This phrase was going around inside my head while I was sleeping, muddying up my dreams and rolling around as an earworm when I woke. The diagnosis from the vet had obviously seeped into my unconscious. My darling elder dog Harry, our champion fielder, the instigator of new cricket rules to cater for his exceptional agility with the ball in the outfield, is going blind.
We probably have twelve months until his sight goes, happy twelfth birthday Harry, have some light and shade instead of those pesky clear bits and jangly sharp lines.
The day I took this photo, I was smiling to myself at Harry’s resigned air of eternal suffering, “A bed, you bought the puppy a bed, I never had a puppy bed?” was the doggy thought that came most sharply to me. He looked at me conveying all kinds of woe and with a studied sulkiness climbed in with Monty. It was on this day that I knew everything was going to be okay between Harry and Monty the interloper.
This photo was taken six years ago when Harry was in his prime. A glorious Red dog who looks like his collie mother but has a good mix of his heeler father in there as well.
I bred Harry myself because we needed a fielder. David my son was nine years old when Harry was born and backyard cricket was often on the agenda. There is a story to Harry, there is always a story and Harry’s story is the culmination of all my other dog’s stories.
I had a beautiful Retriever/Hound/Spaniel who I named, Stay at home Mildred, Milly for short or Milly Ponting when we were playing cricket because she was very, very good in the field. Milly’s predecessor had been a red heeler bitch with the unfortunate name Gypsy, sadly she was true to her gypsy name and came to a bad end. I could often be heard, yelling at shadows, as I was chasing Gyspy down the road, “I should have bloody well called you, Stay at Home Mildred.”
Milly came to us when she was five weeks old and she grew into the best fielder in the world, especially when I was batting. Milly would only ever bring the ball back to me and I could always manage to sneak in an extra run or two. At four years old, just as Milly was coming right, she was run over deliberately by a drunken acquaintance, while she was out walking with Veronica and a friend, and sadly Milly died in my arms on the road.
I was furiously devastated and swore to never get another dog again.
In the background of our various dog adventures there was Tippy our border collie cross, our best girl, who The Spouse and I rescued as a pup pre-children. Tippy was equally devastated by the loss of Milly as the Tipster was totally deaf by this stage and Milly had been her ears.
Three weeks after Milly died I came home with another abandoned puppy, the universe often conspires against me when I say no to things, and so quite by chance I was given a little half starved collie cross. We called her Lady because she was very much a lady, and in hindsight Lady would have been the perfect companion for an elderly pensioner. Tippy at this stage was completely over dogs as she was coming up to fifteen and was far too old for any puppy nonsense, Tippy ignored Lady for the rest of her life.
Lady’s cricketing name was Lady Bloody Gilchrist, because if you threw the ball to her she would look at it and pointedly ignore it, and so of course the other fielders would have to chase the ball. Having a wicket keeper for a dog is unworkable when there is a small boy in the house who just wants to slog balls all over the place. When Lady was about eighteen months old I introduced her to a slightly insane but very handsome blue heeler down the road with the idea of breeding a proper fielder, Harry was the result of this whirlwind romance
The thing that was to be her eventual downfall, was Lady’s herding instinct, she mostly herded chickens, she was a collie after all and she spent a lot of time making sure my free range chickens stayed in neat little circles, bunched up like feathery sheep, barely able to free range because a loose chicken made Lady twitchy.
This twitchiness was Lady’s undoing and when she decided to move on from herding my chickens to herding the neighbour’s sheep, Lady had to go. Harry was four months old at this stage. Tippy had died of old age the previous winter and for the first time we were a one dog family.
But, when that one dog is a busy Heeler cross, one dog is plenty.
This tree always lost the apples on its lower branches and for a while I was blaming the wallabies. Until…
Harry has been my shadow for the past eleven years. He is slightly insane in a good way and if there were ever any shouty arguments in the family he would growl at whoever was doing the shouting, he also bites whoever is seen to be the aggressor in a punch up, he is very fair that way.
These days, Harry has arthritis in his hip and doesn’t beg for a game of ball as insistently as he used to. After three or four throws, with the flinger thing, he is happy to settle down in the sunshine and just chew up the ball. Harry also spends a lot of time sleeping in the sun outside my studio while I am working or underneath the table if the weather is bad. He is often asleep with his head on my foot when I am writing, or asleep next to my chair as I am faffing about watching telly and doing internetty things.
BUT this idyllic life of spending hours doing nothing, a life of ease and leisure, a life of artfully making a pretty pot or two. This peaceful life came to a spectacular crashing halt the day that The Spouse and I decided to introduce Monty into the mix.
Oh my word, Peace and Quiet is now but a dim memory and Harry and I are run off our feet, even the cat has lost weight.
We have always had busy active dogs, but nothing prepared me for the special kind of busy that Monty brings to our previously sedentary lifestyle. I have had to puppy proof my house, I have even HAD to do housework.
Housework! Of all the things that puppy makes me do, housework is the worst bit. Honestly, how do you people manage to do this housework stuff? I was quite proud of the fact that I hadn’t vacuumed since 2008 and now I have vacuumed three times in the past three months. It is EXHAUSTING.
I have had to move all my important things like last weeks newspapers and interesting bits of bark and curious rocks, up out of puppy height. This is like those vaguely remembered days of toddler proofing but on fast forward because the puppy is growing so quickly.
Gone are the days of me working quietly in my studio with Harry asleep on his bit of mattress under my table, the bit of mattress that Monty is slowly chewing to pieces, because foam.
Here is Monty, stealing my mask.
Here is Monty killing my mask, in the rain and the mud.
Here is Monty deciding that my lap is the best place to sit.
Here is Monty looking regal and HUGE.
Here are the dogs filling up my house, with their post walk nap.
Here I am, trying to have a snooze on the couch. Notice there is only one of us snoozing?
My poor neglected blog is also very neglected because sitting still is no longer done in this house.
WORK sounds suspiciously like WALK and if I say I am working, Monty will bound up to me with his lead in his mouth. He will SIT so enthusiastically, quivering with pent up excitement that there is nothing for it but to go and walk.
No work gets done whilst walking.
On the upside my dear internets, I managed to walk up ten flights of stairs the other day and I did not die, so there is that.
You might have noticed the tone of this blog post changed from start to finish, that is because it has taken me three days to write this post. I have come to terms with Harry’s impending blindness and we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For now we shall enjoy the chaos that Monty brings to our lives and we shall snooze when we can.
Finally after three months of chaos, this week I have found a routine that works, The Spouse takes over Monty duties at 12 noon and Harry and I go up to the studio all by ourselves for a minimum of two hours (inspired by Ang Walford’s, three hours in the studio) Harry sleeps peacefully by my side and I get some much needed time at work, not walk.