Deep and Dark December

Another Monday, but one that doesn’t feel like a Monday… all my schedule is out of whack and I’m feeling a little less in-sync today. Here’s the delightful Paul and Art with I Am A Rock

We don’t have a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow though. In fact, if you’re in Lancashire, like many of my friends and family, you’re probably under a foot or so of water. Let’s hope there’s no big freeze to follow, otherwise you’ll be able to skate from Rochdale to Manchester. Kind of weird because we’ve had 14°C yesterday, and 17°C today. It’s blue skies and weird weather. I know it’s often like this in January, before the bitter winds bring us lower temperatures. Last year, we at least had frosts now, but this year, I’m grateful for the gentle night temperatures and the clear skies. I know the ground won’t be thanking me though. I started pruning the vines yesterday and was wondering if it’s really the right weather to do it. Still, if I don’t do it now…

I’m kind of profiting from the milder weather to do a bit in the garden and get out with the dogs. I had a young dog here over Christmas, Loupi, but he sent Tobby into spirals of obsessive licking and it got a bit weird, so sadly Loupi had to go back to the refuge. I could have tolerated it but Tobby wasn’t eating or sleeping, and I’m not sure what’s up with that. I suspect my other dogs are quite good at telling Tobby that enough is enough where the licking is concerned. All obsessive behaviours in dogs bring a kind of comfort, so it’s obviously filling an emotional need, but Loupi was such a sweetheart that he just tolerated it. It got to the point where I couldn’t separate the two without Tobby snarling, and it got a bit much. Even in separate rooms, Tobby was marking territory. He’s fourteen in 2016, so having his nuts off at his age isn’t much of an option, though I did wonder if he’s got a tumour which is causing him to create a lot of testosterone, since he promptly switched his obsessive behaviours from Loupi to Tilly. Tilly is very good at telling him to pack it in though, and he’s had a confrontational shouty blonde telling him that harassment is not to be accepted in her life. Poor Tobby. And mostly, poor Loupi. He’s a great dog – a pointer cross with divine ears and a great manner. It’s sad when there are puppies at the refuge that nobody wants because, hey, they’re boys, and yes, they’re hounds. Could be only worse if they were black. Apart from Edona, Loupi has been my favourite house-guest of the year. She was the little bichon who arrived at the refuge like one of those adverts that say ‘THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE LOOKING AT A PILE OF GARBAGE AND THEN COULDN’T BELIEVE WHEN IT MOVED’ that you see on Facebook. She was a little dreamboat and I was glad she was adopted.

Actually, when I think about it, my dogs are very tolerant of the houseguests. Sometimes it’s my friends’ dogs who come on brief holidays, and more often it’s refuge dogs on a layover to somewhere more exciting, or dogs I’ve been unable to stop myself from taking home if they are too stressed at the refuge. Big dogs, little dogs, boys, girls, old giffers and young pups, they’ve generally tolerated them. Even the bitey, nippy terrier pups were welcome. Tilly is actually the best dog because she’s got very clear and predictable boundaries and is not scared of telling dogs off if they’re leaping about or being too bouncy. Heston just plays with them all and then loses interest unless they are a similar age and size to him. Tobby was most put out by the pups, is generally not bothered by any boys or girls I bring home and is happy to see a new face. Amigo hides under the table and the only dog he’s been at all interested in has been Sarah’s dog Bandit. I thought I might even see Amigo playing. He never plays. He gets upset by playing. He thinks dog wrestling is a death match and can’t distinguish between playing and fighting, le pauvre. 

So as I go into the new year, I’m a bit of an island myself, in a sea of dog hair. I’m trying desperately to catch up on refuge photos, waiting patiently for my new lens – a nifty fifty (that’s a 50mm fixed lens which promises to make me move more than my zoom but offers higher resolution images and the ability to do some very lovely things I hope)

With the brief hiatus from many lessons (yes, I’m still teaching some very keen students!) the peace, the solitude and the very fine weather, I’m feeling a lot more refreshed than I was. Thank God. It’s the first Monday I can remember where I’ve felt like I can breathe a little. Let’s hope 2016 brings me a few more Mondays like this!

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