Enriching Ollie’s Walks

At this time of year when so many people are on holiday, it is not so easy for Ollie to come across many of his regular doggy pals when we are out walking. So it is up to me to try to do something to make his long walks in the heat more enjoyable.

One word he learned a long time ago is ‘Hiding’. He usually checks out regular spots where he has seen cats or squirrels in the past, and when he is upset that they are not there, I generally say that they are ‘hiding’. I adopt a hushed tone when saying the word, and imply that he might have to find them. This makes him rush around looking for whatever he was expecting to find.

This not only gives him more exercise, it also provides him with some sense of purpose to his walks, besides sniffing and marking.

The recent hot and humid weather has made Ollie reluctant to do much. He has been lagging behind me, and spending too much time just standing in the river. So when we got over onto Hoe Rough today, I took him to the spot where he had last seen a deer, and pointed into the undergrowth. I hissed ‘hiding’, and off he went, understanding completely what I was on about. For a good fifteen minutes, he scanned up and down looking for the non-existent hiding animals.

When he returned looking hot and bothered, I let him go down into the river, to cool off.

The things we do for our pets…

Ollie and his medical history

Ollie’s eyes are stitched in the photo.

Ollie’s recent trip to the Vet got me thinking. The unfortunate dog has had so many things wrong with him, from a very young age. I have written about them all separately on this blog, over the years.

But this post is by way of collecting together the whole medical history of my very brave dog.

It started with a condition called Entropion. This is where a dog’s (or human’s) lower eyelids and lashes grow into the eye, instead of around it. It is unfortunately common with Ollie’s breed, and we were worried he might get it. And he did. At a few months old, his eyes were streaming with tears, and they were causing wet sore patches down both sides of his face.
Off to the Vet he went.

Sure enough, Entropion was diagnosed. They suggested stitching down his lower eyelids, in the hope of correcting the way they were growing. The poor young dog had to endure a general anaesthetic, and then walk around with his bottom eyelids stitched to his face for weeks. He stood it all very well, and didn’t let it bother him too much.

But when the stitches were removed, nothing had changed. The local Vet recommended specialist treatment, at the famous Animal Health Trust Hospital, near Newmarket. We took him off for the 90-minute journey by car, and he was seen by a canine eye specialist. Little Ollie had to endure having test-strip papers inserted in his eyelids, and sit there until they changed colour. But he didn’t complain at all. Not once. They told us he would have to come back for surgery, to have a section of the lower eyelid cut away.

Not long after, we took him back there, and watched as he trustingly walked off with one of the nurses. He would be staying for three nights, after surgery that morning. They telephoned to say it had gone well, and that he was recovering. The next night, they even took the phone into the recovery kennels, so he could hear our voices over it. When we picked him up, he had to wear a ‘cape’, to stop him being able to use his back legs to scratch the wounds. But he was pleased to see us, and didn’t seem too bothered about the experience.

He had to go back for a post-op check, and the news wasn’t good. The eye tissue was growing back rapidly, and into the eyes again. He would have to endure more surgery, this time to remove much more of the lower eyelid, and the eyelashes too. Once again we had to leave him to face surgery, and another three day stay. He was still no trouble, and the staff loved him, as he never complained at all. After this third operation, his eyes were literally ‘wide open’, and he had no recurrence of the condition. That was a relief.

Then his skin started to flare up. There was a redness under his body, and between his back legs. Very soon, large patches of his fur fell out in perfect circles, leaving bald skin with a large crusty sore at the centre. It was obviously causing him some distress too, as he wasn’t eating, or wanting to play. Off to the Vet once more. They diagnosed a bacterial skin infection, and told us is was associated with certain breeds, including Ollie’s. It was a yeast-based infection, and not something that could easily be cured. He came home with a special shampoo, and assorted tablets for the irritation.

That slowly cleared up, but we then found that the infection had spread into his ears, something that would come back to haunt both us and our dog. More tablets, and now ear-drops too. His little ears were so swollen inside, he would cry out when I put the long spout of the applicator down deep into them. The medication eventually did the job, but we were to learn that this was going to be a lifelong problem for him, at least twice a year. And it has been, right up to last week.

Once I thought I was on top of everything that was wrong with him, I considered that I could at least cope with knowing what to expect. Then one day over The Meadows, Ollie tried to dominate a small feisty terrier, and the tiny dog turned and bit off the end of my dog’s curly tail. Not only did he scream with pain, he wouldn’t let me look at it. For the first time, he turned on me as I tried to examine the wound. When I got him home, I noticed the small injury wouldn’t stop bleeding, so had no option but to take him to the Vet.

They gave him an anaesthetic, cleaned out the wound, and bandaged it. But when I picked him up, it was apparent the bandage irritated him too much, and he wouldn’t stop shaking, until it fell off. I went back in, and they re-bandaged with an adhesive option, adding the bad news that this could be very serious, as it was at the tip of his spinal column. If infected, it would kill him very quickly. So surgery was the only option once more, with the top of his tail being amputated, so they would have enough skin left to close over the wound. Ollie had to go under the knife for yet another procedure.

Now with a slightly shorter tail, perfect eyes, and me having a handle on the continuing skin infections, I finally hoped that all the trauma was over for Ollie. Then in the summer of 2017, he was chewing on one of his favourite plastic ‘bones’, when he yelped, and jumped up. When he wouldn’t eat his dinner that night, I knew something was wrong. I carefully lifted his jowls, and inspected his teeth. I knew he must be in pain, but he let me do it with no complaint. I found an otherwise perfectly good large molar cracked in two, and was able to move it with my fingers.

Back to the Vet for Ollie. Another anaesthetic, and no option but to remove the damaged tooth.

This post is now well over 1,000 words, and all about the treatment one dog has had to endure, over just seven years.

It is frankly amazing to me how he has remained so docile, and such a loyal friend.

A message from Ollie

A 2014 plea from Ollie. This is for the benefit of new followers, as many of you have seen this before.


DSCF1450My dating profile photo.

OK, just because we can’t talk, does not mean that we cannot learn the basics of how to work a computer, and publish a blog post. After all, I have watched countless hours of Pete doing this, so it can’t be that hard. It is a bit tricky with paws, I will admit, but if you are careful with your nails, it is not impossible. The mouse is a lot easier, as my right paw covers that completely.

You will know a bit about me, if you read this blog. I am Pete and Julie’s dog, Ollie the Shar-Pei. The truth is, I am a bit lonely, and would like to have some female company. I thought that I would use this blog as a platform to advertise myself. If you are regular readers, you already know a lot about my life. It is a comforting routine…

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Ollie goes out in the car

Ollie, when he is ‘not happy’. Tail down, and panting.

Since he started the summer moult, Ollie has been scratching his legs and biting his ‘undercarriage’. These are sure signs of irritation caused by the usual skin infection he gets a few times a year. Rushing through nettles and brambles doesn’t help, nor does standing for long periods up to his neck in the river. That might cool him down, but it allows who knows what in the river to get into his system too.

So I bowed to the inevitable, and booked him in for a Vet appointment today. Then on Wednesday, he went to the groomer to have the loose fur stripped, and a nice bath. He came back looking sleek, and smelling a whole lot better too.

Taking Ollie to the Vet has to be done by car, as it is twelve miles away, in Swaffham. It makes me feel guilty to see how excited he gets to be going for a drive to some exciting new place, when I know where we are actually going. In the familiar car park, he emerges from his place at the back with a worried look. Having spent so much of his life to and from one Vet or another, he recognises the location immediately.

Once through the door, he begins panting and placing his paws on my knees, looking concerned, and turning in circles on his lead. I always try to see the same Vet, but he was doing surgery today, so I had to see a young lady instead. Meanwhile, a nervous Spaniel in the waiting room was whining and crying, which upset Ollie even more. He kept going over to check on the dog, to make sure he was alright.

By the time we were called in to the examination room, Ollie was trying to head for the door. Fortunately, his condition is well-known, so he only had to be weighed, and suffer a brief investigation with an ear-scope. He tolerates Vet treatment very well as a rule, and as long as I am there, they can do more or less anything to him. After a quick once-over, the lady Vet agreed that he should have the usual doses of ear-drops, antibiotics, and steroids for the inflammation and itchiness. When she got up to go and get the medicines, Ollie tried to exit through the closed door, keen to get back out to the car.

Still feeling guilty, I took him straight up to Milennium Wood in North Elmham, where he came across a group of Labradors and Terriers to sniff and play with.

By the time we were heading back to the car, he appeared to have forgotten his distressing trip.

Until the next time.

Ollie’s Nose

Ollie is a dog driven by the need to sniff things and smell them carefully. His nose can seemingly detect almost anything long before he can see it with his eyes. And because he has never been neutered, his main obsession is to leave his own scent everywhere, to let every other dog and animal around know that he is in the ‘Hood’. The short walk to Beetley Meadows, with the entrance visible from our house, begins with Ollie sniffing our front hedge. He then marks a few leaves of that hedge, just in case any other dogs are in doubt that he lives here.

Next, every road sign, wheelie bin, front gate, and back fence has to be marked, in a walk of less than one hundred yards that can take a good few minutes. Then his lead is removed, and he is free to mark the sign telling everyone about Beetley Meadows, before dealing with the four corners of the fences surrounding the children’s playground, followed by the basketball court. The first big Oak tree always gets a cursory splash, prior to the serious work of marking the nettles and other plants fringing the pathways.

Once he is satisfied with that, he lifts his head, nose twitching. He is trying to get the smell of any other local dogs, or a squirrel or deer in the vicinity. I am usually well ahead of him by the time he catches me up, after he has been checking under the blackberry bushes for any evidence of much smaller dogs who might have peed up them. Once we get to the bend in the river, Ollie goes into overdrive. There is the rubbish bin to deal with, the dog-waste bin, and the assorted picnic tables and benches.

By now, his ‘marking tanks’ have almost run dry, so he is straight into the river to refill them with a very big drink. Cooled and replenished, he trots off to sort out half a dozen molehills, and the reeds at the side of the riverbank. All this, and we have only been out for ten minutes. Once we are under the trees, every tree and overhanging branch must be inspected. As those trees are home to lots of squirrels, this takes a considerable amount of time. So I carry on walking, and let him catch me up later.

If he arrives with his jowls covered in froth, looking like he has just downed an exceptionally milky cappuccino, then I can be sure he has detected some ‘lady-dog pee’. And if that dog was in season, he will have enough foam around his mouth to make any passerby think he had Rabies.

We have now arrived at the bridge, on the way across to Hoe Rough.

The bridge has to be inspected carefully by Ollie. So many dogs cross it in a day, that he has to mark at least three spots, sometimes five. And woe betide I try to pull him away using his lead. He will stand his ground, suddenly becoming dead weight, refusing to budge until the sniffing is complete. Getting through the gate at Hoe Rough is a mission in itself. Every wooden bar and post of the large gate has to be examined in minute detail, and ‘precision pees’ delivered onto the smallest areas. Any dog coming onto the small nature reserve must be left in no doubt that Ollie has entered before them.

Then I let him off again, for the majority of his daily walk. Off he goes, tracking overnight deer, dogs from earlier that day, and any other smell of any sort he can detect. Once the long walk is over, you can guarantee that he will repeat the process as we retrace our steps on the way home.

Just in case.

Ollie’s New Friend

It was a very bright sunny day here today, and pleasantly warm too. Ollie was keen to get out on his early afternoon walk of course, and was soon sniffing around his favouritie spots over at Beetley Meadows. I took him around a couple of circuits, and he was soon in the river, eager to cool off. A short diversion into the small woodland area didn’t leave him very satisfied, so I headed across to Hoe Rough, as he has come to expect.

Ollie enjoyed the diversion of a few excitable squirrels. They avoided his attentions, rushing up into the tops of the trees to chatter at us, telling him off. But the new sniffing grounds kept him suitably fixated, as he got the scent of something, and rushed ahead of me to follow the trail. After more than an hour of trudging around, I sat on the branch of a fallen tree for a while, enjoying watching the birds fluttering in the branches above. Ollie rolled in the nearby long grass, scratching an itch that was probably more in his imagination.

I got up to complete another circuit of the nature reserve, which took around forty-five minutes, with sniffing stops. Although on his second time round, Ollie was acting as if he had never seen the place before, and studiously marking every bush and overhanging leaf. After more than two hours, I decided to call it an day, and head home. Then I heard some shouting and whistling, about four hundred yards away. I spotted a very chunky Rottweiler dog, off its lead, and wearing a substantial harness around its body. The dog’s owner was a young man, shirtless, and calling anxiously for his dog to return to him.

Now Ollie is a very solid, medium sized dog. But that Rottweiler was well over twice his size, and didn’t appear to be under the control of its owner. So I turned left, away from any potential contact with this unknown canine, and walked around the eastern edge of Hoe Rough, keeping out of its way. After the longer circuitous route, I was rather alarmed to discover that the bigger dog and its owner had arrived near the entrance gate at the same time as us. But at least by now he had his excitable dog on its lead, though he was clearly having some difficulty dealing with its strength.

As we approached, the young man smiled, and assured me that ‘she’ was friendly. He added that she was young, and a little boisterous, but was no danger to Ollie.

My dog was soon up to her, and she was pleased to see him. Mutual sniffs were exchanged, and the large female dog seemed to take a liking to Ollie straight off. As he allowed himself to be sniffed in the most intimate areas, I concluded that her female status was agreeable to him, and as she licked his face, he appeared to be suitably impressed. I spoke to him, declaring that she was his ‘new friend’. The young man smiled, and replied, “See you again”, as he exited the gate.

Ollie gave me a strange look, and I soon realised what I had forgotten.

I hadn’t asked her name.

Ollie’s mini-break

I got back at 4:30 today. I had been on a visit to see my cousin and her family, around a two hour drive south of here, in Essex.

It was quite an eventful weekend, especially for Ollie, and in a special way for me too. We arrived to find out that my cousin had recently acquired another dog to keep Dennis, her King Charles Spaniel dog company. She is an 8 year-old Red King Charles, rescued from a puppy-breeding farm. She was very friendly, and took an immediate liking to Ollie. Fortunately, she had been neutered after years of producing pups, so her flirtations with my dog were unlikely to come to anything. Besides, Libby is only a quarter of his size.

After catching up since my last visit in December 2018, I was delighted when my cousin’s daughter brought baby Violet to see me, and to collect the gifts I had brought for her. Some of you may recall that she was named after my late mother, something that touched me greatly. At just five months, little Violet is alert, has great skills beyond her age, and is developing into a really happy and delightful baby. I had a good long hold of her, and couldn’t help but reflect how much my Mum would have been overjoyed to know she bears her name. Ollie was not troubled with jealousy where she was concerned, as he had his hands full dealing with Libby, and trying to impress a very lethargic Dennis.

After Violet was taken home, we relaxed to enjoy an evening meal in the company of my cousin’s son and his girlfriend, who both live in the house. Ollie was still ‘dancing’ with Libby, and hardly had any rest at all, despite us taking the dogs for a long walk before dinner. Once dinner was over, we chatted and listened to music, and I became sleepy, after a long day. When it was time for bed, Ollie was excited to follow me upstairs, even though his bed had been set up in the living room. As I started to walk up the staircase, he ignored his instructions to stay on his bed downstairs, and decided he would rush up the stairs ahead of me, with no warning.

The first thing I knew was that my dog was between my legs as I lifted my foot onto the next stair. The next thing I was aware of was lying on my back like an upturned turtle, on the hard flooring in the hallway. I had fallen down three stairs into the hallway, landing heavily on my back, unlucky not to get a rebound injury to my skull. Ollie was barking loudly, apparently upset by my fall, so both the Spaniels joined in. Then my cousin came to see what the fuss was about , and her son appeared from the kitchen to help. I was eventually assisted back upstairs, with Ollie in some disgrace, ordered to his bed in the living room. I remember thinking that my back hurt a little bit, and my right hand was painful. Then I went to sleep.

I woke in the early hours, in great pain and discomfort. My back was in agony, and my right hand throbbing as if trapped in a vice. It took me almost fifteen minutes to get out of bed, to be able to use the toilet.  By the time I should have been getting up, I was in agony with my back, and spent a very long time getting ready to be able to go downstairs. There was a large visible wound on my hand too, where I had tried to grab the bannisters, and scuffed my hand on the woodwork instead. After creeping downstairs very gingerly, I was just about able to sit on a hard chair to drink some tea, and eat breakfast.

I felt so sorry for my cousin, as she had planned a day of various activities for us on Saturday, involving the dogs. As well as the inclement weather, my fall had ruled that out. I was just about able to accompany her on a local dog-walk, shuffling behind like a 95 year-old man! The evening was quiet, with me stuck in an armchair, watching as Ollie and Libby continued their fruitless courtship. We had a Chinese take-away meal, and watched a film on TV. I was able to get a few hours sleep, making sure Ollie stayed in the living room, as I walked slowly upstairs. Violet was brought to see me again this morning, which was a delight, and I managed a better walk with the dogs, before leaving Essex for home. My back still hurts, but is manageable, and the drive home was very easy, which was fortunate.

Ollie is back with his familiar surroundings, and favourite toys. No Libby to play with, nor Dennis to impress, but he settled back into his routine as expected.

And of course he has no idea that his desire to beat me upstairs might well have killed me.