I had lots of questions about my last Sunday Photo post, asking why I was holding a very cute baby hedgehog.
That little urchin ( Did you know that baby hedgehogs are called urchins? I didn’t!) was one of three we found in our garden last week. The dogs were going crazy at something at the back of the garden and when DH went down to have a look, he came back to say there was a baby hedgehog down there. I took garden gloves and the cat carrier down, ready to rescue and found not one but THREE babies, all curled up and very spiky.
Once they were safely in the cat cage, the dogs were still going nuts and we realised there was another, much larger, hedgehog behind a creeper on our boundary fence. This was most likely the mum. Apparently hedgehogs are terrible mothers and eat or abandon their young if disturbed. This one was too far away from her babies to be undisturbed so we made the decision to take her babies up to St Tiggywinkles Animal Hospital in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire. It’s easily a 2 hour round trip for us, but we’ve taken wildlife there before and I trust their ethos and set up.
Here are the three babies waiting to be transported to the Animal Hospital. You can see one of them has a large wound; this was not a typical dog bite wound, but maybe from a strimmer ? This baby died before I could get them to the hospital, another had less severe injuries and the third was snuffling around the cat cage so I had high hopes of at least one urchin surviving.
Unfortunately it was not good news when I rang to check up on their progress. Both the remaining babies had died along with their injured sibling
We’ve not had hedgehogs in our garden since moving here, and I’m not sure why we were graced with their presence this year. It is a bit untidy, with lots of hedgehog friendly places but surely the dogs are a deterrent? Mum is still out there somewhere, and if she stays we’ll feed her and set up somewhere for her to hibernate over winter.
But I can’t help feel that we’ve had our shot at being a hedgehog nursery and if OFSTED had graded us we would have been ‘Inadequate’. Hedgehogs should probably look elsewhere for lodgings if the species is to survive.
We have two mixed breed dogs, both of them from a rescue that plucks dogs out of dog pounds in Ireland and transports them to the UK for a second, or sometimes third or fourth, chance.
I like Heathlands because they don’t have a blanket policy about children’s ages, their dogs go into foster homes, not kennels and they seem to be very good at matching dogs with owners. Neither of the dogs we have at the moment were dogs that I rang Heathlands about; they were both suggested as possibilities once I spoke to the rehomers about our family situation.
I like that we have rescue dogs. It makes me feel good that we are willing to take a dog that no one else wants and give it a home. I have paid for privately breed pups in the past and I have owned purebreds, but I don’t think I will ever own another pedigree or non-rescue dog again. Never say never, of course but I feel like I was given a second chance at a particular point in my life and owning rescue dogs is my way of passing it on. I like the fact that I can save a life or two in this way and it’s great to have a story to share with people so they can see that not all rescue dogs have problems.
I also like having mixed breed , or mongrel, dogs. It’s like a canine lucky dip as you never quite know what you are getting. Your dog is unique.
It’s a great talking point when you are out walking and it seems everyone wants to know what kind of dog you have. Even if you’ve never wondered about the parentage of your mixed-breed dog, after a few months of every Tom, Dick and Sally playing ‘Spot the Breed’ with your beloved pooch, you’ll find yourself curious too. That’s when a DNA test can come in useful.
We used Wisdom Panel DNA test because their data base includes information on over 180 different breeds from America and the UK. If your dog comes from Europe or a country with non KC registered breeds, then your dog’s ancestry is less likely to be accurate. The test costs between £50-60 and you get sent a form to fill out that asks for your dog’s name, sex and weight. Along with the form are two swabs, and you try to rub these along the inside of your dog’s cheeks in order to collect some cheek cells (DNA). I found this was easier for our older dog, he was pretty calm about it but our younger dog tried to chew on the swab so we had a bit of a tussle. Still, I did manage to get usable samples.
Once I’d posted the swabs, I activated the test online and waited for a couple of weeks until I got an email saying that our dogs’ results were in.
This is our eldest dog. He’ll be 3 next month. He came to us from Heathlands as a puppy, as his German Shepherd mum came out of an Irish pound with two older puppies at foot. She had been handed into the pound by her owner ‘because she keeps having puppies’ and when the vet went to spay her, he discovered she was heavily pregnant again.
B and his 4 brothers and sisters were born in a foster home, so he came to us after having a great start in life. Even without knowing his mum was a German Shepherd, you would probably be able to make a good guess at that part of his ancestry but what else can you see in him?
According to Wisdom Panel B has a German Shepherd parent and a parent that is 1/2 rough Collie and a little less than 1/2 St Bernard. You can see the Collie in his face, but while he’s tall he’s nowhere as big as a St Bernard. He does have strangely waterproof coat though, mud and water just wipe off him and we call him our Teflon dog.
This is our younger dog.
He was picked up on the Irish streets as a stray, brought to England and lived in a foster home for 3 months before he came to us in March. He acts like a teenage dog but has not grown at all since coming to England so he’s probably about 18 months old.
He’s not an obvious combination but most of the guesses made involved Collies, Huskies and Beagles. His DNA test proved he is a real mix of breeds. Neither of his parents were purebred. One was a Labrador/ something cross and the other was a Siberian Husky/ something cross. The ‘somethings’ seem to be mostly Collie and Kerry Blue, but there are a number of other breeds mentioned in smaller proportions.
F is energetic, but bright and very trainable. He also has a annoyingly piercing loud bark.
For us DNA tests have satisfied our curiosity about what breeds make up the canine members of our family. Knowing what we are dealing with has helped us think about the training, handling and health issues of our boys, and as a bonus we can finally answer correctly when people ask us ‘What kind of dog is that?’
DD2 is almost 12 and has just about finished her first year of secondary school.
It’s been a bit of a rough year for her. DD was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder at the beginning of the academic year, when we were told she ‘probably’ had dyspraxia, hypermobility, hypotonia and some sensory processing difficulties as well. We are still waiting on a report from the Occupational Therapist regarding her physical profile, but we have no reason to believe that these suspicions won’t be confirmed.
None of these diagnoses have come as a surprise to DH or I, although DD hasn’t enjoyed being labelled as ‘different’. When you are approaching your teenage years, you basically just want to be the same as everyone else.
And now, she needs glasses too.
For the last couple of months DD has occasionally mentioned that she hasn’t been able to see things properly. When I have gone to question her more closely, she has been characteristically vague. I always get the kids’ sight checked every year, so I wasn’t too worried as she’d had 20:20 vision last August. Then in the week before half term she mentioned she had a headache from squinting at the board at school, and muttered something about double vision.
I know you don’t muck around with eyes, so rang the optician and made an appointment for half term. I watched DD very closely for the next few days, but didn’t see anything that made me think that she was having trouble with her sight.
However, DD has form for not sending out clear signs that something is wrong with her senses. When she was in year 1 we discovered she had significant hearing loss in both ears as a result of severe glue ear. She’d never had an ear infection in her life , as far as we knew, and I do have some medical knowledge. Although I can remember being convinced she was deaf at about 9 months of age as loud noises just didn’t bother her. But she started to talk at the usual sort of age, and grommets and an adenoidectomy sorted out her later problems. The only thing that made me take her to get her hearing checked was her insistence on turning the TV volume up all the time.
By the time we got to the optician’s last week, I had convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with DD’s sight. So I was horrified when she couldn’t read any of the the lines in the first chart the optician put up, and got most of the bigger letters on the second chart wrong too. It was only when he put up a third, even larger-lettered chart that she could read the letters accurately.
It turns out DD is moderately short-sighted and even though she sits at the front of the class, she’s probably been having to work really hard to read what’s on the board. That won’t be helping her already limited powers of concentration and organisation.
She is so happy to be able to see again that she doesn’t mind wearing her glasses at all. She’s constantly amazed at the difference they have made and went into school happily today, wanting to show them off. DD is a Dr Who fan and she thinks her glasses make her look like a proper Whovian.
I hope she continues to be enthusiastic about wearing them and I do think they really suit her. But I know that at some point she will probably want to try contacts, so we are looking at night time lenses. This means she could take them out in the morning and would not need to wear anything during the day. Or she could opt for normal day time lenses. There are lots of options for the short-sighted these days!
So if you have a child that is doing or saying anything that makes you wonder if their sight is okay, even if it was checked quite recently, then please take them to get their vision tested sooner rather than later.
Part of me was very tempted to leave her until her annual eye test, as what she was describing was so vague, but now she has her glasses she talks about the difference in her sight all the time. She tells me she thought the blurriness was normal and was just part of growing up.
It’s half term and the kids get a week off for good behaviour, while I get a week’s hard labour for my sins.
Because keeping four children, aged 7-13, fed, watered and alive for a week can be challenging. I’m not the sort of mum who lays on entertainment 24/7 ; I get them out of the house to walk the dogs for at least an hour a day, we have screen breaks and take time to do music practice and homework. We do some reading and the pool’s now working, so they will spend time in that. But basically I leave them to do what they want, as long as no one is bleeding or crying too loudly.
With four children, someone always want feeding and our food bill increases when they aren’t at school. I will be doing a lot of refereeing. By the end of next week I will be gasping for some ‘me’ time.
I know these things from experience, but this half term will be different. This coming week I will only have three children to wrangle. Sometimes three is easier than four, sometimes it’s harder.
DD1 is off to France to go sailing for a week. My baby is going overseas without me. Of course, she’s 13 now, so not technically a baby. But if you are a mum reading this you’ll know what I mean; they will be always our babies, won’t they?
This activity week has been looming on the horizon for months, then weeks , then days and suddenly it’s tomorrow! Tomorrow she’s going to be getting on a coach with about 60 other boys and girls and heading across the channel for a week on the water and sleeping in tents.
She’s off for 8 days- Saturday to Saturday. 7 nights! She’ll ‘sleep’ two of those nights on the coach. I guess it’s good practice for those inevitable 18-30 coach tours to Europe but they are expected to be up for a full days sailing when they arrive at the campsite 18 hours after they leave. I guess the teachers want them to sleep well the next night.
DD is a bit nervous, but she has a friend with her for company. I know she’ll have a fabulous time and will come home just that little bit more independent.
And I am pleased she has the gumption to learn a new skill and do something like this, but I’m going to miss her. When I get a moment to remember I’m missing one, I’ll be thinking of her a lot.
I also know from experience that when DD gets back home, she’ll be so tired that we’ll be lucky to see her for the next day or two. If we are unlucky, she will make her presence felt by squeezing a week’s worth of arguments into 36 hours.
But before we know it, she’ll be back at school and half term will be over.
I’ll have the house to myself again, along with an empty fridge and a lot of washing. And there will be only 7 weeks to go until Summer.
When I say our house is a bit of a zoo, people immediately assume I’m referring to our children’s behaviour.
They may have a point, but usually I’m talking about the number of pets we have. At the moment the number stands at 8; 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 rats, a hamster and a snake. Yes, they do require a fair bit of feeding, exercise, cleaning out and playing with but as a rule the animals are much less trouble than the kids.
On Tuesday, we almost added another to that number. I was out walking the dogs in the local woods, when the New Dog put his head into the grass at the side of the path and pulled out this little fellow.
I managed to grab the poor baby before either of the now excited dogs went in for a second attempt. The duckling didn’t seem to be broken at all, but it was shivering and calling for its mum, so I put the dogs on leads and we waited to see if Mother duck would show up.
As a rule Mother Ducks do tend to come running if they are in earshot of one of their babies calling for them, but they are not the best mothers and it’s not unusual for them to leave a duckling or two behind as they take their family cross country between bodies of water. After about 10 minutes of frantic peeping from the duckling, it was obvious he had been left behind and was now my problem.
If you find a duckling out and about without its mother and just leave it, it is unlikely to survive. If you leave it where it is, it will probably get eaten by something, attacked by another mother duck or even drown if left in water. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon this one, so I did the only thing I could think of and popped it in my jacket pocket while I headed home. It immediately went quiet and I was able to get it home safely, where I popped it in a cat carrier and decided what to do with it.
I did think briefly about keeping it as I have some experience with domestic ducks, but we live in a London suburb, not a farm and the dogs and cats were far too interested. Plus it was a wild animal and needed to be with other ducklings. Ducks are social and very messy.
Google provided me with the number for St Tiggywinkles, and the lady I spoke to confirmed that we could bring it up to them any time of the night or day. The wildlife hospital was about an hour away, so I was going to have to drive up in the evening, once my husband got home to stay with the kids.
In the meantime, I gave the duckling something to eat ( a finely chopped mini scotch egg!), a little dish of water to dabble in and put him in the kitchen where the dogs couldn’t get him. The kids came home and were enamored. All of them cried when I said we couldn’t keep him and DD1 insisted on coming with me to drop him off.
St Tiggywinkles is in the middle of nowhere, but the people were lovely and told us that ‘Alex’, the duck, would stay with them in a group of similarly aged ducklings until they were adults. At that point the whole group would be released back into the wild. DD sobbed when we left him; she is 13 and very susceptible to any kind of cuteness.
We plan to go and ‘visit’ Alex over half term. Of course we won’t be able to tell which one he is, but I’m sure it won’t stop us trying.
This post was written as part of the theme over at Sticky Fingers this week. If you want to check out photos of other animals, then head on over.