Mungo arrived into our lives a few weeks ago... confused and scared, he had been rescued from a puppy farm, where he had spent the first five years of his life as a stud dog - without care, kindness or even a name of his own. His escape from this grim life was probably because he needed some expensive veterinary care, which he was unlikely to receive, unless he was surrendered into rescue - and fortunately for Mungo, this was the path that opened before him, thanks to the lovely folks at Friends of Animals Wales...
Following the removal of 33 teeth, funded by the wonderful Schnauzerfest charity, who supported all his veterinary costs whilst he was in rescue with FOAW, he then spent the first eight weeks of his new life with a kind and patient foster family, who began to teach him what it feels like to be loved...
Fast forward to the end of February, and this little boy had yet another huge upheaval when he moved yet again... this time to his forever home, with two little Lhasa sisters to show him the ropes. However, it is very clear to us that although he is completely free from that old life, the abuse and neglect has deep roots, and he is still beset by the demons of his past...
To begin with, he wouldn't eat. I wasn't too worried at first, because of the stress of his move, but after a couple of days he began to taste - and then he stood back and just stared at me. I suddenly got the message - he didn't like the bowl! I turned his meal out onto a plate, and he devoured it ravenously; so now, Mungo eats from a plate... and not just any plate - he has three rather beautiful Art Deco plates that we bought specially for him.
For all of us, it's a journey of interpreting feelings and needs... the tilt of an ear, the twitch of a tail or the droop of a head can tell us so much when we are prepared to pay attention. Unlike with people, there is no story to listen to, and be hooked by - we can only imagine what he has been through. Just like many people though, when we do not have the self-worth to believe that we deserve to have our needs met, it was clear to us that Mungo felt deeply unworthy of many things in his new life.
It's an incredible joy when he responds... the first time he came towards us and stood to have his head scratched... the first time he lay down next to us on the sofa... the first walk, with tail and ears up, and eyes bright... all of these things mark a small rite of passage for him - the sign that he has given himself permission to accept this part of his new life and, in doing so, hopefully also to release part of the old.
But here's an interesting thing. We chose his name because we liked it, and because it fit with our previous boy schnauzers (Theo, Hugo...). In an idle moment, I looked it up, to find out the meaning. It turns out that St Mungo is the patron saint of those who have been bullied, which is actually pretty perfect, and his feast day is 13 January. As Mungo didn't have a proper birthday either, that seems pretty perfect, too, just like Mungo himself...
We were granted the gift of a whole extra hour of weekend, thanks to the clocks changing, and I enjoyed Jim Connolly’s excellent blog on this subject yesterday.
Time is a precious commodity and, like water, we tend not to appreciate how precious until there is a shortage of it. Hugo is our oldest dog – at 14 we are now counting his remaining days like pearls slipping gently off a string. I’m not sure what happened to the tiny, fluffy soft-toy puppy we brought home in 1996, or where the glossy, energetic young dog has gone, who used to love the beaches in Guernsey. I remember walking along Vazon Bay one day and John saying he wished we could save a day of “young Hugo” to spend when he was old.
Hugo can no longer walk very far, but still enjoys a potter around the lawn and has a prodigious appetite for fallen apples, which he crunches up with tremendous satisfaction. He can no longer jump onto the sofa, but with a bit of assistance he can make it onto the furry beanbag which adapts itself very comfortably to his arthritic little body. Ensconced in front of the fire, he dreams dreams which make his feet twitch as if he’s running once more along Vazon beach – I think maybe he spends more time as “young Hugo” than we know.
Lily, as her name suggests, is a white dog. Well, usually she is white, but occasionally some other colours creep in to add a little variety…
Last weekend John gave the lawn what was hopefully one of the last cuts of the season, but the grass was terribly wet and the mower left clumps of wet cut grass all over the lawn. The dogs were all very excited about the fact that we were in the garden and decided to have a very mad game of chase. When Lily came in, her feet were a bright, fluorescent green…
Another of Lily’s passions is coal – for some reason she adores it and can’t resist eating small pieces from the coal bucket (quite a feat if it’s a bit empty – she’s a small dog – we’ve just never had the heart to stop her!). Always a bit of a giveaway, however, when she wanders innocently into the office – with black whiskers and black tips to her ears…
...and the Canine Members of Staff