Thursday, 29 November 2012

A new arrival; or, the dog stories get even shaggier

Sometimes very sweet and unexpected things happen. This morning, I got it into my head that Stanley the Lurcher must have the softest and most delightful sheepskin rug for his bed. I generally do not like actual dog beds; I find them rather dispiriting. My old girls used to sleep on a combination of sheepskins and precious Welsh blankets and one of those soft paisley eiderdowns that they don’t make any more.

Sheepskins are very easy to get in my neck of the woods; they sell lovely ones in the butcher’s. I assumed that in the west country, famous for great sheep, they might be ten a penny. Not a bit of it. People looked at me in astonishment when I asked. I was resigned to the failure of my Great Plan. Luckily, there were several excellent blankets in the car, but still, it was not quite the same.

As a final throw of the dice, I went into a country market in Frome. I did not have much hope by this stage.

The market was packing up when I arrived. Nearest the door, three ladies of a certain age were clearing trestle tables of some unsold plants. ‘I haven’t taken any money today,’ I heard one of them say.

Then, next to a couple of woody geraniums, I spotted something furry sticking out of a huge black bin bag.

‘Excuse me?’ I said. ‘But those aren’t sheepskins by any chance?’

‘They certainly are,’ said the ladies.

They certainly were: the finest, biggest, deepest, softest sheepskins I’d ever seen. I hate to say this, but they cast our small, tough Scottish ones into the shade. Somerset sheep must be the most luxuriant in the country.

The day was saved. I shelled out wads of cash to the smiling women, expressed my unconfined joy, somewhat to their surprise, and felt that the whole thing was a perfect sign.

The lovely boy is lying by my side, on his new five star bed, as I write this. We have had heroic walks; I have discovered that he knows Wait, Sit, and Paw. He is a little anxious, in the way that rescue dogs are, but is adapting like a Trojan.

‘I am your person,’ I tell him, gravely. ‘I’m not going anywhere.’

He’s a very, very different type from my glorious old lab-collie crosses. He is lean where they were soft, questing where they were calm. I remember them mostly as old ladies; he has the vigour of gentlemanly youth. Also, I’m used to bitches, and a dog is a novel proposition. Even my equine herd is composed of females. Getting used to a fellow is a new thing entirely.

It’s perfect that he is so different. You do not replace a dog, any more than you could replace a human. Even as I watched his lovely amber eyes in the rear view mirror, driving through the west country, the green fields gleaming in the sun, I was washed with a wave of grief for my Pigeon.

Oddly, this new love makes the loss of the old love almost keener. The point, really, is not to mend my heart, but to mend his. I won’t feel any less sad about my Dear Departeds, but I shall have a new creature to love, and to be responsible for, and to offer a new, hopeful life.

As I always say, over and over, I don’t think one fixes sorrow, or gets over it, or even heals it, really. I think that, in time, there is room for joyful things, so the pain can be balanced by the pleasure. The lost are balanced by the found; the dead by the living.

Mostly, I believe in stoicism, and it’s an awful lot easier to be stoical if there is a dog in the house.

And now there is, in actual living fact, STANLEY THE LURCHER. I love him. I love you, too, for already taking him to your hearts. It’s a slightly odd thing to say to strangers, but, bugger it, I’m way past the point of good old British reserve. Today, it’s all about the Love.


Today’s pictures:

It felt like a sign too that today was one of the most beautiful of the year. I woke at five-thirty, mad with excitement, to a vast, humming moon, so bright that I thought for a moment there were army helicopters outside the window. That gave way to a limpid, lavender dawn, which in turn transformed itself to a sunny winter day of such clarity that I could find no words for it.

I managed to snap a very few quick pictures for you, rather late in the day:

29 Nov 1

29 Nov 5

29 Nov 2

Turner skies:

29 Nov 3

29 Nov 4

Stanley the Lurcher, on his first day. Look, look, he can do Pigeon BLINKY EYES:

29 Nov 10

Elegant profile:

29 Nov 11

(That horrid little yellow thing is just to say he is micro-chipped. It will soon be replaced by a smart engraved tag.)

The Amber Gaze. I suspect there will be quite a lot of that, over the coming weeks:

29 Nov 13

See how clever and alert he is?:

29 Nov 14

Two people who shall be waiting to meet him, taken on the day I left, in their frosty blue field:

29 Nov 22

The Originals, who remain always stitched into my heart:

29 Nov 30

Oh, those faces.


  1. Oh he is SO handsome! What a lovely chap. And how lucky he is to have found you. x

  2. ‘I am your person,’ I tell him, gravely. ‘I’m not going anywhere.’
    Lucky,lucky Stanley. Stanley of the wonderful ears. How old is he? No I always think that sounds quite rudely personal so, to rephrase, what age is Stanley?


  3. Beautiful beautiful amber eyes. Adore him already.

  4. Oh, how I waited for this post and kept checking iGoogle every ten minutes. Stanley is one lucky dog. He is also very beautiful and extremely photogenic. I am so happy for you and for him. And happy for myself because he certainly does not seem to mind the camera. What a wonderful life dear Stanley will have. We don't stop making new friends when old friends and loved ones die, he doesn't take anybody else's place, he will find his own place in your heart and life. Congratulations!

  5. He really is a handsome gent! The depths of those eyes. I am so very, unashamedly happy for you! Yet bizarrely, I have learned more about grief from you than any book I have read or film I have seen. I wonder if you will shirk at that accolade; as who wants to be known as the grief lady? But the fact is, your words are so very powerful and TRUE. There I go with the capitals again. Welcome Stanley, I hope it helps to be a dog person again, as you were always destined to be. Lou x

  6. He is so beautiful and I'm so glad you found each other.

  7. I wonder if Stanley has an inkling of how lucky he is. I love how he blends in perfectly with the Autumnal colours. He clearly belongs with you, in this beautiful part of the world.

  8. My rescue dog Kip and I are very happy for you--I as I sit sniffling at my desk, and he as he wuffles under it in his sleep.

  9. Oh, Stanley, what a beautiful boy he is! I can't wait to hear more about him. Naturally he will never replace the beautiful Duchess and Pigeon, but how glad I think we all are that we, too, have somebody new to love here.

  10. Isn't Stanley heaven? I love his ears and the amber gaze. So delighted for you and particularly for him. Also, since Myfanwy got so woolly, she looks just like an extremely naughty charming Welsh pony I had when I was little - wonderful winter pictures of her.

  11. As others have said - what a lucky dog Stanley is. I look forward to hearing and seeing more of him.

  12. Your Stanley is very handsome! And those eyes - don't you get the feeling of an old soul there looking out at you? I think he knows that he is home with you. Best, Kate

  13. Oh, his amber eyes. I am utterly fawning over him.

  14. Those ears are as hilarious as his eyes are dear. You say it all with, 'The point, really, is not to mend my heart, but to mend his.' Just wait until he settles into his new life; he has no idea how lucky he is.


  15. Quirky ears and intense eyes. What a love. Any idea what breeds went into him? Lurchers are a sight hound cross working dog. Long dogs are sight hound cross sight hound. (at least that's the principal difference). He looks like he should be swept up in arms and cuddled, with raspberries blown on his soft tum. Which probably paints a picture of how badly our dogs are treated! Um and sight hounds - well, keep him on a lead until you know that you can recall him safely. Also believe there is a lot of information and a strong lurcher community in the UK. Juliette Cunliffe wrote quite a good book, Sight Hounds, their History, Management and Care, which includes a chapter on lurchers. May be useful.

    Love the first photo of the ivy growing on a cut branch.

  16. Oh, that ear. A touch of the rogue in this fellow. If he had a hat it would be cocked over one eye.

  17. oh, Tania, it's all so wondrous, the day, the sheepskin, and Stanley, even as the hole is still in your heart. Love indeed!

  18. He IS a very handsome dog!
    And he loves the camera -- or it loves him -- as much as the other members of your lovely tribe.

  19. What a lovely looking dog! I remember reading somewhere that a dog can't leave a will when he dies, all he can do is leave a warm bed for another who needs it. xx

  20. CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am so pleased to make the acquaintance of Sir Stanley, and await with breathless anticipation his compatriot, Dr. Livingstone, I presume.

    My attendance here on the farm has been rather spotty due to National Novel Writing Month, but I am happy to announce that I did, in fact, meet the 50K words by Nov. 30th deadline, and I now have something that very much resembles a novel! I have no publisher, no editor, nothing more than a keen sense of accomplishment, which should last me at least until December, I think.


  21. He is gorgeous! It looks like he is still a youngster? You are going to have so much fun. Hello Stanley, my young Jack Russell would be bouncing and wagging his tail for France if he saw you. so happy for you both.

  22. Such beautiful autumn colours in the photographs. And oh, oh, Stanley's amber eyes!

  23. Lucky Stanley, wow, he must have done something right in a previous life to have ended up with you. He looks adorable. You are going to be so happy together. Rachel

  24. Apart from all of Stanley's brindle magnificence, his white bib and tucker markings are really rather special.

  25. Oh, that left ear. Beautiful pictures and it all looks so 'right'. Glad you were lucky enough to find each other. How excited Stanley will be by his new Scottish home. Look forward to more tales as he settles in and meets the rest of his new pack.

  26. I am half in love with Stanley already and so happy that he has found his person. How lucky we are that you share your handsome companions with us.


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