Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Day After

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Warning: excessively long post. This is partly because my brain is a bit fuzzy, and partly because I had quite a lot to say.


One of my first waking thoughts this morning was: oh no, I've gone and made a fuss. Making a fuss is one of the cardinal British sins. We do not make fusses, we just Get On With It. It is bred in the bone.

The dear dog looked much better. The drugs are working. Her tail was thumping on the eiderdown and her nose was wet. She got up eagerly for her walk.

Outside, the weather gods were smiling. It was a high, clear day, with a gentle sun. In the woods, all the birds were suddenly singing. I do not know very much about birds, not like my friend the Man of Letters, who is my avian expert. Do they all go somewhere else in the winter, and have they now returned? Or were they there all along, but just not singing? Whichever it is, there is a wonderful spring chorus going on, and it lifts the heart.

The pigeons were cooing, just as they do on hot summer nights, and the woodpecker was making his low rattle, somewhere to the west. A flock of bright white seagulls had come in from the coast, and were disporting themselves in the south meadow. They looked quite beautiful against the pale grass, like something out of a 19th century painting.

And then I heard it: the high, evocative cry of the oystercatcher. There was just one, giddy with delight, flinging himself low over the burn, like a Spitfire coming back from a raid. He is the official harbinger of spring, and as I watched him, singing as he flew, I thought: everything will be all right.

We are very lucky here: we have a vet's practice of high excellence. There is the miracle of modern medicine. Her poor old ticker might not be what it was, when she used to gallop after rabbits at thirty miles an hour, or jump a three foot fence from a standing start like a deer, or swim in the burn like an otter, but my lovely old lady will get the most devoted care and attention. From my despair of yesterday, with the shock of diagnosis, comes a green shoot of hope: there is life in the old dog yet.

I came in and went to my desk, turned on the computer, and had a look at the blog. And there were THIRTY-TWO MESSAGES. It was as if all the dear readers had banded together to send a huge parcel of love through the ether. There were messages from old readers, who have been with me right from the beginning of this funny little enterprise, and new readers, who have just come to the blog, and readers who have been here for a while but never commented before.

I stared at the screen in amazement, overcome by the kindness and generosity and heartfelt words. I am slightly prone to hyperbole, but I do not exaggerate when I say that it is one of the most touching things that has ever happened to me. (Not for the first time, I wished that my dogs could speak English, so that I could explain to them what had just happened.)

I cannot reply to you all individually (still a bit at sixes and sevens), so I send out here a huge, huge THANK YOU. I wish I could express in words, without sounding gushy or soppy, how very much your extraordinary kindness means.

It was interesting too, because I have never had such a response to a post. There I was, worrying I had been self-indulgent, making the fatal fuss, written too much from raw emotion (and, let's face it, it is not as if I am in the middle of a revolution in Libya, or dealing with the tragic aftermath of the earthquake in Christchurch), and I was met with a perfect outpouring of generosity and concern. Many of you wrote of your own animals, and how much you understand the extraordinary hold they have over your heart. It was like a glorious explosion of empathy.

It is something I have written of before, and many of you pointed it out: the animal love is a very particular one, because it is so simple. Humans are messy and complicated, however lovely, but creatures exist in a very simple, atavistic way. The love given and received has a straightforward purity to it.

One of the things I think often about the dog love is that it is not only that they adore one unconditionally, not minding if one is a bit grumpy or out of sorts, or having a bad hair day, or fallen into melancholy; it is that they give one a place to express love, without let or hindrance. If you are a grown-up, you can't just go around hugging and kissing and stroking people. Even the most patient other half or sister or friend would get tired of that. But dogs can't get enough of it. So all that dammed up affection, which can't really be brought out in daily life, has a wonderful place to go. I think that, perhaps, it the greatest privilege they give to humans.

There will always be cynics who regard love for pets as a little bit silly. They are not people, they will say, brusquely. But they are fascinating, sentient creatures, who share up to 85% of our DNA. There are scientists in Hungary who are doing studies predicated on the idea that dog and human behaviour is remarkably similar. (You can read about it here. My favourite part is the description of an experiment where the words Do It were 'shouted in Hungarian'; for some reason the thought of special Hungarian shouting tickles me mightily.) I also love the thought that they are descended from wolves, so for all the thousands of years of domestication, we still have a little bit of the wild living with us.

Whichever way one looks at it, the pleasures and joys that our animals bring into our lives are keen and present and real. But I don't have to tell you that, because you know it already.

Today's pictures are of our morning walk. They are a little dog heavy, as you might imagine.

The light on the trees:

2nd March 1

Snow on the high hills:

2nd March 5

My favourite pile of logs, with the glorious Scottish colours behind:

2nd March 4

The light dancing on the lower part of the burn, looking south:

2nd March 7

My sister's snowdrops, which she planted over ten years ago,  are now growing in glorious, intemperate drifts:

2nd March 13

And off we go. I was never so happy to see tails up:

2nd March 2

2nd March 3

And that the appetite for inordinate amounts of sniffing is still there:

2nd March 11

And that the beauty of the Duchess remains undimmed:

2nd March 8

Some of you incredibly sweetly asked after the Pigeon. She does get very anxious when her sister is not well. She becomes restless and questing, and keeps looking to me for reassurance, in a rather heartbreaking way. But since things have improved today, she is much happier. Thank you so much for asking:

2nd March 6

And finally, the hill. I took three different views today, and what astonishes me is how different the light and the colours are in each one. Some people say, we'll always have Paris; I say, I'll always have the light:

2nd March 9

2nd March 9-1

2nd March 10

Thank you again.


  1. I am so glad that things are much better for you and the dogs today. As you say modern medicine does marvels and following doctors instructions should help. I am continuing my prayers for all three of you.

  2. Such wonderful news! Give the gorgeous dogs a hug from me.

  3. Ah, that is a blessed relief. But such a scare.
    I have had four dogs over my lifetime and will always cherish the memories and the thought of that unconditional love that they bestowed. Our first, Max was a black labrador. There are a few pictures of me (as a three year old) and he, allowing me to recline on him, or watching over me with a somewhat proud avuncular air. So the pictures that you share of the two ladies are particularly special.

  4. Mystica - you are so very kind. And thank you for your lovely thoughts from yesterday.

    Jonathan - Oh thank you. I WILL give them a hug. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

    Tilda - I love the thought of the tiny you and the dear sturdy Max. One of the things I especially love in my dogs is that they absolutely adore children, and will let them climb all over them, pull ears, tails etc, and take it all with a saintly air of patience. I wonder if it is a Lab thing.

  5. I am very glad to hear things are looking a little sunnier for you. I've just read both posts back to back and felt a huge wrench for you, firstly with the worry of not knowing what was wrong with her - and then finding out. From your posts and pictures it's clear to see you're giving both of them a wonderful, contented and happy life.

  6. Rachelea - what an absolutely lovely thing to say. Makes me a little teary (but in a good way). Thank you.

  7. Chin and tails up - that's the spirit.

  8. I'm so glad that you are buoyed today by promise of spring, the sympathies of your readership, and most of all by improvement in the Duchess's health. It's grand to see her and Pigeon once again enjoying the beautiful world they share with you. You know many people will race to their computers tomorrow to learn the veterinarian's report. Continued hope from Virginia for more years of love and happiness for all of you. - Minnie

  9. Am so very glad to read this, and am sending so much love and care and good wishes and gigantic hugs... for you and the pigeon and especially, for the dear old duchess. You will all be in my thoughts going forward, as you almost always are might sound silly but a little pocket of my mind is forever Scotland, Ladyships and the Hill.

  10. Jo - here is to chins and tails. :)

    Minnie - how lovely to get such kind thoughts all the way from Virginia. Thank you.

    Anne - that is such a very nice thing to say. It is making me smile.

  11. I was so sorry to hear of your dog's illness. My dog had the same thing, congestive heart failure, and with a strict diet and Lasix to control the fluid build up, lived another year and a half. He was 16 when we put him down, more for painful arthritis than anything, and I cried buckets. This was 12 years ago and I still have his collar and tags. Although I have always been more of a cat person, I love looking at pictures of your dogs each day. I'm hoping you get a good report tomorrow.

  12. Anon - so sorry to hear of your dear dog, although it was brilliant of you to get him to 16, which is a tremendous age. I am so heartened to hear that you got another eighteen months after the diagnosis. I am so hoping I can do the same.

  13. Maureen Gillespie2 March 2011 at 19:10

    So happy for you (and the Duchess) that everything is better today. Hope the cricket hasn't put too much of a damper on things :-)

  14. Tania - loving the 'green shoot of hope' and am willing it to grow. xx

  15. I have just read the two posts back to back as well, and I am so glad today has been brighter. You poor poppet, it's a horrible shock to receive that kind of news and why on earth would you not be upset?!

    I think your point about being able to lavish all that love on another creature being a balm to humans is a very good one.

    It sounds like you'll know more tomorrow. I have my fingers crossed for you. My (adored) small black and white cat sends you all a big purr - now how soppy and anthropomorphic is that?!

  16. Dear Tania, I'm so pleased the Duchess is alright. They both look very happy today. Gorgeous pictures xx

  17. So relieved to read of thumping noises on eiderdowns and wet noses!
    And of the Light putting out a most wonderful show and the oystercatcher making its Spitfire first appearance.
    That you all had a good day, that really what matters!

    I noticed time and time again that children and animals have an amazing power of recovery, much unlike us.
    Whatever the outcome tomorrow, I am quietly confident in many more wagging tails days like today.

    I big hug to all Three!!! xx

  18. Oh no, I miss out on one day's post and I feel like so much has happened and feel almost guilty about not having been there to send virtual encouragement and comfort, but just so glad that she is much better today. Of coure you have not overfussed, I feel so grateful that you share your lovely stories and pics of the girls with us. Inevitably it makes me think of my irascible old dog Ziggy who made it to 18 years. Cherish your beautiful moments with them, it's very very precious.

    my very best from Paris

  19. Don't your girls have the most wonderful home to roam and be dogs! It's lovely to see the tails up and spring arriving. So glad the Duchess is feeling better - and you xx

  20. Sorry to hear about your poor dog being ill. Our aged basset hound (fourteen and a half) has been on two types of heart pills for about two years now (at least). Glad to see today's photos after the trauma of yesterday. Wishing you all the best.

  21. Your post yesterday made me too weepy to even comment and sent me off in search of the old cat who got an extra tight squeeze, which was totally unappreciated, of course. I defy any pet owner not to be moved by news of another having a hard time, so I send you much love, Tania, and a special scratch for the old pooch.

    Especially enjoyed "The light dancing on the lower part of the burn, looking south". Lovely.

  22. Maureen - thank you so much. As for the cricket: luckily I have an Irish grandmother, so can count it a victory. :)

    Michelle - I hope there are green shoots where you are, too.

    Sarah - love the thought of the purring cat; thank you.

    Christina - thank you so much. So pleased you liked the snapshots.

    Cristina - you are so kind. Here's to the wagging tails.

    Liz - thank you so much. Ziggy sounds as if he was absolutely splendid; 18 is AMAZING.

    Em - what a lovely thing to say; thank you.

    Jennifer J - that is such brilliant news about yr dear Basset, and it has given me renewed hope.

    Maxine - lovely comment, thank you. Love the picture of you and the dear old cat.

    Really wonderful and kind comments again today; what a very dear bunch of dear readers you are. Thank you.

  23. I think your paragraph about unconditional animal love is one of the nicest things I've ever read.

    My cat might not be a person but he's better than most people. There aren't any humans who start purring with happiness just because I'm there.

    So very glad to hear that the Duchess is feeling better today.

  24. Alex - what a very nice thing to say. Love the picture of the happy purring cat.

  25. So glad things have improved. My own wee Dougal is now 14 and, as you can imagine I treasure my days with him. A long time to have the company and friendship of an animal with you through the days.

  26. Connie - thank you so much for your lovely comment. I love the picture of you with your wee fella. :)

  27. I'm so sorry to hear about the dog - those pictures are just so lovely,I particularly love the logs and the I been whining that I haven't seen enough snowdrops - thanks xx

  28. March 17th - what a kind comment. Esp glad you are enjoying the snowdrops, which now seem to feature every day. They came early this year, and so are doubly appreciated.

  29. I, too, missed yesterday's posting, being on a short R&R break and out of internet contact. I don't have any pets myself, but take the most enormous pleasure from those belonging to my friends and clients, and even from that perspective I had a lump in my throat on reading it.

    I adore the quotation that floated in from somewhere: "be the person your dog thinks you are".


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