The DogPeople Blog
Dog friendly articles and ideas
Murphy was born in September 2008. He came to live with us in October 2013 after a change in domestic circumstances for his first owner from puppyhood. We know how hard it was for his owner to give him up and will do all we can to make Murphy’s life full and happy. It didn’t take us long to be utterly devoted to him.
Murphy came to us with a difficult recall problem –he has a great nose and is a born hunter; his nose gets the better of him when full of scents of 'beastie'. Persistence and regular off lead walking in ‘safe’ areas improved Murphy’s obedience but, if he’s off lead in woods with lots of temptation, he may still be gone for 15 minutes when he is being especially ‘Airedale’. Luckily one of the directors (who actually ‘rescued’ Murphy) has a very loud whistle and this helps as does Murphy's brilliance at finding his way back ... when he decides the time is right ... but, despite everything, he still provides heart stopping moments from time to time. One of these was on the Monsal Trail when he followed a scent down a very steep and long bank. He was out of sight and earshot for 5 or 10 minutes and not responding to the whistle. Plans were afoot to try and get to the bottom of the bank when he reappeared hot and bothered but happy to be reunited.
Murphy’s first holiday trip to The Lakes in May 2014 was a test for him – if he’d been allowed to run off lead too early in the day he’d have used up too much energy to then ‘do’ a mountain or two and, in any case, he has shown an interest in chasing sheep if they run. We soon found that four or five hours of hill and mountain walking on lead was enough even for this ‘butcher’s dog’ – but a short run off was welcome when safe too! Murphy enjoyed meeting other dogs on their holidays, especially in the pub after a long day on the hills. Considering, as far as we know, he’d never been on mountain walks before he was a natural from the outset. He was often at the end of his extending lead, enjoying every moment, and coped well with short scrambles, boulder fields and steep ascents. He quickly seemed to know his left paw when commanded to ‘go left’ and to understand ‘get up’ when climbing (interesting as he has this command to get into the car among other things too). He was less sure about ‘go right’ but this maybe because we use ‘right’ in other ways – must try to stop doing so.
A week's self catering 'holiday' in The Peak District (directly after The Lake District) showed Murphy can handle the frequent stone wall 'scramble stiles' encountered there and even some stone step stiles. Lottie showed the way with the latter and we were impressed by how both dogs managed two step stiles about four feet or so high. Murphy showed his Airedale grit and determination on a three step stile - over five feet high - after Lottie had been helped over by trying a standing jump to clear it. He didn't make it but leapt so high he didn't need much help (or the use of any of the steps). Murphy is an excellent house dog (he has good hearing to go with his keen nose) and he soon showed he is ready to guard a holiday home as well as his normal house.
Murphy settled well with Lottie when they were first together. She bullies him rather at times but he just puts up with it except on very rare occasions when he shows her who is really boss. He’s a big ‘Teddy Bear’ but is more than capable of looking after himself if he has to. Lottie has got into trouble with other dogs once or twice and, when Murphy arrived at the gallop to her aid things have always been happily resolved!
In March 2014 Murphy had an ulcerated lump on his right hindquarter. The vet thought it a sebaceous cyst at first and treated it with antibiotics and pain relief. When the swelling didn’t go down we decided it was best to have the lump removed (we hate leaving a dog at the vets … but it's sometimes the best thing to do, especially when, as we do with Andrew, one has absolute faith in the vet). The lump proved to be a squamous cell carcinoma – so it was just as well Andrew removed it all. Murphy healed really quickly and well but was ‘stir crazy’ well before he could be let off lead for a good run. He is clearly a tough boy and didn’t know what all the fuss was about. His Lakes trip showed he made a full recovery so it’s just a case of fingers crossed the cancer doesn’t recur.
Together with Lottie, Murphy is a good advert for Dogpeople. They both behave really well in pubs, tea rooms and other public places we've taken them. Nearly all dog lovers want to come and meet them and they get on well with other dogs (Lottie can be a bit jealous or possessive but Murphy is really laid back). They are both brilliant at settling in holiday accommodation and travel well together in the car.
We look forward to giving more reports on Murphy's progress with us both as a dog friendly holiday ambassador and much loved canine companion.
Murphy's recall problem had some low moments since we first wrote. His Airedale Terrier stubbornness surfaced in wilful disobedience on several occasions in the spring and early summer of 2015. This led to him losing off lead walks for a while but he seemed to make connection between doing as he's told (ish) and more freedom as, when he was gradually reintroduced to running free in controlled areas, he was much better. Over time, he was let off in more places, especially at Duncan Down in Whitstable. There's no doubt he's a clever chap as he soon picked up the routines and routes we used most. Alan has become relaxed about him running off after a scent, a 'tree rat' or for a drink from The Gorrell Stream. He is now confident Murphy will come back to the whistle (and rather more quickly than he once did). This progress means we have better walks and Murphy gets to meet canine pals as well as enjoying his 'scent hunting'. He has a tendency to be rather too friendly with some dogs – especially the males – and this gets him in to trouble at times (and some owners are understandably embarrassed). He also likes a rough and tumble – but soon tires of it and would rather be off after the next scent. One of his new friends, Chinook, a now very large Husky cross, had to be 'spoken to' on one occasion. The beach at Whitstable is another favourite place for a run free and will be more often on the agenda as the wet winter weather sets in. There are less good scents but more dogs to play with (including some special friends like Dennis – an English Pointer – and Dancer - a beautiful Mastiff cross).
Big strides were achieved when Alan and Murphy went on a DogPeople trip to Shropshire in September 2015. They stayed with one of our dog friendly B&B advertisers, walked miles together in the England / Wales borders, visited another dog friendly customer for lunch and enjoyed Clun Castle ruins (several times!). We had a great holiday and were together 24/7 X 5. This, together with unknown territory for Murph, seems to have strengthened the bond and Murphy is now pretty reliable with his recall (that's not to say care doesn't have to be taken … he will always be an Airedale … thank goodness!). Murphy was well behaved in the dog friendly pubs and bars we visited for meals. He was often the centre of attention with people keen to meet him. He was always on excellent behaviour, especially after a full days walking in the hills. Murphy settled well in the bed and breakfast room, was as good as gold at breakfast time and was a perfect passenger on a couple of quite long car journeys to and from out holiday location. Good lad ☺
Murphy continues to have some recall problems and took himself off on a couple of occasions, once, perhaps, when he was scared and couldn't find his man. Much effort has gone in to overcoming this and giving him a good quality of life. He still manages to get off lead regularly but places to let him roam have to be carefully selected. Holidays and trips away from 'home' surroundings are not considered safe so he has to explore new territory on his lead.
Speaking of new territory Murphy enjoyed a couple of dog friendly holidays in the summer of 2016. His first was a self catering break in North Devon in a cottage booked through DogPeople's partnership with Cottages.com. Situated on the edge of Exmoor, and a short drive to the coast, the holiday cottage proved a good base for walking and exploring. His second trip was to Wales. First stop was for a one night stay at Caer Beris Manor Hotel – see dog friendly hotels in Powys – where he found other canine guests and fantastic grounds. Next was the main part of the holiday, self catering in Gwynedd. We stayed in Y Popty, one of the dog welcoming cottages at Pentre Bach. Another great location for visiting the local beach and miles of sands at both Barmouth and Aberdovey as well as plenty of walking in the southern part of the Snowdonia National Park (Murphy walked the Wales Coast Path to The Blue Lake, climbed The Cadair Idris and The Dolgoch Falls). Murphy loved it, even the struggle back around the M25 gave him opportunity for a rest!
Murphy had a slightly difficult autumn and early winter in 2016. He had been passing some fresh blood with his motions and increasingly seemed to struggle to pass something that wasn’t there on his fourth, fifth and sixth attempts during his morning walks (sometimes even more often that that!). In January 2017 a trip to the vet included a rectal examination (Murphy not impressed!!) and this disclosed a growth (a pedunculated mass on the dorsal aspect of the rectal wall). A general anaesthetic, ultra sound scan and biopsy showed the lump to be an adenomatous polyp. Although the sample was benign – what a relief – the ‘meat’ of the lab report was: “The mass excised from the rectum is an adenomatous polyp. This is a benign lesion that develops in the distal intestine (colon and rectum) of middle aged/older dogs. There is limited information regarding the biological behaviour of these lesions. In dogs, adequate surgical excision usually results in complete recovery. Some areas could be interpreted, at presentation, as in situ carcinomas, based on cytologic characteristics, and deep biopsies or complete excision and evaluation of the whole mass are essential to rule out local infiltration. I don't see clear cut cytological atypia in the sections examined. However excision of the mass and examination of the whole tissue, including the peduncle, is recommended.”
The lab’s report left Alan with a difficult decision. Wide margin removal of the growth would be a major operation involving significant loss of rectal tissue. Even a deep biopsy would interfere with nerves in the rectum. Both procedures risk leaving a dog permanently incontinent as, apparently, nerves in the rectum form 50% of a dog’s continence. Using a tried and tested probability and impact model Alan decided on just ‘level’ removal of the remainder of the polyp on the basis the probability of a cancerous core is not high but the impact of permanent incontinence would be devastating for him and Murphy. Happily, removal went well and Murphy recovered quickly – but he’s still straining too often whilst the wound fully heals. Hopefully this will pass (pun intended) and he and Alan can look forward plenty of dog inclusive days out and a dog friendly holiday or two in 2017 – and for quite a few more years.
Murphy had a couple of good months with his motions but, sadly, is passing blood again. This coincided with the first dose of Bravecto after his operation but might have been just that – a coincidence. He will be back to the vet’s soon to see what the best way forward might be. His health has been otherwise good with high energy levels.
Murphy and Alan had a trip to The Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland in May. They stayed in Tryst Cottage in Ingleton, a dog friendly self catering holiday cottage. It proved an excellent base for exploring the area and enjoying great walks, some from the door, others after only short drives. Ingleborough was walked from the door; we went up via Fell Lane and down over Little Ingleborough, then south west to Newby Cote before returning on something of a yomp along Old Road. Ingleton Waterfall Trails were the other significant walk from the door. Even after a dry spell the waterfalls were wonderful; this route must be stunning in winter or early spring. Murphy conquered Pen y Ghent and Whernside after short car journeys. We both felt the heat on Pen y Ghent. There was very little natural water on the climb so if you go on a warm day make sure to carry plenty of water for your canine companion. Murphy is a big agile boy but even he needed a little help with one jump up on the final scramble on the way up; Alan was glad to get him safely to the top. Whernside was fabulous. Another warm day but a stiff breeze helped keep us both cooler and there was plenty of running water for Murphy to drink (we went up and down the same way to be sure he had plenty to drink - Alan had a full supply but Murphy prefers a stream to tap water!). We walked pretty much all the ridge ‘there and back’ – stunning. We took a couple of trips to The Forest of Bowland. The roads are very narrow and ‘roller coaster’ with very few places to park. The views were great but walkers aren’t encouraged and dogs restricted to public rights of way for much of the year. Lack of parking made use of the footpaths difficult so our only real walk was at Stocks Reservoir – but we enjoyed that.
Hopefully Murphy’s rectal problems won’t develop into anything more serious so he can retain his high levels of fitness for years. The problem is Airedales are so tough so it’s really hard to know when things aren’t quite right. For the moment he is clearly enjoying life and is as determined as ever.
We reported Murphy’s rectal problems in January and the apparent relapse in June. His brilliant vets, Toachim House in Faversham, Kent gave Alan a detailed and in depth consultation after a further examination proved Murphy had another growth. A ‘rectal pull through’ and wider removal seems to offer the best chance of complete removal of the lump but the risks attached to this procedure are too high in both probability and impact for Alan to agree. Another ‘level’ removal with a snare has been done. Andrei said the growth was bigger than previously and with a wider attachment – but he hopes to have removed as much as is possible with this procedure.
Murphy was really bouncy when picked up on the same afternoon as the op and has not suffered any after effects. It took over a week before he stopped passing blood (whilst the wound healed) but he now seems more comfortable. He is still straining to pass things that aren’t there, especially on his morning walks, but Alan hopes this will settle down in time. He is certainly straining less often. His motions are more regular too. Fingers crossed this will be a longer lasting solution for Murphy and we will be able to enjoy another dog friendly holiday before too long.
Murphy had a tough time since our last update in July 2017. The level removal of his rectal polyp didn’t prove a final solution. He also had increasing bouts of loose motions and regular straining. Toachim House did a range of blood tests, stool analysis, x-rays and ultrasound scans of his bowels and organs but nothing was found other than some malabsorption from the small intestine (see blog entries - "Murphy back at the vet’s for more tests" and "Good news and bad for Murphy"). He had vitamin B injections and different antibiotics with nothing more than temporary relief. Further research and a change of vet showed the polyp had regrown (see "Health update on Murphy"). Another ‘flat’ removal was done by Whitstable Bay Vets (see "Some better news at the vets’ for Murphy") but sadly, although this was successful for a while, the mass grew again.
The mass was causing problems for Murphy so Alan decided he had no choice but to risk the rectal pull out operation. Andrei at Toachim House did a brilliant job and tough old Murphy quickly got over the surgery (though the dissolvable stitches never did dissolve). Murphy did have a couple of ‘accidents’ at home after the operation but, mercifully, he suffered few complications. Sadly, however, his on and off diarrhoea and patchy appetite kept recurring. Toachim House made little progress on this but Vicky at Whitstable Bay found medication that helped the symptoms to some extent. Nothing resolved the problem though. More blood tests all came back clear but during May and early June 2018 Murphy became harder and harder to feed as he rejected every new food after short periods. He lost weight regularly. Finally, on 6 June (D Day!) Vicky felt a mass in his bowel. Today, 7 June 2018, Murphy was admitted for exploratory surgery. A large mass was found on his bowel with multiple smaller masses throughout his bowels. He was never going to recover so Alan agreed he should be put to sleep under anaesthetic. Alan is gutted not to have been able to say goodbye to this special chap – but it would have been selfish to wake Murphy to do so.
Murphy was born on 4 September 2008 as Smockalley Sargeant Pepper. He died today (7 June 2018) as a much loved, brave, resilient, handsome character. Everyone who knew him admired him. He will be Alan’s last dog. He was a real handful at times with his wilful disobedience (mostly only when ‘hunting’) and his succession of health challenges (particularly his indifference to where he squatted … especially when he had diarrhoea!!) but his massive personality made him a joy to be around when he was good. Alan and he shared some great times together. He was every inch an Airedale: tough, resilient, loyal, tolerant, determined, easy going, fun, fit, fantastic and intelligent (he was the cleverest dog Alan has ever owned). A very bright light has gone out. One can only hope it has been reignited in another place and he is running with Hamish comparing notes on Alan and DogPeople.