A doggone shame

The following is not a blatant advertisement for my dog-walking services. Honest.

A study this week has revealed that thousands of dogs (and cats) in the UK are now being prescribed anti-depressants by vets because of anxiety disorders.

The chief problem is one of separation – dogs are by nature social animals and many of them are left home alone for hours while their owners are at work.

Howling, chewing (of furniture and even their own paws), loss of appetite and nuisance barking are just some of the manifestations of this anxiety.

The problems can start in puppyhood but also commonly develops in older animals.

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The only thing Alfie loves more than running around with his best mates is falling asleep with them

There’s no easy solution, though turning to anti-depressants does seem extreme – and I say this as someone who had a dog who suffered such trauma during firework season that he was prescribed diazepam annually.

I also know at first hand about how deep separation anxiety can go – the reason Alfie came to live with us is that his separation anxiety started when he was just 14 or so weeks old and he destroyed his living space so effectively that his poor owner was driven to distraction.

Four years on, he still cannot bear to be left alone, though thankfully he no longer rips apart everything within reach. However, his heartfelt howling is something to hear as he tries to reunite his pack!

In one way, it helps that he spends his day with me. In another, it’s a pain in the proverbial because when I do need to be away from him, it’s a bloody palaver (thank you, lovely Sue next-door and aunties Liz and Cath for your Alfie-sitting duties!).

Most dog owners have to spend time away from their pet, that’s life. When I was a kid, the neighbourhood dogs left the house with their owners in the morning, going off to wander with their furry pals while the family went to school/work.

Muttley would return in the evening, hungry and tired from a day of adventures – usually impregnating unsuspecting bitches (neutering didn’t seem to be big in that era!).

Thankfully those days are long gone – anyone who ever had to run the gauntlet of a ragtag pack of dogs in a 70s housing scheme will join me in rejoicing in that fact.

But the truth remains that a happy dog is a well-exercised dog.

As little as half an hour of quality off-the-lead play and running daily can transform an anxious dog’s life.

I meet cranky dogs and owners at the end of their tether all the time – and I also see the difference in temperament and behaviour that a regular jaunt out does for both.

Not every dog likes to walk in a group or can be trusted around other dogs, but most absolutely love it, and their unbridled joy when the van doors are flung open and they are set free is one of the things I love most about this gig.

So to anyone concerned about leaving a dog home alone, I have one piece of advice – make sure your dog gets a decent walk every single day.

And if that means calling someone like me … well, it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

Eddie, the sheer unbridled joy of being a beagle every single time

My 10-day sugar-free detox: Days 6-10 – The proof is in the pudding

Louise reaches the end of her 10-day sugar-free detox, having
lost pounds, inches and any desire for something sweet

Drum roll, please. It’s over, my 10-day sugar and everything else free adventure comes to an end, not with a doughnut and wine blowout but a gluten-free bowl of porridge and raspberries made with coconut milk.

I’m a devil me, a devil.

I’ve lost 7lbs, 3in from my waist and 1in from my hips. In a way, these numbers are disappointing because, in the book, there are miracle stories of weight and inch loss.

I wish now that I had done the full battery of tests from blood sugar to BMI to cholesterol. But the numbers don’t tell the full story about the eating plan I’ve just followed.

I don’t want a coffee. I don’t want a sandwich. Heck, I don’t even want a glass of silky Malbec (last sentence is a lie).

I want to continue eating fresh fish and chicken with lots of veggies and drinking caffeine-free tea. It feels good. It would appear that my salad days are far from over.10410523_10152264321532098_7032904221024941578_n

My sleep has improved immeasurably, aided greatly by my purchase of a 98p sleep mask (more of that later). My energy levels are up to the point of doing a spin and metafit class back to back on Wednesday night and not expiring.

My overall mood has improved also, nothing earth-shattering but a calmer, more pragmatic approach to things – very handy when your two-year-old has three tantrums in as many yards in The Avenue in Newton Mearns. Not here darling, please. Not in the Mearns.

Everywhere I look, whether it be on television or in a newspaper, there are people talking about sugar and the unhealthy alternatives which are ladled into every food stuff you can imagine.

It would seem we are slowly waking up to the reality that if we don’t become more conscious about what we buy and consume, then we are in for some pretty nasty long-term conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and chronic arthritis – and at increasingly younger ages.

In my family, gastrointestinal problems like reflux are common, so my goal is to avoid those if possible.

Drawbacks to the diet? It is restrictive and some dishes still scream out to be mopped up with a big hunk of baguette, there is no denying it.

The fibre supplement I was instructed to buy is so unpalatable I gave up even trying to force it down on day 2. Note to anyone else thinking of trying this, buy it in capsule form.

Also, buy a natural laxative, just in case you get a little … ahem … backed up. Senekot, if you are wondering. It does what it says on the box!

10421394_10152264319912098_6880657289349987779_nTop five discoveries? Tamari, a gluten-free soy sauce and indispensable for seasoning. Organic nut butters, almond especially.

Although eye-wateringly expensive, they are creamy and sweet if you need a quick pick-me-up. Coconut oil for cooking, cholesterol-free and loaded with good fats. Black sesame seeds scattered on salads and chicken or fish for crunch and flavour.

And finally, my 98p sleep mask, you complete me. The gorgeous northern European light nights are fantastic in so many ways, but they are a bugger to get to sleep in and stay asleep in. The only drawback to the mask is taking it off in the morning, when I turn into a gremlin for a few moments: “Bbright light, bright light!”

So, it’s over. But I’m not done. I want to be fit and healthy for a long time yet and pass on good eating and exercise habits to my kids. I’ve signed up for the Great Scottish Run a 10k in October and I need to start training for that ASAP.

Running is not my favourite form of exercise but I will make myself love it. I might even need some carbs in my diet for that. I may even blog about it. Watch this space.

•Louise was following Dr Mark Hyman’s 10-day Detox Diet