As you will no doubt be aware, travel, or rather the lack of it, has featured constantly in these blogs, if that is not some kind of oxymoron. At the heart of the matter is the fact that we used to travel quite a lot, that we thought, before we retired, that we would do more travelling when we retired and that we have in fact done far less and that this has largely been down to the pups, one of whom is snuggled down beside as I write this blog, they were both on the sofa with me but Archie is a guy who likes his space so he left and went to sleep on another sofa, yes we have more than one, sofa that is (9 in total, but that’s another story altogether) so it’s just Millie lying at the side of me as I write this (right above), and she seems to be saying don’t leave us. Archie is more of a ‘go if you want’ guy and just as I say this he’s now climbed back on the sofa with me as I write (see photo left below). Why is all this significant you ask?
Well, this coming weekend, which will be the weekend gone by the time you get to read it, we’re making a rare trip without the pups. In the nearly two years since we got them we have left them only twice. Once when they were looked after by Mrs Summerhouse’s sister and we went to Oslo to maintain our air miles, again another story, but I did write about that weekend. The second time was our daughter’s wedding, also the subject of another blog. On that occasion they went to kennels. Both arrangements went well (a little too well in the first case, we were worried they might have forgotten us and preferred Mrs SH’s sister to us) but on this occasion, which entails a night in London (to attend a Guardian course on improving your blogging readership), neither of those options are available to us, the kennel we, and they, liked is full and Mrs Summerhouse’s sister is running a stall at an antique fair that weekend. What to do? We could and probably would have looked for another kennel locally although we really like the one we used but then another possibility presented itself.
The friend who I’ve mentioned before in these blogs, the one who is building, albeit slowly, the shepherd’s hut and who I see most weeks for a couple of pints, lives with his wife on a small farm, not that he grows anything or even has any animals (they used to have sheep) other than the donkeys, one of his wife’s little peccadilloes is to give a home to abandoned donkeys. As they have 22 acres of pasture (I said it was a small farm) and no animals, she believes it is a good thing to give a home to homeless donkeys and who could disagree? They also have three grandchildren but they sleep in the house when they stay rather than out in the fields with the donkeys. Anyway the point is that the eldest child who is about 14 I think, loves animals, mainly horses but also dogs. My friend’s wife would like to have dogs (they had two but they died of old age) again but my friend is unconvinced in that as he is the one who stays at home looking after the farmstead, he believes the dogs will turn out to be mainly / solely his responsibility and frankly he feel he has enough of that with the donkeys who, you will recall, are really his wife’s project. His wife incidentally still works (he retired the same time as me) long hours, so his fears would seem to have some basis.
Anyway the relevance of all this trivia, is that my friend’s wife thought it would be great if our dogs spent the weekend with them and then her eldest grandchild could have some experience of looking after two dogs without actually owning the dogs. I’m not at all sure this is going to work out well for my chum. He seems quite happy to have our dogs somehow with the idea that this will delay any arrival of their own dogs, which he will have to mainly look after. My view, but I don’t want to push the point for obvious reasons, is that this weekend might just exacerbate his wife and grandchildren’s desire for a couple of sheepdogs. Unless it all goes a bit wrong and the dogs are a problem. And this is where our anxiety comes to the front. What might go wrong?
We will take them over to the farm, sometime Friday afternoon and pick them up Sunday afternoon. For this short period, Mrs SH has written already 4 pages of instructions, likes and dislikes, dos and don’ts, all their little idiosyncrasies – when Millie comes out the cage she will pick up the ball and expect you to throw it to her for the first 15, 20 minutes of her day, Archie will climb on the sofa next to you and demand his tummy rubbing. If you miss a tummy rub, you get the paw as a reminder. To be strictly accurate it is Mrs SH who has the pleasure first thing in the morning, I come in at a later stage. It’s a version of that old trick of patting your head and rubbing your stomach or is it the other way round. I wasn’t very good at that but I have got pretty good at throwing the ball with my left hand while rubbing Archie’s tummy with my right hand. The only hard part is trying to drink your tea or, worse still, read the paper, at the same time. Millie eats her breakfast practically in one mouthful, Archie takes five minutes to eat his, she swallows her dental stick whole, he takes it away and eats it lovingly, savouring each mouthful. And this is only the first half hour or so. It gets more complicated after that. We hadn’t realised just what complex personalities they were until we came to try and write it all down. Knowing this is not a problem, we take this insider knowledge for granted, but extremely anxiety provoking for us (although I suspect not the dogs) as we contemplate a weekend away. Not for the first time we voice the idea that it would be a hell of a lot simpler to stay at home. But no, we must be strong. By the time you read this we will know how the weekend worked out.
And the ‘funny’ thing is this is a short term version of a much bigger challenge. This one could involve flying with our dogs and I’ve been reading up about the complexities of this on various Border Collie internet sites. How we can even vaguely consider this as a travel project when we’re struggling to get to first base with a weekend in London, Gawd only knows, but we will keep you informed, first about this weekend and then any future travel plans. I suspect that somehow retirement affects a person’s brain, you lose all sense of what is desirable and possible. I have finished writing this now and they are both sat on either side of me as if to say, we can’t bear to be without you, never leave us. Oh shit…
PS.The two nights away went well, from all points of view – dogs, friends, us, as did the Guardian course and I will tell you more about that in, probably, the next blog.