When I was growing up, our house was always filled with as many animals as people – often more. The family life I loved and learned in was defined by the happy stromash of an exuberant springer spaniel puppy, an ageing Labrador, three children, an assorted collection of small pets and a kitten who quickly grew into a cat but never forgot to remain afraid of the lop-eared rabbit who was once upon a time bigger than her. First pets of our own were our first responsibilities and such a big part of growing up – goldfish to begin with and later my little grey gerbil Rustler and my very first rats, Charlie and Brodie, beginning a lifetime passion.
Above all, we were definitely dog people. My earliest memories involve lying by the fire with our old golden retriever Shane, and as I got older walking our dogs was a highlight of my day and gave me my solitude and thinking time in amongst all the inevitable ups and downs of adolescence.
Thirteen years ago this spring, we had just lost our last dog, a beautiful old chocolate lab called Penny, and our home just didn’t feel the same. It was only a matter of time before a new member of the family found her way into our lives – which was how it came to be that in 2004, as I was turning 16 and studying for my first round of school exams, I was absolutely besotted with the little black and tan collie pup who had come to live with us. ❤
Ginny was very timid when she first arrived – she was only 9 months old and although she had been given to the rescue centre along with her brother, they had made the decision to rehome her away from him as she had struggled to move out from his shadow in her last home. In ours, she initially had only Corrie, our tortoiseshell cat, for company; and, we all firmly believed as the first few years went by, Ginny began to think of herself as a cat too, curling anywhere Cor did and loving nothing more than to sit in a lap and be stroked, with very little regard for how big she was! ❤
Back in those days, Gin was so lithe and active and we believed she had some whippet in her as she cut about the woods where we lived, turning on a sixpence and never running short of energy. Thirteen years later, we help her around on walks with a special harness supporting her back legs which are now prone to giving up on her much sooner than she is done with the excitement of being out for a walk.
From the very beginning of her life with us, Ginny was so loyal and loving to us all. When we all lived at home and she was young and agile she would career through the house of a morning, finding us all in our beds – for years my days began in the best possible way, waking up being pounced on by the puppy, ready to play; a much-loved era and one any stay back at home always brings a happy reliving of nomatter how many years have gone by.
A faithful sheepdog at heart, Ginny has always taken her self-imposed responsibility to round us all up very seriously indeed; and she has continued to keep tabs on us even as we’ve all grown up and come and gone from the family home; always one eye on the door if we’re not all together, and reaching a level of happiness and relaxation so lovely to see when she has achieved her goal in life and has all of us around her of an evening.
As is life’s way, there have been so many twists and turns in our shared story as the years have gone by, and such a huge expanse of time has been crossed together as a family. People, dogs and cats have merged into our little flock and Ginny has always accepted them without a moment’s hesitatation, adding them to her headcount and extending the same love and loyalty she offers everything in life. There’s no way of knowing what lies ahead, and quite how life might change for us all as it meanders on. But, come what may, I’ll always be grateful for all these years, and for our Ginny dog herding us together and being one of the lights of all our lives.
With Corrie, 2005:
Playing in the snow, Christmas Day 2009:
Me with Ginny, our beautiful old deerhound Maisie (with us 2007-2014) and Charmer, 2012:
Summers in the garden:
Ginny, Maisie and Phoebe-cat out for a walk in their usual formation, 2013:
Getting ready for my wedding in 2014:
Waiting patiently for someone to come home, 2015:
Out walking with her new younger sister Katy, 2017: