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Update on Brin…

Brin has been a busy boy over these past few years.

Slowly, many things have changed for him and he has certainly relaxed from the ever vigilant soldier that roamed the local forest and side streets near my home. He is well known around here for his rather loud bark and so many people love him and pop out of their homes to say hello.

Not to say that I don’t still have my ‘Mary Poppins’ moments when an unsuspecting Husky or Lab pads around the corner…but Brin is certainly more controllable and I still have my fingers intact.

Having been awarded many accolades for his time in Afghanistan, and constant demands for documentaries,  life was now beginning to settle down for all of us and this was something I was truly grateful for.

Of course, it is amazing to care for a dog who is loved the world over but part of me just wanted him to be Brin.

Our Brin.

Walks in the forest, sitting on the beach or just lazing on the sofa were now becoming the routine and he still has aversion to change.

New places still cause him stress and this can last for days resulting in bloodshot eyes and exhaustion. This will never change and his travels are to familiar places and daily. He has never been down a High street or anywhere noisy or crowded and still, when in a room, he will place himself facing the door.

There are times I look at him and I am still overwhelmed by his journey. This brave dog who walked miles between patrol bases in Helmand Province, each and every day…but somehow survived.

Today, as he lays in the sun, never far from my side, I feel an old soul has touched my life and I am so proud of the way he makes so many people happy.

Brin is always checking where I am. Always by my side x

Brin is always checking where I am.
Always by my side x

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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a long time since…

Gosh.

It’s been such a long time since I have written and there is much to tell you about Brin.

But…

Since my last post we have lost dear Jacob and the wonderful, if slightly crazy, Dennis.

So mother, father and son are reunited once more.

We know when these things are creeping up on us all and we go each day with the ‘one more day’ mantra…but then comes ‘the day’.

Funny how dogs in your life stay together always in your mind. You can never really separate them.

Ruby, Jacob and Dennis….lover of sticks, raindrops, hosepipes, digging, squeaky toys, footballs, mud, more mud and roast chicken on a Sunday.

Thankyou for being part of our lives for 15 years each one of you. I know you still sit in the garden with me.

I feel you.

See you.

Will always love you.

Fabulous character who never realised how big he was.

Jacob. Fabulous character who never realised how big he was.

Gorgeous girl who never needed for anything.

Ruby. Gorgeous girl who never needed for anything.

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Dennis ( or Kurt Cobain) Go jump at raindrops young man….xxx

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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a love lost…

There always comes the day that any devotee to animals dread.

Ruby has left us.

15 years ago we came across her in a pile of hay in a barn in deepest Sussex. A small, lonely bundle waiting for her chance.

Our close friends had already homed her sister, Daisy, and we heard through them that there was just one left so we piled in the car and drove quickly to snap her up.

Bearded collies are the cutest pups. My husband got to the barn even before me and came out carrying her as if protecting the crown jewels. After we had settled with the owner we passed by a car on the drive containing a couple who had also come by to home her..but she was ours and we smiled.

Ruby was named on the way home as she slept on my lap. My two boys, (then aged 8 and 11) were over the moon as we had a small holding where her life would be one of tall grass, fields and forests. I also had rescued sheep having started with 2 this had blossomed into 14 old girls who lived their lives daily mooching about and causing havoc with any tree that took their fancy.

Ruby grew up to be the most amazing girl. Pretty, funny and devoted to all of us. Football was her game and no-one could ever beat her when it came to dribbling the ball across the field.

Ruby and Jacob

She became a mother to 7 pups with Jacob three years later and after 3 weeks, of protection and feeding, she decided that enough was enough and I took over the day and night feeding singing a song I made up to make them follow me everywhere I went. Dennis, our youngest at 12 (and one of her pups we kept) still reacts to this song today.

Ruby was also a great escape artist and often the door would ring to find her wagging her tail next to our neighbour.

Ruby Tuesday…

We were blessed that she never had health issues and only rarely she wore a lead as her life was one of total freedom by our side.

As the years went by, as we all know, the body tires and over the past few months getting up for her was a real struggle. She also had alopecia and cancer of the tail. A bit like an over loved teddy bear that had been cuddled and loved beyond recognition she would attempt to be part of everyday life but things were getting harder and harder for her and we decided it was time to let her go before true pain set in.

One can never truly express the deep pain of losing a family member who makes you smile every time you think of them. Funny how the teeth marks on the table legs and scratches on the doors become total treasures where once they caused a sigh.

Thankyou, Ruby, for loving us.

We will never forget you and will love you forever.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in devotion, dog, dogs, friendship, loss, love

 

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progress and snacks…

Life is never dull with a dog from Afghanistan.

After the initial exhaustion of coping with a dog who pushed so many boundaries life began to change literally day by day.

Norman’s Bay

in pursuit of a seagull

People who knew him noticed huge changes and that he was becoming much more relaxed and able to cope with situations that were very difficult, and challenging, before.

I think, also, we were changing.

We, as a family, were less wary of him. Not that he was aggressive in the ‘I’m going to show you my pearly whites’ sense but in the way that the tension that surrounded issues like ‘who was coming through the door/upstairs/near his toys and near me’ issues.

Brin is fearful not aggressive and by changing our approach to him changed his perspective of what to expect.

He is also an excellent rat catcher, walking on tip toes in absolute silence, he would pounce with acute accuracy and run inside with his prize much to my horror. Frogs caused him to jump back with a puzzled look and coming across a grass snake in the back alley Brin froze then moved backwards in slow motion as if not wanting to be seen.

He is a creature of complete habit and each and everyday will move to places around the house where he can see me at all times. I adore him for that and admire his technique of just being there silently watching.

always there

Brin also shows great compassion for other animals, something that has shown itself as time has passed.

A few days ago two baby birds were born in my shed and sadly, one died. As I carried it away to be buried he walked with me and watched as I dug a little hole. Laying the little body down he pushed past me and I expected a chase to retrieve it from his mouth but instead he sniffed gently, licked it’s lifeless body and sat down next to me as I proceeded to cover it over.

What is also wonderful to witness is his happiness when family and friends arrive. Brin took quite a while to wag his tail freely. At first it was just the tip that would wiggle slightly when he reacted to a sound or action but never the full on base to tip wag we all know from many of our dogs. Gradually, over time, this action increased and now when he wags his tail he almost does a hula dance as his hips move with it. I never thought that a dog would have to learn such an action but I suppose, because of the huge chunk of socialisation missing from the start of his life, this too had to be gradually learnt.

It was a true pleasure to witness this and when it happened it also brought a great sense of achievement to us all knowing that, at last, he was feeling more settled and content in the environment that was now his home.

wagging tail prior to walk!

That is not to say that Brin is an angel!

Far from it!

A more stubborn dog I have never known!

On walks (or patrols as we like to call them) around his neighbourhood there are moments when my arm has almost been wrenched from its socket due to his determination to sniff a lamppost or chase a cat. He either has super glue on his paws or a rocket where the sun doesn’t shine and I have engaged a telepathic link to his lead and am able to read what coming next via it’s vibrations!

Another thing I love about the change in him is night-time.

When he first came home it would often take up to an hour to get him in but now he trots in with the others and sits in a line with Ruby, Jake and Dennis patiently waiting for a small snack after which he will run upstairs and jump on the bed falling a sleep within minutes.

I now can’t sleep unless he rests his head on my foot..he has become a true symbol to me of unconditional love and, although he has learnt so much since the dark days of Helmand, we have learnt so much from him and for that we are eternally grateful.

a brave soul

 

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in all weathers and the Houdini show…

Brin hated rain.

In England that would prove a problem.

Being a relatively clean dog inside the house as soon as the rain would fall he would flatly refuse to budge outside meaning accidents would happen on a daily basis.

In Afghanistan the rain can come down very hard, so hard it can actually hurt, and it was this memory that seemed to strike a deep fear in him.

The only way to tackle this problem was to meet it head on and so, donned with waterproof clothing, I would take him out to the forest in torrential down pours avoiding the stares of people sitting in their steamed up cars wondering if I was totally mad or being totally cruel to a miserable looking dog who looked as though he wanted to sink into the mud swirling around his feet and give up.

a little light rain!

But it worked. After a few months of dragging him through acres of soggy forest Brin became used to the puddles and mud and eventually was happy to go out into the garden once more.

Next came the snow.

He had never witnessed a full snow fall before other than a shovel-full that had been placed in his quarantine kennel many months before.

I had been getting up around 2am to let him out for a while now as he was quite nocturnal when he first came home but this time he would be met with around 10 inches of fresh snow.

Instead of being tired, I felt like a joyful mum watching her child play for the first time.

2am and out we went…

I had bought him a coat but that idea was quickly eaten ending up in shreds on the floor.

Brin loved the snow and I loved seeing him run, jump and dig in it all. He was really enjoying his new discovery and instead of having to encourage him to out nothing would now get him in!

What snowball?..Where?

even his own igloo…

He continued to learn about all things new and with that came a lot of pleasure and joy witnessing his freedom to explore and the fun he had while doing so.

The digging of deep holes at night-time was starting to subside but with that also came his desire to be free of his bed inside the crate.

I had said goodnight to him and he settled down and appeared to be sleeping. I had got into bed and was just falling asleep when I heard a strange noise rather like a soft squeaking sound.

Getting up I walked to his room and listened through the door. The noise came again, this time followed by a snuffling sound on the other side of door. In my disbelief I entered the room to be met by Brin totally out of his crate that was still locked and with no damage whatsoever. I still to this day have no idea how he got out of it…I can only think he squeezed himself between the floor of the crate and the upper bars…it made my stomach churn as he could have so easily trapped his neck.

Brin loved his bed..until one night…

Brin had had enough and now resides on the end of our bed and, despite his loud snoring, we never know he is there.

And secretly, we prefer it that way.

 

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toggles and respect…

The story of Brin was being featured in many magazines and this was proving very beneficial in supporting the charity Nowzad who had enabled him to come home.

Many people wished to meet him and as I had always said that ‘I would never forget the others’ I felt that taking him round to places would also be a good way of sharing the work Nowzad do.

Travelling with Brin had never proved to be a problem as he enjoyed the adventure, often sitting up at the window and watching the world go by.

Our first visit was to the local Guides and I was to give them a small talk on the life of animals in Afghanistan and the journey Brin took to make it home. I was a little nervous as this was still quite early days for him but he seemed to like fuss and had never shown any dislike to children.

In fact the only ‘human’ problem I had incurred with him was young asian men, people with walking sticks and woman carrying babies in their arms. He always would stop if a child was being carried and try to jump to ‘have a look’. There was no aggression but just serious inquisitiveness that was often quite awkward! Even to this day, Brin becomes quite jumpy if anyone is carrying something. Some times he would take a mild dislike to someone but a swift about turn would quickly change his attention. It was just another thing to be aware of.

The guide meeting went really well, with Brin parading around allowing each and everyone to have a stroke. I was amazed at how well he coped with it all and the crowd adored him, even presenting him with a chew bone wrapped in a ribbon. The children asked really interesting questions about the animals over there and I enjoyed sharing the stories of the many cats and dogs saved by Nowzad.

The next port of call was Swindon. Another troop, this time the Scouts, who had raised an amazing £1,000 for the charity. Brin’s story had inspired them and so I was asked to bring him along for a presentation and film show.

Brin was getting used to long journey’s by now and even the hotel where we booked were excited to have him! There was quite a gathering in the reception when we arrived and they even upgraded us to a large room at no extra charge! Brin was certainly getting the star treatment!

In the room there was a lovely clean dog bed ready and waiting…

but Brin had other ideas.

I never like leaving him in a room so I ordered room service as I hadn’t eaten all day. After about 20 minutes a knock came and Brin set too with one of his ear-splitting barks. Grabbing the lead and holding him tight I opened the door to find a quivering girl holding a tray with copious amounts of spilt coffee swimming about near my meal. I felt so sorry for her as she continuously apologised for the mess.

Walking Brin is always a bit difficult around hotel grounds. There is little grass and often broken glass around the roadways. We managed to find a large piece of wasteland and, in the dark, we ambled round and round while he set about his business. It would be quite exhausting really as both of us were far from home and it often felt very isolated surrounded by motorways and the sound of heavy traffic. But we always got through it and his company was fun, gentle and attentive.

The next morning was an early start as the BBC wanted a live interview with the Scout leader and myself. At 7am they picked Brin and me up and we drove to the studio. It was a cold day with a bitter wind and it was decided by the programme that they wanted the interview to be recorded outside, to add ‘atmosphere’.

I felt coffee and a warm fire would had added that but out we went and huddled in a corner of a car park waiting for the cue to start talking.

All went well, despite my slight concern after being told there was a cat that lived at the back of the car park and when the interview was over I was kindly driven back to my hotel.

Before the Scout meeting I decided I would like to go to Royal Wooten Bassett to pay my respects to a town who had seen so many of our fallen pass through. It was a bustling, pretty place full of history and pageantry and, although, I did not get out with Brin due to the many dogs around I was glad to be able to sit for a while in relative peace and think about the bravery and strength so many families had shown in such sad circumstances.

The Scout meeting went well. Brin trotted in to be met by around 60 people who had come to hear about the work Nowzad achieve for the animals in Afghanistan.

Brin was given his own scout scarf and behaved brilliantly until one moment when a sack of food for dogs arrived.

I had always stressed that no food must be given to him or be near him but there is always someone who, although well meaning, forgets this rule. This is why, at all times, I watch Brin.

Two boys dragged the bag over before I could stop them and Brin decided that he needed to ‘protect’ it. Of course, it wasn’t his finest hour, but to his credit he just throws out a warning shot with no actual malice or teeth!

Bag removed and all was calm once more and after a couple of photos from the local paper it was time to leave.

It is quite exhausting to meet so many new people, especially as I, personally, have never been one to put myself out there. Having Brin has given me confidence to share something that changed my life forever and, through his story, I have found a way of overcoming so many obstacles in my own life.

Many people say, “it’s wonderful that you cared enough to save Brin”…but deep down I know that we saved each other and, as we collapsed on the hotel bed together at the end of a very long day, I felt grateful to have him in my life.

Together we both have learnt so much. Trust, companionship, consistency, and loyalty. We were both lacking that in our lives and I know, throughout the many years we will be together, that these things will continue to become stronger and stronger.

 

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Pleasure and pain…

Brin had been home for nearly a year and he had seen his first Christmas and New Year in with love, warmth and lots of new toys.

Looking back at that year from the ending of his time in quarantine to learning so many new things I often would look back at just how much my life had changed also.

Of course I adored him and marvelled at his ability to learn but I also had times when pure exhaustion would take over from his ‘ghosts’ what would blight our walks in the forest, issues with family members along with protecting me, even from loved ones.

There were times I be so stretched to the limit I would sometimes resent the effort, day after day, of trying to build his confidence while I was losing mine.

I always knew it would not be easy, and although the good times were beginning to outweigh the bad, it would often seem like a mountain to climb each and every day.

It was one day in March 2012 that something happened that completely broke my heart. Brin came loose from his harness in the forest, all 300 acres of it, and nothing would make him stop running… or come back.

I had been chatting to lady who had recognised Brin from an article in a recent magazine and while doing so Brin had been exploring a hedge. He had disappeared into it and, although I never normally take my eyes of him I had carried on chatting as I could feel the tension on his lead..what I didn’t know that Brin was not attached anymore and the lead was, indeed, stuck on a branch.

I cannot describe the horror of seeing Brin running full pelt down the path way. I shouted as loud as I could to walkers to try to grab him but realised that he did not have his usual collar on. This was something I had never forgotten to do before and my fear deepened as he leapt over banks and disappeared into the undergrowth.

My other dog, Jake, seemed to know something was wrong and stuck my me as I ran full pelt after Brin. The pain in my stomach intensified  as he reappeared, looked at me wagging his tail, and then continued down the path at lightening speed.

We reached a crossroad in the forest and luckily he chose the narrower one leading up to an area where there were lots of small ponds and I knew he would stop to drink. Running after him I found him deep in water and walked in after him, soaking my trousers up to my knees. Bending down to try to loop the harness around his neck he backed up and took off once more up the hill into an area where the tree became very dense.

By this time I was in full panic with the awful realisation that I may not ever catch him.

At the top I watched in dismay as he ran through the trees and deep into tall grasses and disappeared. There was no way I would ever find him in there and it stretched as far as the eye could see.

Sitting down on the damp grass I started to cry. Brin had gone. There was no movement of grass and no areas or paths to follow. He had vanished.

Jake sat next to me as I gathered my thoughts for the only thing I could think of was to go back to the car park and ring for help.

It was then I saw him.

Two eyes, about 30ft in front of me, peered out through the bracken.

Remembering something I saw on a programme many months before I decided not to go towards him, but to stand up and walk away. It was a hard decision but proved to be the right one.

Brin came back and trotted by my side, sniffing the trees as if nothing had happened. Ignoring my pounding heart I pretended to search in among the leaves for something drawing Brins attention and by doing this managed to loop his harness over his neck. He did not resist at all as if saying ‘that was fun but enough now!’.

Brin now has a tracker collar that is linked to my phone as well as two other trusted people.

We call it his ‘Where’s Wally’ collar and it has been a godsend.

As well as reminding me that Afghan dogs are a master of escape and always need a watchful eye it reinstated  the deep, deep love I held for this guy despite everything he got up to.

Just after we got home after his ‘escape’…notice his ‘am I bothered?’ look…

 
 
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