadow when she tried to intimidate him until she slunk off in shame, the well known cat terroriser cowed by a few ounces of fluff with claws.

Used to the well bred behaviour of a pedigree maine coon who never did anything more evil than try and pounce on a butterfly I wasn’t prepared for Evils’ displays of gruesome cattiness; the disembowelled rats he would artfully strew around the courtyard, the baby ducklings weakly flapping on the kitchen door mat whilst he gnawed cheerfully on their wings; we even once caught him juggling Jack the baby tortoise from the garden, bouncing him on the stone paving of the courtyard, I think he was sniggering at the time.

He was, and is, truly evil. One winter’s night when a particularly dramatic storm was going for gold above the valley and the rain thundered down and the lightening was flashing lilac edged I went downstairs to check everything was all right. The power was off and I groped my way to the French windows to look out on the courtyard in the next lightening flash to make sure the pool wasn’t overflowing.

I shivered in the winter chill and peered out into the darkness. The lightening flashed, sheet lightening, highlighting the courtyard with an eerie violet shadowed flood of light; and there was Evils in the lightening flash, fur plastered to his frame by the torrential rain, sitting upright on his back legs in the middle of the courtyard, a rat twisting frantically in the grasp of his forepaws as he gleefully chewed at its head. That sort of tableau tends to stay with you!

Despite having a territory that cover most of the top half of the village and which is negotiated from roof top to rooftop Evils remains almost domesticated. He is willing to be domesticated more in winter than in summer. Summer he can be found patrolling the night for all things frail and vulnerable but in winter he is normally to be found hogging the soba and ruthlessly kicking Shadow out of her basket when he wants something soft to lie on.

In return for letting us feed him he sometimes brings little gifts home. The other week he brought a large rat into the kitchen, proudly spat it out on the door mat and gave me a look that said “Don’t say I never bring you anything bitch, now where are my chicken livers?”

I yelled for Nick to bring a plastic bag, we had another dead rat situation, and then the rat woke up and made a dash for safety under the kitchen sink. Evils ignored it and continued to casually groom the bloodstains off his fur. Half an hour of poking with a broom didn’t budge the rat which was sitting on the drainage pipe wishing it was a character in a James Herbert horror story instead of a badly mauled character in an idyllic tale of Turkey.

We emptied all the cleaning stuff out of the cupboard (we have a lot!) and I rammed Evils in to finish the job. He wasn’t amused by this. He protested, loudly, claiming his work was done for the day. When I let him out the rat was still in situ and Evils just wanted his dinner.

A further half hour with a broom and the rat was dislodged and staggered out into the courtyard past a laconic Evils who was clearly bored and felt this seriously bedraggled rat wasn’t up to his usual standard of prey, he prefers them feisty.

Once out in the courtyard the rat went into its death throes behind the woodpile and someone had to end its suffering. It wasn’t Evils, and it wasn’t Nick who can’t even vacuum up a spider, it was me who heaped more sin on her soul by despatching the nearly dead rat whilst Nick rung his hands and Evils enjoyed his lunch.

Do not be fooled by my cuteness!

You look at your cat, upside down on the rug in front of the fire or snoozing in the sun, his low toned purring lulling and his ears and nose twitching in deep and dreamy sleep and you wonder what he dreams of. Does he dream of chocolate boxes to pose on and bright flowers to bat with his paws and melting looks of sweet innocence to bestow upon his doting owners? Then you realise that this is a killer in a well tailored fur coat. And his dreams are of torture and maiming and midnight flights across moonlit roofs and sudden springs from the shadows onto anything with small crunchy bones. In reality we should turf the nasty creatures out onto the streets, but when they roll over and stretch with such feline grace we can’t because maybe they are more beautiful than us, and more elegant than us and we admire their spirit and so they stay.

Like Phil used to say – Feed a dog and it thinks you’re God, feed a cat and it knows its God!

Vinnie – An accidental adoption

When guests come to stay we have to explain about our adopted dog Vinnie, otherwise they’d be straight on the phone to the nearest animal welfare group who would be compelled to launch affronted Facebook pages against me for the state of this wretched animal.

Vinnie appears to be practically dead. He is a dog that has given a sterling performance of being on his last legs for the last three years and yet still manages, on sight of a rival, to connect with his inner wolf and summon the primeval beast from within and attack anything. He is, in short, a vicious little bastard, and whilst he spends his whole day sleeping, curled in a circle like a small ginger dragon in various spots around the house, when summoned to go for a walk he will drag himself forward, limping on all four legs and “talk” the whole way in a whining, high pitched oscillated voice that is a mixture of dog and outraged teenager.

Vinnie doesn’t walk, he sort of falls forward, big heavy head drooping downwards, plumy tail slowly oscillating, skinny all bone bow legs stumbling. He pisses on everything, he must, internally, be mainly bladder, and he wrings drops from his inappropriately large and furry dick at every marking spot on a walk, establishing his territory with the doggy version of a threatening bank of ICB’s.

He is feared by pretty much every other dog in the village, not that he could actually hurt them, but he could crush their dignity with one of his staggering, yelping, pop eyed attacks.

Vinnie came to us by accident. Shadow, our Labrador, came into season before we could get her to the vet to have her gearbox out and being pretty and poised and elegant every dog in the village wanted a piece of that piece of tail and we had the whole population camped outside the house with the canine equivalent of a bunch of petrol station flowers and a box of Milk Tray in their hopeful paws. And then Vinnie turned up and embarrassed them all away with his wildly flailing attack mode. Shadow initially turned her sweet nose up at him and so he moved in under the car to continue his suite with a stubborn patience and eventually she accepted him and he went on walks with Nick. He never got to shag her though – ginger Labrador puppies are just an affront to nature.

One morning, Vinnie (now with a name other than “that ginger scruffbag”, because Nick has to name everything) dragged himself from under the car and proceeded to go into his “I’m about to die in agony” routine which involved rolling on the ground crying loudly interspersed with lying there with begging blood shot eyes whilst raising a palsied paw in a mute appeal for assistance. Giving the hideous creature a quick once over I discovered he had an abscessed tooth but more than that he had a huge weeping burn on his tail. Clearly he had crawled under the car just after he returned home and had managed to stick his tail to the hot exhaust. It was a mess and so we had to go for the vet approach.

Wrapped in a blanket and screaming his head off and with a new collar buried in the bedraggled fur of his neck we drove off to Selcuk to subject him to the forthright ministrations of our very down to earth vet. I drove, Nick was in the back clutching Vinnie to his chest and worrying that it might all be over for the foul smelling animal.

Our vet is a tiny slip of a girl, she weighs about half as much as some of the dogs she routinely man handles. In my book she is a great vet, she isn’t sentimental, she gets on with the job and gets stuck in and she has a common sense approach. She is a proper vet; she has her own cow lift. I don’t like vets that prat around tarting up their surgeries with doggy play centres and make it look like a crèche, I want a vet that does the job and she does. She took one look at Vinnie who glared at her whilst gnashing his remaining teeth in an ineffectual way and stuck him in the bum with a huge dose of sedative. Vinnie collapsed spread eagled on the surgery floor, Nick was on the verge of tears and I helped the vet drag him into the operating room.

She shaved his tail down to stubble to take a look at the burn which was about three inches long, red raw and obviously painful but not infected. She jabbed him with antibiotics, cleaned the burn and dressed it and then indicated that she could castrate him as he was here and out for the count. I told her to do the works as he was here and I thought his life might be less fraught if he wasn’t continually chasing every sweet smelling bitch that sashaying into his range.

Half a drain pipe was brought from the corner of the surgery and placed on the examining table and she and I lifted Vinnie into it, laying him on his back in the half pipe with his several foot of tongue hanging out of his mouth and his hind legs conveniently splayed.

“What’s she doing?” asked Nick, never quick on the uptake with these sort of things. Show him a motorbike or a computer and he can tell you every intimate detail of its innards but any medical issue and his knowledge goes past fuzzy to completely clueless.

“We’re going to castrate him”

“Oh, will it hurt?”

“Not until he wakes up.”

Nick turned a bit green when the vet made the first incision. I assisted her and stayed at the head end checking Vinnie’s breathing was okay and he was still well under. He was.

Watching Vinnie’s groin being manhandled did nothing for Nick’s nerves so he wisely buggered off for a cigarette whilst she vet rummaged in Vinnie’s nether regions, popped out his testicles and flicked them into the waste paper bin beside the operating table with a well practised wrist action. I grinned at her and she grinned back, I don’t see an arranged marriage in her future!

With a bandaged bald tail, a throbbing groin and a huge plastic collar on there was no way Vinnie was going back under the car and so I grudgingly allowed him into the courtyard to recuperate. Shadow was horrified, this imitation coyote was now messing up her space and making the place look untidy, but she got used to him and as he takes three times as long to eat his food and has a tiny appetite her opportunities for more scoffing were greatly increased so she accepted him.

Vinnie, caught on camera looking normal
Vinnie never did make it outside again. Once they are in, they’re in and you become duty bound to give them a decent life for the duration. Vinnie didn’t look like he would live long and so I felt sorry for the poor little bugger and agreed that he could stay and we’d try and make what short time he had left as comfortable as possible. He had obviously had a tough life, he had old breaks badly healed, his rib cage was bent out of shape and his ears rested at 90 and 20 degrees on his skull. He looks like crap but it turns out he has the constitution of an ox and so he is still here, sleeping away the days, guarding the gate at night and generally being prepared to attack anything he thinks may upset me or Shadow.

He has no idea how to ask for affection, he just comes and leans against you if he wants a scratch. While Shadow sits urgently to attention and begs prettily with alternatively raised paws Vinnie just staggers over to you, trailing his permanent smell of old rug and leans against you.

He doesn’t know how to play. Whilst Shadow prances and rolls and juggles her toys in her incredibly dextrous paws Vinnie just lurks and looks at you with those sad bulging eyes.

He moans a lot. When you get the vacuum cleaner out and he has to move he staggers to his feet and makes his way haltingly outside, head swinging low, sometimes giving you a disgusted backward glance as if to say “I may only have moments left to live and you make me move!”. When it is bath time he tries to hide under the table but he secretly loves it and lies down in the soapy water and demands ten minutes of rubbing from the big towel when it is all over. Not that it makes any difference to his smell, the smell is clearly ground in bone deep and all a bath does is change its character from old rug to wet old rug.

He is hell to get any weight on because he isn’t interested in food. He eats slowly and pickily and is pandered to by Nick who fusses around boiling chicken carcasses for him and soaking his biscuits. Considering that Vinnie spent his whole life up to now as a street dog and probably stayed alive by licking road kill off the tarmac this seems a bit extreme but in true devoted owner fashion Nick can’t help it. Between the rich meat broth he eats every day and the imported from America glucosamine and cod liver oil tablets he is given every day this dog is better cared for than we are.

Vinnie is an eco dog, he seriously believes in conserving energy, so much so that he rarely moves. But when the temperature drops like it did this morning he wakes up, perks up and dances about the place in a pathetic display of doggy delight and at that point you have to love him, smell and all.