Bonnie’s Story – Part Three – The Love of a Collie

The summer of 2012 was supposed to be our summer of rest and recuperation. After we left Duna in her new Norfolk paradise we travelled slowly down to Cornwall in the camper van, enjoying peace at last.  Bonnie loved camping and it was great to take her to some favourite places like Waylands Smithy the Neolithic Burial Chamber on the ancient Ridgeway. It is a very powerful place.

We parked overnight on the Ridgeway which is one of the oldest highways across England and were kept awake by a strange clicking that couldn’t be turned off in the dashboard.  Every time it stopped and I returned to bed, it started up again. Eventually I decided we must be parked in the middle of the ley line so decided to move the van. Only a few metres back and the sound stopped

We arrived in Cornwall early August and only a few days later received the terrible news of my brothers death in London. Once again we left Bonnie with our friends and returned to London in the van.  A few weeks later we went back yet again for the funeral and by the time we were able to finally settle down in Cornwall, the summer break was almost over. Bonnie and I stayed on for another month and my partner had to fly back to Catalunya.
Can you see her?

This period of being just Bonnie and me in our country cabaña was very peaceful.  I wanted rest and time to grieve and she was happy to just play all day in the field with her friends. We took long walks together and she was the perfect kind companion as I tried to make sense of a senseless death and to somehow come to terms with the loss of a sibling. 
One sunny day we spent hours on the rocks at Perranuthnoe

In the autumn we made the journey down through France this time accompanied by my friend Val. We found wonderful campsites by rivers and on the last night in the Cathar area of south west France we stayed in a hotel that not only allowed dogs in the bedrooms but in the restaurant. Lovely France!

Back in Catalunya we had many more wonderful trips.
We returned again and again to Sant Nicolau where we felt so much at home.
Here we are in St Pere de Pescador

We took the train from Granollers to La Molina. It is a ski resort and quite deserted when there is no snow.  A sagging dolmen reminded us of Cornwall

We went walking in the hills between the Valle Oriental and the Mediteranean, often with our friends Oreneta and Chuck. Don’t they make a lovely couple?

We went to collect water from the natural spring at Santa Fe in Montseny

At Sant Hilari Sacalm – the town with many spring water fountains – Bonnie at last learned how to drink from the fountain but she always preferred the hand method

Here she is at the Font del Ferro – the water is full of iron – you can see how much she adored her new friend. He doesn’t like his picture used here too often but it would be an empty story if he wasn’t included.  After the initial moments of barking at him when they first met, she gave her heart to him completely. She loved me of course but she always went first to Pep when we came home together.
It was a doggy thing!  I didn’t care – I just wanted her to be happy and safe

I took her several times to Barcelona – always feeling very excited to be there with her. She was very good on the train and the only time it felt difficult was when we sat outside a cafe on Enric Grenados in Eixample. I hadn’t realised they use that pedestrian street for skateboarding – her pet hate.
Here she is with Barcelona down below when we went to stay overnight in Nou Barris

In April 2013 we drove to the borders of Catalunya to explore the Ports de Beseit where there are amazing rock formations

 and deep gullies of crystal clear water

We were camping again of course – you can’t have a better holiday from a dogs point of view.
When we were in Granollers most of her walks were in one of the two parks nearby. This is the walkway of Park Ponent. I used to worry she missed the Cornish countryside but I think she was happy anywhere and everywhere so long as I was there and it was quiet and had interesting smells.

And in the Park Nou (new park) she sometimes met friends. She had begun to get over her fear of dogs and was her old friendy self. This is Aslan – a very popular male collie sharing a ball with her

We went back and forth to Sant Nicolau, spending time with Blue

engaging in cat staring competitions

and we celebrated my birthday there with my friends Janet and Bev.
I love this photo

In April 2013 I felt relaxed enough to leave Bonnie in Granollers so I could go to a family wedding in Scotland. After so many separations it never felt easy to leave her but it is also so good to come home to a dog meeting you at the station ( and a man of course!)

A few days later she suddenly seemed strange and I went to the vet feeling like an over anxious owner but as we walked there, she deteriorated and I had to carry her the last few metres. They took blood tests and discovered Erlichiosis, a tick borne disease which is not found in the UK but is quite common here. Sheep carry these ticks and if you are unlucky – the ticks carry the disease

We were so lucky to have the 24 hour Veterinary Hospital Lauro close by. They kept Bonnie in overnight and treated her with fluids and antibiotics and she quickly responded. It had been serious as her platelets were dangerously low and she was very anaemic which is why she couldn’t walk all the way to the vet. There is a sunny bench outside the vets where you can have visiting hours

After this scare I changed her diet to a natural raw one – giving her totally raw meaty bones like chicken legs, quartered rabbits, beef chunks, liver and kidneys, even a whole chicken once, head included. She began to thrive and I had never seen her look so young and so healthy and fit.

Well as you see the story is still not finished – it is like the Arabian Nights as I don’t want it to end!  How did I ever imagine it would be in two parts?  Well, I will continue tomorrow for those of you who are still with me. It is such a pleasure for me to see how full her life was.
Highlights to come include the amazing journey to Scotland in the camper van in one of the hottest summers the UK has known. See you soon

Coming closer to the edge

When I am out walking I have lots of ideas for things to write here but once I sit down in front of the computer my mind goes blank. It is a strange and unusual symptom for me, usually so verbal.

If you have been visiting this blog for any length of time you will know that I have a dog, Bonnie, and that she has cancer. Sometimes I write about this and sometimes I leave it alone – this blog is supposed to be about Catalan life and not to be a record of my dogs illness.

And yet.

I am here in Catalunya. And this is my life. Some of it would be pretty much the same if I was still in Cornwall and some of it is particular to here and now and this place I am calling home.

The photos that follow were taken on the hill above Granollers a few days ago and today on our trip to the beach at Premia. Bonnie is wearing the fluffy coat because it was raining and she is rather thin now and vulnerable to cold and damp.

 Why I am glad I am in Catalunya while my dog is ill

  • The weather is good. We can go out and sit in the sunshine in what might be her last days
  • The vets I use are wonderful. They are a 24 hour hospital so I can relax around the idea that Bonnie could take a turn for the worse in the middle of the night or at the weekend. If we bundle into the car we can be at the clinic in five minutes, no problem parking, open night and day.  It is also the first time in many years that I have felt welcome and cared for by all the staff at a vets clinic. Everyone knows Bonnie and greets us when we arrive. It makes all the difference.
  • We have been going regularly to Sant Nicolau for rest and respite from city life and the walks there are better than any I had near home in Cornwall. The place is reached by small quiet rough lanes and you can walk straight from the house without having to see a car.
  • The weather – no excuses for putting it twice as it is so important. Sunshine and warmth mean we can be outside where Bonnie is happy.

Why it is hard being in Catalunya while my dog is ill

  • It can be hard  explaining things in another language
  • I had to order all herbs and supplements from the UK and US and it took ages!
  • I wish I had a wider circle of friends here to keep me company on walks, vet visits. I am used to spending a lot of time alone here but right now I do miss so many friends from home.
  • It is hard being in Granollers because of having no garden. Poor Bonnie has to race across the road to the square for her toilet needs – no fun when you are poorly.

I think guilt is part of the process when someone is dying. It almost can’t be avoided no matter how much we try to talk ourselves out of it. These last days I have been trying to get past my guilt about so many things.  I left Bonnie in the UK for two years when I first came over here. I hated leaving her – and Blue my other collie – but I didn’t want to bring them over until I knew I would be staying.  When I did bring them, I slid smoothly into guilt about that!  One friend from Cornwall even voiced it to me “How can you take them over to Spain, where it is hot and different and they won’t have a garden and all the sounds and smells will be alien?”  She didn’t even mention the tick borne diseases which exist here and got Bonnie last spring, almost killing her.  Or the need for rabies jabs…

Decisions we make have their consequences but I know guilt is not useful. Except that sometimes it makes us behave better in the present.

 So I feel I have done my best since Bonnie got sick. I look after her as well as I can.  I have researched and read and learnt about canine cancer and treatments. I take her to the countryside when possible. I feed her the best diet possible. I sit with her at home. I manage a whole array of bottles of pills and powders that all need to be given in different ways.  In far too short a time all this will be a memory. As will be the feel of her soft silky coat slipping through my fingers. I love this dog with all my heart – too much perhaps – and I fear what will come after she goes. There will be change I am sure and it will be OK and so will I. But for now, I feel I am dangling my feet over a precipice and hoping that when I leap, or fall, or am pushed…. I will find wings and fly.

“Come to the edge, he said.
We are afraid, they said.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came to the edge,
He pushed them and they flew.

Guilliame Apollinaire

It’s Friday – time for Virtual Vermut!

It is Friday evening and I am wondering how to catch up with all that has happened in the last three weeks, for it has been a strange and busy time. Apart from the potato update I think I left you floating in paradise, at Sant Nicolau, in mid April.
Since then the weather has changed – several times – and I have flown to Scotland and back and both Bonnie and I have been ill. There have been festivals – Sant Jordi and May Day and now it is Ascencio.
What about a Vermut while I tell you some stories?

I flew to Glasgow for a Scottish wedding and had a wonderful time seeing family, at last having something to celebrate after the last sad year since my brother died.
I love Glasgow Central station

 Bonnie stayed here in Granollers and it was lovely to return from my trip and have her meet me at the station. But I noticed almost immediately there was something wrong with her. She was too hot, a bit subdued, off her food.  The week before she had been attacked by several ticks. Probably picked up after we walked the same path as some sheep – or it could have been the goats – who knows – they are hard to avoid here

 I took her to the vet and was shocked to find her blood tests showed extremely low platelets and aenemia.  Erlichiosis – a tick borne parasitic infection of the blood.
She had to stay in hospital overnight – she was too tired and weak to protest. Very scary but so good to have the wonderful Lauro Vets so close to home. It is 24 hour with an animal hospital and vets who speak English!  I know I can communicate in Catalan but in an emergency – it was so good.

 The antibiotics started to work very quickly and late the next day she was able to come home

 I decided to change her onto a raw meat diet and since then have been scouring the shops for cheap meaty chunks that she can gnaw through like a wolf. And liver and tripe and other strange things.

I had come home to sunshine in Granollers and the day that Bonnie went to hospital was Sant Jordi – the Catalan patron saint of lovers. The streets were filled with stalls selling books

 or roses – here’s my lovely friend Azucena helping out on a stall.

Normally I love this festival but this one was rather over shadowed for me.
I just wanted Bonnie home and safe.
Somehow living here in a strange land makes us even more close- she is always there for me

 Friends arrived from France, seeking sunshine and warmth.  No sooner had they settled in than the skies darkened and the rain started.  And I came down with flu. Fever and chills and body pains and weakness. Bonnie and I stayed at home together, resting and recovering.
Finally we all felt strong enough to go to the beach

 It was cold and windy but the Ona restaurant at Premia del Mar never lets you down. Lovely food and they are always so welcoming to dogs.  We sat inside of course!  Then had a refreshing walk.

Suddenly it was May 1st

 here mainly celebrated as the day of the workers but for me always a pagan celebration of spring.
But it was still raining!

Finally the weather changed in time for our boat trip to watch seabirds. We went from Badalona on the Quetx they have bought and restored and now use for sailing lessons

 We didn’t see too many birds, not compared to trips on the Scillonian, but it was peaceful to be out there on the sea on a calm and sunny day.
And now it is almost time for my birthday – it looks like it will be raining again from the forecast but I got used to that when I was young – Scottish bulls aren’t bothered by a bit of weather!

Bringing a dog into the UK

Time for another trip through the Eurotunnel with the dogs.
If you are worried about travelling this route or anxious about the process of getting through pet passport control then please be reassured – it is very easy.

Since the rules changed at the beginning of January 2012 it is now even easier coming back into the UK from Europe.

  • You now have 1-5 days to see a vet before entering the UK and they only need worm treatment.

Here is what we did this time.

1. Seeing the vet

As we were driving up through France we stopped at a vet in a small town en route.
Our Eurotunnel crossing was on Thursday so we did this on Tuesday, a comfortable 48 hours in advance of travel

We had camped overnight in a municipal campsite in St Martin D’Auxigny so the next morning we went into town and after breakfast, asked in the bakers for the address of a vet. They directed us to the Clinique Veterinaire (Tel 02 48 64 63 67) which was handily close to a supermarket where we filled up with wine and cheese!
The vet spoke English and saw us within 30 minutes.  Vets in France are very clued up about the pet passport so although we were checking each step we were also confident that he knew what he was doing. He checked the microchips and gave each dog two tasty worm pills which they gobbled up like treats.  Paperwork was completed – stamped and dated with the time of treatment and a clean bill of health for travelling

The whole thing cost about 32euros and we were able to drive on to Calais without worrying about having to get there at a special time.

2. Passing through passport control

Our train to Folkstone was at 11.30am. We arrived early as you can usually advance your booking if there is space on an earlier train. You drive straight to the parking by the pet passport control. There were many dogs and owners coming and going out of the small office block where you get checked. The woman used a hand held microchip detector to make sure the dogs weren’t trying to sneak by with a forged passport and then quickly checked the documents and then we left. All over in five minutes.

3. The Tunnel

As planned we were able to catch an earlier train and drove onto the train almost immediately. Unfortunately this meant missing the ‘last French coffee and cake’ so beware of doing this if, like me, you like going to the departure lounge.  Both dogs slept all the way through the tunnel – it takes about 40 minutes and as it is so comfortable for them it was worth all the miles we drove across France.
Travelling with these ‘not so good’ friends
We are so lucky that both Bonnie and Duna are good travellers. Bonnie sleeps on the back seat of the van and Duna curls up at the feet of whoever is travelling as passenger in the front. They are both patient and forgiving of all the boring hours of travel and strangely our life in the camper van is easier than at home – the dogs are happy to be always with us and there were no possibilities for fighting. Duna always is in the front and Bonnie always in the back so everyone is together but separate.

Sleeping all together in a small space at night meant we felt like a pack, safe and secure together. Duna likes having the front seats to herself and never has tried to jump over into the back compartment where we are with Bonnie. But just in case, she is tied by her lead to the door!

Subtle language decisions that you can’t avoid in Catalonia

My week of Castellano

It was quiet in the park today as so many people go away on a public holiday.
Today of course is May Day!  Or  El Dia del Trabajadors.
But Bonnie and I did meet a couple with two dogs, one a very lame German Shepherd and the other an unidentifiable tiddly thing. Ages – 12 and 14.
Of course I asked them which vet they use and we had a good conversation about dogs and vets and getting older.  They go to the Lauro 24 hour Vet Hospital where I took Bonnie a few months ago.

But I had to have this conversation in Spanish although they were obviously people who would normally speak Catalan and it was interesting how embarrassed I felt.  As if I was being  rude or disrespectful and I was tempted to explain my language challenge but really, Kate, not necessary! They won’t expect you to speak Catalan anyway.
Just get on with talking!

I’m sure if I had explained it wouldn’t have been clear and they would have switched to Catalan and that would be that.

But I wonder if I am being too rigid in this language challenge – I want to be disciplined but I have to take into account the particular language courtesies here.