May 2015

Dear Irish Terrier Friends,

We’ve joined the election campaign team (Libby and I) and have been out and about pushing Conservative leaflets through letter boxes. Whilst I am anxious to flee from the door in case someone should appear and start asking in depth questions, unintelligible to me, about the state of the nation, Libby is very loathed to leave before she’s been invited in to look around and case the joint. She loiters on the doorstep listening intently and gazing at the door handle. Someone swept past us one morning on route to his car and Libby’s joy at having a door actually opened was soon dashed when she realised that even now we were left on the top step and not invited in. She keeps tugging on her lead, trying to remain behind, just in case she should be welcomed at last. This of course sends my armload of leaflets cascading onto the ground. They’re difficult to gather up and it has led to a few misunderstandings between us – no, bust ups is a better word.

It’s all a bit unnecessary really, as ours is very probably the safest Tory seat in the country.

Poor Libby has had a recurrence of a patch of wet eczema at the base of her tail. It was in exactly the same place, and within days of the same date as last year. It seems to appear overnight – a raw wound which is obviously painful as she is so distraught and agitated. Having seen it before, I was less worried than last year. But in the New Forest we have been warned so often that the dreaded Alabama Rot frequently appears first as ‘red painful lesions on the legs and tail’. We saw the vet here (we were in London last year) and he prescribed a very effective cream but no antibiotics. When I queried this he said it was absolutely unnecessary which made me wonder why, in London, she’d been given a whole weeks course. He was however no more enlightening as to the cause, ‘possibly an insect bite, bee sting, nettles, heat (it has been very hot) or fleas. They love to congregate just at this spot on the tail.’ Good heavens, what a bizarre thought…a sort of flea jamboree – I wonder who decides. I did protest that I’d never seen a flea on her and she has her Frontline treatment regularly. ‘Well, her coat is very thick and it only needs one flea. When is she being stripped?’ Why is it that I always land on the wrong foot when it comes to doctors and vets?

It cleared up very quickly. She was in top form for her summer strip at Knutz Mutz in London. I do so love it when she emerges from the basement bathed and coiffed and very pleased with herself. She ignores the gasps of delight from the sales staff upstairs (they know their job) and starts the routine search for her favourite chews. These are some dreadful things called Pistles – I won’t tell you what they are as it’s quite unmentionable, but she always carries them back to the car high stepping with her head in the air.

We had more than a week in London and Regent’s Park, our old stamping ground, seemed even more lovely than ever with the cherry trees in full bloom. I know the park so well, almost every tree and all the best views across the lake and along the Broadwalk. Libby knows exactly which trees are the squirrels favourites and starts her stalking ‘on bended knees’ as we approach. She spots them long before I do. She’s not nearly as focussed and determined as Zu and Beegie were, and seems to accept very philosophically that squirrels shoot up trees and rabbits shoot down burrows. It’s the chase only that really matters. Just as well, because there’s a large fine now for a dead squirrel and it does upset those who watch, including me.

I had intended to teach while I was up in London but was stricken with a dreadful sick bug, which was alarming. I was completely unable to get out of bed on one day and very shaky the next. Libby moved in with dear Brenda (our hostess) even having an afternoon nap on her bed! She’s very good with the four cats – I don’t mean a love affair, but at least she doesn’t chase them any longer, and she adores Brenda. She’s very fond too of Brenda’s housekeeper’s dear little Yorkshire Terrier called Tilly. She’s absolutely minute and so quaint with her Cleopatra bob. They play together rushing around the garden. Libby can run like the wind, but only in a straight line or wide circle. Tilly zig-zags and twists and turns so quickly that I think Libby’s long legs get tied up in knots – it’s so funny to watch them together.

Juno’s puppies are all doing well and I think are lined up to walk with ‘Cat’ who takes Libbs out twice a week. She’s a charming person and the dogs worship her. Libby waits for her at the gate and there is never a backward glance. Juno is so well over her puppies. She’s been stripped and, as she’s rather small, she looks like a puppy again. I did say to her, ‘Are you really the mother of four?’

We sailed on the ferry to the Isle of Wight to visit a dear friend, who is far from well. The wind was so strong and whipped up huge waves in the Solent. It was Libb’s first experience of being on the water and she was very aware that this was something new. She sat on my lap (she’s very definitely not a lap dog) and stared out at the grey sea. It was rather a sad day, not easy to see friends growing frail, and I was so pleased to have my darling bouncing girl escort me home so cheerfully with nothing more for her to contemplate than the thought of dinner and a thorough examination of the garden to check whether we’d had any visitors or intruders while she was off watch.

Nonny came to tea with her children and we spent a day with Tessie and Imogen in their new house on the river in the Woodford Valley. It’s so pretty and we had a walk in the woods. We’re slightly uneasy about Tess, as when she went to the vet to have a small lump on her leg checked, he said he could not remove it as an anaesthetic was necessary and her ‘liver was not up to it.’ She’s 12 now and seems very fit but we were all rather shaken. Watching her sparring through the fence with a neighbour’s Patterdale Terrier has become rather reassuring.

I’ve been sad to hear that Gordon’s dear boy, Chico, is no longer with us. He was a great character and gave so much joy to his two dads. He played Tim the famous railway dog, who collected on Paddington Station for the orphans and widows of the Crimean War. Queen Victoria always put a sovereign in a tin box tied around his neck. The Paddington Gazette said, ‘He behaved like a perfect gentleman.’ The same can be said for Chico, who had me in stitches, when we were lining up (in costume of course) to play out the scene in the big Arena at Crufts one year. A large over excited young Water Spaniel threw herself at him in sheer delight, almost knocking him over. Chico, who was already ‘in character’, withstood the love storm, straightened his tie and walked out as if nothing had happened.
So much sympathy for Gordon who says, ‘It is a terrible wrench, he was such a great mate.’

Whenever I am in Regent’s Park and start to miss the old dogs I try to remember the last paragraph of the book I wrote for Hattie, Becky and Miss Bunch, who were walked almost daily in the park.

‘Their lives seem to pass so quickly but we must not be sad – for like Pooh Bear in

the Ashdown Forest – somewhere in Regent’s Park Miss Bunch and her friends will always be playing.’

With many greetings, and my love to the dogs,


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