February 2014

Dear Irish Terrier Friends,

The worst thing about holidays is that after two days back at home the holiday has vanished and one is hard pressed to remember that it happened at all. I’m not being ungrateful and it was wonderful to be warm and dry and the shock of coming home to drenching rain has not been lost on me.

My little cat moved in when I arrived and lit up the days as usual. She is enchanting, but not of course an Irish Terrier!

Libby was very happy with her friends Dave and Jeanette – they make a great fuss of her and she has even put on a little weight. Best of all, is that their latest family baby, Oliver, lives with them and Libby was completely enchanted. She followed his daily routine taking a great interest in everything, apparently letting everyone know when he was crying in his cot.

It reminds me of our beloved Ceilidh Mavourneen who supervised my children’s entire lives for fourteen years. She was a year older than my daughter Lala and they were two babies together, completely inseperable. Lala says that there’s no memory of her childhood which does not include Ceilidh. Looking at old photographs I can see that she was always there.

My son James, in an article in Country Life last year, said the dogs were more like siblings than pets…they just all tumbled around together. Well, I’d say not quite!

I loved reading Claire Balding’s autobiography where she confesses how little difference she could see between herself and the dogs. Sleeping in their beds and drinking from even their water bowls. We, as children, used to crunch the dog biscuits, which were hard as bullets, and I do remember being told we’d get ‘weevils in our tummy,’ which made no impression whatsoever. Our childhood Irish Terrier was my brother’s dog Jock. He was a boy’s dog and didn’t rate girls only spending time with me only as a last resort, but I worshipped him and it was he who started my life long passion for Irish Terriers. He was so clever and funny and my brother’s pride and joy. Incidentally, for those who complain that Irish Terriers are losing their feistiness, I say the never were ‘scrappers.’ Sensible and courageous certainly, but unlike our equally adored Fox Terrier, Mr Chips, who fought ‘everyone’, Jock was a real gentleman and never a street brawler – I have loved him all my life.

Nonny came to tea yesterday and hovered around the table looking for crumbs. I love the head stealthily appearing from underneath the cloth. She went shooting with Willy last week and committed the unforgiveable sin of disappearing which is even more heinous than poaching other dog’s birds. They got to the last drive and there was still no sign of her. With concern mounting and the dark descending she suddenly stepped out from ‘behind the rhododendrons’ with her what we call ‘do-I-hear-a-voice-look.’

“Was she contrite,” I asked?

“She doesn’t do contrition. She’s never heard of it,” was the answer.

I mentioned in the last letter that Libby had found a grape and thrown it about before dissecting it with care and presumably eating it. Several warnings came in from friends that grapes and raisins can, if eaten, be a catastrophic danger to dogs and can cause fatal kidney failure. I was appalled as I had never heard of it before. Jane looked it all up on the web and we were both astonished to read how deadly it can be. No-one is sure what the biochemistry is yet but it seems that grapes are even more dangerous than chocolate.  I shall have to take special care as my canaries love grapes and Libby combs the cage with her nose twitching several times a day to check on whether anything remotely edible is to hand. She pulls their egg biscuits, digestives and honey seed bars through the wires with her tongue – all delectable of course. One other mysterious health scare has been the death of several dogs particularly in the New Forest area. I expect you’ve read about it in the press but as yet no-one has come up with the cause except that it seems related to the undiagnosed cause of death in dogs in America. Libby’s vet seemed to think it was buried chemicals from World War 2 rising to the surface with the all the rain, that has been disproved. One more thing to worry about.

We’ve been in London and Libby has been stripped in her posh pet parlour. She bounced in like a country lass with grass coming out of her ears and emerged an elegant (if still somewhat  large) young lady. She is very beautiful with a lovely coppery coat and moves like an athlete. It’s extraordinary that her lighter eye has darkenened and there is so little difference now they are almost a perfect match. I rather miss it of course.

Back in Lymington the gales this morning are fearful. It seems to blow in wild gusts that swirl around and hit from different angles. Poor Libby was decked out in Beegie’s smelly old waxed coat which she detests and she was in a real sulk hanging behind.  But within sight of home we were caught up in the search for a neighbour’s cat, happily discovered in another neighbour’s house. He was retrieved by his dad in a cat box and Libby came back to life in an instant (coat and all) as soon as she saw him. They are old sparring partners as he sits on the fence when the canaries are in the sunshine, which is not to be tolerated.

We’re home now and the sun unbelievably has come out – how mad is this weather?

We’re supposed to be driving to Bristol and then Coombe Martin tomorrow but considering the Bristol suspension bridge was closed yesterday for the first time in history because of the gales, I’m not really sure whether we’re going to make it. We’re meeting up with some of my cousins who are intrepid and never stop at anything. I’ll let you know how Libby and I get on.

I have no excuse now – Libby is equally intrepid and I shall be the one hanging behind in my old waxed coat.

With many greetings, and my love to the dogs,


P.S. We’re bracing ourselves for Discover Dogs at Crufts (6th – 9th March 2014 at the NEC) and if you’re there do come and see us.

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