Introducing Penny Pincher!

We recently took the plunge and adopted another rescue dog to keep Dougie company.

She is an Australian Kelpie, approximately six months old and so full of beans that rumour has it Heinz want to put her in a tin and sell her.

Her name is Penny.

Penny is as fast as Dougie is slow, as cunning as he is transparent, as clever as he is, um…well, let’s not dwell ok that too much, shall we?

She comes into our lives with battle scars, both mental and physical. We have counted the ones we can see, and noted her absolute terror of the sweeping brush. We clean the floor when she’s out of sight now.

Since her arrival three weeks ago today, she has chewed all manner of things, stolen food and puddled on the floor inside. She has joyously broken free from her leash, leaving me to acquaint myself rather more violently with the road outside than I would have hoped, causing injury to my knees and my pride.

And yet, none of this is her fault.

She has clearly never before felt the warmth of a human hug, been patiently taught that the doggy loo is located outside, had a ball game or been treasured in any of the ways she so deserves. That is now our job.

In these last few days, we have already seen her blossom. She garbles with gruff joy when her human family returns home, her tail whipping from side to side so quickly that I almost expect her to take flight like a small black helicopter.

She is quickly learning that she no longer has to steal food to survive (albeit we have discovered a stash of contraband outside including a toy, a bone and the outside drain cover, all carefully piled together in case of some perceived canine emergency).

Hence the name Penny Pincher (thanks for that, Janette Cook!)

She proudly pops outside to go to the loo, basking in the praise of an encouraging family. She plays with her new friend Dougie and happily trots on the beach alongside him.

Penny came to us with a history she will thankfully never be able to vocalise. But with time, patience and lots of love, we know that this previously unloved puppy will know that she is wanted, cared for and ultimately, that she’s one of us.



Mojo Finds Her Mojo Once Again!

Little Mojo stayed with us perhaps longer than any of us had expected. Her adoption price was reduced, her plaintive face was made ‘Featured Pet of The Week’ on all the charity’s promotional material, but all to no avail.

It seemed that nobody wanted to give a home to an elderly lady who had apparently been forced to churn out puppies until she was no longer useful.

However, this unexpected delay with finding Mojo’s forever family gave her practice at being part of a family who cared for her. Slowly, her button eyes began to lose their glaze of despair, and were replaced by a brightness borne of knowing that she would be fed, walked, cared for and talked to every day.

We saw the beginnings of a wagging tail when she saw her lead removed from the hook, an expectant face appear at hearing her dinner bowl being filled, a sigh of contentment when she could lie down and snooze in comfort at the end of a busy day.

We watched her cheeky personality blossom as she caught sight of something interesting on a day out, causing her to break away gleefully, her red lead and her foster family in hapless pursuit.

She met our friends’ dogs and learnt to play with them on her walks, despite the initial misgivings of our friend Mr S, who jokingly declared: ‘That’s not a dog, it’s a mouse on a lead!’

All these things combined caused a lovely family to fall in love with Mojo when they came to meet her one day. They had an elderly dog who needed a companion, someone who would be a buddy but not exhaust them as a young dog undoubtedly would.

We instinctively knew that this family would allow Mojo to see out her remaining years in comfort, warmth and happiness. As her little face peered out of the window of her new family’s car as they drove away, part of me felt a little bit sad.

But mainly, I felt a great sense of pride at the transformation this little dog had undergone in only a few months. And only a week or so later, Penny would arrive and our jobs as foster carers would begin afresh.

In Which We Decide To Foster….

After a few months with no job yet on the horizon, I decided it was time to find something useful to do. Being in a rental property, we couldn’t commit to owning a dog so I looked into fostering a pet through our local animal charity.

I found the process appeared to suit us well – a rescued dog waiting for its forever family to come forward could live as part of our family for as long as their wait took.

Our first foster dog arrived soon after, accompanied by a representative from the local animal shelter. This tiny, terrified girl was an elderly black and white terrier, chubby and greying around her muzzle and eyes.

The rescue worker thought that she had probably been used and abused on a ‘puppy farm’ somewhere, churning out litters of pups to make some unfeeling character very rich. Judging by her physical state, it was hard to disagree.

Her eyes were so fearful and bewildered, and they spoke volumes about the unhappy truths that her voice could never hope to tell. Humankind had clearly not lived up to its name for this pitiful little soul with the tail between its legs.

The Husband has a generally innate understanding of small children and animals. They trust him instinctively, and with good reason. As the rescue centre worker deposited her trembling little body onto our floor and then left, The Husband suggested we allowed her some space to get used to us.

As this sad little dog immediately sought refuge in the farthest corner of the house, we held a family vote on what her name should be. Fearfully, she watched us from a distance; occasionally peeking out from behind her blanket to see what we were doing.

By the time her curiosity had got the better of her later that evening when she tentatively climbed up onto my lap for a reassuring hug, she had a name. ‘Hello, little Mojo,” I smiled. ”I think that you’re going to enjoy your stay with us.’

The Sad Bit!

Dearest Douglets,

Don’t fear, I don’t want to bore you with details of Australian visa application categories, shipping requirements and having our various bumps felt at the required medicals.

Nor do I want to imagine you rolling your eyes as I drone on about the six-hour IELTS English exam that my husband (as the primary visa applicant) had to complete. “We speak Yorkshire, not English”, he loudly declared. “It’s not me with the regional accent – it’s everyone else”, he loudly declared.

Anyone who knows him knows that my husband declares very loudly and very often.

Let me assure you now that I absolutely did not see his tongue being firmly implanted in his cheek as he uttered these words. After all, who can speak clearly with their tongue stuffed in their cheek?

Yorkshire is widely regarded as God’s Own Country by its faithful brethren and who was I to argue, I reasoned. It’s in our blood.

Let’s get to the bit that I know has brought you here today – the sad bit. The bit where we leave our life – as we have always known it – behind, and what that felt like for us. It happened in February 2009, and describing it to you is a bit like coming back from the pub toilet with your skirt tucked into your knickers – rather embarrassing and public. (I’m not even going to comment on whether that has happened to me, just be satisfied with this episode of public sharing will you!).

I can say in all honesty that if you have always Iived in close proximity to your family and close friends, but have an overwhelming desire to potter off into the unknown to live in a country so far away that it’s not even possible to travel further without actually being on your way back home again, you’re nuts. Hell, I’m not judging you – we’re nuts, we did exactly that and this is how it went.

On the morning we left, we awoke to a house full of nothing. All our important stuff had already been shipped to the Land of the Unknown, Australia. It was eerily quiet as I awoke, as everyone else was still asleep (quite reasonably so, since it was only about 4am). I had slept fitfully all night and padded alone into the next bedroom in my pyjamas, where what was left of our essentials had been packed away into 4 suitcases.

Pandaa, my daughter’s cuddly bear, sat expectantly atop one of them; his coloured-in, handmade passport tucked between his leather jacket and trousers. He’s a dude, Pandaa – even his name has an extra ‘a’ in order to emphasise his coolness during pronunciation – and his choice of travel wear was both macho and practical.

I can still recall how everything felt slightly disembodied, like an out of body experience or a waking dream – the kind that makes you deeply grateful when someone shakes you awake from it. But nobody did shake me. This was it. After three years of planning, talking and paying out for some aspect or another of the visa process, my little family was moving to the other side of the world.

I didn’t feel excited or happy any more. I felt terrified and full of dread, like I did when I temporarily lost sight of my mum in the supermarket when I was about four. I had a very loud voice even then though, so she wasn’t able to go “missing” for long.

I don’t intend to over-dramatise, but I can only describe the leaving day itself as being something akin to what it must be like being a ghostly presence at your own funeral and seeing the effects of it on your loved ones. After many farewell get-togethers, we went for a final family meal to a much-loved pub in a neighbouring village.

This is the type of old English pub with stone walls, wooden ceiling beams and a roaring fire that screams out “homely” and makes you want to stay forever in a happy fog of alcohol and hearty steak and ale pie. To add to the overall twinkling beauty of this village picture-postcard scene it had started snowing, too.

Everyone cried, of course. My dad cried more than he was allowed to and was duly told off by my mum, who was trying her best to be stoic. If there was a degree in stoicism my mum would have it, followed by a Doctorate. My sister, nephew, other relatives and my oldest friend all tugged at my heart strings so hard that those heart strings wanted to wrap themselves around my loved ones and stay physically tied to them forever.

We had agreed that my parents would look after our cherished dog until we had become settled. I went alone to drop our furry baby off at my mum’s house just before we left. She leapt gleefully into the car, tail wagging furiously as she anticipated her usual car adventure. It was awful to observe how happy and blissfully unaware she was.

I walked back up my parents’ drive without her feet padding along next to mine, without her soft brown eyes looking up at me. I felt an almost overwhelming desire to run back in and announce “We’re staying. I don’t want to go any more.”

I didn’t though. I kept walking, my eyes brimming over like those raindrops on a windowpane that hang there tenaciously for a while before they finally break free into tiny, fast-flowing rivulets. My throat felt like rough sandpaper and I couldn’t breathe until I reached the car, where it was safe to let it all out…. because no one was there to see it.