Friday, 31 July 2009

What Will I Do When I Get There?

Roman got a pretty decent bit of exercise today – myself, Nathan and Rich took him out on the field by us and played football for about half an hour or so. Roman is the most committed footballer I have ever seen – he’s kind of like a cross between Roy Keane and Dirk Kuyt in that he will happily take your legs off for the ball and will never stop running!

It’s been a while since we played football on the field with him so he was pretty knackered afterwards. It’s funny how much more tired he gets chasing the football around compared with just running around a field for half an hour. I think it must be the mental exercise he is getting as well as the physical exercise but football definitely has more of an effect on him.

His paw seems to be a lot better now too. It’s pretty much back to normal now and I think the rest has done him the world of good, physically anyway. I will resist the temptation to go out road walking until I have the boots for him – this close to the leaving date I don’t want to risk a setback due to impatience. I was hoping that I may be able to get a company to donate some but my search has been fruitless. A friend offered to buy them instead when she heard so I will be taking her up on her (very kind) offer.

Hopefully, if the boots are ordered this weekend, we may have them early next week so the walking can recommence. I will build him up again gradually but will start off with two walks of five miles per day. He is definitely fit enough to cope with that – I used to walk him 10 miles every night with no issues whatsoever so this will be a breeze for him. After a couple of days I will add the third walk back in and about a week after that I will go up to the four so that we are regularly walking the 20 miles a day we will need to walk when we are on our way.

Things are really starting to seem real now. I am now counting down the days until we leave. I will admit that I am now beginning to feel pretty nervous about the whole thing – not from the point of view of actually doing the walk and everything that goes with it but more so how I will set about integrating into Roman society. I am sure that things are going to be very difficult for me over there for at least 6 months and am mentally preparing myself for the challenges I may meet.

I have been thinking a lot about the kind of work I may be able to get over there. There is a chance that I may be able to get involved with teaching English as a native speaker – I wouldn’t get fantastic pay as I have no qualifications but the fact that I am a native speaker means I could get in with some establishments. Another option I have been thinking about is trying to contact English speaking tour operators. Again, I have no formal qualifications but I am an intelligent lad with a passion for Roman antiquity so if there is even an outside chance then it is something I would like to explore.

Those two options are pretty much ideal circumstances for me at the moment – I know I am very skilled in what I have done in the past but I don’t think I would be ready when I got there to do that sort of thing as I am sure that I would need to be fluent in Italian. I will keep my eye out for jobs with English speaking companies but I am not getting my hopes up of falling lucky with something like that. I have also been mulling over the possibility that I may find it difficult to find work.

Personally, I am prepared to do pretty much anything to get a foothold over there. I know I am intelligent and have a lot to offer but the primary concern I have right now is how to establish myself in the country and get settled. I can be more ambitious once I am settled but, for the duration of my short term future in Rome, I can’t afford to be proud. I need to find work as soon as possible after my arrival so that I can afford to pay the bills. I hope that my willing to do anything attitude will stand me in good stead there.

I almost forgot to mention - Royal Canin called me up today and said they were prepared to pledge 2 large bags of dog food for Roman to get us on our way. This is fantastic news for us as this will probably last the best part of a month, I just need to find a suitable way of transporting 24kg of dog food around as well as all the equipment!

Roman Has Fleas!!

Roman has been scratching at his bum over the last couple of days and biting at it so I decided to do the “flea test” – you get a wet piece of paper and get him to sit right by it and then scratch him so that some hair falls off onto the piece of paper. If the dog has fleas they are easy to spot on the wet piece of paper. Unfortunately, Roman does indeed have fleas – I’m sure the cat has brought them in as he doesn’t have much contact with other dogs and the dogs he does are always clean.

My brother, Rich, popped to the vets for me to pick up a treatment for both Roman and Macy which I applied this afternoon. As a result, Macy has been kept in all night and I have not taken Roman out. By tomorrow it will have had time to work his magic so I will be able to take Roman running on the field with no problems.

Roman’s paw is a lot better now and the cream seems to be doing the trick. As soon as I have the boots for him I will start the intensive walking again. There is not long to go now before we set off so we need to be doing as much exercise as possible in the coming weeks. I’m positive that he will be more than capable of it from past experience though.

Gemma from the vet messaged me this afternoon on Facebook to say that she had managed to speak with someone at Royal Canin and they would be sending a free bag of food to the vets for me to get us started when we set off. It’s taken a while to sort it all out but I am really happy with the result – Roman’s dog food is pretty expensive, bearing in mind how much a 9 stone Rottweiler eats, so this will be a big help to us.

I have been looking for a trolley or cart for most of the day to be able to transport all of our stuff on when we are walking. If I have a full bag of dog food (12kg) and all of our equipment and water then the load would be well over 20kg and I think this might be a little much for me to carry 20 miles each day! As my friend told me he didn’t think he would be coming I thought it only prudent that I look for something.

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find something suitable – I have tried all different combinations of keywords on Google and just can’t seem to find what I am looking for. The nearest I have got is a gardening trolley but I can’t find anything suitably built that I could push, they all seem to be pull trolleys. I am planning on attaching Roman’s lead around my waist so that I have my hands free when I am walking to push something along.

I called a couple of companies up as I couldn’t really find much suitable. I was hoping that they may be able to point me in the right direction but the search proved fruitless. I will try again tomorrow but I just don’t know where I will find one! It’s not something you really think about but I have no idea where the best place to get something like that would be!

I have heard nothing back about Roman’s dog boots but a friend said they would buy some for him as sponsorship so I think I may have to take them up on that offer. It’s a shame that companies seem to be so unwilling to help with things like this. I would have thought that the publicity would be a good thing. The thing that really annoys me is that the majority don’t even have the decency to reply – a “no” is so much easier to take if someone takes the time to read what you have written.

I have been trying again to persuade my friend to come with me – I know he said no but I’m not the type to take no for an answer! Plus the fact, it really is a fantastic opportunity for him – I know if I had been offered this kind of thing at his age I would have snapped it up with both hands immediately. One of the things I regret most about my adolescence is not travelling and experiencing life for all that it is. Life is about more than work, I’m just glad I have the chance to do something like this now.

As it is, he seems to be waning on the subject. I reckon if I keep on at him then he might change his mind. When I started asking him he just kept saying no, then he started refusing to answer the question before moving onto a maybe. Tonight he seemed a lot more accepting of the offer and he has agreed to take my advice and speak with his parents to see what their thoughts are. I know any parents don’t like to see their kids move on to another country but I am sure they will see the opportunity here for him and encourage him – if things don’t work out he can always come back.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

We Had Our Photo Taken For A National Newspaper Today!

Today I got a pleasant surprise! I take everything back that I said about Simon being a wind up – he called me this afternoon and it turns out he has been away in Ireland. He arranged to come down with a photographer (who was very pretty, by the way!) to take some pictures of Roman and I. He reckons that he should know by the end of the week but thinks it will be in the nationals as early as Monday. This is probably the best bit of news I have had so far. The publicity this can generate for us and the potential donations to be had are enormous. All of a sudden I feel that the £100,000 target I set myself is actually achievable!

I took Roman out today for a run – his paw seems much better but I didn’t want to rush him back in to anything too soon so I took him on the field. It’s the first time he has been out since last Friday and I have felt so sorry for him. I feel like a really bad owner! He was obviously so happy to be out too – he charged around the field for about half an hour without stopping for breath for more than a few seconds. I could actually see the joy on his face! At the risk of sounding sad, I really do love that dog!

I have been looking at tents and sleeping bags today on the internet to see what kind of price they go for. They are actually really cheap for what I will need but I will try and get back in touch with Vango tomorrow to see whether they are prepared to supply them as sponsorship – it’s now been over two weeks since I emailed them. I know that the lady who would be dealing with it was off to Germany for a convention for a week but I have still heard nothing so I will see if I can get a yes or no answer out of them.

I’ve spent some more time today trying to learn Italian and I must say I am starting to feel a little more confident now. I am having very little trouble now with the pronunciation stages – these were probably the ones that were causing me the most trouble but I am beginning to get used to the way that I need to pronounce things. I will be stepping it up from here on in – if I can get 3 or 4 hours a day in then I am sure I will be able to have conversations once I get to Italy at the very least.

The thing that I am most nervous about with the whole event is actually getting started over there. The walking and sleeping rough does not faze me at all, even having to transport all of our stuff is not really worrying me. The thing that worries me the most is not being able to speak Italian well enough to go to a job interview or open a bank account or even to speak to the police to sort out my residency card!

I think the thing I am most looking forward to though is the unknown. I have lived the majority of my life nicely tucked into my comfort zone, pretty much like the majority of society. This will be the biggest test I have ever had. Not only am I moving away from everything I am familiar with but I am going to a new country that has a different language and different customs and culture. It’s really quite exciting to think of how I anticipate I will change as a person – I will be forced to speak to people I don’t know if I want to integrate and live a full life there.

In England, people rarely even say hello to each other in the street. I have been making more of an effort to do that when I am out walking with Roman and I find that people approach me now I have been on the television. This will probably be the biggest change for me. I will no longer be able to live in my little circle of friends and not make acquaintances. If I want to live a full life over there then I will have to adapt and become a more outwardly confident person.

I am pretty certain now that my friend will definitely not be coming along for the ride. It’s a shame really as there are so many opportunities out there to be had and I regret never leaving Chester and experiencing what the world has to offer. I think it is too easy to get stuck in a routine – get up, go to work, see your friends, eat tea, watch television, go to bed – and live it day in, day out. I now realise that this is not what I want. I want to experience life, I want to live every moment. I don’t want to simply exist.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Walking Wounded

My younger brother Jamie has stayed over again tonight but he is in work in the morning so I will be guaranteed to be up early in the morning as he has to be up at 7.30am! I have decided that I will take Roman for a run on the field by me as soon as I am properly awake – I have felt so cruel not taking him out these past few days but it’s all for his own good.

His paw seems much better although I think there is still a bit of recovery needed so I will be limiting him to exercise on the field for the next few days and, by then, I might have some dog boots for him anyway. I can’t wait to get his dog boots – they look really cool. For anyone who wants to see them here is a link:

Roman has been like an absolute nutter the past couple of days and has barely stayed still for a minute. The only time he has stopped charging about has been to have a sniff of his lead and to give me “those” eyes! Every time he does that I feel really sorry for him. It must be horrible to have all that energy and no way of releasing it.

I replied to Natalie from P&O Ferries with the information she had requested to be able to provide a free ticket for us. I have not heard back off her today but will hopefully hear back tomorrow to confirm it has all been done. I also gave Sam at the vets a ring to see if she had got any further with the dog food company. She said that she just can’t get hold of the rep she had been speaking to but had been given somebody else’s details in the company to speak to. I will ring Sam back tomorrow to see how she got on.

I replied to the guy who emailed me from the national newspaper also today. I put quite a bit of information into the email about the reasons why I am doing what I am doing, the charities I am supporting and the publicity I have already managed to get. I have not heard back from him today but hopefully he will reply at some time tomorrow to let me know if he can do anything to help me. I hope he can, it’s just a shame that “Simon” seemed to be a wind up – I never managed to get hold of him and he never returned my calls so I will have to assume that he was a wind up. What’s the world coming to, eh?

I managed to get hold of some contact details for PR departments within O2 and Vodafone today so called both companies to see whether they would be prepared to supply me with a Nokia N97 for a few months whilst I am on my travels with internet access and pay the bill. I am not sure whether I will get anywhere with this but it would certainly make things easier for me. Both companies requested I sent an email with all the relevant information and the request so I did that this afternoon. I will keep you updated on what happens there.

I went for another jog this afternoon with my friend, Nathan, but we were both the walking wounded today. Nathan was complaining of pain in his calf so I can only assume he has strained it and my ankle has been playing up. I haven’t twisted it or anything but every time I plant my foot I get a shooting pain in my ankle. As a result we only managed to do a couple of miles but that’s better than nothing!

I have managed to get a couple of hours of learning Italian in as well this evening before I got rudely interrupted by Jamie and his big mouth! It’s amazing how much noise teenagers can make without actually saying anything. We have had a bit of a heated discussion tonight – he’s being a typical adolescent male and has been causing a bit of trouble so I have been trying to explain things like gangs, retribution and stabbings. Hopefully if I go on about it enough he may take notice and start behaving before something serious happens.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Looks Like We Have A Free Ticket From P&O Ferries!

I’m afraid today I have managed to achieve pretty much nothing at all! As my brother was staying over last night and was here all day I didn’t really have the chance to get on the phone – it’s awkward anyway as he is quite noisy and he was watching DVDs all day. Instead, I have had a pretty lazy day but will be getting straight back into things tomorrow – I have not even done any Italian today!

I got an email this morning from Natalie at P&O Ferries about the ticket. It appears that they will, in fact, supply me with a ticket – I just need to send a few details over to them such as the names of the passengers and the times and date that we will need the ticket for. I’m really pleased with that – as I have said before, it’s not a massive amount of money but it is always nice when a company is prepared to help you out in a way such as this.

I have spoken to my friend tonight and he is definitely prepared to take me over on the ferry and I have also been trying to persuade him to just come with me – it would obviously be very handy for me to have a friend in a car to transport all of the stuff we will need to take but I think it would be a fantastic opportunity for him too. I will keep badgering him in the hope that he will agree but I am not convinced he will.

I also got an email back this evening from somebody who works at a national newspaper. After the fiasco with Simon I decided to try and contact the newspaper in question myself and sent an email off a few days ago. I am not sure whether he had really spoken to anybody there but I have received a reply from one of their guys asking me for more information. This will be at the top of my list tomorrow morning as this sort of publicity could really help me to achieve the targets I have set myself.

Roman’s paw seems to be getting better but I have still not taken him out. I am so paranoid about it at the moment you just wouldn’t believe! I will see how it is tomorrow and probably take him over to the field around the corner from me so he can charge around like a crazy dog and expend some of this pent up energy he has. Hopefully, being extra careful like this will help it to clear up and everything will be ok soon with a bit of luck.

Talking of paws, I haven’t heard anything back yet about his dog boots. I will see if there has been a response by tomorrow afternoon and then try and establish a contact with the company in question on the phone if there has been no contact. Again, the monetary value of the boots is not particularly large but if a company could provide them as a donation then this would be a really nice gesture and I would happily promote their company on my blog in return.

I managed to get a jog and a workout in tonight with Nathan – it’s the first time we have done that in a couple of weeks. It’s hard to keep up that kind of program when you are already walking 15 miles a day but it seemed like a good time to get back into it with my exercise levels being so low due to Roman’s paw. We will be jogging everyday this week – we did 3 and a half miles today but will be doing at least 5 miles a day for the rest of the week.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Not Much To Report Today...

Today has been pretty uneventful for me to be honest. With not being able to walk Roman and all businesses being closed meaning I can’t ring around for sponsorship I have been at a bit of a loose end pretty much all day. I got up this morning and went down to see Angela to get Roman a new harness as the one he has is starting to wear away. I didn’t take Roman as his paw still seems a little raw at the moment and I want to wait until I am 100% certain that it has recovered before I start exercising him again.

My younger brother, Jamie, is staying over tonight and we have just been sat around watching a few films – I treated him to a Pizza Hut earlier but only because I couldn’t really be bothered cooking after football and my older brother’s, Rich, girlfriend gets 50% discount there too! It’s been a while since I pigged out on that kind of food so it made a nice change but I will back to my healthy food tomorrow!

Football was horrific tonight – none of the management turned up for the game. Normally this would not be a problem but they also play for us so we were left a player short for tonight’s match. The worst thing about it is that they never even let us know what was going on – if we had known in advice we could more than likely have gotten an extra player as I have a few contacts from previous teams I have been in.

We lost the game 3-0 which wasn’t too bad really – the last time we played a team that was a man short we won 7-0 so at least we didn’t get totally hammered like that. One of our players, Johnny, had also been at Global Gathering all weekend so he was certainly not in peak physical condition! It’s just frustrating when stuff like that happens as you are immediately in a negative frame of mind right from the kick off.

I have not even taken Roman out once again today. I feel really mean on him and I can tell he would like nothing more than to go out for a nice long walk but it’s not fair on him as it would cause more discomfort in the long term. He has had to make do with playing with me in the house and charging and jumping around like a mad man! He keeps coming over and putting his head on my lap asking for strokes and cuddles – normally when he is well exercised I don’t see anything of him, he just sleeps pretty much constantly between walks!

It will be nice tomorrow to be able to get back in touch with the outside world – I will start chasing companies up about prospective sponsorship and look to make some new links with companies. I could do with getting some sponsor forms and posters printed up so that I can start going around door to door to try and raise some money offline. I am sure that there will be plenty of money coming in online but it would be nice to give it a bit of a boost!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

What's The Point In Life If You're Not Really Living?

Roman has had total rest today and already his limp seems to be much better. I have been applying the cream the vet gave me a couple of times a day but have decided I am going to give him as much rest as possible until it is completely healed. I have not taken him out at all today. To be honest I feel a little bit cruel when I don’t take him out but he has not been bothering me today to take him out anyway so that has made it a little easier!

It was quite strange getting up in the morning and not getting ready to take him for a five mile walk straightaway but I did have to get ready for something. I had arranged to meet up with my ex girlfriend at midday today to discuss the house and my plans for leaving. We have not really spoken in a while and the last time turned into a row over the phone so I arranged for us to meet in a café in town – there’s less chance of a row in a public place and I feel neutral territory is probably best anyway.

One of the reasons I had decided to meet her at the café is that they are dog friendly and Roman always gets a bowl of water and a sausage or two off the owner! It’s just over a couple of miles from my house so is perfect distance on a nice day for us to have a leisurely stroll and then have a break for an hour or so while I have a coffee and Roman catches his breath. It was unfortunate that he hurt his paw really as I am sure my ex would have liked to have seen him as it has been a while!

The main thing I had on my agenda was to inform her of my proposed leaving date – yes, I have one in mind but I would like to wait to make sure Roman is definitely ok to leave before I announce it! I wanted to discuss with her what her options would be once I left as I have no intention of paying the mortgage once I leave. Basically, the options she has are to either refinance the mortgage in her own name, move in and pay the mortgage until it sells, rent it out until it sells or not pay it at all and let the mortgage default!

Obviously, the last option is never going to happen as defaulting on a mortgage would be pretty damaging for her credit rating! I think the ideal solution would be for her to refinance the mortgage but I am not sure a mortgage company would agree to just her name on it as her earnings probably don’t qualify unless she had a hefty deposit and not many people have a lot of money lying around right now!

The most likely option is for her to move in and pay the mortgage until it sells, at which point we will split whatever we get over what is owed on the mortgage between us. I think we both sort of regret buying now to be honest. If we had just been renting then we could have just gone our separate ways back in January and there would be no reason for us to have to keep in touch if we chose not to.

I think the credit crunch has really thrown a spanner in the works too – if we had been in this situation two years ago then we would have had no problem whatsoever selling and would probably have walked away with a decent chunk of money each. As it is, we are struggling to sell it at a price way below market value! I will leave it up to her as to whether she wants to continue to market it at the current price or if she wants to put it back up a bit. I think the reason it isn’t selling now is nothing to do with price but more to do with people being unable to get finance. Once things start to pick up it may well sell at a higher price with relative ease.

We actually sat outside the café for a good couple of hours chatting and there was no argument in sight, which was definitely a good thing. These matters can tend to get quite messy with both parties naturally feeling wronged in some way but arguing about things only gets you one place – in a more complicated mess! I have already lost a lot of money on the house so, right now, if I lose a bit more then I don’t really care to be honest – I just want rid of it so I can move on with the next part of my life.

The other bad thing about having got a mortgage is that, naturally, I ploughed every spare penny into the house to the extent that about 80% of my wages were spent on it whilst we lived together and about 98% whilst I have been here on my own. To put that into perspective over the course of the past two years if we had been renting I could have saved up to £15,000 and would now be either in a position where I would have a nice car to sell or would already have savings and be able to just walk away quite easily. As it is, things are more complicated.

Personally, I don’t think I want to buy a house again and, if I do, I think I will only want to do it if I can get the property dirt cheap due to another recession. It’s quite bad to think like that – capitalising on the misery of others – but in the world of finance this is the only way forward. I think we have been unlucky with timing really but I will be a lot more careful in the future. To think, we thought it was a better idea to buy as we would at least be able to walk away with a chunk of money to start again if things didn’t work out!

It’s this sort of thing that has helped to shape my thoughts in the direction that they have taken. In essence, the last two years of my life have been all for nothing – ok I was making progress in my job but I felt I could go no further where I was and I was feeling very unfulfilled with the demands of the job. I like to be constantly challenged and I feel that job no longer did it. Also, all of the time, effort and money that I put into the house has amounted to nothing.

It is these setbacks, for want of a better word, that have led me to start contemplating what is really important in life. I always believed a steady job, buying a house and having nice things was important. Now I think it’s important to live every moment like it’s your last, enjoy life for what it is and don’t settle for anything. There’s a whole beautiful world out there, why the hell do we feel the need to stay in one little place for the whole of our lives? There are so many things out there to experience, surely it would be a waste of life to not sample them?

Well, you have a little insight now into how my brain ticks. You may think I’m barmy; many people do. Personally, I think people in general are barmy with the things that they attach importance to. The real importance of life is living; what’s the point in life if you’re not really living?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Roman's Limp Is Back!

Today has been a pretty frustrating day for Roman and I to be honest. It started reasonably well as I managed to get up at a decent hour once more (I know, it’s a new me!) and we were out of the house by about 10.30am for our first five mile walk of the day. I noticed about half way round he seemed to be limping a little but nothing too major. I checked his paw out last night and I could see that where his inflammation had been the skin had peeled off it a little. I have been applying cream on a daily basis all week.

We got home and he seemed fine still and then went of for a sleep as he usually does when we get in so I took this opportunity to get something to eat. The good thing about living alone is that when you cook yourself a curry or Bolognese or something of that ilk there is always a second portion left for the following day so I ended up having chicken tikka masala for my lunch!

We were lucky this morning in that the weather was reasonably good. It wasn’t sunny or anything but the temperature wasn’t too bad and it wasn’t raining or windy. At about 1.30pm the heavens opened. Roman was sat outside at the time and there was a torrent of hailstones, at which point he promptly ran in the house and looked at me as if to say “how dare those hailstones hit me!”

I waited for an hour or so to see if we could catch a dry spell in the middle of it all to go on our second five mile walk of the day and decided to chance it at 3pm. I only got about half a mile up the road before deciding to turn back and bring him home. His limp was back and it was quite pronounced too. Once I got him home I rang the vet to see what they thought I should do and I have been advised to rest him for a few days and keep applying the cream.

It’s a real pain that this has happened again but it’s better to get it out of the way now so that I know he is definitely going to be alright for the big adventure! I had another look at his paw as the vet recommended that I cut any excess skin away but it seems Roman had already taken care of that – he’s such a clever boy! I can see that it looks quite sore again now. I put some cream on straight away and he went back to sleep again!

Whilst on the phone to the vets I enquired again about the dog boots and whether they would help him in any way. I was told that it would help keep any sore clean but he would still feel the discomfort so I have decided to rest him until Monday with the exception of a couple of runs on the field near my house. I have been looking at dog boots this afternoon and have decided that the ones we need are the Ruff Wear Bark n Boots Grip Tex – they are pretty expensive at £50 a set but they look really good and it’s worth spending on something like this.

I have called around a few shops that sell these to see if there is any way that they could supply us with a set as way of sponsorship but to no avail. I also filled out an enquiry form on one website so should, hopefully, hear back from them early next week (as long as they are not just rude like so many companies out there and just ignore me!). If I can’t get them as sponsorship then £50 is well worth Roman’s wellbeing.

I am gutted to be honest because we were really starting to get into the routine of chalking a decent mileage up each day and it feels like we are back to square one. On a positive note, at least I know now that it is not any kind of muscle strain and is definitely down to the sore on his paw. He had been coping really well with the 15 miles a day and seemed really up for it each time we went out.

I suppose one good thing about having to limit the exercise is that I can spend a pretty large amount of time this weekend learning Italian. Things have been progressing here and the pace of learning seems to be picking up now. I’m mindful though that there is not long now so I need to make sure I pick up as much as I can between now and me leaving.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

It's A Dog's Life!

I finally managed to get hold of Jennie at the Rottweiler Welfare Association today – it seems she had been away on holiday and that is why I couldn’t get a response! There is some good news on this front; they have now received their first bank statement with the new treasurer’s details on so this can now be sent off with all of the relevant paperwork to Just Giving so that they can be added to the site. I think a reasonable estimate may be that they could be on there as early as the end of next week. I can’t wait for them to be on there – I am sure there are a lot of people out there that would love to donate to them seeing as I seem to have quite a following in the Rottweiler community!

I tried again to get hold of Simon today but again to no avail. I am really starting to think that the guy was a wind up to be honest, why else would he suddenly start ignoring me completely and not returning any calls when he had been on the phone pretty much every day before that? It’s a shame really as it would have been really good to get some national coverage but I guess I will have to start making my own enquiries on that one again – wish me luck!

I sent an email off to Natalie at P&O Ferries earlier today too but got a reply from her out of office auto reply stating that she is on holiday until Monday! How cheeky of these people to have holidays! There is a number that I can call but I am not sure who she may have spoken to so I am going to wait until Monday and hope for a reply. If I have not had a reply by the afternoon then I will try calling and see how she has got on.

I have been out for two walks with Roman so far today, both five miles, and will be taking him out again before bed for another one. I was meant to be going up to my dad’s house tonight as my sister is visiting from Qatar but my dad has had to work late so we are rearranging that. I was originally only intending to do thirteen and a half miles with Roman today but that will now go up to fifteen miles. I am pretty confident now that everything is alright with him.

He has had a limp a couple of times but I noticed that he had a small cut on the pad of one of his rear paws. I think he must have done that when I took him out with my friend and her dog the other night – we were going through some pretty wild fields and I hadn’t noticed a limp until the morning after we had been there. I panicked at first, as you might expect, but I am a little more at ease now. It is not a bad cut and he has been tending to it quite a lot so I am sure it will heal pretty quickly.

The distances we are covering do not seem to be bothering him at all and he seems to be dealing pretty well with the sunshine. I was thinking about the hear across Europe earlier this week and how he is going to cope with it and I can’t work out whether he will find it more or less difficult. I know I certainly find European weather easier to deal with, mainly due to the fact that it is so much less humid, but I am not sure whether it will be the same for Roman. Anybody know the answer to that?

I have done a mini workout tonight as I realised it has been well over a week since I last did one! I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. I have had my protein shake and am just about to tuck into a nice chicken tikka masala, cooked by my own fair hand so you don’t need to worry about there being anything unhealthy in there – I’m quite vigilant these days!

I have again been trying to persuade my friend to come along for the ride and help me transport all of the food and equipment in his car but I think it might be to no avail. It’s a shame really as something like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity really. I know he certainly wouldn’t fancy the walking and I would never in a million years expect anybody to be mad enough to do that with me but I had hoped that the lure of a new life in a beautiful and warm country may be enough. I will keep trying!

I will try and get a reasonably early night tonight as I would like to be up pretty early to start the day’s walking. Roman seems to not be bothered when I get up to be honest as long as he gets his breakfast and tea! It’s a dog’s life!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Somebody Answer The Phone!

Today has been a totally unproductive day in many respects for me. I have, again, tried to get in touch with Jennie at the Rottweiler Welfare Association and have, again, left a message for a return call but heard nothing in response. I have also tried to get hold of Simon, the guy who reckoned he had a newspaper lined up for us. His phone has been diverting to answer phone all day.

I’ll be honest, if there was a Rottweiler charity on Just Giving right now I think I might be tempted to change my choice of charity to them – it feels like the RWA are not even bothered about all of the effort I am going to at times. All I ask is a return call just to give me an update on where they are up to but I have been trying now for at least a week!

I’m also starting to wonder whether this Simon was just a wind up. If it was then well done mate but you’re not funny. If it isn’t then why can’t you answer your phone to me so we can sort something out? I feel really frustrated with the way things are going tonight – every time I seem to make a little progress I seem to get a week of absolutely nothing and can’t seem to speak to anyone!

I rang Lucy Gregory from the British Red Cross earlier today – someone who did answer the phone, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear! – and she was able to clarify for me that everything had been organised for any donations made on my Just Giving page for them will definitely be segregated and sent off to the Abruzzo Appeal at the Italian Red Cross. At least I have been able to tick that one off my list.

I have still not heard back from Natalie from P&O Ferries so will send an email off to her in the morning to see if she has managed to get anywhere with the free ticket for our crossing from Dover to Calais. As I have said before, it’s not massively expensive but any help we receive will really help as I am trying to fund this myself – if there any millionaires reading feel free to offer to cover our expenses, we’d be very grateful!

Roman has had a couple of 5 mile walks today and seems fine still. There did seem to be a hint of a limp on our walk this evening but it disappeared within about a minute or two. I think I may be looking too hard at times and maybe seeing problems that aren’t there. He generally seems to be fine and I am sure he is now better. We will be doing two 5 mile walks tomorrow morning and early afternoon and then a 3 and a half mile walk in the evening.

My sister is over from Qatar at the moment and I don’t really get to see her that often. She is visiting my dad with one of her sons tomorrow evening so I thought I would pop round to see them – it will certainly be my last chance before we set off to Rome and I am not sure how many times I will see her again after that depending on how things work out.

I have been trying to persuade a friend of mine to come with me on my adventure – I am not expecting him to walk though! I was thinking it would be really good if I had someone with a car who could transport all of our stuff from one stop point to the next as it will be difficult trying to lug all of Roman’s food plus all the equipment needed around! I’m not sure I will be able to persuade him but I think it would be a good move for him too if that’s what he decided to do – he’s young, doesn’t have any real commitments like a mortgage or kids or anything so it would be a good time for him to have an experience like this. Time will tell whether I can persuade him or not.

Roman Has A New Friend!

I have had a really nice couple of days so far this week and just hope it’s a sign of good times ahead! I got up really early for me today – I was awake and up by 8.30am! That must be some sort of record, I’m sure. I really like getting up early as I feel like I have so much more time to do stuff – in reality I have the same amount of time no matter what time I get up but if I am up early I have more time during office hours and this is the only time I can actually try and contact people!

I had a really nice evening last night with my friend. We were meant to meet up on Sunday night but one of her friend’s had a bit of a drama so we had to put it back to last night. It wasn’t all bad though as I got an Italian meal cooked for me to make up for it! Spicy tomato soup to start followed by spaghetti and meatballs with tomato garlic bread. I have to say, it was delicious and I am really looking forward to living in a country where this kind of food is the norm.

Dinner was washed down with a couple of glasses of wine and then a few bottles of Kopparberg pear cider – I’m sure I have said it before but that really is the nicest drink on the planet! I can drink a bottle so quickly as it is so refreshing – it can be slightly hazardous though as you can get drunk fairly quickly if you’re not careful!

We were going to watch The Hangover but it was a bit of a dodgy copy so we decided against that and watched Stigmata instead. It was really funny because I knew I had seen it before and remembered everything literally just before it happened. I couldn’t remember anything about it before we put it on though, it’s funny how some films stay with you whilst others seem to vanish completely from your memory!

I got my friend Nathan to come around and let Roman out for me last night as I didn’t know what time I would be back – it proved a smart move in the end as I only had jeans and a t shirt on when I went out and it went pretty cold late on so I stayed over the night on the sofa. I think that was probably the reason I managed to get up so early – somebody to wake me up! I got home at about 9am today and sorted some breakfast for me and Roman before taking him out for his first 5 mile walk of the day.

I met up with my friend again tonight after taking Roman out for a 3 mile walk and we took both of our dogs out together for an hour or so. She was really worried how Roman would be with her dog and I can understand how people can be hesitant. It doesn’t help that his way of working other dogs out is to bounce around and growl – he’s only talking but people always assume it means aggression.

Once we actually got them walking they were fine together and by the time we got to the field it was like they had known each other for years! We let them off on the field and they chased each other around for about half an hour. It’s really nice to see Roman enjoying himself with other dogs, I feel so sorry for him at times as he rarely gets the opportunity to socialise like that as people are immediately worried he’s going to go for their dogs.

I had to reassure my friend a few times as she was pretty worried but after about ten minutes she relaxed and the dogs were getting on fine. We walked around for about an hour and a half in total and must have covered about 3 miles in total before having a quick brew. By the time I got Roman home he must have walked about 7 miles tonight so he has had about 12 miles in total today. There is still no sign of his limp returning so I think everything may be alright now – I’ll still be careful not to rush him into more exercise but it’s certainly a weight off my mind!

If my friend is reading this I would just like to say thank you for a really nice couple of evenings - the food was delicious last night (I hope the Italians cook it as well as you do!) and it has been really nice to catch up. I am really looking forward to catching up again before I leave for Rome! It's going to be weird not being able to pop and see your friends and it's making me appreciate people a little more while I am still here.

I’m probably going to sound like a right idiot now but I love Roman to pieces! I really couldn’t imagine life without him even if he can be a bit of a pain in the backside sometimes! No matter what mood you are in you can guarantee he’ll be there to give you some love and affection.

It’s funny to think of the reputation that Rottweilers have – if you saw some of the things Roman did you would be very surprised. Despite his obviously huge proportions and reckless energy he really is the sweetest dog in the world. He loves nothing more than kisses and cuddles and at times it’s a bit like having a kid – I am the only person in the world he depends on but he depends on me fully for everything. When you contemplate getting a dog I don’t think you realise the responsibility you are taking on – it’s huge, but so rewarding!

I’ve not bothered ringing Jennie from the Rottweiler Welfare Association or Simon (the guy who is supposed to be getting me in the papers) but will try again tomorrow. It’s quite frustrating to be trying your best to raise money for a charity and not get a call back from them. It sometimes feels like they aren’t really bothered about the money and the effort you are putting in on their behalf. I know that they are grateful really but when you hear nothing back for days it does start to get to you.

I didn’t hear back from Natalie at P&O Ferries today either. I have decided that if I have heard nothing by lunchtime then I will try calling her up to see if she has got anywhere with getting a free ticket for us. It’s not really a lot of money to a big company like that and it does paint them in a good light but to me, having to fund everything myself, even a token sponsorship worth £50 makes a big difference.

I have just noticed that I have received another £30 in donations tonight from a lady by the name of Christine Webb - thank you very much, it's greatly appreciated by both myself and, I am sure, the charities concerned! The £30 was split into £10 each towards Help For Heroes, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Abruzzo Appeal. I can't help thinking that those poor Rottweilers are missing out now though, I really hope I can get hold of Jennie tomorrow and get this sorted out once and for all!

Monday, 20 July 2009

P&O Ferries

I managed to get up for a change today and was up and out of bed by 9.30am – that must be the earliest I have been up since I finished work! Once I had got some breakfast and a coffee down me I took Roman out for a nice, leisurely 5 mile walk. The weather wasn’t too bad this morning for a change – a little overcast but fairly warm when the wind wasn’t blowing.

Again, Roman showed no signs of discomfort and there is not even a hint of his limp coming back so it looks like whatever the problem was seems to be much better now – the rest must have done him the world of good, although he was bouncing around like Tigger for a couple of days! Hopefully that will be the end of his limp and it will never appear again.

Today has been fairly unproductive unfortunately – I managed to do all of the things on my list but didn’t get the results I wanted. First on my list was to get in touch with Simon and find out what is happening with the newspapers. I have tried calling a couple of times today and have left a message on his answer machine but have not actually managed to speak to him as of yet.

Second on the list was to get in touch with Jennie at the Rottweiler Welfare Association. Again, this proved to be unfruitful. I have tried ringing three times today and have again left a message on her answer machine but have not heard anything back. I hope she gets in touch soon and, hopefully, it will be with positive news and we can start raising money for all those poor, neglected Rottweilers out there!

The third thing I wanted to do today was to speak to either John or Richard at Swetenham’s to find out what has happened with the property since I last reduced the price. It must be almost a month ago now since I lowered it again and there have still been no viewings. It’s very frustrating! I managed to get hold of John this afternoon and, unfortunately, the stats aren’t looking too good. Only about 3% of searches pulling my property up are actually getting clicked through to.

John suggested changing the cover picture on the website to be an interior shot – it’s not like my house is particularly ugly but the inside definitely looks nicer than the outside. Hopefully, by making this small change, we can entice more people to actually look at the property details and maybe even entice someone to book an appointment to view.

I was speaking to my brother’s fiancée, Ant, earlier on Facebook and she reminded me about my quest to get some form of sponsorship to get Roman and I across from Dover to Calais free of charge. I promptly got on the phone to the various companies to see which ones would be able to accommodate Roman. It’s not as straightforward as I was hoping but there is a way.

They will allow foot passengers to take dogs onboard so long as they are secured in a carry case. This presents a bit of a problem as, firstly, I have never seen a carry case big enough for a 9 stone Rottweiler and, secondly, I think I may struggle to actually carry it! There is a way around this though. P&O ferries will allow dogs to travel as long as they are secured away from the passenger deck in your vehicle.

The downside of this is that I now need to actually find somebody willing to drive us onto the ferry, onto French soil and then return on the ferry a little later in the day. Still, I’m sure that there will be somebody out there willing to help but it does add another thing to my to do list! Once I had established the most flexible and accommodating company I set about finding details for their PR department.

Luckily, this was a much easier process than I have previously experienced with other companies. I was able to find a phone number very quickly and, within minutes, was speaking to a nice lady called Natalie. She advised me to send over the details of what I was doing and what I needed from them and she would take a look at the request for me. Within an hour or so I had a reply that basically said she can’t see it being a problem at all but needs to speak with a colleague so will be back in touch with me!

Roman and I have just got back from our second 5 mile walk of the day and, again, there has been no sign of discomfort and no sign of the dreaded limp either! I am now about to get myself bathed and freshened up and am off to see an old friend for something to eat and a few drinks, hence the earlier than usual update!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

What A Lazy Weekend I Have Had!

It’s official, I’m a mess! Somewhere along the way I have totally lost the ability to wake up and get out of bed and it’s starting to get on my nerves now! Admittedly, with Friday being such a late night it was always going to be difficult to sleep last night and get up early this morning but it’s getting beyond a joke now – I need to get hold of some hot chocolate and start getting to bed by 10pm every night!

My brother was meant to ring me this morning at 9am to make sure I got out of bed for dog training so I didn’t set an alarm – not that they do any good these days. He was meant to be doing an airport job (he’s a taxi driver) but he gave it up to someone else because he had been working until about 4am and then forgot to ring me. Nathan rang me and I woke up but, by that time, I had missed dog training.

I’m really annoyed with myself and I am now determined to start getting into a routine. I need to be getting up and walking with Roman at the same times of day that we will be doing when we leave so that I know what he is comfortable with and also so that I know that whatever plans I put into place with regards to distance covered each day are going to be accurate. I need to know that when I say I will be in a town on a particular day then I will be there – there will be no point trying to arrange to meet the media if I cannot be reliable enough to actually turn up when I say I will!

It’s been a pretty miserable day here all day again – pretty much all day it has rained with the exception of 20 minute spells. I managed to give Roman a 2 mile walk before I went out to play football tonight but will be taking him out again once I have had a bath and freshened up a bit. I will take him 5 miles tonight and then keep him to 2 walks a day for most of this week to make sure he is ok.

It’s looking like our team will end up getting relegated this year which is a real kick in the teeth as we at least match the majority of the teams week in week out. Admittedly, at the start of the season the team had major problems all over the pitch but we have got much better as the season has progressed. We have a really annoying habit of dominating play and then making a silly error and getting punished. It’s really frustrating because the majority of the time it’s our own fault and we are effectively beating ourselves. If we could just iron these little mistakes out I am convinced we could be at least a mid table side, maybe even top half.

There has still been absolutely no interest in the house and it’s starting to bug me to be honest. It wouldn’t be so bad if the estate agents would at least take the time to return your calls or at least give you an update every week or two as to what they have been doing and what the results have been. At the end of the day, they are the experts with this sort of thing so they should take the responsibility to liaise with you properly when things aren’t working out. I think I will pop in and see them tomorrow – it’s harder to fob you off or ignore you if you are there in person.

I will be ringing Simon up tomorrow too – he said he had passed my number on to a guy at a national newspaper and I was expecting a call at the end of last week but it never happened. I will find out where we are up to on that as national coverage would really help me with publicity for what Roman and I are going to do. If we are to get anywhere near our target then we need as much publicity as possible!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Shots, Shots And More Shots!

Last night was a really good night and I can’t even tell you what time I got in this morning! I had a hell of a lot to drink, I know that much! There was a group of us out in the end but we didn’t all stay together all night. My friends, Rob and Ryan, were with me pretty much all night although Rob went home earlier than us. We went round a few pubs and bars until pretty late and were going to go to a nightclub but it was that late by that time that they weren’t letting any more people in.

We tried a late night bar but they said that Ryan was too drunk – he was pretty wasted by that point – and I think that all of the shots that we had drunk were responsible for that! We must have been into double figures in terms of shots by the end of the night to go with copious amounts of Jack Daniels and cider. I am terrible once I get started drinking and, luckily, I am pretty good at it too! In fact, the doorman who turned us away because Ryan was too drunk actually said if it was just me he would let me in as I seemed “quite sober”!

We found a bar to go to after that but Ryan disappeared after about twenty minutes and I didn’t see him again – he has a habit of just going home when he’s too drunk so I’m used to it now. Luckily, I saw a few lads I knew so had a few drinks with them before heading off home. As I say, I have no idea what time I got home or what time I went to bed but it was a really good night.

It must have been pretty late, though, as I didn’t get out of bed until late – I’m ashamed to say I got up at 3pm today! I’m not sure why but I seem to be sleeping a lot more lately – I was sleeping less anyway when I was working as I was trying to juggle so many things and didn’t have enough time so ended up only having about 6 hours sleep a night but, just lately, I have been getting 9 or 10 hours sleep a night quite often. Maybe I’m catching up on the sleep I had been missing!

Today has been a really lazy day, I have not been hungover and not felt ill but I’ve got less energy than normal. I’ve had loads to eat – I always find that eating makes you feel better on the day after a night out. Even when I am hungover I eat loads. I decided to have a chicken tikka masala this evening as it always goes down a treat on days like this.

I have not been out at all today and I was considering giving Roman a walk after the Amir Khan fight. If I do go out with him then I’ll probably walk 5 miles with him. We are due at obedience training in the morning so I will have to make sure I get to bed at a reasonable hour. I just hope that I can get to sleep fairly quickly after getting up so late today!

Friday, 17 July 2009

I Hate English Weather, Bring On The Sunshine!

Bit of an early update tonight as I am going out up town soon with one of my friends – it will be one of the last times we will be able to get together for a drink together so we are going to make the most of it! I have know Ryan for a long time, since my first day of high school actually so about 16 years now! I have not been out for a while so it will be nice to let my hair down (actually, I have a skin head so I am not sure I will be able to!)

Today has been another day of rain here in Chester and I am just glad I got up early this morning to take Roman out before it all started! I was up at about 8am today and was out of the house for about 9.45am. We went for a five mile walk this morning and Roman seemed to come through it without a problem. I will be walking five miles with him again tomorrow, hopefully he will come through that alright too and then I can think about giving him a couple of walks a day.

I had a little brainwave this morning on a way of generating some support – the Help For Heroes site has a list of events that are taking place both nationally and internationally. I went through each of the international events and copied the email addresses for the contact for each event and sent them all an email to tell them about what I am doing. I have only had one response so far but hopefully I will receive more feedback. The one response I did get resulted in a £20 donation for Help For Heroes, thanks Anne Bell!

Either over the course of this weekend or next week I am going to sit down and go through all of the national events on the Help For Heroes site and do a similar exercise. I think it should be profitable as all of those people are involved in raising money for Help For Heroes already so there is some sort of vested interest. The email I sent off today went to 285 email addresses, I have no idea how many email addresses I will find for national events!

I rang the vet today to speak to Gemma about my poster. They have received it but don’t have a colour printer! I will have to find a way of printing a batch up myself so that I can take them around to local businesses to see if they will put them up for me to help with publicity. It might be worth doing this at the same time I go round asking for sponsorship.

I tried ringing the Rottweiler Welfare Association again today but have not been able to get hold of Jennie. I would have liked to have spoken to her before the weekend but I guess that will have to wait until Monday now. Hopefully they will have come some way in getting things sorted with Just Giving. I can’t believe how long things take sometimes but you know what paperwork is like!

I received a call off Simon again this morning to say that Ben, the guy from the newspaper, would be calling this afternoon. I have been in all afternoon but he hasn’t called. I had no choice about going out really though as the weather has been absolutely horrific! You wouldn’t think it was July. Then again, knowing this country’s weather I guess we should fully expect heavy rain in the middle of July!

The weather in this country is one thing I am not going to miss. Even when it is a nice day you can’t enjoy it as it is so bloody humid! I can’t wait to live in a country where hot weather is enjoyable and commonplace. I think I will have to work on my fitness a lot to be able to play football over in Italy but I am looking forward to that really.

It’s been a bit of an uneventful day really with not much happening. Nathan was meant to be coming out with us tonight but he’s changed his mind at the last minute – apparently he has just woke up so he reckons he would be asleep after two pints. Personally, I think he’s just worried about trying to keep up with us as he isn’t much of a drinker and I had been saying all week it would be a “Black Sambucca” night!

We Might Well Be Going National!

Today has been a pretty awful day with regards to the weather here in Chester so I have been confined to the house pretty much all day. My younger brother, Jamie, stayed over last night so it wasn’t too bad – like most teenagers, he’s happy as long as he can play on the Xbox! I have spent most of my day sat at the computer but, for once, I used the time recreationally and caught up on a game of Football Manager that I had not played for quite some time.

It’s funny how your usual everyday life changes so much when you are planning something like I am. Things that I used to do on a regular, if not daily, basis no longer feature in the list of things that I do. I have not watched the TV for about two months now – I have a good mind to cancel my TV licence! It’d be just my luck though that they would try and prosecute me!

Simon, the guy who wrote a comment on my blog the other day, was back in touch today to advise me that he thinks he might have got a national to run with my story. It won’t be a story focussing solely on me, more a feature to go alongside one of their main stories – the Help For Heroes campaign. He advised me that he has passed my number on to somebody called Ben and I should expect a call pretty soon from him to arrange to take some pictures!

On another positive note, a while ago I tried to get in touch with a guy called Benedict Protheroe who, last year, also walked to Rome – he walked from Canterbury and took a more direct route than I will be taking. Having looked at the route he took I reckon I will probably be walking an extra 500 miles on top of what he did! I managed to establish contact with him yesterday as I located his personal email address and have been speaking across email with him today.

He seemed genuinely excited for me and I could tell there were memories flooding back to him of when he did it. He has said that he will be happy to provide as much advice as he can and allow me to draw on his experiences. It will be really nice to have someone to speak to about this that actually has experience at this specific challenge.

He seems like a really nice bloke and I have the utmost respect for what he did. I am sure that his experiences will be invaluable to me and, hopefully, I will have made a good friend by the end of it all – even if I never meet him! Thinking about it, I reckon it would actually be nice to meet him at some point as there would be a lot of common ground there and I am sure the conversation would be endless.

I took Roman for a walk this evening, just under 4 miles again. He seems to be getting much better now and I am going to try him on a 5 mile walk in the morning. I am sure he will come through that with no problems but I will be careful not to overexert him in the coming days.

I had to get Roman some more dog food tonight so, whilst I was at Pets At Home, I asked about the possibility of putting a poster up and they seemed more than happy to help. I got the email address from the deputy manager there so I will be sending a copy over tomorrow morning. I will need to go through the store list for Pets At Home ringing each store up to see if they would be prepared to do the same. It would be a real help if they could.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Pets At Home Said No!

Today ended up being a day of disappointment. I rang to speak with Amy at Pets At Home and she called me back late in the afternoon. Unfortunately, they have a company policy whereby they cannot make financial donations to charity events. Amy said that if I was to have some kind of raffle then they could supply some prizes free of charge but, given all of the other stuff I need to sort out, I just don’t have the time for that.

Furthermore, she said that she would be unable to forward posters to each of the stores within the UK – apparently they get lots of similar requests each week so, as a result, they say no to all these types of request. She did agree though to send me a store list with contact details for individual stores so that I could try and get in touch with the manager of each store to see if they would be prepared to advertise for me.

There was some very useful information that came out of the conversation though so it wasn’t a total loss. I asked if she was aware of companies that don’t set their charity budgets at the start of the financial year and Amy advised that most companies do this so they have an easy way of saying no to people’s requests. They’re cleverer than I thought!

Apparently, it is much more beneficial to approach small local businesses as they will be more likely to be open to persuasion on these matters and don’t necessarily have charity budgets to speak of. I have decided, therefore, to draw up a list of companies within Chester and start from there. I will visit each of the companies and try to speak directly with the owners to see what their feelings would be on providing support for what Roman and I are doing.

I received a comment on my blog yesterday from a guy who used to work for a newspaper who reckons he might be able to get my story published. I rang him this morning and he returned my call around lunchtime. He asked some questions to gain more information and said that he would call back later in the afternoon. He has not called back yet so I hope to hear from him tomorrow but he certainly sounded positive about the chances of getting something published for me!

I rang Jennie at the Rottweiler Welfare Association today also but there was no answer so I left a message on the answer phone. I have not heard anything back today but hopefully I will get a return call some time tomorrow. It would be great to get that side tied up so that people can start making donations to the Rottweiler Welfare Association – I seem to have a fairly good following in the dog community.

Roman and I walked just short of 4 miles this morning. Again, his limp was there for the first half mile but, after that, he seemed fine. He seems to have a little more energy today so hopefully he is recovering. I decided against taking him out again tonight – I don’t want to aggravate any injury he might have by doing too much too soon. Patience is the key here I think!

I managed to get a mini workout in earlier with Nathan but we had a football match tonight so we decided against going for a jog. The football match went well – we won 4 2 against a pretty decent side. It was pretty enjoyable too as the weather was reasonably good but not too hot – that’s the key to football weather, if it’s too hot it’s unbearable while you are playing! I do wonder how I will handle football in Rome.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Pets At Home, Vango and the Guardian

Roman has seemed much better again today and the limp is pretty much gone, apart from the first half mile of a walk anyway! I am going to keep him on short walks for a few more days and see how things go. I was speaking with Sam from the Storrar Practice on Facebook earlier and she has spoken to her contact at Royal Canin and passed my phone number on so I will hopefully receive a call some time soon to discuss Roman’s food for when we are travelling.

I need to call the vets in the morning to check that they got my poster and, while I am at it, Sam recommended that I ask about a dog physiotherapist and she also mentioned hydrotherapy for him. I will make sure I ask about both when I call. I think the hydrotherapy would be good for him, not only for his muscles but also to get him used to being in water and learning how to swim!

I rang the head office at Pets At Home earlier today and was pleased to get a positive response. I spoke with someone on reception there and she seemed to think that they would be prepared to help with both publicity and sponsorship. I was given an email address of someone there who deals specifically with it but, for some reason, their firewall banned my email address and deemed it as spam!

I think it may have been due to there being a few links within the email so I emailed the support department for the company that provides the technology that has banned me – I am yet to hear back off them though. I said I would call back in the morning and they will put me through to Amy to discuss it. It would be great if they would help me – there are over 200 stores across the UK so if each store were to put a poster up for me then I would potentially be getting a lot of publicity out of it.

I was also pleased to hear that there is a possibility that I may be able to get some sponsorship from them too. The majority of companies I have been ringing have flatly refused and stated that they have already picked their charities for the year. It’s unfortunate that companies act in this way; it would make more sense to me if they sectioned their budget so that they had designated charities for the year but there was also a pot for fundraising activities connected to their industry.

I also spoke to someone at Vango – for those who do not know they are a leading manufacturer of camping gear. I spoke with someone on reception there about the possibility of receiving some form of sponsorship – ideally I would like them to pledge equipment for the journey, such as a tent, sleeping bag, etc. I was given an email address as the person I would need to speak to was about to leave for Germany for a convention but I felt that the response was more positive than with other companies. The lady who answered the phone had obviously tried to speak to the relevant people who must have then advised for me to send an email to them.

I received an email back from the editor at the Guardian. Unfortunately, he advised that they would not be interested in running a feature on me. It’s a shame really as it would have been great to have gotten publicity in such a reputable newspaper. I will start again with more nationals tomorrow! Hopefully, there will be at least one that is prepared to cover what I am doing.

I also need to speak with Jennie from the Rottweiler Welfare Association to find out what is going on with Just Giving. I have heard nothing for at least a couple of weeks now. I have been regularly checking on Just Giving but there is no sign of them yet so it is probably best for me to call them and find out where they are up to. I am keen to get this sorted as soon as possible though as I am starting to get a pretty good following in the dog community.

Tomorrow will be all about exercise away from all that. I will be up nice and early in the morning and will be taking Roman out for about 4 miles. Nathan finishes work early so we are going to go for a jog around lunchtime – we did about 3 and a half miles tonight. The Sunday league side I played for last season has a friendly tomorrow night and I have been asked to go down so I will playing in that. Depending on how Roman is afterwards I may take him out again but I am going to see how things go before making a decision on that.

Roman's Limp

Roman’s limp seems to be a bit better now but there is still a hint there. I decided against taking him to the vets for now and, instead, will see how he copes with light exercise. I took him for a four mile walk today and left it at that. If it is a muscle strain then I don’t want to walk him too far on it but, at the same time, I always feel bad when he gets no exercise whatsoever.

He was limping pretty much as soon as we started walking today but I think that is because he had been asleep beforehand. Once we got about half a mile in the limp subsided and he started walking normally again. I was going to pop in at my dad’s for a brew on the way but saw my stepmum just around the corner from there heading into the nature park with Casper so had a walk around there with them first.

Roman definitely seems more subdued at the moment and has been sleeping more than normal. Having said that though I’m sure I read somewhere that a well exercised (both mentally and physically) Rottweiler will sleep most of the time anyway when not being stimulated. I will keep an eye on that though just in case it is a sign that there is something else wrong.

I don’t want to seem like the panicking owner that I am sure lots of vets around the country get sick of but I also don’t want to ignore it if it is a real problem. I thought we had it nailed when we spotted the inflammation on his paw but I feel that was maybe a coincedence and the reason he stopped limping was because his exercise levels dropped so much whilst he was on antibiotics.

For his limp to come back after a fifteen mile walk would suggest to me that I have walked him too far in one go and put a strain on his muscles – if they were in the process of healing then I could well have done that. I must admit I am a little worried about him but I will just keep an eye on him for now and give him light exercise but often.

I think I will give him another four mile walk tomorrow and then go for five miles on Wednesday if he comes through alright tomorrow. After a few days of that I will increase it to two five mile walks, one in the morning and one in the evening. After a week of that I will try a five mile walk in the morning, a five mile walk after lunch and a five mile walk in the evening. Hopefully he will be fine with this and there will be no need to go to the vet with him.

I managed to get in touch with the Guardian today and spoke with a lady called Suzie who advised me to send an email to one of the editors there, Rob Fearn. I am hoping that they will be prepared to do a column on what we are doing. I can’t see it making national news, as such, right now so targeting columns might be a good way of approaching this – I think they have more creative licence with the subject matter and content with columns.

I managed to fit a jog and a workout in this evening. Nathan came round after work and, as we hadn’t jogged for a while, we jogged two miles. I say jogged, the first mile was a jog but we gradually upped the pace in the second mile and pretty much ran the last half mile. We managed to get round in about ten minutes so it wasn’t a bad pace – certainly enough to get the heart pumping before we did a workout!

I am now starting to notice the additional strength I am gaining from working out regularly. I have upped the weights I am lifting a couple of times now since I started and am beginning to find fairly heavy weights pretty easy. I just need to find some more weights from somewhere now!

I think I may be quite busy socially tomorrow but, if I find some time, I am going to set about digging out some contact details for PR departments of companies I think could sponsor me with equipment we may need along the way. On the list of things we need are camping gear, waterproofs, dog boots, hiking boots, mobile phone and I am going to see if I can get a free ticket to get the ferry from Dover to Calais – it may be a long shot but, considering what I am doing, I feel it is worth asking.

I had a stroke of luck this evening – a lad I used to work with, Steve, read my entry from last night and recommended that I ask somebody who posts on of the forums we are both on if he would translate my press release into French as he is fluent. I managed to get in touch with the guy pretty much immediately and he had a translated version back to me within the hour! Thanks Steve and thanks fredo (that’s his username on the forum, I don’t know his real name!)

I still haven’t managed to sit down and plan a solid route out yet so that I know where I will be each and every day. I think subconsciously I am a little worried about Roman and don’t want to commit to a mileage until I know exactly what he can cope with. I could map a route out tomorrow to cover twenty miles a day and then find out he will only be able to cope with fifteen, say. If that were the case then it would be a wasted exercise. I will get around to it soon though!

Monday, 13 July 2009

My Interview Is Now Online!

Today has been a pretty interesting day for me. I got the DVD off my nephew of me and Roman on Granada Reports this afternoon so, after a period of figuring out how to use some modern technology, I managed to edit the recording down so that only the relevant bits of the program were in a final cut. I uploaded it to YouTube and have now posted links to it on some forums I post on as well as posting it to Facebook and adding the video link to my group.

I have since been inundated with comments on my video on Facebook and have received a fair amount of feedback on the forums I post on. Some people are actually being really helpful now too. I think that because I have been in the newspapers and on the television that people can see that I am actually doing it and I am not just some crackpot (ok, maybe I am a crackpot!) on a wind up or a con artist of some description!

I got another donation today also - £5 from somebody called SG. Normally Just Giving will send an email to advise of a donation but I didn’t get one today so I can’t reply in person to say thanks. Whoever you are, SG, I appreciate your donation and I am sure that MSF do too!

I must admit, I am a little disappointed that I haven’t received more donations so far but I think that people tend to donate once something is underway rather than before an event. I am hoping that with the media coverage adding legitimacy to my claims of walking to Rome that I may receive more donations soon and I am sure that they will start flooding in once I set off.

I was thinking about my press release also this weekend – I reckon it would be a good idea for me to start getting it prepared for France and Italy soon. I am not sure how their media will receive it but, if I can plan my route out so that I know exactly which local publications will be relevant, it has to be worth a try. The only way for me to get anywhere near my target is to get as much publicity as possible. I have already had an offer to translate it into Italian but if there are any people out there who are fluent in both English and French then please let me know if you would be willing to translate it for me.

My group on Facebook has started growing again now since I was in the papers and on the TV – powerful mediums and I am grateful to all concerned that have helped me with that, whether it be the people who have written and filmed or people that have put me in touch with the right people. I am just hoping that now I have had my story covered locally it might get easier to make a breakthrough with other forms of media.

I missed dog training today (sorry Angela!) but not because I couldn’t get out of bed. I could have sworn she had said it wasn’t on for whatever reason but I must have got it muddled with the date when classed finish for the summer – Roman was being a little bugger last week so I think it must have been said when I was trying to deal with him and I muddled the message up as a result! I will definitely be back there next week though.

Roman’s limp seems much better today – I am more convinced than ever now that it is a muscle strain. I will be giving him light walks for the next couple of days, maybe five miles a day, and then doing two or three of them a day once he is definitely better. I think a fifteen mile trek in one go is just too much for him but it’s better to work these things out now rather than once we set off!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Roman's First Ever Swim!

Roman swam for the first time ever and, I have to tell you, it was quite an amusing experience! He was by the side of the lake and I threw a stone in so he went bounding after it and threw himself in the lake. Panic soon set in, pretty much as soon as he realised he couldn’t touch the floor! The expression on his face was hilarious – he was trying his best to keep his head above the water and was flapping almost uncontrollably! He did alright to be fair but he was a little more hesitant after that!

I got changed and got into the lake for a swim in the hope that Roman might follow me back in but he wasn’t having any of it! I kept on calling him to come in but, as soon as he got to the edge, he changed his mind and turned around and ran off again! It’s strange to think of a Rottweiler being scared of something but they’re not quite the fearless, mindless brutes that a lot of people try to portray them as!

If you’re wondering where we went then it was a little Welsh village called Hope. There is a disused quarry there that is now a lake. Jen, my friend who I used to work with, picked us up at about 1pm and drove us up there to meet Warren, her boyfriend, and his two Rottweilers, Bodi and Marley. Roman has met a few other Rottweilers recently but they have been mostly at training classes.

They got on really well despite an initial face off and a bit of growling and barking. Dogs aren’t really like us, they have to establish a pecking order from the off so they know where they fit in with each other. I let Roman into the garden and took his lead off and they all had a good sniff of each other. Within minutes it was as if they had known each other for years. I am really pleased how well they got on as it is not easy to find people that don’t mind socialising their dogs with Roman.

Once we got down to the lake and let them all off the lead they all ran around with each other and played really nicely. We threw a few sticks and they all chased them. Roman was definitely the dominant one out of the bunch – he was constantly taking the sticks off Bodi and Marley every time they managed to get there first! There was no malice in any of it though and they never squared up at any time.

Meeting a couple of 3 year old Rottweilers helped me to realise just how big Roman really is. I always think of him as the little puppy that I picked up on 1st April 2007. To me, he is still my little puppy but to others he is a really big dog. I know he is big but I just don’t see it that way to be honest. I would say he was slightly taller than Marley (the male) and, although he was not quite as stocky, he certainly has more depth to his body.

I managed to get the opportunity to show off once we got back to Warren’s house – as Roman was a little tired after the walk (and swim) he was a bit more subdued than when we first got there. I showed Jen and Warren how he can sit, give each of his paws on command, lie down, roll over, sit back up and then stand! He did really well – usually he mucks about a little bit but he did everything straightaway today. Jen and Warren were impressed!

I managed to get a workout in tonight. Nathan came round but he had a headache and ended up falling asleep on my sofa so I did it on my own. Once I had finished he woke up and realised he had been asleep for two hours! I decided to have a chicken tikka masala for tea – it’s been a while since I have had one and it is certainly one of my favourite meals. You can’t beat a freshly home cooked curry!

Friday, 10 July 2009

We Were On The TV Tonight!

Well today has certainly been a productive day! I sent an email off to ITV, specifically to Granada Reports. Within an hour I had a message from Paul Crone on Facebook asking me to give him a call to discuss what I am planning to do as they would be very interested to cover it and get me on the news! Within a couple of hours he was here with a cameraman to do an interview.

It went really well, Roman behaved impeccably and certainly wasn’t camera shy! We managed to get some brilliant footage of Roman and I was really pleased with how it all went. The piece went out on Granada Reports earlier tonight at 6pm. For those of you who missed it I got my nephew to record it to a DVD so, as soon as I get my head around the technical aspects of uploading it to my Mac and editing the video so just my piece is on there, I will get it uploaded to my blog for you all to see.

A few people were asking what we were up to whilst we were filming and one guy came over for a chat afterwards. We sat on the field for about 20 minutes discussing it all and putting the world to rights (as you do). It’s nice to know that people are so affected by what I am doing. At times, it seems that I am writing my thoughts here purely for my benefit – I am sure there are people reading but I never get many comments on here so I don’t know for sure. The only indication is the counter at the bottom of this blog.

I have already had an influx of friend requests on Facebook and the group seems to have got moving again in terms of new members. I have messaged everyone tonight to advise them of the media developments as well as to request that they invite all of their friends to join the group to help me raise awareness of our adventure. It would also be nice if the donations started coming in now!

I am hoping that now we have been on TV and have had our story published in a few newspapers that we may be able to persuade some larger publications, such as national newspapers and glossy magazines, to print our story. Publicity is key when you are doing something like this and, although it is bloody hard work, I am determined to do my best on this front to give us the best possible chance of raising a huge amount for charity!

I had an offer from a friend I used to work with earlier today to take Roman out with her, Jen, and her boyfriend’s Rottweiler, Bodi. I accepted – it’s always nice for Roman to have the opportunity to socialise with other dogs as people can often be wary of letting Roman play with their dogs. It’s unfortunate that people have a negative perception of Rottweilers caused by the minority of idiot owners. Rottweilers really are beautiful dogs and are such well behaved good companions if in the proper hands.

There is a lake not far from where Jen’s boyfriend lives so I will be taking a couple of towels with me so that Roman can go for a swim – if it’s warm enough I may even go in with him! He has never been swimming before but I reckon he will absolutely love it. Apparently, it’s fantastic exercise for dogs and, particularly, Rottweilers due to their build and muscle.