Miles and Milestones

Sunday 16th September had been a target date in my calendar for many months. Mostly in a good way but also in an “I feel a lot of pressure” way.

After competing in my first ever sprint triathlon on my birthday back in June I very quickly turned my attention to running training. Determined to give 100% to honour Milly I talked to my lovely PT and worked out a plan to not only complete the half marathon, but to do so in a decent time. I’ve been adamant all along that I am “not a runner” and that this would be my first and my last distance event, so I wanted it to be a good one. Go big, then go home.

Unfortunately I picked up a slight injury during the Tri, which put the brakes on any actual running. My “training” therefore consisted of a rigorous routine of physio/rehab exercises and as much Body Attack as I could fit in. The sum total of my running efforts was 7 training runs over 10weeks for a cumulative distance of 50km. At the end of August we were questioning whether or not I should even be attempting it. There is no doubt that I was completely unprepared.

The pressure in the run up to the event was completely self-made. Bottom line was I could’ve walked the course and still achieved what I had set out to do. But that really wasn’t good enough for me, and I didn’t think it was good enough for Milly.

Despite setting up the JG page when we signed up months and months ago, because of my disastrous prep I felt apprehensive about the fundraising aspect, and really did delay in sending out “the email”. What if, when it came to it, I couldn’t actually do it?

There was never any doubt about Matt’s ability to run a half marathon. Having not run once before the start of the year, and barely deploying his own training plan until the start of August, it turns out that he is actually rather good at it. Admittedly he has probably left it a smidge too late to launch his running career, but despite threatening to sell his running shoes on eBay the day after the half, I’m actually convinced he’s got some more races in him. Watch this space!

In the week leading up to the event I was so moved by the incredible support that we were receiving. Not only in terms of donations, but also the encouragement and moral support that I desperately needed. My grieving has been incredibly slow and incredibly painful, and this half marathon has been a major milestone in my grief calendar. I still don’t know what I was hoping or expecting to feel, or how I thought things might change, but I was totally certain that I would feel “something” different afterwards.

When race day arrived I felt surprisingly calm and ready to go. Even though I was physically completely unprepared, mentally I was ready and knew that I was going to finish. Matt was running for time – he was too quick not to – but for me the goal was just to “finish” and accept I’d have to deal with injury and fall out after the event.


Setting off from Reigate Priory and heading towards home felt daunting… it’s actually quite a long way to Horley and back…. 13.1 miles of long way to be precise! Matt and I started out side by side, but after the first km uphill we knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold the pace that he needed to smash the clock, so he charged off ahead. Headphones in, with a killer playlist, I settled into my stride alone.


You may recall that the reason we chose Reigate was the route.. specifically that it comes right past our front door and so along a stretch of road that formed part of Milly’s walk every single day.

Running down from Lonesome Lane I saw the smiling faces of Oz & Karen, and Carol & Amy outside their house on Lee Street clapping & cheering people on. Seeing people you know on the route really makes such a difference. Our house was about 5.5miles in, at which point I was holding a steady pace that would’ve got me a 2 hour ticket had I been able to maintain it.

Coming over the bridge into Mill Lane I was on my first “home straight”. Heading actually for home, past my dear neighbours who I am saluting here.  John’s greeting for me was “well done love, only 20miles to go”!





A few more paces and into the waiting arms of my parents, Matt’s mum, and brother and sister-in-law. The pause was less than a minute to slurp some fluid before setting back off on “Milly’s walk”.





Rounding the corner at the top of our road I passed Matt coming the opposite way and followed up the Reigate Road just a few minutes behind him. This part of the race was so poignant for me, as I really was retracing Milly’s steps. In the “training days” Milly and I would walk endlessly back and forth past this road sign…. back and forth.. forth and back

It’s quite hard to run with a lump in your throat. In fact it’s quite hard to do anything with a lump in your throat and a build up of intense emotions making your face ache. I seem to spend a lot of time like that at the moment.

The drag up the A217 to Reigate is llooonnnnggg and largely free from houses. My pace was dropping off, the 2hour pacemakers were out of sight ahead, and my lack of running was evident by the pain in all of my joints. I didn’t know how far off the mark I was going to be, but by the time I reached the killer hill on Park Lane East I knew I had no chance of hitting a time that I wanted. Although everything was hurting quite badly, stopping was not an option, and neither was walking.

The pain was etched on my face as I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 2:09:45.

I could barely stand as I staggered into the medal zone. I was completely overcome with exhaustion and emotion.

Matt managed to find me and prop me up, along with my parents, friend Marion from ECR and my stepson Jamie and his girlfriend Willow. Having that support at the finish meant such a lot to me even though I couldn’t really string a coherent sentence together.

Matt had finished almost 20 minutes before me with a fantastic time of 1:52:02 and even pulled his quickest split out of the bag for the final km. I am so proud of him

(Although he was 16 seconds too fast really… 1:52:18 would’ve been out of this world!)

At the time of writing this, our fundraising total is £2,835.75.  This is truly a staggering amount and far more than we had ever hoped to raise.

The fundraising side is so very important to the rescue – Nikki of Epsom Canine writes:

“Heartfelt thanks to Heather Bray and Matt Bray for their tremendous fundraiser in memory of the lovely Milly x They raised a fantastic total of £2823.25 for ECR in a year where kennel fees have nearly doubled and fundraisers have been thin on the ground x Cannot thank you enough guys and know how hard the last months have been for Heather. Lovely to see you both last Sat at our walk and having a cuddle with Trixie xxxxx”


The fact is that the real thanks go out to all of you.  We really are beyond overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of so many people.

THANK YOU” on it’s own doesn’t really seem weighty enough to show my gratitude and appreciation. But it’s the best we have in our language so here we go…

♥ Thank you ♥ to every single person who donated – we can see almost everyone’s names and I will be reaching out individually as much as I can.

♥ Thank you ♥ for the early donations as soon as we started the page and when we were still totally engulfed in grief. It really helped us to focus on a positive. I know these thanks are hugely and embarrassingly overdue… at the time I was suffering from severe social paralysis, and, as ridiculous as it seems now, I just couldn’t handle even reaching out to acknowledge. So so sorry for my lateness, I realise it must have seemed very rude.

♥ Thank you ♥ for the “special” donations.. meaningful numbers and perfectly calculated amounts to hit meaningful targets. None of this went unnoticed and, for someone who has developed a lifelong habit of making sums from the numbers on a digital clock face or a number plate, this was so appreciated.

♥ Thank you ♥ for making donations at specific times on specific dates to give me a little boost when you knew I would be struggling.

♥ Thank you ♥ for donating twice!

♥ Thank you ♥ for donating with Milly in your heart and your memory.

♥ Thank you ♥ for donating on race day, when I was systematically checking FB and Insta and email almost continually as a means of distraction.

♥ Thank you ♥ for cheering us on around the route, for handing out jelly babies and for high fiving us on the way to the finish.

♥ Thank you ♥ for every message of kindness and support, not only for the Half, but also just generally towards me this year.

♥ Thank you ♥ for sitting with me in the canteen the very next morning, listening and showing such compassion when I was basically jibbering and in shock.

♥ Thank you ♥ for sorting and printing photos and stationery and mugs for me. In the first few weeks putting focus and energy into something tangible was an amazing coping mechanism.

♥ Thank you ♥ for checking up on me, sometimes constantly.

♥ Thank you ♥ for messaging me with my new most frequent emojis “hearts” and “paws” and treasured hashtag… #becausemilly.

♥ Thank you ♥ for avoiding eye contact with me in the office because you know I will struggle to stay composed.

♥ Thank you ♥ for making eye contact with me at a crucial moment when my eyes are shiny with tears and you want to pull me back up over the edge.

♥ Thank you ♥ for not losing patience with me when I haven’t replied, sometimes for days or weeks.

♥ Thank you ♥ for knowing when I need to talk and, equally, when I need to be distracted instead.

♥ Thank you ♥ for not being awkward when you’ve asked me how I’m doing and, out of nowhere, my throat constricts and I can barely squeeze out any words for fear of sobbing.

♥ Thank you ♥ for endlessly going over and over things with me, empathising with me, hearing me and understanding me when I’m trying to analyse why I’m still feeling how I’m feeling so many months on.

♥ Thank you ♥ for not judging me and for accepting that I am just not “ok” and may never be quite whole again.

♥ Thank you ♥ for letting me talk and talk and talk, and share all my thoughts and feelings even when I’m feeling a bit bonkers and not really making any sense.

♥ Thank you ♥ for letting me cry, and sometimes sob, despite not knowing what has set me off or what to do to help me, especially when it’s in the middle of the night and I am inconsolable all over again.

♥ Thank you ♥ for looking at my “Remember a day every day” pictures, liking and commenting on my posts. Complete strangers sending their love and best wishes, reaching out from around the globe to show their appreciation and affection towards Milly. It’s overwhelming.

♥ Thank you ♥ for reading any/some/all of my story and laughing, crying or smiling along the way.

Thank you all so very much for everything …

but most of all, THANK YOU for caring and THANK YOU for remembering.  My biggest fear is that because she could never really be widely known, Milly will just fade away.  The actual thought of this can bring on a chest tightening anxiety in me. I want to believe that my feelings will be enough to keep her memory alive, but in case they are not, I’d like a buffer of the combined power of you all behind me, remembering her just a tiny bit, and helping me out.

By now you may have worked out that I am a super sensitive person. Many a time I have had to check myself with a reminder to “not take it personally”. I think 999 times out of 1000 this feedback is given in a negative situation… someone did something against you… “don’t take it personally” you are told. So this is how you try to be and try to think. And in a lot of those negative situations it protects you, and you are able to distance yourself and not take it personally. Which is good, right?

But what about the flip side?…. I know I have never thought about that before…..

So now, on reflection, I don’t think I want to be a person who goes through life striving to take nothing personally, because, frankly, sometimes stuff is PERSONAL.

Sometimes people have done things.. good things… to you, for you, about you.. because of YOU.

Every single thing I have given thanks for above I have taken HUGELY personally, and more importantly I have taken personally on Milly’s behalf.

Because for me, it is all about her.  It always has been.

because Milly… x

Run Reigate Half Marathon – 16th September 2018

It’s not loopy!

A few weeks after Milly left us it was time for the crème de la crème of Dog Shows.. Crufts! This year I could only bring myself to watch a little bit of the final, but I’m sure none of the competitors minded (or even noticed) that I wasn’t cheering from the sofa as I usually would.

Unsurprisingly I use social media to keep abreast of all things dog-related.. dog behavourists, dog-blogs, cute sausage dog updates, dog photographers, dog food.. One of my favourite pages is Lily’s Kitchen. For those who haven’t heard of it Lily’s Kitchen pride themselves on creating “Proper Food” for dogs (and cats as well actually). They do all sorts of scrummy recipes that Milly used to enjoy on special occasions. Their flavours include things like “Sunday Lunch” and “Wild Campfire Stew” and without sounding weird, they really do smell edible, and not like dog food at all.

During Crufts, Lily’s ran a Facebook competition called “It’s not loopy”… to enter you had to share with them the loopiest thing that you do for your dog. I wouldn’t normally get involved in something like this, other than reading what other’s have put, but fuelled by grief and Rose I decided to make an entry. I commented on their post, shared my acts of loopyness for my dear departed Boo and threw in a couple of photos for good measure. I hadn’t yet started my blog at this point, but satisfied that I had shared a little piece of Milly-memory with the world (or at least with Lily’s) I put it out of my mind and cracked on with blogging & grieving.

A couple of weeks later I was completely shocked to receive a notification that Lily’s Kitchen had commented on my comment…. I had been picked as a winner! I’m sure it was in-part down to a sympathy vote, but who cares, I was grateful, I needed a little a lift. The prize was a piece of artwork and to claim it I just had to send them in a photo of Milly. Easy right?! Erm nope actually, because having spent the two weeks after losing her pulling together every single photo I had (including ones where just a paw or a tail or a reflection is in the background) I had over 2000 to choose from. It took me so long that Lily’s had to message me a second time like “Hey, please claim your prize”. Oops.
Anyhow, with more wine in my glass I shortlisted three pictures to send them.

About 10 days ago I received a big brown “do not bend” envelope in the box.. and I knew exactly what it was!!

One of the loopy things I shared was how I left the central heating on all day when I was at work so that Milly didn’t get cold. Most days I was last out of the house so I could override the thermostat. I don’t think I ever openly “told” Matt, but he must’ve noticed the warmth in the place when he came home from work. I know she had a fur coat and all that, but she was a Senior Girl, and, like any old person, also very sedentary for most of the day. She didn’t have the ability to put an extra jumper on or pull a blanket over her knees, so I took care of her comfort with a heavy paw on the room ‘stat and a direct debit to NPower.

On opening my brown envelope I was completely speechless. I’ve actually been itching to share it but wanted to wait until it was all framed… my prize artwork is a caricature by the incredibly talented Mike Bryson.


For those who can’t see it the quote reads “feeling a little chilly, Milly adjusts the thermostat….”, with her paws ON the thermostat, and laying on the bed in front of the radiator, which coincidentally is what one of my shortlisted photo submissions showed.

Mike has captured Milly absolutely perfectly and I am so thrilled with this unique and special gift. I know lots of people have Pet Portraits (which I also plan to get) but I can’t imagine many people have Pet Caricatures! Probably because often you encounter a caricaturist at a wedding or a corporate event.. and I know I’m loopy but I’ve never taken Milly to either of those.

What an amazing and rare keepsake we now have 🙂

It took me some deliberation to choose a frame. As with all things nowadays there are almost too many choices. After giving it a bit of thought I decided I wanted to print out a few things, so that Milly’s little caricature wouldn’t stand alone. I love photos and as such we don’t have a lot of bare wall space left. Something was going to have to give… Of all the places in the house, I wanted to find somewhere prominent to put it, and not have it as something you’d just glance at on your way down the hall. It therefore had to be the kitchen. With no suitable space other than up in the vaulted ceiling it was time to ditch the green penguin canvas (that was put up “temporarily” so we didn’t have a blank wall whilst we chose a decent print….. four years ago!). If anyone wants a lime green photo of penguins give me a shout.

After much fun and games with a tape measure and a spirit level, Matt bashed some nails in for me at the weekend.

Our little Milly Wall is finished…

 I LOVE it.

It makes me smile every time I look at it.. and isn’t that what photos are for…

As well as special occasion suppers, Milly’s other link with Lily’s are the infamous Bedtime Biscuits. Introduced as an addition to the bedtime routine a couple of years ago, Milly would woof down one a night before the ultimate highlight of every day.. the Pedigree Dentastix. If she was extremely lucky, human communication would fail and she’d get two, one from me and one from Matt. She never once said “but Mummy I’ve already had a biscuit from Daddy”… funny that!

Frankly we could run out of milk, bread, toothpaste, chocolate, wine or ANYTHING in the house as long as we didn’t run out of Dentastix, or chewies as we called them. Even my mum has a supply ready for when Milly went to stay.. they are THAT important. I distinctly remember one night when I realised that the drawer was bare… and so was the stock in the cupboard. Thank goodness for the 24 hour Tesco half a mile down the road. Off I went in my jim-jams to buy a box of bedtime chewies.

I’ve already been way too honest to worry about holding back on any elements of my crazy now. On the evening of February 14th Milly had had the last of a packet of bedtime biscuits…. I really really don’t like coincidences like that, even if they are completely inane and meaningless. It makes me feel uneasy.

Sadly, down to my extremely efficient procurement skills I had that day been to Waitrose to replenish our stocks… which now stand unopened and untouched in Milly’s cupboard, atop a stack of food that will never be eaten, next to two special occasion Lily’s, and amongst a plethora of other goodies that can just stay right where they are.




Those who have been here, or the eager eyed amongst you, will have noticed that Milly’s wall is directly above Milly’s bed. Present tense. Not above where her kitchen bed was, but above where her bed IS. Her bedroom bed is still at the foot of my bed. Her blankets are still on the sofas – one in the lounge and one in the office (I have wrestled that bloomin’ pop-up tent away now though so I could get to my desk without it attacking me) . For anyone who thinks that leaving these things out is “upsetting me” you can keep your unhelpful thoughts to yourself. Milly’s bed has been at the end of my bed for 8 years…. I’m going to notice if I DON’T trip over it when I’m getting dressed more than if I do. I’m not creating a “shrine to Milly” (although would be perfectly ok if I was). But I don’t want to go through the house removing all trace of her. Why would I do that? Why would I create that sort of enormous change? I think what I’m trying to cope with is change enough for the time being thanks. My whole world stopped at 9am on February 15th, so if I feel like I want to hit pause on a few bits of home furnishing whilst my poor brain and my hurting heart catch up with reality then that is perfectly ok too.

Most people will be familiar with the concept that “everyone is an expert”. Or at least they think they are. Everyone has some word of wisdom for you, or an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t do. There are plenty of great things I took away from several rounds of counselling and CBT, but the most impactful of them was probably the realisation that nobody ever has the right to tell you what you should (or should not) do. Could… is ok. Might like to… also ok. Have you thought about…. ok.

But SHOULD? Not very ok. I try my very hardest never to use it and try my very hardest not to grimace when someone uses it on me. If I asked for your opinion.. “What do you think I should do?” then it’s fair game to tell me what you think I should do. But other than that… I don’t like it much unless it’s light-hearted or tongue in cheek. Can be particularly upsetting if it’s completely unprovoked and/or when its coming from a self-considered “expert”.

Having done a tiny bit of my trusty Google research on “Grief” as a topic, especially related to pet-loss (obviously), and through my own feelings, it has become ever more apparent that there are no shoulds, and no rights or wrongs.
Cry. Don’t cry. Both ok.
Leave stuff. Move stuff. Both ok.
Talk. Don’t talk. Both ok.
You get the theme? None of it is loopy. Anything and everything is OK.

Grief is 100% personal. Plenty of people have empathy (equally plenty don’t – avoid them!) and can be very kind, but absolutely nobody knows 100% what someone else is feeling (perhaps with the exception of identical twins who are known to have this incredible connection where one can feel a toothache from the other twin’s dodgy tooth).  Maybe 99.9%, but as I am not one of an identical twin, nobody gets that final 0.1%.

If someone understands and has empathy then brilliant. But if they don’t then shake them off, even if temporarily.

I’ve got enough on my plate without my personal grief process being judged and opined on.

To end on a more lighthearted note, I’ll fess up to the other NOT LOOPY things happening right now:
Collar still in my handbag despite having my beautiful pendant
Food and water bowl still in place (washed but back on the step)
Kitchen floor still completely covered with non-slip matting (lime green)
Harness and leads still where they’ve always hung by the back door
The jeans and hoody I was wearing when Milly went to sleep in my arms… folded away in the wardrobe and not worn or washed since (good job I’ve got plenty more of both)
The last bit of fur she shed when I groomed her that terrible morning.. in a jewellery box on my dressing table
The open and half eaten packet of chewies still in my dressing table drawer…..

None of it is loopy.  It’s just me being real.. it’s the only way I know…

because Milly….

Becoming Milly’s proper Mummy

Despite seemingly “settling in” at home very well and very quickly, looking back Matt and I realised that it actually took quite a long time for Milly to come out of her shell. We think it was probably the best part of a year before her little dogonality was fully revealed. This is a largely uneducated guess but we attributed this to her being highly stressed and almost shut down when she was in kennels. I don’t know if there is such a things as Canine PTSD (?) but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that, after months of being in kennels with/near the enemy (all other dogs), Milly might’ve been suffering from it.

When I look back now, I can’t quite put my finger on why we felt that she wasn’t herself for so many months, but we definitely discussed and agreed on this some years back now, so there must’ve been something, or a number of things, that made us feel that way.

Similarly, I guess it took me some months to adjust to my role as a doggy mummy. With hindsight I realise that I actually had no idea what I was doing beyond the essentials.

From day one I was absolutely meeting the most fundamental and basic needs of a dog: Food; Shelter; Exercise. I took those duties very seriously.
I was also dishing out a bucket load of affection and ardently following her around with my camera phone to ensure that I captured those all important “firsts” and cute moments.

First “sore paw” incident – early 2010.

I’ve never seen someone look so unimpressed at a first aid attempt.  I’m sure that special bootie cost me the best part of a tenner.. and lasted on her foot for all of 4 minutes.




First “snow day” – Winter 2009.

There’s something extremely cute about paw prints in the snow.




First “bath time” – Winter 2009

Wasn’t a favourite.  Like a lot of dogs Milly loved a muddy puddle or a slightly stale pond, but give her a warm bubble spa bath and a fluffy tumble dried towel and she was unconvinced.


Despite really loving her and caring for her, I didn’t actually have much of a bond or connection with her in those early months. She knew I was the food provider and the boss in the house but that was about it. Something that probably made it considerably more difficult to build that connection was the fact that she was literally unrecognisable and unpredictable out of the house. In truth, I was possibly a little bit fearful. Not of her directly – I never ONCE thought she was going to turn on me. But the fact that we stepped out of the house and she immediately became a different character made me feel uneasy I guess. Just as a loose point of reference I’ll liken it to someone who has been drinking excessively…. people can “turn into” something or someone that you don’t recognise. You aren’t scared of them, but you can be a little scared by the drastic change. When the alcohol wears off, or in Milly’s case when the back door shut behind her, they are again themselves and, probably – through sheer relief – you forget all about it.

I didn’t knowingly feel scared – but now I have all the time in the world to look back and over-analyse I can come up with these things. Hindsight eh.

Despite having a Jekyll and Hyde for a pet, I was largely unperturbed, and just ploughed on doing what I had to do. I never regretted anything but looking back I was out of my depth with “special dog” ownership.

I was, however, in the extremely fortune position of knowing a superstar dog trainer, and I went to her to receive some very basic but crucial guidance.

After completing my GCSEs at 16 I went to college at Brooklands in Weybridge. It felt super grown-up at the time.. it was a campus college and not attached to a school, the tutors were tutors not teachers and known by their first names, you only had to be there when you had actual lessons, and my Economics tutor – the infamous BOB – used to regularly send us home from class early so we (or he?!) could go to the pub. It was at Brooklands, and in Economics, that I met Michelle. Michelle was from Goldsworth Park Woking (I can still remember her home address from 20 years ago!), and despite being only a few months older than me, she seemed much more worldly wise than I did. The unexpected free-time that Bob used to give us was often spent honing our American Pool skills at Planets in Woking with other friends Gemma – my best friend from home – and Paul, who Michelle knew. Blimey weren’t those carefree days.

Michelle and I got on well from the beginning, although we had a momentary glitch when she snogged my ex-boyfriend on a Geography field trip in France. I wasn’t best pleased at the time.

At home Michelle had a lot of dogs – I’m going to punt at usually 5/6 at any one time – because her mum was/is a MASTER trainer. From what I knew or understood then it was mostly agility training, but I think she has done every kind. I confess I was too busying thinking about boys and driving and parties to pay too much attention to the dogs, although we did visit her a number of times when they had puppies because Gemma was a major animal lover.

Michelle is petite, proper cute (still now) and looks like butter wouldn’t melt, but she has the fastest tongue of anyone I know. There is a superb story of her Year 11 Prom (or some other school organised party). I hadn’t heard of it, but Michelle went to one of the more down-to-earth schools in Woking (not dissimilar to my Sunbury Manor experience I think).

So legend has it, at said school party, things got a little heated at the end of the night and security were brought in complete with their ferocious guard dogs.  Tiny Michelle was surely front and centre of the commotion. When faced with the threat of having the “dogs set on them” Michelle took one look at the snarling, barking hounds and delivered some quick-witted & frankly cheeky response to the security guard before proceeding to call one beast over for tummy tickles and a chin rub. Whether it was actually her dog whisperer talents or just her bolshy confidence that told her she wasn’t going to get savaged I’ll never know, but she walked away unscathed.

Anyone who can talk down a guard dog was pretty impressive in my 17 year old mind, and this story still makes me chuckle out loud to this day.

Michelle wasn’t hugely committed to studying at that point in her life, and after just over a year or so at Brooklands she left and started working full time in Mr Cod. Michelle had enough courage and self-belief to try her hand at something different, and she went on to qualify as a Financial Advisor, sit A-Levels, study for a law degree and complete her Masters. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if I saw in the paper that she was running for Prime Minister.  I do actually think she would make a cracking job of it.

Oh, and she is also now an awesome Mummy to two beautiful daughters. Last time I saw them, her eldest girl was certainly showing signs of the same quick wit her mummy has…. good luck Michelle & Tim!!

So, back to 2010, it was Michelle’s mum – who was living just a couple of miles away – that I turned to for advice on Milly.

She was never going to be a flyball queen, but I came away with a much better understanding of some of the basics. I learnt that “assertive” was just that. It wasn’t angry, or mean. It was just assertive and confidently in charge. It is said that it can cause more stress to a dog if they don’t know who their pack leader is. Drawing on her Collie genes, Milly proceeded to master various commands with me, including but not limited to: Wait (obvious), Close (turn 180degree at heel), Touch (my hand with her nose), Down (again, obvious).


Milly proudly showing off her “wait” command in 2014.  Took me 5 attempts to get this picture before she was allowed to snaffle the hot dog lettering.  I felt very proud of her.



Amongst other things I also learnt from Liz that it would be hugely beneficial if I was relaxed and happy, and she had me giving upbeat chitter chatter to little Milly on all of our walks. Milly never chatted back, but I’d give her a run down of my day, my shopping list or anything else that I could deliver in jolly sing-song voice. Despite feeling like a bit of a nutcase at times – some youths in town once mocked me after observing “listen to her, she’s talking to her dog” – there is no question that Milly and I were seriously bonding over the months that followed.

Although I wasn’t able to influence her reactivity towards other dogs at that time, her and I were having a better time of it out of the house and our relationship was progressing nicely. Whether she would’ve admitted it or not, I know I stopped being just that annoying and slow human on the end of her lead… it didn’t take too long before I was Milly’s proper mummy.

because Milly…


I also need to mention here that Michelle’s immediate reaction on hearing about my loss of Milly was to drop absolutely everything and head over to my house.  Busy lives and commitments now mean that we don’t see each other or speak from one month to the next, but in one single text message she reminded me why she is, and always will be, such a good friend.  As it happened I had forced myself into the office the very next day in order not to be home alone so Michelle didn’t need to make her emergency visit.  But that fact that she was going to, and I know would’ve exactly done the same had I messaged her at 2am not 9am, meant so much to me.  Thank you x


Hurrah for sunshine!

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.

because Milly…

x Milly the sun dog x