“Conversations with my dog” is going to be a humorous (possibly) page of things I imagine my dog might say to me, or conversations we might have if he could talk. Firstly, I’d best introduce him…
Introducing the dog…
This is Jack. He was only 9 weeks old here and I’d only had him a day or two. I’d decided to get a dog for companionship as travelling the road as I do can be quite solitary and isolating. I like that insularity, but not as a permanent way of living, there has to be something else and Jack is a step away from total isolation.
I had deliberated getting a dog for some time but my decision was made on the summit of Snowdon in 2007. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was a nice group of people at the summit and a great atmosphere amongst the walkers who had hiked to the top. But I seemed to be the only one alone so I smiled at people and said a few words to some of them and I felt quite distinctly that need to share my first visit to Snowdon’s summit with someone.
I was looking for somewhere to sit to have my packed lunch and I chose a raised piece of grass behind a man who I noticed was also by himself but he had a border collie with him. he clearly was enjoying the dog’s company as they both snacked and I thought there and then I was definitely going to get a dog.
So the decision was made, now what would I get? I already knew I’d go to a rescue centre because I could give a dog a really good life, the kind most dogs dream of, but the breed was important because I needed a dog that was small to fit in the van, and one that would travel well, and one that was easy to keep clean. So a long haired German shepherd was definitely out! Maybe a terrier of some description, a short haired one. Terriers are lively but renowned for their resilience and friendliness. They come in so many different varieties and there were many short haired ones.
So I rang a well known rescue centre in Gateshead near to where I had lived and had an initial chat about things but when I said I’d be travelling long term in a camper with the dog she said no way could they allow that. A dog must have a stable home with a 6 foot fence around the garden That was their minimum criteria.
But surely I argued, my dog is going to have the great outdoors as his garden, isn’t that much better than a grassy square in suburbia? However they were adamant the answer was no.
No problem, I’ll ring another. So I did and got virtually the same answer. I rang 8 more rescue centres all around the north east and all said virtually the same thing. I was quite shocked that while I understood their need for a dog to have a stable home, they were inflexible on some rules which certainly did not guarantee a stable home. One of them even laughed at me on the phone, and not one invited me in for an interview.
So I was telling a friend at work about it all and she had just got 2 Patterdale terrier pups from a breeder in Cartmel in the Lakes. There wasn’t much public information on Patterdales but from what i could find they suited life i the van perfectly. They were small, hardy, working dogs with all the familiar terrier characteristics. I went to see hers and I was smitten. So that weekend I went to meet the breeder who kept me there for about 2 hours to see how I was with the dogs. We chatted about dogs and pets in general, and he watched me playing with the pups. I was pleased he was measuring me up to see how suitable I was despite the lifestyle I said I’d be pursuing.
The final choice came when after a couple of hours we went into the dog run at the top of his garden where dog-Mum decided to have a nap and the remaining 3 pups all snuggled into her. Me and the breeder were sat on the floor chatting and watching them, and after a couple of minutes the smallest pup looked up to watch us. He then left his Mum’s warm cuddle and trotted over and began to play with me again. No sleep for him, he wanted to play! Decision made. He’d chosen me and I absolutely loved him so that was that and we left with a little bag of food and a teddy.
Welcome to the van Jack!
I gave him an hour to adjust to being in the van away from everything he knew, making sure he knew where his water and food bowl was (I’d already spent tons on ‘stuff’ for him lol) and introducing him to the soft and warm bosom of the sofa before leaving him to explore on the floor.
He poked his nose into literally every crevice he could find! I was watching him thinking how incredibly cute he was but what the hell was I going to name him! It dawned on me that he was the very colour of neat Jack Daniels, my favourite tipple. So I said Jack loudly and he looked up at me so yup, that’s his name from now on.
I got him some name tags done, booked a vet in Penrith to look after him and set about training him. 9 weeks is fine to start training and he was very good. There’s a couple of things he has utterly failed to pick up on but generally he was a fast and willing learner. Here he is a few weeks later, still not tall enough to even climb into the van.He truly is the cutest dog I’ve ever seen and he seems to get an awful lot of attention when we’re outside. I’d had him about 3 weeks and he was potty trained, although in that short period I’d had to throw out 2 duvets and wash the covers constantly!
From day 1 Jack never seemed perturbed to be in the van. His chair was the passenger seat and I plonked him on it and as he could not get down himself he stayed there happily with his teddy. I drove a couple of hundred miles the next week or so and at no time did he seem to be bothered by the motion of the van. Indeed he began standing with his forelegs on the dashboard sometimes looking out of the windscreen and sniffing the air vents. To this day he often adopts the same position, leaning against his harness to try and get closer to the screen.
Jack at age 3 years old
Aww my poor little puppy!!
Walking on the beach at Sunderland and Jack tried playing with another dog. He loves nothing better than socialising but this dog decided to rake at him and split his skin. It’s not a serious injury, the skin was split that’s all but Jack’s feelings were very hurt and I was enraged that a dog that is so prepared to bite should be off lead on a public beach.
I took him to the nearest vet for antibiotics and the vet stapled the cut. Badly. Cos they all fell out within a couple of days. I found this out when the dressing fell off. So I went to Tesco and bought tons of dressings from them and made my own. Instead of staples I used proper paper clips designed for deep cuts and made sure the dressing was changed every day and that no infection was setting in.
I must have made a good job because he healed quickly and now you can’t even find the scar. I put this down to him having a clean and healthy lifestyle and diet and for being so fit.
I still fret when Jack runs up to other dogs, which he does still today, but that’s only one of two times he’s ever been bitten and the other one was a little bite to the ear that didn’t even need a vet. Considering he’s the most social little thing ever he’s done really well.
Jack at age 6 years old
So here’s my mighty little mate at 6 years old. He’s won my heart easily and become the most prized pet I’ve ever known. He’s amazing in his ability to make me understand him and his readiness to understand me. He even sits back in his seat now if I select reverse gear, as I can’t see the wing mirror unless he sits back. How the hell he ever learned that I will never know but he has. And he does it every time now.
Jack has chased rabbits in Poland, swum in French rivers, climbed mountains in Austria, and even fell off a harbour wall into the sea in Italy! He dug up a mole in Germany, swam in the sea at Dunkirk, chased squirrels in Slovakia and sunbathed by the canal in Amsterdam. He’s been to the summit of Snowdon with me, and Scafell Pike, and swum in Loch Lomond chasing ducks. This dog has had an amazing life despite not having a 6 foot fence and an enclosed garden. He’s had the best vet care his whole life and has a full range of wet weather wear including boots, and his own gel coolmat, fans and cool towels for summer.
Everyone I know loves him and he loves everyone I know. In fact he loves everyone simply cos they breathe. I’ve got videos of him trying to play with lambs, cows and horses, although if you’re a bird of any sort he will eat you lol
At about this age Jack started having fits. The first time I was shocked and didn’t know what was going on despite having seen it regularly in humans when I worked in mental health. The vet told me that all dogs fit at some point but most people simply don’t see it happen. Because me and Jack live together 24/7 in such a small place I am more likely to see it.
Nevertheless we tried several ways to deal with it and finally found a diet that seemed to minimise his fits. I’ve always been pedantic that he would always eat healthily and good quality food and we settled on Wainwrights and James Wellbeloved and a range of treats as well. He thrives on this and fits are now down to about 2 per year and only last about 30 seconds as oppose to the 3 minute ones he used to have. It’s still awful to see, but I know he’s healthy and strong and well cared for so that counters it as much as we can.
Jack at age 9 years old
You could say he’s getting on now, in dog years he’s middle aged, and sure enough he is turning grey on his snout and face. He has slowed down a little from the mad tornado he used to be too. I remember some times we’d go out on the fells in the lakes and he’d run 10 times the distance I did and do it all day too. He went chasing ducks one day in Loch Lomond in the middle of winter, and he spent a solid hour swimming after ducks before he came out for a breather. He’s always had amazing stamina. I recall the vet told me to stop him from doing so much when he was a pup otherwise he’d damage his hips. i had to restrict him to a half hour per day exercise. Neither of us liked that very much at all.
Nowadays he’s still like a little tornado when we go out but he settles into gale force after an hour or so now. His fave thing to do is follow smells until he finds somewhere he can dig that might have something interesting underneath. He’s a prodigious digger. He’s also turned out to be the most amazing guard dog for the van. I didn’t teach him to be, he just naturally defends his own territory from anything or anyone that comes near it unless I make welcoming sounds.
I’ll never forget the police coming to a layby in Derbyshire after some fool reported me for being parked, (probably out of jealousy) and I was chatting to the cop through the big window. The cop was trying to show me a photo of his dog on his phone that his wife said was some breed or other but that looked remarkably like Jack. Jack of course was at the window trying to get attention as he does, and when the cop gave me the phone and reached out to stroke him Jack was through the window and into his arms for a cuddle lol
Turns out his dog was indeed a Patterdale same as Jack, I wasn’t harming anything by being there, and Jack was finally returned through the window in exchange for a baby wipe as he’d slavered all over the cops face. He charms every person who meets him!
So we were out walking and he spotted something through the fence and I was walking on slowly, but he was lagging behind. I went back to have a look and all these cockerels were heading for the fence where he was! It was truly bizarre because they should have run a mile but here they all were running down from the top end of the run to come next to the fence where Jack was standing.
I’m not 100% sure what Jack’s intentions were, I’ve never let him close enough to a chicken to damage it because if I did he’s so quick he’d have it dead before I could react. He wasn’t displaying any obvious overt signs of being in kill mode, but that’s not 100% reliable that he still wouldn’t. The chickens certainly didn’t seem perturbed in the least.
Anyway you can see my beautiful little furry friend has barely changed over the years. He fluctuates a kilo or so in weight throughout the year, and he’s gone grey in the face, and his teeth as you’d expect of a 10 year old dog aren’t pure white anymore. He only wears a collar because tbh he doesn’t need any restraint on him he’s so well trained. He comes back instantly to the whistle and almost instantly to a shout so he’s rarely on a lead except when he has to be.
He’s in fine form, he’s my little pal and we’ve had so many adventures together all over Europe. He figures very highly in my life, hence the creation of Conversations With My Dog.