Grief and a lesson

We’ve been living here since 2007. The animals we’ve shared this space with have been, and still are, only pets. We’ve lost two cats, rescued siblings we brought with us – first Cooper and then Chaplin. Both are buried under the little walnut tree which is not thriving. We’ve lost two sheep – English Dave, saved from the pot in Buckinghamshire, and the young lamb, Gwilym 1, who died at the hands of a cocky locum vet. A sad waste.

And now both the spaniels. Our two English Springer Spaniels were brothers, bought from the next little farm up the lane in late May 2006. This was the year before we moved here permanently. The surviving one, Dylan, died on Friday, ten weeks and a day after we lost his brother. If he’d had a death certificate I believe ‘died of a broken heart’ would have been a contributory factor.

In the human world many worse things have happened over the last five or six months. Thousands and thousands have been bereaved and have suffered hugely. Globally it has been a grim year and there is no quick fix to the situation the UK is now in. I get all that, and obviously it is affecting us too.

But this morning we are still in the early stages of processing the loss of our furry companions, the legendary duo, who, for the last fourteen years, played such a key part in the experience of all who lived here or visited.

The lesson I’ve learnt? Do not acquire two pups from the same litter. The chances are that their lives will come to an end at around the same time.  And that is heart-breaking.

The boys

Sourdough and sad tales

It was a quiet weekend, cool, grey and yes, we had rain. The real wet stuff. Which makes the lowering of water level in the new pond all the more surprising. The pond-clean sachets have finally worked. The water has cleared from the grime and slime of a week or two ago. There’s no leak, so this level drop has to be caused by evaporation. This evening we’ll hose in water, otherwise the fish will soon be paddling. Not swimming.

Yesterday afternoon, while the spaniel was dozing across the husband’s lap, our neighbour knocked on the door. To warn us about foxes. On Saturday afternoon he’d lost eight laying hens and four ducks. He thinks there must have been two predators, working together.

Many years and a house ago, we had two young rescue cats, siblings, who did this. They picked on the weakest baby bunnies in the field adjoining our garden. Sometimes they’d drag a victim in through the kitchen cat-flap – one pulling, one pushing. Clever, efficient and appalling.

The rabbits weren’t always dead, or even injured. I vividly remember watching some TV drama one evening, when a young rabbit darted out from behind the screen. Hale and hearty but startled. And hell to catch.

The spaniel was needy at the weekend. No walks, little food, much falling over. He’s still drinking and he wags his tail. Much cuddling seems to be necessary. We know that what we’re dealing with is a slow goodbye.

Lunch today majored on homemade sourdough baked by my son-in-law. I almost certainly ate too much and am now feeling it. It’s warm in the conservatory. The dog whimpered so I lifted him onto the sofa beside me. A fortnight ago I wasn’t able to do this alone.

Night skies, failure and fridges

The fridge is full, jam-packed to bursting, from the bottom two salad drawers to the top shelf, with tomatoes, and there are more puzzling things I can’t even describe. For the first few seconds I’m not sure if I’m sleeping, recalling fragments of dreams or even where I actually am. This has happened a lot in the last few lockdown weeks.

The fridge in question is the small old one which works. It is totally lacking in tomatoes.

It seems like the edges of sleep, dreams and being awake have blurred a little. I’m not getting any assistance from the fancy watch I was bought for my birthday – my laziness really. I’ve mastered the basics of how many steps a day and how my heart-rate fluctuates, but the sleep analysis part leaves me cold, confused, with cramp in my left foot and half the duvet missing. The fancy watch, in broad terms, seems to be all about circles, completing them and then colouring them in; it beeps happily when either of these is achieved.

Apparently, my differing sleep patterns have been noticed also by the husband; I am regularly found face down planted in the bed. And this has never happened before.

Astronomically speaking, the week thus far has been an unmitigated disaster. Despite two attempts of wrapping up warm and gazing attentively and patiently up at the night sky, the results have been failure. Nothing at all. We were hoping to spot either Lyrid meteor showers or satellite trains launched by a megalomaniac billionaire. Nothing, except a spectacularly bright Venus and close observation of space-sharing cat politics – Miss Baxter and Oliver.

But in the afternoon, there was good conversation with old friends, a slowworm discovery on our walk, and an amusingly slow amble with the donkeys, gathering mouthfuls of herb Robert, of dandelions and of willow on their unhurried stableward way.

The poem below is from a very slightly more successful stargazing night – it’s in ‘Cardiff Bay Lunch’.