Badly bred bitch

Her head is too small, her face just too pretty and dainty.

Her ears are huge, like great bat ears – The Greater Bat-Eared Sheba.

Her paws are massive! Great tan-coloured whoppers!

Her toes are webbed, so she swims strongly through water.

She’s too damned SMALL!

Her tail’s held too high (why I thought of calling her “Flag”)

Her play is WAY too rough!

Her behaviour was so bad, she created a passion in me that has become my profession.

Boy, does she make eye contact! She holds my eye and stares until I melt.

Her coat has a slightly frizzy texture, and tangles easily.

The fur between her toes holds ice, so in winter she gets great ice boulders until she can’t walk.

She’s allergic to two strains of grass, Timothy and Cocksfoot.

She’s allergic to seven foods and can’t eat any shop-bought brands.

I have to cook her food and it’s burnt a stain on the side of the pan.

She’s had to have every medicine in the book.

Her crippling arthritis meant she couldn’t jump in the car anymore.

The pills she took for that gave her a massive stomach ulcer and she nearly died.

Turns out she has Cushing’s Syndrome, and her own body is pumping steroids into her system.

One illness medicates another, so her arthritis doesn’t hurt anymore.

She’s gone stone deaf with age, and my sister had to grab her tail to stop her running headlong into a fast-flowing river.

My old dog has such a broken body that I joke she’s stuck together with cellotape.

My girl won’t admit she’s old – she’s still young at heart, it’s just her body that’s old.

I dread being without her.

She got cancer of the spleen and I didn’t know until three days before she died.

She broke my little boy’s heart.

I glimpsed her once after she died,and she was where she wasn’t allowed!


The garden

We’re moving to a farm on the outskirts of a West Yorkshire village! The house is derelict, which is why we can afford it. We won’t own the whole farm – just a large front garden and a thin strip of field to the rear of the house. The front garden is beautifully laid out, with overgrown borders, a tiny square of lawn and a large vegetable patch. The latter hasn’t been touched for a couple of years, and the weeds are rife.

There is currently a 75-year-old man called Charlie living in the house. He has very kindly given me permission to begin work on the vegetable patch before he moves out. We won’t own the place for at least a month, and the time for planting has already passed for many crops. I’m eager to get started before it’s too late to harvest anything this year. Currently there is a small rectangle of strawberry plants.

So yesterday afternoon I collected my son from his primary school, loaded all three children in the car and drove over to the new house. It’s almost an hour from our rental house in Leeds. I’ve got a lot of bean, cabbage, brocolli, and marrow seedlings waiting to be planted and some marigolds also. Oliver, my 7-year-old, and I began digging. Oliver dug a hole, which he was very proud of. I threw my weight behind the spade and chopped the surface of the earth up a bit.

Then Charlie, a veteran gardener, emerged from having just eaten his tea. He had his overalls and big boots on, and got to work helping me. He gave me invaluable advice and got me on the right track. For example, we shouldn’t just pull weeds up because the roots will grow back. We had to dig under them and dig them right out. The three of us got to work on digging the weeds out of a long strip at the end of the patch nearest the house. Then I noticed that, whereas I was chopping the ground with a spade, Charlie was digging and turning the soil with a fork. So I got a fork and followed suit. Next, he showed me that our two forks were different. His had narrow pointed prongs, whereas the prongs on mine were wider. Apparently mine are for “digging ‘taters”. I found a suitable fork in the dairy, and got back to work.

Following Charlie’s advice, I worked backwards a few inches of the strip at a time. I dug the fork in right to the full depth of its prongs. The soil was hard, so sometimes I had to help it along by standing on it so that my ample weight helped push it in. (Who says gaining weight is a bad thing?) I dug the soil, turned it, and tossed it forward. The patch is on a steep slope, and Charlie told me that if I didn’t toss it back up the slope we would end up with a big hill at the bottom.

I worked on the soil for around two hours, and by the end almost two-thirds of the strip had been dug by Charlie, me and Oliver. I’ve had to learn to be fairly relaxed about what we can achieve in a set time. I could have done a lot more if I didn’t have a toddler who kept falling over and needing comforting. My jobs are always interspaced with toddler-related activities. There’s a great deal to do on the house and garden, and it will take a long time. Fortunately, I like to have something to do and plan.

It’s a good job really!


Selling houses

Yesterday was a momentous day. After weeks of gradual clearing out, we finally emptied our house, took the keys to the estate agents and completed on our sale!

My husband already owned the house in north Leeds when I met him 13 years ago. He has lived there for 18 years, and I for 12. We are starting an adventure, setting out on a dream we’ve had for years. We are in the process of buying a house on a farm in the country. The house is derelict, and we are going to spend the next few months in a rented house while we renovate our new home.

So far it’s been a long haul selling our old house. I have been in the rented house for two months, and my hubby has only just moved in. It’s taken two months to empty our old house, and he has been sleeping there. We thought it would be an advantage to rent the house before the completion date and have a month or so to move things across. We thought it would make our lives easier. Rather than hire a removal van, we relied on friends and relatives and a mate with a van.

The first hitch was that the arrangements with our mate with the van proved very unreliable. The first weekend he was due to bring his large van to help, the arrangement was made via another mate and wires got crossed somewhere along the way like Chinese whispers. He turned up on the Saturday with his van, but he wasn’t available on the Sunday. A whole day of having a large van and an extra pair of hands gone up in smoke. Then, the next time he was due to bring the big van, he turned up with a small van instead! The vans don’t actually belong to him. He drives them for his boss, who very kindly agreed to our borrowing them. However, the big van was unavailable at the last moment. While fully appreciating the generosity of his boss (who doesn’t even know us!) and our friend for helping us, the vans were only available if not needed elsewhere, and our friend was often exhausted from long ours driving and wasn’t as fully available as we had hoped. So I learnt from this experience that when the time comes to move from rental into our dream home we will hire a van instead of scrimping!

The next hitch (or perhaps this hitch should have come first?) was that it turned out we were the most disorganised movers imaginable. When our poor mate with the van and my brother turned up to help the first time, a great deal of our stuff did get moved. However, more could have been done if more of our stuff had actually been packed. An awful lot of stuff wasn’t packed, and we didn’t have enough packing boxes. This sounds insane, I know, but there it is. Moving is horrible! Anyway, I have a very pranky brother in Derbyshire (another brother), and when he heard how disorganised we had been he sent this urban myth cycling round that we had been carrying individual items of cutlery to the van. Well, just to nip that particular rumour in the bud, our cutlery was in a cutlery wrack, and we aren’t quite that disorganised. I mean we did pack a little.

We had 18 years of his stuff and 12 years of my stuff (plus stuff from my previous existence) in that house. I had box after box in the loft containing realms and realms of paper from my PhD, which was completed eight years ago. One afternoon was spent sitting at the top of the loft ladder going through each box and flinging most of the paper down the loft ladder, creating a mountain of recyclable paper I then had to clambour over and take down to the bin in many trips. We feel we can measure progress in number of binloads filled.

Another hitch related to the fantastic extension we had built in 2006. Although we did everything right regarding building control, the builder never got around to getting the building control officer to sign off the extension. Our buyer naturally wanted to have the certificate, and we couldn’t find it. Hubby rang the Building Control office and was told that it hadn’t been signed off, and it’s very common for builders to not get around to this. Hey, they’ve been paid, who cares about the rest? So we got the officer to come round, and everything was OK to sign off apart from the small matter of the missing smoke alarm from the new upstairs bedroom. It was in the plans, and it should have been put in, but the builder hadn’t done it.

So, back to the builder. My husband rang the builder and explained the problem, and the builder told him to leave it with him. We waited, and we waited. Then my husband tried ringing again. I tried ringing again. The builder never answered his mobile. I did manage once to leave a message with his wife, but the builder never responded to any of our messages. We did formulate a plan to keep ringing his wife, so she would get sick of it and make him contact us, but in the end we thought this was a bit unfair on his wife. So one morning I jokingly said to my husband that I would try ringing the builder on my mobile as he wouldn’t recognise the number. Hey presto, he picked up! He sounded embarrassed when he realised who it was, but that got him on the ball, and the problem got sorted pretty quickly after that. Well, quick in the peculiar time zone of selling houses – a matter of weeks.

So two months after entering rented accommodation with my children and animals, the old house is finally empty, and we’re all together as a family. I drove to the estate agent yesterday and handed in the keys. My solicitor phoned to say we had completed. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but WE’VE SOLD OUR HOUSE!

My first post

This is my first ever blog post. I’ve just set up my blog and am typing this post as my 2-year-old son wheels his bus around the keyboard!

My name is Isabel Towers, and I live in Leeds (UK) with my husband, three children, two dogs, parrot and four fish. I have a background in health services research, and my current profession is dog training and behaviour modification. I like to work with “difficult” dogs: those that bark and lunge, can’t go anywhere near other people or dogs, that kind of thing. I also love to work with puppies, as early intervention can hopefully prevent a lot of the above issues. However, I also enjoy basic training and really anything dog.

If you are reading this I hope you have a really nice day and excuse any blogging errors. It’s my first time!


If you were suddenly independently wealthy, how would you spend your time? What positive change would you bring to the world?

I would travel around the world and spend time in different countries, learning the language and living off the tourist map. I would also set up a charitable foundation which would support worthy causes.