Covid coronavirus pandemic lockdown / self-isolating tips with dogs / english cocker spaniel advice, grooming, training, mental stimulation tips / Perfect cocker spaniel book and pet blog / Cooper, Fred, Natalia Ashton (C)

Self-isolating with two dogs | Week 1

“We are always getting ready to live but never living…” Ralph Waldo Emerson

How much can things change in a blink?… Alright, this blink was a slow-motion kind of blink, but nevertheless, it felt like all the time suddenly squeezed into a short, brief moment of fear, helplessness and anxiety. Then exploded and sharply divided the entire course of life into the past and the future that will never be the same, as planned or whatever it’s going to turn out to be like… The “never make plans” joke suddenly became the new motto. At least, that’s how I felt.

And then… then I had my boys. The reason to carry on and smile. I honestly have no idea how I’d be without them.

So… we are self-isolating. The four of us. Two humans and two dogs. 24/7. It feels like we could enjoy the time together, yet the stress and the news make it ash’y and grim at times. A bit like Christmas post apocalypse.

The boys have been amazing, to be honest. I was, of course, concerned about them and the absence of walks. I took them out a couple of times, but then some cyclists stopped by too close to us and I ended up so anxious, I couldn’t breathe. At the end, I simply knew that I could manage the pups at home, and it would most likely be quite good for Fred to reduce the stimuli for a bit.

Our first week went better than I imagined. I made sure to stick to the boy’s usual schedule sans walk, which got replaced with play time and training sessions. A bit like living through days when the weather was too bad for proper walks.

We get up. Coop and Fred have their breakfast, use the garden and relax for an hour.

The walk would be next, but since we are at home, we either pop out to the garden (so grateful to have this little green space!) or stay in the living room with a garden door open for some fresh air. The hour is then dedicated to training or games. I have a few different plans for the boys, so one day we learn new tricks, next morning could be dedicated to puzzle toys or food searching games, then – calming exercises and training, and so on.

Fred usually likes to finish these sessions with a quick ball game while Coop prefers to relax on sunny spot and watch how the chocolate fury and I make complete fools of ourselves.

Then they help me with the chores, fall sleep, and I write or study until lunch.

At lunch the boys get some licki mats and garden play time.

Then we have one more training session in the afternoon. This one is usually dedicated to “faux agility” as I named it. Or we trick train.

A bit more studying, house work and writing for me – and nap time for them until dinner.

In the evening we eat, relax, watch tv. The boys have another nap. Then we do a bit of grooming and spend some time in the garden.

Come late evening, the two are usually napping next to my desk, to I can continue with my course work or spend a little time on social media and reading the news. And I watch The Durrels and some old movies… My reverie.

And then we all go to bed…

I know it’s not very eventful, but for now it’ll do… It’s safe and it keeps others safe, too.

How have you been? 


Image credit: Cooper & Fred photographed by me


Oscar, perfect English cocker spaniel (C)

If only…

Every action has its reasons, but some need time to be understood… Last night I was standing in the garden gazing at the dark endlessness above me. The Sirius was as bright as ever. I was waiting for the boys to finish their night time routine, but my mind wandered off thinking of the boy I lost…

Suddenly I realised why I started this blog and why it helped me so much. I could have written a journal, yet I chose to trust my thoughts to the world wide web. Somehow sending these posts into the vast nothingness felt like I could, time and time again, send a message to my baby, his soul… resting and waiting for me somewhere on the other side of the Universe.

I miss him. So much. Every day of my life. The sunny days. The dark days. And every one of those days I think of how wonderful it would be just to have Oscar here with me, with us. And how much he would love the house, the fields and the boys. And how happy I would be just to have him near… even for a moment.

We had every chance, all the time and so much left of the future to live happily ever after. If only



Fred, chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel puppy posing in a wool scarf / Perfect cocker spaniel book and dog blog / cocker puppy tips, advice, how to hand-strip cocker spaniel, cocker spaniel diet, training, best foods (C) Natalia Ashton

Fred. In a scarf.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the boys. So today is all about Fred. In a scarf.

I believe this sort of diary post isn’t something of public interest, but I love this photo so much and I will never forget how we took it.

Initially, I wanted to photograph them together. But Fred, who has never worn any fashion gear before, really wanted a portrait. I wrapped him in my scarf thinking that the boy will protest or run away to play with it.

I was wrong. Fred was a pro! I think he actually felt proud sitting and posing for me. The camera clicked and clicked and clicked, but my beautiful spaniel stayed there motionless until I was happy with the shot.

He is fabulous. Just fabulous. And I love him to bits.


Photo credit: Fred photographed by me


Fred, my chocolate and tan english cocker spaniel pup / Perfect cocker spaniel blog & book / English cocker spaniel grooming, training, advice, health, puppy tips / Natalia Ashton (C)

The world according to Fred

Fred fascinates me… Watching him is like getting through a mind-boggling puzzle where every little step in the right direction feels like a huge victory. Fred isn’t the easiest pup, he is… complicated. And I love it about my boy. He teaches me “stuff” about myself and I learn to see the world “according to Fred” in return.

Oh, the world… I think, in Fred’s mind the world is a very, very smelly place indeed. And that’s what makes it so captivating for him. The boy’s sense of smell is nothing I’ve ever seen in any of my dogs before. It’s like his brain is wired to follow the scent in the most sophisticated manner.

Fred sees through his olfactory. At home the pup loves to sit in the middle of the garden, nose into the sky – soaking up the scents and watching, observing, learning…

Every time we are off for a walk he runs out of the house and knows that a bird is hiding in a nearby hedge, somebody he likes recently walked down the street, the dog he isn’t keen on – has been for a walk already, some cat will soon appear from around the corner, the bunnies are hopping through the field and a family of daft pheasants has just been out for their wonky promenade.

We often let him lead otherwise he gets a little bored with the rest of the “pack”. We are too ordinary, even Coop… Once done, Fred glances back at me waiting for a praise and a little treat, which he’s been aware of (obviously!) since it got hidden in my pocket.

And then we smile at each other and continue our journey through the world that, according to Fred, is filled with a rainbow of smells.


Photo source: taken by me



Cooper and Fred featured in Country Life October 23 issue / Britain's naughtiest dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel blog and book

My guys made it to Country Life mag

Long time ago, somewhere in the midst of summer, I shared a little story about Cooper and Fred on the Country Life’s Instagram. Shared and forgot for it was in the midst of summer and how can one remember a little message when surrounded by fragrant flowers, mesmerising butterflies, endless fields and the sun that fills the entire horizon.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the mag yesterday and saw our names in it! They published the story on-line, too. Coop didn’t win it, no. He was chosen as the Highly commended, which I think would please him immensely regardless.

I loved the article. It was such a beautiful humorous read accompanied by the most charming illustrations by John Holder.

And the boys look amazing on-line… The Country Life team featured two of my most favourite photos that I’ve taken this year.

Cooper & Fred, Perfect cocker spaniel cockers on Country Life magazine website / britain's naughtiest dogs 2019 by Victoria Marsden / Natalia Ashton / english cocker spaniel humour, advice, tips, history, puppy first year, grooming and more, book and blog
So many things to be grateful for. Feeling like a proud happy mummy right now.

Photo source: cover of the Country Life October 23 2019 issue via Country Life

Natalia, Cooper & Fred, two english cocker spaniels / lessons our dogs could teach us / all about English cocker spaniels / puppy tips (c) Perfect cocker spaniel / photo by Elizabeth Clark Pinkfeet photography

Cocker spaniel habits we should adopt

I am grateful to my dogs for many things in life. I feel like they taught me a lot, helped me find my true self and even inspired my book. My spaniels are my life and I adore watching the boys every day, sharing their discoveries, little joys and moments of happy madness. Dogs have their ways of being here, creating their own world and travelling through it next to their beloved companions – us. And I think we can pick up a few habits from our beautiful cocker spaniels because it can transform our life – and the future as the time goes by, too…

Wake up with a smile. Because good vibes start with a simple stretch of a few facial muscles.

Kiss often! Kissing boosts dopamine and endorphins (for happiness), oxytocin (for emotional attachment), reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormones), cholesterol and blood pressure, and strengthens the immune system.

Be outdoorsy! Get out early, breathe in fresh air, dip your paws feet into the morning dew and run away from hustle and bustle of reality, mobile devices and city noise. “Walking is the man’s best medicine” – sharing it with the man’s best friend is as perfect as it can get.

Eat at set times and never skip meals. It’s good for your body and your mind. Your cocker eats “on the dot”? Join his schedule and you are likely to trim your waste line, reduce blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels.

Appreciate the power of quality sleep. You may be tempted to stay up till midnight and maintain your energy levels with so much caffeine it can easily replace your blood, but deep inside you know it’s not brilliant. Look at your cocker – he gets up early, goes to bed on time and never says ‘no’ to daily naps. This is what makes them more productive, ready to embrace every day, process information much better, and look beautiful.

Don’t judge people – love them unconditionally regardless of their status or appearance.

Don’t be afraid to love with passion – “there is always some madness in love, but there is always some reason in madness…”

Life is all about simple things. Happiness is not about having an expensive collar with a gold tag, a huge pile of toys or a palace to live in. Don’t overcomplicate – instead enjoy living the life you’ve got and make the most of it.

Photo source: me and the boys photographed by wonderful Elizabeth Clark / Pink feet photography


Cooper, sable english cocker spaniel / how dogs understand our words and conversations / how to talk to your dog / Perfect cocker spaniel blog & book (C) Natalia Ashton

Conversations with my dogs

It’s been a while since it happened for the first time, but I still remember that moment clearly. A passer-by turned his head, looked at me and said “Pardon?” “Oh, I am just talking to my dog”, I said. He glanced at Oscar… his eyes travelled from the smiling face of my furry boy down and then up back to me. The man was definitely a cat person. Otherwise he’d probably join our little chat or smile back at my boy. Instead the guy rolled his eyes and walked away.

And so did we… enjoying our morning stroll and conversation. Oscar was a very good listener. Coop and Fred turned out to be the same. My little ears and confidants.

I thought about it yesterday when me and Coop went out for a little walk together. Coop is a talker. He may not speak human, but he surely compensates that minor inability with his facial expressions and certain sounds. Talking to him never feels like a one-way conversation. It’s always, always a proper chat.

How much he understands? I don’t know. He reads my emotions like a trained psychologist and interprets any gestures with an expert precision. But the words?

All my boys have a certain vocabulary. They know a bunch of words and cues. And just like all dogs they pay the most attention to the first word they hear and any new words that I suddenly use. The rest of the speech is more like a blurry noise, really. Though it doesn’t stop us enjoying our dialogues. The more time we spend together observing each other and learning our little habits, the more fulfilled our conversations become.

It’s more than words. It’s our little bauble of a world where nobody else matters. Including cat people and those who aren’t prepared to listen to a dog who always had a story to share.

Photo: Coop photographed by me