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.
‘TAKE ME TO THE PUPPIES,’ I bellowed.
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:
When he was just beginning his work:
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:
You can see the snow was coming back in over the hills.
Gus the Foal with his mum:
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:
The little herd, from a couple of days ago, when the sun came out:
Sometimes Myfanwy looks like a unicorn princess. Sometimes she looks like a very, very muddy little pony:
Red the Mare, happy as a bug with her hay:
The extraordinary face of Stanley the Dog:
The hill, so white and bright it is lost in the sky:
I’ve been missing this person a lot lately. No special reason. Just have:
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:
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?