What I’ve learned in one year of being a puppy parent

 

I lie, it’s not really a year, not just yet, but today is Nerys’ first birthday! In light of this, I thought I’d take some time to impart some wisdom we’ve learned over the last 9 months that we’ve been sharing our home with a furry little terror, and recommend you the products we’ve found basically essential.

Note that Nerys is a border terrier so some of the products may not be suitable for bigger pups, but usually there are sized-up equivalents.

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this is nerys’ indoor treat blanket and her face at 11pm when we come home from working late and aren’t playing with her

Zac George is your new best friend

Before you bring home any dog, I strongly recommend you go watch a bunch of Zac George videos. Zac is a charming American dog trainer who is relentlessly enthusiastic and looks unsettlingly like one of my exes, but his explanations and insight into dog thinking and how to train them in line with that are top notch. We started out training Nerys with Zac’s instruction from day one which put us in good stead as we weren’t able to take her to a puppy class until she was 11 months due to a split first season. He uses positive reinforcement only —  keep clear of anyone who doesn’t, looking at you Caesar Millan, because negative reinforcement only teaches your pup to be afraid of you, while positive reinforcement builds a better bond between you.

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look at his adorable little face

Speaking of puppy school, if you are local to a centre then I strongly recommend Dog School at The Dog’s Trust. They have classes for puppies and adult dogs, both rescue and rehomed, and I have really enjoyed their tuition style. They are fairly affordable and the money goes back into the centres themselves, helping other dogs that need looking after. They also have a bunch of videos here that will help you teach your pup some tricks.

Crate training is a great way to go

Back in the beginning, we were quite skeptical about crate training as sticking a pup in a box seemed pretty mean. However, reading up a lot convinced us otherwise — Zac’s video helped a lot too! The extra upside is that on the first few nights your pup comes home, you can keep them in their crate in the bedroom so they don’t feel alone, and over the next few nights move it sequentially further out your bedroom into the place you want them to sleep. The only time we had puppy cries was the night she finally made it into the living room, and then it wasn’t for very long because her crate already smelled like her and us.

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The octopus in this crate lasted about 5 minutes and now resembles a mop, but she still loves him.

We got Nerys’ crate from Pets at Home, filled with cut-to-size Vet Bed from a roll we got online and also stuck it inside a Ellie-Bo Easy Up Pen, so she had her only little play space away from anything potentially chewable (we also stuck one of these in the garden to help with wee-time training!) The crate is basically fine, but now she’s older and less crushable she just sleeps in the bed with us, but will go have little naps in her crate in the day time and is useful for when we go stay somewhere new. Just a note — if you can get one that is adjustable in size, I would pick that as to start with a big crate can feel scary for such a little pupper. The one we got wasn’t adjustable in size, so we put a plastic box inside filled with blankets to make it appear smaller — weird but worked!

A few helpful teething tricks

Teething is miserable for them, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. However, one product made a world of difference — Vet IQ Teething gel. Essentially, bonjela for puppers. While the ice cubes, frozen towels, and Nylabone Teething toys got us so far, the gel made the experience much less painful for us. Once she’d stopped teething though, she did keep asking for it as it smelled pretty good so we had to take it away.

The greatest gift is amazon packaging

Or to be honest, any cardboard. Stockpile it if you don’t get regular supplies of boxes. It makes a mess but it will happily keep them occupied for a long time and will keep them away from your slippers/wires/belongings. Her particular favourite so far has been the Illumicrate book box cardboard, as its particularly sturdy stuff.

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Kong is the name to look for

First of all, investing in two or three puppy kongs are an extremely good idea. You can fill them with all sort of treats (and a quick google will find you lots of inspiration), and they can be frozen. We got three so we could have one in the freezer, one with the dog and one soaking in the sink at all times.

Secondly, their toys are brilliant and hardwearing. I particularly recommend the Wildknots bears — Nerys has a medium gray one for tug of war and a little tiny XS brown one she carries around in her gob. They have rope on the inside and a tiny squeaker over their heart.

Their wobble kongs are also a great idea for making kibble a bit more exciting, and we got Nerys the large one so she’d have to box it quite hard to get food out. It’s a bit like a big tasty punching bag.

Moving forward

Nerys is now a year old, so we’ve decided to change up where we get her food. Puppies always need to move their diet to adult food by the time they hit 12 months old, but we decided we’d give Tails.com a whizz as our friend Vanessa likes it so much. Tails.com designs your dog’s menu based on their age, breed, weight, activity levels. Our first bags are arriving this week, so I’ll follow up with how we’re finding it. If you want to try it out yourself, you can sign up here and get a month’s free trial.

Good luck new puppy parents, and send me all the pictures!

Oh no, she’s at it again

Hey remember when at some point last year I said I was going to try and slow down and stop doing so many things at once and then I blatantly did not do that and set up a micropublisher with some friends?

Err, well. I’ve kind of done it again.

Not a full publishing house this time, I’m sure you’ll be glad to know. But a book. A book that I’m editing. A book filled exclusively with the writing and art of autistic people.

A lot of it is still hush hush, but the bit I can tell you is that I’m looking for authors and artists who are autistic people of colour to submit pitches for the book. The pitch guidelines and the details are all here.

If you fit the bill, send me a pitch. You can even just send me an email asking questions — that’s okay too!

It would also be really brilliant if you could share it within your networks. You never know who your tweet could reach, and the way this book will be the best it can be is through representing a wide range of voices.

Stay tuned for the inevitable series of posts about how I want you to now go buy it…

Happy birthday to me | Hux Tales

This week was my birthday.

Not my real birthday as in the day I emerged into the world, twenty three days late and pretty mardy about it; that’s back in September.

But this day is my real birthday in another way. On Monday was one year since I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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I’m sure it probably seems weird to celebrate a diagnosis, but hear me out.

I have spent my whole life knowing I was different, but not being able to put my finger on it. There were certainly parts of my personality and interests that were different from many of the other kids – nerdy, book obsessed, awkward, not remotely interested in fashion – and a regular target for bullying. I managed to get through school and university by surrounding myself with like-interested people, good kind people who didn’t mind that I was a bit odd, or even better, cherished it.

It wasn’t until I was 27 that a friend of mine was diagnosed with Asperger’s that I started realising this was probably the missing keystone. This friend and I have long joked that actually we must have the same genetics, as we both have non-epileptic seizures, wonky joints, an insensitivity to gluten, anxiety in all the same places… and it was only when I looked into Asperger’s* that I realised it was me.

That realisation was really freeing. I had a name for my differences, for how I saw the world, how I experienced it. And I immediately stopped beating myself up about it. Once I got the final stamp of approval pictured at the top, the last vestiges of attempting to remodel myself as a neurotypical person flew out the window. I’m autistic, I’m different, and that’s actually really cool.

I also looked extremely cute this week tbh

It is not a panacea, of course. Being autistic isn’t all super awesome, as it comes along with a bunch of comorbid conditions, both mental and physical health. I still have the hang ups, the trauma, but I genuinely care less.

I used to celebrate November because (and this is going to sound weird) it was when my seizures came back after my last trip to the Philippines. This marked a seriously dark time in my life where I realised I had to give up diving, but being the person I am, I refused to let myself slip into that place, got a job at a marine focused charity in London and carved out a new life. That is what I used to celebrate, the refusal to let my body get the best of me, remembering that each change to my life is an opportunity for something new.

I’ve now switched it over to my Autism Diagnosis, but essentially the reasoning is the same. I found something new out about myself. My life changed. But I still have control of it. It is still very much my life and I’m in the immensely privileged position to be able to live as I do.

What has changed in the last year?

I got Nerys! She’s my little daemon and also my emotional support dog. In the UK, this type of service dog has no legal recognition but they are a big deal in America, so I hope one day in the future they’ll be recognised. Basically, she goes everywhere with me, she helps me feel less anxious, she reminds me to look after myself by looking after her too. She’s helped me knock a big chunk of my anxiety about going outside out of the park (not literally) and means I go outside much more.

At 5 weeks old on the day we met and at 9 months old

I stopped being a booksellerMy health was making working in a bookshop very difficult and so it became unsustainable to continue working such a physically demanding job. I miss aspects of it every single day, which is why my social media has become so book intense.

I came out as nonbinary! This is something I have sort of known about myself forever, living in the space of not-girl and not-boy, but only having the word “tomboy” to describe it. In terms of the “I always knew” narratives of LGTBQ lives, while I didn’t know I was queer for a very long time, I have had what I now recognise as gender dysphoria for much of my life. But, it wasn’t until I started reading about autism, and how many of us are trans, the intersection of those two identities, that I realised that I was two for two.

I’ve been out-ish to some people in the past few years as I felt it out (admittedly, mostly only to other non binary people and Tim), but this year I started using the phrase more, talking about it more, told my sister and my parents. I’ve been thinking a lot about pronouns, and whether I ever want to masculinise my appearance to be a bit more in line with how I see myself. At the moment, I’m sticking as I am, feeling out my happiness in open about it. I’m considering buying a binder, though I’ve found that throwing out some clothes that would trigger my dysphoria has really helped. For now, sports bras do the trick and aren’t incredibly uncomfortable to wear.

I moved in with my inlaws! Tim and I realised that our rental situation was financially precarious and moved to the West London suburbs to live with his parents. We are incredibly lucky to be able to do this, and they’ve been really caring and kind to us. We both miss our old flat a lot, but I was waking up overstimulated every single day due three building sites semi adjacent to our building. It was the right decision, not least because now I get to see fields from my window.

I helped start a independent publishing press! Literally I’m never going to stop mentioning 3 of Cups Press, go admire our website and preorder our first book On Anxiety which publishes in January!! We are launching our second book on Kickstarter in early 2018 and submissions for our future books shortly after that, so follow us on Twitter, sign up for our newsletter and get ready for a 2018 of amazing new authors. I’ve got a bundle of other creative things that I can’t announce right now so I’m positively vibrating with secrets.

Writing it down… wow. A lot has happened. And you know what? I feel great about it. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself lately, so I say happy birthday to me.

 

* A little aside: in the UK, people who fit the Asperger’s criteria are now more likely to get an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, but my report made it clear that I also fit the Asperger’s profile. Asperger’s has been integrated into ASD along with a couple of other conditions.

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them there or in a larger Q&A type post.

To All the Weird Jobs I’ve Done Before | Hux Tales

I have realised, my dear friends, that on this blog I have a habit of not oversharing. Which is weird, because I’m a habitual oversharer in real life. Being autistic is not great for understanding social niceties and so I am extremely likely to tell you too much. Though to be honest with you, I think that’s partly who i am as a person.

Anyway, it’s weird for me and I have a bundle of book posts in drafts as I’m trying to move my habit of 5 books on X topic over from YouTube to here. In order to fill the time, I asked on Twitter which of a few more personal posts people wanted to read and a story-time about my weird career path was the winner.

I haven’t always been a book person. I say book person, because I have several bookish hats – blogger, publicity and editorial at 3 of Cups Press, and also a writer, working on my first novel (aren’t we all?) As a child, I took refuge in our local library down the road and our tiny little former classroom library that I was in charge of – a fairly poor attempt at keeping me vaguely interested in primary school, as we had nothing that resembled a gifted and talented programme.

But somewhere along the road, books and I went our separate ways. Growing up in a working class area meant that I literally didn’t know that people could work in books, thinking that accessing that particular sector was only possible through some ceremony equivalent to deification. I can think of a particular moment in time that solidified this – as a teenager something incredibly traumatic happened to me that I then tried to work out through thinly veiled fiction on the internet that was discovered and I was forced to destroy. This is why getting back into writing has been such a slog, though this is a story for another time.

And so began my life of weird jobs that eventually brought me back to working in books after some pretty weird diversions. Here’s a few of them.

1. Measuring snails… yes seriously

My love of books has always been rivalled by my love of the natural world, and habitual reading of Lucy Daniels had set me on being a veterinary surgeon, though trickaloo turns out you have to do a lot of work experience before you can start a degree, and as someone working at least 16 hours a week alongside school that was not going to happen. So, I decided that I’d study Zoology, picking the University of Liverpool as my future home, where I specialised in marine biology. Fast forward a few years, and your boi was a research diver.

In between my degrees I lived on an island in Honduras helping re-set up a conservation association that had regained its funding, while learning to dive, which I carried on doing in the Philippines the following summer, where I studied the dive industry, monitored coral, and saw a lot of cute sharks.

My experience in the Philippines then landed me an amazing, once in a lifetime job travelling around the centre of the country over four months studying aquatic snails. I’m being 100% serious here, that’s what I was doing.

Why were you doing this?, you ask. We were looking into how damaged coral reefs affected mollusc populations, both snails and beautiful bright coloured sea slugs called nudibranchs. This meant I got to dive in some of the most pristine reefs in the Philippines… and some of the worst I’ve ever seen. I mean you could barely call some of them a reef anymore, as they had been so degraded by dynamite fishing in particular. It was the most immense, wonderful and tough time of my life and I do not regret a minute of it.

2. Being put in charge of teenagers’ futures

Okay, I wasn’t ~in charge~ thank goodness, but I have had a number of slightly odd jobs in schools. When I was studying in Liverpool, I began working with AimHigher who were a wonderful and extremely important group that helped students from underprivileged backgrounds think about their future careers and access university if they want to. However, due to desperate need at a school in Birkenhead, I became a regular teaching assistant for GCSE Maths, top and bottom set only. I carried on working for them when I moved to York, where I ended up teaching debate skills to a cohort of year 8 students in a middle school in Northallerton. Both of these times worked out well because the kids were generally pretty well behaved, and any time they were talking out of turn about Call of Duty, I’d slide in and correct their incorrect opinions about which was best in the series then tell them to be quiet. They’d be so baffled that a girl who was also kind of a teacher knew things about games that they would actually get back to work.

3. Now, if you’d like to apply this vibrator to your nose

For a short time, I worked for Ann Summers as a party planner. Generally, I do not recommend working for multi-level marketing companies, but on this occasion it did genuinely work out pretty well for me, as I had a regular group of students who’d organise free parties with me every time loans came through. It was a pretty great job – I’d turn up at someone’s dilapidated and damp Smithdown road house, be handed several glasses of wine and proceed to tell my willing audience about sex toys, with a little bit of sex ed thrown in for good measure. We’d all get fairly drunk, they’d fill out their order forms, and a week later everyone would show up to meet me at the student union to pick up their order of fairly made vibrators and poorly made underwear.

After this, I made some more traditional ventures into sales by working for Gamestation, which then became Game, and Waterstones.

So what now? Do you even work?

Well, now I don’t work. Or rather, I don’t work in a way that looks like work to many people, no 9-5 in sight and a lot of it from bed. When I worked it was a vicious cycle – I’d have a few seizures, I’d be put on “sick leave watch”, my mental health would plummet and take all my other health problems down with it. My quality of life ended up being really quite terrible, never seeing my friends and falling asleep the minute I got through the door. It was no life for me, or Tim, who as my carer had to support me through all those ups and downs.

My prerogative is 3 of Cups Press, eventually finishing my first novel and living a good life with Tim and my dog, Nerys, but I also have all these ridiculous memories I can look back upon, and many more to make.

Got any questions for me? I’m going to start doing more Q&A bloggy posts on here, so ask them in the comments and I’ll get round to them! 

3 of Cups Press, or how to avoid writing your book by setting up a publishing press

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I’ve been talking a lot about 3 of Cups Press, and asking people to pitch me pieces.

This is because, somehow, myself and the most wonderful comrades have set up an independent publishing press. That’s right. After saying I was going to focus on my book and get into Write Now Live, I’ve completely gone against that plan and set up something very exciting and off plan. But there we go.

I’m really lucky to be part of such a wonderful team and have such amazing artists send us pieces to include in the first book, which will be launching on Kickstarter VERY SOON. Our ethos is all about uplifting marginalised voices, and giving artists platform to share their stories, through our anthologies and individual books as well.

So please, check out our lovely website and sign up to our mailing list on the Contact page and even follow us on Twitter. We’re creating something magical and I want you to be a part of it.

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I’m Finally Doing It (and like 3 other projects, stop me)

Since Nerys came, things have been a little less regular on the blog and especially my YouTube where dust bunnies are gathering in the corners. Being a puppy mom takes up a lot of time, as you’d expect, and my plans for some articles and videos are sitting on the side lines.

And they’re getting sidelined even more because of a couple of things. The one I’m going to tell you about is….. *deep breath* I’m going to enter Write Now Live.

Write Now Live is a scheme by Penguin Random House specifically for BAME, LGBTQ+ and disabled authors, whereby ten are chosen to be mentored with the intention of PRH publishing their book.

Now, I’m fully expecting not to get to the final 10. I’d like to get to the big day in London, but I’m using the deadlines for WNL as deadlines to get my book done. This last week I’ve done 3 days in a row of 3 hours a day of solid editing and rewriting. While not much, this is a lot more than I have been doing in the last few months, so I’m counting it as a win. I’ve currently got 30,000 words drafted of manuscript, expecting to edit, chop and add stuff into this to bring it up to ~45000, or half way through the first book… because I’m writing a trilogy.

So yeah, things are going to be quiet on here for the next month potentially, but I’m hoping that needing distractions from my own terrible writing will drive me to book reviewing. I have a stack of 10-12 that need addressing already.

So yeh, wish me luck guys. I don’t think WNL are looking for gay fantasy YA right now, but I’m serving it them anyway.

Sorry I’ve been away; there’s been a lot of puppy poop

Hello chums,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s been rather quiet over here because, in case you don’t have me on any of your social media, I got a puppy this month!

“Her name is Nerys, she’s a Border Terrier and she’s 12 weeks old.” I’ve gotten used to repeating this script over and over this week as walking with her in arms anywhere means a lot of people come over to coo at her.

This is a big deal as I’ve wanted a dog for years to be my pal and help keep me company through seizures and meltdowns, and it’s happened! We’ve had a good fortnight of bonding and now I have to get up and do some work, while also keeping one eye open to spot for rogue indoor wees.

I’ve managed to finish a few things recently so the blog will be getting updated fairly regularly this week, and I’m also still backdating reviews from various online retailers onto here, because I’d never kept them all in one space… like some kind of silly person.

Anyway here she is.

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More soon. x