It’s been a year that’s been more progress than steps back, and that is something. 2014 was a very crappy year indeed and I was very glad to see the back of it. I might have been treading water in 2015, but I wasn’t drowning, and that’s better than most can say.
So what was my 2015?
Ralf was the first photo out of my camera in 2015. A bigger, giddier, more chilled out character there was not. He spent most of our January walks chasing herons. I started the year, as I always do, with my best intentions and I kept a lot of them too. You wouldn’t believe how much crap I’ve thrown out, given away or sold on this year. Getting todoist.com was a really good decision and has really helped me maximise my productivity. Nothing feels as good as ticking things off a list. I am just a crazy ticker who loves the moments of pleasure when you get to put a great big tick next to something. I’d started with a French Friday project but didn’t get very far. As per, dogs took over my photographic universe. January was also the month of attacks in Paris at Charlie Hebdo – strange to think that the year ended with the terrorist attacks in Paris as well. I guess my brother is right and Paris is scarier than you might imagine.
February was mild too, and less wet than January had been. I managed to get through the year with only a smattering of snow. I kind of like snow, as long as it is gone within a few days. Nothing worse than sludge hanging around for weeks. February was mostly very doggy, since so many of the big old boys found homes that month and I started my own Black Dogs project. The Black Dogs were way less successful than the Christmas adverts – which tells you everything you need to know about why I did it. There are still a good number at the refuge. All the division one ‘hard to home’ dogs have now found a home. Ufo, Dalton, Paulo, Wolf, Nichman, Usty, Tino, Edge, Salma and Cachou all found homes. Sadly, Wolf made his way to Germany and then was put in a German refuge when his owners couldn’t find a place to rent that would accept dogs, and he died there some months later. That list was quite something – not one of those dogs seemed like they would find a home. Even a lot of the second division dogs have found a home too. In 2014, there were 33 dogs who’d been at the refuge since 2012 or longer. In 2015, there were 12. Now there are just two. Douggy and Elios are on my hit list for the beginning of the year. I have some from 2013 on my list, including Manix, Cleo, Kayseur, Eloy, Ivan, Elga, Despe and Helboy are my dogs for 2016.
March was just one thing: Ralf. When he couldn’t move one morning, we went to the vets. What started as peritonitis was quickly revealed to be a burst tumour in his spleen. Whilst the vet could have removed his spleen, he had tumours in his liver that would have taken him within a month.
March brought me the beginnings of a garden, but the last two years have been a vegetable wash-out. They take more commitment than I have. This year, I’m determined to go back to my old gardening ways.
April brought me a Tobbster Rock, my Wobbly Bob. I really thought at the time that he would only be here weeks. Not that he’s recovered – his arthritis is as bad as ever and his groans as he settles down are testament to the pain he’s in. Eight months later and my old Wobbly Bob is doing okay. He and I had a bit of a falling out over a puppy I was fostering, Loupi. He would happily have licked Loupi to death. That sounds cute, and it wasn’t cute. It was weird and obsessive, with Tobby unable to eat or sleep.
He’s in his eighth month here now, and it’s his birthday on Friday. Well, what passes for a birthday. He was picked up by the pound, so we have no idea how old he really is. He was estimated to be eleven or twelve when he arrived at the pound, and I picked him up 14 months later when he was into his thirteenth year. This year is a bit of a change for him than the last.
As for May and June, I don’t know where they went. I kind of do – a whirl of refuge and book sales and exam marking and planning meetings for markets and dog adoptions. Nichman, the unadoptable, was adopted in May. He’s another one we didn’t think would see the year through. I picked up two foster dogs, Hoppy and Edona, and they soon found a home. Chops, a huge Newfie, also came here for a brief weekend and was quickly rehomed. I’ve lost my rehoming touch recently – or else everyone is now full to bursting. In June, one warm Friday night in the middle of the month, I was also elected to the conseil d’administration for the refuge. Thankfully, this has not involved much work beyond what I was already doing, and I enjoy the meetings as I learn such a lot about the refuge and all the animals. I’ve enjoyed being in an environment that is completely French as well, truth be told. A meeting every so often, open days and food drives – it’s good to be part of a team that are so invested in what they do.
The summer passed in a haze of marking, dogs, kittens and gardening. I don’t even know how many kittens I’ve had through my doors this year, but I have loved them very much. I love dogs, don’t get me wrong. My dogs are so easy. We have a comfortable routine that suits us all very well. But I do so love cats. Petting dogs is not the same as petting cats. I can’t have cats here because I live on a blind bend and cars pass at stupid speeds, plus there is a lot of wildlife out there that seems to have put paid to more cats than you’d expect. Cats are fragile things and where diseases may kill puppies – the dreaded parvovirus is likely to do its worst to a puppy – cats are at risk for so very many more things. The kittens have come here at 10 days old, two weeks, three weeks, six weeks. If they need bottle feeding, I’m a dab hand at that. I’m well used to making the transition from milk to food. Still, it makes me sad to have lost two babies this year – to worms more likely than not – and as my last little man waits for a home, I’m kind of missing him already knowing he’ll be the last for a few months maybe.
Much of the end of August and the beginning of September involved gearing up the foire for Les Dames de FER. It was all flapping-beneath-the-surface and very little of graceful-swan-on-top, especially since it absolutely heaved it down until two minutes before we opened.
October was a long descent into the book fair and the refuge open days, alongside planning for Christmas markets!! You finish one and then end up doing another. I am not designed for being on organising committees. Big ideas, yes, minutiae and sorting out who brings the float, who cleans the toilets and who’s responsible for tea bags is beyond me.
I did manage to spend a good amount of time in the garden, and to say I’m better prepared than last year for 2016 is progress indeed. Weather-wise, autumn was pretty glorious – it’s been neither cold nor wet – but it doesn’t give the garden much of a break. Happily, Tobby has managed a good few afternoons of pottering around the garden looking for stuff to pick up and carry, or apples to chomp on.
November was the Christmas market and preparing the calendar for the refuge. There’s still a mammoth backlog of photos on my laptop that need processing, but I’ve not really had a sit-down kind of a Christmas, so they’re all yet to be done. In reality, I’ve done a couple of hours of teaching most days, except for Christmas Day, and looking after other people’s pets and trying to squash in as much refuge time as I can has left me a bit brain-dead of an evening. When I’m back down to four dogs and perhaps a kitten on Sunday, I think I will feel a little more prepared for the new year.
Not a year, in all, in which anything different happened – One Mr Tobby came to live with me, and a whole load of kittens stopped over from May through to December, but a year that lacked a gentle pace but made up for it in kindness. I came out of it a lot stronger, if a lot more tired.
It’s ironic that so many people have advised me against involvement in volunteering – usually the very people who want me to do something for them instead. What they mean to say is, “Don’t spend your time doing that, spend it helping me instead.” Each time, it leaves me a little more reluctant to do things for them. The refuge never ask too much of me – there are enough volunteers and we are all conscious of how much we give. It’s amazing how many people think I will happily contact refuge staff of an evening, or on a Sunday, to ask some mundane question about something that could happily wait and are cross when I say I’ll leave it to the morning. I know they might have a burning desire to adopt a dog at 10.30pm on a Saturday night, and need to know if it’s got kennel cough or not, but it’s like there’s a complete lack of reason when I explain that it’ll have to wait until Monday, as if I am getting in the way of them saving the universe and I’m little more than a complete jobsworth. It’s my resolution to spend less time with those who think their time is worth so much more than those who already give so much. I’m determined too to spend less time on those who ask for the moon, or who think I have an hour or two to listen to them pontificate about the state of animal welfare in France, or that they are the only human being on the planet who is asking me to do something. So for next year, I plan to do more of the things I love and fewer of the things that suck the marrow from my bones!
Hopefully you will all be having a lovely NYE surrounded by those you love. Here’s to 2016!