A Doggy Birthday: 2013 365 Challenge #246

Happy Birthday Kara

Happy Birthday Kara

It’s our lovely Kara’s fifth birthday today. I only remembered at tea time, so unfortunately she hasn’t been spoiled as much as she should have (although she’s had plenty of cheese!). The first of our babies to turn five. It feels strange. She obviously hasn’t been in this house five years, as she was eight weeks old when we picked her up. Still, it’s a time to reflect, as birthdays often are.

Kara and I have a volatile relationship. She’s not the kind of dog that is always loyal and loving: she’s too smart for that. She’s loyal to the person who feeds and walks her. She does like the family to be all together in one room, often rounding me up once the kids are in bed so she can sleep on the sofa in the lounge (as she is now.)

Unfortunately we were as new to dog ownership as we were to parenting, when Kara joined us. And it’s easier to unpick the mistakes you make with a child than it is with a dog. So many of Kara’s most annoying habits are entirely my fault. That doesn’t endear you to someone!

Always part of the family

Always part of the family

For instance she is terrified of thunder. I’ve lost many a night’s sleep to cuddling next to her on the sofa while she whines and quivers. We know why.

The first time she heard thunder and cried, I was putting my baby daughter to bed. I comforted Kara much as I would have comforted the baby if she were upset. I took her upstairs with me, so her crying wouldn’t keep the baby awake, and I made a fuss.

Big Mistake. Big. HUGE.

Now we’re trying to unpick the damage, creating a positive association between thunder and cheese! It seems to be working but it’s a long arduous road.

My daughter playing with Kara

My daughter playing with Kara

The second annoying habit she has is following me around. That’s my fault too.

I was six months pregnant when we got her as a tiny puppy. I didn’t have the energy to rush around making sure she wasn’t chewing things or peeing on the carpet, so I would call her to me every few minutes. She learnt that her job was to always be by my side.

Drives me nuts.

It was also the start of our fighting, as tripping over a puppy you can’t see because of your ginormous bump tends to lead to shouting.

Her third phobia – the car – is also down to us. On a long trip to Dorset for our first family holiday she shared the boot with the pushchair. We think it must have rolled on her at some point because now she has to be lifted in the car, even if the boot is completely empty. She can be as stubborn, awkward, pushy, sulky and jealous as any of the children. She is definitely the first child!

The toy goes here, Kara

The toy goes here, Kara

Poor Kara. I wish we could go back and take a dog owners’ course before we bought her. Mind you, I think she was always going to be a bit neurotic.

When we arrived at the kennel to choose our new puppy, having decided on the labradoodle breed as best for a young family, there were two black puppies left. I chose the other one, because it had a curlier coat and would (hopefully) shed less hair.

As we walked into the office, my husband looked back towards the pen, and Kara was peering over the top, standing on her back legs (as she does so often now), looking pitiful. He melted and she came in with us too.

I guess these guys will do for now

I guess these guys will do for now

Of the two puppies, Kara was the only one interested in us. The other was more interested in trying to escape. So the choice was made and the puppy who didn’t want to be left alone came home with us.

She is a darling. She gives great cuddles, especially when I’m upset. She runs to the kids if they cry. She puts up with them saying “Go away Kara!” and then calling her back the next minute. She lives for chasing sticks and balls, swimming in the river and eating cheese. She can easily jump an eight foot ditch and approaches new dogs on her belly, begging to play. She’ll box with a terrier and chase with a sheepdog.

She makes me get out and walk everyday, and her joyous running teaches me to live in the moment. Her favourite place in the world is wedged between me and hubbie on the sofa. She’s crazy and annoying, boisterous and shouty, messy and greedy, she snores louder than my hubbie and her farts could knock out a grown  man. And we love her.

She fits right in! ________________________________________________________________________________

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 walked beside Bethan and tried to concentrate on what her friend was saying. Behind her, Josh chatted with another member of the group, not showing he was in anyway frustrated by the intrusion. Claire wasn’t fooled. She had felt his gaze on her more than once as they meandered back to town at a much more leisurely pace than Josh had set for the climb up to Mount Victoria.

She had to admit to feeling relieved that Josh was unable to finish what he’d been on the verge of telling her. Something about the intensity of his stare, when their eyes clashed, and the way he seemed to keep accidentally touching her skin or finding a reason to rest his hand on her arm, unsettled her.

“… are you coming? Claire?”

Claire looked into Bethan’s dark eyes and flushed as she realised she had no idea what the girl was talking about.

“Earth to Claire! Where were you, my lovely? You looked light years away.”

Claire felt the blush burn hotter and resisted the need to turn towards Josh, convinced that he would be listening to their conversation.

“Sorry, I wasn’t anywhere, just lack of sleep.”

“I thought you said you slept like the dead last night?” Bethan’s lips twitched in a coy smile and Claire wondered what erroneous conclusions she was drawing from Josh’s appearance out of the blue.

“I did, but I think that stupid ferry trip took more out of me than I realised. I’m truly sorry. What were you saying? Am I coming where?”

“On the ferry tomorrow? We’re going to pick up the bus at Picton and go kayaking in the Abel Tasman Park. The weather’s meant to be awesome for the time of year.”

Claire’s thoughts tumbled like white water rapids; churning with conflicting desires. She had to find out what Josh wanted before she could make plans, although she wasn’t sure what he might say that would force her to change hers. She needed to get on with her journey, time was slipping away.

Josh’s voice broke in on her confusion. “Why don’t I come over with you? It’s been years since I went hiking in the Abel Tasman Park, it’ll be fun.”

“But surely you don’t have your gear with you? I thought you were here for a conference?” Claire heard the protestations in her voice and wondered what Josh would make of them. Suddenly she didn’t want him coming on her adventure. He wasn’t the carefree Josh she remembered and she found his presence unnerving.

“She’ll be right. You can hike the National Park in trainers, it’ll be bonza.”

She raised an eyebrow at his sudden rendition of Aussie Male and he smirked. Aware of a strong compulsion to push him down the hillside, Claire merely shrugged.

“Sure, why not. Provided there’s room on the bus.”

Bethan gave her a sideways glance and Claire could tell she was trying to figure out her lukewarm reaction to Josh’s suggestion. She wasn’t sure she understood it herself. Maybe the past was better off where it was, rather than letting it intrude on the present. Nothing good ever came from going back: look at Michael.

Like an aviary of noisy parrots, the chatter of the group rose around her as they discussed where to go for dinner and what time the ferry would leave in the morning. Claire let it wash over her and walked the rest of the route in silence.

***

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! 🙂

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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: 

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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.

Claire

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.

Regards

Roger

“Bastard.”

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.

***