A Life in the Day at Kim’s Home
People often say to me that they wish they could have as many dogs as I have. Or they say that I am living their dream and that it must be so much fun. Well, yes, it is, but more for the dogs than for me perhaps.
Our day starts about 7 (now that I’m retired we take it easy). The alarm goes off earlier but the dogs know that we ignore that. The signal that the day is going to start is when I reach out to pick up my glasses. I do it so quietly but I can never fool Zeb. He is instantly on his feet, whooping around the bedroom waking the others and telling them that there is another glorious day ahead.
So we all troop downstairs and they whoosh into the garden to do the necessary. I mop up the 2 wees and occasional poo that are on the dog room floor. I don’t know who does this but I have my suspicions. And one day I’ll catch them………..Then they all stay in the dog room while I go upstairs and do a minimal “toilette” and get dressed.
Next it’s the ceremony of the collars, leads, harnesses and coats. It takes ages with 15 dogs even though they are very good and don’t wriggle much. Check: poo bags, balls and toys, long line, treats, phone, keys. Off to open up the van, then let them into the front garden, pick up all the leads and herd them into the van. Crossing the pavement is always a fraught moment – just in case a neighbouring cat pops up. It’s only happened once in 12 years and there were no casualties – though it took me a while to find Zak.
If it’s the weekend, we all go down to a closed 3 acre field, but on weekdays Freya and Dolly stay at home while the rest of us drive down to the river. Today it’s the river and so we drive the few miles in the van and park next to the river walk. I pick up the leads and get them out of the van with some semblance of order. Then the good, responsive dogs are let off lead. I keep the 2 young Salukis on for a while longer. They need my full attention, but first I must pick up all the poos that some save for the walk rather than the garden.
Finally I let the Red Arrows – Lucy and Nell – explode from their leads and see them shoot off chasing each other noisily. Zoe usually joins in – it’s an exclusive Saluki club. I put Hebe Whippet back on lead – the Salukis sometimes bully her. And off we go. After about half a mile along the river with running, sniffing, mooching, Tom chasing and losing his ball, Griff and Bayleaf swimming after their balls in the summer, we drop down to a playing field where Griff chases his rope ball and Hebe plays with her Space Hopper. The young Salukis are still running. We then move along to a wild meadow where they all have mad runs – though Griff does most of his digging projects here. Ruby tries desperately to persuade Bayleaf to organise a big run for all of them by leaping at his head. Sometimes it works. Next I have to get Lucy and Nell back on lead. No easy job. Lucy is not so bad because she has a long line and I can get her quite easily. Nell is a horror though and will avoid me as if I habitually beat her! I need to get her on lead though because she barks at men and we could meet some on the way back.
If I see someone I don’t know with a dog, I put Bayleaf, Nell and Lucy on lead. If it’s a Labrador type I’ll put Emma and Griff on too. If it’s a terrier, I’ll put George on lead. If it’s a crowd of dogs, I’ll put most of them back on lead. So our walks are a constant stop/start of leads on/off. People assume I must be very healthy because of all the dog-walking but, no, it’s a trudge with many stops for crowd control. The dogs do all the exercising.
On the way back to the van an hour or so later (depending on weather and season – it can sometimes be 2 hours), we usually meet friends: Linda with her 5 terriers and Cavaliers. My dogs love them all. And Shayla is particularly fond of Linda. If Nell is on lead, all is well. If she isn’t, then I often have to apologise to any passing man about the barking. Most understand but some don’t. Being shouted at is an occupational hazard for me, alas. It happens even if my dogs are on lead and an unruly off-lead dog runs into us. It’s always my fault apparently.
Back at the van all the dogs jump in. Nell will jump in on her own – so at least she doesn’t faff around for hours like Lucy used to. And so we drive home.
Coats and collars and leads off. Hot towels if they are wet and cold. They settle in the dog room while I tack up Freya and Dolly. Into the van and off to the park we go. Often Griff, Grace and Hebe come too so that they can have more of a social life. We mooch round the park. Freya greets her public, rolls on the grass and has a good sniff about.
Back home to breakfast. This is a long preparation because in addition to biscuit with sardines/tripe etc this is the meal that is a vehicle for most of the medication and supplements. This is the current protocol: they all get fish oil; the older dogs get vitamins and minerals etc to head off arthritis. Freya gets Previcox, Propalin and often anti-biotics. Tom gets Vivitonin; Lucy gets Zylkene; Grace gets her SLO medication: high doses of Omega 3, Biotin and Nicotinamide; Dolly needs eye ointment.
Breakfast is an orderly meal with each dog standing by his/her bowl on a stand. 5 of them get fed in the passage way or sitting room. The other 10 eat in the dog room. No-one pinches food from anyone else – though Bayleaf and Zeb have to be watched carefully. If anything is left – Zoe is a fussy eater – it is shared out between the skinny dogs.
And then they are all allowed into the sitting room to flop onto their comfortable beds for some serious sleeping and recharging of batteries.
Now I can have my breakfast and get onto the Internet to pick up emails, messages, appeals, etc. I always check Doglost for anything going down in my area or for any sighthounds anywhere. Then it’s on to Gumtree and Preloved to look out for stolen dogs and to send emails to people offering their dogs Free To Good Home to warn them of the dangers. Very few people take any notice of this. Occasionally someone will reply and thank me for the warning and offer of help. Some folk respond with abusive messages.
Now I have a window of time to do the cleaning, clear the garden, put washing on/out. Living with so many dogs means that the washing machine never stops. It’s not that they are not house-trained. They are good in that department – apart from the phantom nocturnal wee-er. And Freya has no control over her bowels and has frequent UTIs which mean urinary incontinence too. I like to keep all their throws, bedding, cushions and towels fresh and clean. They all have white brushed cotton sheets on their night beds in my room – that might be an obvious sign of my insanity. But I think it’s so much easier to put cotton sheets into the machine every few days rather than have to wash thick squidgy mattresses that take ages to dry.
So cleaning, clearing, washing, shopping done, I can return to the computer to organise transport runs, liaise with pounds and rescues etc. This takes up a lot of my time.
And then it’s time to do the walking all over again. So we just re-run the morning process. We tend to linger longer in the park in the afternoon because there are more people about and Griff, Grace and Hebe love running with their non-family friends. If Freya says she’s up to it, we sometimes do a shorter walk down at the river and she comes too. That is physically very demanding for me – controlling 15 dogs, one of whom weighs over 30 kilos and needs support; another who freaks out if she sees a man and tries to do a runner. But I manage it about once a week because Freya loves it so much. Other days I drive the youngsters – the under 12s – to farm fields to let them have a good blast. We go to the beach only when I have a helper to share the burden.
Back home, collars, leads, coats etc off and a rest for them while I do things like grooming, tidying, cleaning – yes, that again! And yet the house never looks pristine. At least once a week I put a flea comb through all the dogs just to make sure that they haven’t brought any uninvited guests home. Quite often I have to bath Griff or Zoe – they are chief fox-poo rollers. Hebe and Ruby are also occasionally guilty of this. And sometimes we have routine or not-so-routine vet visits to fit in.
Back on the computer for an hour while I try to ignore the whines and whinges of those who assure me that they are dying of starvation – mostly Emma, Griff and Bayleaf. Though little Dolly can be quite bossy too. At 6 pm I give in and we all troop out to the dog room/kitchen for dinner. Dinner is usually an easy meal – no bowls, just raw meat on or off the bone handed out in order of arrival in the family. New dogs in soon learn this routine and don’t try to jump the queue or snatch. Everyone eats in the dog room. They all go off to a part of the room to eat in peace, often very, very close to one another but no growling or bad behaviour. This I find surprising but I suppose from the beginning I nip any anti-social behaviour in the bud with a sharp “UH-UH”. In 16 years we have never had a fight in the house. We’ve had plenty of tooth tears when they are out running and get over-excited but rarely any that warrant a stitch-up. They are very civilised, polite dogs on the whole.
Evening meal over, I tidy up the sitting room, refresh all the water bowls, encourage them to go to the garden to wee if necessary. And then like a herd of wildebeest we all make our way back to the sitting room. Once settled, I return to the kitchen to clear up – Griff is usually still there sucking blood out of the towels that I am about to throw into the washing machine. Quick wash of the floor to clear up any remains of the raw meat, thorough clean of all kitchen surfaces and then at last I can think of getting some food for myself. Quite honestly, I’m usually so tired by this time that I rarely make the effort to cook – sandwiches, fruit and chocolate do me fine.
Last job of the day: back on the computer to catch up with emails, to track dogs in trouble or in transit. I have to do my accounts, order dog equipment/food online, contact rescues about dogs stuck in the pound and in danger of being put to sleep. There are phone calls to make to gypsy contacts about dogs lost and stolen and about dogs that need moving from an abusive situation. It never stops. And I don’t do nearly as much as a proper rescue. Time on Facebook is just scrolling down through image after image of cruelty cases and feeling helpless that one can’t help them all.
At last I can snatch a couple of hours to relax. I don’t sit on a sofa – they are all occupied. I squeeze in between dogs on the floor on a memory foam bed and we spend a nice snuggly time. But I always have nail clippers and comb to hand to groom anyone who is in reach. They love this. Any attention is good when you are a member of such a big family, eh?
At about 11 we start the bedtime routine. All out into the garden for last wees. Freya a short walk round the back lane because she won’t wee in the garden. Last treats all round. I go upstairs to make their beds, put clean water down for them and make sure that all is well. If it’s very cold, some of them need fleece pyjamas because I always switch the heating off when we go to bed. And so about midnight it’s a mad stampede up to bed – I don’t know why they get so excited about bed time – it’s not like I read them a story or anything. They all settle in their own beds – no messing about. Tom sleeps on the landing in his bed, George just outside the door in his and Freya sleeps on the sofa in the dog room because she can’t manage the stairs any more.
I read for about an hour or so and then put the light out. Soon Grace will creep on to my bed. And not long after Hebe will sneak under the duvet. And so we all pass a peaceful night.
The alarm goes off at 6.45 and, in true Groundhog Day fashion, we do it all over again……and again……and again.
I suppose it’s one way for an arthritic old woman to spend her retirement. I worry constantly though that I’ll get ill and not be able to look after the dogs properly. Somewhere in my Documents is a list of where the dogs can go if I pop my clogs – so that my daughter knows what to do. I also worry that I’ll run out of money and then one day you will be able to see me in Cardiff City Centre – a bowed old hag in a grubby mack and dirty trainers with a Tesco’s trolley and a string of hungry dogs….
Still think I’m living the dream? I don’t suppose I’d have it any other way though – most of the time.