Marley <3

Sitting at my computer at 6am on a Sunday morning – a huge mug of comforting coffee beside me and Perry as my companion, interchangeably peering at me from behind my laptop screen or from any of the shelves beside me, his whiskery nose quivering over the book edges, and now and then climbing into my arms for a cuddle when he needs it most.

He doesn’t quite know what to make of his world this morning, and, to be honest, neither do I. I have kept small pets virtually all my life. My little grey gerbil Rustler was my first lesson in love and loss when I was only nine or ten, my childhood rats defined my early teenage years, and in the last seven years, during which time we’ve given home to twelve rats, four hamsters and our rabbit, I have known continually that while these little pets can bring a disproportionate level of joy and character into a home, they also come with a measure of inevitable heartache when their short chapters come to a close. Usually, as much as I miss our little ones when they’re gone, I am able to make my peace with this, and in general we have been very blessed with full lives and gentle aging for most of our mischief as they’ve lived out their days.

Just last week however, we had to make the final decision to say goodbye to our little Reuben at just 15 months old, after a month or two of illness we managed as best and as long as we could; and yesterday, unbelievably, we also bade an unexpected farewell to Marley, Reuben’s brother and another of the loveliest rats we’ve ever been blessed with.

Marley had had some respiratory issues over the six months he lived with us, and I had written recently that he’d been on a couple of rounds of Baytril to try to clear any underlying infection and that we were doing steam treatments in the bathroom to help him out; but in general although his breathing was sometimes noisy, he always looked a picture of health and never seemed to be suffering with it. His last course of anti-biotics seemed to have helped and on Friday night Marley, Perry and I spent a long quiet evening on the settee, him in full health and scarpering playfully across the top of the cushions.  Yesterday morning however, we woke to him struggling desperately to breathe and virtually unable to. We rushed him to the vets, who put him on oxygen and did everything they could, but sadly there was nothing at all that could help him, and eventually we had to give the go-ahead for our beautiful boy to be put to sleep and his suffering ended.

I still can’t quite take it in this morning and found myself sleepless here and needing to somehow write it all out.

Marley was very close in character to Reuben and, we believe, a full brother to him. They were both dumbos and both two of the most gentle-natured rats we’d come across. We had already adopted Reuben and Perry last November and had them with us for six weeks when their previous owner had contacted us about another rat she had, who had unexpectedly ended up on his own after she had lost a couple of her others, and who she hoped we would consider taking, as he had previously lived with Reuben and Perry and she knew he would settle with them and be happy. She couldn’t have been more right – bringing him home and letting him meet (or re-meet) R&P barely counted as an introduction, the three of them just curled together instantly and lived in absolute harmony from the first second they were back together.

It was a few days before Christmas that we were asked to take him, and for us, for many reasons, it was a difficult time and not one we would have been in any way looking to add a new pet to our family. But it made sense as a solution, and we agreed to help, not knowing then what joy it would come to bring us.

We brought Marley home on Christmas Eve, naming him for Jacob from A Christmas Carol, in honour of his unexpected arrival into our home on that night, and it didn’t take us long, even in the midst of loss and turmoil, to realise how lovely he really was. Our three boys have lived together in such a truly lovely mischief all these months, the balance between them always perfect.

One of the most difficult things to deal with today is Perry on his own. I would never have guessed when we moved in here with four rats just three months ago that we’d be down to one, when three were nowhere near that age, and it puts us in a difficult position. Perry is very much a rat’s rat, although he has discovered a cuddlier side when out with us at night in the last few weeks, and it would not be fair to keep him on his own, especially when – although there are of course no guarantees – he should have quite a bit of life still ahead of him. It would only be right for him to have friends again, and we would either need to adopt more and introduce them to him – something we’re nervous to do after not managing successfully to get Reuben & Perry and Ty & Harvey in together last year – or, as much as it would hurt, find another group of rats Perry could go to. I don’t think I could really bear that, and it’s all so difficult to have to think about, but we have agreed for just now to rush into nothing and over the next few days do what we can to be there for Perry and give him plenty of time with us.

I’m well aware this blog, usually full of sunrises and sunsets with the horse and fun ideas for games with the wee ones, has taken a depressing turn, but can’t do anything except write it all down.

Marley was a really, really wonderful pet. I will always be glad we took him on, and can’t count the mornings and evenings I’ve sat with him on my shoulder dozing and bruxing away and the way that most simple of things, passing virtually unnoticed, added to my daily life. I’m so glad that before he lost Reuben, who he was so attached to, we all had such a lovely week together away on our holiday, and that he had Perry’s closeness too in his last week without Reuben. Our Friday night was in some ways like any other but I did stop in the middle of it – just cosied on the couch, favourite cosy TV programme playing on the TV, book beside me still open, my husband at the computer just beside us, and both Marley and Perry under a blanket with me, Marley bruxing and boggling and Perry curled fast asleep in what’s recently become a new habit of being more relaxed and cuddly with us than ever – to realise how special it was.

We will never forget Marley, our Christmas Eve boy who came to us just when we needed him most and filled ours, Reuben’s and Perry’s life with happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our lovely Reuben ~ April 2016 – 13th July 2017

Today we said our last goodbye to Reuben, our handsome and endlessly loving boy. 

From the first moment we met him he was one of the most people-focused, gentle and kind-hearted rats we’ve ever known – an absolute credit to his first owner – and it hurts to have lost him so young, especially as we were only blessed with his company for eight short months. In a way, that’s hard to believe, as he was such a wonderful character that his time with us felt like so much longer. 

I was more sorry than I can express to discover a month or so ago that our little Reuben would not live into old age and didn’t have too much longer left with us. But as saddening as that was, nothing makes every minute count more than knowing that time is not infinite; and the last week of Reuben’s life was one of the loveliest we’ve spent as a little family, holed up in a holiday cottage, him cuddling with his brothers by day – both Marley and Perry looking out for him as he grew frailer – and with us in the evenings, truly content. 

We first brought Reuben and Perry home during our last holiday back in November, and fell in love with them instantly. From that lazy autumn week at home getting to know our new wee ones, to this past week spending our last days with him; throughout all the months since then Reubes has been a constant and loyal companion to us all.

Rest in peace my wee boy; one of the truly special ones. Xxxx

Reunited with the pony 💙

Back home again after a lovely holiday away and although it was a wonderful time and a much appreciated break, it’s been great to be back home this weekend – finding our feet in the house again, catching up with family and friends, and – of course! – being reunited with my biggest fluffiest boy. 💙


Always delighted to see these four feet waiting for me and to spend an easy sunny afternoon in and around the barn. The warmest weather brings everyone out to the farm at once for long days stretching into the evening as we get things done with an easy sense of relaxation; slack lead-ropes, sleepy horses and chatter of holidays and shows – this is the eighteenth summer I have spent doing exactly this with my very same boy and I never tire of it. 💙

On the cusp of a new week and a start back at work, I’m glad to have had time away and time at home on our holiday, and hope everyone else has had a good weekend too. X

Scribbles from Seal Cottage (Part 2)

Once more writing from our summer holiday home on Islay, this time as our week away is drawing to a close, with our ferry back home booked for 9am tomorrow and just one last day of exploring the island ahead of us today. 

This week has been one of the most peaceful holidays we’ve had, and there have been so many highlights in a restful few days adventuring at easy pace around the landscape. On Tuesday, we spent a lovely afternoon at the RSPB Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve, a beautiful expanse of land with amazing walks and dug-out hides in concealed wooden sheds where we could settle and watch hen harriers circling overhead and everything from wrens to buzzards swooping across the stillness of the hills.


We have spent days browsing tiny shops in tiny villages, local craft fairs here and there, cosying up with hot chocolates in hotel bars when the rain comes on and in the brightness of early evenings walking along huge untouched beaches where only the sheep contentedly lie.

In the middle of our week here, we decided to take a day trip across to neighbouring Jura, which was one of the most breath-taking places I have ever seen. With only 200 people there and 5000 deer, it is one of the wildest and least populated of all the Scottish islands, and we were so looking forward to seeing it, but it exceeded all expectations. I absolutely love rural Scotland, and there are so many corners where such incredible beauty can be found; but, within minutes of alighting on the island from the tiny drive-on ferry, I was absolutely speechless at just quite how incredible it was. Having pulled over to watch a buzzard circle overhead, we found ourselves at the vantage point of a whole group of red deer, antlers glinting in the sunlight, grazing, communicating and eventually taking flight across the hillside en masse, disappearing into a thicket of trees and leaving us amazed to have been able to watch such a breath-taking display. 


After a meander in the main village of Craighouse, a lovely lunch at the one and only hotel, a tour of the whisky distillery and a wander along the street, seeing the busyness of a Wednesday afternoon, with the mobile bank and fish van both parked up; we got back in the car and followed the road as far as we could, with the sea glinting to our right, Paps of Jura dominating the landscape to our left, and each twist and turn bringing new sights as we journeyed on. 


My favourite place we’ve ever been to outside Scotland is without a doubt Iceland, where we had our honeymoon three years ago and returned to last year, knowing we’ll be back again and again. The winding drive through such abandoned and completely still landscape did remind me of some of our drives up the hills there in the winter of 2014, gasping as we turned a corner to another incredible waterfall or reached a new height where the snow flakes were gently falling for the first time all year – yet what is so incredible here is the wildlife as well as the landscape. Reaching the end of the road, from where the most northerly points of the island can only be reached on foot, the last rural farm houses lying behind us, we again were face to face with a herd of deer, peacefully grazing in their untouched world. 

Back on Islay, strangely ‘busy’ by comparison in spite of being such a quiet island itself, we’ve trekked out to Finlaggan, the historic seat of the Lord of the Isles; stood on the shore at Bunnahabhain looking out to the most northerly point of the island; stopped still in the peace of ruined chapels, Celtic crosses weathering time, and warm working churches alike; and befriended the loveliest highland cattle around our little Portnahaven. 


By evening, we have more often than not been back at our cottage, and dropping temperatures have given the perfect excuse to light up the fire and settle in. We’ve done nothing but read at nights (many of my books animal or pet related which I look forward to writing about here too!) and for the pets, the evenings have been absolutely wonderful. 


The decision to bring them on this holiday was absolutely the best one. Just as we always enjoy having quality time to spend with each other when we’re away, we’ve enjoyed having quality time to spend with them too. Without all the demands of home life, we’ve sat peacefully for hours and the boys have adored curling up beside us with just the crackle of the flames. Perry, at home always on the go, has been uncharacteristically keen for cuddle, spreading out in the warmth and lifting his head whenever one of us has the audacity to stop stroking him. 

Marley has enjoyed mornings sat on the front doorstep, the sea air helping clear his wee lungs; and Reuben has again surpassed all our expectations by still being with us and what’s more still being content and happy. He’s eating, drinking, and enjoying time with his brothers and with us, which is all we can ask for. Have thoroughly enjoyed having them with us on our adventure. 


Looking forward too of course to getting back home again, and to bring reunited with the pony (who I’ve happily been provided with photos and tales of throughout the the week!); but this has been the loveliest week away and have truly loved Islay and Jura and all they have to offer. 

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. X

Scribbles from Seal Cottage

Writing from our holiday cottage on the beautiful Isle of Islay, where we are making our home for the week on the edge of the water in Portnahaven, a village on the south-western tip of the island. Beyond the stillness of the little bay outside our front door, the powerful waves of the Atlantic crash inwards just yards away and there is nothing to the west until Canada is reached, the sea just rolling on and on. 

We arrived here on Saturday, and it feels, in the best possible way, as if time has slowed down to almost a standstill since we did. The pace of life here is so easy, and we have spent most mornings and most evenings simply watching the seals in the water, learning their calls, their patterns and the spots on the rocks they will return to each day at the same time. ​​

The island of Islay is a truly beautiful one and already we have explored some incredible places, walking along Machir Bay in the sunshine, waves crashing in; touring the smallest and most family-run of Islay’s eight whisky distilleries, watching the entire process from malting to bottling taking place on site; driving through the most incredible countryside on narrow lanes, adapting once more to the passing places and to making way for the sheep, the highest priority of road users, whenever they require it! 

There is something incredibly relaxing and refreshing about holidaying close to home, and these are usually my favourite breaks – visiting old favourite places or discovering new parts of our own country we haven’t before, and finding corners of it where life slows down so much.

This year, being just a couple of hours’ drive (and a ferry ride!) away meant we decided to bring the pets with us. Not Charmer of course, who has stayed happily at home on his own farm, being looked after very ably by my friend at the yard; but the little ones managed the journey very well indeed and so far seem to be loving the jaunt! 

We had planned to travel them in their carry case and leave the cage in the back but they seemed more content just in their usual bed, and so we left them there, where they curled all three in a pile for the duration of the journey very happily, just doing the usual dozing they generally do in the daytime.
The boys posing with their ferry ticket, as we didn’t quite pluck up the courage for an on-deck selfie! 



It’s been lovely while we’ve been here to have them with us, especially as autumnal-feeling windy nights and the cosiness of the cottage have meant our evenings have been spent inside, and they have enjoyed the easy time in front of the fire.

One of the main reasons we decided to bring them with us, even though it was a slightly longer journey than we’d usually want them on, was that both Marley and Reuben haven’t been well. Marley is having trouble shaking off a chest infection, which I’m sure we’ll beat before too long, but at the moment is needing anti-biotics and a wee steam in the shower room to help his breathing. He seems to be making strides forward and we’re hopeful we’ll get it shifted very soon. Haven’t written about Reuben’s health in a while though and unfortunately his prognosis is not so good. He has been given a presumptive diagnosis of kidney disease – any further tests to fully confirm would be too invasive for him but his symptoms all line up – and unfortunately there isn’t too much we can do. This means he’s really just enjoying the finer things in life, extra cuddles every night, whatever scraps of our food take his fancy, and what medication we can give him to keep him as happy as possible. A few weeks ago he had dropped weight significantly and we thought we were on our last days, but time and time again he’s rallied; and although we always know we could be saying goodbye to him anytime, and knew when we brought him here he might not have the full week with us, it’s a wonderful bonus that he’s had so many good days in the last couple of weeks and that he’s come with us on this little adventure and enjoyed his nights by the fire here. 

Reubes loving the warmth of the fire

Our week here has got off to the loveliest start, and watching the spectacular sunset last night, listening to the wails of the seals on the rocks, was so incredibly peaceful.

View from our cottage last night

We’ve seen so many weathers so far, whipping wind, lashing rain and glorious sunshine by turns; another reason I love a Scottish holiday, waking each day to unpredictable and dramatic weather, framing the beautiful landscape in so many different lights. 

Looking forward to plenty more exploring and relaxing here, and will write again soon. 

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X