Doors, barricades & tailgates

It looks like WordPress (the blog hosts) continue to be concerned by the number of visitors I am getting. Or, more accurately, the lack of visitors I am getting. Perhaps they are not used to blogs or bloggers who can survive on such little traffic. At the time of starting this I’ve had just the one visitor today. That’s one more than none, but considerably less than most blogs probably. I’m not dissatisfied with just one visitor – my dear musician friend Canada says that if his creations entertain just one person* then he is happy. Likewise for me, if just one person reads one of my blogs and walks away with a picture etched in their head of my little Milly, then I too am happy. If they are mildly amused or momentarily entertained then all the better. But WordPress are not so easily pleased, and have again sent me their best tips to increase my site traffic.
(* “one person” cannot be your mum)

Content. They advise me to publish more content more frequently. Firstly, do that not realise I have a day job? As much as I get incredible flexibility from my employer, I think blogging in the office would be a step too far. Secondly, what could I possibly blog about on a daily basis? The only thing I could write about would be the minutia of my everyday life, and I can assure you all that that would soon get a little tiresome. It could drive my viewing figures from one to none!

That said, today, I am going to write about some everyday life minutia…. but hopefully not in the tedious “sharing my every move on twitter” way that has become a bit of the norm.


To state the complete obvious – I miss Milly every day. Meaning that every single day of my life now I miss her. She isn’t with me, she isn’t here, and I miss her. Not a complicated concept to grasp.

In an earlier post I talked about the “everyday tasks” that now don’t exist.. the ones that were caring for Milly.. walking, feeding, brushing etc etc. Those have also gone. Again, not difficult to see why they leave a gap.

There is, however, a whole other level of “everyday” that I am still struggling to get my head around, even all these weeks on. And these are the simplest of things – gestures and actions – that are an inherent part of my everyday life, and have become so because Milly.

I can’t bore you with all of them, but I can give a couple of examples from the last 12 hours.


By now you should have the picture that Milly was a restricted dog. Because of her dog-phobia and chase instinct, she could not be allowed to roam free. I accept that lots of dogs are “on-lead” dogs, but Milly was next level. As a result, we very quickly adapted to being “checkers” and “shutters”, especially when it came to being outside. Fortunately our garden is now laid out such that we have just one entry point to the wide world – the side gate. Slightly more challenging is the fact that, around the bungalow, we have 3 sets of doors to the garden, plus the front door straight onto the driveway. This is where checking and shutting comes in to play. Checking where Milly is or isn’t, and shutting this one or that one accordingly.

It’s not that Milly spent her entire time plotting to escape, but just that if, at the exact moment she was glancing out of an open access point a fellow canine happened to be walking past in her eyeline, it would be game over.

It would’ve been nice to think that, providing the gate was shut, Milly could have the run of the garden without supervision. In the past she used to, however the arrival of new dog owning neighbours either side put an end to that.

She used to have particular trouble with Tia – the loveable chocolate lab whose side alley runs the entire length of ours. Unsurprisingly Milly’s nose would tell her if Tia was outside, and she would go into a state of high anticipation… ears pricked, nose twitching, the odd squeak or whimper. It usually wasn’t until Tia made a sound – often just a single quick bark – that Milly would react. We have a 6 foot solid fence, so there was no chance of any contact, but Milly would race up and down the alley barking and lunging at the fence in a complete frenzy. If nothing else, I was terrified of her hurting herself , so it had to be prevented. If we were on our way to or from a walk the lead was clipped on/off inside the back door, rather than at the gate which is how it used to be. If we were just “outside” in general then we made a barricade between the back of the house and the shed to stop her from getting to Tia’s fence.

Initially it was a temporary one, fashioned up from whatever materials we could find.

This is it. With Milly looking innocently back from the side she was not supposed to be on…

Barricade FAIL.

 

 

 

 

So out came the big guns – ply wood, a saw and some screws – and Matt made us a more sturdy sliding gate/door.

On the other side and behind (our garden is U-shaped around the bungalow) we had Harry the pup to contend with. Harry just wanted to play, but clearly his innocent racing up and down the fence line completely terrorised poor Milly. It didn’t last too long though because Harry escaped a few times out of his front gate and was then given less opportunity to do so, meaning Milly could have some peace in her little patch of outdoors.


On a day like today – when we were gardening and pottering outside – Matt and I would normally be communicating constantly on where Milly is, and who has shut or opened what. “I’ve opened the gate, keep the dog with you”.. that sort of thing. One of us, usually me, had an eye on Milly at all times. But today there was no need, and I was extremely aware of it as I wandered in and out of the house, and back and forth from the front garden to the back garden. I was habitually pulling the gate shut behind me and doing a quick check that, if the gate was open, both the back door & the barricade were firmly in the shut position. I’m sure I’ll get used to it not mattering, but today it just felt weird.

The importance of shutting doors also applied to the front door, and the door between the living room and the front hallway.

I never ever wanted to be in the position where Milly could “greet” someone coming in the front door. Although it’s totally lovely to be greeted be a smiling face and a wagging tail, if you are wrestling your way in the front door loaded down with bags with barely a free hand to turn the key in the lock, you don’t need to be caught unawares by Milly on the other side of it. Not that she would try and dart out, but if at the very moment you were making your bag-lady entrance, a dog happened to be passing across the end of the driveway it would not end well. Even more of a disaster could unfold if the dog was walking past the end of the drive on the opposite side of the road… So it just was not worth the risk. Ever.

That is The Rule.  Milly doesn’t come in and out of the front door, or have the opportunity to do so, without a human attached. Or rather, Milly didn’t. Keep getting my tenses muddled don’t I.


As well as the gardening and stuff, I did a Tescos shop today… so how on earth I am going to tenuously link this back to Milly? “AS IF Milly used to come to Tesco with you”. Well of course she didn’t, but I often used to think how nice it would be to take her inside and walk around knowing that there was almost 0% chance of meeting another dog. In all the years I’ve lived here I have never once seen an assistance dog in Tesco Hookwood, so a wander down the aisles would have been pretty safe. Illegal I guess, but that isn’t as important as it being dog-free.

So other than the reminder of the now unnecessary “door rules” associated with ferrying supermarket shopping into the house, the other “everyday” is that I no longer have to wedge my shopping into the dog bag or pile it on the back seat.

A dog bag… but isn’t that for picking up poop?! Well yes, that is one type of dog bag, but the other is of the car carry bag variety, to stop your beloved canine traveller from roaming around in the vehicle.


As you saw from my last blog on France, Milly used to travel quite happily (although often noisily) on the back seat of the car. Whilst this could be ok if there were two of you travelling it wasn’t ideal for day to day stuff, or around town. I also think that it might be illegal not to have your dog properly restrained. I feel like I should know that. I’ll look it up.

For a while Milly had one of those plug in seatbelt harnesses, but I think they work best for non-agitated dogs, because Milly used to just get herself tied in knots in it.


When we first got Milly I had my trusty hatchbatch – a black Astra lovingly named “da Copter” – and Matt had a classic Mark II Golf. Deciding we needed a sensible “dog car” we bought an old Passat estate to trial. I was far too attached to Copter so Matt took the Golf off the road and drove around in “the Longun”. We got on well with it, it was super practical for runs with Milly, and did us proud with that trip to France and various other road-trip adventures for a couple of years.

Despite being a 2.5 V6 Diesel though it wasn’t exciting enough for Mr Petrol Head (not to be confused with Mr Potato Head). We swapped it for a slightly newer and more whooshy 2.8 V6 Petrol 4Motion Passat. I say “swapped” in the loosest sense. We didn’t actually swap it – we never do – we always buy the next car and then ponder for ages what we might do with the old one.

The Longun eventually found home with the late Mr Lorusso, our good friend Mikey’s dad. When Mr L Senior passed away the Longun went to our friend Chad, and then eventually after some years of good service, it came right back to Matt, who finally scrapped it. That sort of thing is pretty normal for Matt and his friends. All have multiple cars, and will loan this one to that one, or buy that one from the other one. Was totally alien to me. My car was my all time pride and joy and the only person fully trusted with it was my Dad! I’ve relaxed on that now, and will get involved in the borrowing/lending/sharing to the extent that it can help others out.


The White Passat never got a name, but it had a reputation.

In a former life it was a service vehicle. Tell tale signs were score marks from decals on the exterior, rubber grommets covering aerial holes in the roof, evidence of electronic equipment on the dash and the front headrests being screwed in (?). It also had serious “limo tint” all round, which made it look pretty mean. We guess it was either Police or Paramedic. Either way though, it went bloomin’ quick, and with the lovely feeling that you only get as you wind up a petrol to the red line.

By this point Milly had progressed to the boot, with one of those universal “trombone” dog guards, where you extend the rails to fit the shape of your car…like the sliders on a trombone. Well clearly Milly knew her way around musical instruments. On one particular journey she made it known that she wouldn’t be restrained, and a bit like that playground game “What’s the time Mr Wolf” she snuck her way out of the boot and into the car.

Each time we turned around she was making another move until she was happily in position leaning on the back of the drivers seat.

 


In addition to all the physical gadgetry of a service vehicle, something had also been done with the electrics of the Passat. Specifically the central locking. We should’ve known something was dodgy when, very early on, the car self locked with the key inside. With no spare, Matt set about the door with a crow bar and a length of steel rod and somehow managed to activate the unlock button on the door in order to break back in.

For me, however, I found the boot catch more problematic and it gave rise to one of my most embarrassing stories of all time.


It was late on a Sunday afternoon and we had invited Mikey round for a spot of tea. Matt was busy in the workshop doing something or other so I made a quick dash to Tescos to secure us some pie and mash, and a few essentials. I returned to the car with my shopping, duly loaded it into the boot, returned the trolley to the bay and set off home. It was only when I was turning in the top of the road that I clocked in the rearview mirror that the tailgate was wide open. How long it had been like that I have no idea… I had the stereo so loud playing my tunes I hadn’t notice the buffeting wind noise.

All Matt remembers is me running down the yard drive calling him saying “Matt come quickly, I’ve lost the shopping!!”. I made him drive me back to Tescos, and round the carpark, but my shopping was nowhere to be seen.

Who knows when I lost it.. maybe I pulled out of the space with such gusto that it was immediately ejected, or maybe it was when I careered through the petrol station on two wheels after deciding to abort a refuel because of the queue. Whatever happened anyway I felt like a total idiot (and rightly so). I also had to make an emergency trip to little Tesco to try and get something to feed us and Mikey for dinner. I can’t remember what we had in the end but I do know he was very grateful not to be fed a cheesecake with tyre marks on it! Almost 8 years on and we STILL frequently joke about bringing “a road kill dessert” as a contribution to dinner.

I admit that I was a bit of wally that day, and had I practiced my very best Sunday Driving I would have safely delivered our groceries home, cheesecake and all. However TO THIS DAY I still stand by the fact it was a faulty boot catch. Plus, all normal modern cars have lights and alarms that go off when a door isn’t shut properly… where were those lights when my cheesecake needed them?

To prove my point it happened to me a second time – although thankfully there were no carrier bags in the road and no witnesses this time – but I had been following a horsebox so there is NO WAY it was my acceleration that caused the jettison of cargo.

One plus point of the Passat was the tow bar, which I used to good effect as a fender to prevent me fully reversing into walls. It was a LONG car I tell you.

So given the untrustworthiness of Milly, the boot catch and/or my driving, we invested in a travel crate for Milly in the car. This meant she could be securely stowed and the thing could be covered which would prevent her catching sight of any hounds out of the window and getting stressed out.


On changing cars again, this time me “swapping” Copter for my favourite car of all time – The Rocket – the crate was deemed too likely to get clanged against the body work and do some damage, and we instead got her a Dog Bag. Very similar to a pop-up festival tent, and just as impossible to dismantle, this thing was an instant hit.

Milly was so keen to get in it that she got on it before I had fully lashed it in to the car.

She also used to snuggle into it at every opportunity, I suppose it was like her little Wendy House.

 

After 5 years my beloved Red Rocket was “swapped” for the more sensible and sedate Bluey, a big mistake which was hastily remedied with another swap onto the current beast of an Audi-with-no-name.

Throughout these car changes I’ve managed to avoid Matt’s persuasion to get something small(er) and nippy with the “I need an estate for the Milly” excuse… I’m hoping he doesn’t suggest any fleet changes on my side in the near future because I’ll probably just stamp my feet and say I WANT AUDI. The only thing I could be possibly be tempted to upgrade to would be something with an autoclosing tailgate.

Because it was such a pain in the bum to unclip and dismantle, I used to keep the tent up all the time. Everything – like shopping, gym kit, laptop bag – used to just fit in or around it, and I got used to not being able to see in the rearview mirror.  Like a van, the wing mirrors were perfectly adequate. Although I realise I’ve been driving around with an empty tent for the majority of the time, it was her tent, Milly’s tent. Her little safe space away from home.

Today the dog bag no longer lives in the car… it is sitting in my office room – still popped up, because I’m just not ready to put it away yet, and even if I was I’ve lost the instructions so I don’t know how to fold it up and squeeze it back into it’s child’s napsack-sized case.


But as I went to Tesco and threw my shopping with ease into my fancy Audi, with it’s boot open warning light and all round parking sensors, I felt a pang of sadness at the empty boot.

Similarly when I got home and opened the front door AND the hallway door at the same time, propping them open to bring my shopping through to the kitchen, I was all too aware that there was no Milly there to keep shut in. No little nose checking out my shopping bags and hoping I had ventured down the dog treat aisle as I normally did. Matt was there – obviously – and hoping I had snaffled him an ice-cream from the freezer aisle (which I had), but it wasn’t the same….

So although I miss her every day, Milly is completely intertwined IN my everyday. There are connections and links and thoughts where you would never think to notice them. But to me they are as obvious as the moon in the sky…. they are part of me and although they haven’t always been there, they are now and I really think they always will be.

because Milly… 

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