Polly's Blog

A tribute to Lily the Labrador

lillyWe lost another dear pet in April, Lily the Labrador; her owners Lea and Jeff have been loyal clients of While You’re Away, since Lily was a puppy, way back in 2001.

Dear Lily died just short of her sixteenth birthday, bless her she was the sweetest girl, as you see from the photo taken not long before she died; we will all miss her very much.

A few tears were shed by her regular pet sitters, they all loved Lily and it was never a problem getting our sitters to care for her and her companion, Poppy the cat.

We hope you are running around like you used to Lily, wherever you are.

‘Tick’ watch…

All this paperwork to do and not even a biscuit with my coffee!
All this paperwork to do and not even a biscuit with my coffee!

Hello everyone, isn’t it great to have some good weather at last?! I have been rolling around in the grass, having fun in the sun.

However, the long wet winter has brought an unprecedented level of ticks, lurking in the long grass and the woodlands, so please watch out for them. Do check your dogs and cats regularly and treat them with the preparations that are put onto our necks and shoulders, the effects last for a month and also mean that we don’t get fleas either.

Ticks come in a variety of sizes depending on how old they are and how recently they have fed, from the size of a pin head up to around the size of a fingernail. They are oval or rounded in appearance, and come in a range of colours from a pale cream up to a fairly deep dark grey or brown, and everything in between.

Generally, the appearance of a tick on your pet’s skin will look like a small rounded pebble, as once a tick has attached itself to your pet you will be unable to see their legs or the probe which they use to pierce the skin with.

We can contract nasty infections from these nasty little arachnids, especially if they are not removed correctly, leaving the mouth parts behind. There is a special tool available very cheaply from pet shops/online, it is turned anti-clockwise, (the ticks bury their heads into your pet by turning clockwise), clever little devils aren’t they?

See photo below.


Spring is here

Spring has arrived at last, so lovely light to have extra playtime in the garden and walks with our dogs, not forgetting outside playtime with our cats, who love to play as well, of course.

We have had some heart-warming stories during the past month, the one that stands out for us, here in the office, being the rescue by a client of ours, of two dear little 6 months old kittens.

These little brothers had been shut in a dark shed for almost the whole of their short lives but now have a new and loving home; they were clinging to each other to begin with but, at almost a year old, are now trusting and behaving as cats should.

I am sure we will have our sitters queuing up to care for them.


Dogs left alone at home

We have around 9 million dogs as a part of our family, living in our homes, in the UK.

A recent survey has shown that approximately 2.3 million dogs are left alone all day or in excess of 6 hours, whilst owners are at work. Here at While You’re Away, our pet sitters follow the Veterinary Association guidelines, never to leave the dogs, in their care for more than 4 hours. This is written into our Code of Practise and religiously adhered to.

dog_walking3Please remember that these wonderful companions have evolved, over thousands of years, to live and work with us. Until the late 19th /early 20th, century most dogs worked for us, hunting or herding all day long, they had a job to do. These days, they have become unemployed and it is up to us to compensate, by giving them an outlet for all that energy.

Some breeds suffer more than others, when left alone for long periods, those with instinctive working skills, Collies, Spaniels and Retrievers, for example.

Do research the breeds and try to choose a pet to match your lifestyle. For those of us who do work, a long energetic walk before leaving in the morning, will help to keep your pet calm, as will leaving the radio on and providing stimulating toys for them.

Best of all, if it is affordable, consider a “Dog Walker”, once a day, to break the loneliness and boredom. A one hour visit, will cost around £10.00 and will make all the difference to your dog’s life and to yours too!

Are the changes in winter weather patterns influencing our pets’ behaviour?

pollys_blog4This month I am paying tribute to our lost friend Jet the Labrador, who died age 13, at the end of January. As you see, he was a very handsome boy and is very much missed by our clients, his owners, not to mention our pet sitters, who all loved this gorgeous dog.

Sue has been researching various articles about the change in winter weather patterns over the last 5 years and its effect on pets’ behaviour, dogs in particular.

Some leading pet behaviourists have reported unprecedented levels of depressed, unsettled dogs in recent months. It seems that ‘some’ pet owners, also suffering from the effects of the grey, wet muddy weather, have cut down on the length and frequency of the daily walks, which are crucial in keeping our dogs’ spirits up.

One leading pet behaviourist has reported a level of unrest in dogs, totally unprecedented in her 20 year career, working with pets, dogs in particular. She has even seen horses not coping with the wet and the mud very well, happy to be returned to the stables, instead of sliding around in the mud and the rain.

It seems quite a number of dog owners are happy to walk on cold, frosty and dry days, but not when it’s soggy wet and horrible!

As it looks like we are in for years of dreary wet winters, rather than crisp cold ones, this needs to be addressed before our four legged friends start destroying the house and asking for Valium!!

I know it’s raining, but the magic word beginning with a “W”, is all I need to make me happy again!

So let’s remember, whatever the weather, our dogs need to “Get their heads down, sniff around and engage with the environment”, using their brains as well as their bodies.

We are enjoying some lovely dry frosty days at the moment, but please get the wellies and the wet weather gear out next time we are deluged!!!!


Hello and very belated Happy New Year to all my readers!

jan2016_blog2At last we are experiencing a little frost and more seasonal weather is forecast, for the coming week; good news for the farmers and the over saturated ground but not so good for my friends the hedgehogs.

Poor little prickly pals haven’t hibernated as normal, November to March, I keep telling them, when I see them in my garden but they aren’t listening to me.

We have a big pile of tree branches at the top of my garden, for hibernation purposes. I am going to visit my friends the hedgehogs, during this week and encourage them to eat all the food we put out, because, if the cold snap forces them into hibernation underweight, even more of them will not survive the rest of the winter.

December was the wettest month on record and all our wildlife has suffered, trying to find enough of the food supplies, depleted by the constant heavy rain.


Our sitters have been up against it too , all winter; in particular, the farm animals and outdoor pets in our care, have been a real issue for us, as you would imagine.
Not to mention the ‘showering down’ of mud coated, wet dogs, every time they are walked!

Never mind, Spring is around the corner and hopefully some sunshine at long last too!
I hope you like the photo of Kay, one of our lovely pet sitters, with Arthur the marmalade cat; she sent us the photo from an assignment, she took this time last year, when the weather was as it should be for January.

See you in February!


Polly’s Blog December 2015

“ I have all this typing to do and they expect coffee as well!”

Here I am again after a very long absence, so a December hello to all our friends!

A brief reminder for you about all the delicious smelling foodstuffs and treats, around at Christmas, that are toxic to us dogs, (and cats too), in particular chocolates, blue cheeses, Christmas cake and nuts.

We dogs can easily sniff out a well wrapped box of chocolates, hiding under the tree, because you poor humans only have 5 million scent receptors in your noses, we have over 200 million!

Do also ensure that sure that Poinsettia plants and Mistletoe are kept well away, we like to chew and these would give us very upset tummies.

One of our wonderful dog sitters, Bob Maddox painted the portrait below, of the beautiful Simba, who sadly died in the autumn.

This is our tribute to a noble pet, much loved, both by his owners and our pet sitters too.


We wish all our friends a very Happy Christmas and remember:-

“If humans had hearts like dogs, the world would be a peaceful place.”

See you in 2016!


Dogs and sticks

polly_the_dogHello Readers,

This ball chasing that you humans seem to insist we take part in, is a tiring pastime you know, AND I only do it to please everyone, I don’t really enjoy it all!

Here we are barely into spring and everyone in the office is fretting about Christmas bookings already! So, here I am reminding you, that if you do plan a holiday at Christmas or New Year, we do get booked up very quickly; it is never too early to reserve a pet sitter with us.

We had a potentially nasty incident involving a client’s Labrador, this month, so this is a helpful hint to anyone out there who doesn’t realise quite how lethal twigs and small tree branches can be.

This particular dog, whilst in the care of our sitters, picked up and ran with a stick, he stumbled and said stick broke in his mouth. Our sitters reported back to the office that they couldn’t see or feel anything in his mouth, but the following morning, we had an unusually quiet and poorly dog, to rush to the vet.

A small piece of the woody bark had stuck in his soft palate, causing a bad infection and involving an overnight stay plus a course of antibiotics.

We always recommend that owners actively discourage their dogs from picking up sticks and also stones, which can lodge in the stomach, again causing real problems. If your dog has a tendency to do this, simply get them to drop the stick and offer a throwing toy or a tugging toy instead; always better safe than sorry.


TIM’S STORY (in our client’s own words)

Hello, Polly here again,

I thought you would like to see me with my 2 “best dogs”, Charlie and Tilly, we have a lot of fun, walking and playing when they come to visit me in my home!


Sue asked me to tell you about one of our regular clients’ much loved pet, Tim the cat, who sadly died recently, aged 18. This family has taken on many pets over the years, dogs and cats, all needing good loving homes; thank goodness for animal lovers such as them.

Here in the office, we all felt very emotional, on reading the words that are underlined, I think they say it all.

So this is the story of the lovely cat called Tim

Tim has been a bit ‘iffy’ for a while – I never expected him to make Christmas 2013 but he rallied and did, then I never expected him to make his 18th birthday on 11th December last cat_tomyear – and he did! He was such a little trooper. It has been a ‘roller coaster’ for a long time. I think I knew when I emailed you, and had already made an appointment with my dear vet, but it was difficult to actually put it down on paper (or email). My vet had known him from Day 1 when I picked up a batch of tiny abandoned kittens and some adult cats, on behalf of the Cat Protection League.

It was obvious Tim was totally blind, and it is why I decided to adopt him; he came home to join the family of 13 cats and 7 dogs! He has had a really wonderful and relatively ‘normal’ life – “he was just a cat that couldn’t see”, so he couldn’t ‘free range’ like our other cats, but on lovely sunny days, went out into a pen with large run (and grass) with a few other cats to keep him company!

But 18 years is a very long time, in fact, unbelievably with all his problems, he has outlived 23 ‘healthy’ felines and I shall really miss him.

Winter months pet and wild life care

Here I am helping Rosey with the invoices, it’s a dog’s life in here it really is!


We are very busy this month, as usual after the Christmas break. Clients are booking their summer holidays already; so, if you need us to look after your pets, it is never too early.

Don’t forget we care for every type of pet, from hamsters to horses and farm animals too, no pet too big , too small or too exotic!

This month I am reminding all my readers about looking after our garden wildlife as well as our pets. January and February can be very hard on the little creatures, the birds in particular.

You will see a few ‘Polly tips’ to help our wonderful and diverse garden visitors, listed below.

Provide some water for wildlife, a bird bath is good – creating a pond is even better!
If your garden is suitable plant a native British tree or shrub such as hawthorn, holly or rowan this provides shelter and food for birds and other animals.

Grow some native flowers in your garden to help local wildlife – you can use the Natural History Museum’s Postcode Plants Database website to find out which plants are suitable and which animals live in your area.

Put up nest boxes for birds or bats on trees and fences – or have a special nest box for bees in your garden.

Put out food for the birds – seeds, peanuts and fatballs in feeders, or on a bird table.
Make a compost heap.

Choose garden plants that provide food or shelter for wildlife, such as buddleia, sunflowers, clematis, cotoneaster, lavender and other herbs.

Collect rainwater in a water butt, mulch your flowerbeds, and grow plants that are drought tolerant.

Don’t tidy up your garden too much – old plant stems and log or leaf piles make cosy winter quarters for helpful animals such as ladybirds and hedgehogs!

Avoid using pesticides and chemical fertilisers – going organic is better for wildlife, and for you!

Goodbye for now, keep warm!

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