Thursday, 7 February 2013

Meet Dudley.

A few weeks ago, I was accosted by two smiling gentlemen in the Co-op.

‘Would you like to sponsor a Guide Dog for the Blind?’ they asked, politely.

‘ARE YOU JOKING?’ I yelled.

They looked slightly startled.


Their smiles were, at this stage, a little stretched. I think they thought they must have found the most peculiar woman in the village. It did not help that this was the day that I had gone out with a small nest of hay caught in my scarf.

I calmed down. ‘Where do I sign?’ I said.

The surprise, it turned out, was not just because I was having a little trouble with my volume control. I often shout when happy or excited. It was apparently because most people say no, or at least have to be persuaded.

I understand this. First of all, we are still in recession. Second of all, everyone has their charities. You can’t do every single one. I constantly have to refuse those people in light-reflective tabards in the London streets.

But guide dogs are so up my street they could have been designed for me. I’ve always supported general charities for the blind, because I so value my own sight. I often think of all the things I do without even thinking, simply because I can see. The simple act of reading a book or driving a car or looking something up on the Google are all things I mostly take for granted, until I stop and wonder what it would be like not to take them for granted at all.

I did not know that you could sponsor trainee puppies. There is an incredible woman in our village who has a guide dog in training. I see them, out and about, the puppy in his special kit, easily recognisable. I always stop her and make her tell me how he is getting on and what they have been doing. I think she thinks I am a bit odd (we have never been formally introduced), but she very kindly humours me.

This encounter in the Co-op also happened not long after The Pigeon died, and I was feeling sad and raw and probably a bit sentimental about beautiful black dogs. One of the young canines available for sponsorship was a glorious black Labrador, so the kind gents really did not have to ask me twice.

Anyway, I rather forgot about it after that. There has been quite a lot going on. And then, this very morning, the postie delivered a fat envelope from Guide Dogs for the Blind, and there was a picture of my magnificent fellow. He is called Dudley. I had quite forgotten that too.

I exclaimed out loud, in delight. I was so antic with joy that I actually held the photograph up to Stanley, and said: ‘THIS IS DUDLEY. Yes, look, Dudley.’ Stan gave the picture the once over, sniffed it, nodded his head in approval, and then went back to searching for the small sticks which he stashes all over the house.

I have already brandished the picture at the Horse Talker, the Pony Whisperer, the Mother and the lovely Stepfather. Everyone has to see this very special canine, who will make a proper difference to someone’s life. I could not be more happy if I had trained him myself.

So today, meet Dudley, the newest addition to the family. It may be by proxy; he may live in Northampton; I may never see him in real life. All the same, he feels like family to me.

Here he is. He looks like quite a serious chap, probably because he knows he is getting ready to do a proper job:

At six weeks:

Dudley at six weeks

When he was just beginning his work:

Dudley 2



DUDLEY. It’s too much.

And today’s regular pictures:

I actually managed to retrieve the photographs I took yesterday, after all that. Here are a few shots of HorseBack, where I went for a good meeting:

7 Feb 1

7 Feb 1-001

7 Feb 1-002

You can see the snow was coming back in over the hills.

Gus the Foal with his mum:

7 Feb 2

I love Gus the Foal. He is afraid of nothing. He comes right up to me and tries to eat the fur on my hood, the toggles on my coat, and the strap on my camera. He makes me laugh and laugh.

Garden, with very first signs of spring:

7 Feb 6

7 Feb 8

7 Feb 9

7 Feb 10

7 Feb 11

7 Feb 12

7 Feb 13

7 Feb 14

The little herd, from a couple of days ago, when the sun came out:

7 Feb 14-001

Sometimes Myfanwy looks like a unicorn princess. Sometimes she looks like a very, very muddy little pony:

7 Feb 15

Red the Mare, happy as a bug with her hay:

7 Feb 16

The extraordinary face of Stanley the Dog:

7 Feb 17

The hill, so white and bright it is lost in the sky:

7 Feb 22

I’ve been missing this person a lot lately. No special reason. Just have:

7 Feb 18

As I was going through the archive, looking for a Pigeon picture, I randomly landed in the summer. As we trudge through the ice and snow and sleet, over the muddy ground, or the rutted frigid earth, the Horse Talker and I speak wistfully of green grass and sunshine. Of course we are tough women of the North-East, so mostly we just get on with it. But sometimes, with our shoulders hunched against the weather, and our fingers numb with cold, we do dream a little dream. It’s quite hard to remember what gentle warmth even feels like. Then I found this picture, and it brought it back to me:

7 Feb 15-001

Look at the crazy polo muscles on her neck. I’m letting her down now, because I want her soft and relaxed. She’s not a working horse any more, not in that way. She’ll probably never look that fit again. I love her new easy incarnation, but she was rather remarkable, wasn’t she?


  1. Dudley is such a cracking name for a dog. I'm all about human names for animals, hence Colin the cat.

    Also: Red looks utterly incredible in that pic. Not sure I've seen a horse with such muscle tone.

    1. Isn't Dudley the most perfect name? And it goes so well with Stanley. As for Red, cannot tell you what the muscles were like when she first arrived; her neck was like a brick wall. Now she's like a velvety old teddy bear. :)

  2. I am so glad you are sponsoring a Guide Dog. I think I might have to do it in honour of my aunt who died at the end of last year. She had some magnificent guide dogs over the years. They were lovely and faithful and oh so very nice.

    I've always thought about how they are once they've finished working and it is possible for people to re-home retired guide dogs too

    1. Siobhan - love the thought of your dear aunt and the faithful dogs. :)

  3. YAY for Dudley and YAY for you! And I can't help chuckling at you, with your "regular pictures". Your "regular pictures" are what most of us would consider the most wildly wonderful ones, especially if we actually lived there with those creatures and that hill and those trees, in the best place on earth.

    1. Marcheline - that is such a lovely thing to say. I'll take wildly wonderful, with knobs on. Smiling a lot.

  4. I raised a guide puppy once. It was so fun taking him everywhere and exposing him to everything. He was rejected because of a bad hip and came home to me after one day in guide dog college to live out his days as a pet. Dudley does look like he is taking his job very seriously.

    1. Heather - what a wonderful thing to have done. :)

  5. Dudley is a darling. As is dandy Stanley and your dearly departed. And my Milly.....

    1. Kath - love that Stanley is now a DANDY. :)

  6. I didn't know that the beautiful Red had been a polo pony - she's always reminded me of my much-missed Chennie (short for Kachenga) - now even more so! I love reading about her (and the rest of the herd ... & Serious Stanley!) and often get a bitter-sweet pang for times past. Keep up the brilliant work xx

    1. Kate - so know the pangs. Red was being trained for high goal, but turned out not to have the required shark-like instinct. Too soft, bless her. This does not surprise me as her current favourite thing is laying her head over my shoulder and going to sleep. She occasionally shows high flashes of her thoroughbred blood, but most of the time she's like the sweetest, dopiest old donkey. :)

  7. Well done for your sponsorship of Dudley. My father-in-law had a Guide Dog called Carla for several years until he passed away suddenly. Luckily, the Guide Dog association allowed my bereaved mother-in-law to keep her on as a pet, "retiring" early. They do such a marvellous job, I agree. Regarding the names, I know that when Carla was born, the entire litter was given names beginning with "C" - all human names, as someone else said. This was how all litters of potential Guide Dogs were named - they worked through the alphabet, as far as I know. A lady who trained at the same time as father-in-law (in Forfar), had a lovely dog called Norman (a black labrador). Lovely, heartwarming blog, thank you. It will be a pleasure to see how both Dudley and Stanley are getting on. Canine cousins!

    1. Jennifer - so interesting about the names. I especially love Norman. :)

  8. Welcome Dudley! Goes so well with Stanley. And, oh, a black lab...

    Great news you are sponsoring Dudley. My mother has always sponsored a puppy in my daughter's name. Apart from the wonderful work they do and joy they bring it's a lovely way of 'having' a dog when you can't have a dog due to travel, space and two wild cats. Hurrah!

    1. Em - Dudley and Stanley does sound like a pair of old music hall troupers...:)

  9. Love those Dudley pics- what a fine companion he'll make. And good on you for sponsoring him. I've sponsored two guide dog pups before - both black labs too. There's something so remarkable about guide dogs. And having been told the sole purpose of my left eye is to balance my face, it's one charity that's rather close to my heart!


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