Remembering Sophie

It was eleven years ago today that Sophie came into my life. I’d found her from a classified ad on the internet while searching for a companion for my other little dog Sugar and of all the Jack Russells advertised something kept drawing me back to her picture. It seemed I was the first person to ring and enquire about her; she lived in south Derbyshire and as I couldn’t drive at the time a good friend offered to take me down there to see her the following day.
When we pulled up outside the house Sophie was in the garden with Christina, her owner, and the minute I saw that little dog something grabbed me and I just knew I was bringing her home. The following day was Sophie’s birthday, she would be two years old, so it seemed that not only was I getting a new little friend and Sugar was getting a new companion but Sophie was also getting a new home for her birthday.
She curled up on the back seat of my friend’s car and slept all the way back, and from the minute we arrived home it was as if she had always been there. She settled in with Sugar straight away, often sharing the same bed, she liked running about and exploring while on our long walks and quickly grew to love our many camping adventures. She only ever barked briefly if someone came to the door, other than she was very quiet, and she was the happiest, sweetest, gentlest, most good natured little dog I’ve ever known.
Sophie & Tiger 009Sophie On The Beach 003Sophie & Sugar, Christmas 09 012
Photos above : Top – Sophie’s 2nd birthday, 23-09-2009   Centre – Fleetwood beach, 04-10-2009   Bottom – Christmas Day 2009
California - May - June 2010 228
Misc. May-June 2010 043Anglesey - June '10 046
Photos above : Top – Swamped by a wave on a Norfolk beach, 03-06-2010   Centre – With the rosettes she won at a fun dog show, Oswestry 20-06-2010   Bottom – On Cemaes beach, Anglesey, 28-06-2010
Copy of Major Bridge Park - May 2011 047Misc. May-June 2010 019Elvaston Castle - July 2011 088
Photos above : Camping at an East Yorkshire site, May 2011   Centre – Paddling in the River Calder, June 2011   Bottom – Camping at Elvaston Steam Rally, July 2011
Manorafon - April '12 052Manorafon - April '12 057Anglesey - June '12 061
Photos above : Top & centre – Looking abandoned outside a cafe near Abergele, North Wales, Easter 2012   Bottom – With Sugar on the Anglesey camp site, June 2012
Willow Lakes - Feb. 2013 025Willow Lakes - Feb. 2013 030Copy of California - May - June 2010 262
Photos above : Top – Looking very silly in a hoodie far too big for her, Willow Lakes camp site February 2013   Centre – With Sugar on the same site   Bottom – In the van and not happy to be going home, Anglesey June 2013
Anglesey - May 2014 068Copy of Sophie
Photos above : Top – The end of another holiday, Anglesey May 2014   Bottom – At Elvaston Steam Rally July 2014
Sophie had been with me for over five years when just before Christmas 2014 I sadly lost Sugar to kidney failure at the age of sixteen-and-a-half. I’d been aware of the outcome when she first became ill so not wanting Sophie to be on her own I searched the internet again and found Poppie – she lived in Grimsby and I collected her on the last day of October that year. Initially on the timid side she became a good friend to Sophie once Sugar was no longer with us and the two of them were often found sharing the same bed.
Anglesey - June 2015 089Elvaston Castle - July 2015 024California - Sept. 2015 132
Photos above : Top – With Poppie in the tent, Anglesey June 2015   Centre – At Elvaston Steam Rally July 2015   Bottom – On the camp site at California, Norfolk, September 2015
Anglesey - May 2016 121Anglesey - June 2016 047Copy of Sophie & Poppie - little elves 011Copy of Sophie & Poppie - little elves 015
Photos above : Top – Curled up with Poppie, Anglesey May 2016   Centre –  In the tent, Anglesey June 2016   Bottom two – Santa’s little elves, December 2016
Local area 2017 323Copy of Sophie and Poppie 2017 003
Photos above : Top – The deepest she ever went in water, at a local reservoir May 2017   Bottom – After a minor operation on a front leg, June 2017
Copy of Elvaston Castle - July 2013 035DSCF1250
Photos above : Top – The end of an Anglesey camping trip, June 2018   Bottom – After a long local walk, July 2018
Copy of Local area 2019 310Copy of Local area 2019 329DSCF1287
Photos above : Top & centre – A walk in a local park, March 2019   Bottom – With Poppie on holiday in Cumbria, June 2019
I didn’t know it at the time but our Cumbrian holiday in June 2019 would be the last proper holiday Sophie would have. As many of you will remember from previous posts she suffered a stroke in early January this year; with medication and 24/7 care from me she improved slowly and I was hopeful that she would eventually recover but sadly it wasn’t to be and she drifted peacefully away after almost five weeks.
DSCF3795 - CopyDSCF3807 - CopyDSCF3804 - CopyDSCF3816DSCF3811 - Copy
Photos above : Top – Wrapped in a pilchard-stained towel after just being fed   2 – A silly way of sleeping   3 – The best way to keep her safe while I was out of the room   4 – In her bed at the side of mine   Bottom – In the back garden after a walk
Sophie’s passing left a huge hole in my heart, a hole which even now still hasn’t completely healed, and I still have unexpected moments of sadness when something triggers a particular memory of her. Tomorrow would have been her 13th birthday and though she is no longer here Poppie and I will cuddle up, remember the good times, and share a bit of cake in her memory.

Kip – a blind dog’s story

Kip was an adult liver and white English Springer Spaniel rescue dog, blind in both eyes from birth. I never really knew about his early years and why he came to be in rescue but after being transported from elsewhere in the country he had spent a couple of months in the care of NESSR (Northern English Springer Spaniel Rescue) in Northumberland before being rehomed to a lovely lady named Sylvia who also lived in Northumberland. Being blind didn’t seem to bother him and with his other senses being heightened he enjoyed life just as any other dog would, especially running along the beach at Druridge Bay and sniffing about in the nearby sand dunes with Sylvia close by. He was also a PAT dog (Pets As Therapy) and always enjoyed being fussed over by the people he went to visit.
Kip had been with Sylvia for two years when, completely out of the blue, he disappeared one day in June 2012 while on a walk along his favourite stretch of beach, and no matter how much Sylvia called there was no sign of him at all. In view of him being blind his details were immediately posted on the Doglost website and within a few hours a dozen volunteers from the local area and nearby were helping to look for him, a number which had increased to 30 searchers by 10pm that evening.
Concern for Kip’s safety quickly grew and via social media his details spread far and wide, with many more Doglost volunteers joining in the daily searches or canvassing various areas with posters featuring his photo. Those, like me, who were too far away to physically join the searches, did what they could from their computers, contacting newspapers and various tv and radio stations to ask if they would run a story on Kip in case he had somehow gone out of the area. Many dog loving celebrities were contacted via Twitter, to name a few – Coleen Nolan and Carol McGiffin from Loose Women, Ant & Dec, John Barrowman, Martin Clunes, Simon Cowell, Paul O’Grady, Jimmy Nail, Chris Packham, Chris Evans, Jonathon Ross and Cheryl Cole, and most of them re-tweeted, with Faye from Steps sending a personal message.
In the local area all vets within a radius of 30 miles were contacted, microlight pilots and the crew of the RAF Search and Rescue helicopter were asked to keep a lookout for Kip if they were ever airborne, and the Amble fishing fleet were also made aware of him. Doglost volunteers formed daily/nightly search parties and on one particular day a string of barbecues were lit at strategic places along a five mile stretch of beach between Amble and where Kip went missing in the hope that the smell of cooking sausages would bring him back.
One of the searchers belonged to the local fire crew and the fire service gave him ‘unofficial’ loan of a thermal imaging camera to use on his off-duty searches and someone else (I don’t know who) provided the services of a tracker dog and its handler when off duty. Kip’s Doglost page was inundated with hundreds and hundreds of messages of support and offers of help in various forms, and throughout it all Sylvia never gave up her search for him, often staying out all night in her car close to where he went missing. There were reports of a few possible sightings of a dog looking like Kip in various areas near to where he disappeared but unfortunately these all came to nothing.
I wish I could say that Kip was eventually found safe and well but sadly that wasn’t the case. Sixteen days after he went missing the continued searches for him were called off as his body had been found by two volunteers, washed up on the beach about two miles north of where he disappeared, and it seemed he must have been in the sea all that time. To say that this news was both tragic and devastating was an understatement – it hit everyone hard, especially those who had searched tirelessly for Kip, and the grief emanated through the messages on his Doglost page. It was news which no-one wanted but at least it gave Sylvia closure.
A few days later Sylvia posted a message to say that as a celebration of Kip’s life and a thank you to everyone who helped in the search for him she was arranging a get-together the following Saturday at the village hall close to where he was found and anyone who could get there was welcome – I had never been to Northumberland before but in memory of Kip I was determined to be there so I booked a pitch at a camp site a couple of miles from the hall and went up for the weekend.
There was quite a crowd, including various dogs, assembled at the village hall for Kip’s celebration and at 5pm we set off to walk a couple of miles to Kip’s favourite part of the beach where Sylvia would scatter his ashes before we all returned to the hall for a barbecue and buffet. One of the searchers was a member of the Blyth lifeboat crew and as we all walked along the beach the lifeboat sailed along parallel to the shore, stopping when we stopped – officially it was a training exercise but in reality they had turned out in memory of Kip.
Although we had set out in bright sunshine it was also very windy and the clouds quickly gathered as we walked along the beach, with the sky growing darker by the minute and a couple of sudden heavy rain showers hitting us. By the time Sylvia and her other dog Belle walked out to the shoreline it had gone very dark indeed but as she scattered Kip’s ashes along the sand the brightest rainbow suddenly appeared over the sea. Maybe it was being over the sea which made it so bright but I’ve never seen a rainbow like that before or since; it was as if Kip was sending down a sign from somewhere and there were many eyes filled with tears at that moment.
Back at the village hall the barbecue and buffet was, in the circumstances, a very friendly and happy occasion and I got to meet many of the people who I’d only known previously through the messages on Kip’s Doglost page, fellow dog lovers who were united by two things – the love for a blind dog who most had never met and the wish to reunite him with Sylvia, his mum. Back home a couple of days later I wrote this poem, simply titled “In Memory Of Kip” –
The sun was shining brightly as you ran along the sand
Your mum was close behind you with your lead held in her hand,
But you were having too much fun playing your own game
And you went too far to hear your mum when she called out your name.
No-one knows what happened but you ran right out of sight,
Your mum was really worried and she called with all her might.
Hours and days she searched for you and every night would pray
That tomorrow she would find you and it would be a happy day.
Lots of others joined the search and kept their fingers crossed
That everything would be okay for this blind dog who was lost.
And then one day the news came that the search need be no more
For your poor bedraggled body had been found upon the shore.
It seems like you had lost your way and gone for a long swim
Then God reached down and took you up to Heaven to live with him.
Many tears were shed that day and many hearts were broken
For this blind dog who was loved so much, and words could not be spoken.
The sun was shining brightly as we walked along the shore,
Forty, fifty people there and maybe even more.
The lifeboat sailed along with us – its captain and the crew
And all the people on the beach had all turned out for you.
As your mum sprinkled your ashes in a line along the sand
A rainbow came across the sea, sent by God’s own hand,
And as she looked up to the sky your mum did softly say
“Sleep tight sweet Kip, you’re safe now, I know you’ll be okay”
Kip's rainbow
Kip’s story touched the hearts and lives of so many people and though no-one will ever know what really happened the day he went missing his passing wasn’t in vain. The search for him brought many Doglost helpers together and forged new friendships; it also brought Doglost to the attention of many people who didn’t know about it, resulting in many new members who also helped in whichever way they could in the search for him, and some of those members went on  to search for Archie, another Springer Spaniel who later went missing in the north east.
Kip may no longer be here but eight years ago, and in his own way, he left his own lasting legacy so he certainly earned his wings.


Poppie’s great adventure

Last Thursday, a week after my previous walk round part of the Jumbles reservoir, I made a return visit to get some more photos of the old quarry as I’d been told by someone at work who goes fishing that it was now completely dry. This time I parked in the car park near the café on the east side of the reservoir and set off from there in my usual anti-clockwise direction.
The water level in the reservoir itself was definitely lower than the previous week and not far from the end of the first bridge after the café I went down onto one of the beaches which had increased in area as the water level dropped. A slight breeze took some of the heat out of the sun and it was so pleasant that I found a flat bit of rock and sat for a while just enjoying the view across the water.
It was when I decided to continue walking that Poppie decided to have her adventure, almost giving me a heart attack in the process. I don’t know how she managed it but with one strong tug she slipped her lead and was off like a shot, down the beach and into the water in pursuit of three ducks swimming nearby. At first they were swimming parallel to the beach but then they decided to head out towards the far side of the reservoir;  I thought Poppie might give up then but she didn’t and no matter how much I called her she just wouldn’t come back – she wanted those ducks and was out to get one.
Of course by then several unpleasant scenarios flashed through my brain at a million miles an hour – it was too dangerous for me to go in and get her, if she reached the other side she would be totally lost and it was a long way for me to run round, if she couldn’t make it to the other side she would probably drown somewhere in the middle….it was my worst nightmare.
Fortunately the ducks eventually turned back towards the beach, then all at once they just took off and flew away – and with nothing to chase Poppie finally gave up and headed back towards me. She was near enough to being exhausted by the time I finally hauled her out of the water so I was glad she came back when she did as the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to the quarry that day. In spite of the very warm weather Poppie was shivering with cold from her adventure so I just went straight back to the van and drove home, where I gave her a warm shower and a good towelling down to dry her off.
Poppie 2
Poppie’s lead is actually meant for a much bigger and stronger dog and it has a very good clip so I don’t know how on earth she managed to get free but I’ll be keeping a firm eye on her in the future whenever we are near any water and ducks.


A thoughtful gift from a neighbour

Last Sunday evening I was sitting here chatting on the phone to a friend when Michael came in with an envelope in his hand, saying he’d heard a noise at the front door and found the envelope on the floor behind the door. It was a previously used envelope folded over, had my name and a message written on it and contained something solid; the message read “The paint is acrylic so waterproof for the garden – I hope you like it”. ‘It’ was from Fiona, my young next door neighbour, and was a piece of slate with Sophie’s name painted on it in different coloured letters – something simple to mark Sophie’s little corner of the garden but also something very unexpected and so very thoughtful.
Yesterday I popped into my local Asda to get a few bits and pieces and on my way to the book section I noticed a box of very small animal ornaments on sticks for putting in plant pots. There were foxes, squirrels and just one little rabbit – the rabbit was the cutest so I got it to put in the little pot of flowers in Sophie’s corner.
The bricks are only a temporary measure to keep the plant in place, once the soil dries out properly I’ll rake it over, maybe plant some grass seed and hopefully (as I’m not a gardener in any way, shape or form) I can turn Sophie’s little corner into something much nicer.

Lost and found

Several days ago I was just setting out to take Poppie for a quick walk when a little dog ran past my front gate. I’m very familiar with all the dogs living in my area and this wasn’t one of them, so unless someone new had recently moved into somewhere close by then I assumed this little one must be lost. Putting Poppie back indoors I went out and called the dog but it ran off back the way it had come. Next thing there was a squeal of brakes from along the street and a car stopped in the middle of the road – the little dog had just missed being hit by it.
The young woman driver shouted me to ask if it was mine and when I said no but I was trying to catch it she said she would help. The dog ran round the corner and down the next street so while I walked down she went down in her car; the dog still wouldn’t come to us but it doubled back up the lane behind the houses which, luckily for us, is a dead end, and we finally caught up with it in the corner of a nearby garden. It was obviously very frightened as when I put my hand out it cowered away growling; neither of us wanted to risk being bitten so I took my jacket off and threw it over the dog so I could pick it up safely. Being wrapped in the jacket seemed to calm it down and it snuggled in quite happily though it was wet through and shivering with cold.
The young woman said she had to get to work – judging by her uniform she was a nurse – so I thanked her for her help and said I would take care of the dog and try to find its owner. By this time I was absolutely soaked through as the fine drizzle of earlier had turned into quite a downpour but at least I was only round the corner from home so could soon get dry. After towelling the little dog down, and discovering that it was a little girl, I wrapped her in a fleece blanket while I got changed and made a brew. She was a sweet little thing and once she was almost dry I gave her a bit of food then she sat quietly at my feet while I drank my coffee.
Next was to try to reunite her with her owner; she had a collar on but no ID disc so I took her down to the nearest vets to get her scanned for a microchip. For some reason they couldn’t get a reading but they said if I left her with them they would contact the local dog warden; I felt a bit sad to give her up as she was so adorable and such a little sweetie but I knew someone somewhere would probably be missing her. I left my contact details with the vet’s receptionist and I’d only been back home about half an hour when she rang me to say they’d managed to trace the owner. I did ask where the little dog had come from but because of data protection she wouldn’t tell me; I’d only asked so if I ever see it running loose again I would know where it belonged.
DSCF4205 - Copy
The only photo I have – down by my feet in the van before going to the vets
To be honest I think it would have been nice to have got a phone call from the little dog’s owners to say ‘Thank you for finding our dog’ but if the vets wouldn’t give me any details of the owners then maybe they wouldn’t give my details to them. I don’t know how long she had been running loose when I found her but I’m glad to know that she would have been reunited with her family – and if she hadn’t been reunited then I’m sure I could have found room in my heart and my home for another little four-paws.



Thank you

I’ve been sitting here in front of the computer, staring at the screen for an hour, wondering what to write and how to write it. I’m not usually lost for words when it comes to writing a blog page but this time I am ; I actually started this post twice but deleted both versions after just a few sentences. Monday’s post about my afternoon out on Sunday was written on a relatively good day but at the moment I’m not having many ‘good days’ – my emotions after losing Sophie are still very raw.
It’s early days for me yet ; my work/home life goes on as normal and a lot of the time I feel okay, but then something will remind me that there’s a very special little dog missing from my family and I feel overwhelmed all over again. However I know from experience that this will eventually pass ; the pain will subside to a dull ache which will eventually disappear and the hole in my heart will heal in time, though the memories of sweet little Sophie will always be with me along with memories of other little four-paws I’ve loved and lost.
DSCF3804 - Copy
Anyway, I’d just like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone for commenting on the post I wrote about Sophie last Friday. I haven’t replied individually to any of the comments, mainly because my replies would all have been roughly the same, but that doesn’t mean the comments were ignored or weren’t appreciated. They were  appreciated, very much so, and it’s been good to know that so many people understand the feelings of grief and loss which I’ve been going through – so thanks once again, it means a lot. And as they used to say at the BBC when a tv programme was momentarily interrupted – normal service will be resumed soon.

Snowdrops for Sophie

In light of my recent incredibly sad and heart breaking loss of Sophie I thought long and hard about doing this walk, especially as I’d originally intended taking Sophie with me, but there was nothing to be gained by staying at home and after several weekends of not being able to go anywhere I really needed a few hours out. My intended destination was Hornby Castle Gardens, only open on a few select weekends each year with the most recent being the snowdrop weekend. Sunday’s weather forecast for that area was for sunshine and even though it was cloudy and grey here at home I decided to take a chance and go.
As I got to the far side of the nearby moors I could see sunshine and blue sky ahead and by the time I was heading north up the M6 it had turned into a really lovely day. Living where I do, halfway up a hill on the north side of town, I don’t normally encounter any instances of flooding in bad weather so I was quite surprised at the sight which greeted me as I drove along the A683 towards the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Just before Claughton village the River Lune had overflowed and a huge area of flat grazing fields had disappeared underwater, though fortunately the natural slope of the land from the roadside had prevented the water from reaching the road itself or any roadside properties.
DSCF3900 - Copy
There’s a river in there somewhere
DSCF3901 - CopyDSCF3902 - CopyDSCF3903 - Copy
Set back off the road, and just out of reach of the flood water, was the old Lanefoot Crossing signal box in the garden of a nearby cottage. Once part of the long-disused ‘Little’ North Western Railway line which operated between Lancaster and Wennington, then extended to Leeds, it was in use between 1849 and 1968, and in more recent years has been preserved and refurbished to be used as a summerhouse for the cottage.
DSCF3904 - Copy
The Lanefoot Crossing signal box
DSCF3905 - CopyDSCF3907 - CopyDSCF3908 - Copy
There was no parking available in the grounds of Hornby Castle so I left the van in the village car park and walked along the road and over the bridge to the castle gardens entrance gates. The River Wenning, swollen from all the recent rain, was in full flow as it ran west to join the Lune, and on the east side of the bridge the water was a seething boiling mass as it came over the nearby weir – definitely not a place anyone would want to fall in.
DSCF3910 - Copy
River Wenning looking west
DSCF3911 - Copy
Looking east
Entrance to the castle grounds cost £5 with dogs free of charge and after being given a map, which I didn’t really need as I’ve been there before, though not at this time of year, I set off with Poppie to find some snowdrops. Now I don’t know if my expectations were too high or if maybe the recent bad weather was a factor, but far from seeing carpets of snowdrops as I thought I would all I found were small clumps dotted here and there among the trees, with several clumps together on the bank leading up to the castle lawns.
DSCF3913 - Copy
Driveway up to the castle

DSCF3914 - CopyDSCF3915 - Copy

DSCF3918 - Copy
The pond and island

DSCF3919 - Copy

Part of the path along the riverside had been closed off as it was muddy and very slippery but I got round that by walking along the riverbank itself, and when I rejoined the path I came to the remains of a dead tree trunk. One side looked very much like the other so it was hard to tell which had been roots and which were branches but I liked the shape of it so it was worth a quick snap.
DSCF3925 - Copy
Along the riverside walk

DSCF3926 - CopyDSCF3927 - CopyDSCF3929 - CopyDSCF3931 - Copy

Just past the tree trunk the path wound steeply uphill and almost doubled back on itself, emerging at one corner of the castle lawn. At the far side steps led down a short steep bank to the main driveway and on the bank itself were a couple of clumps of pink flowers ; they looked a bit sorry for themselves but at least they provided a bit of colour.
DSCF3932 - CopyDSCF3933 - CopyDSCF3942 - CopyDSCF3943 - Copy
Across the driveway a path and a succession of wide shallow steps went down through a wooded area to the walled garden ; at this time of year there wasn’t much colour about the place but I did see some more pink flowers, some daffodils, a few more isolated clumps of snowdrops and some lovely bright blue things which I don’t know the name of.
DSCF3944 - Copy
DSCF3949 - CopyDSCF3945 - CopyDSCF3950 - Copy
The walled garden was my last port of call, I’d been everywhere else and with so few snowdrops to see there was no point walking round again, so I made my way back to the van and with one last shot from the bridge I set off for home, arriving back at 4pm and still in sunshine. Although Hornby Castle’s website promises ‘hundreds of named varieties of snowdrops’ the ones I saw all looked the same to me, and compared to the carpets of flowers I saw at Lytham Hall last year the clumps of snowdrops dotted here and there were rather a disappointment.
DSCF3912 - Copy
This had been my first proper walk with Poppie on her own and it seemed so strange having just one little four-paws with me instead of two. Even though the snowdrops didn’t live up to my expectations I know that Sophie would have loved the walk so I’ve decided – when the time is right, and in her memory, there’ll be some snowdrops planted in her corner of my garden.


So hard to say goodbye

It’s with many tears and a heavy heart that I write this – my lovely sweet little Sophie passed away peacefully on Monday afternoon. She fought so bravely against the effects of the stroke she suffered five weeks ago and on Monday morning I really thought she had turned a corner but sadly I was wrong.
A check-up at the vet’s last Saturday showed that although her progress since the previous check-up two weeks before hadn’t been quite as good as he would have thought there was no real cause for concern and I didn’t need to take her back for another month, although he did increase the medication she was on. For a few days previously she’d had a very loose tooth so I’d been blending all her food to make it easier for her to eat, however the vet took the tooth out with no problem or pain and gave her a shot of antibiotic to counteract what seemed to be a very minor infection in the gum. The injection seemed to knock her out of sorts for the rest of the day but by that evening she had perked up and we went for our regular slow bedtime walk round the block.
On Sunday afternoon a respite from Storm Ciara gave us three hours of lovely blue sky and sunshine so we had a nice walk round the field at the end of the street – she loved to walk round there and listen to the birds in the trees. On Monday morning I really thought that getting rid of the loose tooth had given Sophie her appetite back as she demolished one bowl of food so fast that I gave her another and she ate most of that as well, so it really seemed like that was a good turning point in her recovery.
Since a few days after the stroke happened her bed has been at the side of mine to make it easier for me to care for her during the night and after our walk on Monday lunch time I settled her down in her bed while I lay on mine to watch a bit of daytime tv. It was later on, when I was ready for feeding her before going to work, that I got no response from her and realised that somehow, without me even knowing, she had drifted quietly away.
I can’t begin to describe how I’ve been feeling since that moment and the range of emotions I’m now going through. Sophie had improved in many ways since her stroke – she no longer walked round in circles, she could stand unaided and potter about round my bedroom, she walked perfectly straight when we went out and only last week she was picking twigs up off the ground like she used to do before she became ill – so I now feel like I’ve been hit by a train going at 100 miles an hour.
Sophie has been buried in the garden so she’ll be with me as long as I stay living here ; she’s gone close to Sugar as they were companions for over five years. I know I still have Poppie but right now everything feels so empty – her den in the living room where she would hide away from the noise of fireworks in November, the space at the side of my bed where she lay in her own bed, covered with a fleece blanket and with cushions to rest her head on. And the silence. For the last four weeks my bedroom tv has been on constantly 24/7 to provide some comforting background noise for Sophie while I was out at work – now there’s no need for it to be on and the silence is deafening.
At work I’m functioning on autopilot ; it helps having people around me but with Michael currently in Ireland until the 20th I’m here on my own once I get home. Caring for Sophie took up so much of my time that a lot of the housework was put on hold ; there’s so many things now that I could  be doing but I don’t really feel  like doing, and the things I have  been doing no longer apply so I feel very much like I’m in limbo – and the slightest thing will have me in floods of tears.
As well as the space in my room Sophie has left a huge hole in my heart, a hole which will take a long while to heal – and it hurts to know that never again will I feel that gentle little paw on my leg and see that sweet little face looking up at me asking to come up on my lap for a cuddle. But the one thing which really hurts like hell is that even though I gave Sophie all the care and attention I possibly could I didn’t get the chance to hold her one last time and tell her how much I loved her.
Rest in peace Sophie, you were loved so very much – sleep tight and sweet dreams little one xx


Fingers crossed for Sophie

A week ago, completely out of the blue and without me being aware of it, Sophie suffered what has turned out to be a stroke. She had been absolutely fine during the day but when I took her and Poppie for their bedtime walk she was behaving really oddly – going round in small circles then walking sideways and stumbling as if drunk, then stopping and staring into space, it was if she had suddenly developed dementia. A visit to the vet’s the following morning confirmed that she’d had a stroke and really needed an MRI scan which would cost in the region of £3,000. Yes, you read that correctly – three-thousand-quid! With the greatest will in the world, and as much as I love my dogs, there’s no way I could find that sort of money straight off so the vet said the best thing to do would be look after her as much as I could and take her back on a daily basis to be monitored.
The second visit to the vet’s wasn’t very encouraging at all. I saw a different vet, younger than the first one, and after giving Sophie a very cursory examination I was told that I should book her in for the following day to basically ‘say goodbye’ – no suggestion of any medication or treatment, just ‘say goodbye’. No way was I going to do that! I firmly believe that our pets will let us know when they’ve had enough, you can see it in their eyes, and I could tell that Sophie wasn’t ready for giving up yet so I decided there and then I would nurse her myself and try to get her through this with or without the vet’s help.
After the first couple of days, when I had to spoon feed her and give her water from a syringe, she’s been eating and drinking from a bowl while supported on my lap – she’s had pilchards, sardines (I seem to permanently stink of fish!) KFC, cat food chunks (easier to manage than dog food) honey roast ham, chicken roll, pork luncheon meat and normal fresh cooked chicken. She lost a lot of weight very quickly so I’m giving her whatever she will eat to try to put some of that weight back on. I’m also taking her for several short daily walks along the street, it’s a slow process and she now has the attention span of a gnat – she looks at the same stone every time we pass it as if she’s never seen it before – but she’s still very much aware of things going on around her and indoors she will watch me as I move about the room. Her sideways walking has improved a lot too and she can now get up and down the front step and the pavement edges without using the dropped kerb parts.
Yesterday I took her to see a vet at a different practice, I needed a second opinion and this guy was recommended by one of the bosses at my morning job. This vet was really nice, gave Sophie a thorough examination, watched for any responses for certain things and how she now turns in a circle – he said that ideally she should have had a scan as soon as she became ill but as she didn’t there’s no point having one now as it would only tell him what he already knows by seeing her. Thankfully he was able to prescribe something which should help her and I’ve now got some mild steroid tablets for her, one per day in the morning, and I have to take her back in a week. He was quite impressed that she has already come as far as she has since this happened last week – although she’s still a very sick little dog she’s showing no signs of wanting to ‘give up’ so with lots of home care from me she should recover sufficiently well.
DSCF3795 - Copy
Sophie wrapped in a very pilchard-stained towel after just being fed
I’m under no illusions though, there’s still a possibility that she could have a relapse and I could lose her, but at least I’m giving her a chance, which is more than the other vet wanted to do last weekend. Getting her well again is going to be a long slow process but this little girl means the world to me so I’m not giving up on her, neither is she giving up on herself – she may never be the lively run-around little dog she used to be but fingers crossed she’ll get through this and hopefully may be well enough to enjoy camping again in the not-too-distant future.


Looking back – 2019

As this year draws to a close it’s time to look back on some of the events which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months. January started with a New Year’s Day walk round a large local park which I hadn’t been to for many years but for once I was on my own ; Sophie was on the long road to recovery following a recent major operation and couldn’t go out so it would have been unfair of me to take Poppie and leave Sophie behind. Also that month Michael was rewarded for ten years continuous service at work with £100 of ‘extra dough’ to be paid as either a tax-free lump sum or vouchers to use wherever he wanted.
copy of 2019 017
New Year’s Day walk in Leverhulme Park
Sophie and Poppie 2017 004
Sophie post-op
February started off with a few days of snow and though it was bitterly cold there was also lots of blue sky and sunshine so the first of the month saw me taking a very snowy local dog walk to Smithills Hall ; although not too far from home it was Sophie’s first post-op walk of any distance and she was absolutely fine. Later in the month I got the surprise, and much appreciated, gift of a beautiful dog quilt hand made by my blogging friend Jayne and I had my first visit to Lytham Hall for a snowdrop walk. Then in contrast to the cold start to the month the weather became so unseasonably warm and sunny that I was able to wear a t-shirt and cycling shorts on my dog walks – something previously unheard of in February!
Local area 2019 070
A snowy walk round Smithills Hall gardens
Lytham Hall - snowdrop walk 031
Snowdrops at Lytham Hall
Copy of dog quilt 002
A very precious dog quilt
Copy of Local area 2019 128
Hard to believe how warm it was on this dog walk
In contrast to the unseasonably warm weather of late February March was mainly grey, wet and windy so decent dog walks were few and far between. At the beginning of the month I treated myself to a new camera and on a dog walk round a local nature reserve tried out some of the settings on shots of various wildlife around the lake. March was also the month when I found myself locked in the front porch at work one day and spent quite some time sitting on my upturned mop bucket while waiting to be rescued by the boss’s son.
Copy of Local area 2019 236
Domestic Greylag Goose at the nature reserve
April started off with a beautifully pleasant sunny day on the 1st of the month so taking advantage of it I visited a local park which I hadn’t been to for over 40 years, then a week later I discovered the very lovely Ashton Gardens at St. Annes, gardens which I hadn’t known about until someone at work told me about them. The good weather continued for most of the month although the early mornings were a bit chilly, then a long sunny and very warm Easter weekend saw me making my first foray into the north western Lake District, camping at a wonderfully peaceful farm site north of Bassenthwaite Lake and actually coming home with a suntan.
Copy of Local area 2019 267
The sunken garden at Queen’s Park
Copy of Lytham - April 2019 016
The colourful entrance to Ashton Gardens, Lytham
Easter - April 2019 137 - Copy
View from my pitch at the camp site
May brought more good weather and after finding out about it on the internet I paid two visits to the secluded village of Sunderland Point on the River Lune estuary. The only road access to the village is by a tidal causeway which is several feet under water twice a day so I timed my first visit for when the tide was out, then to get a different perspective I went again when the tide was in, parking a mile or so away from the village and walking the rest of the way along a footpath. May was also the month when my pc decided to give up the ghost big style and I had to work from a borrowed laptop until I could get a new desktop model.
Copy of Copy of Sunderland Point - May 2019 057
View from Sunderland Point at low tide
DSCF0665 - Copy
High tide at Sunderland Point
Early June saw the arrival of my birthday and a cash gift from Michael gave me the opportunity to buy a much-longed-for and rather expensive folding camp bed, then later in the month I returned to Cumbria for a 10-day holiday, camping at the same site I’d stayed on at Easter. The weather was mainly good and taking some suggestions from the book ‘111 Places in the Lake District You Shouldn’t Miss’ I discovered and photographed several places I wouldn’t otherwise have known about.
DSCF1073 - Copy
The camp site wildlife lake
DSCF1232 - Copy
View over Loweswater
I don’t, as a rule, frequent cities as they hold no attraction for me at all but mid July saw me going to Manchester, not once but twice. The first time was a visit to the Cat Café which, given the not-exactly-cheap cost, was a one-off experience, then after some internet research my second visit to the city was to track down some of the many murals and works of street art dotted around the Norther Quarter. July was also the month when I accidentally managed to get a large and very solid traffic cone wedged firmly under the back of the van when I was at work, and being unable to free it I ended up calling out the AA. Fortunately there was no damage to the van though the situation did give the AA guy a good laugh.
DSCF1531 - Copy
Savannah at the Cat Café, Manchester
DSCF1574 - Copy
A Manchester mural
August started off well with a lovely walk along a section of the Lancaster Canal and a wander round Garstang, plus two visits to Blackburn in search of some street art, but the month went badly downhill when my van was stolen complete with all my camping gear which was packed in it ready for a planned holiday to Anglesey. However, in spite of the emotional and practical upset I was determined not to let it stop me from getting out and about and the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend saw me having a lovely day out at Arnside, and after driving everywhere for ten years it made a change to go by train.
DSCF1688 - Copy
The Lancaster Canal at Garstang
DSCF1985 - Copy
Arnside beach and viaduct
September started off with glorious weather and two weeks after my day out to Arnside I went by train to Morecambe and walked from there to Heysham Village, another lovely little place I hadn’t been to for many years. Three days later I went over to Ireland for a week where, among other things, I spent two days roaming round Dublin photographing street art and other things, climbed six near-vertical ladders up the inside of Kildare tower, visited the Irish National Stud, explored a haunted castle and went to the lovely little village of Dromineer on the east shore of Lough Derg. Over the course of the week I took 951 photos and once back home it took me a month to edit them all and write my holiday posts on here.
DSCF2113 - Copy
Cottage Tea Rooms, Heysham village
DSCF2589 - Copy
The supposedly haunted Leap Castle, Co. Offaly, Ireland
DSCF2596 - Copy
The lakeside at Dromineer, Lough Derg
October for me was very much a ‘nothing’ sort of month. The good weather of September had finally disappeared and with the exception of just a couple of dry days it rained almost constantly so any dog walks were kept local and short. The highlight of the month was the day when a large tree fell across the lane leading down to one of the places where I work, completely blocking any access ; it took several items of heavy machinery and half a dozen guys with chainsaws to cut it up, move it and unblock the lane.
Tree 4 - Copy
This was much bigger than it looks
October’s rain continued into November and made it another ‘nothing’ month with no good dog walks and no days out. My camera card somehow decided to corrupt itself and I couldn’t download the most recent photos to my computer, and though it was mildly annoying it wasn’t the world’s greatest disaster as the photos were only local ones which could be taken again another time. After getting a new media card I took the camera to work one morning and got a couple of nice shots of the early morning sky through the trees ; it had the makings of being a nice day but less than two hours later the rain was back. November was also the month when a cute little mouse (fortunately already dead) ended up not as the dinner of the cat which caught it but as the dinner of one of my two dogs!
DSCF3106 - Copy
Early morning sky through the trees at work
And so to the events of this month – another short holiday in Ireland where I photographed lots more Dublin street art, and a visit to the Trafford Centre to see the Coca-Cola truck. Michael came back from Ireland on the 14th and brought his girlfriend Laura to stay until after New Year ; Christmas was a quiet affair with just the three of us. More damp and gloomy weather has prevented us from having a decent day out though yesterday we actually had some sunshine and blue sky so we had a drive to Southport and back. Tonight we’ll probably go up to the moorland road near here and watch the fireworks going off all over all over town – Michael told Laura about our annual ‘tradition’ and she specifically asked if we can go.
So there you have it, some of the highlights of my year. All that remains now is to welcome any recent new readers to my blog and thank everyone for visiting ; if it wasn’t for my readers there wouldn’t be a blog, so I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – have a good one!