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A Mans Best Friend and Tricia Wills

Two of our best friends live in Sidmouth, a leafy town on the south coast of Devon. Every month we make the short trip across the county for a weekend of mulled wine (or Pimms / any other seasonal beverage) and lots of dog walking.

Autumn is a beautiful time to visit Devon. In fact, it might just be my favourite time of year. Even on a dull, grey, cloudy day the tiny villages come to life with an autumnul orangey hue.

Wrap up warm, grab your wellies and hit the park.

We set off through the park and it wasn’t long before we bumped into someone we knew…

Meet Frankie. Frankie is one of Daves puppies and is just over a year old. She’s changed alot since we last saw her tearing up the garden at 6 weeks old, but always such a magical moment to see the puppies and their new lives and little families.

I found a bunch of yellow leafs…

And little George had a try at some snazzy photography.

Anyway, back to the stars of the show. You know Dave and Trigger by now? These beautiful blue merle collies are such mesmerising dogs, but like with all dogs they hold their little problems.

Trigger is the puppy from Daves first litter. Unfortunately he was born with the recessive gene which in short, means he is deaf and 80% blind. He is now 5 years old and has unfortunately been causing havoc in the house. His frustrations and anxiety is too much for a dog that has little to no scents, so just when Richard and Julie thought there was little hope in sight, an email landed in my inbox from Tricia Wills.

Tricia has been working with dogs across the Devon county for over 20 years and it could not have come at a better time to meet her.  Tricia arranged to come to the house and try and help Richard and Julie with Trigger. Unfortunately in the few days since we’d arrived, Trigger had caused a huge amount of damage to the house in the small amount of time he’d been alone, and Richard had resorted to using the cage (which, every time, he magically seemed to get out of).

We sat down with a coffee in hand and recapped Triggers short little life. Tricia broke down every single major event in his life, from moving home to how often he goes out for long walks. We soon established that Triggers such sudden change of behaviour could be pinpointed to one day in October. Was it bonfire night? No. Was it a change of home? No. Was it a change of diet? No. We exhausted what seemed like every option. The only way forward was to try and resolve his change of behaviour and desensitise and retrain him.

We soon established Triggers main issue, “separation anxiety”. His overwhelming need to escape from the house is pretty heartbreaking for such a seemingly happy dog so Tricia suggested methods that would help Trigger, and also start to resume some normality to their lives and broken home. These involved re-training Trigger with simple comforts which he would be familiar with and more importantly, getting him into a routine. Training is virtually impossible with a deaf and blind dog. Tricia explained Triggers overwhelming need of human contact and petting (touch being his only working sense), and taught how to reward Trigger without the need to touch him. She explained that dogs are hugely in tune with their owners emotions and feelings and that he would feel Richard and Julie’s moods and anxieties every time they entered their home. Conditioning Trigger was the only way forward so that everyone could live a normal life, albeit with a dog with such severe difficulties.

After of hours of discussing the way forward for Trigger and the various training and desensitisation methods, Richard sighed with relief that Trigger could be turned into that loveable, kind hearted dog he always was.  All that was left was to take the dogs out for a well deserved leg stretch.

I cannot recommend Tricia’s services enough. If you are a dog owner and looking for a dog trainer in Devon then Tricia is your lady. You can read all about her wonderful stories on her website. Tricia, thank you so much for your time and help at such a difficult time for Richard and Julie. I will of course keep you updated with Triggers progress over the next few months!

Fountain Head Beer Festival

You must be thinking by now, “why don’t you just pack up and move to Devon”? I know, I know. I’m working on it.

The arrival of June starts the count down to Branscombe’s annual Fountain Head Beer Festival. In this tiny little village nestled deep in a Devon valley, 2 pubs and a post office serve the villagers from day to day. Being miles from the nearest town and needing four wheels to get anywhere, life can be pretty limiting.

That is until summer when villagers come to life and open their arms (and their village) to thirsty, folky festival goers. Of the two pubs, The Fountain Head and The Masons Arms, the Fountain kick things off with their infamous Beer Festival.

Revellers like this one join the cue for the local ales and ciders lined up in their barrels behind the makeshift bar.

Even Ozzie’s venture over to join in the fun.

The beers start flowing and the music begins. The makeshift dance floor is taken over by fine country men and their wellies. Friday night draws to an end after the bands encore and inevitably ,the rain starts pouring for our drunken decent back to the house.

Saturday morning starts with breakfast fit for a king and a large cup of coffee on the terrace. Around midday, after a stroll to the beach with the dogs, day two begins in full British fashion.

A game of Rummikub.

Of course, I lost.

After several bottles of Pimms, its time to hop next door to join in the festivities. I choose my new favourite H&M dress, H&M Fedora and Zara booties.

Did a little dance…

And pranced into the tent like a musical fairy.

There weren’t many other pictures from the Saturday evening, mainly due to an afternoon of drinking bottle after bottle of Pimms. It all ended in a bit of a haze and covered in mud.

And my last view from the village is this one. Hobbling to grab my camera with a severe hangover to snap this picture of what life is all about.

the village life

Life in the village is pretty amazing. It’s a bit like psychological rehab. No phones, limited internet, lots of nature to keep you occupied and miles and miles of walking ground to let your mind go crazy.  Spring is one of my favourite times of the year to visit Branscombe as the whole village is transformed into a mini Chelsea flower show as locals compete for the very best front garden.

Last weekend we packed up the duvet and an overnight bag, jumped in the car and raced to Devon for a little bit of the village life.

Look who greeted us when we arrived. How can you say no to walkies with those big blue eyes?

Off we went, headed for the beach, Dave and Trigger in tow.

Remember Trigger? Well he needs a bit of taming.

A long walk with the dogs, a huge helping of cottage pie, some local ciders and a few rounds of cards later, we called it a night.

Sunday dawned and we warmed ourselves up with a full English. This is the day we’d travelled across Dorset and Devon for, The Axe Vale Point to Point!

This face tells me he’s up to no good.

 

And indeed he was. A little practical joke on a very gullible friend later we were ready for the races.

Point to Point is a fashion show for the country folk (dogs included) and an opportunity to bet on some amateur horse racing. It’s a whole day event which is held on the hill at Stafford Cross, just outside Seaton. A tradition spanning hundreds of years, locals flood the grounds in their thousands dressed head to toe in tweed and Barbour. It was a cold, cold day.

But nothing a Otter brew can’t fix.

There’s some interesting characters around. Old gentlemen in crazy propeller inspired hats, and lots and lots of tweed.

Did I mention the dogs? Well they’re the ultimate fashion accessory.

 

We darted for the totes in time for the first race.

My money was on Miss Cupcake.

Unfortunately, she was so behind, she’s not even in this picture.

We did have some wins as the races went on but the freezing cold wind and the fact I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes were enough for me to call it a day and find the food tent.

 

Julie and I thoroughly stuffed our faces with home-made cakes and sandwiches until the races drew to a close and the boys grumpily stomped to find us mourning their losses.

Point to Point is held all over the country and you can check out upcoming events here. Don’t forget to wear your thermals!