Life and death…

You know when you have a nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach that won’t go away? I have that all the time. I constantly look for Chandi . I call her. I talk to her. I ache for her. Her not being by my side is the cause of the ‘nagging feeling’.

Yesterday I woke up with the sun streaming through the curtains. I didn’t open my eyes but stayed hovering and drifting in that place between sleep and awake. “The sun’s shining Chandi – where would you like to go for your walk?” No response. I opened my eyes and panicked. Chandi wasn’t next to me. She wasn’t there. And then I remembered. It seems I have to remember repeatedly, and the pain of remembering hasn’t lost its’ intensity. It hurts as much as the day she died.

Chandi died. She didn’t ‘pass away’. I hate such euphemisms. We’re all going to die. None of us are getting out of here alive, so why are so many people made so uncomfortable by the idea of death? Life and death: you can’t have one without the other. We should talk about death and get comfortable with it – it’s part of life. What’s to be afraid of? The unknown? Bloody wonderful release, if nothing else.

‘Never judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes’. Just because I have Grace doesn’t mean I have forgotten Chandi, or for that matter, replaced her. The things people have said to me over the past few weeks have, at times, made my eyes water – in every sense.

“Well she was old…”
“So you got a replacement …”
“You’re not still that upset are you…?

People may see me prancing around Church Stretton town with the energy and apparent joie de vivre of a child who has known no pain, suffering or grief, but that is because I have to. It is out of sheer necessity. I have to make Grace’s life as happy as possible and be someone who she can truly love. But really, I’m doing it for completely selfish reasons: if Grace loves me, I can love her.

I need to be loved. Don’t we all? My relationship with Chandi was everything I ever dreamed. We only had eyes for each other after Pepper died. ‘Intense and demanding’ – possibly through someone else’s eyes, but for us, we were perfect for each other. We both gave everything and then hoped for more. I was never disappointed and I hope Chandi felt that way.

Being only human, I have so many failings. Chandi was pure perfection. From her, and Pepper, I learnt how to be. That’s right, I learnt how to ‘be‘. It’s a skill I didn’t have B.C. (Before Chandi), but now I do. I am content with what I have. I don’t want more. More things, more gadgets, more crap ….Possessions feel like such a burden. I want less. I want to be free.

In October 2012, I put our house up for sale. Many reasons, but overwhelmingly, I wanted to take Chandi on an adventure. One final adventure. I knew she was ‘old’. I didn’t need reminding then, or now. I dream of disappearing in a campervan and just ‘being’. Being alive, being somewhere different, being with my dog. I sold the house two weeks before Chandi died. I knew it was too late, well part of me did, that voice I hate to listen to.

My friend’s dog died suddenly, dramatically and tragically on my Birthday this year – fifty-six days before Chandi also died. When I heard what had happened, I knew Chandi would be next. But quite so soon? There’s never enough time…

Every summer that came and passed, I was so thankful for. We loved the warmer weather. It was real ‘adventuring’ weather. Trips to the beach, trips to our favourite waterfalls and lakes, anywhere that took our fancy. This year’s spring was the coldest on record for the past fifty years. Our adventures started late this year. Almost too late.

Saturday April 20, we got up early and loaded ourselves into the car for the first of our trips. We went to Lake Vyrnwy – walked down by the river and up to the waterfall. I took the camera with me. I always seem to take the same photographs, but each one feels more precious than the last, if that’s actually possible.

I walked, and Chandi ran a little, under the blue sky. We sat and marveled at the waterfall and paddled in the water. So cold. Things were different though. The pine-clad sides of the hills were bare. Just stumps where trees had grown. I felt sad. I don’t like change. I don’t like to see living things cut down and killed. It makes me sad.This time there was no pungent, cleansing scent of pine needles in our nostrils as we headed away from the waterfall, and my day at least, was the poorer for it.

With Chandi walking by me, I was rich and nothing else out of my control mattered. We had a lovely adventure – it may not be everyone’s idea of an adventure, but it was ours, and ours alone. We shared it, just as we shared other things – even cashew nuts which I chewed for Chandi as she didn’t have enough teeth to manage for herself. Some may think that’s revolting and why bother – she’s just a dog. I bothered, because I love her and because to her, I was perfect in all my revoltingness. (Yes, it is a word).

(Incidentally, Chandi didn’t lose some of her teeth because I didn’t look after them. I cleaned them every day of her life that she was with me, and they were spotless).

I have not heard a single Cuckoo call this year. I love to hear the Cuckoo. Someone else struggling to survive in this world. Sadness all around. I seem to soak it up like a sponge and then overflow and almost drown.

If I didn’t have Grace, I wouldn’t have made it out alive. I’m sure of it. Those first horrendous days when I neither ate nor drank, took their toll. Ten pounds lighter, and feeling more unwell than I did before, I struggle through each day, because I owe it to Grace. None of it is her fault and she deserves only the best I can give her. But I long to be hidden in my bed, not moving and just hoping for oblivion to give me a break.

I love her. It’s simple. The fact that she loves me too means my cake is well and truly iced. Well it would be, if I had all my loved ones around me and I had the courage to put the house up for sale once more and buy that campervan…

Our first and last adventure of 2013 - Lake Vyrnwy.

Our first and last adventure of 2013 – Lake Vyrnwy.

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Frog, not dog …

Sitting like a frog and showing her gorgeous, soft, pink tummy!

Sitting like a frog and showing her gorgeous, soft, pink tummy!

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Monday morning fun and games …

During this morning’s training session we started working on some new ideas. Grace was keen to have a go at everything. I love the way she responds by trying even harder when I encourage her!

Here she is learning ‘Twizzle’ (backing round me starting from my right hand side) for the first time. She’s not doing too badly! Breaking up the session by doing some other moves she’s more familiar with helps boost her confidence and keeps things interesting.

I also introduced her to a cane and the idea of holding it with each foot in turn. This was a move Chandi and I introduced years ago – 2000 I think – which is now copied the world over. It’s a great move!
Her she is having a go for the first time:

And the second attempt:

At one point she was holding it so tightly, I couldn’t get the stick off her! Fabulous!

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Any progress…?

Today I showed Gracie how she could ‘take a bow’. It took her a few seconds to understand what I was asking of her. This video was filmed after roughly twenty seconds of introducing the idea to her. You can see that even though my hand is in hovering in position to encourage her not to lie down, I am not having to touch her:


This week I have been working mainly with Grace on building up her skipping. This rather difficult movement is coming along incredibly well, bearing in mind that ten days ago she’d never even tried it!

We have also been working on naming her back legs and perfecting lifting them on cue. I swear she works on her own as the improvement from each training session to the next is terrific!


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It’s not all work here …

Grace's den ...

Grace’s den …








Secret filming from upstairs window:



Picture 497

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Learning to skip…

Chandi was famous for her ‘skipping’ move. This move is from the world of horse dressage and is known as ‘One Tempi’ or Flying Lead Changes. You can see Chandi skip in our dressage routine:


I started teaching Grace to skip a few days ago. Here we are showing how to skip on each leg in turn:

Hard to believe she’s only a baby!

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Drying Grace’s paws is easy!

I have been teaching Grace the names of all her paws. She had already mastered lifting both front paws, but yesterday I started working on getting her to lift her back paws. She’s more confident lifting her left hind, but starting to lift her right hind also! It makes it really easy to dry her paws!

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