The Difficult Dogs Who Change Our Lives

It’s been a few weeks now since I last blogged and that’s not for lack of things to write about! I just simply haven’t had time and other things have had to take priority. I also had two weeks of jury service to complete which was an amazing and fascinating experience! It’s back to normality this week though and now that my to-do list is somewhat under control, I have something I want to blog about, and it’s difficult dogs!

Followers of my Instagram and Facebook will know that I am a huge dog-lover, and that I currently own three lurchers. Tinks, is a 12 year-old scruffy-haired lurcher who I fostered as a puppy and ended up keeping. We don’t know exactly what mix she is but my guess would be deerhound/greyhound/whippet. She’s a lovely, easy-going simple soul, who, apart from being a bit vocal in her younger years, has never given me a bit of trouble. She came over on a van from Ireland with no history and just slotted right in.

Next we have Jesse, my almost three-year-old boy. He’s a greyhound/deerhound/whippet/collie/bedlington terrier mix who came to us as a puppy in between Covid lockdowns. He’s a smart, loving, laidback boy who I would describe as selectively reactive. If you’re not a dog owner, you might wonder what I mean by ‘reactive’. It’s what we call dogs who react to things we would really rather they just ignored. A prime example of this is barking and lunging on the lead when they see other dogs. This can be because they are excited and frustrated that the lead is stopping them from saying hi, or it can be because they are fearful of the other dog and they are barking at them to keep them away. And guess what, it tends to work, so reactivity then becomes a cycle you find you and your dog trapped in. Jesse can go weeks without barking at anything on the lead, then suddenly he will take a dislike to a dog and bark. Sometimes I can get his attention back on me, reward him for disengaging with the trigger and often, just saying hi to the unknown dog is enough to settle him down. In short, I don’t worry too much about his reactivity but we do work on it all the time.

And then there is Ada…

I wasn’t supposed to get a third dog! It wasn’t on the cards at all. However, I had been telling people that I was broody for a puppy and as Tinks is getting on a bit. I had started thinking about what I’d get in the future to go with Jesse. Jesse loves company and I know he wouldn’t enjoy being a single dog in the house. And of course, if you mention thinking about another dog, people who know you tend to mention it when they come across a dog that needs a home…

I received a message from a lovely lady who had taken a puppy from a breeder she wasn’t overly happy with. The puppy was not quite right for her and her dogs, but she was reluctant to send her back to the breeder. She sent me a picture and asked if I would consider her. I fell in love right away but was sure my husband would say no. After all, we already had two dogs! To my utter amazement he said yes, and the next day we drove to pick her up.

Ada’s mix is not dissimilar to Jesse’s. Her dad was a greyhound/deerhound and her mother was a merle collie/whippet/bedlington terrier/greyhound/bearded collie. However, it quickly became apparent that Ada’s mind and personality are 100% collie. That is a risk you take with lurcher pups because although they are predominantly sighthound crosses, they often have other breeds mixed in, usually collie or terrier. Ada is my fourth lurcher and I’ve fostered over 100 of them in the past and I have never come across one with so little sighthound traits.

Sighthounds are obviously bred to be extremely fast and athletic and they hunt by sight, hence the name. Once they have had a good run, they are usually known for being couch potatoes who like to laze around all day and I’ve always found this to be true. They can be very smart but they will decide what they want to do and often their favourite thing is just sleeping!

When Ada arrived she was very confident. She acted like she had always been with us and was instantly extremely affectionate with the whole family and made great friends with Jesse and Tinks. I was so pleased with how well she slotted in. I figured I’d train her as I had the others, work on recall and disengagement from a really early age, and before she was allowed out for walks, she had mastered all the basics and more. I’d carry her around as much as possible to help her socialisation and I signed her up to Life Skills classes with the wonderful trainer we know. I was so excited! But it soon became apparent that things were not going to go as planned or hoped…

The first time Ada met a strange dog, she was still not old enough for walks but I hoped they could say hello quickly. It was a small friendly dog but Ada’s reaction was to bark at it in fear. I didn’t have my other dogs with me at the time so she wasn’t copying them. She just didn’t want to say hi. Not long after that we started Life Skills and I could see right that she was not comfortable with the other dogs in the class, or the other dogs she could see in the distance of the field. She would focus on me and was amazing at her training but she would bark if she heard another dog bark and I felt my stomach sink. No, this couldn’t be happening. Not again. Not another reactive dog. And at such a young age? I was so upset and worried. I wondered what I had done wrong.

We continued with classes and she was amazing. She started coming out for walks, on lead and off with my other dogs and again I could see that she was not happy with other dogs, and worse than that, she was starting to bark and lunge and react to bikes, scooters, cars, joggers and children. Pretty much everything, to be honest! I tried not to panic. I told myself it was the puppy ‘fear stage’. She would get over it. I just had to keep taking her out, keep meeting other dogs, keep rewarding her when she didn’t bark and so on. But inside I felt sick with worry. She was only three/four months old. Where had these fears come from? Where would they lead?

For a while, it got worse. Ada off lead would run up to other dogs barking. She would never reach them – she would always turn back or circle around or go and hide. It was all fear, but it didn’t look good! On lead, she would lunge and bark and growl at cars, bikes, joggers, kids and dogs. It was so embarrassing because she still looked like a puppy. I almost died in the vets when she went in to get weighed. She was fine with a little dog sat next to us but when an excitable spaniel straining and panting on its lead came in, she lost her shit! After that, two big labs plodded in and she froze in terror and wouldn’t stop barking. I had to pick her up. I almost cried. It was awful. A trip to the pet shop was equally as embarrassing. I started wanting to hide away. I thought, I’ve made a big mistake here. What is going on?

Thankfully for me I know lots of lovely, well-informed and educated dog people, including my wonderful trainer Jodie. One Facebook friend pointed me in the direction of collie-based information and articles and everything began to click together. Off lead with my dogs, she acts like a border collie herding sheep. She runs to the left or right, she crouches, prowls, lies flat, stares, fixates, pounces, then runs ahead again. It was fascinating to watch but she seemed to have no bond with me when out. She was not paying attention to me at all – she was was all collie thinking independently and trying to herd the other dogs. Her reactivity to cars, bikes, joggers and dogs was movement based – it was the movement that was triggering her. Collies are notoriously sensitive dogs. Their senses quite literally go into overdrive – so a moving car, a flapping bird, a loud bang, a barking dog all at once or after the other, can be hugely hard for them to cope with. They tend to bark and lunge because they are on lead and cannot control the movement.

Once I read more and more about the collie brain and what it had been bred for, I began to understand this complex little girl all the more. She is insanely clever and extremely motivated to learn. Jesse will get bored of learning new things after a while and he will just wander off. She now attends trick training once a week and for that entire hour she focuses on me and learns at a fast pace I know my other lurchers would not cope with. I’m on the waiting list for Hoopers and I hope eventually to try agility and scentwork with her. We do little bits of these activities at home already and she loves them.

Her sensitivity at home was bewildering until I understood it too. If you get cross, raise your voice, say ‘no’ or just mutter a swear word to yourself about something that does not concern her, Ada will get very worried. She will run away and hide. If I tell off a child or another dog, if I say ‘no’, that’s it, she’s gone. So, I can’t use those words or that tone with her, not ever. If I do, if I lose my cool, or get frustrated or impatient with her, she shuts down, she won’t learn. It’s not worth it.

She responds to positivity. She absolutely loves being told she’s a good girl! We have been slowly working our way through fears and anxieties. I think I had to grieve a bit first, for the dog I thought I was getting and I had to accept the dog I have. Now that I understand her, life is getting easier for us both.

I take her out on her own as much as I can. I have to be very careful not to push her too fast though. But she does need to gain confidence on her own and I can work on her issues easier if it’s just her and me. This is time consuming, of course! We are slowly getting there. The other day I took her to a fairly busy area and she only barked at two dogs out of eight. I call that progress! She now has two local friends because some of my neighbours kindly agreed to help me with her reactivity by walking with us or down the lane in front of us until she learned to relax and disengage. She has friends at her trick training class and knows not to bark at them! Her confidence is slowly creeping up with all things. She still barks at dogs if they’re too close, too sudden, too scary and maybe she always will, but we will never stop working on it.

I don’t care what anyone else thinks of us. I’ve had to let the guilt and the embarrassment go because it was just getting in our way. We want to move forward. I want to get the best from this unique girl and I believe I already am. Most people don’t understand dog reactivity and a lot can be very judgemental. Some people get easy dogs and a lot of the time it is just luck. Try telling them that though! When you know you’ve put way more training, work, article reading and effort into your dog than they have with theirs, it can be hard to see the rolling eyes, and the judgement in people’s faces. But I don’t care because my dog is amazing.

Ada is the most affectionate dog I’ve ever owned. My other dogs have all been loving but she takes it to another level. The whole family adore her despite her quirky ways, because she is just so adorable. She will lounge over anyone’s laps, grunting softly like a sleep puppy, staring adoringly into your eyes. She follows me everywhere, has to be involved in everything. Her behaviour at home is exemplary!

Here is a list of positive things Ada does:

recalls, stays, gives paw, gives other paw, crosses her legs over when asked, retrieves and gives, middle, circle, orbit, backwards, around things, over things, standing tall, arch, beg, wave, pretending to cry, hugs on command, waits when told, doesn’t try to get our food, lies nicely and watches you eat, was easy to house train, never chewed anything she wasn’t allowed, doesn’t pull on lead (unless very nervous), behaves nicely in car, spins, doesn’t jump up.

Here is a list of negative things Ada does:

Sometimes barks at other dogs and things that scare her when on walks.

That’s it. Otherwise she is a perfect girl. She is an incredible girl. I have never experienced a dog like this before and I feel lucky and privileged to be on this journey with her. Yes, there will be hard times ahead. Yes, there will be days when all three of my dogs decide to react and bark when I really wish they wouldn’t. Yes, there will be days when other dog owners mutter at me or think the worst of me and my dogs. Yes, there will be days when I get tears in my eyes and want to hurry home to hide. Yes, there will be days when I get it wrong.

But I know we’re going to have good days too and I already know that Ada, this tricky, complex, difficult dog who was not at all what I was prepared for, is changing me and my life.

She is forcing me to learn new things, she is encouraging me to get over myself and my own selfish fears and doubts. She is making me go out there every day to help her, whether I want to or not. She is forcing me to be more patient, more calm, more positive and I feel like it’s spilling over into all areas of my life. This dog has changed me and my life and she is only seven months old.

I just hope I can do her justice. I hope I can be the owner she deserves. She tries so hard to get it right, she makes me want to be a better person, for her.

So, if you ever get a difficult dog, the kind of dog other people tend to judge, just hold your head up high and keep going. Keep doing what you need to do for that dog, the dog you have, the dog you ended up with. At the end of the day, all I care about is helping Ada feel more confident so that she can navigate the world with less stress. Other people won’t know that, they won’t know her, they won’t know what’s going on in her collie brain, but I can advocate for her and make sure I’m setting her up for success. She is so worth it!!

Goodbye Skipper…Thank you for changing my life

You came to us during a dark time. With three young children we had been asked to leave our rented home as the house was being sold. My husband had also just lost his job. We found another house nearby, one that would except me working from home as a childminder but after just a month of living there, we received a letter telling us the house was being demolished within six months to make way for flats. They had taken our deposit and let us move in knowing it was being destroyed. We were gutted.

I felt like everything was dark and hopeless. As a parent, I felt such guilt that my children had to suffer this uncertainty. And then in the middle of that I decided to get a puppy. It was a stupid time to get a puppy but it had been over five years since my last dog had died and the houses we had rented since then had all stipulated no pets. I didn’t want that again. I knew I needed something, you see. Something that was just for me. At that time, I had not written anything in years. I had given up long ago on my childhood dreams of being a writer and working with animals. I loved my children and loved being a childminder, but it was all about giving, it was about time management and organising activities, it was about paperwork and largely, exhaustion, with nothing left of myself at the end of the day.

So I found a litter of lurcher pups on the internet and we went to visit you and in February 2010 you came home with us. Life was instantly brighter. Now we had to find a home that would allow dogs and funnily enough, we did, right away. A lovely house on a country lane only ten minutes drive from the town and schools, but with a semi-rural setting. I couldn’t believe it would be our home but it soon was and has been for the last ten years.

Everything finally fell into place. I was so grateful, for you and for our new home. We could have chickens and ducks, grow vegetables, do whatever we wanted. A river runs past us and we only have to walk down the lane to play in it. My husband got a new job in walking distance to the house and not long after that I started to think about changing jobs, now that we were settled.

And that was because of you Skipper. I remembered what I wanted as a child. How I thought my life would be. I would be a writer, surrounded by animals. Maybe I would work in a rescue centre or as a dog-walker. I would be living my childhood dreams. I knew I had to do it, so I handed in my notice as a childminder and started work as a dog-walker. This meant I could concentrate on you far more. I also started fostering for a local dog rescue at this time. In between walking dogs, I sat at the laptop and wrote. All those years I had wasted not believing in myself, not believing I had the time to write…and now here I was. Doing it. Because of you, Skips.

You changed my life when I most needed to. You pushed me forward by forcing me to look back. I love my life now, having gone on to publish ten novels with many more on the way. I started my Community Interest Company Chasing Driftwood Writing Group in 2015 and it continues to go from strength to strength. And you were there the whole time…

You changed my life, Skipper. You helped me find myself again. You made me fall in love with sighthounds and lurchers and now I will always have them in my life.

Of course, you were not easy. You were a learning curve! When I look back now your naughtiness makes me laugh. I tried for weeks on end to get you to sleep on your own in the kitchen. Don’t give in, everyone said, just let him cry it out. I left you a lovely bed, plenty of toys and a jumper of mine so you would have my scent. I tried ignoring you but you screamed, literally screamed like a tortured child. After moving house, I didn’t bother shutting you in the kitchen anymore. I just couldn’t handle that level of anguish so I put your bed at the foot of ours on the floor and you went straight to sleep and didn’t even make a mess in the night. Problem solved.

But of course we had to go out and leave you alone sometimes. Never for long but oh my, how you hated it! You had a large kitchen with a lovely bed, toys, chews, treats, a kong full of treats, yet more treats hidden in cardboard boxes and tubes for you to find. And what did we come back to every time? A river of poo and wee which you had happily trod in and smeared all over the floor, walls, doors etc, not to mention you soon worked out how to climb onto the sideboard and knock the washing up all over the floor! Again, it just wasn’t worth it, so I stopped shutting you in and if I went out I left you the whole house. And funnily enough, you never did a thing…

That’s not to say you didn’t have a suitably destructuve phase. Of course you did. Chewed a big old hole in the arm of the sofa, chewed a few carpets and rugs and the wooden bannisters. You never touched the kids toys though and the chewing was something you grew out of before it ever became an issue.

Oh but you were naughty…couldn’t control your instincts one bit. When the kids ran about you hunted them down by grabbing their sleeves! If they got in the way whileyou were running, well, they soon learned not to. Once you found your feet and your speed, there was no stopping you. You started actively looking for things to chase. You slaughtered squirrels and rabbits, not to mention a few unlucky chickens and guinea pigs. You would be there one minute on a walk and gone the next, gone so fast I’d hardly even see you go. You’d always come back, usually with an injury or two!

I did my best, playing games with you, jogging with you, looking out for trouble and before long your recall was pretty perfect unless there was a deer to chase of course. In your later years, even that became too much trouble for you.

You were always in the way…Every time I turned around you were there trying to tell me something. You knew the time, your life ran on clockwork. It’s walk time. Dinner time. Walk time again. Time the kids got back from school so you could devour the leftovers in their lunchboxes. Oh what a greedy dog! Nothing was safe! You counter surfed and could reach the unreachable! A whole leg of lamb you ran up the garden with. An entire apple and blackberry crumble you wolfed down when I left it on the side to answer the door. The contents of the fridge on more than one occasion. A whole 1kg tub of Stork which you promptly threw up everywhere. Entire bins, ripped and shredded on the kitchen floor or sometimes for extra fun, carried upstairs and spread out all over my bed! A bag of sugar once, still not sure how you reached that, but I came home to a thick white path all through the house… The gerbils food and treats; you climbed on a chair to get their plastic tub down from a shelf and then broke the lid and ate the lot. Bird food! Grapes! Oh my god how many times did you climb like a monkey to eat the kids Xmas calenders! Even this last Xmas, our last with you, you managed to get into the lounge and eat some presents! And the reason we always shut you out of the lounge at Christmas? You seemed to think it was highly important to piss on the Christmas tree every time you saw it.

Every left over crumb in the bin was yours and you would hang around until we were out or in bed before you would start to root through for it. Clever boy, you never stole in front of us, always biding your time. I always knew if you were sat on the stairs watching the kitchen it was because someone had left a crumb of something somewhere you knew you could reach and you were just waiting.

Oh the times I came home to utter chaos…

But boy, I do miss your greetings. You’d spot us from the upstairs window and the howling/crying would start in earnest. You sounded like the happiest boy alive that your humans were home. Your feet up on the gate, your body wriggling while you howled a high pitch hello, you’re home! And you would turn in circles while I greeted you. Then you’d be in the way of course, no sense of space whatsoever, I was always tripping over you or telling you to get out of the way.

How many times did I call you a bloody dog or a bloody twat?

Every day.

Oh but I loved you, boy. If there is anything I wish it’s that you knew and understood how loved you were. I loved your howling when I came home, your circles and the way you leaned your whole body against my legs for fuss. You were a great leaner! Everyone always said how loving and gentle you were, everyone loved how you leaned on them. And how you’d demand fuss by poking your head into laps and nudging people, sending many a cup of tea flying! No one could resist your gentle charms.

It’s like a hole now, you are gone. I come home and you are not there howling for your mummy. I miss you being in the way. I feel sad when I don’t have to put the rubbish bin behind the kitchen sink taps because that was the only place you couldn’t get it. I feel sad when someone leaves leftovers on a plate on the side and it’s still there in the morning…

I miss you on walks, so slow and steady towards the end. Always looking at me. What was that about, old boy? What were you trying to tell me? Those eyes, melted chocolate and long lashes. You were so beautiful, so graceful and I’ve never seen a faster dog, when you were young, the ground would shake under your feet.

You taught me so much, gave me so much, You gave me back myself, made me realise who I was and what I wanted. You made me brave. You made me calm. Oh how I miss our long walks on the common, our place eh? Ours. I still think you will come back, you know. It’s like maybe you are on holiday. It feels so empty without you and the tears are permanently caught in my throat.

You were such a good boy Skips. You loved me so much You were so loyal to me. You didn’t want to go and I know that. You fought and fought, still wanting walks and food even when your body was totally giving up on you. It was like you were determined to ignore it. That haunts me now. That you didn’t want to go, didn’t want to leave us. Loyal until the end.

Skipper, I will always love you. I will always miss you. You were not an easy dog but you were one of us. We all miss you massively. Thank you for being the best dog in the world ever, for being my best friend. I felt like we just got each other. In many ways, we were very similar. You never really understood other dogs the way I’ve never really understood other people. We were both shy and introverted sometimes. We liked our space and our peace and quiet and our time together. I will never forget our time, Skips. I will never forget our journey. It was not long enough but it was significant and I was so lucky to have you. Darling boy, I love you and miss you. Don’t sleep tight or rest in peace boy…just keep running xxx

My Dog and I Are Far Too Alike…

They say that owners end up looking like their dogs. Or maybe it’s that people subconsciously choose dogs that look a bit like them. I can’t say I look like my dog Skipper, sadly. He is tall, slim and blonde. I’m…not. However, we are very alike in a lot of strange ways. Today’s blog is all about me and my dog, and why we are so totally and utterly suited to go through this life together…



We are both anti-social. Well, to be fair, we are probably better described as asocial, rather than anti. I’ve always been one of those people that get on just fine on my own. I don’t need other people and I’ve never felt lonely in my life. I often don’t really understand other people and sometimes feel life is simpler when I just avoid them. Skipper is like this with other dogs. Some bad experiences taught him that unknown dogs are best left alone. Therefore, he does not go out of his way to interact with strange dogs. He sticks by my side and gives me his wide-eyed anxious look. Don’t leave me, Mum. He literally doesn’t know what to do when he meets other dogs. Wagging his tail? Well, sometimes. Play? No, don’t be silly. He never stoops to that. He just wants to be left alone and well old boy, I can totally relate to that.

We both love to run. I started running when I was 17. I was fed up of being chubby and depressed and decided I was the only one who could do anything about it. I started running around the back fields of our estate. I’ve continued running whenever I can throughout my life. Granted, there have been long periods of time when I have just not been able to fit it in, but I do try to get back to it. With my youngest child now at part time at pre-school, I am currently getting back into it in a big way. Of course, Skipper is half Greyhound and half Saluki, so running is in his genes. He was born to run and in his younger days, he used to make the earth shake when he took off. Oh, what a sight. Absolutely beautiful. So much power and grace and passion. Sadly, he’s coming up to 8, and a quick, mad dash here and there is all he feels up to these days. When I run, he keeps up a pleasant trot as if to humour me. But every now and then, if his amazing eyesight catches sight of a squirrel on the ground, he still surprises me with how fast he can take off, like a bullet from a gun, tearing up the dust, thundering out of sight. Beautiful. Never fails to make me smile.



We know who we love. Skipper has always been a bit fussy about who he likes. He’s never been mean or aggressive, it’s just there are some people he’s not that fussed about, and there are some people he really, really, really likes. He likes them so much he announces their arrival with a high pitched, screaming whine. He greets them by turning in circles and knocking into them with his backside. He then makes sure they remember he is around by placing his head on their lap for fuss, and nudging their hand every time they dare to stop stroking. He can be very demanding, like that. I know who I like too. I have some very favourite people in my life. People I get very, genuinely and childishly excited about seeing. Funnily enough, I think they are the same ones Skipper loves…


We are very loyal. I like to think I am a loyal person. I don’t need a lot of people, and I’m kind of fussy about who I let in, but if I do make a friend, it tends to be a friend for life. I’m not too interested in superficial, small talk friends. I’d rather have a small handful of people I can truly rely on for deep and meaningfuls, and once I’ve found them, I’ll cling onto them, recognising how valuable and rare it is to find ‘your people’. There’s no doubt that Skipper is loyal. And most of that loyalty is given to me. If anyone else tries to walk him, he will pull them over to me. When he was a puppy, he once ran back home to me because my husband took him for a walk. Unless he’s having a mad dash, whenever I look down on our walks, there he is. His eyes are always on me. Like melted hazlenut chocolate. He has the gentlest eyes ever. We’re well and truly stuck with each other. There’s no one else would be able to understand him like I do, and vice versa.


We have a naughty side…Well, who doesn’t? No one’s perfect, right? Skipper can be very, very naughty. He is a terrible thief. (It’s a lurcher thing.) He has grabbed legs of lamb and run up the garden with them, eaten an entire 2kg tub of margarine, entire fruit crumbles, cakes, a batch of freshly baked scones, entire contents of my fridge once when it got somehow left open…the list goes on. There is nothing he won’t steal. Though we do joke, if there is something Skipper won’t steal, then it must be truly vile. He has a sensitive tummy though, so quite often the results of his thievery end up in steaming puddles all over the house, which is usually how we know he has stolen something. He will also raid the bin. We don’t have a bin anymore but do put rubbish in a plastic bag on the side. Never ever make the mistake of putting even a crust or a crumb into that bag! He will wait until you are not around (he never steals when we are watching!) and he will happily tear the whole bag to shreds and scatter the rubbish all over the floor. Skipper also cocks his legs on things from time to time. He is house trained. He can even open the front door by himself from both sides, so is able to let himself in and out for toilet time. It’s just that every now and then, for no explicable reason, he likes to piss over something in the house. He has over the years, been a truly naughty boy. But I’m no angel and sometimes I think we deserve each other. I’m one of those people who is slow to anger, but once I blow I really blow. Everything will come out all at once in a pretty childish temper tantrum. I always end up regretting it afterward, and it would be much better if I mentioned things as and when they annoyed me, but there you go, none of us are perfect, but sometimes I think we expect dogs to be.


We are creatures of habit…Skipper has the most amazing internal clock. My other lurcher Tink will come running if she hears the food bowls clattering, or her lead being grabbed. She might show up if someone is home from school or work. But Skipper knows exactly when things should be happening, and he never lets me forget. He has his cues. The front door opening in the morning means breakfast. Between 9am and 10am is first walk. Don’t even think of going past 10am. He will follow me around the house with big, sad eyes. He will sit down right in front of me if I have dared to put on the TV or pick up a book. Every time I turn around he will be there. Staring. The same thing happens around 12pm. Lunchtime, obviously. Then anytime between 2pm and 3pm, he is on high alert. Second walk. He won’t settle. Every time I say ‘right’ he thinks it’s the off. Runs like a lunatic into the front door. Again, he will follow me around, tripping me up. Once home, it’s window watching time. He sits on the bottom stairs and has a good view of the front gate. He’s waiting for the kids to come home one by one. Yes, he loves them and wants to greet them, but what he’s really after is the leftovers from their lunchboxes. He won’t go away now until after his dinner, followed by ours. He will be there like a massive lump, long, gangly legs in the way, hopeful eyes, getting trod on and bumped into because he just won’t go away until every little crumb is extinguished. Bless him. Then it’s back to bed. As for me, I have to admit I am not the most spontaneous of people. I like to have my week planned to a degree. I write to-do lists and can’t survive without them. My life is arranged by time slots and I really have no say in it. School run, school pick up, dog walks, dinner. You know how it is! There is a degree of comfort in the familiar. If someone was to turn up at my house unannounced, I honestly don’t know how I would cope!

So, there you have it. I might not exactly look like my dog (I look a lot more like the other one. The scruffy one!) but I do think we have become very, very similar. For this reason, I just get him, and he just gets me. That’s the beauty of owning a dog. Total acceptance.

What about you? Are you a dog person or a cat person, or are you owned by both? Do you think you and your pet are alike in personality? Or maybe looks? Please feel free to comment and share!



Lessons in Dog – A Response To Lessons In Kitten

Last week, the brilliant Lisa Sell posted Lessons in ‘Kitten’ on her blog. Like all Lisa’s posts, it was funny, honest and quite brilliant. It also made me think. I’m a dog person, myself. I like cats. But my dogs really, really don’t. I started to think about Lisa’s post regarding her new kitten Feegle and how he is helping her through her depression and inspiring her writing habits at the same time. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that my dogs have also had a massive impact on my writing life. So, I decided to write a post in response!



Dogs Can Change Your Direction

For me, they quite literally did. For five years I was a childminder by profession. For eight years I’d been a mother to three small children. There was simply no time in my life for writing, and very little time for reading. We went through a bad period. We lost two homes and my husband lost two jobs. We felt cursed and helpless and guilty. My reaction? I got a dog. I got a dog because I needed something that was just for me. I’d always been dog obsessed, in fact the first books and stories I ever wrote as a child were always about dogs. Funnily enough, although we brought this little chap Skipper home in the most uncertain period of our lives, everything changed for the better after that. We found a house to rent. Semi-rural, massive garden, a river running past it, fields behind, woods beyond. It was like a dream come true. And then one day while out walking my new baby I had a revelation. I would give up childminding and take up dog walking instead. And I would go back to my writing. And…I did! So it’s kind of thanks to Skipper that I can now call myself a proper writer.


One Is Never Enough…

Yep, you guessed it, one was not enough. Dogs are addictive. I might be biased but I happen to think lurchers in particular are incredibly addictive! After I fell in love with my big boy Skipper, I started fostering dogs for a local dog rescue, and not long after that this scruffy little wretch arrived on our doorstep. I totally did not mean to fall in love with Tinkerbelle but she was always going to steal our hearts. She fitted right in. At this point in my life I felt like I was living the dreams I had chosen in childhood. I was working with animals and writing. Perfect.


Dogs Force You Out Of Your Bubble

Like a lot of writes, I’m an introvert at heart. I love nothing more than snuggling up with a  good book, staying home and putting on music, writing for hours or losing myself in gardening. If it were not for my dogs who expect their walkies at the same time twice a day, I could quite easily shut the world out and ignore its existence. I could easily do the same with the human race. But dogs don’t let you do this. They force you outside, they force you to go to new places. They encourage interaction with other people and other dogs. For this reason, writers need dogs!


Dogs Are Therapeutic In So Many Ways…

No offence cat people (I have loved cats before!!) but there is nothing quite like the love of a dog. They don’t just love you, they adore you. You are their world! They throw themselves at you when you come home. Their little faces watch you out the window when you leave. They want to please you, they want you to be happy! Dogs are happiness! And they can teach us to be happy too. They yearn the simple things in life. A comfy bed (preferably yours, or the sofa will suffice) Good food, (again, yours is better, and with lurchers anything left in counter-surfing reach is fair game, including rubbish bags) Playtime and sleep time. Easy. Unlike children, dogs are grateful for everything! They also seem to know when you are feeling down. Just stroking a dog can bring your heart rate down and help you to feel less stressed. Not to mention how therapeutic walking is. (Bit less so when they disappear after deer on the horizon, but that’s besides the point) They make you exercise, they make you talk to people, they make you care.


Dogs Accept Us The Way We Are

One of the best things about dogs is that they like you just the way you are. They don’t care if you are fat, thin, attractive, ugly, able bodied or disabled, straight or gay, old or young, black or white. They couldn’t care less! They also don’t mind your character flaws. When I’ve had a bad day or felt misunderstood or judged, it’s my dogs I long to be with. Just one walk across the beautiful common with my hounds and I’m soon all right again. I often talk to them while I’m walking. Tinks will skip ahead, doing her own thing, acting crazy, but Skipper will walk right by me, as if he is listening to every word. I’ll talk about my day, what was good, what was bad, and I’ll talk about my writing.


Dogs Help Me Write!

Yes, they really do. For all the reasons listed above and because walking them, being out in the open with them, close to nature and away from people, is where all my inspiration hits. It always happens on dog walks. New ideas that spring out of nowhere, (including several of my novels and future novels!) Characters start chatting to me, giving me conversations to steer their story forward. Loose ends tie up. I get massive revelations when out with my dogs. Something I’ve been struggling with for weeks will suddenly come together and make sense. I’ll get story ideas from the landscape and from the dogs themselves. I don’t think I’d get so many ideas without them! I always come back with a massive smile on my face, desperate to find my notebook so I can scribble down my ideas before I forget them. Or I’ll tap them into my phone while walking. So many of my blog posts have been drafted in rough form on my phone while out walking the dogs!

This is Nowhere by Chantelle Atkins

They’re in all my books!

Not my dogs exactly, (although that is my gorgeous Tinks immortalised by the brilliant Justine Pateman, on the front cover of This Is Nowhere) but dogs in general. All of my books have dogs in them! The Mess Of Me has bat-eared cross-breed Gremlin, Lou’s ever faithful sidekick. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and This Is The Day have Danny’s adored Jack Russel, Kurt. This Is Nowhere has beautiful lurchers, Chase and Dash. And as for future books, The Tree of Rebels has a ball obsessed cross-breed called Charlie, and dear Elliot, from Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature has a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Tizer. I just can’t seem to write a book without making a dog a character in it.

Writers Need Dogs!

For all these reasons, I think dogs make the perfect companion, muse and inspiration for writers. They get you out of your introverted bubble, out into the world and interacting with other humans. Exercise and just simply stroking and being with them releases endorphins, making you feel better and less anxious. They keep your feet warm when you’re writing, and snuggle up with you on the sofa when you are reading. They also make fantastic characters in books!

I need to say another massive thank you to Lisa Sell for inspiring me to write this post and being cool about me responding to hers! 

So how about you? Are you a dog person or a cat person? How do they help you or inspire you? Please feel free to comment!