Well... we'd had the cushions a long time... (observent folks will note that they feature with Daisy in the image at the top of the page) and as we learned from Winifred in the last blog, we should welcome change. Winifred brought that home to us quite clearly (she is insistent in her teachings, and wants everybody to appreciate them) when she decided that the cushion was clearly boring and needed redesigning - and she's right; it does look much more exciting and unique now!
Winifred has two specific times of day when she likes to let her inner puppy out to play - one in the morning, just after breakfast; and the other in the late afternoon, before supper. The rest of the time she spends mostly sleeping at the moment - walks are not yet permitted as she hasn't had all her vaccinations. However, we took her out for her first trip around the lanes with Mungo yesterday evening; even being carried her little nose was whiffling interestedly at all the sights and smells she could take in from her vantage point... Robbie the horse was a huge fascination for her!
It's quite clear that her puppyhood, although never before allowed an outlet, is still within easy reach of her tiny paws... there would have been no toys in the puppy farm, and yet she knew just what to do with the selection in the toy box - and rifled through them all to discover "Rubber Pig" buried and forgotten at the bottom (last played with by Hugo and kept for sentimental reasons - he did used to be "Squeaky Rubber Pig" but... well... things change...).
I believe very firmly that we can't develop in a strong, congruent manner unless our foundations are secure. Just like a building, we pass through a variety of stages and challenges throughout our lives, and we have to have a good outcome at each stage in order to keep our building stable... and if we don't, then psychotherapy can help us to get it back on track. (If you are curious, there is a lovely model by Erik Erikson that describes this lifelong development.)
For dogs, of course, psychotherapy is not possible - although dogs tell themselves much less complex stories inside their heads! Mungo, having spent many more years inside a puppy farm, has a much less stable building than Winifred; even after two years, he still doesn't know how to play. Winifred is embracing toys, games and chasing with all her tiny heart - and guess what... she is showing Mungo how it's done.
We’ve had a lot of rain this week here in Scarborough, and the canine members of staff have not been impressed. When we open the kitchen door to the garden, instead of their usual joyful and enthusiastic egress, they will look up with an expression which quite clearly reads, “In this weather? I hardly think so…” and will take mortal umbridge when we insist.
Daisy is particularly funny in this respect – she will wait by the door for it to open, decide she does not like the look of the weather, then continue to wait until we open it again for her – just in case it has magically changed in the intervening 20 seconds or so. When finally convinced that the weather is unsuitable for a Lhasa Apso of her diminutive stature, she will then cross to the other kitchen door, which leads to the car port and, eventually, the front courtyard, and wait there instead – because it’s always possible that while it is dark and raining in the back garden, it might yet be sunny in the courtyard…
On Tuesday evening, it had been particularly wet and, as John was going out again, he had left the courtyard gates open when he arrived home from work – a state of affairs which completely eluded my consciousness when I absent-mindedly let Daisy out of the kitchen side door, at her request… She often likes to spend quite a long time pottering around the courtyard, so we didn’t immediately miss her – and actually it was only when an extremely wet, muddy, bedraggled and very happy Daisy wandered back in through the open gate that we realised she had been on a further adventure than we knew!
After the sad loss of Hugo earlier this month, we’ve certainly noticed a feeling which I can only describe as “less dogness” in the house. Hugo had a big spirit, and although he was sleeping for 23½ hours out of every 24, he was still very much present. Even with the four other canine members of staff we were left with a space; a vacancy, if you will…
Of course, the laws of physics state that nature abhors a vacuum. We should not have been surprised, therefore, when a candidate obligingly appeared this weekend to audition for the Hugo-shaped space in our lives…
Snippets is a black and white poodle – at first glance resembling a small, rotund and anxious-to-please sheep, she has a perpetually wagging tail and a pair of dark, liquid eyes under a cascade of ringlets which serve to give her a distinctly rakish air. Lily and Poppy came with us to the kennels to collect her and hardly batted an eyelid at the sudden appearance of this woolly little being who was lifted into the back of their car without so much as a by-your-leave.
Within a few hours of her arrival, Snippets was becoming a part of the team. Despite being summarily removed from her old environment and placed somewhere with absolutely no familiar frames of reference, she seemed to take everything completely in her stride. Showing her round the house, she had no hesitation in trying out the sofas (and the beds!) for comfort and sat down by the Aga as if greeting an old friend.
It’s interesting how like Hugo she is in some ways… the shape of her face, the expression of sweetness in her eyes, certain little quirks of character which are starting to emerge as she relaxes into her new home, and even her size all serve to remind us of our absent friend.
Snippets is a very good fit for that Hugo-shaped space in our home and our hearts, and it seems as though, like all of us, she is exactly where she is supposed to be.
Lily is an extremely determined lady. If a bit of biscuit (or a frozen pea – particular favourite!) makes a bid for freedom and escapes beneath a kitchen cupboard, then she will always be the first to draw attention to it by snuffling and scratching at it until either she manages to extract it or you give in and assist.
Since the ice has finally thawed on our little pond, Lily has discovered a new interest. Whatever it is (and frankly we probably don’t want to know) is so deeply fascinating that she now spends far longer in the garden, but unfortunately for Lily it’s something she cannot quite reach… None of the canine members of staff enjoy frolicking in water – Daisy is particularly funny in this respect and will go a long way out of her way to avoid stepping in even the shallowest puddle – so deliberately jumping in the pond is, for Lily, not an option. As she develops her strategies, however, she has clearly experienced some unwelcome feedback with a couple of early theories which resulted in her requiring some time for contemplation in the dogs’ hot tub (otherwise known as the utility room sink). Like Edison with the development of his light bulb, to Lily this does not mean failure – she is simply finding different ways which do not give her the result she wants. I am sure, given time, she will achieve her goal.
Poppy arrived today – and has been greeted by general adulation from all of us. A happy and contented little soul – she has settled in remarkably quickly, completely unfazed by the other three canine members of staff, who have also been remarkably unfazed by this unexpected addition to their ranks.
Poppy now has the joy of discovering the delights of carpets and sofas; coming as she does from a kennel environment which, although scrupulously clean, was nevertheless a little on the spartan side. Once it stops raining, she will also have the pleasure of exploring the garden – what excitement awaits amongst the herbacious borders!
What would happen if we were all to explore our world with such wanton curiosity? Maybe we would discover the untold secrets and pleasures that lie all around us, if only we have the ability to pay sufficient attention to what our senses are telling us.
...and the Canine Members of Staff