The Princess Tails

The Musings of Zena, a Tibetan Terrier sharing her life and wisdom with Raffles, a Standard Poodle


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The Princess Looks Back – Part 3

Me - looking back!

Me – looking back!

The next furpals to enter The Help’s lives were definitely not planned!

With number one son about 18 months old they left the grey Northern Hemisphere skies and travelled to New Zealand to live. It was supposed to be for three years. Fresh from the pain of leaving Pashtu behind The Help was not looking to get any pets even though that decision would leave a big whole in her life.

What’s that saying about best laid plans…….?

Within the first few months they found a house they liked and bought it. The family they bought the house from had two boys and a dog and a cat. They were leaving for Australia. In one of the last visits that The Help and The Boss made to the house they discovered that this couple were putting the cat and the dog down because they did not want to take them! They were horrified.

The dog was a young Sheltie called Mandy and the cat a grey tabbie called Charlie or ‘Garlie’ as he was always known due to the inability of a baby to pronounce his name properly.

You know what happened next don’t you?

Yes, you’re right.

They bought the house and took the dog and the cat along with it.

Mandy learning to trust us

Mandy learning to trust us

For some reason most of the photographs at that time seem to have been of number one son and then number two son who was born shortly after they moved to New Zealand. this means that we were not able to find any photographs of Charlie and only a few of Mandy. The Help tells me that they have many more in a different form, photographic slides, but I think she’s just telling me that so I won’t judge her!

I freely admit that Mandy was a handsome dog. She reminds me a little of Roxie, a Collie from our park. She was large for a Sheltie apparently but I’m afraid to say she had not been treated very well and was very timid.

So The Help and The Boss began to work with her and Charlie to try and tame them.

Their new house had a lot of chapel ceilings and beams. Charlie lived his life in the kitchen high up on the beams. This didn’t seem particularly hygienic or friendly so The Help gradually discouraged Charlie from jumping on the fridge and then onto the beams.

Actually she just piled some saucepans on there so that when he tried it they fell and made an awful noise. Not very subtle was it?

It did mean that eventually Charlie joined in with family life a little and in the winter months when it was cold he would sit on The Help’s lap. They never really felt that he loved them, but they did understand that they were tolerated as without them Charlie wouldn’t get regular meals and a warm house!

Mandy learning to overcome her fear

Mandy learning to overcome her fear

Mandy was a harder project. She was used to kicks and abuse and wouldn’t come near the house at first. With a lot of patience and well placed treats The Help finally got her to come inside and to learn that she was not going to be beaten.

She was a gentle dog and loved children although she did have an issue with the postman and would nip at his heels to ‘herd’ him away from her house. The Help had to apologise a few times and when she realised what was happening she kept Mandy in at the time the postman was due to call!

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They had had Mandy for a few years and she had just about left her fearful ways behind her when all of a sudden she disappeared. She had jumped the fence and escaped. The Help was shocked and couldn’t understand what had happened.

They contacted the local police, vets and lost dogs home. She had on an identity tab but they lived not too far from farmland and The Help was worried. She knew farmers would simply shoot a stray dog and not stop to check the tags.

A couple of days after Mandy’s disappearance she was told about rumours of a farmer having shot a dog in a nearby valley. She had a friend who had recently lost her son through a brain tumour and together they drove into the valley to see if by any chance this dog was Mandy and if they could find her.

They drove around for a while and were just returning home when the friend spotted Mandy in a nearby field.

The Help got out of the car and began calling. Mandy was running and didn’t seem to hear. She drove the car trying to keep the dog in sight and eventually Mandy got onto the road. Again she stopped and called but the dog just ran past her with a glazed look on her eyes.

The Help jumped into the car again and overtook the dog by about 200 metres. She parked the car and opened up the back of the hatch. She stood next to the car on the open road and began calling Mandy’s name and talking to her. Perceiving the road block ahead the dog slowed and then something got through to her. She began trotting towards the car and jumped in, wagging her tail and happy to be safe.

The Help and her friend were in tears.

They took her straight to the vet. She had been shot with buckshot and that was easy to fix.

Something however was not right. She began to revert to her nervous ways and The Help saw her walk into a wall on a few occasions. Sometimes she would seem to overbalance and they began to get a little concerned that she might snap at them when she was in a ‘glazed’ state. They were worried about her around two young children.

They went back to the vet. He thought perhaps it was hormonal and gave her an injection.

Her strange behaviour continued and The Help was concerned. Then one night she fitted. The Boss knew what was wrong. He believed she had a brain tumour. They had both watched their friend and neighbour’s son die recently and the symptoms were almost the same.

The next day she was back at the vet who was very unimpressed by The Boss’ diagnosis and their concern that the dog was sick. He thought they were simply trying to get rid of an unwelcome pet. He kept her overnight. That night she had a massive fit and The Help was woken by the vet calling to say she needed to be put down.

It was thought that the physical trauma and beatings of her past may have caused a bleed into the brain but we will never know for sure. She was a young dog, but I’m pleased to say that her last two years were spent in comfort, safety and a family’s laughter.

I promise you not all of The Help’s stories are sad ones, though I’m beginning to be amazed that she kept on including us in her family as I retrace some of her furkid history.

After Mandy they were not going to get another dog, but once again they got sucked in by a sob story! A work colleague was going overseas and needed to find someone to look after his dog whilst he was away. Of course they said they would and that is how they found themselves with a Cairn Terrier.

Angus was obsessed with balls and used to collect them from all around the neighbourhood. The Boss would line them up on the wall at the bottom of the garden for the kids to reclaim their balls!

Angus with number two son

Angus with number two son

After a couple of years Angus returned to his owners and shortly after that it was time for The Boss and The Help to be on the move again.

Love from Zena, the looking-back princess


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The Princess Looks Back

I thought I’d talk a little bit about history. The Help’s history. Ancient history in fact 🙂 BD (before digital) so all the photos are rather blurry.

I mentioned some time ago that it might be interesting to find out a little bit about the furkids that shaped her. She has told me that she always loved animals. Almost any kind of animal but particularly dogs, cats and horses.

Growing up her family seem to have had quite a few dogs. Kips, Patch, Cindy, Boozy, Heath & Wilson (bulldog brothers named after the politicians of the day!), so as soon as she left home and was by herself one of the first things she wanted was a dog. As a child she had lived with a German Shepherd, mixed breeds, spaniels, boxers, and bulldogs and she didn’t have a particular breed in mind. She just wanted a dog, a companion.

She was living in England in the middle of the countryside without neighbours and surrounded by fields. It would be good to have a dog for security as well as company.

The Internet was a mere twinkle in a Scientists eye so she had to rely on phoning the RSPCA and watching the advertisements in the paper until she found a dog she felt she could rescue and offer a good home to.

Looking back it was done so carelessly. She was young – very young – she tells me 🙂

She saw and ad in the local paper and phoned the then owner and made a time to go and see the dog on offer. A young de-sexed Irish Red Setter.

She was very excited driving to the house. She turned up in her little car and parked outside a large stone manor house. A middle-aged man came out of the house and whistled for the dog who ran willingly over from some far corner of a huge and manicured garden. Jason (the dog’s name) was definitely about to come down in the world!

The Help was immediately smitten. Jason seemed friendly and The Help is a pushover so she wasn’t going to drive away without him. She couldn’t get a good reason for the re-homing from the owners and she was too young to push. All she knew was that here was a dog who was unwanted. He had a lovely soft expression in his eyes and a desire to please. She might not be able to give him a manor house and rolling lawns, but she could give him a loving home where he belonged and so straight away she said she would have him. She sensed the relief of those around her.

No-one asked anything about her. They didn’t ask what sort of a home she was going to provide or if she was at home during the day. She just took him. No one ever followed up to find out how he was. They were rid of a burden and The Help found her companion.

Jason enjoying company and cuddles

Jason enjoying company and cuddles

Happily for Jason, he had a great home. He was an Irish Red Setter who had clearly never really been looked after. He had a dry and staring coat which no amount of oil and conditioners could improve but he was loving and good natured and The Help never did understand why he was being passed around.

He slept in her bedroom and for the first week he woke her every morning at 5.00am by pulling the duvet off her bed! Clever as that might have been, she trained him NOT to do that as soon as she could!

He loved roaming the fields which surrounded the house and they went on long walks. He wasn’t much of a guard dog but he was company. At that time The Help used to ride a lot and Jason loved running with her. Oddly enough she had a chestnut horse so they matched but she assures me that had nothing to do with her getting him. I wonder……

The roads she rode along were mainly quiet which was a good thing because occasionally Jason would suddenly decide to lie down in the middle of the road for a quick rest. When I think about how crazy she is about me and the roads I wonder that she took him out like that. She would never let me off leash near a road. Maybe I’m just special 🙂

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One thing which was a problem was the car. He used to behave as if he was being taken to the slaughterhouse every time he got into a vehicle and was only happy when he was sitting on the front seat passenger or the driver! As you can imagine this was a problem. At that time harnesses for dogs in cars were not as common as today and as The Help only had a small mini a partition wasn’t practical. However, they didn’t crash!

This did settle down a little as he got older and nothing awful happened to him. I don’t like the car either and having heard this story I am beginning to wonder if the problem doesn’t lie with The Help and not me after all. I’ll give more thought to that.

Shortly after Jason came to live with The Help she realised that she had other pets in the house who had not been invited. Mice.

Now The Help doesn’t mind mice. She thinks they’re cute, but she does prefer that they are not running over her food and living in the oven!

So she had the bright idea of getting a cat. A local farmer had some kittens and said she could have one so she got Dee. She asked the farmer when the kitten might catch chase mice and was told not for many months, but she hoped that the smell of a cat in the house would deter them.

At about this time she met The Boss who was quite amused by her menagerie and loved animals himself which was a good thing because otherwise the relationship wouldn’t have worked.

On the first night of having Dee, The Help was woken up by terrible screams. Thinking the kitten had been somehow injured she grabbed a torch and went running out into the dark. Being the country there were no street lights or other illumination. She could find nothing and the screams had stopped. Heart pounding she went back to bed planning on finding the kitten if she could in the morning. She didn’t sleep. She was sure the poor thing was hurt.

As she opened the front door that morning she tripped over the remains of a rabbit! That’s right, a rabbit. This small kitten who was not yet meant to chase mice had torn a rabbit to pieces. The Help was a little disconcerted and very upset about the rabbit but she couldn’t believe at first that the kitten had done this. Perhaps a weasel or stoat had killed the rabbit and the kitten had just brought home some of the spoils.

This answer satisfied her that day but the same thing happened the next night and from then on various pieces of torn up bunnies could be found dotted around the garden. Meanwhile Dee seemed to have made a deal with the mice that they could stay in the kitchen with her blessing!

Dee, Killer Cat

Dee, Killer Cat

The Help had bought a litter tray and all the usual things that one gets for a cat and was a little surprised when Dee refused to use the litter tray at all. Everything she had read about cats had described them as fastidious clean creatures who would not soil there own area. Dee seemed determined to break all stereotypes.

She preferred the carpet to any other means of toileting and no amount of scolding, treats or bribes could get her to go outside or use the tray. It was as if the outdoors was her place and the indoors just a giant bathroom to her!

A red flag was raised when Dee developed another ‘cute’ trait.

The lounge and kitchen were separated by a few steps with a guard rail. Dee quickly discovered that if she sat on the top rail by the top step anyone walking through from the lounge was a target. She would hurl herself at them and then claw all the way down their body. The Boss suffered badly from this game of Dee’s and it became a war of stealth for The Help and The Boss to make it into the kitchen without bleeding claw marks on their arms or legs.

Dee was not interested in cuddles and would fight if The Help picked her up. It began to dawn on The Help that something was wrong (doh!). Was the cat crazy? Could you have a feral kitten? She didn’t know, but as she patched up more wounds and swept the remains of another poor rabbit from the doorstep she began to feel that Dee was not really working out.

Not being equipped to deal with a problem kitten she was fortunate in living in the country. Farmers were always wanting or willing to have another cat to keep down the rats or vermin in their barns and the cats had a great time. It seemed that it would be an ideal life for Dee. The life she had been born into really. It was with relief that she took Dee around to a local farm and The Help could once more walk around her home unmolested!

The Boss & Jason

The Boss & Jason

This still left the problem of the mice in the house so once again The Help thought about getting a kitten but this time she wouldn’t go to the local farmers, she would go to the RSPCA. They always had kittens needing a home.

Taking a small box in the car she drove to the local shelter. She was taken into the cat house and told that there were dozens of kittens to choose from. Third cage in and a huge ginger cat threw himself at the bars miaowing and clutching onto her hands. She talked to him for a while wasting precious minutes. She knew there were boarders in there as well and this fellow was obviously there whilst his family was on holiday. He was sleek, beautiful and obviously loved. He was gorgeous.

Eventually she tore herself away and looked at some of the kittens, she could hear the cat shouting after her and went back several times to talk to him. No kitten particularly grabbed her fancy and she realised she was looking to see if there was a ginger one because of the boarder.

The lady came back in to see which she had chosen. The Help had to confess that she hadn’t managed to choose a kitten yet and had been distracted by the ginger tom.

‘Oh, he’s looking for a home too.’ she was told.

Apparently he was not as loved as she had thought. He was the product of a broken home, the husband had taken the dog, the wife the kids and no-one had room for the cat any more. They didn’t even know his name or age in the RSPCA. He had just been dropped in. I suppose it could have been worse. It was good for The Help.

Needless to say the little box The Help had taken with her wasn’t much use on the homeward journey. The big ginger tom ran around the car and then settled in the front seat purring. He had come home and he knew it!

Handsome and proud of it!

Handsome and proud of it!

The first thing The Help had to do was find a name for him. For some reason all the usual cat names of the time did not sound dignified enough for this proud guy. Eventually she chose Chaucer being a fellow red-head!

So Chaucer joined the happy home and he and Jason and the horse got on famously. Sometimes The Help would go out into the garden and see Chaucer swinging from the horse’s tail who didn’t seem to mind at all 🙂

Receiving due homage!

Receiving due homage!

Cat and Dog enjoying the garden and each other.

Cat and Dog enjoying the garden and each other.

Chaucer loved going for walks too and sometimes had to be shut in the house for his own safety!

In the evenings when The Help would return from work she would hear the vocal cat screaming as he came racing to greet her bounding through the long grass of the neighbouring fields. He would be visible on the up-jump and then disappear again. It is a memory she always carries with her.

The first time The Boss met Chaucer, the cat bounded onto his lap, put his paws on his shoulders, pressed his nose against The Boss’ nose and purred. For a moment The Boss was rigid waiting for the cat to turn on him (Dee’s influence lived on), but as the minutes passed and Chaucer’s purrs increased The Boss realised that he had been accepted. That was one of the cat’s favourite positions.

A couple of years after meeting The Boss and getting married a new chapter began. The Help and The Boss got a job overseas for a year. Chaucer was to stay with The Help’s parents and Jason with The Boss’ best friend who had always wanted a dog, loved Jason and loved hiking.

When the year was up and they returned Jason, who was getting older, was so happy and settled they didn’t have the heart to wrench him away again. He lived on for many years hiking the local hills with his new master, loved and happy and The Help never did understand why he had ended up in that newspaper ‘Free To A Good Home’ but she is pleased he did and that she was able to write a happy ending to what could have been a tragedy.

Chaucer came back to live with them after that year away. They picked him up from a local kennel after the twelve month separation. The Help was driving the car and he immediately sat on The Boss’s lap, pressed noses and purred so loudly the car felt like it was vibrating. He hadn’t forgotten them.

He stayed with them as their first son was born and until he grew old. Always a handsome and dignified cat who loved laps, cuddles and who had chosen The Help as his new home on that day in the RSPCA shelter.

Love from Zena, the Chronicler Princess