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2020 was a funny old year...

Paddy strongly refutes that he is a couch potato. He prefers to think of himself as a coiled spring, ready for action at a moment's notice. He just hasn't decided what action yet. He's known by his friends as an acute observer and a quick wit so we've been asked by him to share his review of 2020 which shouldn't take long as it's pretty much a one word answer - rubbish. His mum Lou Cadman uses words of equal meaning, but not as polite and certainly not something your delicate ears should hear. As one word doth not an article make, we are delighted that Paddy has stayed awake long enough to actually write something.

First things first, let me introduce myself. My posh name is Mad Moment of Valgray, but I am known as Paddy. I live with four terriers, three Miniature American Shepherds, my mum and Aunty Deb. Suffice to say it can be quite a noisy household at times. I'll let you decide who makes the most noise.

One thing's for sure. 2020 will go down in history as being 'memorable' but for all the wrong reasons. It's been funny - funny peculiar - not funny ha-ha.

The year started in normal enough fashion
Mum had eaten far too much over the Christmas break (think hippo) and was walking like a constipated chicken - interesting combination. Something to do with lifting a sandbag and being old. A lot of painkillers and a couple of physio visits later, she could stand up straight which was a relief. I don't think I'm cut out to be an assistance dog.

My cheerleading skills were clearly of great assistance, however, when words 'Daisy' and 'good' were finally uttered in the same sentence although granted not as often as 'Daisy' and 'fox poop'. She had a run where she was vaguely controlled and listening which resulted in qualifying for the Olympia Semi Finals. Two weeks later Twiggy decided that she wasn't ready for Brown Rat 3 (BR3) to take the limelight and also qualified over a course that had a few surprising traps. There's life in the old girl yet. I'll let you decide who I am referring to...

Photo credit: DogOddityFebruary passed in a whirling mass of rain and wind which was particularly unpleasant. It played havoc with my good looks, and I alternated between resembling a soggy fuzzy mess and looking like I'd put my wet paws in a plug. Daisy's halo was very short-lived and 'Operation Try & Engage Daisy's Brain Cell at a Show' returned with a vengeance after a shocking performance at a weekend for Very Clever Dogs. I think she must have received a memo saying it was a weekend for Very Naughty Dogs? Mum is determined she can do it; she knows Daisy is more than capable.

I do fear for what is left of Mum's sanity though. She even had a discussion with me about resurrecting my agility career. If she's thinking that I should do agility again, maybe she's already lost the plot? It could, of course, be an age thing. I think that and Daisy are the real reasons why she has more grey hairs each day. It's nothing to do with me. I am perfect! Okay... maybe not when I'm doing my seagull impressions in the morning but every other time!

March started reasonably normally with a trip to Crufts where, as usual, Twiggy didn't disappoint, taking it all in her stride and producing a lovely clear round. She is such a swot. Grumpy, but still a swot.

Then the world went mad and human kennel cough hit, stopping everything in its tracks. Everyone was on crate rest, and eating was pretty much the only thing on the agenda. Daisy became even more of a demented frog, bouncing off the ceiling in the absence of any opportunity to properly stretch her legs. We all hoped that this would be a short-lived thing with a return to normality after a few weeks. How wrong we were...

As the weeks passed, I wondered if Mum or Aunty Deb had been really naughty and they were in detention or had been grounded. Mum told me it was the same for everybody, but I'm not so sure. Fortunately I was lucky enough that Mum was still going to work every day which meant my many snoozes were not interrupted. The thought of her being at home all the time is horrific. Once a year between Christmas and New Year is bad enough.

The only other saving grace was that the weather was unseasonably pleasant and we could, at least, enjoy time in the garden. Aside from Mum wearing shorts - her legs are whiter than mine - the only other downside with nice weather was the number of flying creatures which terrify me. I know I'm much bigger than them etc. etc. but telling me to get over it is like telling Mum to cuddle a spider. Not going to happen!

On about day 6,289,427 of the kennel cough pandemic, we were finally allowed out in the van. For a chap who believes in the conservation of energy, I surprised even myself with my enthusiasm for being allowed to stretch my legs and have zoomies. Proper walks! My enthusiasm for a trip in the van was not well received, however. Mum seemed to mistake my singing along to whatever's on the radio for me being a prat. Something I strongly refute and think is very rude! Mum was more out of condition than ever and I wouldn't have been surprised if her Hogwarts' letter had dropped on the doormat. Any slight incline in our walk, and she became a prime candidate for joining Hufflepuff. Aside: For the avoidance of doubt, I am not saying she's a witch. It's more than my life is worth.

Poppy and Daisy received a joint birthday present. Daisy (4) was delighted. I'm not sure Poppy (15) even noticed. It might be a blessing Mum doesn't know my birthday. Their present was a puppy. When I say a puppy, I mean one crossed with a piranha and a foghorn. She looked very cute and very cheeky but I hid on the sofa for weeks just in case. Mum had a list of names as long as your arm that she'd drawn up ready. Despite that, it took ages to settle on one. Good to see Mum as decisive as ever! Finally settled on Wispa which is very ironic as whisper is something not in her vocabulary, although everything else is.

Mother Nature seemed to have forgotten what seasons were, and summer arrived very early. My whiskers bleached and I was concerned that I was turning the same colour as Mum. Fortunately, slightly scruffy though I am, I still had a better hairdo than the massive one she was sporting. She had grown to about 6'6" and it looked like a strimmer was going to be needed rather than clippers.

In a typical year I'd have been spouting on about where we'd been camping, how naughty Daisy had been and how my adoring fans were queuing for cuddles. It was a bit different this year. No camping and I am seriously lacking on the cuddle front. Daisy however... In the rolling in fox poop stakes versus Mum managing to stop her, Daisy is currently at approximately 3,400,000:5 with minimal chance of Mum reducing that deficit any time soon.

Muzzles for humans
Masks came into force part way through the summer. Just how badly behaved are they all? Fighting over loo roll must have hit new levels of extreme shopping. I redoubled my efforts to be very well behaved just in case Mum said I needed one. That would never do. it would hide my handsomeness and I fear my fuzzy beard would get tangled up in it.

At the end of August, we managed to go out. Properly out out, not just out for a walk. We took Elvis the Elddis and camped in a field and everything! A human kennel cough compliant show where you rocked up, did your runs and then rocked off again. The weather wasn't so great when we landed and it's been confirmed that a mere sniff of rain is enough for the van to get stuck. However, it did improve, fortunately not enough to warrant Mum wearing shorts. Always a blessing! There was a happy reunion with her orange shirts though. I suppose something has to brighten the place up and it's not going to be her bubbly personality is it?!

Wispa's first camping trip and she took it all in her stride. In fact, she took all the toys in the garden in her stride, too. Mum says I'm a wuss and should keep the young whipper-snapper in check but quite frankly that means I would have to do something and that's not really an option.

Last Christmas (no, I'm not about to sing), we really didn't think Poppy would be camping again and that's when we were thinking about camping at Easter, pre-human kennel cough, let alone the end of August! The old girl - Poppy, not Mum - thoroughly enjoyed her weekend camping, pottering round the garden and supervising agility. Special memories.

The dogmobile succumbed to kennel cough in September and required expenditure at Vets4Vans to feel better and pass its MOT. All I can say is it's a good job Mum doesn't have to have an MOT. She'd need a lot of work to even scrape a pass, and it would require a not inconsiderable loan.

At 6 1/2 months Wispa threw Mum a curveball and came into season. No one was expecting that. Imagine my horror when I was suddenly dragged off the sofa where I spend the vast majority of my life snoozing, to attend a tricks class in place of Wispa. In the interest of any readers with a delicate disposition - and I can't believe there are many if they know Mum - I have refrained from using bad language and will simply say 'What on earth?' I was quite lively (Paddy lively so not really lively at all) for all of five minutes. I ate half my bodyweight in treats and slept for a week after. I'm not cut out for work and the sooner Wispa was back in action the better. I needed to keep the sofa warm for Mum.

Surprisingly Twiggy and Daisy managed to attend a Kennel Club show in the form of Bretford Champ. Fair to say they were rusty when it came to competing. Fit yes. Match fit no! Twig made another Champ final - possibly her last one. Mum has always been careful when it comes to how much agility we all do. Twig certainly doesn't do much now, but it does help monitor her thyroid issue and maintain physical condition. If she has retired from competition now then so be it. She can play occasionally at training and show the rest of us how it's done.

November started with a glimmer of hope with both Wispa and Daisy having a training session. For the avoidance of doubt they weren't in the same class; it wouldn't do for Wispa to show Daisy up.

Locked down again
Turns out that was it for the rest of the year! After that it's just been eat, sleep, muddy walk, sleep, cuddles and repeat. Many times. Poppy, Twiggy and I have indulged in sleeping. Daisy has indulged in mud, and Wispa has indulged in everything while Mum's just done the eating bit. What a surprise!

Unfortunately the rest of the population have had the same idea and our walks have been noticeably busier, with multi-storey car parks needed in places where you would never dream of putting one. Mum has never had to give so many directions to people walking in big circles, unable to locate the car they parked in a foot of mud at the side of a random road.

Poppy has hit 15 years and seven months and continues to grow old disgracefully. If there is one good thing to come from human kennel cough, it has been the fact that she has been able to have so many individual walks with Mum at her side. Two oldies together.

So, my one word description for 2020 has turned out a bit longer than I originally expected. The human kennel cough pandemic rumbles on with no sign of easing any time soon although there may be a glimmer of hope in the form of a sharp needle or two. I hope they don't decide I need one, too. Mum predicted Lockdown 3. If only she could predict six numbers as easily or have a sixth sense as to where fox poop is so she could actually stop Daisy before she lands in it? Wishful thinking.

Hopefully it won't be too long before I can see you again, but, until such time I will keep the sofa warm. Make sure you all stay safe and pretend you have a reactive dog with you everywhere you go. For the avoidance of doubt I don't mean bite everyone, I mean wear your muzzle and keep your distance. Might also be worth thinking you are walking Daisy, too; she has to be washed so much there's no chance of any virus landing on her.

About the authors...
Paddy (Mad Moment of Valgray) was a rescue dog. Back in 2013 Val Phillips posted a picture of a sad little dog called Chocky on Facebook. Lou Cadman wasn't looking for another dog, and certainly not a large one but those eyes kept calling.

Paddy is the surrogate big brother to all in the household. Whilst his agility career never really took off unless it involved an A-frame and orbit, he preferred to offer a light-hearted review of life. This, in turn, helped keep things in perspective for Lou Cadman, his mum, and so his School Report was born. Hard to believe but Paddy's School Reports have been a regular occurrence for over seven years. Where has that time gone?!

Lou Cadman started agility in 2008 and is probably more associated with terriers or Brown Rats as they are affectionately known. Between them Poppy (BR1), Twiggy (BR2), Daisy (BR3) have all enjoyed success at Grade 7, Crufts, Olympia, Team England and Team GB.

Paddy broke the mould in more ways than one and now Wispa (Miniature American Shepherd) has added another dimension.

 Lou also enjoys judging.

Photo credit: Paddy jumping - Dog Oddity

First published on 2 February 2021




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