Monday, 17 January 2011

Travels with Charlie

Charlie the Whippet and I went off on our adventures last week, travelling by train to North Walsham near Norwich so I could write an article about it for a magazine.

Charlie looks for his train at Peterborough station

‘Taking a dog on the train? Surely you’ve lost your senses!’ I hear you cry. Not so – in fact, as long as you avoid the rush hour there are few better ways to travel.

Our journey was a long one – an hour on the train from Leicester to Peterborough, followed by 90 minutes from Peterborough to Norwich and then half an hour to North Walsham – but Charlie took it all in his stride. The trains were very busy on the way out. Dogs aren’t allowed on the seats and there isn’t much leg room for a medium-sized dog like Charlie to lie down in if the carriage is full, so we travelled at the end of the carriage near the doors. Some trains had a flip-down seat there for me to sit on, but on others I had to either stand or sit on the floor. The funny thing is, if I was travelling alone I wouldn’t enjoy this, but having a dog with you makes everything OK.

Charlie really enjoyed the journey. He slept while the train was moving, apart from when other passengers came up to say hello to him or take his photo. And when the train doors opened at a station, he enjoyed looking out to see what was going on. In fact, he liked the trains so much that while we were waiting at various platforms he tried to get on every train he saw!

We had a lovely couple of days away, including a walk on a windy beach and lunch in a lovely dog-friendly pub in Mundesley, and then we enjoyed our journey home.

Far from being a long wait to get somewhere, as so many train journeys seem to be, travelling with Charlie meant that the journey was a big part of our adventure, as enjoyable as our time in North Walsham. Of course, Charlie is a seasoned traveller who has been on many trains in the past. My next challenge is to get the youngster Billy the Whippet accustomed to rail travel so we can go on even more adventures.

Here is my tried and tested method for travelling on trains with a dog:
·         Travel light – invest in foldable food and water bowls and a lightweight throw or blanket. Ideally, you should be able to fit everything for you and your dog into a shoulder bag – you’re likely to have to do some walking, and you don’t want to be trailing around with your dog’s lead in one hand and a cumbersome suitcase in the other.
·         Walk at least part of the way to the station so your dog gets a chance to go to the toilet and burn off some energy – a well-exercised dog will settle down more quickly on the train.
·         Take enough food for your dog and a bottle of water for you both – but don’t drink too much fluid as you might not be able to use a public toilet with a dog in tow!
·         Find out about how to get to your accommodation from the station. Many taxis don’t allow dogs on board, so you might have to find out about bus services or book in advance with a dog-friendly taxi firm.

The rules
Here are some of the conditions for taking your dog on the train:
·         Each passenger can take up to two dogs on the train free of charge, but you'll have to pay a charge for any additional dogs.
·         Dogs aren’t allowed on the train seats or in buffet cars or restaurants, but they can travel with you as long as you keep them on a lead at all times.
·         Train staff can ask you to leave the train if your dog is causing a nuisance due to its size or behaviour, and if another passenger objects to your dog you'll be asked to move to a different part of the train.
See the National Rail conditions of carriage for more details.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Charlie's story in vet newsletter

I wrote a short article about Charlie's operation and recovery for my vet's winter newsletter. Read it here! (It's on the second page.)

A quick update on the story - Charlie is now 12 years old and doing brilliantly.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Normal service resumes (sort of)

It’s an exciting start to 2011 here at Hound-head Towers. I’ve got some great jobs on over the next few weeks, including researching and writing a number of dog-related articles for print. I'm really looking forward to being able to involve the dogs in my work.

Charlie and Billy - a force to be reckoned with

We’ve also had hound-related fun and games on the park this morning, but not in the way we meant to.

First, I was busy flinging Cool Kongs around for the dogs when Charlie, eager to play tug-of-war with his Kong, accidentally grabbed my finger instead of the rope. It’s not a deep cut but it hurt at the time and it did bleed a lot. I had to wrap a tissue round it until I got home, and since it’s on the end of my finger I’ve had to bind it up to protect it against knocks. It hasn’t stopped me typing but it did curtail the walk – it’s difficult to handle three dogs, pick up poo etc. with only one hand!

Then of course Billy picked this as the perfect moment to wee on Charlie’s head while he (Charlie) was sniffing at a stick. I tried to remain philosophical. On one hand, I was really chuffed with Charlie's strength and fitness after the trials he faced last year. And as for the wee episode - well, given the way things were going on that walk, it seemed fitting.

Understandably, I was glad to get back to work after some assiduous cleaning of wound and whippet. One reason I work as a freelance writer is so that I can be there to share these little adventures with my dogs. I just hope the next one is more fun and doesn’t involve any blood.