I met a Puppy as I went walking,
We got talking Puppy and I,
‘Where are you going this fine day?’ I said to the Puppy as he went by.
‘Up to the hills to roll and play.’
‘I’ll come with you, Puppy,’ said I.
Puppy and I by AA Milne.
And that’s the way my life is – rolling and playing with the pup. Not that my Jack Russell terrier is a pup anymore.
As I write this, the old fella is curled up in his ‘calm bed’. If I listen, I can him snoring ever-so-lightly. He’s content, although I think he’d like to go for another walk. Or play tennis, or eat, or chase scooters, bikes, cars, skateboards...
He’s a tough little thing – cold, wet or heat doesn’t worry him at all and his message is, ‘Well come on, Mum. Cowboy up.’
He has soft velvet ears that I rub and nuzzle. A total contentment in that warm plush feel and we always have a cuddle at night so that his ears touch my cheeks and as I rub him, he purrs. His breathing changes to gushy little breaths and I know he’s content. He’s done exactly that since he was a pup – it’s almost as if he’s sending me a message: ‘I love you, really, I do. Even though I have special needs, I do really love you…’
I love him too despite that he stretches me to the limits with his chronic PTSD. He has been the victim of 3 bad unsolicited dog attacks while on lead with me, so I guess I have a measure of PTSD as well. Because he feels under threat out in the populated world, we walk a lot in nature where there are no other dogs and where he (and I) can relax. He develops Yoda ears, and his body loosens as he potters along sniffing the breeze. He’s taught me to be mindful, to love nature even more and I’ve taught him that nature heals.
He's been there through ups and downs, solicitous of me when I’ve been ill, knowing when he’s really needed, knowing the words ‘steady’ or ‘gently’. He always welcomes me back in the door as if I’ve been gone for months but in truth I might only have gone to the car to fetch something. If I’ve been a grumpy bum, he slopes off while keeping an eye on me, and then sensing a mood change, races back to make sure all is actually well, tail wagging as if battery powered and licking my hand for comfort. I’ll squat down and say: ‘Yes, all’s okay, don’t worry…’
He tries to approach every day as a new day filled with possibilities and there’s a lesson there. I learn it repeatedly. ‘Come on! Life’s too short!’
He seeks sunshine every morning and will stretch across sunstripes in the house or garden, bliss-bombed out.
He tries. Despite his mental condition, he really does try.
He’s nearly 12, and I suspect because of his PTSD, I’m probably closer to him than any dog I’ve been privileged to live with. I’ve had to be and I want to be, simply because it’s not his fault. Apart from his anxieties, he’s been a really robust little terrier and in the few times he’s been unwell and I’ve had to walk alone, I’m bereft. I feel half a person – the (temporary) loss of someone truly important in my life.
A foreshadowing of something more permanent…
When he shuffles off his canine coil (I have to be realistic and think of this as he and I both age), I will invite another dog into my life – to share the last adventure. We’ll make friends, go to doggy classes, talk to each other, walk twice daily together, be there for each other and I shall be the better person and have the better life because of it, because as Edith Wharton said:
‘My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet.’
The annual flu shot and my fifth Covid shot. The doctor warned there may be a reaction. There is and so the last 3 days have been lackaday with much subsiding onto couch and bed with a sigh. C’est la vie. It’ll be better soon.
I began a new embroidery. Good. I was becoming anxious about lazy hands at night.
And I made bread. The house smells of comfort today - the kind that reminds me of Mum’s cooking. Good honest food. None of this pseudo-nouveau stuff. The bread is heavy stone-ground with a crisp taupe crust. But delish with homemade apricot jam.
I imagine it as trencher bread from the 12th century when a slab of bread was used as a plate. Perfect for sopping up the juices.
I uncover details on bread language amongst the Benedictine monks of Cluny Abbey which was in my historical fiction research files. Bear in mind that absolute silence was required in the refectory during meals…
For the sign of bread
make a circle with the thumb and
its two adjacent fingers, because
bread is customarily round.
For the sign of bread, which is
cooked in water and which is better
than that served on most days,
after making the general sign for bread,
place the palm of one hand
over the outside of the other as if
oiling or wetting.
For the sign of marked bread, which is
commonly called torta, after
making the general sign of bread,
make a cross through the middle of the
palm, because bread of this type is
generally divided into quarters.
Kindle – Fiona Valpy The Beekeeper’s Promise as per last week which I really love. Many years ago, Rosamunde Pilcher was a favourite writer. Then came Alexandra Raife. I think Valpy might be someone whose backlist I will enjoy.
Print – Raynor Winn The Salt Path – it’s inspiring and heroic. I can see why it became a best seller.
Substack Reads of Significance this week:
Rogue Heroes. An almost Black Adder-esque approach to war and the beginnings of the SAS in Africa in WWII. Brilliantly scripted and acted and the production values are stellar. Excellent satire on war. We are hooked.
TransAtlantic. Also on WWII. A good re-telling of the bravery and commitment of Americans in Marseille, to evacuate those being hunted by the Nazis. Less of the ebullience of Rogue Heroes but enjoyable.
Ticket to Paradise. Nothing but froth and bubble. Escapism pure and simple.
Michael Palin in Iraq. Excellent journey into the land of the Arabian Nights, post Saddam Hussein. Beautifully filmed and sensitively conveyed.
Grand LegoMasters. Lordy Lordy! Those folk are sooo creative! Spectacular. No other words.
Sam Neill still. Loving it. He was a bit of a pot-smoker and boozer, the old Sam. Admits it readily and with such wit. I’ll be sad when I finish listening to this. For one thing, I have no credits left on Audible…
Songs by Mitchell Tenpenny after finding him for last week’s newsletter.
I looked for a song about dogs and believe me, there are plenty on You Tube but once again, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) is my choice. Enjoy!
Prue, this is just too good - my eyes became hot and moist reading it since so much here resonates with me. And you capture The Terrier-ist Personality so well - I often say at the end of the day when Stanley's head is heavy in my lap that he has become a "boneless" dog. And their trust and devotion is so humbling - it is an honour to share one's life this way. Your bread looks celestial, I can smell it across the miles AND I too used to love Rosamunde Pilcher, I even sent her a fan letter once - and she wrote back! Thank you for this tight little series of reminders of all that is good in the world. Your timing is strong.
Oh Prue - thank you for your meanderings about your beautiful "pup". I continue to waffle about having a pet in my life again - it's been a very long time without one and I DO recall all those lovely moments of pure unconditional love on their part and how it always filled my own heart. Always more to be revealed for this Crone....always "Perfectly on Time"... :-)