More Rufus

When I wrote my last blog 10 days ago, I did it with tears in my eyes and with a dread that my next blog entry would be a sad obituary for Rufus. Without being too dramatic, I was depressed and still awaiting the results from the various tests he’d been subjected to. I couldn’t let myself think there was any hope. They’d had to keep him in under supervision and although he came home later that day, he was back in the next day with further complications. But the last sentence I wrote about the thought of losing him (“I’m not ready for that yet and deep down, despite all that’s wrong with him, I don’t think Rufus is ready either”) proved to be prophetic. Despite all he’s been through, Rufus is snoring happily on the sofa as I write this, having just returned from a nice stroll by the side of the River Tawe near Moel Feity.

It’s still not clear what was wrong and although initial tests have come back negative, there is still a possibility that liver cancer has caused the whole thing. But the vet thinks it more likely that it’s an isolated and unexplained case of Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMTP – a condition in which the body attacks its own blood platelets, causing uncontrolled bleeding) which can occur in some breeds, Cocker Spaniel being one. This is what he is being treated for while more tests are done.

Judging by his recovery, the treatment is working. He came home from the vets on Tuesday and since then he has regained his mischievous character, the spark in his eyes and the incessant appetite. I’ve gradually taken him for longer walks, watching him all the time and stopping when he seems to be getting tired. It’s not as straightforward as that as Rufus feigns exhaustion when he realises we’re heading back to the car or to the house. He’s done it for years and the closer we get to ‘home’ the slower he gets. But I can read the signs and I’m happy that he’s regaining his strength.

This morning, I was woken several times by an enquiring nose and at 5.30 I let him out for his usual morning toilet patrol. At 7.30, a wet nose and wagging tail informed me that it was time to get up and go out for a longer walk. So after breakfast, we set off for the river in the Cerrig Duon valley. It’s one of Rufus’ favourite locations, particularly in the summer when he can cool of by paddling and swimming in the sparkling water. I thought it would be a nice treat for him during his recovery and I wasn’t wrong. We were out of the car for more than an hour and at no time did Rufus’ tail stop wagging. I watched him carefully for signs of fatigue and cold and there were none. He took the lead and set the pace. The river walk isn’t the most strenuous we’ve done but there is enough climbing, jumping and balancing on rocks to provide a bit of a work out for him (and me).

I took the opportunity to try and take some photos and here was another sign that Rufus was feeling better. Every time set up a photograph, a black Cocker Spaniel appeared in the viewfinder (see the photos below). It’s his normal way of reminding me of the main reason we are out – to provide exercise for him. Suitably reminded of my role in this morning’s outing, I simply strolled on, enjoying the sun and the companionship of my walking buddy.

We’re not out of the woods yet. The treatment for IMTP will last for around 3 months as the drug doses are gradually reduced. There will be more tests and I will worry while I wait to hear about each one. But for the time being, I have my boy back with me and he’s making good progress.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.






As a bloke, I am expected to deny the existence of dust. It is a fiction, a construct created by ‘another gender’ to make us feel guilty.

Alas, as a sufferer of asthma, I am only too aware of the existence of dust as it is one of the things that can (almost literally) bring me to my knees. The irony is that to get rid of the dust that causes me problems, I have to disturb the dust and that act causes me problems. Even the best filtered vacuum cleaner throws out some dust. When I empty the filter chamber, I have to cover my mouth and nose. When I clean the filter, I have to do so outside and even then I will feel the effects and have to use my asthma pump.

Yesterday, after Rufus and I had taken the air on the hills above Pontardawe, I decided to risk all and clean the house. Despite taking my time, vacuuming a room at a time and being ultra careful when depositing the dust in the bin, I quickly felt the tightening of the chest and wheezing and within minutes, I was struggling to breathe and coughing. In all, I used the inhaler three times in the afternoon. The last time I felt like this was the first time I had a serious asthma attack as an adult in 2010.

House dust is dead skin, dust mite faeces and in my house, animal fur. If there is any damp in the house, it can also be formed from spores of mould that you may not even know is there. There is nothing to be done short of living in a smooth plastic bubble. So I resigned myself to a wheezy, coughy afternoon of rugby and dealt with it. It makes me miserable; it stops me from being able to relax but at least sitting quietly on the sofa didn’t disturb any more dust and slowly, far too slowly, my chest untightened until at around 7pm, with the aid of one more sniff of the inhaler, Rufus and I went for a second walk of the day. The fresh air was most welcome and we took it easy walking the streets around the house.

This morning, after a much better night, we went out again onto Cefn Bryn to take advantage of the morning sun. I suspect part of my chesty problem is a bug that is doing the rounds in work. Nevertheless, a call in to the doctor is on the cards next week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Cough. I have an annoying, tickly, irritating cough. Cough. I don’t feel ill and it doesn’t hurt. It just prevents me from settling, relaxing, concentrating for any length of time and sleeping. Cough. It has worn me out.

I often get this kind of cough at the end of a cold. This time, it’s come out of the blue. Cough. It’s worse in work because of the dry atmosphere. Cough. Cough. It must annoy my colleagues there, too.  Cough. It’s probably beginning to cough annoy you, too!

I just thought I’d share my cough with you.

No photos today so anything below this is an advert.

The Man-Sniffles

I consider myself to be quite fit, health wise, despite a touch of asthma. I’ve been to some high places, I’ve walked long distances and scrambled up mountains. So when I get ill, I find it limiting and annoying, but most of all, it’s frustrating.

This week I’ve had a dose of the flu (or ‘man-sniffles’ as it is known by some genders). It wasn’t as bad as the swine flu in 2009, but it was enough to keep me off work for three days. It was also enough to limit my activity to that achievable whilst lying on a sofa. (Stop sniggering at the back there, boy).

This meant that I became familiar once again with the cultural wonders of daytime TV. In a single morning, I became acquainted with the delicacies of purchasing and renovating houses, the issues surrounding a permanent move to Australia and the pros and cons of downsizing homes. By the end of the afternoon, I had become expert in the project management of ‘quick win’ renovations and short term property development. The range of educational television staggered me. An untapped source of knowledge, and free (well, £39.99 per month including TV and Broadband).

The following day I immersed myself in military history. By the early afternoon, I had endured several hours of computer generated re-enactments of tank battles in Western Europe, I had seen that same piece of black and white film used to illustrate the effects of aerial bombing in the 2nd World War and the detonation of a mine in World War 1. Blurry, out of focus ‘dramatic reconstructions’ (usually set at night) only added to my annoyance. My favourite frustration and source of ire, the superficial interpretation of events in the war from the post war observer’s grandstand, with little or no understanding of the perspective of the moment (or perhaps ignoring it in the interests of creating controversy), was ever present. One or two programmes included moving testimonies from WW2 veterans which put the other programmes to shame and put the contemporary perspective in place, so nothing was hurled at the TV. By the end of the day, I had military history sewn up in the same way as property development the day before.

Yesterday, feeling a little better again, I turned to the arts. I read an unauthorised biography of Led Zeppelin and watched one of their concerts. Feeling artistically stimulated (stop sniggering boy, it’s only a word),  I set up the camera in the living room and had a go at some macro photography. See below. I’ve been trying a technique I read about called focus stacking, which increases the area that is sharply focussed. I’m pleased with the results so far.

I even ventured out for half an hour to my chosen arena of frustration to do some essential shopping. Big mistake. I was there on ‘Slow Friday’ when everyone is required to shuffle along at the pace of a dehydrated slug. And they must have had a ‘block the aisle’ competition going too, with hundreds of people taking part. Aaaarghhh! By the time I got home I was kernackered.

Today, the sun is shining and the frustrating bit of being ill is most apparent. I want to be out enjoying the sun. I may venture in to the garden later, but if things go as they have done for the last few days, I’ll start to feel worse this afternoon and lack of energy will drive me back to the sofa (I said stop sniggering, boy). So instead, I may try educational TV again. The history of Scotland, perhaps, or the socio-political metaphors of teen vampire fiction as evidenced in the final series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.