I received quite a lot of feedback that my previous blog, and the story of Milly’s final minutes, brought tears to a lot of eyes. I’m sorry for causing any sadness but I do hope that, through the tears, the love still shined very brightly – because that was the message that I wanted to convey. I also cried whilst writing it and re-living that dreadful day, and as a knock on impact left myself feeling very low on Monday too. Guess that’s just a blogging-hazard. I resolved that my next post would be something a little bit more uplifting, or at the very least, something a little less sad.
As most of you UK folks will know, the back end of this week has brought the spring that we have all been waiting for. Or, to be more accurate, we seem to have bypassed spring and been catapulted straight into summer, with glorious sunshine, soaring temperatures and long, light balmy evenings. It seems to be widely known that the stereotypical Brit will always start a conversation with a comment on the weather, and by the end of January most are sick of winter and longing for some sunshine. Well this year neither February nor March delivered anything to write home about, but here we are now in mid-April with our flip-flops on and our BBQ’s lit. I would guess that 75% of the working population headed for a sunny pub garden on the way home this evening.
Unsurprisingly, as a blonde haired blue eyed June baby, I am not a massive fan of winter either. Described (lovingly) by my friends as a coldy custard, it takes 30degrees+ for me to get my shorts on, so I inevitably spend winter battling to stay warm. Before Milly the daily winter goal was to spend as little time outside as possible, and I achieved this pretty well.
As dog parents up and down the land will know, a bit of “weather” means nothing to a dog, and their walks and routine must be maintained regardless. So Milly put an end to my annual cycle of a 4month long season of hibernation. Instead I developed a love for thermals and finally accepted that a hood really is as much for warmth as it is rain protection.
Although Milly was as happy to soak up some of the inside warmth as I was, she never turned her nose up at a walk. So other than those handful of bitterly cold and icy days, when bare paws on pavements were just a NO, we were out 360+ days a year.
The added difficulty for us with winter walks was that the majority of weekday ones would be in the dark. I have described Milly’s general hyper-vigilance already, but for the first few years this was amplified in the dark, and probably worse at dusk. Whether it was something specific like the scent of neighbourhood foxes or just her overall heightening of smell and sound receptors I don’t know, but it made the night time walks more exhausting on the arm muscles. Over the years I also learnt to fine-tune my senses to excel at advance dog-spotting in the dark. I recognise shadows cast by moonlight and can distinguish the jingle of keys from the rattle of a collar and tag with precision accuracy. If you ever need assistance on a late night stakeout I’m your girl.
In addition to my anticipation of being able to swap my ski coat for an ordinary coat (still fleece lined!) I also look forward to spring with a massive sense of positivity. Similar to lots of people I long for the light evenings and the opportunity to top up on Vitamin D, but in addition to that I feel excited on Milly’s behalf too. I feel excited for her that walks will be in the light. I don’t know why really, because I’m not sure she cared all that much. Things smell the same whether it’s dark or light.. don’t they? But walks in the daylight just feel happier somehow. Maybe it’s just because I’m happier in general, and things feel easier in general. I especially love REALLY early summer morning walks – not just because of the daylight but also the almost guaranteed peace. There was always always a chance of meeting another dog, so we were never totally at ease, but the earlier the walk the lower the risk, so the more relaxed we could be. I have some very simple but very happy memories here.
Doubtless there is also an element of spring hope, leftover from the early days when we were still trying to rehabilitate/train her. This was extremely hard work at the best of times, but in the cold and dark even more so. Gloves are an absolute non-starter when you are dishing out slices of hotdog to reward every speck of calm behaviour. The “hope” that attached itself to the changing seasons was the hope of real life-changing progress… maybe this year she’ll crack it…
Or maybe not. As it turned out. But I wasn’t to know that.
So I started out, year after year, spring after spring, with a renewed sense of optimism…
The approach of summer also just made me feel pleased that she could feel some warm rays on her fur. I realise we were not genetically related but there is still no doubt that she got her sun tolerance from me. As soon as it gets warm enough we throw open the patio doors and let the outside in.
Milly is always the first to venture out and normally secures herself a prime spot to capitalise on the midday angle. In the height of summer I have to be extra careful to keep her OFF the patio. The black limestone slabs heat up like a griddle pan… not good for feet or paws.
I too love to bask, so if ever there is an opportunity for a quick ‘lounge, I take it.
Milly became pretty savvy to my ways, which inevitably involved a lot of back and forth in and out of the house getting set up with essentials. Lounger, towel, drink, phone, kindle, sun cream, sunglasses. Waiting until I’d stepped inside to collect a forgotten item, in a nanosecond she’d cash in my absence. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’d scurry back out to be greeted with this,complete with a facial expression that said “what?!?!? well I thought you’d gone inside…”
Good job we have two sun-loungers really.
Yesterday was Matt’s birthday and as one of his company perks is a day off on your birthday, I took the opportunity of a sneaky day off as well. It certainly broke the week up. He couldn’t have picked a better day to have his birthday this year haha. The weather was absolutely glorious. We started out with a mountain bike ride in the Surrey Hills, washed down with customary cake from the lovely Peaslake Village Stores.
Returning after lunch, Matt went off up to the workshop to take bits off a car (totally his choice!) and having no desire to get my hands dirty I thought it best to take advantage of the unexpected but welcome heatwave for a couple of hours.
It was the first time I’ve opened the patio doors and stepped out into the garden just for the sake of it. On unrolling my towel and setting up my lounging station, there was a glaringly huge gap by my side/on my tummy.
Ordinarily I can while away hours reading, snoozing or randomly googling stuff however yesterday I just couldn’t find the peace in my head to do that. My brain was searching for “something” to fill that gap. I know that I’ve got partial plan for the year, with my commitment to fundraising (and the required training) but at the moment that doesn’t fill the “every day”. There’s such a space in my head that I am trying to distract myself from. Even if I could “run away my worries”, I actually couldn’t possibly run for all of that time. My feet would fall off.
Usually as long as the sun is shining, there isn’t much that can ruin my mood. Despite having had a lovely morning with the birthday boy, and a good rush of endorphins from Body Attack followed by a couple of hours of offroading, my entire aura was a little bit muted yesterday.
At the start of the day I felt that usual surge of spring positivity and hope, but I think it was more out of habit than anything else. Like instinctively saying “ouch” when you bump into something, regardless of whether your brain has registered pain or not. “Hurrah, it’s sunny, life is good!”…. only then my brain acknowledged the lack of a signal and realised that actually, right now, something is amiss.
“Hurrah, it’s sunny” full stop. Doesn’t have quite the same uplifting impact does it.
I’m not meaning to be doom and gloom. I am actually a pretty positive person. I am a great believer that with a positive mindset you can overcome almost all things, and that you can totally change a situation just by changing how you think about it.
I’m not saying life is bad, because it isn’t.
It is just different.
I love coming up with a good analogy, and I think this one articulates my feelings pretty well.
Milly is the most beautiful strand of thread running through the plait that is our life. Her existence gave our plait a whole new dimension. Over 8 incredible years it became more meaningful, stronger, and ultimately all the more beautiful because of her presence.
Milly’s strand has now ended… there’s no getting away from that. She has left behind the most amazing and memorable plait you could ever imagine. But our plait doesn’t end here – it can’t end, and of course we wouldn’t want it to. I’m not suggesting that our plait won’t be beautiful again in the future. There is every chance that it can be, it just will not be “the same” beautiful as it was before. It physically cannot be the same, because Milly’s strand was unique and irreplaceable.
Our plait is absolutely precious, but right now it is delicate and fragile.
Although sunshine isn’t giving me the same boost that is usually does, I can still sit quietly and soak it up. Whilst my head processes and my heart heals, my hands are holding on to the rest of our strands and trying to work out a new pattern. It might be a bit untidy for a while, but I’ve got to dig deep and keep plaiting. I know it will get stronger, and I do believe that eventually it will take shape and become a new shade of beautiful.
x Milly the sun dog x