Dogs: Basil, Mr Kasta, and Echo

Our dogs are, quite possibly, the best things in our lives.  It’s entirely possible that Mr P loves the dogs more than he loves me.  When we first met, Mr P already had two – Basil, a Jack Russell-Manchester Terrier cross, and Mr Kasta, a German Shepherd-Border Terrier cross, both rescue dogs.

Basil’s been pushing his luck again!
Mr Kasta has the ‘Aw’ Factor!

I took to Kasta immediately – everyone did, he had something about him.  He had a way of looking at you that just made you melt, and I don’t think anyone ever looked at him without saying ‘Aw!’.  Basil, on the other hand, was another kettle of (dog)fish entirely.  He’s wilful, demanding, and unbelievably noisy.  We never really go anywhere without the dogs; they come to the pub, we take them on holiday, even when we go out for meals they often come with us!  Basil and Kasta would travel in the back of Mr P’s estate car, safely behind the dog-guard.  What wasn’t safe was our ears.  Basil would bark frenziedly and whine practically the entire time, reaching notes that Mariah Carey would envy, and that were substantially more nerve-jangling than nails on a blackboard or the thought of chewing silver foil.  Every now and then he’d shut up for a minute but would be set off again by the sound of the indicators.  After a while, the racket he made set Kasta off and they’d both start howling.  Also, he had the rather annoying habit of trying to hump poor Mr Kasta every time they got into the car.  It would be fair to say that I didn’t love Basil straightaway.  However, over a period of time, I did come to love Bazzer (aka Little Shit), and can’t imagine life without him somehow.  He wormed his annoying way into my affections, and is absolutely adorable in his own funny little way.

Our dogs go everywhere with us – even the cinema!

Mr Kasta was already elderly when I entered the scene and in January, we had to make the decision to let him go.  He’d become frail; even just six months earlier he’d seemed pretty fit, regularly walking several miles with us but he’d begun dragging his back feet and started to struggle with stiles, with Mr P having to lift him to get him over them.  He also developed dementia.  Never a particularly affectionate dog, he started coming to us for attention, and seeming to seek reassurance that he was in the right place.  He’d wander aimlessly from room to room, not sitting still, and standing staring into a corner.  In the end, he started to fall over on even very short walks and was obviously in pain.  We called the vet out and aged 17 he died, very quietly, in Mr P’s arms.

On holiday a couple of years ago.

We talked about getting another dog and even half-heartedly looked on-line at some rescue centre websites but weren’t quite ready.  There’s always that guilt when you lose an animal you’ve loved; you feel as if it’s wrong to replace them.  But that’s not really what you’re doing, is it?  The greatest compliment you can pay to them, to anyone you’ve loved and lost, is to say “I loved you so much, it was wonderful, and I want to experience that again”.  Around the end of March we started looking a bit more seriously for another dog.  We weren’t looking for anything in particular, though Mr P was absolutely set against a ‘pure breed’ of dog, and I preferred a female since I’ve been outnumbered for so long!  We thought a small to medium sized dog would suit us, and probably something around 5 years old.  After much to-ing and fro-ing, we spotted a likely looking candidate at a rescue centre in Yorkshire (a two hour round trip), were inspected and approved, and made several trips there for ‘meet and greets’ but were disheartened by what seemed like a never-ending process.  It was always ‘oh, maybe one more meet and greet, just to be sure’.  Well, if you’ve ever had dogs, you’ll know that you can’t be sure of anything til you get them home, especially when there’s already a dog in residence.  Basil had met the other dog twice and they seemed fine together so we were getting pretty fed up.  The final straw came when we’d travelled up for another meet and greet, only to be told on arrival that we couldn’t go in because they’d got an outbreak of kennel cough.  Of course, we understood but were pretty annoyed we’d wasted two hours in the car!  On the way home, we decided it was time to look elsewhere.

Back home, strangely enough we both spotted the same dog on the Ark’s website.  Echo was described as a large, nine-year old labrador-collie cross who loved water and playing with her ball.  Plus, she had the most ridiculous ears I’ve ever seen.  She wasn’t what we were looking for.  I called the Ark immediately.

Our lovely 9 year old rescue dog, Echo.
Basil and Echo share a stick outside at the pub.

Turned out Echo had only just been brought in and needed to be assessed before anyone could see her but they’d call me back in a week.  Hmm, yeah right!  But they did!  On the Sunday, we drove over there with Basil in tow for a meet and greet and, within a couple of hours, we were on our way home with Echo in the back of the car.  She and Basil had hit it off straight away and it was love at first sight for me and Mr P.  Well, when I say she and Basil got on, they pretty much ignored each other which we reckoned was a pretty good start!  Basil was amazing really, and seemed to accept Echo with absolutely no problem at all.  As I said, you can’t tell until you get them home!  Now, several weeks later, they actually play together and steal food out of each other’s bowls.

As for Echo herself, she’s an absolute joy.  She’s more poodle-collie cross than labrador, with a very poodle-like curly coat and those silly ears which seem quite collie-ish.  She’s completely adorable and has collie traits.  She rounds Basil up when he’s piffling about on a walk, and does an out-run before dropping to wait for you to throw a ball for her. She’s commandeered the armchair, and likes to lean on you for fuss, which she can’t seem to have too much of.  She does love water but won’t swim in it, preferring to just splash about in the shallows.

Our girl loves water!

She’s a terrible food thief and can whip your dinner off your plate right under your nose like a super-hairy stealth ninja.  On a walk this week, I stopped off for a sausage bap and a latte.  I got almost to the bench when Echo pulled the old ‘I’m ravelled up in my lead’ routine, nearly tripping me up, and knocking the bap right out of my hand onto the floor, from where she scoffed it within a nano-second, much to the amusement of the other walkers and cyclists.  She’s pretty much forced her way into our affections – you can’t help but love her, much like Mr Kasta.  We can’t imagine being without her.

The Weather: Snow Sucks!

Well, my post this week had to be about the weather didn’t it?!  While there are lots of other things I want to write about, the snow and arctic-like conditions have been the most pressing concern for country-dwellers over the last week.

The mere – frozen over

 

It all started on Tuesday – I was working from home and keeping half an eye on what was going on outside since I needed to get to work in Derby the next day.  During the afternoon, the white stuff began to descend and by the time I got up on Wednesday morning we’d had a good couple of inches.  The sub-zero temperatures meant the sodding stuff wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry.  No traffic was passing either, which is never a good sign.  A quick look at http://buxtonweather.com suggested that I wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.  Over the next couple of days, it came down in bucket-loads and local roads were either being declared impassable or completely closed.  Not just side roads, you understand, but main routes, including the A515 which runs between Buxton and Ashbourne.  Locally, two lorry drivers were stuck in the snow for four days until rescuers managed to dig them out.  Nevertheless, there seemed to be no shortage of idiots willing to chance it, judging by the number of comments on Buxton Weather from people who somehow had just about managed to get through and were willing to supply pictures of the conditions they’d managed to ‘brave’.  Quite honestly, as I said in a Facebook post, unless you were a brain surgeon on your way to perform emergency life-saving surgery, your journey just wasn’t that important, and even if you were, it was still doubtful.

It’s a whiteout in Monyash

During those next few days I must have checked Buxton Weather every couple of hours but I wasn’t alone in that.  It’s a great website, updated every few minutes, and equipped with links to webcams locally, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Living out here you become obsessed with the weather – it’s absolutely crucial to everything you do, whether it’s travelling, taking care of animals and livestock, gardening, or just taking the dog for a walk.  Your awareness of the weather and it’s variability, and tendency to change drastically in a very short space of time, is heightened.  In weather as harsh as this it really could be life and death.  You need to be properly equipped and I will talk about appropriate clothing in a future post.  However, I digress …

There used to be a road under there!

Over the next three or four days we were effectively cut off from the outside world. No post, no tourists … and eventually we started to run out of essentials like firewood, milk, bread, and loo roll.  This latter is particularly important to Mr P., who likes to have at least four spare rolls available at all times, and gets quite nervous if supplies get lower than that.  The bread issue was addressed relatively easily as I’d been prepared enough to have a supply of bread flour and dried yeast in stock.  In a former life I used to make all my own bread.  One day a fortnight I’d bake enough to last two weeks – loaves, rolls, sweet muffins … they were made, frozen, eaten and enjoyed, and filled the house with that amazing smell that you only get with homemade bread.  Moreover, making your own bread is easy.  Really!  It requires no special skill; you just need a bit of time, patience, and some energy for the kneading process.  Oh, and a modicum of self-restraint so you don’t end up scoffing the lot while it’s still warm from the oven, slathered in butter, honey, or whatever your particular fancy happens to be.

Homemade bread makes the best toast with loads of butter. Never mind the calories in this weather!

 

We managed pretty well all in all but my main concern was for the girls.  Chickens are pretty hardy but I thought minus 15 degrees C at night might be pushing it a bit.  During the day we were getting up to a relatively sub-tropical minus 6 degrees but oh, those nights were fecking freezing!  I was going out every couple of hours with a kettle to defrost their water, which was freezing solid within about 30 minutes.  Chickens drink a surprising amount, and go to sleep (it’s almost a torpor) as soon as it starts to get dark, so it’s important that they drink enough during daylight hours.  Warm water is something they particular enjoy in cold weather and I was taking out warm porridge for them too, in addition to their usual feed and corn.  They absolutely love porridge and go mad for it, mobbing me as soon as I set foot in their enclosure.  During such cold weather, it was one of the few things that would tempt them to come out of their coop – usually they can’t wait to get out in the mornings, practically falling over each other in their rush to get to food.  But this was a whole other experience for them.  In spite of it all, they somehow managed to keep laying though, and eggs were one thing we weren’t going to run out of.

Nevertheless, by Saturday now only were we running out of basics but I was going slightly stir-crazy.  Luckily, on Saturday afternoon there was light at the end of the tunnel, and we risked the short drive to Bakewell.  Mr P. is a careful driver (a bit like a maiden aunt at times) so we made it in one piece and it was just lovely to get out.  Though it’s only five miles away, Bakewell was like another world!  The streets were largely clear of snow though it was perishingly cold and my wellies were totally inadequate so I came home with feet like blocks of ice.

By Monday I had a clear case of cabin-fever and was in a foul mood.  Pity the poor Mr P. who had to tolerate me.  But then the roads were declared open again and I don’t think I was ever so glad to go to work as I was on Tuesday!  What a joy it was to be around people again, and to be wearing less than four layers.  And how strange to hear that many people had hardly been affected at all – lucky buggers!

The whole thing was a real reminder of the vagaries and local peculiarities of the weather, the importance of paying attention to it, and not taking things for granted. Of taking proper care of your animals – dogs have to be walked and chickens fed regardless of feet of snow – and yourself.  And of the importance of looking forward to spring if you don’t want to go crazy.  Bring it on!

Dogs still have to be walked! Basil enjoys a snow day.