I took on my first cavalier rescue in January 2007. I was put in touch with the puppy’s buyer by Cavalier Rescue and Welfare, and named him Alfie. Alfie is a Tri coloured Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was born in a puppy farm in Carmarthenshire, Wales. He was 12 weeks old. His health when I first gave him his furever home was rather dire, but with lots of TLC, weekly trips to the vets and loads of medication he has survived and turned in to a wonderful companion.
But Alfie will hide away when we go visiting friends who have a pack of cavaliers. Alfie is a wonderful dog, and happy to mix with the largest of dogs, but has moments of being too timid.I’m a member of the cavalier web forum, Cavalier Chat.
On the 28th September 2011 an 11 week old puppy called Lola came up as needing a furever home. I contemplated the benefits and drawbacks of taking on a puppy. Would it destroy my wonderful relationship and bond with Alfie, or would it help to bring him out a bit more and make his life even better?
The pup sat with the foster home for two days without anyone offering to take her on. Having taken advice from friends whose opinions I greatly respect, I took the plunge and decided to offer Lola a forever home here with Alfie and me. My life with Alfie is well documented on line, so both the fosterer and Cavalier Rescue and Welfare were happy for me to take this little one on.
Meet Lola at 11 weeks old
A meeting was arranged at the Gordano Services of the M5 for
the 30th September 2011. I decided to take Alfie with me to meet
Lola. The days turned in to be a hot scorching day as we drove towards the M5
junction at Bridgewater. But as we drove over the motorway we saw nose to tail
queued traffic northbound. Deciding to take the A38 road instead of the motorway
proved to be a less than ideal alternative route. We were continuously creeping
and stopping all the way up to the next town, where we found that the
congestion was caused by a removal van parked on double yellow lines.
I put them both in the same crate for the journey back. Alfie being timid Alfie, he drooled all the way back to Dorset because of this hyperactive thing next to him. His curly chest hair was just a thick mat of goo when we got to Weymouth’s Pets at Home store. Using the in store measuring tape, Lola now has an adjustable collar that fits.
Decided to call in to a friend’s before going home, to show off the new addition. Was rather amusing, Alfie was apprehensive of going in due to the knowledge that the wild Jasper was in that house, whilst Lola was in inquisitive puppy mood. Alfie soon realised that instead of his being pursued by Jasper, that Jasper was now the pursued victim of puppy Lola. Lola was socialising really well with Jasper, apart from one minor moment when she yelped the house down for no reason. Jasper is now two, and the formerly important stair-gate is now surplus to requirements. So we depart with said stair-gate and a tired puppy.
Alfie looks enquiringly at the newly installed stair-gate, and wonders how he can reach the food below
Where does one keep an 11 week old puppy in a house with an open lounge kitchen diner? An experience with Alfie proved that young dogs should not be left in rooms with carpets, after we pulled 4 meters of carpet thread out of Alfie’s mouth whilst on holiday in Guernsey. Well the only place with no carpet was the hallway, so it was important to make the area puppy proof. As Lola would be able to reach them, the only thing of priority was to remove the carpet from the bottom two steps of the stairs before fitting the stair gate. So I got some tools, sat on the floor and set about removing the carpet. The bottom step has a curved corner, so the carpet is fixed with numerous staples. Lola, being a typical cavalier, was more than happy to help in the task. Her main interest though was in alternating between dragging my hammer away or dragging my large screw driver away to her bed. Rather incredible to watch this tiny puppy moving a screwdriver that was as long as she is, and a hammer that was probably twice her weight.
I found myself singing
#Lola, L A L O, Lola whilst in the shower and decided that it was
probably unfair to sing that as I was actually teasing her by calling her
through a closed door. Lola, of course, is also well documented in the hit
parades as a show girl and a transvestite, so I decided that perhaps a name
change would also be good for her. So I posted on Facebook for suggestions for
a new name, and amongst the suggestions was Lexie by an old school friend. She
does look like a Lexie, so Lexie it is.
Nobody involved in the rehoming is fully sure of the story behind Lola being put up for rehoming. What does come to light is that she appears to have been purchased as a toy for the children, rather than as a family pet. What is known is that she was purchased by a Wotton Basset family from a breeder in Ceredigion or Carmarthenshire, Wales. It is suggested that she was kept in a crate all day, and ignored by the adults of the house. She had not been socialised with other dogs or exercised outside of the family home and seems to have spent her day sat in the crate. Then, when the children came home from school, she was taken out of the crate and had her ears and tail pulled by the young children. A puppy collar appears to have been put on when first purchased and left on ever since. When the collar was removed at rehoming, a distinct line was seen around her neck from where she had overgrown into the collar size. That line could still be seen some weeks after it had been removed.
The tiny food bowl that came with her had been heavily chewed, suggesting that no chew toys had been provided for her. However, a squeaky yellow dog that came with her was her favourite, and whilst 12 months later it is now down to 3 legs and no tail, she still loves to squeak it between its respite for repairs.
So, it turns out that one of the reasons for Lexie being rehomed is due to her biting for defence. And she was so used to biting that she would go for anyone. Indeed a couple of friends left here with blood coming out of their fingers. But within a week I had managed to get her to stop the aggressive biting. And the mouthing had stopped within a month of her coming to live with us.
She’s like a clawing cat. Trying to rub her belly results in four flailing paws and a set of sharp teeth greeting every attempt to touch her. But at the same time she wants affection and to be close to you. This will take time and time is what I give her.
Fangs for the memory
If biting is the main issue to be addressed, socialisation is the second issue to be resolved. Having collected her on the Friday, we pop into our vets for a weigh in and to book an appointment with the vet. As we are in Dorchester, then we set off for a walk around the well-populated dog walking area at Poundbury. The first dog that Lexie sees is a collie. Lexie cries and screams, but with patience Lexie finally happily sniffs around the dog and learns that it is ok to see other dogs without fear. We spend an hour walking around and letting Lexie and Alfie greet the other dogs. Although as per usual, Alfie is more interested in sniffing wet grass and entering weeing competitions. On the first Sunday we go to an area in Wyke well known as a dog walking area. Again Lexie is apprehensive about other dogs, but soon loses that fear and is saying hello to the other dogs. Socialisation is the biggest thing with any and all dogs. One must let one’s dog greet and meet every size of dog. Watching Lexie sit right in front of the largest male St Bernards and play noses with them is such a touching site. 14 months later and she still has her moments of being unsure of new dogs, but that is a good thing. She had a fascination with cats. I think she believed them to be small dogs like herself, and teaching her to stay away from them has been a hard process. The last thing I want is for her to get her eyes clawed by some neurotic cat who’s too stupid to walk away.
Alfie had a rather hefty culture shock. Alfie had been used to receiving all my attention, and having the whole house to himself. To be able to sleep where he liked undisturbed, and of being used to our routine. Suddenly, he found this young girl in his face, in his space, and regularly obstructing his way. Suddenly, he found that not only was she trying to dominate him, but also where he could be by blocking his way. Alfie didn’t mind the domination, didn’t mind if she wanted to be queen bee, but did mind that he couldn’t get into his newly approved spot on the settee. On being let in from the garden, Lexie would rush in first and then try to block his way into the house. Or she would rush up the stairs and block the top step to keep him out of the lounge. Even now, 14 months later, if he gets off the settee for a drink then she will often follow and get in his way. But even that behaviour is starting to ease now.
Most cavalier puppies will hold an older dog’s ears and lead them down the hallway. Lexie, who was still highly aggressive and hyper, would simply stand by him and yank on his ears. I recall coming into the lounge one day to find Alfie trapped in the corner of the room, whilst Lexie had black hairs in her mouth. So I trimmed the long hairs from Alfie’s ears in an attempt to give him some respite from this puppy’s continuous advances.
Alfie had never been allowed on the settee before, unless he was in someone’s lap. Due to this change in circumstances, I decided to promote Lord Alfie to Lord Alfie of the settee. Well, you can image puppy’s reaction to this. She was capable of leaping onto furniture before she arrived here, so trying to keep her off the settee to give Alfie some peace was just such hard work. When Alfie was a pup it as easy to teach him boundaries, simply by closing doors and barring him from ever entering certain rooms. Well, I now live in an upside down house. The French door to the garden is in the bedroom, and the kitchen is all in one with the lounge/diner on the first floor. Alfie never got into the bedroom until he was two, Lexie was everywhere and learning very little in terms of boundaries.
One of her favourite places was to rush into the airing cupboard every time that I opened the door, and sit on the pile of towels at the bottom.
More work is needed on her off lead behaviour. We have done the recall training, and she is good at that if we are in isolated places, or there are no other distractions – such as people or house doors left open.
There are some fields nearby with a public footpath through it. The area has been ideal for doing recall training. Our twice daily walk takes us to a section of road that has been closed to traffic. With plenty of grass and a wide vehicle turning head, we are able to play ball and do toilet without any real worries of harm.
The local area is also on a school route, and she is learning not to run after children as they chat and walk to school. She’s been here 14 months, and on this Sunday morning she heeled all the way up a quiet cul-de-sac off lead whilst Alfie sniffed his way along.
Chewing was an initial problem, and we have gone through many toys, mostly rope toys. One day I put both collars on the bed and popped into the bathroom before taking them for a walk. On returning I found that Lexie had chewed through the prongs of the plastic buckle of Alfie’s collar. Luckily I have a spare one. On another occasion, we went out in the car and when we arrived I let them out of the Pet Tube.
Alfie slowly getting used to having another dog by his side. As you can see, he wasn't overly impressed back then.
I found that whilst sat in the tube, Lexie had chewed Alfie’s collar buckle whilst he had been wearing it. She has also chewed the “I’m chipped” tag off both of their collars, her own while she was wearing it. I purchased a “Dog saver” stick tube for her to chew www.mammothpet.com/dog_savers.asp. Every time that she tried to chew something that she shouldn't then I put this tube in front of her face whilst removing the suffering item. I’ve also successfully used the chew stop citronella spray due to her taking a liking to Alfie’s raised food step.
Alfie and Lexie curled up together and sound asleep in their night time bed
To be continued :)