Christmas!

It used to be that having a Christmas break meant staying in bed and chilling a lot, but since we got Monty holidays are busier and more tiring than work days. My general feeling is that dogs don’t live long lives (compared to humans) and I want him to enjoy the time he has as much as possible, and if that means having no free time then it means having no free time.

So Christmas has been busy. But also fun. I bought my mum a custom mug that says “Monty’s Grandma” with a picture of him printed on the side. That made her laugh. I bought my sister an aurora light projector, which was kind of a “I have no idea what to give you” present but she seems to love it. Mum gave me a pair of Shokz bone conduction headphones for running, which are nice and useful.

Anyway, my sister thinks she has a cold today so I get to play the exciting lottery of am I going to catch it? I haven’t had a respiratory infection for almost three years now (the last one was probably COVID, the week before the UK went into lockdown) and I feel nonplussed by the prospect of breaking that streak. Working from home is a blessing in that regard; I remember in my previous job I once had a six week period where I caught three colds.

A few weeks back I had three or four days in a row when my heart rate was elevated and my stress levels high for no obvious reason, so I’m hoping that was my body fighting off whatever my sister has caught and now I’m immune… But we’ll see.

Rain 🌧️

I’m currently lying in bed listening to some very heavy rain hitting the windows. Monty has decided he doesn’t like heavy rain now. It never used to bother him but now he’s older he’s getting more sensible. This will present a challenge with his morning toileting.

I’m most of the way through the Sopranos S4 now. I am still conflicted about it. It’s mostly a series about people eating. In between meals there are occasional bouts of extremely violent crime. I mostly see it as a bizarre sitcom which lets me mostly overlook the fact that all the characters are horrible and dysfunctional. Also, the product placement is a form of comedy in itself.

In other news, politics! Well I’m not going to vote Tory either way so it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me, but my thoughts are: If Rishi Sunak actually runs then he’s inept. He has a much brighter future in two years time as opposition leader than spending two years now being PM on somebody else’s mandate with a trashed party reputation and a worsening economy. But actually I do think he’s inept so I think he’ll go for it now. 🤷‍♂️

Monty!

We’ve had Monty for just over a year now. How time flies. He’s about 15 months old and, maybe I will jinx it by saying so, he’s calmed down a little bit recently and he’s slowly turning into a lovely and well behaved dog. Well, he was always lovely, but now he’s a bit easier.

I mean, he’s not well behaved, he’s just not as bad as he used to be. People say that cockapoos (via the poodle genes) are easy to train because they’re intelligent. I think they’re wrong. I think they learn quickly, because they’re intelligent, but also, because they’re intelligent, they’ll just decide not to listen to you sometimes when they know the alternative is more interesting.

Bad behaviours we still haven’t managed to stop include: nipping when he gets excited (though he is getting better!), being possessive of his toys (and sometimes other dog’s toys when he steals them in the park 🤦‍♂️) and eating/picking things up off the ground. It’s acorn season at the moment and he LOVES putting them in his mouth despite the fact they are poisonous to dogs (though I don’t think he’s ever eaten one). He does drop quite reliably in exchange for chicken (unless it’s a new and exciting object), but some walks it’s just a continual “leave it… leave it… drop…”. I’m still hoping he’ll grow out of this… There are signs he will, but when he’s tired or excited he just seems obsessed with finding things to put in his mouth.

Because of that we only let him off the lead in a few places where we’re not expecting to come across much litter. Though you’d be surprised how much junk he eats that seems to not affect him the slightest. Sheep poo, for example. I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to eat sheep poo, but he doesn’t care and apparently neither does his digestive system. He also loves tissues, receipts and other bits of paper which his stomach seems to break down just fine.

Anyway, the other point is that having him has been really good for me. It used to be that work was the biggest thing in my life just by virtue of it taking up so much time and attention. Now it’s not the most important thing. Looking after this crazy little guy is the most important thing.

100!

I did my 100th Parkrun this last weekend. I ran another post lockdown PB, beating my time two weeks ago by one second!

My knee is kind of ehh. It was fine after parkrun, but I also ran today and it wasn’t great. The problem now is that I have been stretching a lot, because my quads were very tight, and I’m not really sure exactly what I’m feeling. Like I’m pretty sure that a lot of the discomfort now is actually just above my knee in the quads, maybe the tendon, and that’s ok because it’s probably just the effects of stretching. Some of it seems to be down the side, probably the IT band, which isn’t really ideal, but is better than the kneecap.

I have a half marathon in four weeks and I’ve missed one long run now so I’m feeling a bit antsy about that. I’m aiming to do the next one on Wednesday, so I’ve got a couple of days to get it recovered and feeling stronger. But these muscle imbalance injuries can drag on at a low level for a long time. I might try ordering a knee brace…

The weather is supposed to be pretty ridiculous for the next two days. I’ve never known it go past maybe 33 degrees here, and yet we’re forecasting two days of 38. So I have no urge whatsoever to run in that heat.

Monty is going to hate the heat, but at least he’s been to the groomers recently. We took him out this morning for what will probably be his last long walk until Wednesday and met a slightly odd man who became very disapproving when he learnt that Monty is a cockapoo, not a poodle, and wanted us to justify our decision to get a cockapoo instead of a poodle and started on a diatribe about purebred dogs going extinct because of ‘fashion’.

Hmm, well, though it pains me to agree with him, poodles are amazing and maybe one day in the future…. But wait a minute here, purebreeding has its own set of ethical issues and I’m not sure you can really claim a moral high ground over supporting a eugenics program. And anyway, I’m just here to walk my little guy, not to be told his existence is an affront to nature. I will definitely be avoiding him in future.

The Cone of Shame

Monty is in the cone of shame. We’re not quite sure what happened but last weekend he had an irritated scrotum and was licking it a lot. I think it was getting better but then he went to the groomer on Wednesday and that set him off again. Over the weekend he seemed very unhappy and kept lying down on the tiles in the hallway (which he’d never done before) as if the carpet in the other rooms was irritating him. So we went to the vet on Monday and she’s given us a cone and various creams. She thinks he probably originally irritated it on a plant like ivy or brambles and if he’d just stop licking it for a few days it would get better. Unfortunately, licking his genitalia is one of his favourite hobbies, even when it’s not irritated.

I didn’t know this but the cones absolutely traumatise some dogs, including Monty. They just completely shut down and sit there looking sad. Yesterday afternoon he was refusing to eat, drink, toilet, everything. He just sat there. We ended up taking it off for a while to get him to do those things. And then it took him until 5 o clock this morning to work out he could go to sleep while wearing it. He literally sat upright all night until he eventually collapsed in exhaustion. Anyway he seems happier in it today, and in theory we can take it off tomorrow. We’ve had it off twice for about an hour each time today and he hasn’t been trying to lick much at all, so that’s promising.

In other news, at work, apparently our second in command has left. And I know this because LinkedIn told me he’s started another job. If I worked somewhere with hundreds of employees I could understand someone leaving without me knowing, but we actually have.. let’s count… 9 employees! So, great communication there. I assumed that he would be taking over running the company day to day when the MD retires (he’s in his 70s), so this seems like a bad sign.

Progress

Despite my lacklustre half marathon performance on Sunday and my suspicion that I might need to take some time off for my hip, I ran down to the doctors yesterday to enquire about my blood test. It turns out that blood test forms expire after 3 months, so the one I had from last August was definitely out. So I have booked a GP appointment (again!) in a couple of weeks and I’ll see about getting another one, and actually having it done this time. Of course by the time it happens I’ll have been on iron tablets for four weeks, but I’ll just have to tell them that when they interpret the results.

So overall, going into the surgery worked a lot better than trying to phone them up. A few years ago I booked a lot of appointments over a period of about 12 months, and usually I would just do it at work by disappearing into the corridor for a couple of minutes. Or I could use the online booking… which is now disabled “because of COVID” (?????). Whereas now it’s at least 30 minutes on hold. I could understand if they had a GP shortage and couldn’t provide enough appointments, because a GP shortage is a hard problem to solve. But I am pretty sure that a shortage of people to answer the phones is not a hard problem to solve. This has been going on for a couple of years now, and every so often the local newspaper picks up on it and prints a scathing article… and nothing changes.

Anyway the running was OK. I was achy but that’s hardly surprising. Then today I went out again and did a 10km tempo, which was neither terrible nor great. My pace was a bit faster than the HM on Sunday, and it was really hot and I’m probably not recovered from Sunday yet, so overall it wasn’t bad, but my energy levels dipped quite a lot around the 8km mark.

I’ve been off work this week so I’ve been entertaining Monty. I took him to the town centre on Tuesday and sat in the square with a drink while he watched everyone walk past. Today we went into a dog friendly cafe and had a drink. He was quite stressed, or maybe just really excited. He was whimpering a bit to start with so I had him sat in my lap and I could feel him panting heavily almost the whole time. It’s funny how he’s so confident and boisterous in his comfort zone, but as soon as you put him in a new situation he’s quite timid. Before we got him, I had no idea dogs could be so expressive with the sounds they make.

PREPARATIONS

My taper week for the half marathon has become a full rest week because I could feel my hip tightening up. I was planning to run Monday, Wednesday and Saturday but after Monday I decided not to. I’ve done a half before where it seized up after 10km and finishing that was pretty miserable so I didn’t want to risk it. But it’s actually feeling pretty good now, after a few days of foam rolling my bottom. That’s something to remember for the future. I think the tightness is the IT band, but a lot of the IT band’s insertion is in the glute max.

The other thing was that in the past few weeks I’ve started feeling very tired and wanting to nap a lot in the afternoons. I probably need to get my iron levels checked (like I was supposed to two times before…). But I started taking iron tablets again and either that or the fact I’m not running at the moment has me feeling a lot better.

So between those two things I’ve gone from feeling very optimistic to very pessimistic to a little bit optimistic again. Is 1:40 still realistic? I think so….

The plan became a bit fraught. My sister is doing it as well which presents Monty problems. The idea was that my dad would look after Monty for the morning and my mum would either come in to meet us or go in with us and potter about for the morning.

But unfortunately as of a few days ago dad isn’t allowed to be left alone with Monty. Dad seems to like Monty, but dad seems to believe that because he’s 10x bigger he can just use brute force to get him to do what he wants, especially when he’s misbehaving. When we were both there, he tried grab/pick up Monty by the neck/throat and shouted at him not to “mess him around”. Sister and I were both a bit concerned to say the least. So unfortunately now mum is going to stay with Monty and she won’t be coming in to meet us, which she’s upset about and means we have to faff around with baggage.

I’m quite frustrated about my dad. I always temper my expectations where he is concerned, but I thought we could at least leave Monty with him for a few hours and he’d be present enough to supervise and stop Monty from being able to harm himself… I didn’t think we’d have to worry about dad being a source of potential harm.

I just can’t understand what made him think that was an acceptable way to behave.

I like sleeping

Monty is being quite difficult at night now. It started last Sunday, i.e. when we changed the clocks. Probably changing the clocks upset his routine, which we didn’t really consider at the time. He was settling down in his pen in the living room at night, but now he seems very stressed at being left in the pen. So we tried letting him sleep out of the pen, and it’s a bit hit and miss. Sometimes he settles on the sofa, other times he seems restless and paces around a lot and goes behind the curtains and looks out of the window. I think he doesn’t really feel safe at night on his own, which is strange because he’s always been happy at night up til now and he’s happy to nap in there on his own during the day time.

Apparently adolescent dogs can go through something called a fear period where they just seem to suddenly get scared by things they never used to, so maybe that’s it. Some people say you should just put them in a crate/pen and let them cry it out, but it seems so mean and counter-productive. We tried that for about an hour and when we went down he was genuinely very stressed and took a few hours to calm down. It’s not that he’s being naughty, it’s that the little guy has his own needs and for whatever reason he’s actually upset! So over the past week we’ve had three nights between us of sleeping on the sofa with him. Which isn’t ideal.

So anyway… I think he’s going to be sleeping in my room soon. I just hope he can behave and not start chewing my bed sheets 🙄

This is the expression of a dog who can’t understand why you interrupted his tasty grass meal to try to get him to pose for a photo
Apparently sleeping in this position, on his back with his stomach exposed (kind of), means he’s happy and feels secure

COVID and stuff

I don’t really get the apparent push that COVID is alright now and we just need to go back to normal and it’ll be fine. My boss’s dad died of COVID this week. It’s strange to see the contrast between people saying that it’s harmless and someone one degree removed from me dying from it. It looks like the push to open up again is coming from Boris Johnson trying to placate backbenchers to distract away from the ongoing disaster that is himself.

And on the topic of Boris, then there’s the National Insurance increase. I’m kind of annoyed about this if I’m honest. I don’t feel that the quality of services we get in the UK for our level of tax burden is a good deal. The NHS in particular worries me a lot since COVID. When I last needed a GP appointment, I had to wait about 30-45 minutes on the phone to speak to a receptionist and then the best they could give me was a telephone appointment a month later. It’s not so much a big thing for me personally, but my parents are getting older and it worries me that they will be deterred from seeking medical services should they need it. But overall it’s just a horrible policy that takes money from people who don’t vote Conservative (i.e. working aged people) while shielding those who do (i.e. pensioners).

Anyway… It prompted me to do some sums. I pay into a personal pension and a workplace pension. The workplace pension is salary sacrifice, but the personal pension is a better fund with lower fees. Obviously I get income tax relief on both, but the workplace pension is salary sacrifice so I also pay less NI as my taxable income is lower. It turns out that if I took all the money I put each month into my personal pension and instead paid it through my workplace pension, I would pay quite a bit less NI after the increase than I do now. And I can transfer it every so often into the private pension where the fees are lower. I hadn’t ever thought about doing this before. So… thanks, Boris?

In other news, it’s been a strange few weeks as Monty hasn’t been very well. Not last week but the week before, he woke up from his nap Tuesday morning and threw up. He looked unwell for a couple of hours and then perked up and seemed fine, until Thursday evening when he started vomiting again and had diarrhoea. I always knew that having a dog would involve it sometimes, but ideally you want this kind of thing in the morning so you don’t end up wandering around the garden multiple times during the night while your dog empties himself at both ends. We took him to the vet Friday morning but by the afternoon he seemed quite happy again… until Monday evening when we pretty much had a repeat of Thursday night. But he’s been OK since then and seems back to his lively self, so hopefully he’s got rid of it! According to my mum there was a post on the local Facebook group about such a bug going around and a few people noted the on and off nature of it, so I think he just picked something up. He’s only six months old so I guess you have to expect this kind of thing until his immune system is a bit more experienced. Plus, this is a dog who enjoys splashing in his water bowl with his muddy paws before deciding he’s thirsty and starts to drink the now brown water. He’s not really big on hygiene.

Hopefully we’ll be OK from now on… I have been quite worried about him at times. We’ve only had him four months but it seems like an eternity now. It feels like you very quickly develop an unconditional love for him. Maybe it helps that he’s so cute 🤫

MONTY!

Monty went to the groomer again today. He’s had a proper clip! He’s gone from being such a fluffy boy to looking just like his mum, the last time we saw her! I’m kind of sad he’s not as fluffy but it was nice to see him and think “wow, he looks just like his mum!”.

Before and after. He’s all velvety now.

I feel like he has regressed a bit recently though. Over Christmas we took him to the park every day and he was pretty much completely crazy every time we went. But after almost two weeks of that we managed to get him walking quite nicely on the lead (loose lead walking) about half of the time. Obviously, when he sees another dog or someone comes and makes a fuss of him it all goes wrong, but he’s walking a lot better most of the time in general.

But in terms of his behaviour around the house, he seems to have gone backwards a bit. He’s getting the zoomies a lot and nipping more than he used to. Some of it was definitely teething and it was obvious his mouth was hurting, but I think he’s finished with that now and he’s still quite nippy and zoomy. I can always tell when we’re about 3 seconds away from zoomies because he’ll just suddenly stare at your feet and move his head with them as you walk around. This is always a bad sign because it means he’s thinking “wow, those look fun to bite”. I think it’s his working dog instincts that makes him want to chase things that move and when he’s overexcited he can’t resist the urge. So once he’s focused on your feet, it means he’s a few seconds away from lunging at them, possibly biting them, then running away grunting, growling and/or barking as he does laps around the living room at full speed.

I suppose that progress isn’t linear and cockapoos are particularly excitable and energetic dogs, and he is still only 5 and a bit months old.

However, I ❤️ him lots.