Small Problem #2 My Dogs Have Separation Anxiety

My beautiful Puppers adore us so much they can’t bear to be separated from us.

We have two pups; one chocolate Labrador named Pudding who is now 2 years old, and a black Labrador named Treacle who is 1. Pudding is very tightly wound whereas Treacle goes with the flow but is a bit of a copycat.

Pudding was very poorly when she was young and after lots of testing we established that she was intolerant to almost all standard dog foods. During this time it was absolutely impossible to toilet train her as she had absolutely no control over when or where she went, and with all of the building work mentioned in my last post, by the time we got her on to a suitable allergy food and started making progress, we had to start putting her on a lead to let her out. We also had strange people coming to our house and into her territory throughout the day so she started to get very anxious about protecting the house and being left on her own. She’d also lost her companion shortly after we got her so she went from being a pack to being solo and she didn’t cope with this well so we got Treacle, a pup of her own that she could bond with in the hope that she would feel more at ease knowing the safety of the family was completely on her shoulders.

Over time, and particularly with the break in building work, the two of them have bonded really well – they adore each other – and Puddings toilet training issues (at least) are resolved. This was, however, a very stressful time for me. I come from a family that has always had dogs, of various breeds, and I went into this feeling like I knew exactly what needed to happen to get them trained and none of it went the way I planned. I completely exhausted my natural ability to problem solve and was left in this place where I could see no way of dealing with the problem.

I’m a very pragmatic person generally, but I’ve learned very recently that it’s my own unachievable expectations that I am constantly holding myself up to with no hope of meeting them. At the time this was all happening I was unaware of this and was feeling like an absolute failure. ‘You should be able to handle this…. This is what you do – you fix things, you make it work in the end…’ I just couldn’t see my next move and I felt like the worst person in the world, like I was letting my husband and my dogs down because I couldn’t help them.

We’re still having problems but I’ve stopped trying to fix everything overnight. Pudding is still very chewy when she gets anxious. The difficulty is that Treacle has grown up in an environment where we couldn’t tell Pudding off for her behaviour without making her condition worse so we just had to ignore it, clean it all up and reward her when she wasn’t doing anything bad. Treacle has learned its okay to do what Pudding is doing. So between the two of them, over the course of a few weeks, they completely destroyed a 3 piece leather sofa. I mean completely. We’ve since replaced the sofa but instead of trying to control the dogs when we go out by setting up a run, we now put the run around the stuff we don’t want them to eat. We have to dismantle it when we get home, and put it back up when we pop out but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make and they’re happier for it. They have however moved onto other things. Such as laundry, their own bed, cushions… oh and the bottom step of our staircase. That no longer has carpet. Or wood.

And on to small problem #3.






Small Problem #1: My House is a Building Site

So let’s start with our living situation.

My husband and I have lived in our current home for 5 years this month and we love it here. We love the neighbourhood, we love the neighbours and the house is just the right size for us. We moved here when our previous landlady decided she’d rather sell our 1 bedroom garden flat than pay to have our boiler repaired.

We were gutted. We loved that little flat. Even though we frequently woke up to slugs on the kitchen floor – a pleasure on the bare foot as you’d imagine. Even though the glass was cracked in the bay window and the dog once got so excited to see the postie she went clean through it. Even though the only window in the bedroom was an open hatch through to the kitchen so when either of us got up to sneak to the bathroom in the night the light would flood into the bedroom waking both of us up. Not to mention that if we had guests we had to get changed in the bathroom otherwise everyone could see.

She sold the place in less than a week but I’m not new to house hunting, not by a long shot, and we had a lovely 3 bedroom semi-detached house with front and back gardens (for a mere £100 more a month) lined up in a matter of days. We were living the dream!

5 years on, we still love this house, but the landlord is making it very difficult for us to stay here.

Last year he told us that he wanted to convert the old dilapidated garage at the bottom of our large back garden into a flat to rent to someone else. As you can imagine we were a bit unsure of this but he assured us that he’d put up a wall dividing the properties for privacy, we’d still have plenty of garden space, and he’d make sure we still had use of the driveway in the front once he’d made access down the side. He promised that we’d have a temporary fence put up to keep our dogs safe before any work started, and that he’d provide a shed for us to keep all of the stuff we’d been keeping in the garage. He also promised that he’d make any outstanding repairs to our house such as leaky showers, broken guttering, damp on the front exterior wall, and replace the rotten decking in the back garden as it was unsafe.

He also said that it would be a 13 week project. So far it’s been 47 weeks. And it’s been hell.

Work commenced before the fence went up – before the shed was even provided so my husband’s late grandparent’s belongings had been left out in the rain after the garage had been demolished around them. They are irreparably damaged. Trenches were dug to lay the foundations of the new property and then left wide open for weeks while we had no fences to protect our dogs. They were young puppies at the time so when they needed to go for a toilet break they REALLY needed to go so stopping to put their leads on before letting them out caused so many difficulties with their training, but that’s another small problem for another post. I cannot recall the number times the pups slipped their harnesses and I had to go out in the dark and retrieve them from a muddy 4ft trench in my pajamas. Not fun at 1am, in the rain by torchlight.

We then had issues with the contractors. When the fence finally went up, the contractors would open a space so they could access our outside tap and forget to close the fence. We quickly learned we’d have to get out and check the fence before we released the hounds, so to speak, otherwise they’d be up the side of the house and into the street in no time. The contractors would also help themselves to our tools and gardening equipment. They mixed cement in my wheelbarrow, with my shovel and let it set. They also filled my watering can with cement and let that harden too. We mentioned this to the landlord repeatedly and he kept promising to speak to them but it kept happening – we have it on camera. The wheelbarrow was replaced but that was all.

Eventually the work ceased, as they could not continue until the water and electricity boards had hooked the property up to the mains. No progress has been made 9 months. Now, I may seem to a few of you that actually, 9 months of peace from building work might be a bit of a relieve, but picture this. Outside the front of my house, where my lawn used to be, is a mound of soil higher than my kitchen window so we can’t actually see out. This mound of soil washes over the path and pavement every time it rains. We’re in the UK. It rains a lot. I cannot enter my house without treading mud in. On top of the mound is all the rubbish left over from the build – pipes, wiring, fluorescent light tubes, and pallets etc., all just balancing on top of the mound that is slowly eroding. Next to the mound, where my driveway was, is a trench at least 4ft deep, leading into the back garden. No fence or anything stopping local children falling in. Just open, for all kinds of accidents to happen. So far no children have fallen in, but it is slowly filling up with empty beer cans thanks to the local day drinkers.

The fence in back garden is being held up solely by a mound of soil at least 3ft high that, I’m guessing, used to be in the trench. Again, when it rains this washes into my garden and my dogs are constantly covered in it. You know how they like to dig. My decking, what’s left of it – I put my foot through a rotten patch just this weekend – is covered in concrete from the dodgy contractors. I suspect this may be the only thing holding it together at this point.

And finally, the cherry on the top.

We have two showers in our house, one over the bath in the bathroom and one walk in shower in an unfinished en suite which is actually just a laminated section of our bedroom. The bath is very wobbly as its not screwed to the wall properly and as such, the sealant doesn’t stay in place for very long. Water has now run down behind the taps so much over the years that it’s rotted the floor boards and water now pours through the ceiling into the lounge. And I mean POURS. A crack in the ceiling had been forming since we moved in and we’ve mentioned this to the landlord on numerous occasions. He visited us on New Year’s day to check that everything was okay with his new property (I know, the irony) and we showed him it was still pouring through even though we’d got straight back out as soon as it started. He said he’d have someone with us to look at it in the next week. You guessed it, we’re still waiting.

We’ve been using the walk in shower in the bedroom, we’re lucky to have a second shower, however since the beginning of February this one has been leaking through the spot lights in the kitchen ceiling. He’s aware of this also and yet keeps standing us up when he agrees times to come and take a look. It now doesn’t matter where we shower, we’re either at risk of falling through the ceiling or shorting the electrics.

So that’s Small Problem #1.





One Small Problem at a Time

So, it’s been a couple of weeks since I injured my back and I’ve been able to do some Yoga – in fact my physiotherapist has recommended continuing as long as I’m more careful – but actually, I haven’t been doing it anywhere near as regularly.

Usually I love my classes so much that I also do 15-30 minutes of yoga each morning before I get ready for work and this was really helping me to feel more positive and embracing of the day ahead. Unfortunately however, when I stop doing something regularly I find it really hard to get back into the rhythm and flow of it, particularly when I can justify why, on this particular morning, it might be okay not to do it.

My back is fine now; I’ve been to a couple of weekly yoga classes since and had no issues at all. My yoga instructor has a fresh awareness of my back troubles and so is very clear about what to avoid, or do differently, when he’s instructing us which is great.

So I really have no excuse not to do morning yoga. I’m being lazy and I’m slipping into my old depressive ways. I’ve made so much progress so I need to pull myself out of this spiral and get back to making positive changes.

I want to explain to everyone what got me where I am now and, hopefully, remind myself how I felt then, and how yoga makes me feel now so I can take a step back from the precipice and choose self-care again. When I talk to anyone – be it a counsellor, my college tutor, my manager – about the various things in my life contributing to this overwhelming feeling of failure and loss of control each person responds with ‘no one should be expected to cope perfectly with that many things going on at once’. They’re absolutely right, so, no one should be expected to read about all of it one blog post. Instead, I’m going to break this up into my current mantra.

One small problem at a time. One small problem at a time. One small problem at a time.