I remember feeling rather detached when the ex decided he wanted a dog. My nan had dogs, and I’d always adored hers, so much so I would often beg to stay when mum and I went for a visit. This, however, was different. He kept showing me pictures of dogs that he had evaluated according to a set of rules in his head. I confess to not knowing what these were except it must not moult. Finally, it was settled it would be a Hungarian Vizsla.
Driving four hours to the rescue place, a one-hour turnaround and four hours back, I marvelled at how calm this dog was. He lay quietly on the back seat, I guess, not knowing his fate, merely another journey with some strange humans. He had some behavioural problems and after a psychological assessment, it was declared that he should be rehomed. Knowing nothing about dogs, that meant not a jot.
Back home, him indoors was uber excited and went out to buy some rather gorgeous things for the boy. Ferdy none too impressed with being left at the other end of the lounge decided to shred his expensive bed. That first night he was put into a basket by the front door of a three-storey house and proceeded to howl and yes damage the wall. I think I felt bemused and not sure what to do, other than observe, as a bystander might.
The next day, I was left alone with Ferdy dog. This was when I received the first of my lessons. He was discovered in the hall with the contents of the bin spread all over. Not thinking I put my hand down to grab the stuff and found a large set of teeth around my face. Quite unperturbed, I stopped, managed my energy and contemplated the event.
In a fraction of a second, the jaws left my face as quickly as they had arrived. In those moments, I realised that this was my fault. I had not thought about how to relate to him, what distress he might be in and that I had caught him off guard. Calmly I collected the rubbish while having a quick chat with him. Yes, I know he had no idea what I was saying, but I felt we had reached an understanding.
He taught me that despite all of my skills, I needed to consider the part I played when interacting with others. To notice how my behaviour affects others.
Two nights later, Ferdy dog was still giving his beautiful bed in the lounge a good tearing. As I looked at him, I knew that all he wanted was to be a part of our family. I dragged his bed over to us and declared that ‘he’ could do the discipline, and I would do the love. I fell in love. All dogs lovers know that huge heart swelling love connection, and now I did. I was smitten. He taught me to love unconditionally and that in giving and receiving pure love, everything changes and nothing else matters.
A nearby field where I took Ferdy for walks turned into a muddy bog when it rained. He loved nothing more that to charge through it, covering his chestnut pelt in the wet sludgy mud. I adored the way that he had no cares or worries, he just galloped. He was free and liberated.
This was great fun to watch, but the best fun came when he arrived home to the beige house (beige husband, beige house). Yes, I know its wrong to laugh, but what’s the point of being with a dog if he can’t lose himself in delightful moments? And frankly what’s the point of a beige house? I often tittered , even as I cleaned the mess up.
He taught me to enjoy the moment and to make time to play every day.
Several years down the line, Ferdy was joined by Marley Moo, a timid beauty sporting an unusual coat of black and grey. Ferdy dog was naffed off, to say the least, and I found myself picking Marley up on many occasions and cuddling her better after his attacks. She was frightened. In return for sanctuary in my safe arms, she gave me the most incredible love and licks – I fell head over heels in love with her again.
Fast forward to 2015, I’d left ‘him indoors’ after discovering his double life and was enjoying my new life with my two babies when I found an abandoned puppy. Thinking that a charity would take her, I fetched her home.
I tried to not get attached as I searched for a home. Ferdy dog did the same thing as he had done to Marley and attacked her, and I found myself with her in my arms many times. In those moments of cuddling her, I became fond of her. There wasn’t that instant love connection that I felt with the other two. Possibly because I was convinced she would be leaving soon.
Angel didn’t leave. Of course, she didn’t. Because each time I looked into her eyes, I knew she was here to stay. She has become the most adorable, sweet, funny and engaging dog you could wish for. Shame about the things she ate in the early days, but hey what’s a pair of jeans between friends?
I struggled with the dynamics. I resorted to getting in a dog trainer to help me to learn how to cope and live in harmony with three dogs.
They taught me that anything is possible if you are prepared to try.
There is only me and my pooches. I work hard and have been guilty of being a workaholic. All three dogs Ferdy Dog, Marley Moo and Angel have instilled in me the discipline of taking time out, even when I have a piece of writing, I just have to finish. They let me know in no uncertain terms that it is time for a walk.
Through them, I have learnt that time out for reflection during the day is an absolute must. We all need to recharge our batteries, don’t we?
In previous years, I have run myself into the ground working and trying to sort out my headspace, home and life following the end of a dreadful relationship.
When I discovered Angel, I had been slowing down. Clearly, the cosmos thought otherwise and with this tiny terror in my life, I was brought to my knees. I called her Angel because I knew that she was a messenger.
We’d arrived home one day and I’d wound their leads around my wrists. Don’t ask why. Then Angel – just a puppy, spotted a cat, all three dogs ran and I went flying through the air. Well and truly stopped. Ouch, those bruised ribs, knees and head hurt…
They all taught me that the world doesn’t stop because you take time out. What is important is to stop. In the stopping, you will find opportunities.
Every day, we walk a similar pathway. For them, it’s a whole new experience with new smells and things to investigate. Yesterday doesn’t appear to exist. It’s all fresh, new and exciting.
I have no way of knowing if Ferdy and Marley miss their old life. or if Marley remembers why she was so fearful. As for Angel, who knows who let her go, she has settled in and is a part of the family. It’s as if it has always been this way.
They have taught me that the past is not a place to dwell. That having the freedom to enjoy today and this moment is the best feeling ever.
I never had children, and now I find myself with three furry children by three different fathers. Each is different and each I feel is comfortable with who he or she is. I’ve yet to catch them in the mirror asking if their bum looks big in this?
They have taught me to love and accept myself.
There are many more love and life lessons, the truth is they have become my life and every day they remind me how wonderful life and to feel loved is.
Animals change your life and perspective. You do not own them; they are furry bundles of love here to guide and support without judgement your journey through life. The least we can do is to show our furry companions the same respect and big love back.
If you are thinking of a dog, please rescue. Take the time out to understand how to share your life with them. Make room in your heart and life for the biggest love bomb ever.
Your life will change forever.
In this first lessons in life, I consider why it’s ok to be angry.
Recently I have felt a lot of anger arise quickly and dissipate just as quickly. Years ago, I would have suppressed my anger as something that was inappropriate and not to be shown. Then when I couldn’t bottle it any longer I would explode. It felt like an ugly emotion rather than an igniter.
The anger I have felt hasn’t been directed at anyone in the moment; it’s been more that I have been angry at situations that are quite beyond my control.
They have, I realise, been situations which have pulled at my heartstrings, crossed boundaries and my values. Like hearing that a puppy in our village had died of parvo, which could have been prevented had the owners vaccinated it. It hurt to think of that little life gone because of irresponsible behaviour.
But it is much deeper than that.
As a mum of 3 rescue dogs who are my life, what I felt was in reality, what if something happened to them? What if they were not here? I know that one day they won’t be here. They are so precious to me. They don’t live as long as us.
I do whatever I can to give them a good life. I am your typical doting furbaby mum; they have me very firmly wrapped around their paws.
It was the injustice that I was angry about. It was also about a life barely begun, snuffed out in such a terrible way. I felt the same way yesterday when I found a dead kitten in the rambla. I have no idea how it died. I moved it out of the path, made a grave, and said a prayer.
What I am noticing more and more is that, as soon as my anger arises, I reframe. In this recent example, I thought how do I support this family and help rehome the rest of the puppies? It felt good to witness and acknowledge the rapid rise and fall of my emotions rather than to suppress them and to consider what would be a better way to channel that feeling?
I remember, again in our village, a horrible man who thought that the reason I had come to live here was funny.
I’d left a man who was living a double life. One evening I made a horrible discovery, and six weeks later, with nowhere else to go, I came here. I travelled 1000’s of miles to a run-down old house in the hills.
This man taunted me whenever he could. One day one of my dogs had escaped the house and was near his. I came out of the house to see this man dragging my dog up the road. Ferdy was being strangled with his front paws in the air, with his back paws barely touching the road.
It really was too much for me, and a red mist descended. I went mental, much to this man’s surprise and to the surprise of the builder in my house who commented on my swearing and temper.
Was it ok to lose it? I guess it served a purpose. However, I ‘should’ have nipped this man’s nastiness in the bud from day one. I didn’t because I was raw with emotional pain. I didn’t know how to respond, and instead, I internalised it. He was in a bully, a plain, ugly, everyday bully, and I’d just left a bully, and it was just too hard to deal with.
It’s ok to be angry and to embrace what it is showing you as long as you acknowledge it, let it go and decide on another more productive course of action.
When you reframe anger, there is always something more productive you can do.
Anger is always, to my mind, about something much deeper, and that’s where the exploration needs to be focused.
I learned about anchors on an NLP course and decided I would use them productively in my everyday life.
I choose four words for my anger:
Each word was anchored to a finger. When my anger arose, I would press each finger with my thumb, while silently saying the words rage, anger, annoyed and miffed. In a few seconds, I was left barely with an emotion.
As time progressed, I was able to say the sequence in my head until eventually, all I had to say was miffed.
That’s today’s lesson in life, what do you think about anger and how you can use it to do something more productive.