Monday, 24 February 2014

A Cuddly Bear For a Cuddly Boy in Need

Last week I received some upsetting news from back home. Our beloved lurcher Merlin has been diagnosed with Arthritis in his hips and, despite being prescribed with anti-infammatories, the vet has advised we make the most of him over the coming weeks/months and try and make him as comfortable as possible.

Oh wow, this is harder to write than I had anticipated....I generally try not to delve too deep in my posts, but I know my audience is usually family and good friends so I feel I need to share this to explain why I may have been a bit subdued of late.

Last year we lost another furry member of our family, our lovely greyhound Freya and I feel I'm still reeling a bit from that news. What makes it even harder to accept is that I never thought I might not see these friends again when we said goodbye two years ago. Somehow I just didn't view them as 'getting on' in age.

If you care to lend me your ear for a little while, I would like to tell their story.

Merlin and Freya were both rescue dogs we re homed from Tia Greyhound Rescue, after my parents spent a long while volunteering as dog walkers and campaigning to increase awareness of what happens at the end of a racing dog's life.

Merlin was our first dog after a long while of just having the cats around. He was found wandering alone on Morecambe beach, fending for himself by scavenging in bins but skin and bone nonetheless. We fell in love with his big brown eyes and wispy wizard beard and decided we wanted to give him a second life (and a better name than 'Quiggley', as he was originally known!)

When he came home with us for the first time, there were the marks of abuse covering his skinny body and it took a long time to feed him up until you couldn't see his ribs any more. We thought he was incredibly shy at first, as he would timidly extend his neck to be stroked whenever you went to say hello. But once he realised he was staying for good and not going back to Tia, the distrust began to kick in.

He would curl up in a tight ball in his bed and bare his teeth at anyone who tried to go near him. A hand approaching his head was a threat not a sign of affection, and he would snap at our fingers to warn us off. He didn't know what love was and we struggled to help him understand we were there to help. But when we went for walks and his surroundings became less enclosed, he relished the freedom, running around off the lead like a lunatic and nuzzling at our hands occasionally when walking beside us. We knew he wanted to be part of the family.

Lots of grazed hands, scraped ends of fingers and a black eye later, it was time to try a new tactic. We went back to Tia in search of a friend for Merlin whom he could instantly trust. We found IVY, an ex-racing greyhound with a brindle coat and a soft nature, named because of the ID stamp inside her ear from her years chasing a stuffed rabbit (or running the wrong way down the course, as we suspected!) We brought her home, renamed her Freya and introduced her to Merlin.

 It was our hope that once he could see the trust Freya had in us and the joy she felt when we showed her affection, Merlin would come to understand our intentions. It was very gradual process! At first, he seemed relieved that we had a new distraction and he could be left alone. But as time went by, he seemed to become jealous of Freya and strove to gain our attention in funny ways. He would bark at my Dad when he wanted something, in a way that sounded like he was trying to talk and chomp his teeth at us with a whole new meaning - he wanted to play.

It took a long time, but eventually we came to an understanding between human and creature. He was welcome, safe and loved. And in return, he became affectionate, playful and loyal and we have made lots of happy memories together.

I spoke with the family on Skype this morning, and Merlin seems to be doing a lot better since his starting his course of anti-inflammatories. He's moving about better and seems much more comfortable. I have everything crossed that he continues to do well, as we are now only a couple of months from seeing him again and I couldn't bear to lose him without saying goodbye. We never got the chance with Freya and it broke my heart. 

In the meantime, I decided to make Merly a hot water bottle cosy to help keep him toasty while he rests. This little fella was made using a free pattern from Regina of Oh, Albatross. I made him up using fluffy black dot minky so he's extra cuddly and soft. I hope the postman arrives quickly Merl, and then you can bark at him through the window to your heart's content xxx

P.S Don't let the cats try to steal it from you!

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