Happy Birthday…

Today would have been my mum’s Birthday. I cut some flowers from my garden and visited her grave. Some of the plants I have in my garden are from cuttings I took from her garden – many of her favourites. I have carefully transported them to two different gardens over the past ten years. My brain struggles with the fact that on August 23 it will be ten whole years since I last saw my mum. Ten years. Ten whole years. 10 years. No, I still can’t believe it.

Life is fragile and short. Ten years. My dad will have been gone for twelve years this September. And my darling Pepper, who died on the four year anniversary of Mum’s death, will have been gone for six whole years.

Today also marks two months since Chandi died. Everything, from Christmas to any successes are always marred with sadness for me. Like a photograph taken with a thumb partly over the lens  – a permanent reminder. The photographs on my walls are precious – everyone in them , apart from me, is gone. I won’t lie, it hurts. Big time.  I only ever wanted one thing as a kid and that was to make my mum proud of me. I was quite good at music – playing the Piano- but I lost my confidence and stopped performing when I left University.

Lacking confidence. I don’t suppose this is how others see me. But how others see us and how we see ourselves are usually two very different things. Another person’s snap judgement of you is usually completely wrong. My lack of confidence around other people is usually misinterpreted as me being unfriendly or aloof. That’s okay, I suppose. But, take half a second to speak to me and you might find out something that takes you by surprise…or not…

I’m still waiting to be discovered for being a fraud. I dread the day Oxford University phones me up and tells me what I strongly suspected all along “We made a mistake accepting you as an undergraduate and your degree is no longer valid”. Stupid? Daft? Quite possibly, but I’m still waiting to be ‘found out’…How’s that for lack of confidence?!

I wish my mum could have seen how fabulous Chandi became. I always wanted to be truly good at something. I always worked my butt off with everything, I didn’t just sit on my hands wishing to be good … or for things to fall in my lap. Funnily enough, nothing has ever done that. It’s been hard slog. Very hard and under difficult conditions that might have made others wonder why they were bothering.

Mum never saw us get to Crufts to actually compete – Freestyle and Heelwork to Music wasn’t even a proper competition at Crufts when she died, and I had no idea that it ever would be. It came as a complete shock to me when it was announced that the inaugural HTM/Freestyle competition would be held at Crufts in 2005. Chandi and I won it, and the only person I wanted to tell, was my mum.

Exactly the same in 2009, when we set a couple of records,  winning all three Finals at Crufts. After the Heelwork Final when I was at Crufts on my own, I sat in the car, holding Chandi’s paw and cried. I wanted to show my mum what we’d just achieved. I wanted to say “Look!! I did this with Chandi and we won. We won it all”.  Very often, moments in life, whether they are happy or sad, are nothing at all if you don’t have that one person to share them with.

Oh well. No point dwelling on it. It is what it is and I have two choices. Deal with it or not deal with it. On the whole, I chose the former. That’s why my lack of confidence led me  to the Final of Britain’s Got Talent so I could feel the fear of performing live with Chandi in front of 14 million people. I needed that bucket backstage. So did Chandi …Matching buckets. We did it though. By ‘ell, we did it. With Chandi by my side I could do anything.

Mum didn’t always understand or approve of my choices, but at the end of her life, she told me she understood why I did what I did for my dogs. She finally ‘got’ the relationship and for a brief moment, saw Pepper and Chandi as more than ‘just dogs’.  “I once was blind, but now I see” –  words from the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. Funny old life…

Happy Birthday Mum. I love you and miss you. x

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Competitive? Who, me?!

Friday was our sixth and final puppy socialization and training class. As usual I used the socialization section to practice Grace’s recall. I am delighted to say that she comes like a bullet every time I shout ‘Grace here!’

Grace isn’t overly enthusiastic about playing with the other puppies and certainly doesn’t like anyone being rough, or ‘getting in her face’. Fortunately, I can call her away before things get tricky. Just like Chandi, she doesn’t want confrontation, but if a pup keeps on once she’s said ‘no’, she will make her point…

During the last few minutes of puppy playtime, the noise and energy in the room was approaching fever-pitch. Grace was getting a little over-tired by this point. Over the racket of barking puppies I yelled  for her to come to me. I  watched in amusement as Grace, on hearing me call, extracted herself from underneath Belle, a gorgeous English Setter, scanned the room to see where I was and get her bearings, then proceeded to put into practice some advanced slalom techniques around two other puppies. On the home straight, there was just one final obstacle to negotiate. Hurdling the fluffy white Shih Tzu, Grace skidded to a halt in front of me, and I rewarded her with a gentle game of tug.

The rest of the training class that evening was designed as a series of races pitching one dog against another until the winner of each was found. The games ranged from seeing who’s dog could sit the fastest; who did the fastest recall; and who could get their dog to sit, stand and lie down in the quickest time.

I confess to being very competitive. I can’t help it. Before the games commenced, I took Grace back to our ‘corner’ , insisted she have a drink of water and gave her neck and shoulders a massage. Solemnly shaking hands, Grace agreed to do her best.

For the recall, we were up against a a Welsh collie. We both left our respective pups with the trainer and went to the other end of the hall. I did a little dance down the hall as I jigged backwards away from Grace. I was aware that everyone in the room was looking at me and wondering what the heck I was doing. I was simply making sure Grace was definitely keen to get to me.
‘Three, two, one’ said the trainer. I frightened myself as I heard my voice shriek for Grace to come to me. I think I probably made everyone else in the room jump, although I had warned them I was a little competitive…Grace went from zero to about sixty miles an hour in a fraction of a second as she hurtled towards me and won the race. Yay!

We would have also won the race to do sit, stand and lie down if Grace hadn’t have thrown in a bow for good measure instead of lying down. It was all good natured though and I was delighted with Grace’s control despite the excitement and the other dogs. She had as much fun as I did and was definitely my partner in crime!

Gracie: growing up and mastering big sister Chandi's moves.

Gracie: growing up and mastering big sister Chandi’s moves.

At home we have continued to work on some new moves. Here are a couple of videos charting Grace’s progress over the last couple of days:

In this first one, I am amazed and delighted that Grace is trying to hold the cane with both paws – yet another of Chandi’s signature moves that she made famous. This was next on my list of things to try to teach Grace after she had mastered holding the cane with each foot in turn. She had already thought of it though and was trying it out…!

Here we are working more on crossing front feet:

Skipping is becoming more fluent and confident with Grace needing less hand signals – here we are in slow motion (complete with me falling backwards – thank goodness the sofa was there!):

Putting a couple of our latest moves together – not bad for a first attempt!

 

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Puppy heelwork …

 

I loved to do heelwork with Chandi – she loved it too. It was obvious from her body language and attitude. Heelwork is one of my favourite things and I think Grace is starting to think it’s fun!
I have to remind myself that she is still very much a baby, but I am so delighted with her skills,  attention and attitude.
It is difficult to maintain the correct position on the turns – more so when we turn left as Grace has work really hard to keep her shoulder next to my leg. Despite the difficulty, she is getting the hang of it – slightly wide at the start of the video, but then much better during other tries.

Not only are working on heelwork when Grace is on my left, but we are also working a little with Grace on my right. Again, I am pleased with her progress. No, scratch that… amazed with her progress!

However, walking backwards is a work in progress – we really haven’t done much on it at all…but we will….

 

 

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Toys …

 

 

 

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Moves and more moves…

A small collection of the latest moves Grace is working on, including another that Chandi and I invented – hugging cane with each front foot in turn. Chandi’s mastery of ‘paw work’ was legendary. She made it look so easy; Grace is doing the same.
Grace has decided she wishes to rest her chin on my foot when she bows.  Every time she does so, it brings tears to my eyes…

 

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An old soul…

I am completely in love with Gracie-Anne-Banana-Pancake…she is special. Wonderfully, gloriously special. I watch her learning and I see Chandi. I am entrusted with these beautiful souls while they are on earth and all I do is show them possibilities…show them their own unique talents…

Grace is an old soul. She is Grace, in every sense of the word and name. She isn’t just moving her legs, each movement is positively balletic! Or, maybe I’m so besotted with her that only I can see it … what do you think?

This is Grace’s first try at crossing her paws. Her first time in this life anyway …

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In the blink of an eye…

Gracie is seventeen weeks old today. It frightens me how fast time whizzes by. A whole life can be gone in the blink of an eye. When I found her in the dog pound, Chandi was the same age as Gracie is today. It seems like yesterday that I was in the car with my mum driving, Pepper on the backseat and little Chandi standing on my lap as we drove away from the pound. Yesterday, but a lifetime ago.

It feels as though Chandi never existed. Maybe it was all a beautiful dream that has now turned into a nightmare. It doesn’t seem possible that I was lucky enough to have been at the pound the very second she was being left there. But I was. And now, my beautiful girl is ashes in a wooden box. Knowing that is all that’s left of my her physical body makes me feel sick. Really sick.

Chandi slept next to me on our bed. My choice, and very definitely hers. She had a ramp up onto the bed, but even though she knew she was allowed up there with me, she asked permission every single night. The only night she didn’t ask, was after winning the inaugural  HTM/Freestyle Final at Crufts in 2005. I went to clean my teeth and opened the door into the bedroom to find Chandi not only on the bed, but curled up with her head on my pillow. I didn’t mind one jot. Now Chandi’s ashes are next to me at night. They don’t snore like a trucker and kick me in the back. I wish they did.

Grace likes to come up on the bed with me. I ask her if she wants to, and she replies by wagging her long tail and putting her front feet up on the side of the bed so I can lift her. She likes to chew on her bone and alternates that with walking on me. Her Pièce de résistance is collapsing her lithe, soft  body on top of me whilst simultaneously throwing her front feet either side of my neck and nibbling my ear. Cute while she’s still small…

Even though I carefully move the wooden box to a place of safety while Grace is on the bed, she absolutely will not lie next to me. I pick her up and put her where Chandi would lie, but she stays for a minute, because I told her to, and then wriggles down to the bottom of the bed  and stays there. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Grace was leaving space for Chandi. I don’t have a better explanation.

I have a sneaky feeling that Grace is another earth-angel. Chandi was, for sure. One thing about which I am completely certain, Grace  is my dog, just as Pepper and Chandi were. It was right all along – that voice inside me that whispers to me – one day (when the time was right) we would find each other and be together. This, is our time.

Chandi, aged 17 weeks

Chandi, aged 17 weeks

Sleepy Grace aged 17 weeks
Sleepy Grace aged 17 weeks

 

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