Posted By Tania Kindersley.
I wake up very very early, let the Pigeon out, read the fall-out from the AV vote and pretend that I am taking in all the subtle political ramifications, and then decide to go back to bed. I drove five hundred miles yesterday; I am going to do some lounging, dammit.
When I finally do get up, I realise why I have been putting it off. It is not so much that I am weary, although I am, it is that we must take the first walk with only two of us.
I don't want to make a great song and dance about this. I shy away from those people who take a set-back in life and blow it up into a five act opera. I think I might have been a bit drama queeny once, in my twenties, but now I am stumping into middle age I admire stoicism more and more and try to emulate it.
So I almost don't want to write this. But there are ghosts everywhere. Last night, sitting on the sofa, with the Pigeon huddled up against me, I kept looking at the place where the Duchess would arrange herself, black and beautiful on the scarlet carpet, staring up at me with her level, yellow gaze. The walk of course was peopled entirely with phantoms. I had not thought of that. The burn, the lawn, the beech hedge (which she used to dive under and then emerge back out of, making the whole thing shiver and rustle), the woods, the long slope of rough ground where the gorse grows. She was there, and there, and there, and there.
We turned a corner and I saw the Pigeon looking back at me expectantly, as if she had spotted something and wanted to know what she should do about it. I had taken my spectacles off because of tears. (Better out than in, says the voice in my head.) I put the specs back on and saw a young roe deer, stock still in the middle of the path, regarding us gravely. The Pigeon also stood still, looking back at me to see if she could chase. The best thing I ever taught the dogs was not to chase deer. I used to live next to a keeper who told me bloodthirsty tales of does protecting their young from dogs by bringing up their front hooves and smashing them down on the dogs' heads, carving their skulls clean in two. Now I think about it, I'm not quite sure that can be true, but for a long time I lived in dread of the defensive skull-splitting deer, and both dogs knew it was the one thing they could not pursue.
I shook my head at the Pigeon. She looked disappointed but resigned. The deer turned, sauntered away, as calm as if he were tame. When he got to the fence, he gave a bounding jump, and disappeared among the sheep, who affected to ignore him.
'I've got not time for deer,' my friend A always says. 'They eat everything and what do they do? What do deer actually do?'
'They look pretty?' I venture, tentatively.
'Well,' says A. 'I'm not buying that Bambi shit.'
Anyway, the deer did look pretty, and I was glad we saw him, and it stopped me from blubbing for five minutes. It felt, as it always does with the deer, very slightly magical.
The sheep did even better. The sheep actually made me laugh. They have been brought down from the hill into the south meadow, and all the mothers are doing their proud mamma thing, and all the lambs are tiny and obedient. Except for three very naughty ones, who are racing up and down the front of the field as if they are practising for the Olympics. I never saw lambs do proper running races before, but that is what they are doing. I think: oh, oh, I hope the black one wins.
The Pigeon pays them no attention. It was the Duchess who would stare beadily at sheep, remembering her collie blood, as if knowing she was supposed to do something with them, but could not quite recall what.
I stand and watch. Two piebald ones start leaping up into the air, a pure vertical jump, all four legs off the ground. They seem to do this just because they can. Then they frown at each other, remember that life is earnest, life is real, and start butting heads like Spanish rams. Then there are more hundred yard dashes. The other, good lambs, look at this from across the meadow, half envy, half disapproval. I'm not sure I saw anything quite like it before.
I think: if the sheep can make me laugh, then everything will be all right. I think: that is life, right there in that field.
No pictures today. It was raining.
This is the last one I took of my two girls together:
I just read this through. It all sounds quite rational. I believe in rational. There must be no startling of the horses. In my head, I am actually saying to myself the one thing if someone else said it to me would make me want to shout and throw things. I am saying: Come on, it was a dog, not a person. There are humans dying, that is much worse. But my sister says: Love is love. And she is right.
That dog was only a dog, but she was such a damn good dog. She was fine and beautiful and funny and quirky and elegant. She gave us all joy. She was my constant companion. I miss her so much it is like someone has carved a piece out of my side.