JESSIE: Adjustment Period

I’ve been trying to find the right time to update on Jessie’s progress since her sudden blindness. It was hard the first couple of weeks but I think we’re definitely falling into a routine with her now. Sometimes you wouldn’t even know she was blind!

We invested in a safety gate for the stairs, which couldn’t have been recommended enough. It’s now been uninstalled after about a week because Jessie can go up and down the stairs as she pleases. The first time we realised this was one night a couple of weeks back, she opened the (it hadn’t been properly installed yet), went down the stairs, did her business on the sitting room floor and came back upstairs with no one the wiser. Cheeky!

My mother was especially saddened when she thought she could no longer bring Jessie to the park, as it’s recommended to keep them on the same routes. Not one to follow the rules, however, my mother brought her and my other dog Poppy up to the park and allowed Jessie off the lead, while keeping a close eye on her of course. And Jessie loved it! She went around the trees without a bother, perhaps from her memories of going there so many times before.

She still knows when there’s food around. Her appetite is another story, but we associate that with her diabetes, which we’re still trying to manage. She’s not drinking as much water as she used to and she’s pooping indoors less and less, but she eats as if she hasn’t been fed in years! We give her two meals a day with her insulin injections and a snack in between, usually a hard-boiled egg (diabetic recommendation).

Halloween was difficult for her. Never before was she bothered by the bombardment Ireland gets each year with fireworks but this year it seemed to get to her, perhaps because she can’t see and assure herself that they’re not near her. Thank God it’s over!

I will keep you posted on her progress, this was just a quick update. I feel more confident now that she can still have a good quality of life. Even though she can’t see the world, she can still enjoy it.


JESSIE: Plunged into Darkness

“Jessie’s gone blind.”

I felt as if I had been punched in the gut. I wanted to believe my mother was joking but I knew that’s the last thing she would ever joke about. I couldn’t understand it. That morning she was fine, she seemed to know where she was going. Or was she simply following my voice? I wanted it to be untrue, after all, she had only just been diagnosed with diabetes a few months prior, how much more could her little body take? I was quick to learn that it was in fact the diabetes that had caused her blindness. But so suddenly? Surely it’d be gradual. I couldn’t pinpoint a time when I thought she was losing her sight. She could spot a cat to chase a mile away. How could this happen?

You may have already gathered Jessie is my dog. She’s a nine-year-old Jack Russell Cross my family adopted three years ago. We knew nothing of her history, other than that she had been found wandering the streets of Dublin. However, we have gotten glimpses of what she’s experienced through her immediate fear of my brother and her trembling whenever she hears the smoke alarm beep with a low battery. I wanted to tell her she was safe now and that we wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her.

But now this…

My first reaction after processing the news of Jessie’s blindness was to blame myself, just as I had done when she was diagnosed with diabetes. We feed her twice a day and yet she had managed to gain a large amount of weight. I won’t lie or sugar-coat it, we fed her scraps and she always managed to find food when she was out. As soon as her diabetes was discovered, the weight started dropping but her appetite didn’t. She was getting one insulin injection a day but her bladder never came under control. It reached a point where we were putting down puppy pads overnight. My mother wondered if perhaps she needed two injections a day, a horrible thought but a necessary evil.

Yesterday morning, my mother came downstairs to a horrifying sight. Jessie had desecrated the living room floor, covering nearly everything bar the puppy pad. Naturally my mother was furious. After reading about the effects of low glucose levels, I advised her to make an appointment with the vet to have them carry out further tests to decide if she needed an extra injection a day. The appointment was made, and then it happened.jessie

On their walk, my mother noticed Jessie was stepping over the path carefully as if there were obstacles there. She was tripping up and walking into objects. When she looked into Jessie’s eyes she was stunned to find them completely clouded over. The vet had told already told us her eyes were starting to cloud, but this was so sudden. She immediately rang the vet and brought her appointment forward. I was in work oblivious to all of this when I found a text message on my phone sent twenty minutes earlier: ‘Can you ring me?’ I immediately knew something was wrong.

Naturally I was, and still am, devastated. My poor little angel is never going to see again. Her life is now shrouded in darkness and fear. I cried more than once. I did research and tried to be positive but it always came back to the unfairness of it all. I don’t know what happened to her in the first six years of her life and I’m not sure I want to, but from what I can deduce I truly believe she has suffered. Her life is supposed to be easy now, relaxing and happy. Now it’s been cruelly snatched from her and I’m helpless.

As I type she is now in the vet, having her glucose tested throughout the day to determine whether or not her dose of insulin needs to be increased. I hated leaving her. She didn’t recognise the voice of the nurse and seemed so frightened as she was carried away from me. Now she’s surrounded by unfamiliarity, believing her family, who promised to love and care for her, have abandoned her when she needs them the most. I long to leave work and drive straight to her, but unfortunately I have to cruel to be kind.

Now all I can do is wait…

Going Cruelty-Free: Don’t Be Fooled!

When I decided to go cruelty-free, I had to acknowledge that there are products who claim to be cruelty-free that in fact are not. My first step was consult PETA’s cruelty-free list but, as I stated at the beginning of this blog series, most of the products on that list are not available in Ireland. I also explored the Leaping Bunny list and downloaded the app onto my phone, but again, many of the products I would have to order online and pay delivery charges. Lush was my safe option in the beginning because I could be certain that their products are indeed cruelty-free. Unfortunately they’re also quite expensive, which is why I explored.

A Google search on what products were trying to fool their consumers didn’t turn up much. I was advised that there are only THREE labels to trust when it comes to buying cruelty-free products:

  1. Leaping Bunny
  2. Caring ConsumerLabels
  3. CCF Rabbit

How could I believe that, though? I had seen other labels that were genuine too, such as Batiste. Even Lush don’t sport any of the three labels. Some approved cruelty-free brands sport labels such as ‘Approved by the Vegan Society’ or ‘Fight Animal Testing’. This makes my situation a little more difficult, as it came be frustrating to come across a cruelty-free label and then having to research it before you purchase.

One such product I was nearly fooled by was Original Source. They claimed to be cruelty-free on the back of their products, but when I did my research, I discovered that this was not the case at all. It’s absolutely sickening that companies would try to fool their consumers like that. Perhaps I have to believe it due to the new EU regulations prohibiting products to be sold containing animal tested ingredients, but I know that they are in the minority who test their products on animals outside the EU, and so I refuse to purchase it.

From what I’ve seen, The Body Shop does not bear any cruelty-free labels, yet I have found them on several cruelty-free lists. It could be due to the fact that their parent company, L’Oreal, promotes animal testing, though this is not always the case, e.g. Burt’s Bees.

I encourage anyone going cruelty-free to research the label on the products they wish to buy. While it is important not to trust every label that claims to be cruelty-free, don’t assume that it isn’t cruelty-free just because it’s not one of the three labels listed above.

Thank you for reading this series, I hope you enjoyed it! Happy shopping!

Going Cruelty Free #5: Nail Care

I rarely wear nail varnish because I just can’t coat my nails properly, plus I find it starts chipping almost immediately. What I’ll be talking about in this entry is nail care, rather than nail colour. My nails are always breaking, the slightest impact on them and they’re chipping. I expressed this concern to a former colleague of mine and she suggested I use Sally Hansen nail hardener. At the time, of course, I didn’t know whether or not Sally Hansen tested on animals. So I bought a bottle. I was delighted with the results, my nails were much more solid and didn’t break as easily. Problem solved!

Now that I’m going cruelty-free, however, I must look for an alternative because Sally Hansen is certainly not cruelty-free. The stories I’ve heard about them are horrific and I won’t repeat them here. I first tried health food stores and I would like to list the products they stock, which doesn’t include nail hardener, but which do look after your nails and possibly strengthen them in the long run.

  • Dr. Hauschka
  • Tisserand
  • Solo
  • NHP
  • Phyto
  • Solgar
  • Thursday Plantation
  • AHA Nail Clear

All of these brands are available in Irish health stores and/or on But back to my nail hardener solution. Unfortunately Lush didn’t have anything of the sort, on their website at least, so I went with, you guessed it, Superdrug!

While Superdrug’s own brand nail care is limited, they do stock nail hardener, which does not use the same horrific methods that Sally Hansen does to ensure that it works. So if you’re like me and your nails are breaking easily and constantly, your cruelty-free options are plentiful.


Pudsey the Dog: predictable, yet heart-warming

If you’re not familiar with Pudsey, then where have you been? Pudsey is the 2013 winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2013, and now he has his own movie simply titled: Pudsey the Dog.

The movie sees Pudsey wandering the streets of London alone after being fired from his job as the dog in a black and white film (do they still make those?). Pudsey is happy to be a lone ranger and explores London doing what dogs usually do… Well, maybe dogs aren’t actually allowed on the London Eye, but one can dream! It is during his solo adventure when he meets the misunderstood Molly, the often irritating George, and sulky Tommy, who take him under their wing…before their mother chucks him out again!

A twist of fate sees Pudsey joining the family as they move from London to Chuffington, a homely little village in England’s countryside. This is where we meet a range of cliché characters including the dreamy farmhand, Jack, and the evil, dog-hating landlord, Mr. Thorne.

The plot itself is very predictable: Mr. Thorne plans to tear down the cottage he has just received new tenants into (as you do!) and place a large shopping centre in its place (because this homely village consisting of about fifty people needs such a thing!). Pudsey discovers the evil plot, but being a dog, the family cannot understand him. So it’s up to Pudsey!

It is the furry characters that make this film entertaining. Pudsey’s love of sausages and his knack for getting into mischief delivers the majority of the laughs, with David Walliams providing his cockney vocals. The film also ensures that Pudsey’s award-winning talent of dancing fits into almost any scene he wishes, and for the most part, it works, because what moment doesn’t call for a dog dancing and twirling on his hind legs?

Unfortunately, the human actors drew the short straw script-wise and delivered forced and often cringe-worthy performances. The mixture of accents, from English to Irish to Scottish, is also a little off-putting.

As a children’s film, it is a worthwhile watch. As for dog lovers, it is best to keep in mind that you’re there for the four-legged actors, not the two -legged!


Pudsey the Dog is in cinemas 14 July 2014

Love Animals/Hate People

When we watch our favourite programmes, we may not be too surprised or upset when one of the main/supporting characters is killed in an act of violence. For example, when poor Dale was gutted at the hands of a walking skeleton, we were upset to lose him but we didn’t flood AMC with complaints regarding their nerve to display such violence. To put it simply, we are used to it.

An Irish drama, entitled Love/Hate, recently came under fire when its season four premiere opened with a cat being gunned down by a kid, who subsequently found it funny. The show was flooded with complaints, and animal rights groups quickly stepped out to voice their disgust. Suddenly the Irish public were divided. On one side, you had people who thought it was absolutely disgraceful to show such violence to an innocent animal on-screen. On the other side, you had people who basically said, ‘it’s not real!’ cat-halloween

Personally, I don’t like seeing violence towards animals on television, fact or fiction. But it’s got me thinking about the real issue as to why some may consider it unacceptable, when television is full of fictional murders of men, women and children. What makes animals so special? Animals have limited rights in practically every constituency. Murdering an animal in cold blood is either seen as sport, or slapped with a minimal fine. On the other hand, the killing of men, women and children can take away your entire freedom if committed. Perhaps people feel that this is a hindrance to the work of animal rights groups who are trying to discourage such horrible acts.

What has also been considered is the show’s concept of timing. Showing a cat being gunned down on television so close to Halloween was probably not a good idea. Cats are made to suffer most around this time of year, when the sale of fireworks is greatly increased. Each year, animal shelters and fire departments publish pleas for cat owners to keep them inside on Halloween. For strays, they are not so lucky. For any animal lover, cats especially, Halloween is a horrible time of year. And the violence that will be displayed this year may end up coming back on Love/Hate.

Finding Spotty – Where is my kitten?

A day that should’ve been full of happiness turned into one of the most exhausting and emotionally draining days of my life. I awoke at 6.00am to bring my father to work. He hasn’t driven himself since he was involved in accident in late 2010, resulting in a broken leg and four months recovery. Then my nephew was dropped down to me at 8.00am and I brought him to school for 8.45am, insisting I would have a surprise for him when he got home. My sister asked me not to tell him about Spotty until we knew he was in the clear, but it was the only way I could get his coat on.

I called the veterinary surgery Spotty was said to have been in when I got home and learned he had been x-rayed and sent to the Dublin Society of Protection for Cruelty against Animals (DSPCA). There was no use calling them, seeing as their low funds had meant a lot of redundancies, including the phone staff. I grabbed my [broken] cat carrier and drove straight up, bringing a picture with me incase they needed proof he was mine.

Four months earlier…

Spotty was practically thrown at me by my gypsy neighbours who got bored of him after just two hours of owning him (no joke!). I wanted to keep him, but after a lot of begging and tears, I was soon brought to earth about the negative impact a young kitten would have on my cat of fifteen. We’ve had Duchess since I was little and now she has chronic renal failure. I have read in many articles that a young cat could speed up the dying process for such an old cat, or possibly drive them away. I did try and bring Spotty to the shelter but due to tight funding, they could only take cats that were strays.

My sister kindly offered to mind him until a suitable home was found, but I knew that if she was even a fraction of the animal lover that I am, she would keep him. And she did. Spotty was christened to this adorable little tabby and white ball of fluff by my four-year-old nephew. It was only after he was given this name that we realised his tummy was speckled with grey. Not such an unusual name for him after all!

My own pets never received their vaccinations or a microchip, despite having had at least two of them do a disappearing act in the past. It never did them any harm. It only bit us in the ass when we tried to put them in pet boarding while we were away. Therefore my sister wanted to do things by the book. I escorted her to the local mobile veterinary clinic where Spotty received his first injections, had his gender confirmed and given an estimate of how old he was. Just six weeks. I made an appointment for his second injections with the same clinic, only this time at their headquarters.

I had been volunteering for this particular veterinary clinic for some time now and grown fond of one of the vets named Aisling*. She’s so bubbly and enthusiastic; it’s hard to worry about your pets when they’re in her hands. She administered Spotty’s second injection and urged me to try to keep him indoors until he was neutered. I figured this would be no problem seeing as he lived with my sister, her husband and their son in an apartment and he never seemed to want to leave it. This didn’t last.

January is a big month for my sister: it’s her birthday month and also the anniversary of her relationship (not marriage) with her husband. We juggled between the option of bringing Spotty over or simply going up to feed him when needed (we live nearby). Unfortunately this decision was never made.

On the Saturday my sister and her husband were due to leave, I learned that Spotty had been missing since the Thursday. I had to endure a nine-hour shift worrying about where he might be. I tried to reassure myself that both my cats had gone walkies and returned in the end. My boyfriend came over that night and we conducted a stakeout of the apartment after finding the food bowl left outside the door empty, just twenty minutes after my mother had filled it. Someone was eating it. It had to be Spotty. Sadly our efforts were fruitless.

I went to the apartment every day, mostly when my sister and her husband were in work. I walked around the area listening out for his bell. My mother and my niece had made Missing posters and we had hung six up around the estate. One blew away in less than a few hours; the rest became rain damaged in spite of the polly-pockets we placed them in. We combed websites and posted our own ads but we didn’t receive one phone call. To be honest, part of me was relieved at this because I’ve known people to receive prank phone calls as a result of their efforts in finding their pets. My neighbour was given an address to come and collect her missing cat only to find that the occupants had no idea what she was talking about. She turned around and found a gang of youths sniggering at her.

My mother and I soon uncovered the culprit who was eating the food left out by my sister: a black and white cat that had recently given birth. Sometimes she was seen with a collar but it’s obvious her owners don’t particularly care about her.

When it reached a week and with still no sign of Spotty, I was beginning to lose hope. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I lost all thoughts of ever finding him. I had just been shopping with one of my friends and I decided to drop in to see my grandmother on my way home. My mother upset me first by speaking these exact words to my grandmother, my aunt and my cousin: ‘Spotty never came back’. The use of the word ‘never’ got to me the most as if the case was closed. My grandmother asked how long he was gone before dealing me the next blow: ‘he’ll never come back’. I spent the next twenty-five to thirty minutes in silence, painfully accepting that Spotty was indeed gone. All hope was lost and I felt I couldn’t dwell on it any longer.

Then my mother’s phone rang. It was my sister. She had scanned the websites again and found an ad describing Spotty to a tee, even the area she lives in. I got so excited I called the woman who had posted the ad, Margaret. She worked for a local charity called the Cat and Dog Protection Association. The ad omitted a picture and a description of his collar purposely in order for me to prove I was the cat’s genuine owner. I described Spotty and his collar and to my astonishment it was him!

My joy was short-lived when I learned he had had a bang of a car, or so it was presumed. He had a suspected broken pelvis and was moved to a veterinary surgery not far from my own. I was given their number and dozens of reassurances that I was bringing Spotty home. I gladly passed my number on to the person who found him, who promptly rang me. A young girl, Sally, had come across him on her way home from work the same night my sister and her husband went away. She had heard mewing coming from a bush near the main road and took him home. We both knew that road well and cats could easily get clipped running across it. I took her number so I could update her on his progress and arrange a meeting to thank her in person. I was so happy that I actually trembled. Not a safe condition to drive home in and I wound up clipping a parked car!

At the shelter…

A man slid in ahead of me with a beautiful German shepherd who he had found wandering near a railway station, living off scraps. Once he was brought to another room to sort out paper work, I was dealt with.

‘Hi, I was told my cat was brought in here with a broken leg,’ I explained,

‘Did you get a call from us?’ the receptionist asked me.

In a mouthful and without taking a breath I explained Spotty’s adventures as they had been explained to me the previous night. Both mine and Spotty’s details were taken and I was left waiting in the coffee shop until he was brought out. This was not a speedy process. When I was eventually seen to again, I had to give details for his microchip, which I had no say in receiving. This only annoyed me because they presumed I was his owner and put my name onto it. I should have spoken up but I was just so hell-bent on getting him back that I wanted to hurry. I was given his x-rays and details of his injuries. The shelter did not fix his leg, much to my sister’s fury, but I sympathised with their lack of money.

Next was to the vet. I rang my local vet and explained the situation. They were sympathetic and in spite of having no orthopaedic surgeon in attendance that day, they insisted I come down so they could have a look at the x-ray and decide the best course of action.

My sister got off early from work so she could join me and we brought along my nephew, always forgetting how easily bored he becomes in waiting rooms. We waited an hour on standby. You can imagine our relief when we were told his injuries weren’t as serious as we first thought. His pelvis was fractured, yeah, but it would heal with rest. As for his leg, it was broken but it could be fixed with a simply surgery that was scheduled for us just six days later. In the meantime we have been given medication for his pain and a laxative to ease the pressure on his pelvis.

Looking back I can see why people tried to prepare me for the worst. Cats and dogs go missing every day and it doesn’t always end up this way. Of course I would’ve loved for him to come back in one piece but he’s alive and that’s the main thing. We were told to check his urine for blood but so far there is no indication of any other problems than his broken leg. In just two days I’ll be admitting him for his surgery and we can all move on, with Spotty still in our lives.