Talking Dogs Scentwork®

white terrier mix standing outside the Scottish Parliament

Don’t procrastinate – do the thing today!

Don’t wait til it’s too late – do the thing! A couple of months ago I booked a last minute photography session for Ettie. We had a great day enjoying the sunshine and sights of Edinburgh. Ettie happily posed at monuments, landmarks and finally at the Scottish Parliament. We happily wove our way through the city. Through crowds of tourists and busy roads full of noisy cars and buses. We encountered bagpipes, hen parties and buskers. Ettie loved it all. A few weeks later she was hospitalised, unable to eat or drink, hooked up to numerous lines bringing fluids and pain relief. A stark contrast.  

Time is short

Time with our dogs is short. According to Dog’s Trust, the average lifespan of a dog in the UK is 12 years. That’s just 12 summers, 12 Christmases, 12 birthdays. But we can’t count on this. Some get more time, others get less. I lost my beautiful Labrador Cherry a few days before her thirteenth birthday. She had been ill for a year but the end came fast. I could tell she was near the end so we decided to go to her favourite place: the beach. We had a lovely time and made beautiful and poignant memories. That was her last day. Had we waited til the next day it would have been too late. 

labrador on the beach
Cherry’s final day

Similarly, the change in Ettie in the space of a week was unexpected and devastating. To see her go from happy, lively, pocket rocket to a quiet, pained, listless dog was so frightening. In short, she was suffering from pancreatitis, oesophagitis and peritonitis. She spent a total of 9 days, 6 nights in hospital. Being without her for so long was very strange for us all, including Ella. Going from a three dog home to potentially one dog was so far from what I saw for us in 2024. 

small terrier mix with post surgery coat on and bandaged legs
Poor Ettie post abdominal surgery


The jury’s out on the root cause. The fabulous specialist vets couldn’t give a definite cause. But my own vet practice and I believe it all stemmed from Ettie eating a tiny amount of vermiculite. This is a mineral commonly used in gardening to help aerate soil and retain moisture. I’d sprinkled some on top of a tray of seedlings. She decided to investigate and managed to eat a little of this light, crumbly substance. Through X-ray it was found sitting in her intestines and we believe this is what started the irritation and infection. Abdominal surgery removed it, less than half a teaspoon. 

vermiculite in dog's intestines
X-ray showing the vermiculite

Abdominal surgery is something I’ve always tried to avoid putting my dogs through. So I’ve opted for keyhole spays and I’m careful about watching what they eat. But obviously not careful enough. Nobody could identify what she’d, even when they removed it. But the surgeons description of a gritty but crumbly substance helped me figure it out. I took a bag of the dreaded vermiculite in to show the surgeon and she instantly recognised it as what she’d removed from Ettie. None of the team had experienced a dog having eaten it before. Yay, go Ettie the trailblazer!

I’m sharing this with you for several reasons. The first is to warn you of the dangers of vermiculite. If you use it in your garden make sure to always keep it out of reach of your dogs. It took such a tiny amount to do so much damage. 

Do the thing!

The second is that every time I looked at the portrait of Ettie standing proud outside the parliament in Edinburgh I was so grateful that we’d had that day together. And that I had this beautiful reminder of my little firecracker. A spur of the moment decision to book the photography session with Cat’s Dog Photography turned out to be more important to me that I could have ever anticipated. There were so many photos taken that day. I will definitely save up to order more from that special day. 


Talking of saving and money, this seems a good time to urge you to insure your dog. I’ve always insured my dogs. It’s the one insurance that I always end up claiming on. It means that the medical decisions I make for my dogs are not influenced or restricted by cost. Much as insurance can be expensive and frustrating, I’d have been lost without it. If I tell you that in the 10 days from when I first took Ettie to the vet to the day I brought her home the total bill exceeded £10k you will understand my strong recommendation to have insurance for your dog. 

Ella’s insurance premium had just doubled before Ettie’s episode and I’d considered putting a savings plan in place rather than having insurance. But this whole episode highlighted the problems with this. It would mean that she couldn’t be ill until I’d put many thousands of pounds in the pot. And that if I did manage to put this huge sum aside that I absolutely could not, must not, dip into it for other expenses. And if I decided not to insure Ettie then I’d need to do that for her too. That’s a lot of money to save and put aside. Plus once it was spent, I’d have to start saving again. And again hope that they didn’t get ill while I was building the fund. With insurance, Ettie’s cover will replenish come renewal date ensuring that she will always be able to have whatever treatment she needs.  


Ettie is now steadfastly on the mend. She managed 5 minutes off lead today which she thoroughly enjoyed. She’s almost fully back onto dog food and can eat from a raised stand (cat food box!) rather than have me feed her vertically like a little bird. And she’s nearly off her meds. The shaved legs, neck, stomach and sides are growing back slowly so she’ll continue to rock a full body mohican for a good few months to come. 

But this scary experience has served to remind me to do the thing. Make the memories. Live in the moment. Learn the skill. Try the activity. Go to the place. Sign up for the course. Take the chance. You might not get another.     

12 thoughts on “Don’t procrastinate – do the thing today!”

  1. Catherine A Birchall

    Dear Pam, I had no idea you have been going through all this. I’m taking on board your “do the thing”mantra, thank you and I wish you, Ella and Ettie many more happy years together.
    Cathy xxx

  2. Oh Pam! This is horrible to go through. 12 summers has really hit a note with me, it goes so quickly. I hope Ettie makes a rapid recovery and you too, it’s emotionally draining. Here’s to many more summers with our fur babies.

  3. hope it’s not too long before Ettie, and you, have fully recovered and back having adventures together.

  4. Vanessa Harrison

    So sorry to read this I can’t imagine how stressful it’s been. I’m glad she’s improving and hopefully back to her normal bouncey self again soon. Take care Ettie xxx

  5. So glad she is getting better. Thank you for explaining what happened and warning us about insurance. I was shocked last year when one bite cost £1000 and glad my dog was insured.
    Best wishes

    1. Fees build so quickly, insurance is essential. There was a moment when my girl was in hospital when I was asking about her general welfare, ensuring I was doing the best for her. The vet replied that she was doing well and unless there was a financial issue that we should keep going. Quite a shocking moment and one that made me appreciate our insurance cover even more.

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