May 2014

Dear Irish Terrier Friends,

We’ve had a busy month Libby and I keeping up with our doggy commitments but I have to confess we’re happily at home this evening watching the Eurovision Song Contest. I’m very pleased to be writing to you and listening with less than half an ear. Libby likes the telly especially when there are ‘genuine’ animal noises for her to investigate. She seems to know the difference… and howling wolves, grunting hippos, a lion’s roar or shrill monkey cries have her wheeling about and hunting around behind the box. I’m afraid these rather soppy songs don’t really cut the mustard and Libbs is asleep and I’m missing Terry Wogan’s gentle jokes.

We drove up to Stratford for the Irish Terrier Association AGM held as usual at Shottery. It’s a long haul from Lymington but a very pretty drive and we made a weekend of the trip. Libby recognises everything now and loves it, as have all the dogs. She knows every inch of the walk along the riverbank and the gardens around the theatre…and the shops for that matter. She was very much in attendance while I bought a gigantic blue hat to wear for a family wedding in June. She’s a great charmer but oh dear, as usual, behaved abominably at the knockout competition before the AGM. She just doesn’t get it. Everyone persuades me to enter her for the competition which she of course thinks is a jolly playgroup – if only she could get to see everyone. But this time she was wilder than ever and we whirled around in front of the judge without a stitch of ‘ringcraft’ to our names. The shrieks of joy every time she caught sight of Ann Bradley were deafening. In all decency I think this should be our last appearance even if it does give our friends a good laugh.

The meeting, I felt, was a qualified success. I’m very aware of the hard work and effort that it takes to organise any gathering but am sad to hear that the committee is no longer required, by Kennel Club rules, to meet regularly. I well understand the thinking behind the decision that the instant communication by email; the more pressured lives of people today and the simple problem of finding willing volunteers has proved an increasing difficulty in arranging suitable times to meet. But when I remember the years and years of friendship one has gained through the committee meetings; the heated discussions; the arguments and the decision making properly shared; I cannot believe that communications through cyber space are any substitute. I learned so much from meeting up with the old breeders, whose knowledge of the breed and the dog world in general was a real legacy which should never be lost. There will be serious doubts too about who is actually making the decisions and cannot believe that dates, facts and figures shooting round the Internet includes any sort of sensible discussion. I entirely understand that the world is a very different place. The present committee as it stands is excellent and we are so fortunate, but who on earth in future years would want to join a group that meets so seldom? Perhaps, considering how important it is to the welfare of the Breed, I do think that a real drive to recruit enthusiasts to serve on the committee is essential. Incidentally, the year book is a triumph as usual and the committee could never be more dedicated.

I was exasperated by the time spent listening to a rambling, inaudible, interminable, hopelessly muddled complaint about new rules for testing puppies for the cracked paw gene…at least I think that’s what it was about. Though it could have been Japanese origami for all we could hear or understand. It left no time for what I feel we should have been talking about; namely a sensible breeding plan to increase the number of puppies in a properly controlled manner; the careful supervision for the breeding of pet litters and a constant ongoing need to promote the breed.

We are (so far anyway) in a stronger position than other ‘Heritage Breeds’ but we all need to do our bit in presenting our own dogs on every possible occasion to anyone who will stop and listen.

Libby has been in trouble with Linda, one of the dog walkers. She was on the sea wall with her gang when Libbs vanished. It is hot rabbiting country and I would have guessed she had her head in a burrow. Fortunately there wasn’t time for an all out panic as I picked up, almost at once, a telephone message saying, “Libby is lunching with us in the garden of The Chequer’s Inn. She’s having a few tit-bits I’m afraid,” which was so very kind. Libby is fond of the old Labrador called Beefy, who lives at the pub. When we came to live here we kept meeting him out by himself and we’d walk him home. It dawned on me eventually that this was not a lost boy but a lifestyle choice. He’s 15 now and very fond of Libby, who I imagine having got her head out of the rabbit hole, thought she’d better go and look for him. She was very apologetic when Linda brought her home and we had a ‘few words’ which hopefully she will remember. My son James came to spend the Easter weekend and Libbs was thrilled to see him. We had the great joy too of a visit from Karen who walked Zuli and Beegie in London for many years. She adored them and eventually had her own Irish Terrier, Seanna, and they were all devoted friends. Karen is Danish and when she was away we often had Seanna stay with us. I remember a particularly chaotic first Christmas when she was only months old. Zu and Beeg reverted to infancy immediately and a general misrule engulfed us. It prompted me to write Ode to a sleeping puppy –

Ode to a sleeping puppy (with love to Seanna)
How is it you’re so sweet
When you’re asleep?
I must have been mistaken when all
Those things…mis-shapen.
Impossible that you could ‘do in’ a shoe…
In a minute or two.
And how about my dress…
And those shreds that were a vest…
Was that you?

Best stay asleep…for you do look so sweet,
And I’ll suspend my belief that you’re a little beast
And we’ll all have some peace…
For this moment, at least!

(Book: Walking in the water; Songs for Dogs)

Seanna died this year as a very old lady and Karen’s joy at meeting Libby for the first time was very touching.

I was very sad when Karen left London to live in Wales. She was around when my husband Ian was needing a great deal of care and was such a bright, kind, cheerful presence and she loved the dogs. She always says, “Irish Terriers of all the dogs in the vurld are the most vonderful and extraordinary.”

Now sadly, my darling Libby has had something of a setback. I’ve been away for a week in Rome with granddaughter Kate. A last minute change of plan meant Libby could not stay with Dave and Jeanette but went to stay with one of her dog walkers instead. On our return I was shaken to find she’d been bitten in the face by a large 8 year old Labrador bitch. She had 3 puncture wounds just above her eyes and a torn mouth.  It seems that they were with 2 other young Labradors all together in the same room, which was perhaps not the wisest arrangement for the older dog. I can understand the attack, as accidents do happen, but it has been terribly upsetting to find my happy, confident, carefree girl so crushed and low spirited. We’ve had a quiet few days together at home but she seemed very shy of me. Nonny Manners and the miniature Dachshund Sybil came to play which lifted our spirits. She’s had lots of visitors coming to commiserate and Dave took her out in the car this morning and ‘up the farm’ which she loved. She is much more cheerful and less jumpy and her mouth has healed well. Her eyes are again like those bright stars we all love, which must be good.

It has reminded me, as if I didn’t know it, of how deeply sensitive they are. In spite of the energy and high spirits they need a firm light touch and perhaps some people simply don’t get the measure of them.

Doubtless these 2 crushed flowers (this applies to ‘the both’ of us) will revive, but it has been a disconcerting experience.

Heavens above the bearded lady of Austria has won the Song Contest – well who would have guessed? But then some of us have no taste!

With many greetings, and my love to the dogs,


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