Just over ten years ago we bought a car which thought it was a van. Or maybe it was a van which thought it was a car. It was a good car van. It was functional, utterly practical and so, so roomy inside. It was a silver Peugeot Partner, almost identical to the Citroen Berlingo and the good points about it (in no particular order) were:
sliding doors for the back seats which made it easier to unload/load young children in car parks without them opening car doors on to neighbouring cars;
you could stand a Phil&Ted’s double buggy in the boot without folding it down;
you can fit a lot of luggage, children, dog, presents for Christmas all inside the vehicle without needing a roof box;
the number plate included the letters LE……GO which I always thought was fabulous;
it had a CD player (meaning we often had dozens of CDs in the car – even some for the adult travellers);
it was so tall we could always find it in car parks;
it was so ugly no one ever tried stealing it;
you could tell where the front of the car was for parking because you could see the headlamp bars (not sure it needed them, but they did help in that regard);
most of the doors worked most of the time;
it was not a car I needed to be precious about with children in, so it was allowed to get untidy and there was so much capacity in the foot wells we could get a full load of shopping in there (much easier than opening the boot);
I have transported all kinds of large furniture in it (beds, mattresses, book cases and even a dresser);
the boot was big enough for eating fish and chips in;
pretty good visibility and a high driving position;
a glove box which held together really well with gaffer tape;
storage everywhere – practically a caravan in fact – I loaded it to the roof when I helped my mum empty her parents’ house – and we could fit all the guinea pig stuff (including the hutch) in the boot.
It was a car we took to France. A car we took our children around the UK to meet family and friends, take holidays, eat picnics. The car we brought the dog home in.
We replaced the front windscreen (several times). The battery. The starter motor. The boot door. The tyres. The cam belt. The rear bumper. The wiper blades. Various bulbs. I learned how to take a wheel off by myself on this car. It was pranged one Christmas but was very forgiving. Yes, it was noisy, bulky and boxy, but it was a car we grew very attached to. Our son would lock himself in it when he was not in the mood to leave it and go indoors. Our daughter would insist on putting the music on, even at (no, perhaps especially at) junctions when we were concentrating on traffic. We gave lifts and sang badly. Well, I did. We tried to fit a roof top box – even bought the special spanner – and then realised it wasn’t going to happen. The necessary bits had rusted through.
It was a workhorse of a car, and the only one we’ve had for several years now, but it was getting more unreliable, and besides, we wanted to move on from diesel.
So, in the usual way with these things, we spent the past few years assessing what our next car should be, and settled on a Golf SV. We then made a longer shortlist. A long list. Shortened it. Consulted the children. Consulted the dog. Reduced the list. Settled on a Golf SV again. It is not a trendy car. Jeremy Clarkson has nothing nice to say about it. This stands in its favour in my opinion. When one came up which met our specification, we went and saw it last weekend, and part exchanged yesterday.
Our boxy brute of a car is sold.
Ready for auction (well, aside from the glove box, the dodgy door and the necessary deep clean). It may have enough life in it for someone to make good use of it for a while – I hope so. And I hope they have use of the official dog guard, which we won’t be needing any more as it doesn’t fit the Golf.
I do love the new car though. All the doors open. It has many buttons, and I already know what some of them do. I finally found the CD player – in the glove box. Which opens. It has a sun-roof (the car, not the glove box, as far as I know), which was high on my list for years. It has enough cup holders for a sports team. We bought it from a dealership in Essex, it has a Suffolk number plate and now lives in Cambridgeshire. Who knows how long we’ll have it? Perhaps it will also take us on many adventures.
New year, new car. But, to move forward, we have had to let go. It’s a lesson I think my old car had been trying to teach me for some time.
Or, maybe it wanted to go to a car wash, to let go of the winter muck.
Or, maybe it wanted a part in Frozen. And just couldn’t let it go.
It is almost a year since we met Faye, at Epiphany, at the King’s Lynn kennels of the Retired Greyhound Trust. We took her home at the end of February, and each month I’ve blogged about how things have been going. I still feel – much like parenting children – as if we are at the start of the adventure; every month we move forward in confidence and experience, and every month Faye manages to surprise us with more of her character, or quirks. Yesterday I got my first dog-related injury, when she tried to help as I was leaning over to collect my muddy trainers. Her skull is still intact, but I got two split lips and a sore tooth. No major harm, thankfully. Perhaps it is payback for forcing her to wear a reindeer hat.
With Christmas approaching, I thought I’d better help Faye learn about the new smells, textures and experiences she might come across. I took her to the village Christmas tree, which she was indifferent to (except for sniffing where other dogs had got there first), and I showed her that tinsel looks exciting, but is not for playing with. She was keen at first, but realised that it was not a toy.
After this I decided that she must be very clever to learn what is and is not for playing with; I let her have a large amount of packing paper from an Amazon box. She loved it. She spent twenty minutes or so joyfully pulling it into shreds with her teeth and playing in the paper. And then she squatted and weed on it. So now we have learned that Faye must have used newspaper when she was younger to amuse her and to line her toileting area. Oops. A quick distraction to get her away, a bin bag and some pet-friendly carpet cleaner did the job however. No more indoor wees!
On the final day of term I dressed Faye up in her festive attire and took her to school to collect Lily and Joe. She got lots of smiles (as usual) and children coming up to see her (as usual) as well as extra comments on her antlers. Children are not discreet when it comes to commenting on something they have spotted, so it was clear the hat was popular with the crowds.
After the end of term we spent a couple of days recovering, but still had to get up and walk and feed Faye. I am actually relishing the discipline she has brought to my life in this respect. I am not a great morning person, but over the last few months I’ve been able to cultivate a really good morning routine for getting things done.
Faye will wait very patiently for her morning walk. If she’s really ready she might even lay her head on the bottom stair. Such a chilled out dog! Most of the day is spent lying down somewhere or other – I’m amazed she manages to sleep all night after a heavy day’s napping.
We went up to my parents-in-law in Blackburn for Christmas. We’d asked about borrowing a roof-top box for our car as we knew it would be a tight squeeze with all five of us and gifts, but the fittings weren’t the right size, so we had to jam everything in. Faye did not complain at all. She loves car journeys and was excited to revisit NT Clumber Park en route, with the finished ‘Central Bark’ cafe, other dogs, lots of squirrels and Christmas decorations. The dog-friendly cafe is one of several eating options, but has space and provisions for dogs with their owners. Faye was quiet and well-behaved, but we hadn’t realised that not all the other dogs would be so relaxed.
When we arrived, Faye needed to sniff around and investigate. She had a place to sleep, but wasn’t keen to use it – there was a noisy grandfather clock nearby and she wanted to be at the bottom of the stairs instead. For two nights she woke us several times with whining and whimpering, so Matthew had to spend some of the time sleeping downstairs. Thankfully she relaxed and got the idea by the third night; excellent timing and much-improved sleep for us, as ‘not a creature was stirring’.
She spent a lot of the time asleep, but also loved staring out at birds and squirrels. We allowed her a few treats, but not too many as she was unsure about eating usual quantities of her regular food in a new place.
We took her to a couple of parks in Blackburn. Corporation Park has lots of steps; Faye managed most of them, but wasn’t happy when water was running down one set and wanted to go through brambles instead. Other times she wasn’t quite sure what to do.
At Witton Country Park there were lots of other dogs, and Faye enjoyed a little bit of off-lead time, running and chasing. She is a real show-off when other dogs or new people are around, and tends to run even faster. There were longer walks to do and places to explore. Great for canine enrichment.
It was certainly colder in the north, but when she’d been running she got warm, which is why she doesn’t have a coat on while she was looking at the rabbits at Witton. (And has she been secretly been learning to read? Joe’s been reading to her, but I don’t think she really listens properly.)
It’s almost the end of the year, but what a super year it has been here. Adopting Faye has brought real joy to our lives and enriched us all. May 2019 be a joyful year for you too, and one where you can make the most of every walk, treat and opportunity to snuggle down in front of a warm fire.
Faye was not impressed this month when I finally got around to chopping up daddy’s old, threadbare dressing gown so that she had something cosy to wear on cold nights. On the first night she managed to escape from it, and even shook her house collar off in the process. Subsequent occasions proved no better; it must have felt all wrong, or smelled funny. I had seen a lot of hounds wearing lovely PJs on the Facebook groups I joined for Greyhound owners, and after some thought, and in order not to have to put the heating on when the temperature drops at night, I ordered her a fleece nightcoat, in racing green. Ok, olive green, but I’m sure she goes pretty fast in her dreams. The colour doesn’t really show well here; perhaps she’s dreaming of accelerating quickly enough to fly. Superdog! I was able to order her fleece from the Retired Greyhound Trust here.
November is a month for fireworks, and dogs are known to get very frightened of the loud noises and sudden explosions. Faye is not keen on surprises, but she didn’t seem to mind any fireworks we encountered on twilight walks. However, I didn’t want to have her worried when the major local events were on. Our daughter Lily is averse to the sensory overload of fireworks events with thousands of people, distracting music, smells of food and a long wait in the cold, followed by noise and shocks. This year Lily, Faye and daddy stayed at home, while I took Joseph to the display.
We had found when we first adopted Faye that having a calming oil plugged into a socket near her bed had been valuable in settling her, and we have a spray we can use out and about if we need to. In the end, with her relaxed attitude to fireworks we didn’t need to calm her down as it happened. She’s far more likely to yelp if she is worked up about going out for a walk. Crazy girl.
A first for us this month was a trip to the vet for a growth on Faye’s back, in her shoulder area. The abscess had been there for quite a few weeks and looked harmless, but we weren’t sure what to do about it. Greys, like other dogs, can get spots and growths, but this one kept growing and didn’t look too good to me. It was also painful for her. An internet search had given me some nerves over the many possibilities, so in the end I booked her in to the vet and went along to see what they suggested. The vet was very good and shaved the area before piercing it; we were both relieved to discover it was a simple abscess and nothing dangerous to Faye or that would need cells sending off to a lab. It had already grown to the size of a broad bean, but thankfully is healing up well, and at this time of year her shaved area won’t be on display all that much.
While I was at the vet I asked for Faye’s microchip to be checked, which was worth doing as we learned it had never been properly registered to us, despite adopting her in February. I have chased this up with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain and registered her as our pet. They keep records of retired racers and having our address and details associated with Faye’s microchip is very important to me, just in case she ever runs off and is found by someone else. (She does have my number on her collar, but that does occasionally come loose).
Faye has really enjoyed cosy evenings at home by the fire, especially if she has has the opportunity to tear up a cardboard box or a good ear rub. She has to get her walks in a little earlier at weekends if she is to get out while it is still light, but even sighthounds use their noses a lot, and she gets very excited about finding interesting* smells.
*Interesting for Faye might include: small animal smells, checking other dogs’ weemails, occasional fragrant plants and new items in her path. She was not all that fussed about a small animal hole we found yesterday, however:
While I work, Faye likes to curl up nearby, often in the same room (releasing toxic gases at times), and sometimes in the hallway watching the world through the window. She tends to sleep with one leg under her tummy while I work, but when she’s really crashed out she will melt on to one side and splay out. There is no logic in where she lies down; sometimes she is on the duvet or dog bed, having ‘dug’ at it for comfort, but at other times she misses the soft areas entirely.
I’m pleased that she’s so relaxed at home (except of course for the toxic gas emissions), but out and about she can go rigid instantaneously when there is prey in sight. At a writers’ group last week she came across a cat through a doorway, and froze. We realised what was happening before she had the chance to act, thankfully. The cat was not keen to meet Faye and doubled up in height, all the while trying to out-stare her from a table. Faye had wanted to get close or chase the cat, but obeyed our instructions and allowed us to keep the cat away. It did cause her some confusion when the doors were closed and she was stuck in a room with people eating lunch though – she would normally excuse herself when we are eating.
She’s such a super pet. Like so many other greyhounds, she is a wonderful breed to own, even if you’ve never had a dog before. In Florida, lots of greyhounds are going to become available in the coming months as the racing tracks close, following a vote on the matter. In the UK there are hundreds waiting to be adopted, after retiring from a racing career. They love a bit of a run at times, but mostly they just sleep and want to chill out with you. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Click on the picture below for more about adopting a grey.
I bagsied Faye this morning for ‘take your dog to work day’ and so far it has been a complete success. It would not have been simple for Faye to have gone on the bike with Matthew to his work, or to sit in his office passing wind and huffing every so often.
So Faye is with me. As usual, she helped me walk the children to school. She was very keen; she loves her walks. I marched, the children scooted and Faye trotted and kept an eye out for cats. She took an interest back home when I prepared her breakfast and cleaned out the wheely-bin. She observed me doing a bit of housework and admin, then behaved herself while I had my quiet reading time. She watched while I did some editing and research, all the while listening to the radio without complaining. She went outside reluctantly to lie down so I could hang out the washing. And then she came indoors reluctantly so I could get on with more writing. She wanted to come outdoors when I put the recycling outside. Mostly, however, she has been dozing. She doesn’t care about word counts, deadlines or making notes on last night’s great book idea which might have involved looking up blind dogs on youtube. Nobody yapped.
Much of the rest of the day: lunch, more writing, more housework, more admin, an early walk, meeting a teacher, collecting children and feeding everybody, should also involve Faye one way or another, although I will have to leave her for a short time later. Mostly she will be sleeping. Every so often she may pass wind or huff, but I won’t take it personally if I’m in the room. I have a thick skin and a fragrant room spray (fig leaf and elderberry).
Faye has it pretty easy really.
She’s been up to all sorts since I blogged last month, in fact. Here’s a little of what she has been up to:
Joe learned that if you put your bedding downstairs in the hope you’ll be allowed to camp out overnight, the dog will be very grateful and think it is for her. Faye learned that if you wait long enough, eventually you don’t need to wear your muzzle out and about everywhere. Both these things made her very happy.
We all attended the Greyhound Extravaganza near Newmarket at the end of May and Faye won ‘Second Prettiest Bitch’ and ‘Judge’s Choice (1st)’. We were all thrilled, although I was a little concerned about the Hot Dog stand. On such a warm day, and with so many greyhounds around (not muzzled, all behaving and not barking), I hoped they had sourced their hot dogs wisely.
We took Faye on holiday in May half term break to Sherwood Forest. It was wonderful and did us all good. Faye had the whole boot of the car for her things for the journey so we had to pack light in the rest of the space. She met Biscuit, my friend Andrea’s tri-pawed rescue lurcher and enjoyed sniffing around Major Oak, Clumber Park and Rufford Abbey, as well as exploring lots of forest areas. She had fun on and off-lead and seems fine with car journeys of a couple of hours or so.
Faye did another visit to Suffolk one weekend, where she walked to Trimley Shores. It was a beautiful day and she helped Grandad look out for lots of interesting wildlife. Nobody caught any, thankfully.
Faye has been struggling on one of her legs with some arthritis, so she has started a course of K-laser treatment at the vets. She loves going there and gets lots of treats, rubs and attention. She’s still very stiff, so we are evaluating how long to keep her on the treatment.
She has to fit around us a lot of the time of course, but doesn’t always understand how to. When I held a planning meeting for a trip to Albania recently she decided that the map looked the most comfortable place to rest during proceedings. She was very gentle and didn’t damage it.
Right now she’s hoping for a walk, as she’s woken up and is staring at me, making a few whining noises.
Life is never dull with Faye, and no two days are exactly the same. I enjoy having her around to motivate me to work hard. She likes to be around me too and will get up and move rooms with me, even when she may be only half awake.
Perhaps there should be a ‘take your human for a walk and a chill out’ day. Hmm…
Before Faye, I honestly felt like I was missing something. There was a broody dog-shaped hole in my life, and I was sincerely hoping Faye would fix that. I had already made peace with the idea that it may never happen, and the equally frightening idea that it may not turn out to be what I had hoped.
Now we have her, Faye is proving to be all I hoped for, and far more. While life itself can often leave us unsatisfied, owning a dog (or being owned by one) turns things around. I have started being grateful for things I wasn’t grateful for previously, such as the beauty of the early mornings, getting out of the house when I would otherwise have been dozing, feeling accomplished at making another heartbeat happy in the world and noticing so many fascinating things on walks around the area.
We have achieved so much in such a short space of time, but I felt it would be good to highlight some of the moments which meant a lot to me in the past few weeks.
Taking Faye out and about is always great fun. She has been around the village a lot now, as well as to Thetford Forest, Cambridge, Bury St Edmunds (Joe realised Faye could help carry the picnic blanket for a short while), Felixstowe to see the sea and the hairdressers (for Lily). People often stop and ask questions, mostly about why she is wearing a muzzle, or to ask to stroke her. She takes all this in her stride and loves people. She is still working on reacting well to other dogs, but is making good progress already.
Faye won’t roll over for me, but will do it for Lily when I’m not there, just to have her belly rubbed!
She hasn’t quite worked out how to get treats from a Kong toy, but likes licking peanut butter from it. She also loves tea, and sometimes gets a taste when I’ve finished mine. She behaved very well in her first restaurant, lying on the floor patiently and enjoying the atmosphere.
She makes me laugh – sometimes she won’t eat a treat unless she’s allowed to take it in the ‘right’ room, and this week she was so tired she thought I was sending her to bed in the garden and lay down instead of toileting. She’s also been known to stop and lie down on a walk when exhausted, even if we’re already almost back. She won’t eat pasta or vegetables she can see in her meal. She finds the comfiest place to lie in the garden or house, even if it means flattening plants or using a bag of clothes. She crosses her legs like a diva and when she spots something cat-shaped she is transfixed, no matter how much you call or pull. It doesn’t matter whether the cat is real or not. She also loves spotting rabbits and squirrels.
She is a 26 kg dog but can still curl up into her dog bed and ignore everything – until she hears a sound like another dog, or food.
Here she is following the kids home from school. She has learned to be responsible and carry her own bags. I have to watch her carefully as she gets spooked by the scooters sometimes and moves sideways into the road. Walks are great fun for Faye, and checking her ‘weemails’ takes longer each day now the weather is warming up!
There is a secure orchard a few minutes’ walk from our house, where we can let Faye off lead and call her back. She is ridiculously fast with a very long stretch as she runs; she makes her high-speed bursts look very easy. She doesn’t like to go off on her own thankfully, and will happily chase around with the children or come to us if we call her.
Although most of Faye’s time is spent asleep, she loves to relax even when she’s out and about. The other day we discovered her secretly sitting, which is difficult for greyhounds to do. Usually when she is getting up or down, or perching in the car, she ‘sits’ with her legs to her left. On this occasion she was actually sitting properly. If she does it more I will teach her the ‘sit’ command.
On the beach, she dug a small dip in the sand for her huge ribcage so she could lie down comfortably; I’ve no idea if that is usual behaviour.
Faye now has a super new blue martingale collar for best and red house collar for everyday to match her normal martingale; I’m looking into whether to get her a harness to help keep her close when she wants to pull away at the wrong moments.
She’s taken to raising an eyebrow at times, although we are learning to read her body language. She does try to communicate with us when she wants something. As long as we take the time to listen to her and try and hear what she means to tell us; it could be that she wants to go outside, is finding her muzzle itchy or is waiting for her meal.
Faye’s met her ‘grandparents’ and got on really well with them and other visitors. She has interacted with other dogs and been on a walk with a vizsla successfully. I was also able to take Faye to a group dog walk last week, where she did really well most of the time with the six other breeds, although there were some nervous dogs there and one very small, very furry shih-tzu which took her fancy and had to keep a distance.
I am hoping to help her socialise with more dogs over the coming weeks and begin some command training with a clicker now that she has settled into the family. The local community in the village have been wonderful at welcoming her and showing interest when I posted on the local facebook page that she is still adapting to life in a regular home. Many folk came over to our yard sale at the weekend and met her too, which was thrilling. It has really opened opportunities to meet many more folk in our area. Faye is a talking point and a way to connect to people of all ages and abilities.
Faye is making us more disciplined as a family (e.g. time-keeping, responsibilities, getting up and dressed) and helping each of us feel more loved. She is also getting a lot of love from us: learning new walks, trying new treats, having her teeth brushed, fur groomed and a chance to relax safely.
So the dog-shaped hole is definitely filled. I would love another dog, but Faye has taught me that she is enough and is constantly reminding me that there are so many things to be grateful for in life, big and small.
It is now just over a week since we brought Faye home. What an amazing week it has been. The anticipation in the final days leading up to her arrival was not dissimilar to the final days of pregnancy. Are we ready? Are we going to feel like family? Are we going to break the dog? What if something awful happens? Have we read everything? Why? Is all the chocolate and alcohol where the dog can’t reach it? Is all the chocolate and alcohol where I can reach it? Who can we ask all of our remaining really silly questions? Will this be my last ever lie-in? The usual stuff.
Then came the trip last Tuesday, in snow showers, through black fen fields, under moving skies. We were glad the weather had not prevented us travelling. In the morning we met with the Brecks, Fens & Pens Christian writers’ group in West Norfolk. Then a quick bite to eat and off to meet Faye again, fill in paperwork, chat through logistics and ask all the remaining silly questions. Debbie at the King’s Lynn RGT centre was patient and thorough and made sure we knew what we were doing.
We left with Faye at around 1:30, back under the moving skies, through black fen fields and dodging more snow showers, in time for me to collect the children.
Faye has adapted well to living with us. She has whimpered a little in the first few days, and surprised us by barking a couple of times when there were people playing outside at the front, but is very relaxed and easy-going most of the time. I think she must realise she is part of the family now, and is also tentatively trying to become part of the furniture.
Greyhounds love sofas; we have decided however to provide lots of alternative soft and snuggly spaces for Faye. That way, she can have a quiet spot under the stairs and a duvet which can be moved around to different rooms and we have the sofa to relax on without lots of dog hair or having to push her off. She has taken to lying straight on the floor and once or twice trying to sneak on to the sofa when no one is about. She can jump up there no problem, yet apparently isn’t able to jump up into the car. Perhaps she’s after the princess treatment. We’ll have to use treats and take her to lots of interesting places for walks to get her more excited about car travel I think. For now she enjoys spending most of her day asleep wherever she feels safe. Usually this is not far from me, which is wonderful, unless she has recently eaten tripe and got a bit windy. And no Faye, that is not funny.
When she is not snoozing, the next best thing is Going Outside, which Faye can tell might happen at the first sound of getting a coat on or picking up her lead. She adores walks, stopping to check out all the latest smells and wanting to say hello to all the other dogs (most of which are a little nervous of her, as she is still wearing a muzzle at this stage). Even in the snow she enjoyed getting outdoors as often as possible. I love walking her and getting the chance to introduce her to my own friends and people I’ve never met before. Lots of people ask to stroke her or what breed she is (part tiger?) and why she’s wearing a muzzle. The short answer to that is she has to wear one for a few months, while she learns about smaller dog breeds and birds. She’s been trained to race after small furry toys, so may not realise how to behave until we’ve retrained her. Hopefully in time we can trust her on walks without it.
It has been cold here, with snow on several days last week. On Saturday I forced the children off screens for a time to go outdoors and make memories, because that’s the sort of mean mummy I am. Joe helped make a snow-hound, which was great fun. He’d already picked up how Faye lies with one of her front legs folded and one stretched out in front.
Actually I amazed myself by getting creative making a gate sign. I decided I wanted a ‘dog’ notice on the garden gate, but didn’t want anything aggressive. I realised I could paint the shape of a greyhound using a printed outline, a pencil, a sharpie, a block of wood and some old tins of paint. I even drilled the holes and screwed it to the gate.
I’ll do another post on Faye next month at some point, but if there are any topics about greyhounds you want me to cover, do suggest them and I’ll get to those sooner.
Faye is going to come and live with us, and we are utterly thrilled and excited. We are all counting down the days to bring her home.
Faye is a sweet four-year-old brindle greyhound, retired from racing and waiting for a home and a family. She is small as greyhounds go, quiet, walks well, has a lovely gentle character and behaves well with people. She used to race under her alter ego as Ferryforth Style in Crayford, winning nine times in 63 races. What’s lovely about rehoming greyhounds is that you can look up their racing history and pedigree back to the early nineteenth century on the greyhound data website (you have to create a login, but it is free). Some have video footage of races they have been in, although Faye doesn’t.
We have been preparing a lot more at home, including finishing her den space under the stairs and making the garden more secure and safe. The children have learned a lot more about caring for dogs and what they can and cannot do. The RSPCA had a helpful section in their advice booklet on adopting dogs:
We also had another valuable chance to spend time with a local greyhound called Turbo on Friday as it was half term break; we took him for a walk and chatted a lot with his family about practicalities. Getting familiar with the breed was something Matthew and I both felt strongly about, as we don’t want to make a mistake in homing a dog which isn’t well-suited to us.
On Saturday we revisited Debbie at the King’s Lynn Greyhound Trust to meet a couple more possible dogs. Each of us were nervous; I think I was as anxious and apprehensive as when I’d been overdue with each of the children. I was so keen to meet ‘our dog’, but also worried that a suitable dog wouldn’t be there for us and that we’d have to keep waiting. The dogs we thought we were going to see were a black and white girl called Kitty (now reserved), and a young fawn boy called Dave. We loved the look of Dave and spent time with him, but after chatting with Debbie, we realised we would not be ready to take him on. He is a gorgeous gold colour, has ridiculous ears which won’t behave and is a real character, but he is clumsy and silly and would need a lot of crating and a close eye. Here is a link to Dave, so that you can see how gorgeous he is. I do hope he finds his home soon.
Dave is just 2 years old and a real favourite with everyone. He is funny, clumsy and very affectionate. Dave really…
Instead, Debbie introduced us to Faye, who we had very briefly met last month when we first visited. I remembered looking in and apologising to Faye that we couldn’t take her last month, and wishing her a happy birthday. Lily has talked about her several times since. In fact, Faye was too bouncy when we first met her so we thought she was ruled out, but she has mellowed and is much calmer now. Lily fell for her completely.
Part of the reason I have long wanted a dog was to help children learn responsibilities and to enjoy the unconditional affection a dog can bring. Lily was a different person around Faye: happy, confident and buzzing. Faye relaxed with Lily, gave her attention and was not pushy or overbearing. Seeing Lily happy and feeling loved is marvellous; she can be sensitive and anxious a lot of the time. Where Lily struggles getting close to people, I wanted her to feel accepted and be able to get close to a pet. The character of the dog we chose had to work for us. As a result, the look was always going to be secondary. If I’m honest, I was not taken with brindle patterns at first, but as I got familiar with Faye and took her for a walk I realised she had an inner beauty that radiated, like the markings on her face. She carries herself with dignity and confidence and wears her coat with charm. Her colouring makes her look like a tiger or a tabby cat. Her eyes are deep and thoughtful, while some greyhounds often look somewhat vacant. She has great big feet and an impressively long back, with legs full of muscle and a tail full of joy.
I prayed silently as we thought through our options. Dave was gorgeous, but we weren’t really able to take him on. Faye was not the dog we thought we’d come to see, but she had won both Lily and Joe’s hearts, and was tugging at our own heart-strings too. A number of times along the journey, while perusing pages of retired racing greyhounds, God has clearly said to me ‘that’s not your dog’, when I’ve liked the look of one or other. And there are some stunners out there. I prayed about Faye. I prayed about Dave. Dave was not our dog. I let go. And then I felt the warmth of knowing that if we wanted Faye, God would bless her into our family. From that moment she became part of us.
Like the moment a child is born, a love switched on in my heart. The journey may be muddy and crazy and costly, and will involve pain as well as joy, but the journey is begun. It is exhilarating. It is still sinking in.
And God has a lot to teach us through caring for Faye, I am sure. It has already started. We have been looking at covenants in church and in the New Life lent book. When I studied Faye’s face I found evidence of two covenants right there. She has a rainbow over her eyes, like the rainbow sign of the covenant God made between himself and every living creature (Genesis 9). And she has a cross like an Ash Wednesday smudge, a sign of the covenant of new life, reminding me of mortality and of God’s grace. I think God knew what he was doing when he brought us to Faye.
It is still sinking in here, but in one week Matthew and I will actually go and adopt Faye, bring her home to keep an eye on what’s going on in the garden, to snooze under the stairs and to poke her long nose into anything of interest. How fabulous! Can’t wait to bring you home, Faye!
We are new to owning dogs, and I will keep up this ‘year of the dog’ series to let you know how we get on and what we are learning along the way.
Apparently the Chinese Year of the Dog is going to start in February. I am not one for astrology (Chinese or any other flavour), but the idea of owning a dog – a real live, smelly, silly and always-happy-to-meet-you canine – has been growing in my mind for some years.
And this year is the year we are hoping to make it happen.
It began some time ago. We agreed to start small, and have owned guinea pigs for five and a half years. We lost Stripe, the last one, in December. He had had a lump on his liver and had given up. I was sadder than I thought I would be at losing him, and at the change in the daily routine. Now, we do still have a hamster who lives upstairs, but Lily is responsible for Humphrey and I just take a passing interest in his welfare.
So the time was right to ask ourselves if we were ready for a dog, and if it was the right course of action.
Not everyone loves dogs. Some people are allergic to dogs. Some people have had a traumatic experience of dogs, and some dogs are violent and dangerous. Some religions consider dogs dirty. These things are important to us. Dogs are also hard work, expensive, trouble, need lots of daily attention and will – almost certainly – die before we do, which we know will break our hearts. There are always lots of reasons not to have a dog.
But having children has been no walk in the park. Even off-leash. They are hard work, expensive, trouble, need lots of daily attention and will – almost certainly – leave home, just as they start getting really capable and mature. We know this will break our hearts too. I don’t know of people allergic to children, but I know of people who choose not to have them, or be around them. That’s fine. We bring our children with us to lots of places, but on occasion have been known to leave them with loving grandparents for a bit of well-earned respite and rest.
When we moved to Cambridgeshire, one of the items on the list for our new home had to be a dog-friendly location. Somewhere with space for walks. We found the dog-friendly home.
We knew that the garden had a large number of plants which are poisonous to dogs, so we removed them, and planted new species. We remodelled the back garden to make it safe for a dog.
We spent months investigating breeds and matching ideas to our personalities as a family. We are all fairly introverted a lot of the time, and wanted a low-energy dog which could lift our moods and be a companion while I write in the daytime. Eventually we realised the perfect breed for us was probably a rehomed greyhound. So we spent more months researching greyhounds, learning about the Retired Greyhound Trust, getting a feel for what we would be letting ourselves in for.
Until Stripe the guinea pig died, we did not want to go and meet any dogs. But it wasn’t long after my trip to the vets that we were able to book a visit to the RGT King’s Lynn branch and meet a few dogs there, early this month. We went with a specific dog in mind, but spent two and a half hours questioning Debbie and asked four pages of A4 questions. We would have loved to have adopted the dog we met, but she wasn’t right for us in her temperament. We trusted Debbie and arranged our home visit.
When you adopt a retired greyhound, you need to have a home check to learn what may prevent you taking one in, and any adaptations you have to make. We had travelled a fair distance to King’s Lynn, so one of Debbie’s greyhound connections, Sara, paid us a visit, and declared that we passed with flying colours. We are now in the process of finishing the garden and creating an under-stairs den for our future dog. We have moved a few smaller items to new homes and found a well-sized desk top (from an actual desk, not a PC), which we had kept when the legs were damaged. We have started some rewiring and painting.
Today a greyhound and his lovely owner visited from a nearby village to explore our house and teach us more about what life would be like. Turbo was big. I knew greys can be big, and our downstairs seems big enough, but he certainly had a real Presence while he was here. He loved sniffing everything and exploring where he could lie down and rest, and spent a few mad seconds doing zoomies in the garden. It was wonderful.
If all goes to plan we should be able to adopt a greyhound which matches us well in the coming weeks or months. As we are going into the Year of the Dog, I thought I might as well start a blogging series and make monthly updates on the journey here.
I drew up a list of jobs and hoped to cross out many of the tasks with lines. In biro perhaps. Call the boy’s nurse. Get the guinea pig outdoors. Bring in the neighbours’ bins. Find props for a youth group session. Plan the weekend science festival activities. Decorate. Do the washing. Make sure the children get to two locations in the right colour non-uniform attire with their noses, jokes, water bottles, reading books and brains in gear. Make sense of numerous tasks for the coming weeks and upcoming trips. Take a delivery between 12:17 and 13:17. Choose not to be as obsessed with timings as the rest of the world. Be spiritually present and engaged. Listen to others and encourage them. Be kind.
In the car as we set off a little late for school I drew up to a line of standing traffic at the end of our street and wished I had insisted on scooting to school. The children had started the day tired and Fridayed out. My boy needed to be at a different site from usual and I wanted to be back to start painting. I had thought driving would be clever.
We shuffled along the line. My girl did not panic as much as she usually does when she’s delayed. I chalked that up as a success. We took a short cut through back streets; a different line from A to B. My girl is reliable enough to get out of the car at a junction and walk herself halfway to school (she arrived on time). My boy and I parked up and raced on foot to his infant school site (he arrived on time too). I got back home well after nine and decided No More Driving When In A Hurry. Felt like a parenting Rubicon had been crossed: a line drawn in the sand, if you like.
I drew a blank while trying to call the boy’s nurse. She’d left a message with the wrong number to call her back. I’ll have to find it another day.
My husband and I painted the study. I was cutting in, drawing lines smoothly at the edges, poking brushes around radiators, wiping drips, finding the space redefined as the lines became walls and walls became a new room. The room took on a new weight: dark away from the window for a new reading nook, light at the front where I can work at my desk. We chose Montacute Meadow. The colour makes me happy. I don’t know why certain colours do that, but I have decided it is good to choose colours that make you happy. The room needs at least one more coat, but you can already see what it will be like now and it is good. I was glad we had already painted the ceiling a few days ago and done lots of preparation work; today my husband opted to take a morning off to make good progress. It was very good spending time together painting. It is also the first room that we have worked on in this house, so we have crossed a line there, taking real ownership of how we want the space to look. We finished in time for some fish and chips. I drew the line at my husband cycling there in his painting gear as his trousers were more ripped than he had realised.
My delivery arrived in the allotted time, and I squiggled some kind of line on the device. I am not certain what this proved.
In the afternoon I crossed out more of my tasks as I completed them and then took the children’s scooters and walked to both their schools to collect them. I stood in a line of parents and grandparents while my boy took his time finding his wellies, his bag, his wobbly junk modelling, his fruit boat craft, his cap, his unnamed hoody, his unnecessary coat. Then he needed to buy a bun at the cake sale (the lines were long), choose another one for his sister (she didn’t want it when we offered it) and took his time trying to get all his gear on to his scooter. He thought carrying it all would be clever. It didn’t work.
We wobbled down the street and were last in line to collect my girl. Her school had a cake sale too. She did not like the lines, and decided not to buy one. It upset her and she hid. We handed in her money for charity anyway and I took her to a shop and she chose some unhealthy things to eat to make it better. The lines in the shop were quite long too. We bumped into our minister and his wife, with armsful of unhealthy snacks. I made excuses. They smiled and told me I was not a bad mum.
The children have decided to have a sleepover in the boy’s room. They are camped in sleeping bags, squeezed in at funny angles with his lamps on and her radio playing. I love the fact that they get on, but I doubt they will both last the night in there.
I did not cross out all the tasks on my list. I did not even keep to my official 500 words. But I made progress and good things happened. So that makes a successful day.