Rushed off Your Paws at Christmas

You don’t need telling that it’s a busy and stressful time of year, especially if you have family to look after.

No wonder so many of us will be rushed off our feet. Or indeed our paws. 

I’m thinking of dogs like the lovely May here whose duties include opening and shutting doors, unloading the washing machine, picking up dropped items, pressing buttons and switches, and if need be getting help in an emergency.  

There’s the Christmas shopping to attend to, and that requires money. Here’s May using the ATM.

assistance dog using cash machine

photo by Canine Partners

All the food to buy.

assistance dog shopping in supermarket

photo by Canine Partners

Not to mention sorting out the Christmas post.

assistance dog with post

photo by Canine Partners

Canine Partners like May are trained to do a range of different tasks, but they’re intelligent and can adapt to the person’s lifestyle. In a survey, over a third of their humans say they rely on them to tidy toys away. Some dogs even let the cat in and out. And in and out again.

FreeImages.com/Robert Bak

And they do all this without a murmur of complaint, which can’t be said of most humans.

I don’t know about you, but I think May deserves something in her Christmas stocking.

Christmas stocking

If you don’t need an assistance dog yourself, you can still adopt one. Might even make a good last minute Christmas present for someone.

Have a merry Christmas, one and all.  

holly garland

You may like to know…

Canine Partners assists people with a range of disabilities to enjoy a greater independence and quality of life through the provision of specially trained dogs.

For example, the charity works in partnership with Help for Heroes, aiming to train dogs to meet the needs of people with even the most complex disabilities.  These life-transforming dogs also provide practical, physiological, psychological and social benefits including increased independence and confidence as well as increased motivation and self-esteem.

Canine Partners is a registered charity and receives no government funding. It depends wholly on public donations and legacies.

That’ll be you and me.

angel tree decoration

 

Easy tweet: “Christmas stress? Some busy feet barely touch the ground via @DrCarolCooper & help from @canine_partners”

What the Dalai Lama Didn’t Say

As invitations from a financial adviser go, this one was a tad unusual. But I was looking forward to what His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to say about compassion.

We’d been to the O2 Arena before. As I passed the famous balls at the entrance, I wondered: where on the spectrum between Monty Python and Ed Sheeran would this ageing religious rock star fit in?

blue balls in O2 entrance

I’d never met His Holiness, as he is called, but I’ve been on first name terms with one of his dogs. As a teenager, I earned pin money walking Chota Peg, a Lhasa Apso given by the Dalai Lama himself to a neighbour of ours. The breed’s distinguishing feature as far as a 13-year old dog walker is concerned is that its back end looks just like its front, which may explain why I never knew which way we were going.

Now, what to wear to hear His Holiness at the O2? My son assured us that the Dalai Lama would surely be content if we rolled up in yellow sheets, but the good people in hospitality would probably expect us to be in clothes.

So, clothes it was.

Protesters formed a tidy encampment outside the venue.

protest against 'False Dalai Lama'

I can’t fault the O2, especially if you’re hungry or thirsty. We poked our heads into the VIP lounge which has a 70s vibe and possibly the best Bloody Marys in the world, though that wasn’t what we’d come for.

VIP lounge at O2

The Dalai Lama’s warm-up acts were an amazing singer and a young choir. In appreciation, His Holiness bestowed garlands and pats on the head. There’d have been suspicions had he been a Catholic priest or an iconic DJ.

The real disappointment of the day was the Dalai Lama’s address. Martin Luther King he wasn’t. And I should know

The audience was there to hear about compassion as the foundation of well-being. But the man was rambling and inaudible, and, without surtitles à la Glyndebourne, almost incomprehensible. Was the sound system at fault? We cupped our ears, straining to catch the words, trying hard to work out which way he was going.

I’ve heard that HH has spoken eloquently on many occasions. Saturday was not one of them. The unstructured address was punctuated by his trademark chuckling at his own jokes. The question and answer session at the end was even worse. If this was the poster boy for peace and harmony, no surprise the world is in such a mess.  

However the day was not a total loss. The weather was kind and we’d met some interesting people at the event. Fortified by vodka and friendship, we went on the Emirates Air Line

cable car

It’s only a ten minute journey in a cable car, during which you can see Docklands and indeed much of London clearly, including the City and the Thames Barrier. I watched the Thames flow, barges glide past, people amble, trains roll by. 

view of O2 and Docklands

We got off at Victoria Docks and visited the Oiler, a bar on a barge. Next to it, people squeezed themselves into wetsuits and tried out water-skiing.

The Oiler, Docklands

It’s a good place to sit and reflect on peace, and on where to find it.

ooOoo

Easy tweet: What the Dalai Lama Didn’t Say at the O2 http://wp.me/p3uiuG-14C @DrCarolCooper strains to hear him

You may also like:  Dalai Lama says female successor must be ‘very, very attractive’ otherwise she is ‘not much use’; in Times of India.

 

Payback Time for Fat Cats

Mishmish went into the basket happily enough, probably anticipating a drive to her weekend retreat.

cat in the basket

She wasn’t purring when half a mile later we parked outside the vet’s.

The waiting-room was full of red setter. Yep, just one of him, but he was bouncing around as if he’d eaten springs for breakfast.  

red setter

We installed ourselves in the corner next to a pooch with a rhinestone collar. An elderly dachshund waddled in, rolling from side to side like a cross-channel ferry. His owner had turned-out feet and a similar gait. She heaved herself onto the bench.

I know. I look like my cat too. For a start, I’m covered in orange fur. Unlike Mishmish, however, I had a streaming cold. People recoiled visibly from me and my tissues, or would have done had there been any room.

Last time we were here, it had been for a check-up with the vet nurse, an enormously fat woman who pronounced my cat to be overweight. She calculated her BMI and promptly recommended dietary modification.  I wanted to lock the nurse into a room and give her nothing but a lettuce leaf alternate days. Preferably an expensive lettuce leaf.

lettuce leaf

Today it was for annual jabs. The vet had a Littmann stethoscope. This is the king of stethoscopes, but it didn’t impress Mishmish. We had the obligatory chat about female ginger cats being unusual, seeing as they need two x chromosomes with the relevant gene to be ginger. It’s just like haemophilia, only more desirable.

The vet looked Mishmish over and said she was a big girl.

I blew my nose and pointed out that she was big-boned.

“Are you OK?” asked the vet, his syringe poised. I didn’t tell him about my raging sore throat for fear of getting penicillin, gentamicin and a £200 bill.

Mishmish duly immunised, I paid at the desk, but the visit wasn’t over yet. I still had to pick up the prescription cat food I’d ordered.

We waited by the reception desk behind a huge slab of a man, stubbled and tattooed, with an award-winning builder’s cleavage. He’d come to collect his dog after surgery, so I heard.

“What’s the animal’s name?” asked the receptionist.

“Twinkle.”

Twinkle, it turned out, was a bichon frisé with a bandaged paw.   If you’re not familiar with the breed, it makes toy poodles look impossibly butch.

Twinkle and Macho Man left, the receptionist took a few calls, and there we still were. “I’m waiting for my prescription cat food,” I told her again, not quite as patiently as the first time. My baby could starve!

empty cat bowl

She went to look but it hadn’t been delivered, apparently. “What kind is it?”

“It’s the metabolic diet,” I said.  

The waiting room nodded collectively. Pet owners know what metabolic diet means. It screams “SLAG! YOU LET YOUR PET GET FAT.”

The woman with the dachshund fixed me with a rheumy eye. 

I felt like blaming my husband. He gives her high calorie treats, I wanted to say. But then I’d have been castigated for not controlling him as well. There’s really no excuse now that there are special diets for flabby felines and activity centre toys to exercise lazy cats, not to mention various harnesses and contraptions to stop spouses dishing out treats.

leads, harnesses and restraints

They still couldn’t find the metabolic diet. Only ordinary cat food. We’d been here about 45 minutes by then. In her basket Mishmish was getting stressed, and I had distributed viruses evenly across the waiting room.

“We’re going away for a few days and I need the food. I did order it in plenty of time, you know.” But it was no good. The other owners had already judged me. I was the kind of idiot who feeds her kid burgers through the school fence.

Didn’t they know that junk food is much cheaper than the healthy stuff? I felt a twinge of sympathy for parents of tubby children.

The receptionist gave up and a vet nurse was summoned. She couldn’t find our order either.

Eventually the fat nurse from last time was called in and she quickly found what we needed, our 4kg bag of Advanced Weight Solution.  

Hill's Prescription Diet Feline Metabolic Diet advanced weight solution

I’m far better disposed towards her now. She can even have a lettuce leaf every day.

***

If you have space for a cat or dog in your life, please consider getting one from a charity like the Mayhew Animal Home in NW London.

How to Stop Yourself Watching Kitten Videos

Aw, kitten videos! Don’t we all love them to bits? It’s estimated that there are some 5.3 million kitten (or cat) videos online, and writers like me must have watched every single one. When inspiration fails to strike, or you can’t quite find le mot juste, the brain craves a cute kitty video.  

I bet you’ve watched them too. There are kittens tumbling about, swimming in bathtubs, playing the piano, cosying up to babies, fighting off Dobermans, rescuing firemen from trees, etc.

They’re a massive time-suck, especially for the self-employed, but they’re compulsive viewing. Someone shares one with you, and you can’t delete or look away. You just can’t. It would be like turning down a date with George Clooney. I bet if Clooney called you just before a crucial work deadline, you’d still say ‘Yes.’

I managed to give up chocolate for years on end, but couldn’t stop the kitten video habit, even though it’s pretty obvious I’d be a lot more productive.

Well, I’m over all of that now. No more kitten videos. And now I can share my secret with you.

Puppy videos.

I mean, who can resist the one with seven dogs waiting to be fed? Or the one where the smallest dog nicks treats from all the big dogs? Or the dachsund playing in deep snow? Not that you can actually see him, obviously.

Here’s my personal favourite.

I have the Mayhew and Jenny to thank for this one. The lovely Honey is one of the puppies from the Mayhew Animal Home in NW London. In December, I posted a photo of her, along with three other Mayhew animals who were also looking for forever homes.

Amaruq

Amaruq

Rambo

Rambo

Alfie Moon

Alfie Moon

I’m delighted to tell you that Amaruq, Alfie Moon and Rambo have now all found homes too. But there are still lots more lovely animals waiting patiently.  So check out the doggy videos on this link.

PS there are a few kitty videos too. Just in case you’re still hooked. 

When I’m not Writing

It’s a fun life, this novelist business: publishing and promoting a book, and getting a sequel going, while ideas for the prequel are also bubbling away.

What did I do before novelling?medical bag

A lot more doctoring, for a start.  Every day, the rich pageant of life played out in the consulting-room.  Many patients shared their innermost secrets, told me their darkest fears.  Most had washed, some hadn’t.  Their socks stood up unaided. 

A lot of them talked while I listened to their chests, so I had no chance of picking up the subtle signs learnt at medical school.  Or hearing what they were saying.

Frequently a patient would promise “This won’t take a minute, doc.”  Which was true.   It usually took at least half an hour.   The ones who took longest had often brought me newspaper cuttings about the latest ‘breakthrough’.   Sometimes it was an article I’d written myself. 

These days it’s all about patient-centred medicine.  I realised how far along this road we’d gone when a patient just to ask how feather pillows should be washed.  Some patients, of course, were really ill, like the young man with meningitis who turned up thinking he’d just badly strained his back.   Despite being sent to hospital by ambulance right away, he still ended up disabled. 

doorway to patient's flatWhen I was training to be a GP, I visited a lot of housebound patients.  Finding their homes could be a challenge.  Houses with names were the bane of my life, as were those where the numbers were too small to see from the road.  It was a straight choice:  stop every so often to peer at them, or drive with two wheels on the pavement. 

There were homes so dirty you wiped your feet on the way out. 

And high-rise blocks of flat which smelled of urine and carbolic (but mostly urine).  The lifts never worked, and if they did nobody would have willingly entered them anyway. 

There were tiny bungalows where a lot of patients kept the front door key hanging on a length of string inside the door.   You fished the string out through the letter box and let yourself in. 

Often there were dogs where you least expected them.  There were two kinds: the protective type bared their teeth as soon as you touched their master, and the other kind  stayed curled up on the sofa, unnoticed till someone sat on them.  Then they yelped into life and bit you on the bum. dog

Sometimes the patient was dangerous, like the young psychotic who locked me into the dining room and threatened me with shards of broken mirror.   

It wasn’t a wealthy area.  I’d get called out to see patients with minor injuries, if they weren’t sure it was worth getting a cab to A&E.  Funny they could always afford cigarettes.

The ones that I remember most vividly were the old people, living out their lives in one-bedroomed homes, surviving on their pensions (if they turned the heating down), their memories, and not much else.  They usually had a knitted blanket on their knees, a couple of faded photos on the mantlepiece, some tacky souvenir from a seaside holiday, and maybe a china dray-horse on the window-sill.  While there I’d check the kitchen cupboards.  They were often bare apart from a huge collection of medicines. 

All of human life could be found in patient’s homes, providing insights that are rarely glimpsed 25 years on.  I still see patients, but these days it’s almost always in the consulting-room.  Even full-time GPs don’t have the nearly same volume of home visits these days.  There’s no time in today’s high-pressure, high-tech primary care.