We got help from Paws on Board

Black labrador looking at the camera with border collie. text says "we got help from paws on board"

What is it about asking for help that is so damn hard?

I would be honoured to help, if anyone blessed me with a genuine request for help. But to ask for myself… I have to be at the very near to the end of my wits before I do, and I know it’s very foolish of me.

Black labrador and border collie stare at a camera. Text says: We got help from Paws on Board.

We have a lovely, energetic and bonkers 2 years old black Labrador called Freya. We got her as a puppy at a time when I had time to train her and take her for walks.

Introducing Freya the Labrador.

I needed help.

First of all, Elisa’s muscle tone was getting very varied, she would suffer from very painful muscle spasms and cramps that are what is diagnosed as “dystonia”. Often, she would only be comfortable enough to be sort of content was when cradled in with a firm cuddle.

Then Melody started having seizures, and after necessary checks she was diagnosed with epilepsy (I realised I haven’t blogged about this – I will).

This inevitably meant neither of us parents felt comfortable being left alone with both kids at the same time, as each of them required a minimum of one adult to keep them safe.

The worst-case scenarios haunted our minds – what would happen if Elisa suffered from dystonia and was cuddled by the lone parent, only to see that Melody dropped to the floor having a seizure?

That meant no more taking turns to have some alone time while the other parent minded the kids. No more long walks with the dog, unless we got a carer to look after Elisa.

Labrador cuddling a child

Looking for ways to help Freya

From very early on our newly founded restrictions on walking time with Freya, I stumbled upon Absolute Dogs. I was looking for different ways to engage with Freya, give her focus and burn some of that energy at home, without me leaving the premises or going too far in case Dan needed me with the children.

I signed up for the “Sexier than a Squirrel”-challenge as it seemed like fun, which it was. Me and Freya enjoyed the challenge games and the whole experience did wonders for both of our confidences and Freya’s recall.

Unfortunately, it didn’t change the fact that Freya was not having enough exercise. I could throw treats on the floor in the garden all I wanted so she could go out for a sniff… I could play the games, I could teach her tricks so she would use her brain… But still, she needed the exercise. I could see her physical form getting worse. She was loosing muscle. She was getting restless and frustrated. Pressure was building up within her.

Black labrador laying down on a picnic mat.

Even after we got Melody’s seizures under control with medication, the fear stayed. I only felt comfortable taking the dog out for a proper long walk, if I knew Dan wasn’t alone with the children.

The shielding didn’t make matters any easier – it meant every time I was out with (or without) the dog, I would pass the other pedestrians as far as possible, keeping my distance. Which meant zero socialisation prospects for the furry pet of mine. Brilliant for learning to pass other dogs, but very bad for Freya’s mental health and canine social skills.

What is best for our dog?

I started to wonder if it was best for Freya to be rehomed to another family, where she would have all the exercise she craved for and the attention she deserved. We had had her for two years, and she was part of our family. Still, we were not providing the life for her that we thought we would when we originally considered bringing her home to us. The pandemic, shielding, the children’s diagnoses, it all were on my way of being the dog owner I had thought of being.

Dog being cuddled by her emotional owner.
Freya giving me emotional support at the time when I was upset over Melody’s seizures.

Something had to change.

We had to take Elisa in to the hospital for third time this year (post about this here). I knew something had to change. Even when Melody went back to school, I didn’t have the time to take Freya to blow some steam as I was on the beg and run to go to the hospital during school hours.

I started to research local dog walkers.

I wanted someone experienced. I needed someone who would know how to handle an energetic Labrador, who hasn’t had a chance to really be a dog for a while. Who would make socialising with other dogs safe and fun for Freya, who had been lucky if allowed to sniff another dog in touching distance for such a long while. Even if Freya wouldn’t pull as such on a lead, I didn’t want to give her to someone who wouldn’t necessarily understand her.

Which was why I hadn’t just given her for a friend either to take for a walk – I didn’t know how Freya would react to someone else walking her. Would she behave?

Child watching videos on a tablet while cuddled by a black labrador
I’m not just a dog. I’m a cuddly dog.

I watched lovely videos that dog walking entrepreneurs had posted, where they had taken a punch of lively canines to a forest and they were having zoomies and crazy, fun times. I read reviews, checked websites, read posts on Dog Friendly Dorset’s Facebook group, trying to get the feel of the people behind the profiles.

I asked my friend, a fellow dog owner, for recommendation and she told me about Vicky.

I checked out her website. While reading about the training service she offers, I noted she has been trained by the same people behind Absolute Dogs. I felt a spark of excitement: she would have same ideas for dog ownership and training like I do. I smiled as I thought of her training Freya to surf, of all things. I looked at her Facebook Page, and got the feel of calm, controlled but fun.

I contacted her, and I watched her face on the video call when we talked. I felt reassured. I felt connection. This woman seemed to know what she was talking about. We arranged a trial walk, and she came to pick Freya up the very next day.

I was nervous.

For nothing, in the end. When Freya got back, Vicky reported same things I already knew about my dog – that she had lost muscle on her legs due lack of exercise which could potentially be a health risk in the future, and she played rough with the other dogs and didn’t really understand all the social cues the other dogs were giving her, which was due the lack of socialising. Freya was lacking in confidence, which manifested itself in many ways.

Vicky also noted how loving dog Freya is and how in tune the dog is with me. Freya reads my moods better than I do. She truly is our emotional support dog. For the whole family but especially for me.

Vicky gave me some exercise ideas to help Freya build up strength on her hind legs and back, and there we had it – a beautiful working relationship between a dog owner and a dog walker/trainer. She started to come and pick Freya up couple times a week, and after each session I would see Freya trusting Vicky more and more, and she would come back from her walks tired but happy.

labrador laying under the table, leaning on her owners foot
“Mum, you are not alone. I’m here, laying on top of your foot. Just so you won’t forget.”

I have already noticed she is calmer around the house, the ever present near to the boiling point pressure within her has just about vanished.

She is still very much in tune with my emotions.

On the day of Elisa’s surgery in Southampton hospital, I was very anxious and so was the dog. She was clingy. She followed me everywhere, touching me on my legs, her ears drooping, tail low. I walked around the house, cleaning and picking up stuff to only put it down again somewhere else, and all the while the dog followed.

The surgery was to be long one. So I called Vicky and she came to collect Freya.

Freya didn’t want to leave my side, but she got lured away with yummy sausages… And when she came back, she was like another dog. She was content. She still watched me like a hawk, never letting me out of her sight – but she did so from the armchair, where she got herself comfortable. She kept her tabs on me, but wasn’t clingy.

When I was near a peak of an anxiety attack, Freya trotted to me and placed her head on my lap. I gathered her in my arms and hugged her tight, and Freya was there, calm, collected, snuggling into me. She felt my worry, but it didn’t overflow her bucket. She had had her run and fun, her body was tended for, she wasn’t bursting with nervous energy – so she was there for me. Helping me to keep me together.

This blog post is not paid advertisement.

Is merely an acknowledgement for amazing person for the work she does and what a difference it can make. For £12 a walk, my dog is safe, but has an adventure. She is allowed to be a dog, she learns to socialise with others of her kind and she gets the exercise she needs. If anyone ever asked me for recommendation on dog walkers or dog trainers around BCP council area, I would full-heartedly recommend Vicky.

And so would Freya.

Check out Vicky’s website and Facebook for more details:

Thank you Vicky, for all you’ve already done for us. Thank you. My only regret is that I didn’t find and contact you sooner.

Random act of kindness: A New Laptop

I had bought my laptop through Amazon, it was “certified refurbished”: secondhand laptop that had been fixed by someone who held Amazons approval for refurbishing laptops. I bought it with confidence, hoping it would last me years and years as its only job would be to provide me a blogging pathway. It did, without any apparent hiccups for couple of years.

Read more about Amazons Renewed – products here.

One night as I was about to turn the beloved laptop off, it told me it needed to refresh itself with updates. That’s fine, I told it, just shut yourself down after you are done.

So it did.

It did it so well that it never woke up again. Next time I climbed up the stairs and got myself comfortable in my little hidey hole where I blogged, the laptop was off. I pushed the power button and nothing happened. Frowning, I checked the power lead, the plug and all the connections. Everything was attached to themselves as they should, but my black laptop still kept itself dark. I unattached the power cord and took off the laptops battery and clipped it back on again. I attached the cord and pressed the power button. Nothing.

I then contacted my in-house IT support – my partner Dan.

He did all that I had just done without getting a different result. That point I gave up on blogging for the night. The plan was to leave it charging overnight, just on the off chance that the laptop had just really drained all of its battery life out of itself.

In the morning, the little laptop was still lifeless. Dan took it downstairs to try whatever magical tricks he can do with all of his certified IT knowledge, and I trusted him to get it up and running in no time.

Even he could not get it to power up.

It wasn’t the battery, it wasn’t the leads – something had just happened to the internal organs of the device and it was undeniably dead.

It was a shock to me.

I stared at our bank account and wondered how on Earth would we be able to afford to buy another laptop, after all the money we’ve already used for moving house, furniture and even the bit that I have already done for Christmas. There was even more furniture that we are lacking and in definite need for, and it all would require some capital.

Could I go on without a computer?

Yes I could. I do have my smartphone and on that I could type out some blog posts if I needed to – it is not impossible, it is rather doable – but it is not as practical as doing it on a computer. Especially if you can touch type on the QWERTY keyboard like I do, with a speed of about 80 words a minute, typing with a smart phone is mind-numbingly slow.

I researched getting laptop through different financing options from several companies, comparing and making notes on what we could possibly afford with careful financial planning and what is definitely out of the question. In the midst of it we celebrated Halloween and as I posted photos of my beautiful kids in horrific costumes on social media I mentioned there about my dilemma, just on the off-chance someone had been waiting for a post update.

It didn’t even cross my mind…

Within minutes, I got a private message from my brother-in-laws girlfriend. She had a laptop that she no longer needed and she offered it to me. I was stunned. I sent many messages asking if she was really sure, if there was anyone else who she might want to keep the laptop for and I triple-checked if she really was certain about giving the laptop to me. She persisted.

On the same day, I was sitting with the brand new looking laptop in my possession and having coffee with my brother-in-law. The angel in disguise herself was at work.

Right now, I am already using that very same laptop to type out this blog post. I cannot express how lucky I feel, how grateful and … just speechless with gratitude.

I know there are nice people out there,

people willing to help out whenever they can. It just did not occur to me that someone might offer their laptop for me to use if I just mentioned I was in need of one.

Thinking about all this gives me a funny feeling in the bottom of my stomach, sort of warm, fuzzy tinkle. I feel… loved and supported. It makes me emotional and .. in a way embarrassed. That I was in a position that I needed help.

I know that if the roles were reversed, I would be there offering the help I was in place to give.

Have you noticed the same?

That you could offer to help someone without a second thought, full-heartedly and eagerly, but if you were the one receiving the help, you’d feel embarrassed, flustered?

Saying this, I am ever so grateful for my friend for doing this for me. It means a lot. With my whole heart,

thank you.

Thank you for helping me. Thank you.