Ice Storm

Well, today we awoke to a totally frozen world. A hard hoar frost had glittered everything white, like an over zealous child making Christmas cards ... even the game netting over the chicken pen was white. The ground was solid, and yet another slow, hypnotic plod over the tundra ensued as we turned the ponies out - every other day is their lot at the moment - and fingers froze and Archie slipped. Again.
Rain was forecast for the afternoon, and the children anticipated the great thaw with great hope of riding. It never came. The rain came, but it was disguised as ice. Hammering down in great swathes.
Unfortunately my hard working husband was out on the top of an exposed Wiltshire hillside, moving sheep. I've never seen him or his dog come in colder or wetter. Neil having been dispatched to the bath with a mug of steaming tea with cooking brandy in it, Boo had to rub Fly dry with a towel, she also got a cup of tea (no brandy) and her dinner to warm her. Poor girl is exhausted.
I was glad that amid the baking, I had decided on stew and dumplings for dinner.
We had sent lambs off last week, and our regular butcher was unable to take them so close to Christmas, so we fell back on our second string, which will not be happening again. The meat was well butchered enough, but he made the biggest pigs breakfast of packing it all and we are still trying to sort it out now. My mince and stewing meat was in great 8lb bags, which the girls and I had to patiently sort, weigh, rebag and freeze today. The sight of the prime cuts of hogget was what put a good stew into my mind, and it simmered happily in the Rayburn with a heap of veg and a generous slug of gluhwein.
Mint dumplings were added when the lid came off, and though I say it as shouldn't, it was a delight.
We also achieved the sausage rolls, mince pies, and the girls made a gingerbread house.
Oh and we did the Ice Station Zebra thing again fetching horses in.
So now I'm ready for knitting by the fire, and a dvd of 'All Creatures Great and Small' and everything else can wait!

The day starts slowly without you.

You do not bark to wake us up, desperate to go out into the garden. The tears have dried on my face, where I woke in the night, and thought you were too far away, out there in the cold, as if someone had pulled a thread in my heart.
No one wants to get up. It is so dark, so still, so cold. Fly curls tight in the corner of her bed. When we finally come down, she comes uncharacteristically into the kitchen, to look for you. She flops resignedly back down by the back door. Maybe you are outside?
The door to the utility room opens too easily. Your bed is still unslept in, as it always was, but now it is not because you have chosen, instead, to wedge the door shut. You are gone. You do not nose your bowl clankingly against the washing machine to point out that you have run out of water. The chicken feed sack stands unmolested.
I will never again hear your gentle, irregular bark. Your silken teardrop ears will never arch above your hopeful eyes as you present us with the merest twig in the hope of a game. When summer comes, as it must, the lawnmower will start, but you will not bark and spin in anticipation of the chase. You will not jump the puddle at the bottom of the drive, or roll on your back on the deliciously wet grass of a spring dawn.
The children whose prams you guarded are grown. So there are no more baby yoghurt pots into which to wedge your silly nose. You were here before them, a cornerstone, part of the foundation of a family. I cannot bear that you are gone. I know that before dawn, when the wind howls, I will hear your bark in my dreams, I will smile as if you were still here, and then. Then I will wake up.
There will never be another dog like you. You were a once in a lifetime kind of dog.

Rest In Peace



April 10th, 1994 - December 16th, 2009

Now forever watching over his sheep, sleeping beneath a tree, in the field where they graze.

Sam came from a Rescue Centre in Wisbech. He had been kept, as a puppy, in a one bed flat, where he was left alone all day. He was taken out for a walk, once a week. (Presumably, like the Old Queen's Bath, whether he needed it or not) Unsurprisingly, he chewed the furniture, and at 10 months, he was in a wire cage in a rescue centre, with a deep mark on his nose, where he pressed against the cage, waiting for us to come, because he knew we would.

He came to us when we still lived in a caravan on a friend's farm. He came with us when we moved, he was with us when we finally got a LandRover, and seem to understand the status in conferred upon him, a working dog. He was with us when we got our first sheep, and he worked them like an old pro. He learned to work cattle. He loved to chase mice in the vegetable garden. He ran for miles, he earned his keep, as well as our gratitude, our respect, and our love.

He retired last winter, and sat by the Rayburn, shambling out for short walks with Boo. He got arthritis, and moving became harder and more painful. Still he would follow Neil wherever he asked him to go. Long ago, he lost the sight in one eye, (herding a strimmer) and eventually, the sight in the other eye began to fail. He still enjoyed life.

Last week, his back legs began to let him down. He stopped eating, and eventually, today, he didn't want to drink. He became confused. Neil took him to the vet tonight, and he passed peacefully away, beside his boss, where he belonged.

In the dark, and the fog, and the freezing rain, he was carried back to his sheep, to the little apple orchard, where the new lambs go in spring, and buried beneath the trees.

We miss you, Sam. Thank you. Thank you for everything.

Burying a dog

There are various places in which a dog may be buried.
I am thinking now of a Setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as I am aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought.
This Setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam.
And at its proper season, the cherry tree strews petals on the green lawn of his grave.
Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub is an excellent place to bury a dog.
Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavoursome bone, or lifted his head to challenge some strange intruder.
These are good places in life or in death.

Yet, it is a small matter, for if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps.
On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppy hood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture lane where most exhilarating cattle grazed, is all one to the dog, and all one to you.
And nothing is gained, nothing is lost if memory lives.
But, there is one place to bury a dog.

If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call - come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again.
And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him nor resent his coming, for he belongs there. People may laugh at you who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall...who hear no whimper, people who never really had a dog.
Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.

The one best place to bury a dog is in the heart of his master.
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