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:
Snow on the high hills:
My favourite pile of logs, with the glorious Scottish colours behind:
The light dancing on the lower part of the burn, looking south:
My sister's snowdrops, which she planted over ten years ago, are now growing in glorious, intemperate drifts:
And off we go. I was never so happy to see tails up:
And that the appetite for inordinate amounts of sniffing is still there:
And that the beauty of the Duchess remains undimmed:
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:
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:
Thank you again.