An Alphabet Of Things I Like: C


These nocturnal rodents from South America are often kept as pets. They are also farmed for the use of their fur. I don’t really agree with either, as fur should stay on the animals where it belongs, and Chinchillas can live for up to fifteen years, and become depressed in captivity. So I do not advocate ever being tempted to own one.

However, I used to know someone who had four of these as pets. They lived together in a very large cage, which had been adapted as well as possible for their habitat. They can grow to be quite large, and some varieties are as big as cats.

The reason they are mentioned here though, is because of their fur. I was given one to hold by my friend, and it had the softest most luxurious fur of any animal I have ever encountered. No dog, cat, rabbit, or other furry animal can compare to touching a Chinchilla. It is softer than velvet, almost impossible to describe just how wonderful it feels to cuddle and stroke those little creatures.

If you ever get the opportunity, I recommend it.

How Much Fur?

Ollie is a short-haired breed of dog, but when it is moulting season, you might be forgiven for thinking this makes no difference. The amount of fur he can shed on a daily basis is nothing short of phenomenal. It is a miracle he is not completely bald, believe me.

Substantial tufts of hair dance across the kitchen tiles like tumbleweed in a wild-west town, and the blanket on his bed looks like the floor of the local hairdresser’s shop. No amount of brushing makes even the slightest impact on the constant shedding, and our clothes bear witness to the fact that he only has to walk past you to completely cover you in a mulitcoloured selection of hairs.

Even as I type this, stray hairs have migrated from my sleeves onto the keyboard.

Of course, we try our hardest to tackle the seasonal fur invasion. Using the vacuum cleaner every day, often twice a day. The only thing in the container when it is emptied is a compressed cylinder of Ollie fur, which does at least show we are not untidy or messy otherwise. But no matter if I spent all day running the device back and forth across the carpets, I would never get to the point where it stopped scooping up yet more fur.

Ollie’s appearance suffers as a result. He is now at least seven different colours, with patches of dark brown in amongst lighter shades, and thin areas of fur on his legs that look like the back of a balding man’s head. This ragged patchwork appearance makes him look neglected and scruffy, which is a shame. Especially when I know the opposite is true.

Next week, he is going for a bath and grooming session on Thursday, the earliest appointment available. The last time, the lady removed a full bin-liner of fur before washing him.

This time, I suspect she might need a second bin liner.

Ollie: An update

Well, as expected, Ollie does not have ringworm.

After some ‘moral blackmail’ from the Vet, I paid over £30 to have him tested, even though I was 100% convinced he didn’t have that.

28 days later, she rings me to confirm what I already knew. ‘Ker-ching!’

However, his fur is not growing back as quickly as I had hoped. His ‘crop-circles’ are still evident, though minus the sores he had before.

The Vet suggested it might be his age. He will be eight in February, quite old for his breed. She suggested I wait for another eight weeks, and if the regrowth is no better, bring him back.

I always care for Ollie, as you know. But I am reluctant to line the Vet’s pockets to be told it will get better in time.

So for those of you that worry about him, and I know there are many, he is doing fine. He eats his dinner, doesn’t scratch any more, and is happy to play with any dog he encounters over on his long walks.

And now I have the ‘all-clear’, he can go to the groomer in December, and have a nice wash and brush up, ready for Christmas.

Thanks to everyone who cares about Ollie, and asks after him.

He sends a curly tail wag to you all.

(This is an old photo. Ollie in the sea, just one year old)

Ollie’s skin, and his fur

Poor Ollie has had a bad summer. The late arrival of extremely hot weather has thrown his system out completely.

The unusually hot weather has made him begin to moult with a real severity. His fur is covering the house, and coming out in handfuls every time he is stroked or petted.

We have seen a return of the large bald patches we call his ‘crop circles’, and the poor dog has been a martyr to scratching, and feeling uncomfortable. His only relief seems to come from dozing or sleeping, and he has little energy for play, or his usual antics.

Most daily walks have been spent with him spending too much time standing in the river, and I have become weary of telling him, “Stop scratching!”

So next Monday he has been booked in early with the dog groomer. He will get that fur hand-stripped, have a nice bath, his toenails cut, and his ears cleaned out.

We can only hope that this will cure some of his irritations, and frustrations. It’s the least we can do.

Thinking Aloud on A Sunday.


Earlier this week, I saw a feature on a BBC programe. It appears that many items being sold as ‘fake fur’ are nothing of the sort. They are real fur. Unimaginably, it appears that raising animals in awful conditions, then killing them for their fur, is cheaper than producing the fibres needed to simulate it as fake fur. The TV show had distressing images of rabbits and Raccoon Dogs (I had never heard of Raccoon Dogs) being kept in abysmal conditions. Crammed into wire cages, and stacked on top of each other. As well as coming from the Far East, this animal fur is also widely produced in Poland, a member of the EU.

Is it used to provide warmth at least? Perhaps to help people who live in very cold places survive harsh winters. Of course not. It merely provides decoration. Bobbles for beanie hats, facings on sweaters, and adornment on the sides of handbags or on the toes of high-heeled shoes. Those poor animals endure pitiful lives, painful deaths, and all for something that serves no purpose on top of a winter hat, or fashionable bag. That’s appalling.

But when I woke up today, I was thinking of a time when fur was not only desirable, but acceptable in the mainstream. A time when my aunties coveted a fox-fur stole, worn around their neck with the head of the poor creature still attached. Fashion. Fur collars on the overcoats of wealthy gentlemen. Fashion. Chinchilla-fur wraps covering the shoulders of starlets, who never walked outside anyway. And let’s not forget the mink coats, the ultimate symbol of sexuality and wealth; worn by film-stars, and the girlfriends of sugar daddies all around the world. Worn in the heat of a Californian summer, not the desolate wastelands of Siberia. White Arctic Fox, one of nature’s most beautiful animals, Reduced to a bolero jacket discarded at the entrance to a film festival in the south of France.

The poor made do with dyed rabbit skins, even dog fur. But they still had their furs. Fashion.

Then came the backlash, and rightly so. Protesters threw blood or red paint at models and actresses wearing fur. They mounted permanent demonstrations outside shops selling furs in big cities like London. We signed petitions against the fur trade, and the companies began to listen. Over the decades, they changed to fake fur, using man-made materials. These eventually became so convincing, only an expert could tell the difference between the two. Fashion was changing, and reflecting the sympathies of a better-informed public. A public learning respect for the small animals previously bred for an early death, and just for their skins.

Now it is 2018, and you might have hoped that the fur trade was a memory, outside of places in certain countries where there is little or no alternative for warm clothing. But profit rules, and if it’s cheaper to kill a rabbit to provide a bobble for a hat, or slaughter a Raccoon Dog to have some bits of fluff to stick on the front of some high-heeled shoes, than to use commercially-available alternatives. Market forces rule, and the animals are being caged and killed once again, in ever-increasing numbers.

I am not a vegetarian, I hasten to add. And I wear leather shoes, as well as owning leather furniture. But when it comes to breeding animals for adornments to woolen hats, shoes, or handbags, then surely that is a step too far in animal exploitation?

Let me know what you think about the Fur Trade.

And if you feel inclined to do so, please share this post on social media, to spread the word that fake fur is mostly real fur.

Ollie’s crop circles

Last year, Ollie began to lose some hair from a couple of spots on his side. The area grew quite large over time, so we took him to the Vet. They prescribed antibiotics, as they often do. It didn’t seem to make much difference. We kept an eye on it, and after some time the hair began to grow back. We speculated that it could have been one of many causes; diet, stress, insect bite, but we were never really certain.

At almost exactly the same time this year, about three weeks ago, it started to happen again. We noticed a few embryonic bald spots, with the tell-tale crusty ring inside. The hair eventually fell out completely, leaving clean pink skin showing. We thought that it would follow the same course as last year, so we were not unduly concerned. However, it started to get worse, with the circular patches appearing all down one side. They were all completely round in shape, and from a distance, it  looked as if a random design was forming. It seemed that Ollie was getting crop circles in his fur. I looked up to the skies…

It didn’t bother him at all. He played the same, ate the same, and walked as far as ever. He didn’t scratch the areas, and they carried on quietly spreading, and getting bigger. Last week, they started to appear on his other side, and on his neck. The largest one on the neck was at the point where his lead rests. So that was being rubbed, and became inflamed, and unpleasant to look at. It has been a topic of much conversation, and accompanying speculation, in our small group of dog-walkers. Some suggested keeping him out of the river for a while, in case it was water-borne. Others were a little concerned about infection, and kept their dogs close, not allowing them to fraternise with Ollie. Most were just concerned for his welfare, and worried about his appearance,  feeling sure that it must be uncomfortable for him.

As it was not getting any better, and no hair was re-growing, I decided to take him to the Vet today. We are using a different Vet these days, in Swaffham, some twelve miles away. As soon as he saw the dog, Vet John pronounced that it was a fungal infection. It is from the same stable as Thrush, apparently, and might be a type of Ringworm. (As I discovered, this is not an actual worm) He took hair and skin samples, which will be sent off to the lab for testing. He thinks that they may well confirm Ringworm, which can be mildly infectious, though the contact has to be very close, like sleeping on the same dog-bed. More worryingly, he also believes that it might be difficult to eradicate, and that it may return, at any time.

Ollie now has a new shampoo, to be used on the affected areas only. He has an up-graded flea and tick tablet, and we must buy some Canesten cream from a chemist, to apply directly to the bald spots. This is a fungicidal cream that is normally applied by women, to their ‘delicate’ areas. Just as well Ollie is spared the potential embarrassment of having to go in and ask for it himself.