Pretty Dog, Waggy Tail: 2013 365 Challenge #217

My beautiful girl

My beautiful girl

We’ve had a crazy weekend. Apologies if the Claire posts have been short: I should have done some writing prep last nursery day, instead of re-doing my website. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Saturday wasn’t meant to be so manic. (Can’t even remember what we did Friday, except we went swimming quite late!) Anyway, for Saturday I wanted something to fill the morning, to stop little man getting too excited about a birthday party at 3pm. So we took our dog, Kara, to our local Farm, for a kids’ dog show. A bit of a laugh, because she’s not trained and is quite scruffy. We didn’t even brush her, though she’d had a bath after rolling in fox poo!

When we arrived at the Farm, there were dogs everywhere. It was like taking Kara to a social. Lovely. We entered her for Prettiest Girl (Prettiest Bitch, but we reworded it for our under-fives!) and Waggiest Tail. Thanks to a marvellous body harness, the kids were able to walk her round, despite her weighing twice what they do. She was amazing! She didn’t jump or pull or try to play too much. Thankfully we’ve taken her to the Farm a couple of times before, so the goats and cows and bunnies didn’t distract her.

I held the lead with my daughter for the Prettiest Girl. And Kara won! I couldn’t believe it. We won a free grooming session with a mobile grooming parlour called Dapper Dogs. (I did wonder if she won because she’s the dog that most looked like she needed a free groom! Hehe). I got the impression that some of the more serious entrants were a bit put out by our victory. But it was a Kids’ Show. There were only a couple of child handlers there, so that many have helped too.

Isn't she pretty? :)

Isn’t she pretty? 🙂

Then we entered Waggiest Tail, and my husband let our son hold the lead by himself. Which of course produced tears from my daughter. So we entered her for Best Young Handler. Kara came second in Waggiest Tail (I’m not sure she had the waggiest, but she was certainly the happiest dog!) I was a bit embarrassed by that point.

Then we went on to Best Young Handler. I stayed in the ring, in case of emergencies, but my four-year-old daughter walked our 28kg Labradoodle round the ring by herself with ease. She had a piece of cheese in her hand and every time Kara got distracted, she waved it in front of her nose. I was the proudest Mummy/Dog Owner in the world! She came second (I thought she should have won!)

Of course then we had to stay for Best in Show (despite needing to leave because of the toddler party). I knew we wouldn’t win, because the judges were two of the people I talk to most when we visit the Farm. They couldn’t give us anything really. Just as well, because I think my daughter was starting to feel invincible and kept saying, “This is just too easy!”

It was a great experience. I felt bad, because our untrained scruffy dog shouldn’t have beaten the other beautifully trained, beautifully groomed pedigrees. That said, it wasn’t our dog that started a scrap in the Prettiest Girl competition, or growled at the other dogs. She was on her best behaviour and even remembering it makes my heart swell with pride. Well worth the exhaustion that had us like zombies yesterday! It just goes to show, you have to be in it to win it! 🙂


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


Claire read the email and felt the blood seep from her face. The glimmer of light that she’d been following for four crazy days fizzled out and left her in darkness. She read the words again, hoping to see a different meaning the second time.


Many thanks for your email indicating that you would like to accept my proposal of writing a column on the hostels of New Zealand. Unfortunately we have had a rethink and now feel this is not the most appropriate time to run the story. Our readers are considering holidays in hot countries and, as it is winter in New Zealand, it is unlikely to appeal to them.

Please do feel free to submit to us any articles that you produce and we will, of course, consider them alongside our other freelance writers.

I’m sorry I cannot be of more assistance in this case. Enjoy your stay in New Zealand, I understand it to be a beautiful country.




Claire felt the blood rush back to her face in anger, and then in mortification as she realised several people had turned round at her outburst. She ducked her head and fought the tears welling up her throat.

It’s only been a fortnight since I told him I couldn’t do it. How can he have changed his mind in a fortnight? And now what the hell am I going to do.

She thought about the price of her airfare, about the opportunities she’d given up by leaving the country without talking to Carl or Conor. I could be sitting on a beach in the Maldives, instead of stuck in this stupid hostel spending even more cash on food.

That was the big surprise. Claire had thought it would be cheap, travelling in New Zealand. But it was just as expensive as the UK, except now Carl wasn’t paying her bills.

So far she’d only left the supersized hostel to buy tea and milk. There wasn’t much need to go anywhere else, with the lounge and the bar on site.

I’m getting over my jet lag. That’s all.

When she had ventured outside, she’d felt like a child visiting New York for the first time, gazing up at the skyscrapers and blocking her ears against the noise. She knew Auckland was the largest city in New Zealand, but somehow she hadn’t expected it to feel like a city. The hostel was full of posters of things to see and do, like jump off the Sky Tower, or visit the harbour. Just seeing the posters made her want to hide under her duvet.

I need a hut on a beach and some peace and quiet. The sooner I get out of here the better. But how to do that, with no car? She felt immobilised by her lack of transport. I never thought I’d miss my little Skoda.

Her trip to the visitor information had been even more overwhelming: So many young people who knew what they wanted to do, from hitch-hiking or biking round the country to catching a lift with a stranger going in their direction. There was information on getting a job, on jumping off high places and swimming with large animals. Nothing that says, ‘Hey, new scared person, this option’s for you.’

Claire thought about her words. Am I scared? Really. After everything that’s happened this year. She sat up straighter in her seat, and looked again at the people around her. Seems like I have two choices. Make some friends or make a plan.

A thought tugged at Claire’s memory. Something she felt she had been told, or read about. Something important. Closing her eyes, Claire inhaled deeply and tried not to concentrate on the memory. At last it bubbled to the surface. A bar. A Kiwi. A driver. Of course! The Magic Bus.

Claire shut her iPad case and got to her feet. Friends, that was tough. She didn’t have a good record with friends. But now, at least, she had a plan.