Dog Blog


I haven’t blogged of late. Not because things have been particularly difficult (although they have, from time to time), nor because I have nothing to say (I do! I do!), but because in the last month our home life has been turned upside down by a small dog named Dorothy.

It has been a bit of a shock. We are not, or were not, ‘doggy’ people. We got annoyed with the dogs who barked as we ran past and the owners who didn’t pick up their dogs’ poos. We often found the smell in doggy houses rather unpleasant and if I’m perfectly honest, we probably thought most doggy people were a bit soft in the head.

When the children started to badger us for a dog, we found every reason we could to dissuade them. Along with all the arguments listed above, there were: We won’t be able to go abroad on holiday; you will argue over it; it will wreck the house; it will upset the cats; there are too many dogs around here already; it will molt everywhere; we will end up having to look after it, not you; it will be very expensive. And each of these points has already proved itself to be true. But…

Our sad eyed bundle of fur has already given our family an almost indescribable boost. Indeed I feel quite overwhelmed (in a slightly teary and really rather soft-headed way) thinking about how our lives have changed for the better since she came to live with us. The parallels with adoption are there, although unlike our children, Dorothy was one pampered pup (we’re talking Farleys Rusks and warm goats milk at bedtime) before she came. Still, like our children Dorothy has had to leave all she knew before and make a new life for herself here with new owners and without her mum, dad, brothers and sisters. So we are in familiar’ish territory there at least.

And our daily lives have once again been transformed, for better and worse! For a start, she has given us a whole new routine: We get up early to feed her and take her out and plan our day around her (alongside the children’s school and activities, of course) so at the very least we are ready earlier, getting more fresh air and more exercise. She has given our family a new focus and dynamic – we no longer put all our attention onto the children’s behaviour and, although both have complained that they get less attention, they also love her and are slowly accepting that there might be more to our home life than their own needs and wants. It’s hard to be cross when she nips or wees on the carpet, after all, she’s just a baby! – our baby – and sweet as a nut, which helps.

Most importantly (and thank you Mizz for pointing this out before we got her because it really tipped the do-we / don’t-we balance in her favour) she gives us all endless, unconditional love. Being joyfully greeted every time you come down stairs or back from the shops with the waggiest tail, the sloppiest licks and softest cuddles, really is all it’s cracked up to be and makes us feel truly, specially blessed. Seeing daily behavioural changes based on our actions and their consequences is an added bonus! And coming as she has when our children are at their puberty-approaching grumpiest, the timing could not have been better. What is picking up poo with a bag when you are used to scraping it off the walls? Barking? Pah! Chewed furniture and wet doggy pong? Bring em on! Thank you Miss Dorothy. You have changed my life.



IanDuryTo be honest, this has not been a good week. So I hope you will excuse this self-indulgent and frankly, surprisingly long list on the basis that it has allowed me to name and count my not-inconsiderable blessings in a climate of dense gloom.

  1. It looks like the children’s book I have been writing with a friend may well be published. Still in shock, nothing signed, but feeling tentatively cheerful about that.
  2. We are probably-almost definitely-maybe getting a doglet. Going to see one next week. On my own. On a hovercraft – weeeeee – another tick off the bucket list. Small pleasures!
  3. Our sanctuary of a bedroom in the loft. My place of peace with four big windows from which I can see for miles in all directions. Heaven.
  4. An amazing app called Night Sky. I can point up at the stars from my bed and find out what I’m looking at. Apps are pretty amazing things full stop really, aren’t they?
  5. Our boy Blue. Our girl Red. We have our moments, some of them hideous, but there are good reasons for most. We are getting there and they make me happy too.
  6. Elmo and I are going out tonight! Wooohooo! Paaaaarddddayyyy.
  7. Maps: a pleasure inherited from my daddy.
  8. Our family, on both sides. We love them and, whatever the crap, they love us back, unconditionally. They are happy, smiley, positive people too, which helps.
  9. Yoga. I just GET it. These days I even like the breathing and the funny long names. It makes me feel alive and content and temporarily in love with whomsoever is leading the session, even if she is on YouTube.
  10. Our incredible local friends, most of whom we met through the children, an unexpected benefit if you like. I really don’t know what we would do without them. They are a godsend. (Note to self: They are probably getting fed up with the unrequited rescue requests. Throw that thank you party SOON.)
  11. Talking and texting to my sisters in pseudo-European-gobbledegook.
  12. The online adoption community, Gawd bless us. They (you / me) truly understand and are only ever a tweet away. Instant therapy, sunshine or guidance as required.
  13. Planning holidays and trips away. One of life’s most indulgent pleasures (I browse haaaard). In another life, I think I could be a bespoke travel agent.
  14. Walking in the countryside. The joy of nature, as my teachers used to call it. Thank you. I get it now.
  15. All the music iTunes and Spotify can give me instant access to on demand. Singing together, wherever. Dancing, when possible. Old tunes, new tunes, Radio 1-6, I can even enjoy Kiss FM in short bursts. Lately though my preference, while sitting alone in the car or very occasional bath, is Radio 3! Ahhh, the orderly, complicated, measured, harmonic beauty of it all. I really must be getting old. Talking of which…
  16. Old friends who make me feel that I am somehow still whoever I once was. We happily accept the wrinkles and other changes we see as the years pass because we can also see and remember that younger more vibrant us inside each other. Wonderful.
  17. Multicultural Britain, particularly the great mix of children and families I work with and the Turkish shop at the bottom of our road. I can buy almost anything there, fresh and cheap and it smells just like our friend Kemal’s shop in Istanbul. Yay!
  18. The sacred and the profane. I am not religious and I’m not even very spiritual but I do relish the few moments I’ve experienced of that peace which passeth understanding, at least I think that’s what it was. I love holy places of all persuasions (I include no.14 among those) and admire the wisdom, kindness and courage of many who embrace faith, even if I can’t quite do it myself. I’m also strangely drawn to religious symbols and icons, including the cheesy variety. In fact, the cheesier the better as far as they are concerned. Aaaaaamen.
  19. My beautiful, kind, clever, hard-working, young(ish) husband Elmo Stickle. Although the height of passion these days has become snuggling up in our den watching whatever series we are into at the time – I would say Wolf Hall but he keeps falling asleep – he still makes me very happy indeed.
  20. Being old and proud: I got a letter the other day saying my not-very-sizeable pension comes into fruition this year. That made me laugh out loud! I really don’t care anymore what other people think. I already wear quite a lot of purple.

Touch Wood


Before I was a parent, in fact well before I’d even met my husband, I only had one proper, if somewhat amorphous, goal: I wanted to be a happy mum, eeking out a living from teaching, writing bits and bobs and selling homemade fudge from an old ice cream van at festivals. In between all that and having fun with my family I would be walking the dog, tinkering on a piano and pottering around an easel with a paintbrush in a white house with big windows, surrounded by green grass and trees, wearing only a kaftan and dangly earrings.

So far, life hasn’t quite worked out like that (perhaps fortunately, in the case of the kaftan) but lately – and I shudder to write this, tempting as it does the hand of fate – things have been feeling pretty darn good. You never know, one day soon I could even be ticking some of those wishes off my bucket list.

Since Django changed schools a few weeks back, yes, there have been a few wobbles – it hasn’t and never will be completely plain sailing and there are SATS to contend with for heaven’s sake – but there has definitely been a palpable shift in his mood and (dare I say it?) his resilience. Could it be he is growing up?!

Last night he cooked tea. Not cake, nor bread, nor anything remotely involving flour or sugar. No, he made a salad. And this miraculous salad, which he made following a RECIPE (shock horror gasp), even contained ingredients that he doesn’t usually enjoy eating, like avocado and cold cooked chicken. Still more wondrous, my little Roux-boy consciously made a dish that complemented the meal I had already planned (lamb kofte and new potatoes, as it happens). He worked WITH me, in the Stickleberry kitchen, for nearly an hour with NO anger, NO controlling, NO attention deficits, NO handstands, NO keepy-uppies, NO terrible mess, NO zooming off halfway through to watch the telly, NO refusing to clear up and absolutely NO forgetting to go to the toilet. And the resulting meal was delicious too! I was soooo happy I nearly burst the seams of my ill-fitting, imaginary kaftan.

I don’t want to burst any bubbles at the same time, but the flip side is the effect Django’s change of mood/demeanour/approach has had on Red. In her mind’s eye (and often ours) SHE is the calm, wise, resilient one who knows how to behave, focus, problem-solve and COOK, dontcha know? Django taking on her sensible role leaves her some space to be angry, a space which she is taking up with gusto. Even this has its uses because she does tend to bottle things up but she is also left questioning her usual identity, and so feels doubly lost and fearful. All this on top of and because her older brother, the only one who has always been there, is no longer around at school to protect (or be protected by) her.

But we’re aware of that, and giving her extra love and time too, to counter the meltdowns. The truth is we are all in a far, far better place than we have ever been. I’m even considering inviting some friends round! Our smiles are wider and we’re breathing more deeply – and for however long it lasts I want us all to remember this feeling because like this is just how we want our lives to be.

Posted in The Adoption Social / Memory Box  / 19 May 2014