Tag Archives: Saffy

Goodnight Miss Saffy

Steve buried Saffy this morning. It was quite heart-breaking. She’s in the same patch as Basil.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to my father’s, my brother Al had decided that this was an amusing topic for conversation and asked if she’d done a little wave with her paw before she’d gone out to die. He’s mean. Not only did my dad not stop him, but he joined in a bit.

I miss Saff. I miss her getting under my feet in the kitchen and the way she used to bark at everything, how she’d do giddy little half jumps when she got excited. I miss how she sits down waiting for a treat and how gentle she was. I miss how she took control instinctively and the little bit of joy she got from walks. I feel sad that she didn’t have anyone who loved her as much as I loved Basil. Because it’s not the same when you’ve only known them for two months, no matter how much you want it to be. I miss seeing her under Steve’s duvet in the morning, and how good she was – never even the slightest bit of bother. Even when she died, she did it in the least bothersome way.

Bringing up the rear

This picture is taken perhaps 10 days after we got the two spaniels. She might be behind, but she loved the walks. She’d do her little half jumps when you got her lead out, and both her lead and Tilly’s were chewed through – she chewed them when she was waiting for the door to be open. This walk, she almost had enough – but she kept plodding on, regardless of her size or difficulty moving. I always had to help her into the car. She’d sit on the front seat, with Molly and Tilly in the back, like Driving Miss Daisy.

In the leaves

She loved the walks in the leaves, and I can see her little tennis ball under the TV cabinet, the last place she put it so the others couldn’t get to it. She was only last Sunday pulling a stick from Steve’s hand, like she’d rediscovered the joy of sticks. You could guarantee if she found a stick, or had her ball, she’d keep it until she got home.


And I had such a lovely time with her when Steve and Jake were away.

Yay for Saff with her stick
All my girls waiting for a walk
Dog prison for doggies who eat chicken food!

And our final photo of Saffy, waiting for a treat, taken by Jake. I have to say, I think it’s funny that Tilly’s attention is elsewhere.

Madame Saff xx

What a great dog she was. What a shame she was given up and what a shame what had gone before had interfered so much with her health. I can only hope there was a little joy in those jumps. I know so. Bones, treats, scraps, leftover lamb, bits of crackling are all par for the course in this house. Spoilt our doggies may be, but they can never be with us long enough.

Come on God, do I seem bulletproof?

Just when I thought things would settle down a bit, they don’t.

Saffy had been very sick yesterday and hadn’t eaten much since Thursday. She was crying and sick last night, so we decided to take her to the vet this morning. Really didn’t think it was anything serious. Just when we were getting ready to go, she went outside. I seriously thought she was feeling a little better. She just lay in a patch of snowdrops and stopped breathing. Just like that. Poor old girl.

Part of me is devastated. She’s only been with us since just before Christmas. But she was so ill. She made valiant attempts to come on walks, played with her ball, had discovered sticks and chews. She’d learned to give a paw for a treat and she was a real old character, always in the chicken pen trying to scoff chicken food. But it was a world of pain for her – she might have been only nine, but she was so ill. She was a real valiant trooper. I can only hope she had a sweet retirement and that she didn’t suffer too much – I don’t think she did. She just got weaker and weaker. She ate treats, chased cats and chickens, ferreted about and had walks. A dog can’t ask for more. I can only hope those two months weren’t too distressing for her, being away from the people she’d known all her life. But she was loved here.

Trouble is, with Basil dying, our garden is fast becoming an animal graveyard and I just wish they weren’t so close on one another.

I also sprained my ankle yesterday. It’s the fourth time in about 10 years. Always the left. The last time I sprained it, like this time, I just went down on the floor, from pain-free walking to painful flat-on-my-face with barely a collapse in 1 second. Yesterday it was the same. I was walking alongside Steve – one minute I’m chatting shit, and the next I’m rolling around on the floor in the leaves. He had to get the van, get through the mud up the track, pick me up and take me back. I’d actually started writing this bit first, and was going to be funny, but I’m just not feeling the universal love today. Except from my family. My mum has already been on, as have Joanne and Abi. It just doesn’t get any easier.

Sometimes, a lyric just grabs you with how ‘wow’ it is:

This song does that twice for me…. “The medicated state of mind you find is overrated.” and the title of this blog. Sometimes, it feels like the universe is throwing a whole world of shit at you. You just have to remember that it’s just life.

Rest in peace, Saffy… I know you’re no longer in pain. xxxx

Why oh why…

Did I want two more dogs??

I might as well have Dog Slave and Boy Slave written on me in permanence. I do nothing but pander to the whims of the various animals from dawn to dusk.

First is Moll waking me up by wanting to get under the covers and then get out again. Because I’m blanketed up, she’s got three to get under or out of. Thus, I have to be fully awake to unwrap and re-wrap her. This is Steve’s fault for letting her sleep in the bed. Now she’s entitled.

Second is navigating cat shit. Basil no longer wants to go outside on account of the other dogs and so he’s back on litter box duty. However, he misses. Today he shat in my last box of card from The Card Factory.

Third is navigating Tilly’s ‘girlie accidents’ (according to the ad about her from her previous owners – actually, completely un-housetrained… hmmmm)  and mopping up before letting them all out, having safely secured Basil in a dog-free eating environment so that he can eat his precious cat food in peace without being molested by Saffy or Tilly. Molly wouldn’t dare, but Saffy and Tilly are greedy and their eyes are bigger than their consciences or fear of punishment.

Then comes petting Tilly after she’s weed and congratulating her on weeing outside or doing a big shit. I’m going to start congratulating everyone for shitting where they should. I might stand near my brother and go “Good Aim!” when he gets it in the bowl.

Following this, I have to then retrieve Basil from his cold dog-free buffet and settle the dogs down again.

Mostly, things are fairly calm until I need to go out. It’s not so much the going out that’s the problem, it’s the coming back. Tilly sits on the back of the settee so she can look through the window, which is very cute and thus I am heart-broken upon leaving. Then when I get back, I have not to greet Tilly until she’s weed, and fuss Saffy who barks until you do and pet Molly who I like fussing when I come back because she doesn’t wee or bark. Then they rifle through my bags.

I then have to have three dogs underfoot in the kitchen until I send them all packing. I do a good line in ‘Out! Out!’ until they all disappear, before sneaking back in. Then the whole rigmarole again.

Tilly, not being house-trained, likes to sit near the door knowing full well whenever she does we’ll let her out. Then Saffy follows her, not wanting to miss anything. Tilly used to go out to drink – both dogs are compulsive drinkers, because they’re so used to it and doing it out of boredom. Tilly goes outside to drink from the laundry basket and then comes in and wees in Jake’s room or the dining room, or the kitchen, or some other place I’ve yet to find and I mop again. Saffy barks every time she goes outside because she’s so excited to be outside and nobody has ever told her not to. So if they go out, I have to follow – firstly to inspect peeing and nervous drinking – and secondly to stop the barking and chicken chasing.

Molly also has got into the habit of sitting in Steve’s chair, behind him. The chair isn’t big enough for both of them, so Steve usually falls off the edge as Molly shoves her way in. Tilly sits near the door desperate for some extra water or a sniff at some cat food. Saffy, thankfully, is sleeping.

This is obviously not even including the walking and the fussing and the constant attention to dog psychology.

But, I must say, I love it really.

Walking in the January sunshine

I have kind of made a mental note to keep a seasonal journal of what the weather is like, what gets planted and so on. I started doing this last August and lasted about a couple of months, but then life got in the way. The great Reptily Family blog keeps a record in the same way, and I like it. It’s super-organised. It also helps me make sense of what’s going on seasonally, and how things compare year-on-year. Plus, it helps to know how to do things better next year.

I also decided I would take a photo a day, to capture the weather and the mood and the moment. Kind of a photographic haiku. I like haiku. I might write one for each photo. At least, I’d intend to. Starting things is my forte, finishing them, not so. If every idea I had came to fruition, I’d need 200 of me.

Moss-covered stone-fall

Cold January Landscapes

A French Karesansui!

I did keep to week 1 of my resolutions: to take the dogs for three long walks a week. We’ve done seven hours of long walks this week. I’d forgotten today was hunting – and the forest was thick with men in 4x4s (cat-cats as they are in Morocco – or quatre-quatre if you don’t know what I’m on about!) with big dogs and guns – and although I’m always worried about a dog getting shot, I’m more worried one of the hunters will run us over in his bloody great Mitsubishi off-roader. Is there really a need??!

Saturday – New Year’s Day – was bleak and felt colder than it was. Don’t think we saw the sun that day, though I saw a flock of egrets about 50 deep! I think it got to about 4 degrees, but it felt a whole lot colder. Too cold to be outside other than for walks. We went on the bitches’ walk (really, Lac de la Biche, which is actually a puddle, but the walk is about 3 km) and got back quickly to the warmth.

La Nouvelle Année:

Solitary wanderer

and three happy dogs

Sunday – the 2nd – was a little brighter – we got bursts of sun. I’d started out on the 9 km ‘route du Gros Fayard’ but immediately took a wrong turning, ended up off the beaten track (always better walks, but with me – a huge sense of being able to get lost and die and be eaten by dogs) and walked through some absolutely wonderful woodland – the kind of woodland you imagine in  Little Red Riding Hood. Although Charles Perrault was Paris-born and bred, you can imagine the fairy stories he collected coming from people who’d grown up in places like this.

Molly swinging on a dog-swing

Molly found a ‘dog swing’ – a branch still attached – and swung up and down on it for ages. It was just the right height for her to grab, but I had visions of her being catapulted over the woods.

Today – the 3rd – I’d planned on going back to do the 9 km walk I’d planned yesterday, but to no avail. Having broken the cistern, I spent much of the afternoon fashioning a makeshift device to keep it water-free until Steve returns tomorrow. I really wanted to fix it and to fix it properly, but my will was lost the second cold water spurted in my face. So… a shorter 2 hour walk, but in glorious late-afternoon winter-cold sunshine.

Winter-blue cold skies

Wood-cutters  in the distance

Do they look up too?

I had planned on planting my leeks this week, as well as getting some begonias and petunias started, and with the temperatures predicted to rise above 5 degrees from Thursday, it seemed like a good time to do it. However, the French seem to be fairly obsessed by Lunar gardening (it’s an obsession when you can buy several magazines based on the premise…) and Rustica said it was an inauspicious time to do it. Apparently there is a solar eclipse tomorrow – cool! I don’t know how I missed the one in 2000, but I did. Maybe I was sleeping.

So… the leeks will wait for more auspicious weather.

New beginnings and not being lost

Is it a tradition that Boxing Day and New Year’s Day should include walks? I guess it’s to walk off the excess of the festivities! I managed not to get lost today, after having managing to get lost on an epic, two-hour, scale yesterday. That’s always an achievement.

The Beast, the Ewok and Madame Cholet, wombling about

I took the dogs down to the forest again – a different part this time. It definitely seems that the bit north of the main road is a lot less accessible and that the devil has a lot of business with the signposts, and the south-side is a whole lot more organised and Godly. We parked up by the Maison Forestière at Le Gros Fayant and just did an hour trail. However, after yesterday, this felt like a simple stroll and not worthwhile. I suspect my Achilles tendon won’t have that ripping feeling tonight, and if your Achilles doesn’t feel like it’s fabric that’s been stretched to within an inch of its resistance, it’s not really a walk, to me.

Moments later, they decide to 'off-road'

It was bitingly cold by the time I got there – bit of Vent du Nord going on, and the sky was that grey crime writers always call ‘gunmetal’ and I love. The forest is mostly deciduous and so I spent most of my time marvelling at how green some stuff is. It was quite a bit above freezing, but it was still cardigan, hat and scarf weather. Speaking of scarves, I have had a hair-brained idea (why do they call it hair-brained? Or is it hare-brained? I need to know this!) to take up knitting. I haven’t knitted since primary school, but I spent much of last night looking at knitting videos on Youtube and believe I can do it. Plus, I’m from a family of knitters. I sense hand-knitting will return in a big way. Anyway, I digress, and I’m back on my ‘yule’ theme…

New Year Gloom

I can kind of see why we have ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ as a pseudo-Christmas carol – though let’s face it, we all know Holly and Ivy had nothing to do with Jebus or his birth. Still there was lots of fabulous shiny holly dotted about in between trees, lots of ivy and then occasional bunches of mistletoe here and there. Very yuleish. If I wanted to bring something green in to remind me spring was on its way, I’d go for a Christmas tree and some holly, some ivy and some mistletoe. There was only the bright green swathes of broom alongside that, and let’s face it, that’s not photogenic at all. Nobody is going to make up a carol about broom.

Holly - nothing whatsoever to do with Jebus

Still, had a good (if short-feeling) walk with the dogs, spent much of the walk getting giddy with Moll about sticks. The other two are not bothered at all about sticks. Saffy goes crazy for a ball, but Tilly just ambles along looking like an Ewok and being cute when she gets batted over by Moll. It’s almost regular, now. Madame ‘Cuisses de Tonnerre’ – Molly Dog – will turn around, find Silly just behind her, jump over her – or attempt to – not quite clear her and knock her flying on to her back. Silly Tilly always looks at me as if to say ‘Make this indignity stop!’ but after she chased my cat today, we’re not best of friends.

Molly de-molly-ishing a stick and Saffy, looking on, bemused

Moll, it must be said, takes no prisoners when she’s giddy. She quite often – pardon my French, but it’s the only word that works – twats me on the back of the calves with a ficken great stick. She did it again today. Sticks are part-toy, part-weapon to the Moll. They’re all weapon to me. Now all three girls are asleep and cute and clean – Moll and Saff snoring, and Tilly cute as it’s possible for a blonde dog to be.


Pedigree dogs

Now Saffy and Tilly have settled in a little more, I’m left thinking a little bit about how wonderful the Moll is. She’s sitting looking at me right now, so I’ve got owner-guilt. Molly’s a Bassetts… Allsorts! She’s probably a bit ridgebacky, a bit bully, a bit of lots of other things. She’s such a kind dog, and such a caring dog. She’s very aware of her size and she’s very, very gentle. She is, however, totally spoilt where as it’s clear Saffy and Tilly know their place, sitting in their baskets and staying there. Probably as much comfort as anything else – it must smell of home.

It’s clear they have been loved – they’re both a little plump, though Saffy’s through illness – but as to what’s happened recently, I don’t know. Lack of money, no doubt, rather than lack of care. Both have fleas and ear infections and conjunctivitis. They’ve been around the world. Saffy seems to have come from Lancashire, then gone to Florida then come to France. Tilly was bought in America and then has come to France.

It’s hard not to be judgmental – especially when it’s animals. I know I’d be upset if I found a child at school who’d been coming to school with nits and ear infections and eye infections, but of course it’s cheaper to treat children than dogs. But that brings me to the whole ‘pedigree’ issue.

Apparently, although I’d missed it, the Hope Association had two dogs named Scruffy and Alex. Scruffy is such a sad name for a dog! They were cross-breeds, and it was apparently a lot harder to shift them than these two lovely dogs. Mutts don’t have the same appeal.

Yet, having done some writing for Defra and the Kennel Club, I’m intensely aware of the difficulties of a ‘pure-breed’ dog and would rather, if honest, have a cross-breed Moll. Although we had a pure-breed spaniel, Ticker, a.k.a Little Lady Lovelace, she had all the typical spaniel problems – cataracts, deafness, eczema, dermatitis. My Nana had Westies, first Cracker, then Chip, before she adopted my uncle Geoff’s very lively American spaniel.  Westies are fraught with leg and hip problems.

I have loved the dogs in my life – as Steve in his – his family are lovers of Alsatians – again, associated with mental illnesses rather than physical ones, and needing a good breeder.

I understand why, if you have working dogs, you might want a breed dog. Also, if you’ve got history with a breed, you want to keep that history going. Some breeds are ‘perfect’ for a particular situation or family.

BUT… they just aren’t as healthy as a mutt! Neither my mutt cat or our mutt dog has had problems caused by their breeding – and I for one am completely torn about where I stand on animal husbandry. On the one hand, Tilly, like Sunny – my Nana’s American Spaniel – is a beautiful cuddly (if smelly at the moment!!) teddy bear; on the other, she’s already got ear infections and conjunctivitis. It’s a shame. Breed dogs are a lot of hard work, and unscrupulous breeders should be shot (A little harsh, I know!) – my friend Carlo loves grey Staffies, but he’s trying to breed Earl, his stud staffie, and can’t find any breeding females who’ve been tested for genetic diseases!! All the breeders are really laissez-faire about the pups they bring into the world, and then charge £800 for! At the same time, I think of his older female, Macy, who is constantly ill. He’s got to sell his car to pay for her next bit of treatment. She’s constantly at the vet’s with non-life-threatening illnesses – and it’s just a shame. She’s a beautiful dog, but she’s an expensive one.

So… if you’re going to buy or adopt a breed dog, I’d suggest you need to have enough cash to keep them healthy and that you do thorough research and even blood tests on their parents. And, spare a thought for the Mutt. Scruffy, Alex and Molly might not be the most cute looking animals, but what mutts lack in looks, they make up for in health and happiness and loyalty. And when I say cross-breed, I don’t mean labradoodles or cockapoos or any other weird combination!!

Our Moll Heinz 57 is a credit to mixed parentage! But, God bless all dogs that need a home, and God grant them happiness and health and people who love them. A dog can make us a better person. It teaches us to care, to be altruistic, to think of others’ needs, to be selfless. It teaches us about loyalty and unconditional love. It teaches us to be responsible and we can often exhibit love for an animal in ways we British can’t show for other people. I think of the kisses and cuddles Jake and Steve lavish on the dogs, and in a way, it’s much easier to love a dog than a person! It teaches us to forgive too. I might not be as forgiving of Jake if he peed on the kitchen floor – or as understanding!! I think sometimes the way we love animals should be the way we love people too…

We put them first, we care about them, we brush them, we tend to them. They bring us intense happiness, and you can never be really cross at them, even if they chew your shoes. I think all families are improved by a dog!

3 snoring dogs, 2 violent men and a Lady Justine in a pear tree*

*Alright… not in a pear tree.

Tilly and Saffy arrived today at 5:30. Both were exhausted from their long journey up from the south, but seemed to settle in fairly quickly. Saffy barked for the first half an hour at anything that moved. It’s clear she’s got cataracts as well as a thyroid problem, although her details say she is only nine. Poor thing. Tilly is a cute little teddy bear of a dog. Both have fleas, and I’ve given them a dose of Advantix and sprayed all their bedding with flea spray.

Molly is such a fantastic dog – she let them come in, barked a bit at David who delivered them (she doesn’t like men, for some reason) and although she looks a little concerned, she’s snoring next to me like she realises her world hasn’t changed that much.

Both Tilly and Saffy are CUTE dogs. Molly’s more a loveable dog. Molly’s got great character – I’m sure we’ll see if Tilly and Saffy do too. Saffy is in her basket, snoring a little more quickly than Tilly – and it’s her I feel most for. She’s from Lancashire originally – I see from her papers, and then went to America, then went via Barcelona to France – she’s done a lot in her 9 years of existence. She’s also going to be the one who misses her former owners the most I should imagine. She’s clearly not very well, but I’m hoping that getting her on her medication will help. I can’t help but think she’s not going to last a very long time.

Tilly is already finding her feet, although she’s sleep barking at the moment. She’s had a couple of accidents – once when she saw Basil – but I’m hoping that disappears when she realises she’s here for good.

Basil was okay at first. Both saw him when he came in for his tea – and neither made a fuss. Basil came creeping in an hour or so later, sniffing round the door and having a good look. Saffy woke up and barked, Tilly barked too, and both went haring off after him. Poor Basil. He ended up on my bed. Both are very well trained, it seems. Neither jump up on the couch, and neither beg like Molly does for food, although Tilly was interested. I’m sure Basil will be fine. Tilly was the one, though, who finished off her own food and then went on to eat Saffy’s and then Molly’s. We’ll have to keep an eye on her!

I’m wondering, however, about the chickens and how they’ll get on tomorrow. I’m guessing we might have to shut the gate into the courtyard to allow the dogs to get used to the chickens and vice versa.

I’m thinking long bonding walks tomorrow – not sure how Saffy will cope, so might be a shorter walk for her! I’m sure Tilly, once she gets used to Molly’s size, will be fine.

Two new additions…

In the last 24 hours, we’ve become almost foster parents to two spaniels, Tilly and Saffy – courtesy of an ad on AngloINFO from the Hope Association asking for help for the two girls who would become homeless in the next few weeks if a place wasn’t found, and then have to go to the dog rescue centre. Dog rescue centres in France are not good. Like most Europeans, the French are much less sentimental about animals (although it’s true to say they love dogs – there’s a much broader spectrum of what’s considered fine for an animal, and small cages, tight chains, bark-buster collars and muzzles are less frowned upon) and so the dog rescue centres aren’t quite like our English ones.

Unfortunately, lots of people who emigrate here leave animals behind. It doesn’t make me happy, but I try not to be judgmental. I know everyone has their reasons, and it must be hard to leave family pets behind. Still, Molly and Basil are passported up and I wouldn’t go anywhere without them. Basil gets fed before anyone else. Molly hogs the bed.

So, when I saw the ad, I couldn’t let two spaniels go to the rescue centre. We had a gorgeous spaniel when we were growing up – Ticker – she was absolutely adorable. In fact, she equals Moll in gorgeousness, though Moll takes the edge in personality. And my Nana and Gramps had an American spaniel they took on from my Uncle Geoff – Sunny – who was absolutely bonkers. He shredded tissues, rooted through handbags, loved my Nan’s Mint Imperials, ate a pack of butter, a frozen loaf and ate the meringue off a lemon meringue pie, leaving the lemon and the pie – so neatly we thought my Nana had forgotten to put the meringue on it. Sunny had to be in front on a walk and would scrabble and scramble until he got in front of everyone, so he could get first dibs on spilt curry sauce outside the pub. He waited by the door every time my Gramps was due back from work – the most loyal and good natured dog, if completely stupid and ‘blonde’. So, to find a couple of spaniels needing a home for Christmas (and beyond) seems almost fated!

One of the ladies, Saffy, is 11 – she’s not well, but it will probably be really hard for her, and really strange without her family. I hope she’s okay. It’ll be so strange for her. I hope she settles in fine.

The other girl is Tilly. She’s the American spaniel – which are, in my biased opinion, the cutest dogs on the planet. All that blonde hair. She’s 4, so hopefully she’ll be a good playmate for Moll. Moll’s such a good nursery dog, I’m hoping she’ll really look after Saffy.

Tilly, Saffy and Molly… my lovely ladies. That’s 3 dogs, 4 chickens, a cat, a boy, a man and me. Oh, and some moles in the garden.

And I couldn’t be more pleased.

I thought long and hard about it. A dog, especially an older one, is a commitment. It can be expensive. Pedigree dogs are so much worse. Cross breeds are healthy and strong and intelligent – pedigrees can be nothing but inbred problems. Plus, it makes it so much harder to go away – 3 dogs is a lot more to ask people to look after. But, costs and looking after aside, it’s worth it.