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rolletrog

rolletrog
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Member since: 13.03.2008

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      21.03.2013 21:41
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      A fantastic company that has paid out every time for my bestest friends

      ~~*~~*~~ More Th>n Pet Insurance ~~*~~*~

      This is my experience of More Th>n's Pet Insurance - not everyone's experience is the same and obviously not all prices are the same because every pet and household is different.

      ~~*~~ My pets ~~*~~

      I have two Labradors - Pig and Oink. When I first purchased the fat chocolate Pig, she came with 6 weeks free Pet plan insurance which I activated and when the time came, I renewed with them for the following year. After that year, the renewal quote came through and after a quick trawl of the internet I found there were a lot of cheaper policies out there. Thus I gave More Th>n a ring and got a great price for the fatty bum bum. My first impression of the company was obviously a good one as they knew I was going to purchase - they were polite and completed the policy in about 10 mins. When it came to insuring a second and third dog, they offered discounts for each one though they are each on their own individual and very special policy.
      When it comes to insuring your pet (specifically your canine), the breed is important - the Labradors come in at about £12 a dog, the Irish Water Spaniel was £14 (presumably because they're a short lived breed prone to cancer) and the teensy cross-bred is looking at £6 a month.

      ~~*~~My Policy ~~*~~

      I decided from the start that I would pay more a month to insure the girls 'for life' which basically means that should one of the little blighters develop a life condition such as diabetes or hip dysplasia then More Th>n will continue to renew her policy each year (obviously they increase the premium but this still works out a hell of a lot cheaper th>n paying for treatment year in year out). This has turned out to be the best decision I could have made since Pigsy in her 5 ½ short years has cost me a complete and utter fortune, god love her.

      Signing up is dead easy - they want to know date of birth (if possible or just the age of the dog), the name, breed, address and purchase price (if applicable). I always opt to pay monthly by direct debit but you can pay an annual fee - either way, it works out the same which is nice. A few days later the policy arrives in the post and no more action is needed until the unthinkable happens...

      ~~*~~ Pigsy's Number 1 ~~*~~

      Pig had been doing agility for about a year when she appeared to become a lazy cow and couldn't be bothered to go over the jumps, opting instead to go either under or straight through them. A few frustrating months later, she cried out in pain whilst attempting to get in the van, then she began chewing her feet whilst wittering to herself. I put her symptoms in old google and took her off to the vets. Long story short and very expensive bills later covering x-rays, painkillers, specialists, more x-rays and consultations: the Pig was diagnosed with Lumbosacral Disease - a slow and progressive painful condition where Pig's pelvis is (kind-of) melding into her spine. The bills will become bigger and bigger as time goes on but More Th>n have her covered. I'm supposed to go back to the vets regarding this particular condition every 6 months to keep the policy covering the disease and on one occasion I had a specialist appointment booked but due to "Pigsy's Number 2", I had to cancel - the lovely MoreTh>n bloke told me not to worry about it and to sort Pig out in the meantime but that they'd continue to cover her regardless of whether I went to the specialist within the allotted time or not.

      ~~*~~ Pigsy's Number 2 ~~*~~

      Pig was sick for a week but continued to eat: the day she turned her fat snout up at her dinner, I rushed her to the vet. They kept her in overnight, rang me in the morning to say she was fine and had eaten her brekkie and she probably had wind. Cheers Pig. However, because I hadn't been able to pick her up until the afternoon, she remained at the vets - good job too because an hour later my fantastic vet rang to say they'd rushed 'Big Fat Pig' (yep, that's how they call her name at the vets) into surgery and it was touch and go. It would transpire that the pig had torn a hole in her stomach, continued to eat stoically, and the vet's would have to remove a half of her barrel since the tissue had become so necrotic (the vets were so excited, they took pictures documenting the miraculous pig). I was called in to say my goodbyes and to not expect her to pull through: the vet on call spent the night with her and even rang me through the night to give me updates. She spent 3 days in the vets, for 4 days after she had daily visits, then every other day and finally she was signed off! Pig was made Pet of the Week for her super survival! Another long story, but the bill for this was over £2000 (luckily my vet lets his reliable clients pay the insurance straight to them instead of demanding the money up front).

      ~~*~~ Puddle's One and Only ~~*~~

      Puddle was my amazing and extremely intelligent Irish Water Spaniel who ironically drowned in a puddle by getting her collar stuck under a boulder half way across Morecambe Bay in 3 foot of water. In her short lived life I'd never had a need to make a claim for her but when I rang up to cancel her policy, the MoreTh>n man suggested very sensitively that I could claim for her purchase price back. I was blubbering at the time and he was lovely - he told me to send a letter to the Claims address explaining what happened. I had no vet certificate of death, I wrote the letter on the back of a dog show schedule and we'd buried the Permhead in my mother's garden so I had no proof - all they had was a policy number and the witterings of a grieving crazy dog lady. A few days after posting I received a letter to say they were very sorry for the loss of Puddle and included the maximum price for 'death from injury'. The Labs now have their own savings fund called 'Puddle's Rainy Day'.

      ~~*~~ Claiming ~~*~~

      Claiming was too easy to be honest - I filled in the basics and ticked the box to pay the vet direct, handed it to my vets who either filled in their section with 'vomiting', 'gastric surgery' or 'lumbosacral disease' and bob's your uncle: a cheque arrived a few days later. The claim forms can be printed from the internet or MoreTh>n will send you out some (a number of them arrived after Pig's gastric claims!).

      The following are what I can 'technically' claim for:

      Vet fees including alternative medicine (hydrotherapy is covered - hurrah!) up to: £7000
      Death from injury, up to: £600
      Death from illness, before the age of 9 years, up to: £600
      Loss of Pig due to theft or straying, up to: £600
      Advertising and reward if Pig is lost or stolen, up to: £600
      Kennel fees if you have to go into hospital, up to: £600
      Pet holiday protection, up to: £1250
      Third party liability cover for your dog, up to: £2 million

      Obviously there are certain things that aren't covered such as if I get Pig up the duff and it all goes wrong, or if she were a real working dog (they still covered her even though she does agility) and as I found out they will not cover the 'special food' Pigsy had to have which cost £6 a can twice a day until her stomach healed - now the fat cow can eat what ever she wants and has more th>n likely stretched her stomach back to its original size!

      ~~*~~ Paying is more painful th>n the Vets ~~*~~

      For me, I'd do owt to keep Pig & Oink fit and healthy but I'm not sure I would've been able to afford Pig's gastric surgery if the vet had said "pay up" and given his pretty pessimistic prognosis I may have been tempted to let the Piggy go peacefully. However, just because I have insurance doesn't mean the cost is over - I have to pay £70 + 10% of the remaining bill until she reaches 9 and then it's £70 + 20% (I may have to rethink insurance if we ever reach this stage. For example, one of Pig's bills came in at £1727.10, they rejected £64.35 (food), and they paid out £1433.27 leaving me to cover £229.38, plus her cover which is now £352 a year. If I had the willpower, I would put that money into a savings account, but I don't. I also think it is well worth investing in insurance just for public liability - there are plenty of ways your dog can be accused of damaging property, causing accidents, eating small children and unfortunately there are people out there who will try their luck - knowing my luck, I think it's best to be covered.

      ~~*~~ More Th>n enough, me thinks ~~*~~

      If you fancy covering your pooches, I can wholeheartedly recommend MoreTh>n. They're not quite the cheapest but at the end of the day, this kind of insurance is because you need a payout and I can vouch that they have gone above and beyond for me - Pig's story sounds like a complete ploy for fraud but they never once questioned it.

      More Th>n
      P.O Box 15769
      Birmingham
      B2 2RA
      0800 300 939
      www.morethan.com/pet



      Caroline, Pigsy & Oink

      Feb 2013

      Review will probably appear elsewhere

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      • More +
        12.02.2013 21:12
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        A great investment

        ~~*~~*~~ Country Mun Towelling Dog Rug ~~*~~*~

        The Pig (my chocolate Labrador) was diagnosed with Lumbosacral Disease (basically she has ostophytes (bone spurs) compressing the nerve roots in her lower back) a couple of years ago and to help with the pain after exercise, in particular her swimming lessons, I bought her a lovely coat. Her problem was first noticed at agility and some months later she was lame after a decent walk - the prognosis was not good and Pig was told never to chase balls, go off lead or do agility again. I tried this for a fortnight but she was a nightmare to live with and what's the point in being a dog if you can't have fun? Thus the Pig is allowed to have controlled entertainment - I just have to be sensible (though she doesn't).

        ~~*~~ Doesn't the Pig have fur? ~~*~~

        Pig does have fur, in fact she has the breed standard 'double coat' which enables all Labradors to be pretty hardy beasts. The problem is not that she gets cold, it's how long she remains cold and the effect this has on her bones - we all get stiff joints in the cold and it's no difference for pooches. Every day, Pig and Oink (my beautiful black lab) come walking with me and they happily go swimming in the sea without fail no matter the outside temperature. Pig, however, is often unable to get in the van after a very cold swim as things are stiff and sore whereas Oinky could go again and again. As soon as I get the girls home they have a warm hosepipe shower and their coats are popped on whilst they enjoy a bone. Dogs need a coat for other reasons than just being soggy - short-haired and hairless breeds definitely feel the cold a lot easier and dogs that can't move much and thus create their own heat for example, but it is important to remember that by placing clothing on a dog it diminishes the dog's ability to regulate their own temperature so keep an eye on them.

        ~~*~~ Pig's coat is special (like her) ~~*~~

        Oink has a lightweight coat that merely dries her fur but doesn't keep her particularly warm, the Pig's Towelling Rug is a very thick towel material specially designed for gundogs after a day's work. It's made from two layers of 390gms Italian cotton between which is 135gms of polyester hollow fibre wadding (think cosy sleeping bag stuff) and is reversible which is ace when you've two dogs that need drying - just do the quicker drying one first, then stick it on the other dog! It's pretty easy to put on your dog (Pig hates wearing things (maybe I shouldn't dress her as a pumpkin for Halloween but it never fails to amuse me) and freezes conveniently) - you pop the dog's head through the hole in the coat and merely place the Velcro belt over the top of the coat around the dog's belly and tighten to your satisfaction. I wouldn't recommend leaving your dog unattended in it - I went for a bath and could hear Pigsy crying like a stuck pig - the simpleton had managed to detach the belt, turn the coat round and then stand on it with her front paws unable to move (a brighter breed would have backed up but Pigs are not known for their intelligence). The Pig is usually dry in under an hour, my Irish water Spaniel used to take a bit longer but essentially the coat is excellent for drying and keeping the pooch lovely and warm.

        ~~*~~ Fit for Function ~~*~~

        I found mine for sale at the local kennels so I was fortunate enough to try different sizes on Pigsy before purchase. There are many sizes to choose from so it's best to measure your dog from shoulder to butt and shoulder to base of chest - my only point of contention with this is with an increase in length is an increase in chest size so they're not going to fit every dog perfectly (though Country Mun does say it can custom make a coat for you):

        All sizes in cms:

        36/26
        41/29
        46/30
        51/32
        56/36
        61/38
        66/43
        71/46
        76/48

        Pig's coat fits her fairly well - I went for a slightly larger one so that it went right over her tail since that's where her area of concern is. The top of the coat has an extra piece that goes slightly up the back of the neck and the underneath covers most of her belly but still allows for both kinds of toilet behaviour from a girl doggy (it is not suitable for Zappa (Pig's son) to have a wee wee in as it does get a tad wet).

        ~*~ Fancy one? ~*~

        Country Mun are a British company based in the north of England and have been trading for over 25 years - not a bad record to hold. They will be at Crufts if you're going, if you're not then have a gander at their website www.countrymun .co.uk - they have a wide range of coats available and don't only cater for the gun breeds. At the time of writing this they have an offer on: 10% off if you enter SPECIAL10 in the voucher box - you'll need it as these gorgeous coats start at £35 and Pig's was £40 4 years ago. I think this is a fab coat as for only a tenner a year the Pig is snug as a big fat bug. I've washed it many many times although sometimes I merely stick it in the tumble dryer to get it fresh for the next day. It's still fluffy, absorbent and retained its shape so I am a very happy Pig mummy.

        Country Mun
        50 Sunniside Lane
        South Shields
        Tyne and Wear
        NE34 8DY

        0191 6030440
        sales@countrymun.co.uk
        They do have a facebook page but there's nowt on it!



        Caroline, Pigsy & Oink

        Feb 2013

        Review will probably appear elsewhere

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          22.01.2013 22:22
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          A nice cheap shampoo with some good ingredients.

          ~~*~~*~~ Ancol Citronella & Eucalyptus Shampoo & Conditioner ~~*~~*~~


          ~~*~~ I never knew you had dandruff ~~*~~

          In the 5 and a half years I've been owned by my chocolate Labrador, Pig, I think she's probably had 4 or 5 baths. I don't believe in removing the natural oils in her coat by shampooing her fat butt but I do hose her off with a warm hosepipe when she's particularly filthy. Pig is my first show dog and still I never bathed her for a show - a quick rub-down with a newspaper brings out the shine beautifully in a lab and whereas you want shine, you do not want a soft coat - a lab should have a harsh feel to it. Thus, fatty bum bum has only been shampooed when she's rolled in something revolting or for Christmas at Granny's.

          Pigsy got me interested in showing and I then purchased the Irish Water Spaniel, Puddle who unfortunately and somewhat ironically drowned recently. During her 2 and a half years the poor thing was bathed weekly and anyone who's owned one of these knows they are a stinky breed. They too have natural oils which makes for a greasy coat and thus creates their signature liver puce colour. I tried many shampoos for her - some increased the curl or gave her coat volume and some were just bloody expensive but the one I liked the best was Ancol's dark coat shampoo.

          ~~*~~ So healthy, it shines ~~*~~

          My main reason for purchasing it was baby Oink - my black lab who's just turned 1 (Happy Birthday Fat Pants). You know what it's like - new puppy combined with a trip to pets at home, results in a £100+ bill. Anyway, this was on offer for £1.50 (usual price is about £3) and it proclaims to be good for black and dark coats which seemed perfect for my girls. Maybe the thing that really sold it to me was the picture of a black lab on the front - I am that fickle. It's a clear plastic bottle so you can see exactly how much of the black stuff is left inside as you use it.

          It contains Chamomile oil, Lanolin, Citronella & Eucalyptus and claims to contain the finest natural detergents which is nice but since they don't have to list the actual ingredients, we'll never know. I like the combination of these ingredients for my pooches - Chamomile oil is regularly used to soothe skin and is a natural anti-inflammatory, Citronella is supposed to be an insect repellent and may help keep the fleas, mites and ticks at bay, Euchalyptus oil tends to have the same effect on pooches but can have calming influences too and Lanolin is naturally absorbed into the skin and hair moisturising and improving the elasticity as it goes.

          ~~*~~ It does beautiful things to your head ~~*~~

          The instructions say to dilute the shampoo 15 parts to water - sometimes I do this, other times when it's ruddy cold and I'm freezing after a full days walking, I put a blob in my hands, rub them together and then squidge it all over the already soggy doggies. It is important to rinse them thoroughly which isn't easy when the little black one is trying to bite the water coming from the hosepipe or the Pig is doing the hot floor dance and won't let you rinse it from her botty. I then give them a rough towelling, pop on their beautiful coats and leave them in the kitchen to dry with a bone.

          ~~*~~ No more tears ~~*~~

          I have to confess, Pigsy may have got a wee soap sud in her eye and though she didn't cry, her eye was red. Not to worry - she's rock hard and soon got over it. My girls don't particularly enjoy their hosing sessions but they like the shampoo being rubbed into their backs and they know a biscuit awaits them afterwards. The smell of this shampoo is lovely - a lemony fresh waft accompanies the girls whilst they're drying though the day after you can only smell it when you're having cuddles and blowing raspberries on their bellies. For me this is perfect - I don't want Oinky to go into the show ring smelling false as 'any product which alters the natural colour, texture or body of the coat may be present in the dog's coat for any purpose at any time during the show' - the kennel club has spoken.

          ~~*~~ Because she's worth it ~~*~~

          Oink is worth it - her coat definitely looks lovely and shiny after use. On the odd occasion I've used it on Pig the chocolate simpleton, I don't think it's made any difference to the quality of her coat but it has made her smell fresh. It is my choice of product for a short coat beast especially as the price is so cheap and I'm also encouraged by the ingredients in it. In the case of Puddle Permhead, I don't think this shampoo did her curls any favour but she was nice and clean and easy to comb so the conditioner did help remove any knots. She retained her good smell for longer than the labs as presumably her longer coat kept it in more.Considering Oink has just celebrated her first birthday and I've got a third of a bottle left, it seems pretty good value for a doggy shampoo

          If you'd like some (I'm not sure it's suitable for humans though) it's available online everywhere but the official website is http://www.ancolpetproducts.co.uk/show.php?groupid=DOGMSH&colour=0&itemid=

          Ancol make quite a few versions of shampoo so have a look for a more suitable product for your baby or contact them for advice if you're too indecisive:

          Ancol Pet Products Limited,
          Ancol House,
          Leamore Lane,
          Bloxwich, Walsall
          W. Midlands
          WS2 7DA

          +44(0)1922 402428

          sales@ancol.co.uk

          Thanks for reading.
          Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.

          Caroline, Pig, & Oink
          January 2013

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          • More +
            21.01.2013 21:30
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            Stock up when they're on offer.

            ~~*~~ Asda Smartprice Throw ~~*~~

            My house has been designed with my family in mind - wipe-down paint on the walls, leather sofas, non-slip floors, the kitchen has minimum points for chewing and the fire is a wall heater to insure tails and whiskers aren't burnt - my family consists of me and two Labradors. Unfortunately, we're not the cleanest bunch - I often come in from work covered in mud as do the girls and although I do have a warm water hosepipe outside, not all the dirt is washed off, thus the floor and sofa do tend to get a wee bit muddy.

            ~*~ Throw in the towel ~*~

            Instead of having to clean the sofas every time guests (mother and/or neighbour (I'm not really that popular)) come round, I choose to use throws as these are easily dragged off and thrown in the washer. I've never had a problem with washing these - I have 6 (I did have 8 but 2 were destroyed by puppy Oink) and they've faded a tiny bit as I can tell the newer ones, but the quality of them remains. The best thing is that I can have them washed and tumble-dried within the hour as they dry so quick.

            ~*~ Thrown together ~*~

            The throw measures 122cm x 152 cm and I have a two and a three seater settee - the throw fits along the sitting area of the 3 seater and goes over the arms of the 2. I then throw another over the back of the sofa to ensure that mud is kept on the blankets though sometimes because I'm getting a little soft in my old age, I do tuck the girls in so that they're snug as little bugs. When I'm feeling a little peaky after a few too many cocktails, I like to snuggle up with the girls under a couple of these blankies (the clean ones - I'm not that much of a dirty cow) and they're pretty good at keeping us warm - don't get me wrong they're not particularly thick but they're just right for a hideous hot flush hangover. They come in 3 colours: cream, red and brown so the obvious choice for me was the dark chocolate brown.


            ~*~ Thrown away ~*~

            At the risk of annoying my father, these throws are so cheap they're ace for the dogs and can be thrown away without breaking the bank. They're from Asda and last time I bought the lot as they were on offer for 2 for £3 (my friends all have dogs so you can guess what they got for Christmas) though the general price is £2.87 - absolute bargain. The packaging isn't particularly attractive as it's the usual white background with green writing on, however, remove the wrap and replace it with a lovely ribbon bow and your friends will think you bought them a lovely present.

            These throws are great - you can wash them to your heart's content, buy 6 for under a tenner and wrap yourself up on those 'never drinking again' days.

            http://direct.asda.com/ASDA-Fleece-Throw---Chocolate/002059472,default,pd.html

            Customer Service,
            ASDA House,
            Southbank,
            Great Wilson Street,
            Leeds
            LS11 5AD

            0800 952 3003 (Asda Direct)

            Me, Pig, & Oink.

            January 2013.

            Review will more than likely appear elsewhere.

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              17.01.2013 21:48
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              Let your dog out in the rain unlike the cone of shame

              ~~*~~*~~ Kong Cloud Collar ~~*~~*~~

              I have two Labradors, Pig & Oink, and not much luck. My vet bills are usually rather large as the girls don't do things by halves - take, as a wee example, the time Pigsy had to have two thirds of her stomach* removed costing a mere £2,316.16 or the time the now deceased Puddle tore a hole in her nose or the time Pigsy cut her foot and needed staples. My point is that on many an occasion I have had to endure the pain of the 'cone of shame'.

              ~*~ The alternative to the Cloud collar ~*~

              The old style lampshade is a contentious item - we, as pet owners, know the purpose and sense behind it, the dog unfortunately, does not. They cost about £15 for a Pig or Oink sized creature so immediately we expect the dog to appreciate the initial layout which is often an unanswered prayer - not only is the collar disrespected, so too is furniture, doorways and human calves as the dog proceeds to career into all of the aforementioned destroying precious family heirlooms and creating suspicious bruises on family members. Not only that, the poor creature finds it difficult to eat, drink and sleep, looses peripheral vision and becomes spooked by the noise of the ruddy thing.

              ~~*~~ How pretty is the Cloud? ~~*~~

              When I lent my Cloud to mother for her Tiffin (another chocolate Labrador with a tiny brain) after her spey, her first words were 'Ooh it's blue'. Colour is important because if we're going to put an inflatable ring around our pooches, we want them to look good and boy, do they ever, in this plush royal blue beauty. It really brings out the colour of Oink's eyes. Anyway, the material is pretty and soft to the touch so it's not abrasive to either the dog or your leather settee. Unfortunately, your dog will still look a pratt - imagine those neck pillow things that inflate for air travel - it's essentially one of those so not particularly pretty, but invariably hilarious. The packaging is quite nice - a plastic box with the trademark red 'Kong' on a white background with a picture of somebody's poor pet wearing the collar - the large one I ordered appropriately had a chocolate lab on the front.

              ~~*~~ Did it stop Pig snuffling her truffle? ~~*~~

              Absolutely. The poor Pigsy was suffering from razor rash, a 4 inch incision, numerous itchy stitches, and later on, a stinking abcess from a cut milk duct. She was unable to reach the area for a good lick or pull on the stitches so I was very happy. In the case of Puddle Permhead (if you know anything about Irish water spaniels, you'll know they're persistant sods with a knack for destroying absolutely anything including a photo frame whilst wearing the collar) she too couldn't reach her belly or lady-foo. However, she was a long legged freak and I suspect that if it had been her with the foot staples, she'd have found a way to chew on them. She tried her best to pop the collar by basically throwing herself at door jambs, scratching at it with all her might and even by trying to pull it over her head with her front paws - that dog may have been bloody clever, but she was no match for the Cloud.

              ~~*~~ Uncinus Arcus ~~*~~

              The collar requires inflating which takes less than a minutes worth of puff and this creates a U-shape. You then thread your dog's collar through the 3 black straps on the inside of the 'U', then reattach your dog's collar to your poor dog. There is then a strap of Velcro to convert the U to an O thus creating a perfect circle around your now bewildered pet's neck. That's it. You sit down with a brew and a camera and let the world know through the miracle of facebook that your dog is in recovery. If the collar is too tight either loosen the Velcro fastening or reduce the air a little - the collar will need re-inflating to its full potential after 8 ish hours. As long as the dog's collar is a good fit and unable to be pulled over your dog's head, you can be pretty certain that the inflatable collar can't come off either. Once your dog is healthy and happy, the outer material of the collar can be removed and machine-washed ready for the next accident.


              ~*~ To catch a Cloud ~*~

              My vet had these collars at £19.99 but I got Pigsy's online for £14ish - pet planet have them on offer at the time of this review at £7.79 for small. The advice given by Kong is to go larger rather than smaller if you're unsure of the size appropriate for your pooch but they do try and give you an idea of the size of collar according to breed.

              The Kong website had no real detail on the Cloud but here are Kong's details if you're interested:

              Kong Company Ltd,
              PO Box 7253,
              Bridport,
              DT6 9DJ.

              01308 869000

              Like all of the Kong products I've been fortunate to sample over the years, this is a keeper. £14 has lasted for over 2 years whereas we'd have gone through many a lampshade in this time. The girls are able to eat, drink and sleep at their leisure in this collar and they don't bump into the world wearing it - mostly because they have peripheral vision. The pros of this collar over the traditional are numerous and the fact that none of my girls have been able to exacerbate their many injuries is testament to the product. Although it may have worked for me, I would watch a new dog in this collar for the first few hours just to check it fits properly.

              Thanks for reading.
              Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.

              Me, Pig & Oink
              January 2013

              *Pig threw up for a week, finally stopped eating on the 8th day which for a Labrador means imminent death. She stayed at the vets overnight and they rang in the morning to say she'd eaten brekkie and could go home. By midday, they'd opened her up to discover a massive hole in her stomach which grew each time they tried to stitch her as the tissue was necrotic (they took photos as they couldn't believe the heifer had eaten her breakfast with her stomach in that condition). Eventually Piggly was sewn back up with a very poor prognosis and I was allowed in to say 'bye' - even the vet stayed overnight with her and rang me at 3am to say she was still alive. 2 days later the Pig was allowed home and to be fed a teaspoon of very very very expensive canned mush food each hour. After two weeks she was back to normal and eating like a Pig. 8 weeks later she won 7th place in an agility competition - Labradors are fricking ace!

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              • More +
                22.08.2012 17:51
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                Definitely saves my sanity

                ~~*~~*~~ JML Super Mop Pro ~~*~~*~~

                If you own a dog and have a floor (most people do), you will more than likely also own a mop. I mop at least twice a day because my dogs are filthy stinking bitches. Don't get me wrong, they're toilet trained (Oink is probably 90% but she's only 6 months) but every ruddy time they go in the garden or drink from the bowl or sick up I find myself reaching for the trusty mop.

                ~*~ What colour is it? ~*~

                The most important question one should ask about any product should always be regarding the colour. This is silver and blue - mine is now more grey and brown - I'm no Monica Geller/Bing so I don't clean my cleaning apparatus and over time the blue has faded and discoloured. The refill head is also blue though this colour soon changes to a filthy brown after use. The packaging is the usual minimalist JML clear wrap and small cardboard label with orange and white writing on a blue background.

                ~*~ Why's it so exciting I'm writing a review about it? ~*~

                Well, each time I use it, I'm reminded of the time my mother's friend popped round to see the puppies (poor ol' Pigsy had 12 baby Labradors and people came from far and wide to see the beautiful beasts) and commented - "you'll need more than a mop to clean up that mess". I did not. The absorbency of the super mop is pretty incredible - it doesn't just suck up a puppy pee, it retains it - a couple of 'wrings' in clean water and it's good to go again. The extendable arm means that being a fairly tall person, I don't do my back in mopping again and again, every day, without fail. Apparently, this extension is designed for cleaning your windows - I'm not sure who would use a floor mop to clean windows but I'm guessing no-one who owns dogs would be willing to wipe dog hairs all over the glass.
                I used to have carpet before I saw the light and lined the whole of my downstairs with vinyl, and the mop was really good at sucking up spillages (Labrador tails are renowned for clearing coffee tables) and for giving a quick once over and removing piles of moulted fur. Now I'm able to happily mop everywhere easily. I tend to use my mop as a makeshift brush to remove the top layer of sand and fur before soaking it thoroughly and almost washing my floor - I don't wring it out and it still manages to keep the excess water within the mop. It is important to remember to soak the mop before wringing it else it cracks when you harshly scrub at a dodgy looking stain and then your mum says 'I told you so', dammit. If this happens to you, I suggest sending an email to JML and they send you a new refill even though it was blatantly my fault for being a simpleton.
                To wring the mop, you simply pull the handle located near the mop head and the latter folds in half squeezing the filthy water out. This really does empty most of the water from it and saves a great deal of effort (I am a lazy cow). The mop is nice and thin and fits easily down the side of a fridge and I've never noticed the mophead smelling which is something I always smell at my friend's house who uses a conventional mop.

                ~*~ Replace your skanky mophead or indeed mop (I may have bent mine when teasing the Pig and her fat arse landed on it) ~*~

                The JML website has these wonderful mops for £11.99 and three refills for £9.97 - you can get them slightly cheaper on ebay but 'tis up to you. JML do charge you £2.95 for postage and the ones on ebay are free so that's where you'll save pennies. www.jmldirect.com/mops/ It's very easy to change the refill - just release the 'wring' handle and unclip the mophead by sliding one end towards the centre and then do the same with the opposite end - I would recommend wringing it out with clean water first since there doesn't seem to be a way to replace this without touching it with your hands.
                I find the mop very light weight and easy to use - it's a mop, how thick are you if you can't work it? The one thing to consider is that this mop doesn't come with any kind of bucket - I just use my sink or the washing up bowl much to the disgust of my boyfriend (yes, even with 3 dogs, I have found someone to love me and consequently astound my mother once again).

                If you want more information on this mop, you can first, get a life, and second, see the information below:

                JML Customer Services,
                Unit 1 East Side,
                Port of Tyne,
                Tyne Dock,
                South Shields,
                Tyne and Wear,
                NE33 5SP
                0800 7817831
                www.jmldirect.com

                Thanks for reading.

                Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.

                Me, Pig, Puddle & Oink
                August 2012

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                • Dyson DC25 Animal / Vacuum Cleaner / 30 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                  20.08.2012 18:43
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                  Worth every penny

                  ~~*~~*~~ Dyson DC25 Animal ~~*~~*~~

                  I live with 3 very hairy dogs so the reason for purchasing a formidable hoover is blatantly obvious. Every morning we go to the beach and on return an hour later, half the beach is deposited in my kitchen - Labradors are notorious for retaining sand and mud in their feet until their brain decides it has no dietary use. On return from work a mere 4 hours later (I'm a dog walker: possibly the best job in the world, ever) I find the floor resembling a sand pit and the worktops covered in a fine layer of dust since the girls have shaken themselves throughout the day and spread the love. I must also point out that my van suffers even more with up to 20 varieties of dog fur and mess in it every day. Thus, I went for the beautifully constructed, wonderfully elegant and freaking expensive Dyson DC25 Animal.

                  ~~*~~ Just suck it up ~~*~~

                  The price may have some of you reaching for a stiff drink - my little brother proclaimed I could have had an ipad for the price of a boring household appliance, but I think I may have actually grown up because I'd rather have my Dyson. I did briefly look around for the best price but quite frankly I was desperate since my old hoover had passed away and the girls were by now hock deep in the muck from a weekend of fun so I trollied off to Argos where apparently there was £60 off but I still paid £329 - the prices vary quite a bit and a few months later my friend got one for £280 but had to drive an hour to get it! I suggest looking around for the best price but be prepared to spend a ruddy fortune.

                  ~~*~~ Suck it and see ~~*~~

                  The box itself is a piece of art - all black with yellow writing and a dyson ball on it - it should easily fit across the back seat of any car unless, for some unknown reason, decided to purchase a gAygo. Upon opening the box there is more marvellousness inside - the main part of the hoover is separate to the base part as are the extending nozzle and bin but it shouldn't take long or a degree to put it all together.

                  I love the look of my dyson - it's a combination of purple, silver and red which when it's new made it look very hi-tech. Unfortunately, since I hoover a combination of dust, sand and dribble on a regular basis, the once shiny bin and clear section on the base plate are now a filthy muck colour. I have cleaned it on many an occasion but I fear I may be venturing into Monica from Friends territory when I'm hoovering the hoover. This dyson features the unique ball technology which is very obvious to the eye since they painted it purple. I personally prefer this to the yellow DC25 version - the man in curry's did inform me that the only difference between the two versions was the attachment included in the animal pack which you could purchase separately anyway, I however didn't want yellow.

                  ~~*~~ Teach your grandma to suck eggs ~~*~~

                  Using a Dyson with a ball requires a different kind of hoovering technique. I would say it wasn't for everyone - in particular my mother with her weak, girly wrists. The weight of the machine (7.4kgs) is not the lightest on the market and you really notice it as you twist your wrist to turn rather than pull back and forth. You also notice the weight when forced to lug it up and down stairs - the extendable hose is supposedly long enough to reach the top of the stairs whilst leaving the machine at the bottom but I've found the effort required to keep the tension far too great a strain. Using the Dyson is pretty much the same as using any other vacuum - plug it in and switch on the machine by pressing the big red button. In its upright position, no sucking occurs, so to enable this, you just press the pedal which runs along behind the ball and the 'stabilisers' are released - now the hoovering up can begin. There are two settings, one for carpet and one for shiny floors but to be honest I only ever use the carpet one as the other seems to blow Puddle's hair round and round even though it's supposed to do the opposite on vinyl - you just press a button and the motorised brush bar turns off for vinyl or 'delicate rugs' (I don't own a delicate rug, I own stinky rugs that I would happily put in the washer if I could).

                  ~~*~~ Blow your own trumpet ~~*~~

                  The Dyson is very user friendly, firstly, there is plenty of length in the cable enabling me to do one level at a time and although it doesn't retract by itself it neatly wraps around two hooks with a clip near the plug to ensure it doesn't magically unravel in the cupboard under the stairs. Then there's the easy to empty bin rather than a bag which easily unclips with a push of a button to then be carried to the household bin and another button releases the bottom of the bin thus emptying the contents (all over your floor if you're my mother and not used to the dirt coming out the bottom of the bin). There are two filters on the machine and these are very easy to remove and clean with warm water - leave them to dry for 24 hours though before plonking them back in the Dyson. The girls test the Dyson's ability on a regular basis - I often hoover up a large piece of pine cone/tennis ball/cardboard and occasionally this gets stuck, however, all the sections come apart so you can root around and find the blockage. I'd only had my lovely Dyson for 3 weeks when it sucked up a piece of rubber toy and caused the sucking to stop but I kept trying to hoover and caused it to overheat and stop all power. After about an hour of cursing, smoking and general sulking because I thought I'd broken my lovely new friend, I tried it again and it worked - the Dyson man informed me that it was like a hairdryer and cut out before I could do any damage to it - what a clever machine. I have to say, their phrase 'no loss of suction' is poop though the Advertising Standards Agency don't agree although I suppose I've only ever had complete loss of suction once. If you ruin your machine, you can ring a helpline for free advice or call them out (they offered to check mine the very next day but I declined for fear of being told off) - 0800 954 0154 is the number to ring and they're open 7am to 10 pm 7 days a week - pretty good me thinks.

                  ~~*~~ Precision sucks ~~*~~

                  There are a few attachments that come with this Dyson the most exciting and possibly the most dangerous is the mini turbine head - this has fast rotating brushes similar to the main part of the upright but is attached to the end of the wand enabling you to hoover stairs, the van or your sofas thus removing all traces of dog before your mother arrives for a brew (you can order one of these for £44 but I'm not sure they're worth it as there's very little manoeuvrability with this attachment). Then there's the 'combination tool' that is basically a normal nozzle that has a sliding piece to change the nozzle to one with a brush head which is great for rooting under the sofa and removing a ton of dog fur. I have noticed there are many more attachments on the website that I now desire - a 'flexi-crevice tool' that gets into awkward spaces and a 'dog groom tool' which I know Pig would really enjoy (unfortunately both Oink and Pig are infatuated with the extending hose probably because I enjoy sucking their excess fat with it and find it especially amusing to watch Oink come back time and time again to get her chops sucked into it and then dance around like a moron on release (I may need to get out more)).

                  ~~*~~ Blown away ~~*~~

                  Now that I've had a Dyson, I'm going to be hard pressed to find a more efficient machine as I really put it through its paces everyday in the house and once a week the poor thing has to suffer the trauma of cleaning out my van. There are things that annoy me about it such as the 'stabilisers' that take chunks out of my wall and skirting boards which I think Dyson could design some sort of folding mechanism meaning they move inwards rather than stick out when hoovering. Then there's the tension in the hose which is so tight that it require great strength to uncurl it without the base moving and running over your toe or falling on a sleeping Pig. For these small failings, there are immeasurable pleasures to be held - my house feels a lot cleaner and my new carpet upstairs looks great still. I love that I can get the cobwebs in the awkward space at the top of the stairs and can hoover out Puddle's crate efficiently. There are much more exciting things one could spend £300 on but I think one reaches a certain age and suddenly, the prospect of splurging on an electrical cleaning item becomes all consuming especially when it's so pretty.

                  askdyson@dyson.co.uk

                  Dyson Ltd,
                  Tetbury Hill,
                  Malmesbury,
                  Wiltshire,
                  SN16 0RP

                  0800 954 0154



                  Thanks for reading.

                  Caroline, Pig, Puddle & Oink

                  August 2012

                  Review will more than likely appear elsewhere...

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                  • More +
                    02.08.2012 21:22
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                    Worth having as a spare bed.

                    ~~*~~ Bestway Comfort Quest Flocked Double Air Mattress ~~*~~

                    You may think I'm completely insane (I don't actually care) but I love camping with my 3 large dogs - 2 Labradors: Pig n Oink and an Irish Water Spaniel: Puddle. Admittedly, the first time was a little stressful - there were fat baby Pig footprints all over the inside and out of the tent, then there was the ripped door when she basically tried to run through it and we're just going to ignore the millions of tent pegs that have literally been lost into the ether when the girls and their friends have run through the guy ropes. However, there's nowt quite like waking up in the morning, opening your eyes just a wee bit to see your 3 best friends staring intently at you 2 inches away from your face - there are no sneaky lie-ins when you go camping with gundogs.

                    I'd camped through America and Thailand and the worst thing for me was not sleeping because I'd pitched the tent on a load of pine cones (I'm not renowned for my common-sense). So back in the UK and planning a weekend with my bestest friend (Pig) in the lakes, I purchased my first airbed and I've never looked back. This however, is my 4th airbed, the others going the way most inflatables do when they encounter the combination of claws and fat arses. 2 years ago I bought my first Bestway Air Mattress from Wilkos and I still have it - not bad considering it's been on numerous camping experiences and kept me comfy in the kitchen whilst whelping Pig's babies for 3 long and arduous weeks. It has since then been used for all drunken friends that stay over and I'm so pleased I got another to line the entire base of my 4 man tent (I was fed up with being turfed off by the 3 fat butts as they wanted comfort).

                    The airbed comes neatly packed in a cardboard box with a lovely picture of it placed lovingly on a lawn - I've never camped on a lawn but I have placed the airbed on very uneven horse trodden fields and with the airbed underneath me, I couldn't tell. Beware, after removing it from the box and using it once, you will never ever return it to its original state but this shouldn't be a problem - I keep mine in a bin bag in the shed and neither of them have suffered. There are minimal instructions included which basically state not to set fire to it, blow it up using industrial machinery or float out to sea - I can confirm though during one particularly damp Cumbrian experience June 2012, that the air bed floats quite happily though the flocked material was damp for many days after. I like the fluffier side as sleeping bags don't slip and neither do the girls; there's also a distinct lack of 'farty' noises when you turn over which is always nice when camping with friends.

                    This is not merely an air bed, it is an air mattress with coil beam construction which actually makes it ruddy comfortable and retain its shape even when the Pig clambers on and Oink makes a leap for cuddles. It's a double airbed and this is actually a double - there's plenty of room for 2 humans. It doesn't come with a pump and although I survived at first without buying one, it takes a great deal of puff to blow it up so I invested in a car lighter/mains pump thingy which is ace and takes about 3 minutes to inflate. Deflating it takes no time at all - remove the quick deflation valve and start rolling it up from the opposite end - done. It states on the details that it'll take 295kg/46 stones - I can confirm that the 4 of us weigh just over 150kg so that's loads more doggies I can happily take camping with me. With this weight in mind, we slept on it for a week, (in the middle of gale force winds, hail and torrential rain) and it didn't need re-inflating once. It measures 140x191x23 and fitted easily in my 2 man tent, 2 of them line the floor nicely of my 4 man with no gaps at all. It's not a light object when deflated (3.5kg) so don't go packing it in your suitcase as a 'just in case' but definitely do sling it in the car if there's the slight possibility you'll be sleeping under the stars.

                    You can purchase them for £13 from Wilkos at the moment so I suggest stocking up because Christmas is coming and it's perfect for unwanted family guests. http://www.wilkinsonplus.com/camping /bestway-comfort-quest-flocked-air-mattress-double/invt/0228343/
                    Or give them a ring on 08456 080807 and ask them how many people have purchased airbeds for their dogs - I must be mad.


                    Me, Pig, Puddle & Oink.

                    August 2012.

                    Review will more than likely appear elsewhere.

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                    • More +
                      31.07.2012 20:18
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                      Don't bother

                      ~~*~~*~~ Wilko's Rubber Ring ~~*~~*~~


                      I live with 3 large dogs, actually more accurately: I rent a room in a house of stinky furry beasts and all of my spare pennies are spent on feeding them, keeping them entertained and making them pretty - they are spoilt but I wouldn't have it any other way. Whenever I'm in Wilkos I purchase a couple (or 6) of their cheap toys so that the girls' toy box is always fully stocked thus preventing baby Oink (now 6 months) from eating my kitchen cupboards whilst teething.

                      At the bargain basement price of 99p it would have been rude not to purchase a few but there was only blue or yellow to choose from so one of each it was. I have no idea where the yellow one has vanished to though I suspect it may have disappeared in the great Puddle hole of 2011 - a mammoth undertaking predominately carried out by my Irish water spaniel just behind the shed nearly causing subsidence and mass neighbourhood panic. Anyhoo, the blue one still exists. It is still in its original form but herein lies the problem.

                      It's BORING. It doesn't squeak, bounce funny and it's indestructible - where's the fun in that?! This is probably the reason that it is always the last toy left in the box when all the rest are scattered happily around the garden. If by chance one of the girls picks it up, it's too hard for someone else to grab a piece and play tug of war. I would imagine that if my dogs played tuggy it would last forever but they don't - I have encouraged playing with the ring by placing it on sleeping Pig's head or putting it over Oinky's fat chops but nope, it's dropped unceremoniously.

                      It has retained its blue colour even though I've washed it a number of times and it still smells rubbery - maybe it's this that puts the dogs off too. It is a very solid object that could hurt a small person if you hurled it at their head but I haven't tried this yet. I do know that you can run a lawnmower over it on many occasions and it will still be there, exactly where you left it.

                      So, I'm guessing from this riveting review that you'll all be dying to know where you can get one in which case you have skim read and shame on you. Wilkinsons shops are a mahoosive chain found in most towns/cities - you can purchase more exciting toys from them at the same price so don't bother going in search of this but do have a browse - they have really good cheap dental chews.


                      Thanks for reading.
                      Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.

                      Me, Pig & Puddle
                      August 2012

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                    • Air Kong Fetch Stick / Dog Accessory / 25 Readings / 24 Ratings
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                      25.07.2012 22:55
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                      Buy one

                      ~~*~~*~~ Air Kong Fetch Stick ~~*~~*~~

                      ~~*~~ Fetch it ~~*~~

                      I live with 3 large breed dogs - they share a brain cell between them, shed enough fur daily to insulate a 4 bedroom house and cost me a fortune in food, insurance and activities. Thus their piggy banks are usually low on funds for toys so when I make the occasional purchase, I expect a product to last. The Air Kong Fetch Stick has been one of those toys that although it is a mere shadow of its former self, remains a firm favourite to argue over or to merely sit and chew.

                      ~~*~~ Find it ~~*~~

                      As with all Kong products, you can find them most pet shops and all over the internet so it's worth searching around for a good price. These have changed slightly since I got one just over 5 years ago for a baby Pig (a chocolate Labrador with a tendency to roll in mud, eat with great gusto and on most occasions smell rather rancid). I now have Puddle (an Irish water spaniel with a penchant for destroying remote controls, bedding and pretty much anything she can get her ridiculously hairy feet on) and Baby Oink (a black Labrador of 6 months who has only ever chewed what she's supposed to - I have a terrible feeling she's going to hit adolescence and I'm going to have to eat my words). So that's 3 hairy idiots who have a toy box full of interesting playthings and this is the toy that is regularly retrieved and chewed. I got mine on Pet planet - I have no idea how much but I know I spent close to £100 that day because Pig was (and still is) a special little friend - the new pup has had to make do with a collar and lead! They're about £7 for the large version which is just the right size for a Labrador to retrieve easily.

                      ~~*~~ Carry it ~~*~~

                      The version we have once had a long rope attached to one end enabling me to throw it - because I'm a girl it never went where it was supposed to usually just going straight up in the air and landing on the unsuspecting Pig's head - I suppose that accounts for her not passing any GCSEs. The stick part is made of a strong rubber covered in tennis ball fur which is the part the girls love to shred. Originally it had a squeak to it but when a Pig retrieves, she chomps down repeatedly and all squeakies are destroyed without remorse. The newer version of the stick has a slight dent in the centre presumably to aid retrieving but ours never did and yet there was never any complaints from the girls. It's an ace toy because not only can I throw it (kind of), it floats on water so on the odd occasions I managed to launch it in the sea or river, the big girls were able to swim in and retrieve it usually with one on each end. Unfortunately, since it's now been chewed down to a sorry 3 inches (apparently, according to my other half, this is quite a respectable length) it now remains in the house rather than accompanying us on walks.

                      ~~*~~ Destroy it ~~*~~

                      As previously mentioned, the kong has suffered at the jaws of the 3 amigos and is now less than a third of it's original length. However, the kids regularly try and reduce it but I reckon for a 4 year old toy it's doing bloody well - I've had toys last less than 4 minutes. It isn't supposed to be a chew toy but gradually over time it got further and further down the 'interact with mummy toy' list but every time I collect the toys from the garden for their weekly wash* it's somewhere in the undergrowth signifying someone has favoured it. It was once a bright yellow colour that could be seen from the moon, but due to its washing and rough housing, it is now a dull green but since the girls are colour blind, I don't think they care. Because it is hollow I have taken now to filling it with cream cheese/peanut butter/mince and freezing it so it's become a new toy altogether.

                      ~~*~~ Get a new one ~~*~~

                      If you're intrigued to see if your dog has the jaws and compulsion to destroy a toy in less than 4 years, go to http://www.kongcompany.com/ products/for-dogs/airdog/airdog /airdog-fetch-stick-w-rope/ for more information on the wonderful stick. I'm tempted to send them the remains of the stick and ask if it's still under warranty however I can only find an American address -
                      16191 Table Mountain Parkway
                      Golden, CO 80403-1670
                      Tel: 303.216.2626

                      I'm a massive fan of Kong - we've got stuffing kongs of 3 sizes, a bowling pin squeaky thing, and airdog tennis balls. When Pig had piglets they sent me 12 puppy packs with 2 free kongs for Pig and little kong keyrings for the puppy owners! I always recommend their products to customers with dogs that have short attention spans, separation anxiety and for those that destroy - I don't think for the money, you can buy and more robust toy.


                      *Be lungworm aware - lungworm is spread by slugs, snails and foxes - I wash all my toys in the washing machine in case a slug has crawled into a toy which could then be ingested and to make sure there's no dog or fox faeces on them which is another way the parasites' larvae are spread. Delightful. www.lungworm.co.uk

                      Thanks for reading.
                      Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.

                      Caroline, Pig, Puddle a Oink
                      July 2012

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                    • More +
                      22.05.2012 22:59
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                      It's the best thing I've found to hide the dog stench!

                      ~~*~~*~~ Glade Sense & Spray ~~*~~*~~

                      I live in the House of Dog. I realised this a couple of months ago when I walked in after a day at work to be confronted by the stale odour of wet fur and vomit (somedog who shall remain nameless had decided to drink the sea that morning and it had reared it's ugly head a few hours later, dog bless her). It so happened that when I trotted off to Asda that the Sense and Spray were on offer so I got a couple of them.

                      ~*~ He who smelt it, dealt it ~*~

                      I used to have plug-ins littered around the downstairs, but these seemed to be fairly potent at first and then did very little after the first week. The S&S have seemed to be much more productive in their hiding of my smelly dogs - I have one as I walk in the door (because that's where my shoes are!) and one in the lounge on the fireplace. I used to have it situated lower down but it was constantly going off each time a dog got up for a drinkies or had a scratch so it now only sprays when my fat ass waddles past it. The 'motion-activated' sensor triggers the battery powered spray to release a puff of sweet smelling loveliness - there is a slight whirring noise as the machine is triggered and a 'psst' as the spray goes off - nothing too irritating. If I shuffle back past the machine within 20 minutes, it doesn't go off again as it's locked down thus not wasting my precious pennies. Should there be a random bottom burp from one of the girls, I can press the button on the machine to release an extra puff - this is particularly necessary if the kids have found a dead creature in the woods. The refill lasted about a month but it'll totally depend on the amount of traffic that passes it and whether or not you need to press the additional spray.

                      ~*~ Smell ya later ~*~

                      I have 'Clean Linen' in my hallway and 'Sandalwood & Jasmine' in my living room and both are very pleasant - not too overpowering and not too lingering. There's definitely less dog aroma in the house generally which is good. There are quite a number of smells available and there are the seasonal releases but the thing I like is that on the packets there is a scratch and sniff sticker just in case you accidently were going to purchase one that stank of vomit. The one in the hallway is an off-white colour, the other is a lovely fake brown stone thing which co-ordinates perfectly with my décor - what more could a stinky house ask for? Well, the shape and style of them is ok too - they're definitely more attractive than the earlier models and the stone one blends in apart from the bright flashing orange light that announces to one and all that the batteries are working and the sensor's ready - if the light is constant then the machine is locked down and you can do a little dance in front of it to no avail. They're dead easy to set up - just remove the tab which allows the batteries to connect (the AAs are included: a bonus in this tired and grabbing world), close the back of the machine and ta da, you're embraced with a heavenly aroma.


                      ~*~ Within sniffing distance ~*~

                      As previously mentioned I purchased these from Asda for a bargain price but they're generally about £4 for the holder and spray - I saw 3 for 2 on the refills in Tesco the other day so stocked up and they were £2 each. I expect a bit of shopping around will find you a better bargain but I'm a lazy cow! It's not exactly a cheap machine but at least you know that should you go on holiday or never move from the sofa; the spray won't be unnecessarily wasted. I personally think the spray's are the best thing I've found - they're less intrusive than a handheld spray likely to make the dogs sneeze; more effective and possibly cheaper than the plug-ins and definitely better than those weird gel air freshener things that stink for an hour and then just get clogged with dirt.

                      ~*~ I smell the blood of an Englishman (kind of) ~*~

                      The Johnson company was founded in 1886 in Wisconsin and are now based in over 70 countries so not exactly the blood of an Englishman. However, there are 3 free ways of contacting the Johnson family should you wish to ask them a question regarding their spray machines -
                      Email them through their contact form at www.scjohnson.co.uk
                      Or
                      Freepost RSGR-XCSB-TRAE
                      SC Johnson
                      Frimley Green Road
                      Frimley
                      Camberley
                      GU16 7AJ
                      Or
                      0800 353 353.


                      Thanks for reading.
                      Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.

                      Caroline, Pig, Puddle & Oink
                      April 2012

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                      • More +
                        22.05.2012 20:48
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                        Great sled dog training

                        ~~*~~ Cosy Dogs Harness ~~*~~

                        Approximately 6 months ago, I decided it was time to get fit. Usually my exercise regime lasts about a week and then I get bored but due to my wonderful girls (Pig: chocolate Labrador & Puddle: Irish water spaniel) I've actually stuck with it and quite enjoy it, honest.

                        ~*~ Pull yourself together ~*~

                        I think jogging is boring especially when you're on your own plus you look a wee bit of a failure when you're bent over breathless just getting out the car - running with the girls means I have company, something to focus on (other than dying) and they're getting fit too. My brother bought me a special belt which enables the girls' leads to be attached to me leaving my hands free and they're able to pull me along at a steady pace - ultimately, we're aiming to be good enough to compete at a Canix event: www.cani-cross.co.uk. To enable the girls to pull me without strangling themselves on a regular collar, I got them some lovely harnesses.

                        ~*~ Pull your finger out ~*~

                        Lucky for me, the Cosy Dog Harnesses are made in Lancaster in a shop on the ridiculous one-way system - the shop itself has no parking but when I rang the lady to see what time she closed, she said to just park on the double yellows right outside as if making a delivery! So I did. The shop is usually locked, but ring the bell or ring them and they'll come downstairs as mostly they do internet orders and make the harnesses upstairs on the premises. The lady who fitted the girls was absolutely lovely even with the Pig who hates wearing clothes or people touching her - she goes absolutely rigid and stares at the floor so the lady gave her a pig's ear and suddenly the harness wearing became much less stressful! Now that she knows the harness means running, she's quite happy to wear it.

                        ~*~ Pulling out all the stops ~*~

                        It's particularly important when running with dogs that they are visible especially if you're sharing the circuit with cyclists and other walkers - we run on Morecambe prom, preferably in the dark (!), so I chose the High Visibility Fleece in Yellow - I think the girls look fabulous as they're both brown and the yellow is still very bright. The harness has a reflective strip in the centre of the yellow fleece which headlights pick out but my girls also wear collars with lights on to warn walkers that we're careering towards them. Once I'd chosen the colour, the fitting was pretty simple. On their website, they recommend you measure your dog around it's chest just behind the front legs though they do have a general chart for breeds should you be buying the harness for a friend's dog. The lady guessed correctly on both accounts as the Pig is a very deep chested Labrador and Puddle is a fairly scrawny version of an Irish Water Spaniel. Not that it matters a great deal as the harnesses can be adjusted around the chest area but the neck part is where it matters - too tight and the harness won't sit on the dog's shoulders, too loose and it fails to be a harness anymore. It's very simple to put on - just place the neck loop over the dog's head, pass the chest flap through their legs and clip the side straps accordingly. Now stand back and admire your pooch in all their glory.

                        ~*~ Pull your socks up ~*~

                        The reason I chose these harnesses for the girls, is due to the thick fleece fabric - it's been generously placed pretty much all over the harness to prevent chafing (particularly important since Puddle has a curly coat that's prone to rubbing off which isn't great when she's got major dog shows to participate in). Secondly, I needed something that was strong and these claim to test the clips and use particularly strong webbing. I also wanted a harness with a handle on because the girls can be totally unruly if they see a cat - I wanted something I could grab closer to the dog to keep them by my side and if necessary lift them off the floor (in retrospect, the two weigh over 10kg combined so it was a little optimistic!). The D-ring to attach your lead is situated at the back of the harness so all the 'pull' from the dog is weighted on the shoulders reducing the risk of neck injury if running on a collar. One point to note is that with a harness on, the pull force is greatly magnified - I was able to cope if the girls saw a cat wearing a lead and collar, but when their harnesses are on, I am as the professionals say, buggered - their strength is superb.

                        ~*~ Get your coat, you've pulled ~*~

                        If you'd like a brilliant harness to help you get fit (they also have them for cats!) then I can highly recommend Cosydogs. The prices vary according to what size and what design but the girls were £20.99 - which may seem a little pricey when you can pick up harnesses for a tenner but these are pretty perfect and can be washed - hurrah!

                        Cosydogs,
                        CCC Ltd,
                        P.O. Box 775,
                        Lancaster,
                        LA1 9BQ

                        01524 844655

                        www.dog-harnesses.co.uk - I've not used the website to order but they have loads to choose from on there, for example, there are matching collars and leads too for sad people like me that like their dogs to look their bestest.


                        Me, Pig, Puddle & Oink - the latter being far too little to participate, yet.

                        April 2012.

                        Review will more than likely appear elsewhere.

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                      • More +
                        11.04.2012 18:23
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                        ~~*~~*~~ Beko Condenser Dryer DCU7230B ~~*~~*~~

                        After just 2 year in my house, I've managed to re-do each and every room turning it from the squatter's pit I bought, into a home for me and my girls. I say 'girls' I mean 2 Labradors and an Irish Water Spaniel - Pig, Puddle and baby Oink. The reason for me mentioning these half-wits is that the upstairs is my space with luxurious carpets, cream linen and candles; the downstairs, however, is designed for the girls - wipe-clean paint, vinyl floors and appliances to clean the world daily.

                        My life is dogs - I regularly have dogs stay over and I walk dogs for a living so I go through an elephant's weight in towels alone daily. Drying them on a line or clothes horse is all well and good if I had 5 days to wait so previously, I had a normal tumble dryer but had noticed a considerable amount of condensation building up in the living room even though the vent went out the window of the kitchen most of the time. So, with the completion of my new kitchen (with wipe down surfaces, hidden handles and most importantly, a hidden bin (yep that water spaniel could get in any bin and empty it within seconds so this was the most important criteria in the planning)) I rushed out to purchase a condenser dryer.

                        There was a wide range of choice of condenser dryers in Appliances Direct, Morecambe but I'd paid a small fortune for a shiny kitchen in cream and dark wood and I didn't want a butt ugly white dryer standing out like a sore thumb (my washing machine was now a built in creation but the built in dryers I could chose from were pants) so I wanted black as these look cool. There, I said it: I paid £30 extra for a black one just so my kitchen looked good. Whatever, I'm a very happy chicken. However, there were only 3 to pick from in black and they were all pretty much a muchness in price - £250+, thus I went for the one with the biggest discount and the best features resulting in me forking out £279 and taking it home with a very large smile on my face.

                        On arrival home, I was pleased to see my lovely kitchen fitter hadn't finished and was still playing with Pig in the garden whilst the grout was drying - good job as the bloody dryer weighed a ton, well 38kg to be precise, and there's two random steps to get into my house - that's what men are for though and after much sweating and swearing (I don't think he was putting the limp on) he'd unpacked it from it's cellophane and polystyrene wrapping, plugged it in and was on his merry way. There was a massive sticker on the front of the door which told me to remove the polystyrene blockers that prevented the drum from moving in transit - a very handy sticker for people like me that don't read manuals. I immediately threw in two towels that had been used to dry the girls after their bath and chose the 'cupboard dry' level, pressed the start button and waited with baited breath (not really, I made a brew and rang my mummy to tell her about the new purchase).

                        This is a B rated machine which is good in the dryer world - amazingly whereas the old machine took ruddy ages to dry two towels, this one usually does a whole load in around half an hour (that's sometimes 3 towels and a big dog blanket). Now, I say half an hour but that's me being lazy and putting it on the 'cupboard dry' setting which means the machine dries the contents until it's dry enough to put it away (I don't own an iron so I fold it nicely and hey presto, my mother's none the wiser). There are 10 sensor settings and 5 timed settings to chose from - the sensor ones include one specifically for drying jeans, a freshen up, and a delicates one - the clever sensors know when the clothes are dry and ends the drying for you, telling you with an unintrusive beep that it's done its job. Should you be in the middle of watching an important episode of Simpsons or can't be arsed to get up, the machine's anti-crease mechanism kicks in and every 3 to 4 minutes the drum will turn until you drag your aforementioned butt off the sofa. If, like my mother, you don't like 'beeps' - you can turn off the audio function. What a clever little machine. Actually, it's not particularly small but apparently all condensers are the same size - 850 x 600 x 540mm.

                        This is a front loader so fitted neatly under my beautiful counter tops and has a normal door like most washing machines - not one of those massive ugly square doors. It takes 7 kg though for some reason the white machines take 8 but I don't care: I have a black one and it looks good. At the top of the machine on the left, there is a drawer which when pulled out is the water container - there is a light to indicate that this is full and the machine will pause whilst it waits for you to empty it so before you put a load in and wander off to do other things, make sure it is empty though it generally lasts about two loads before it is completely full but this will depend on how wet the objects were that you put in (it takes 4.8 litres before it's full)! If you so desired, you can connect the dryer up to your waste water pipe and it will drain it away for you with no need to empty the tank but I haven't. Next to this are the indicators which tell you how dry the clothes are at that particular point in time, whether the filters need cleaning and at what stage the machine is at. There's a start/pause button and then a main on/off button - none of these buttons or lights are particularly unobtrusive or ugly. The dial however, could do with a bit of a revamp but it's not that bad - just turn it to the setting of your choice, press start and the machine does the rest for you.

                        There is a filter just inside the door as with most drying machines - within this is captured all kinds of lint and fluff and dog hair - the difference between this and all others I've encountered is that after you've removed the filter, the fluff is somehow contained within a section that you just unclip so it opens like a book and you take the fluff out without dropping bits back in the machine. Ingenious. The condenser at the bottom of the dryer is the intelligent bit that uses the cold air from the room to cool the hot and humid air in the dryer - to clean your condenser, just run it under the hot tap or shower head and then let it dry - you're supposed to do this every 30 cycles or once a month - mine was filthy after a month but then my world is full of dog hair, sand and general crap! You're also supposed to wipe clean the sensor which are situated within the door every so often as these can get grimy with all the aforementioned crap that touches them.

                        Although it may seem a lot of money to throw away on something that good old fashioned sunshine could do instead, I find a dryer invaluable. I find this dryer amazing. It dries things very quickly, keeps the room dry and looks good. It does kick out a bit of heat making the kitchen a little warm but no different to doing a bit of cooking. You can pick this machine up in most places - some are reportedly offering it for £209 but no doubt the delivery will be extortionate. It should fit in the boot of most cars but will require two of you to remove the big thing. One thing to note is that it isn't the quietest object in the world but I don't think it's any noisier than a normal dryer and is definitely more quiet than the washer on spin. I can completely recommend it to anyone and everyone - admittedly I've not had it for long so I can't comment on it's durability but it comes with a guarantee so we'll have to wait and see!

                        For those of you who actually read manuals - you may find the answers to any of the questions I've missed in this:
                        http://fiftyeggs.blob.core.windows.net/bekoupload/manuals/DCU7230.pdf
                        or just give Beko a ring 08456004904 and ask them why you're not supposed to dry duvets in their machine even though you've done it loads before writing this review!
                        Or if you're really bored you can visit beko.co.uk and watch movies on each of their machines - fridge freezer films are all the rage.


                        Thanks for reading.
                        Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.

                        Caroline, Pig, Puddle & Oink
                        April 2012

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                        • Breast Biopsy / Health Problem / 67 Readings / 64 Ratings
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                          29.01.2012 17:35
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                          ~~*~~*~~ Breast Biopsy ~~*~~*~~

                          2011 was not the best year for health related incidents - Pig (my loveable chocolate Labrador) was diagnosed with lumbosacral disease, then she developed stomach ulcers unbeknownst to us all and had to have a section of her stomach removed, and then I found a lump in my breast.

                          ~~*~~ The Doctors ~~*~~

                          I'm not one to go running to the doctors at the first sign of trouble (primarily because it's impossible to get a fricking appointment) so obviously I left it for a couple of months. Then my mother got mad with me so I finally rang the doctors. Obviously I downplayed it on the phone when they asked me why I wanted to see a doctor only to find that 'a lump should be seen by the practice within 48 hours' so I went to the nurse at 6.15pm that evening.

                          I was slightly worried because I'd got a golden appointment and was sent straight through on arrival. The nurse asked some general questions about when I found the lump and scolded me for not coming sooner. However, because I'd waited, the lump couldn't really be a put down to menstrual influences as it had stayed a consistent round 50p size for a while. To be honest, the next part was the bit I was most dreading - I know most ladies hate a smear test or a mammogram but the part I really fear is getting undressed. The nurse was fantastic - she asked me where the lump was and then had a quick feel of it, around it and then checked my other boob to compare. That was it. It wasn't embarrassing and obviously it was completely professional - I don't know why I need to state this but it may just put some people's minds at rest and help them take the first step. After this the nurse confirmed she'd like me to see a breast specialist at the local hospital and that I should receive an appointment in the next few days. She was very nice and reassured me that being young (!) 34, and what with the general feel of the lump it shouldn't be anything I should worry about. Easy for me - hey, I'm not one to worry cos Lord knows, there's nowt I could do about it.

                          I left the doctors and trotted off to my friends for tea ringing my mother on the way to proclaim 'I'd been and there was nothing to worry about'. An hour later, at 7.45pm I received a phone call from Lancaster Hospital to say they had an appointment at 9.00am on Thursday (2 days away, well technically, 1 ½ days away). Panic started to set in. Why on earth was the hospital so quick? Who works after 5pm in admin? What should I wear on the day? Where the hell is Lancaster Breast Clinic? Obviously I asked none of these questions and merely thanked the lady and said I'd be there. It dawned on me later that I didn't even know what I was going for. Well, that's where the internet came in very handy so I shall save you all the worry and explain further.

                          ~~*~~ The Clinic ~~*~~

                          Firstly I asked my mummy to come with me. My mother is my little rock (she's only 5 foot something) and will generally witter away for hours thus rendering all company unable to think of the bad times ahead, god love her. I had found out previously where the breast clinic was and we headed there knowing it could be a couple of hours and to make sure we'd put plenty on the parking meter (robbing hospital parking). I found it very reassuring that I had someone with me - it just helps with the practicality of parking, fetching a brew only to realise you're being called in, coats, etc and I would say that most people in the waiting room had someone with them apart from the one man on his own which I found humbling for some reason. The receptionist had me fill in two forms - one for my details and medical history, and an anonymous one that asked about lifestyle routines. That done we sat and waited - well, I sat whilst my mum got up numerous times to fetch magazines, get a hot chocolate, switch seats as she'd spilt the hot chocolate, root frantically in her handbag as she'd not turned her phone off: I think the poor woman was more nervous than me but she was still a comfort in her own strange way.

                          The waiting room was like any other surgery - magazines, nhs comfy chairs, extortionate coffee machine; the only difference was the atmosphere as every time the door opened and a nurse appeared, everyone stopped talking. The worst part was the lady who went in and then ten minutes later, the nurse reappeared and asked for her friend to come in - we all knew what was going on especially as the nurse put her arm around the friend. There was an uncomfortable silence for a while and then my mother continued her conversation with the random lady next to her. Nice one mummy for relieving the tension. Then it was my turn.

                          ~~*~~ The Specialist ~~*~~

                          I was taken to a consultation room by a lovely round nurse where I then waited for the specialist. He arrived, shook hands and asked me the same questions as the original nurse just to clarify they had the same patient and that things hadn't changed. Let me state: I'm not racist. I couldn't care less where you got your qualifications or where you were born, I just care that you can do your job AND speak English. Luckily the nurse had remained in the room and helped me answer since I just couldn't understand what he was saying - turned out it was the word 'period'. Not the best way to put my mind at ease! I was slightly less lucky in that I was asked if I minded a 'student' learning through my consultation. I probably shouldn't have stated that it was fine and then added - 'in for a penny, in for a pound' - it didn't even make sense to me but in my defence I was bloody nervous and he hadn't smiled once.

                          The nurse took me to the couch in the same room and closed the curtain around us. She asked me to take my top layers off including my bra whilst she stepped out of the curtain. She asked through the curtain if I was ready and then drew back the curtains for the doctor and his little friend. I sat on the edge of the couch and he asked me to point to the lump. He then felt the lump, both my breasts, under my arms and under my neck. I then lay down and he did the same with my arms above my head and by my sides. All this time he was talking to his student which was fine as everyone has to learn somehow, but I pretty much didn't exist. It was then the student's go and he politely asked if I minded which brought me back into the room and I'm glad he did because he had the warmest softest hands I ever encountered - randomly this was a talking point back in the waiting room too. The doctor then confirmed that I should have an ultrasound to rule out anything nasty and that I should get dressed and return to the waiting room. He left and the nurse explained that I would go back and wait to be called for the next step. She was lovely.

                          ~~*~~ The Ultrasound ~*~

                          I've had an ultrasound before so I wasn't right bothered sat in the waiting room. It was only about 10 minutes and I was called again. This time a nice little northern bloke with a sense of humour explained everything. First I had to get undressed in the same sort of manner as the first room with the magic curtain, and then lie back on the couch. He informed me that he was going to squeeze some cold gel on the area of the lump and also in my armpit as the specialist had told him there were abnormal lumps there. Gulp - I thought he'd spent a lot of time in my left armpit but to hear the words sent my heart racing.

                          A different but equally nice nurse remained in the room with us to pass instruments and just to generally reassure me. Northern man was very efficient - he told me the exact position to place my arms, the gel was indeed cold and as he moved the ultrasound around he pointed everything out to me on the monitor so I could see the lump in all its glory. My armpit looked fine you'll be glad to know. And that was the ultrasound: painless and not at all embarrassing - it was even quite interesting.

                          ~~*~~ The Biopsy ~~*~~

                          To be fair, I was half expecting a needle biopsy going off what I'd read on the internet but I really didn't expect it to be there and then. Northern man said he wanted to do a biopsy and I imagined going back to the waiting room or even going on a waiting list but nope, it was all over and done with within 10 minutes with every step explained to me but not allowing me too much time to over think things:

                          Firstly, a local anaesthetic was injected into the area around the lump - this was not pleasant but nowt unusual or painful (everyone's had an injection at some point in their life). Then Northern man said I could either watch the ceiling, him, or the monitor - I went for the monitor which was fascinating! I watched the needle be inserted into the lump and then he warned me there would be a sort of dull gunshot which may make me jump but shouldn't hurt. It did and it didn't - he was right. He took two samples/biopsies and then the nurse pressed down incredibly hard on the area where the biopsies were taken for 2 whole minutes - this really hurt! Ridiculous but true. The Northern man said in his opinion he thought it was a fibroadenoma and that I shouldn't be worried but that I would go back to the specialist before leaving and that I would have the results in a couple of weeks. What a lovely bloke. He then asked what I was doing for the rest of the day so I explained I was a dog walker to which he told me not to let any of them pull my left arm or to put too much pressure on the area. Lucky I had my mummy then to help me walk the doggies. A big plaster was then put on my boob and I got dressed and sat back in the waiting room where I told mum that it wasn't half that bad so she then passed the news on to her new best friend.

                          ~~*~~ The Specialist Part Deux ~~*~~

                          After going back to the waiting room for approximately 10 minutes where my mother fussed uncontrollably for the entire time, I was then called back to the specialist where he basically said the same as the Northern man - the lump looked like a fibroadenoma and I shouldn't be worried though in the past he has had some surprises with the results. Seriously? This man could do with a wee bit of an update in 'patient relations'. Anyway, I was sent back to reception to book an appointment for a fortnight's time to get my results.

                          ~~*~~ The results ~~*~~

                          Straight after the biopsy, I felt fine. Within an hour, I think the anaesthetic had worn off and driving was quite uncomfortable as each time I stretched out my arm or used the muscles, there was a bit of pain. Don't get me wrong, a paracetamol was enough to curb it. I had been warned not to place to much stress on the area as I could encourage the hole to bleed - I was also told that if it bled profusely or the lump suddenly increased that I was to ring them straight away. I think I may have been a bit pathetic in that I felt a bit weak and wussy which I can't really put down to shock but at the same time, I wish I had booked the day off just so I could have gone home, had a brew and had a rest.
                          The first night I was to leave the bandage on and not to get the area wet - there was a little spot of blood coming through the bandage by the next morning but nothing exciting. Being a bit of a freak, I couldn't wait to get the bandage off and have a good look - 24 hours after the biopsy I was to change the plaster so obviously I did it as soon as I could: The hole was particularly unimpressive in that it looked like a red felt-tip pen mark. The bruise was already black around the hole - bout a 10p size. Over the next few days the bruise became more and more spectacular in that I got a green and yellow cleavage in the end! I was a little tender for a week and had to discourage the Pig from sleeping on me which she seemed more eager to do - it's strange how dogs feel the need to comfort their mummy when she's feeling a little poopy. Psychologically things changed from minute to minute - at times it was impending doom and the statistics of 1 in 10 lumps were cancerous meant I was that 10% likely to have a tumour, then there were the times when 9 out of 10 lumps are benign nothingness which, if I were a betting lady, would have been very good odds.
                          Eventually after what seemed like an eternity, the two weeks were up and I headed off to the clinic with my mummy - I knew if I didn't take her, it would be bad news and vice versa. We were seen right on time by 'Breast Cancer Specialist Nurse' which immediately worried me as I'd not met her before - turns out my so-called specialist surgeon had buggered off on holiday. As soon as we sat down she went through some basic details to check she had the right results and then said that the lump was indeed a fibroadenoma - hurrah! I could have hugged her but my mum hugged me instead so the nurse was spared. She told me that I shouldn't be worried about the lump anymore unless it grew or became a problem - I could have it removed but I'm of the opinion: don't mess with that which ain't broken.
                          A couple of days later I received confirmation in the post that it was a fibroadenoma as well as a breakdown of results under which the nurse had written 'patient very pleased' - too bloody right!

                          ~~*~~ Go on: give yourself a grope ~~*~~

                          Nearly three months on and I'm conscious of my lump but it's a reminder to check myself more often. I have a mark left by the biopsy but apart from that I'm relieved that's all I have. I can honestly say that the whole process was fast and fairly painless - the worst part was the waiting for results but that can't be helped and after reading about the more unlucky ladies and men in this world who didn't get the results I did, I feel even more grateful for the speed in which I was told. Everyone (apart from the specialist) were fantastic and compassionate and I wouldn't hesitate to go again if I find another lump or if I'm worried at all. I don't like to waste people's time but this is the sort of thing where it is imperative to get it seen whatever age or sex you are.
                          I realise I may have glossed over some of the details or that I may have made light of a serious situation but that is how I am. I do however, hope this has been of some comfort or help for those of you who are worried about the process - if you feel I have left something out or that I've left a question unanswered, please tell me. Oh, and please ignore the ratings criteria.

                          Thanks for reading.

                          Caroline, Pig & Puddle

                          Review will more than likely appear elsewhere...

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                          • Epson SX130 / All in one Printer / 45 Readings / 42 Ratings
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                            22.01.2012 22:25
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                            ~~*~~*~~ Epson SX130 ~~*~~*~~


                            I can't imagine many people will be interested in this review but times are tight so I'm writing about my printer. Yawn.
                            I used to have (well I still do until I can be arsed to put it on ebay) a Lexmark all-in-one thing - it was fine for the job but was never wireless and the cartridges were £20 ish so when I went into my lovely local printer shop and they didn't have any because they don't agree with Lexmark, I did start to wonder whether it had been the cheap purchase I originally thought. Basically, after some salesman persuading, I purchased the Epson SX130 for £40 including ink. Bargain, or so I thought until I started writing this and found them on Amazon for £25 including postage. Dammit.

                            Anyroad, back to the intriguing story...I trotted off home and left the printer in my hallway for approximately 4 weeks because I couldn't face setting it up - eventually I forced myself to do it:

                            Open box and drag printer from those annoyingly tight polystyrene things that require you to place your foot on the box and heave.
                            Plug printer in.
                            Insert disc into laptop.
                            Search the box for the printer to laptop USB cable thing.
                            Swear profusely thinking the lovely salesman has ripped me off.
                            Read box and realise the cable is sold separately.
                            Swear profusely at the ineptitude of Epson.
                            Go upstairs and retrieve cable from old printer.
                            Exhale when the old cable fits new different brand printer.
                            Follow the installation CD (basically click yes to everything).
                            Done.

                            It wasn't that hard to do in the end and I am a bit of a simpleton. However, I must reiterate that there was no USB cable. Really? Apparently most printers come like this now but I think Epson are cheap gets. Little rant over.

                            With the printer now installed and resting precariously on the arm of my sofa as this was the only spare plug I obviously had to test its capabilities. Then I noticed the ink cartridges lying on the floor where I'd thrown them during my paddy. You've probably realised that I don't read things after the cable incident and nor did I learn my lesson where it came to installing the cartridges but I still managed it - yay, go me:

                            Unwrap each one and remove the taggy thing.
                            Open the cartridge section and wonder at how you're supposed to fit a cartridge in at such a random angle.
                            Press the ink icon button and marvel at the way the cartridge holder moves into the right position allowing you to insert the cartridge of your choice.
                            Marvel even more at the fact that when an ink is low the cartridge section moves into the right position for that particular cartridge all by itself.

                            I suppose this makes little sense until you understand that there are four cartridges - magenta, cyan, yellow and black so that makes it a little easier on the pocket when the colours run out individually - particularly good for me as my business logo is red and black thus I haven't had to replace yellow or blue yet. Even better is the cost of these cartridges - you can either pay about £8 for the official version or £3.99 for a cheap compatible one (exactly the same ink just not branded). Or even better get the multipack of all the inks for £15.99 (much better than Lexmark's £40).

                            Obviously the price of the cartridges is irrelevant if the Lexmark's last twice as long but they don't - at first I wasn't that impressed since it wasn't long before I was going back to the shop for replacements, however the salesman informed me that the included inks are rarely full and it would appear he was right since the new ones have lasted a lot longer. I print a lot of labels with block sections of red and black on so I really go through the magenta but not as quickly as when I used Lexmark. So if you're using it for general document/essay printing that's mostly black characters I imagine it would be much more economical. You're alerted to the fact that one particular cartridge is running low by a flashing light on the printer and by your computer asking you to check the ink levels so you know exactly which one is low.

                            The copier part is an absolute piece of cake to use - place document in the x-ray section and press the copier symbol. I have to confess I've never used the scanner but it says it only requires one button press and I believe it. I have one major gripe with this machine and it doesn't matter how many pieces I put in the bloody thing - it always says paper fault and requires the feeding of one piece through before anything can carry on. Maybe that's just my machine but it annoys the pants off me. It supposedly holds 100 sheets at a time but mostly I use expensive label sheets and at the risk of poor feeding resulting in wasted ink and labels, I've not tried cramming 20 of them in.

                            It's a pretty attractive piece of kit - when you're not using it the paper feeder and paper tray fold back in on themselves leaving a neat shiny black box and measuring in at only 436 (W) x 304 (H) x 150 (D) it is a neat little machine. It is a fairly noisy bugger when it gets going and each time it faffs around the dogs are awoken from their slumber. It takes bloody ages to get going when you initially turn it on and I've no idea where Epson have got their figures for printing speed from but they lie - it usually takes about a minute to print one of my contracts which is essentially a massive empty table so shouldn't take that long but Epson reckons that it will print colour pages at around 15 pages a minute. It does confess that colour photos will take around 93secs to print and for the one photo I've printed it was more like 3 mins.

                            Which brings me to quality...now the Lexmark wasn't particularly impressive but photos passed inspection when printed on quality paper. The Epson would fail my mother's high standards but luckily I'm not so picky - the colours are less vibrant than the other's I've printed off but hey, what do you expect for £25. For average everyday printing this printer is great - a must for students on a budget or for home business use. It doesn't have wireless but since the Lexmark never worked I don't miss what I've never had. It's compatible with most operating systems so grab yourself a bargain (well, a better bargain than I did) but don't expect too much: it's good for the money.
                            Should you need any help with setting up, troubleshooting etc try www.epson.co.uk - it probably won't help but you do get 1 years warranty so it's worth a try before you take it back to the shop.

                            Thanks for reading.
                            Review will most definitely appear elsewhere.

                            Caroline, Pig & Puddle
                            September 2011

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