Tiger-Lily and ‘Baby’ Bear Taylor
Tiger-Lily is now 8 years old (bitch – Aemilia La Dotta Laura – mum Dolly, Bambalina Bon Bon / dad Louis, Aemilia Raphaelo Bombe Blanco from Fay Walker / Jane Owen.)
‘Baby’ Bear is now 6 years old (bitch – Donocielo Valentina – mum Mia, Belstown Mistletoe Nelly of Donocielo / dad Benji, Predatino Benji of Moorhey.)
Time for a dog
Early in 2011 Mark finally gave in to my nagging to have a dog. We had always both worked full time and being out all day, we both felt it was unfair to have one. However, since around 2003 Mark had pretty-much worked full time from home, so even though I was working away for half the week I had felt the time was right for many years. Yes, that is not a typo – I had been nagging for at least 8 years (probably more like 10).
I’d always assumed that I would go to a rehoming centre and find a little lost soul to love, but Mark had other ideas and insisted it must be a puppy that we bring up and train from scratch (I had not expected that) So, what breed to go for? No idea. I knew I wanted a girl, small enough to pick up easily (I had a bad back) not too boisterous or yappy and I really needed a non-shedding coat as I am asthmatic and allergic to most animal hair. I started my homework online and that little list seemed to discount most breeds. A bit of time went by and the research continued.
A chance meeting
Late summer 2011 we were in Chester for a race meeting and my mum and I were having afternoon tea sat outside a café in the main shopping area. ‘Dog shopping’ was a million miles from my thoughts. We both immediately noticed a dear little fluffy, timid white dog with runny eyes and lots of red tear staining sat on a lady’s lap at the next table. That darling little dog just sat so quiet and you could see they were real companions for each other. We got chatting and were introduced to our first Bolly (a breed I had not heard of) and I knew instantly that the Bolognese was the right breed for us.
With the help of Google and The Kennel Club website, I soon realised the Bolognese are not very common with a very small list of Assured Breeders and small litter sizes – the penny dropped that finding a good breeder and waiting for a litter was probably going to demand some patience. I had numerous and helpful phone calls with various people over the weeks and months and was still absolutely sure it was the right breed.
Tiger-Lily: In April 2012 eventually I got lucky when I contacted Fay Walker who had a litter of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl) with Jane Owen. We went to visit and fell in love with Tiger-Lily when she was 3 weeks old and were able to take her home late June. Tiger is my angel, she has adoring eyes and a big chilled out gaze – a gentle & delicate soul. Tiger follows me everywhere, always sits at my feet and if I am gardening she usually sits on guard with her back to me, keeping watch. She sleeps on the bed – you always get the feeling that she is sleeping with one eye open, ready to defend her mum at any point. Tiger can be quite aloof and is not needy at all when it comes to cuddles. The only exception is that she always walks up on top of Mark in bed for her morning cuddle with her dad stretching out like the sphinx with her chin held high.
We took Tiger to puppy classes (we were complete novices, so it was more training us than Tiger) and I found my way with the grooming. We also started going to a few Bolly dog shows and the Bolly community, Fay and Jane were really helpful in sharing tips on grooming, showing and puppy basics.
‘Baby’ Bear: At some point along the way we both decided we wanted a second bolly. Most of the bolly community seem to have more than one and we were having such fun with Tiger. This time I had more contacts, but it was several months before the phone calls resulted in us finding a litter. We visited Carol and Dennis Mulligan (Donocielo Bolognese) to see a litter of six and we were not sure which of the girls we were able to have. I Remember receiving a fabulous text message with photo shortly before we were due to collect our puppy saying ‘hello mummy.’
Bear was a bit of a shock to the system, I think I should have called her ‘Rocket.’ Bear’s character is unlike Tiger in every way and her energy levels are off the scale. Bear is always very happy, bouncy, fast, cheeky and a bit naughty. She loves cuddles and fuss all the way and if you stop stroking her you get her paw across your hand to make sure the tickles keep coming. Unlike the silent and slow Tiger, Bear squeaks and talks to you to let you know what she wants, with the pitch and wriggle-rate rising when she really wants it NOW! Bear has an internal clock & ‘must do’ routine for everything in her day starting with bolting out of her pen in the morning, toilet, breakfast, chew then eyes, collar, bow & relax. Late afternoon one of us usually gets a tap on the leg followed by a squeak that it’s dinner time. If ignored, she will sit on the stairs by Mark’s desk so she is at his eye level and just stare at him until he gives in. As we go into autumn and the days get shorter she gets earlier and earlier and gets quite frustrated that dinner is after dark. It is also a standing joke in our house that in the garden with Bear we have to keep an eye on her. We live in the country and the garden regularly has stinky things to roll in or dead body parts to drag from the undergrowth and start eating – we now just say ‘cheese’ (after spending ages saying ‘come-on-bear’ over and over again when she is up to something – get it? “come-on-bear” = “camembert”.) Baby-Bear is definitely a wolf in teddy clothing, with the constitution of a tank but still a true and gentle bolly.
Bear has always been a daddy’s girl and although I also get lots of cuddles, Bear likes to be indoors watching TV with her dad and she gets very bored by gardening. Bear also sleeps without a care in the world, quite often on her back with all four legs in the air – safe in the knowledge that Tiger is guarding her. Bear loves her bed in her pen – most evenings I will watch TV in bed with both Tiger and Bear, but as Mark is coming up the stairs, Bear jumps off our bed and goes to her pen ready for bed without being prompted.
Tiger & ‘Baby’ Bear together: Tiger and Bear have lots of fun charging around, particularly around teatime – it’s just that Tiger runs out of energy quickly. They are both obsessed with a red laser pointer and go nuts doing circuits around the house after it, which is a great way of them burning off energy, particularly when its cold, dark and raining outside. When we are out, Bear is definitely braver if Tiger is with her and if Tiger thinks there is a threat then she gets all assertive and stands in front of Bear to protect her – very special to watch.
We did have a go at doggy agility for a while and Bear showed some promise (apart from being too chicken to run through the floppy tunnel) but the trainer said I needed to find a child who could run fast enough to work with her, and I realised that my back was just not up to the job. Agility with Tiger was a pedestrian walk along the beam and triangle (which she obviously enjoyed) but she insisted on either stepping over or walking around the jumps.
Grooming: I have never been to a groomer and have always done it myself. Over the first couple of years I bought so many different combs, brushes and products before finding the ones that worked for us. Bear is pretty good in the bath but I usually get soaked when bathing Tiger (even with a waterproof tabard on.)
I have to thank Carol Mulligan (aka genius dog shopper) for the introduction to Jean Peau Eye care, combs with rotating teeth (which are a revelation) and numerous other gadgets and products. I tried loads of products before finding the Jean Peau and nothing compares. It is a pity it is not easy to get in the UK and I now buy in from abroad. One of those fancy high velocity dryers is on my wish list.
I have always had to work really hard on keeping the eyes clean and trying to eliminate the tear staining. I comb around the eyes, bath with warm boiled water and then clean with Jean Peau Eye Care twice per day – if you don’t do it religiously and meticulously then the eyes get grubby and that’s when you risk the red colour setting in.
Both Tiger and Bear have their areas they do not like to be groomed and both react differently and need to be handled differently. I am no expert, but I have just learned along the way how to get the job done with minimum fuss. Tiger will let me trim between her pads and pluck in her ears but Bear will not let me do either. The only thing I do not do myself is nail clipping. Grooming at about 18 months was the toughest as the coat changes but you get through it and it gets easier again.
Health: When Tiger got to 3 years old, all of a sudden (3 weeks after Crufts) she was in a crisis with a skin condition – lots of biting, scratching, scabs and infection to deal with. We have a lovely vet and have been through numerous courses of antibiotics, steroids, piriton and Maleseb baths. After blood tests for allergies she was responding to all the meats, fish and grass and 4 common trees. She did an 18-month course of monthly immunotherapy injections and we saw good improvement but reducing and it was no miracle cure. About a year in, a new drug became available (Apoquel) and that has really helped. We now manage well with Tiger on a special hydrolysed protein diet, Apoquel, Piriton daily and Aloe & Oatmeal Coatex baths either weekly or fortnightly with Maleseb as a spot treatment as she needs it. I would love to know the trigger – this condition literally happened overnight but it is showing no signs of going. Tiger was also spayed recently after having a pyro (womb infection) which we spotted early as it made her so poorly. Thankfully she seems fine since.
We cannot imagine life without Tiger and Bear – our lives are totally different, mainly because of the dogs. We don’t leave them to go on holiday abroad, instead we now have a motorhome and take them with us. We have an occasional event where nanny and grandad dog sit for the weekend but mostly they go with us everywhere and if dogs are not welcome then we don’t go. I love the Bolly community, the Bolognese Dog Club magazine and Facebook posts which keep us in touch with other bolly people. We always go gooey eyed at the puppy pics and videos and would love another but I think 2 is sensible for us. It’s so nice to see the very old doggies and it always keeps me hopeful that we will have our babies for many years to come.