Why You Should Have Pet Insurance

Yes, I know it’s expensive especially if you live in or around London, but can you really afford not to have it?

I know, I know. Your pets are healthy and don’t get sick, and you are very careful that they don’t have accidents.

But sometimes accidents happen, even when no one is careless.

Willow at the vets

This is The Lurcher, in the doggy equivalent of intensive care. Yesterday she chased a fox  onto a road and got hit by a vehicle.  The red bandage on her front leg is keeping a catheter in place that allows her to be given fluids into a vein continuously. Under the blanket her side is shaved, as she’s had to have air drained out of her chest to help her breathe properly. And you can’t see in this photo, but one of her beautiful back legs is broken. She’s in shock and a lot of pain.

This photo was taken about 4 hours after the accident happened and she was stable, but out of her little mind on painkillers. She didn’t even look up when I said goodbye and left.

The accident was nobody’s fault.

I am supposed to be staying off my feet at the moment as a previously diagnosed ‘soft tissue injury’ of my left foot has turned out to be another stress fracture. I’ve already been limping around on it for 4 weeks, and it appears to be healing just fine, so the consultant felt another four weeks of semi-rest should do the trick.

So, I’ve had the dog walker in to walk our dogs three times a week instead of once. I’ve used our dog walker for ages and she’s absolutely trustworthy and sensible, so when she rang me 15 minutes after she’d picked our dogs up, my heart sunk.

She told me The Lurcher and another of her minded dogs had been running around in the local nature reserve, when they flushed out a fox. Lurchers are sight hounds, so their instinct is to chase anything that runs. The fox ran, and The Lurcher followed. Up the bank, out an exit and onto the road.

Unfortunately for The Lurcher there was a council truck coming over the crest of the hill at the time she ran out onto the road. The driver swerved to miss the fox but hit The Lurcher instead. It was a high vehicle, so the bumper was exactly the right height to hit The Lurcher’s chest and leg. A smaller dog might have gone under the truck completely and come out the other end unscathed.

The poor driver was shaken up but kindly carried The Lurcher back up the bank,  as she had run straight back down again after the impact, then stopped , obviously in pain. Our dog walker had other dogs to round up and get on leads, but as soon as she had them safe, she rang me.

When I turned up, about 10 minutes later, The Lurcher was looking pretty depressed. She didn’t want to move and was grunting while she was breathing, also she wouldn’t put weight on her left hind leg which had a wound over the knee.

We got her in my car and I drove her to our local vets. About halfway there I could hear her breathing get worse and she was getting very distressed. Part of me wanted  to stop and calm her down but I knew there was nothing I could really do, so kept driving.

Our local vets gave her some fluid , oxygen and pain relief, then told me to drive her 15 minutes away to their larger vet hospital, as she would get better care there. At this point I rang DH and explained what had happened. Thankfully he was able to get home to collect the kids from school, as I spent the next 3 hours sitting in the waiting room as the vets and nurses worked to stabilise The Lurcher.

Finally one of the vets came out and told me The Lurcher was breathing more easily after having a litre of air drained from her chest and was looking brighter having been given fluids. I was able to go and see her, but I don’t think she realised I was there. She’s not the brightest dog in the world and the drugs weren’t helping with her mental capacity.

Today, she is brighter and is able to get up on three legs. She hasn’t had any more air collect in her chest but it is still quite difficult and painful for her to breathe as her lungs are bruised from her accident. She has to be breathing more easily if she is going be able to have an anesthetic and surgery to fix her leg on Tuesday, when the orthopedic surgeon works from this hospital.

The Lurcher is going to be in hospital for 5-6 days at least, and she will need orthopedic surgery at the end of that stay. The cost of this treatment will be in the thousands so I’m very relieved that we have insurance!

Luckily the vehicle that hit our dog wasn’t damaged, as we’d have been financially responsible for that too.

In short, accidents happen even when everyone is taking all due care. And when pets are involved, they can cost a lot of money.

Don’t be worrying about the cost of your pet’s health when things go wrong.

If you have a pet, make sure they are insured. You never know when you might need it.



The Gallery: Trees

Namibean desert treesThis is DS, aged 4, at Dead Vlei on the edge of the Namibean Desert in 2012.

Dead Vlei means ‘Dead Marsh’; hundreds of years ago this salt pan was flooded by water from the Tsauchab, which is an stream that only flows during and after rain in the nearby mountains. These days it exists mainly as an empty river bed, but rain in this area was more common back then.

The dead Camel Thorn tree that DS  is leaning on died over 900 years ago, from lack of water once the climate changed. When drought hit the area, huge sand dunes surrounded the pan, cutting it off from the river and the possibility of ever being flooded again.

There is a nearby pan called Sossuslvlei that is not surrounded by sand, and had been flooded when we visited. There were birds all around the vlei and green plants were growing beside it.

But Deadvlei appeared completely devoid of life, apart from the few dozen tourists who had trekked across the desert with us to visit this strange place. At one point the kids found a lizard to chase; later on we learnt that it probably survives by burying itself in the sand during the hottest part of the day and takes water from the morning mist that rolls in from the nearby sea.

The skeletons of these long dead trees are not petrified, they are still wooden, but they do not decompose because there is not enough water for them to do so. They are black from being burnt  from the fierce desert sun.

Despite their stark appearance, and lack of leaves, they are still majestic and make Deadvlei a truly beautiful place to visit.

The Gallery theme this week is trees. If you’d like to see what trees other bloggers have been taking pictures of, then please check out this week’s post at Sticky Fingers.


Where Is The Snow?

This is a photo from two years ago.


See that white stuff? That’s snow and we had loads of it. In London! Enough to build a snowman anyhow.

The year before, we had to wait until February for snow, but when it arrived it was worth the wait.


Again, we had more than enough snow to build a snowman. Even if he was a little unconventional.


So last year, when winter came, we were ready for snow. Santa even bought the kids snow scooters in anticipation.

But what happened to the snow last year? All it did was rain instead!

Unlike a lot of the UK, we aren’t too close to any streams or rivers, so we didn’t have to worry about flooding.  But with two dogs that need walking every single day, and 700 acres of woods nearby, last winter’s rain meant mud. And it was anything but glorious.

We did manage to make the most of some truly magnificent puddles though.

Puddle jumping

So what’s going to happen this year with regards to snow?

In NW Greater London we’ve already had a bit. On Saturday morning we had a couple of hours of half-hearted snow; some flakes were quite big and it even settled for a time.

And going by the forecast on Netweather, there is the chance of some more . Tomorrow perhaps?

It’s impossible to be more specific about the possibility, as the mention of  forecast snow in London keeps appearing and disappearing, much like the white stuff itself. We are just going to have to wait and see.

But I wouldn’t write off the possibility of snowmen in 2015 just yet.

The Gallery: Me

Jacq 44andahalf
The latest craze on Facebook  at the moment seems to be re-posting your first ever profile picture. It’s a nice trend really but a little disconcerting.

Time appears to have run backwards for my FB friends over the last couple of days; Teenagers have become toddlers and  sometimes babies, School age children have become bumps and my friends are all at least 7 years younger. Seven years makes such a difference, doesn’t it?

I’ve never been one for photos of myself so my first Facebook profile is not of me. Instead it’s one of the three girls at Disneyland in 2007. DD3 was just about walking, so maybe 14 months old? DD’s1 and 2 were 5 and almost 4. DS was just beginning as a spark of life about the time the photo was taken, but I didn’t know that then.

The first time I appear in a profile picture is in 2009. It’s a selfie with DD1; I was ‘only’ 39 and I look so young.

I know there are those of you reading this who will think ‘What? 39 is Not Young!’ Sorry guys, but there will become a time when you too look back and think it is/was! 40 seems a milestone when you have not yet reached it, but life doesn’t stop there. It just keeps on ticking…

Things have changed a lot for us in the last 5-6 years. The kids are older and more independent now. They require less physical effort but the emotional investment required can be exhausting. I have spare time when they are at school but when they get home, the four of them are still a full time job. They have better social lives than DH and I do.

But recently I have felt myself emerging again, after years staring down the barrel of Motherhood. I am beginning to feel a bit like ME again, despite the fact that I often don’t recognise myself in the mirror.

I find myself thinking of new things I’d like to try, new places I want to go but of course I now have limits to what I can do. I am limited by my finances, my family and my body, but my challenge is to make the most of my life anyhow.

At 44 and 1/2 I’m a very different person to the girl I was, when I jumped on a plane to fly halfway around the world. At 28 I  felt like I was escaping without a care in the world. And now my world is here, in suburban Greater London with my very own family.

Now I’m older, fatter but I have no regrets. I decided years ago that I will not waste my time or effort trying to looking younger, getting slimmer. Who knows what the future holds?

For now, all I have is me, and I’m going to do the stuff I want to do just as I am.

Grey hairs, fat and wrinkles maybe unwelcome reminders of time ticking past, but they are better than the alternative, aren’t they?

‘ME’, is the first theme for The Gallery in 2015. To see what other bloggers have to say about themselves, check out this week’s Sticky Fingers.


A Girl With Autism

In the same way that suddenly the make of car you have just bought shows up everywhere you look, I seem to be reading a lot about autism in girls these days.

Apparently autism, once thought to be 4 x more common in boys than girls, is probably simply less diagnosed in girls. It seems that girls with autism don’t always fit the same criteria that is so successfully used to diagnose boys. Girls often slip through the net and many remain undiagnosed as adults. Without the appropriate support and understanding, many of these women are diagnosed as suffering from poor mental health instead.

Last year, our 11 year old daughter was finally diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

We had suspected that she was not neurotypical for some years. She craves routine and does not like surprises or changes of plan. She has problems concentrating and is adversely affected by certain noises and lights. She has no learning difficulties and does well at school, but after school she needs peace and quiet to be able to recharge her batteries. Back to back activities do not work well for her at all.

Most people who meet DD, have no idea that she has any issues. She is naturally funny, chatty and kind and likes to be helpful. She loves reading, singing, music and drawing. Her other interests include Harry Potter, manga and anime; she loves Sonic the Hedgehog and My Little Pony but unlike a lot of girls her age, she has no interest in make up, shopping or clothing.

A lot of her ‘problems’ are social; like most girls with autism, DD struggles with the unwritten rules of society. When to lower her voice, how to stay out of people’s personal space, what is and what isn’t inappropriate, and when to back off and leave someone alone.DD is very emotional when people are unkind, and takes offence easily. And once she starts spiraling downwards, it can be very hard to avoid a meltdown.

At primary school, she coped well, as her school was very accommodating with regards to her ‘quirks’. She was in the top groups academically, although hopeless at PE, and mostly stayed out of trouble, so was low priority for assessment/ diagnosis. But as her time at primary school drew to a close, DD became increasingly anxious about the prospect of secondary school. Some of her thoughts and actions when upset were a real cause for concern.

We were to learn that this worsening of symptoms around the age of puberty is very common in girls with autism.

We had already been to the GP with her previously and asked for a referral to be assessed; we got the referral by the GP but the assessment was refused as DD didn’t have severe problems at school. Because the behaviours that concerned us mainly occurred at home and while in public with us, we were directed to parenting classes. Once her anxiety started to increase, we saw many more meltdowns a day and it was suggested that we ask for a referral to CAMHS. This appointment came through quite quickly and the psychiatrist we saw said she had no mental health issues, but recommended assessment for ASD. As you can imagine, we grasped this opportunity for assessment with both hands.

DD2 finished primary school, we had a slightly fraught summer and then she started secondary school. At first things seemed okay, but then her poor concentration and organisational skills started to play havoc with her ability to get to each lesson on time with the correct equipment and books. Luckily the school was extremely understanding, plans to help DD were put in place and at the same time we got the forms to fill out for DD’s upcoming appointment. There were a lot of them, but I was lucky to have an friend who is had plenty of experience with these things to help me. We duly filled them out and sent them away and were told that the waiting time could be ‘around 18 weeks’.

This time scale took us into February/ March of 2015 so when the phone rang one day last December, telling me that we could have a last minute appointment in a couple of day’s time I said Yes, Please!

DD got very worked up about the appointment before it and during it, had to leave the room several times. I was asked a lot of questions about her development and behaviour as a baby and young child which she didn’t like that at all. Finally the paediatrician had seen and heard what she needed to.

We came away with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, along with probable Developmental Co-ordination Disorder and Sensory Processing Difficulty. We have an appointment later this year with the OT to confirm diagnosis of the last two conditions, but they fit well with DD’s lack of co-ordination, proprioception and muscle tone, and sensitivities to noise, light and touch.

So, here we are with the long awaited diagnosis. Where do we go from here?

This is a good question and one I now find myself mulling over often. On one hand, a diagnosis won’t change some things at all. DD’s school continues to support her much the same as before. DH and I try our hardest to be understanding and I’m going to do a ‘Living With Autism’ course with a local ASD/ ADHD Support Service. I’d love to make contact with other parents of tween girls with autism.

But DD has struggled a bit with what it all means and her older sister seems to have concerns with the diagnosis as well, as she thinks it will be ‘an excuse’ for what she sees as her younger sibling being annoying.

I hope that a diagnosis will change some things. I hope it will bring understanding.
I hope it will help DD understand herself; it’s hard enough to be a teenage girl without knowing that you are different to your peers. I hope this diagnosis will help family members, including me, be more patient with DD2 and I hope it will help her classmates and friends look past her differences, and accept DD for the lovely person she is. DD is super reactive to unkind words and teasing, so she can be a tempting target for kids who want to see her cry or lose her temper.

Most importantly I want DD to know she is loved, and accept herself, autism and all. I want her to know that different is not wrong. It’s just different.

My daughter has autism and she makes me proud. Not every day, because sometimes it all goes pear shaped, but life is extra hard for DD and most of the time she just gets on with it.


The Baby Turns Seven

It’s the first day back at school  after the Christmas break for our eldest two today, but the youngest two have an ‘Insect’ day.

Insect days are a throw back to when DD1 started school, misheard the term ‘Inset’ days and imagined that all the teachers turned into minibeasts for the day. We soon explained the real purpose of the day, but her idea was much more exciting and the term has stuck.

This is fortuitous as today is also DS’s birthday. He’s the baby of the family and he’s seven today.

newborn baby boy

Here he is, all newborn and goopy. He was a big boy, weighing in at 10lb 13 and like all our kids he had really obvious stork marks on his forehead. These did fade with time, but you can still see DS’s if he gets upset or runs around a lot.

His EDD was New Year’s Day, so he did keep us waiting for a few days. In fact I was in hospital, waiting to be induced, when my waters broke and he was born at 6:15 am, unlike the girls who were all born in the evening.

Here he is this morning, pulling his special ‘photo face’, waiting to open some of his presents.

new seven year old

He’s just a normal sized boy now;  his high birth weight didn’t result in a XXL child. But I think you will agree that being seven means that he isn’t a baby anymore.

Seven is definite Big Boy territory.