I shall be trying very hard not to do with Stanley the Dog what I did with Red the Mare, which was to write of nothing else for the first three months. I still remember with smarting angst the moment a reader complained. I don’t know which was more disconcerting: being accused of dullness, or being called ‘woman’. (I’ve never understood that. As in: ‘come along, woman,’ or ‘get over it, woman,’ or, most horridly, ‘for God’s sake, woman’. I have never called anyone woman in my life. There’s absolutely no objective reason for there to be anything wrong with it, but it hits an odd, jarring note in my ear, as if there is something mildly patronising or even passive-aggressive about it.)
On the other hand, Stanley spreads before me a daily garden of delights, and some of them are too good not to tell.
The lovely rescue people at Many Tears said that his defining attribute, when he came to them, was sadness. I thought that there must be some lingering melancholy, some uncertainty, some trace of neurosis, but apart from a faint shadow of occasional anxiety in the eyes, I can find none.
Here, his default mode seems to be that of a very happy dog. He loves everyone, for a start. He has already enchanted The Mother, The Sister, and the lovely Stepfather. The World Traveller brought the middle great-niece down yesterday in the snow to meet him, and there was instant adoration on both sides.
This morning, at family breakfast, he was quite exuberant and excited, because there were so many new people for him to see. The Older Brother and his Beloved are here, and so it is a full house. Stanley bounced around, and I was a little worried for my mother’s china, so I said, very confidently and seriously: lie down on your bed. I was not even sure he really knew Lie Down; he has not so far responded to it. (He knows sit, and wait, and paw, but that’s as much as I have discovered.)
Bear in mind this was in my mother’s house, where he has only been once, and with people he has only just met. He looked at me and went and lay down politely, putting his front paws out neatly in front of him.
‘Did you see THAT???’ I yelled in excitement, almost causing my sister to choke on her egg.
‘I never had a dog that did that,’ said the Stepfather, admiringly.
Now, at home, when I say ‘on your bed’, he goes and settles on his bed. This morning, when we went down to the horses, he did not bark at them as he had on first meeting, but tipped up his nose and did an Eskimo kiss with Red the Mare, who lowered her head to him in gentle greeting.
He is learning so fast and settling so well and growing in sweetness so much that I feel as if the dog fates have gathered up all their blessings and hurled them down on me in a wild Christmas flurry of generosity. I don’t quite understand how I ended up with such a dear and delightful gentleman. I mean, of all the dogs in all the bars in all the world, I got Stanley.
One final bit of dearness. For the first time this morning, he rolled over on his back and gave me his stomach to rub. This is a huge act of trust and I took it as a fine compliment. He lay his head back and showed his tiny white teeth in a delicate lurcher smile.
I promise I shall not bang on and on. But I had so resigned myself to second best, after The Duchess and The Pigeon, been so convinced that no other canine could even get in the ball park, that this feels like a tremendous gift and revelation. It is a proper and good surprise, and I feel a bit breathless at my luck. There is Stanley the dog, galloping into the ball park, a bright flash of love and hope.
Too gloomy outside today for pictures. The sky is filthy and the snow looks dirty and defeated. Here are a few from yesterday:
Some interior shots of Stanley. My camera is not that keen on the indoor light, and so they are not the best pictures ever, but he looks so sweet and good I wanted you to see:
That face is where one sees the flash of uncertainty, the you’re not going to bugger off and leave me look. Answer is a big fat NO, never, not on your life:
Main thing is he’s got his ball:
That is almost as fine as The Pigeon when she used to do her Grace Kelly impression:
My girls. This is almost good enough for a caption competition:
Meant to say, a wonderful thing happened this week. There are certain of the Dear Readers who have been here for a long time and who give me glimpses into their lives. I often fret if I have not heard from them for a while, and wonder what has become of them.
One such was perhaps my most distant reader, in terms of geography, Michelle in New Zealand, who sent heart-breaking reports after the Christchurch earthquake, and once wrote that her daughter loved the Pigeon’s face so much that her picture was printed out and stuck on the fridge door. I always remember that absolute wonder and delight I felt that my little Pidge should be sitting in a kitchen in New Zealand.
Not long ago I realised I had heard nothing from Michelle for some time, and thought of her in the southern hemisphere, and hoped that I might hear from her again some day.
Anyway, Michelle is back. She has had a blogging break, and now she has returned. There was sadness, because she came back to the melancholy news, but, for me, there is a most keen pleasure to find her here once more.
The internet is so strange; it is most peculiar that I should be worrying for a person so far away, whom I shall almost certainly never meet in life. But there is a humming sense of community here, which is the thing I always wanted, and has come to pass, and so this return feels a bit like a family reunion. Welcome back, Michelle; it’s so lovely to have you here again.