John Grogan’s Marley & Me

John Grogan’s autobiographical Marley & Me is a funny, honest and heart-warming story not just about the life of the eponymous Marley, but the family he was adopted into and the inevitable ups and downs of their lives, shared with their faithful – if a little chaotic – dog. Taking him from puppyhood right through to older age, the book is full of humour and love in equal measure; and the comedy jumping from the pages as Marley attempts to master the obedience he strives – not always successfully – to offer his owners, makes it unsurprising that the story leant itself to a warm and funny film further down the line.

I first read Marley & Me several years ago, and at the time so many aspects of it reminded me of my own childhood growing up in a family with dogs. Re-reading again on holiday last summer – actually as it happened with my own Marley in my arms as I did – so much of John and Jenny’s beginnings together had been mirrored in our own little family’s, and I could relate to the truth and warmth of the story from our own perspective as well.

Reading Marley & Me on holiday with my Marley and the other littles last summer 💙

The Grogans’ tale of life with Marley is a rollercoaster, and is full of mistakes and curveballs, but is held together by the love a life with pets offers so unconditionally.

Marley & Me documents the day-to-day reality of marriage, children and all the winding paths life takes us on. The family’s journey is enriched so much by Marley’s dominating presence in their midst, and as John Grogan writes, he teaches them as much as they teach him and more:

“A person can learn a lot from a dog.. Living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things – a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall. As he grew old and achy he taught me optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all, unwavering loyalty.”

This is a warm and engaging story of family life and the life-long imprint a much-loved pet makes on it. ♥️

They Can Talk Comic 

Just a quick happy Friday post from us, and a link to a blog I’ve recently discovered and couldn’t resist sharing… so many of these spot-on cartoons have reminded me so perfectly of the wonderful (if sometimes “characterful”) dogs and cats we have been privileged enough to share our lives with in our family and made laugh so much. 
Have a lovely weekend all! 😘 x 
http://theycantalk.com/

Endings and Beginnings

This week began in my little world with a sad goodbye, as I gathered together with my mum, dad, brother and sister to spend a last couple of days with our family dog Ginny, before taking her to the vet to be put to sleep. At nearly 14 years old, Ginny had done so very well and led a full and happy life, but her back legs had been failing her for a while, getting progressively worse, and we knew by this point that after a couple of days in the sun, this was the kindest thing to do for her. The joy animals bring to our lives is never felt more keenly than when we are faced with a hard goodbye, and as we came together for her last few moments in the vet’s room, praising her one last time, the years of family life and us all growing up together, dogs and children alike, were brought into sharp focus. It is easy to get overwhelmed at the end of a life with the final moments, but in fact those aren’t the ones that matter.

The real moments to remember are those that took place over the years, just everyday and often even unnoticed snapshots of our shared lives. The clanging shut of the gate as we came home from school to a young and fit blur of black and tan careering down the garden path to greet us – that tan replaced over the years by white in an ever-elegant ageing. Rambling through the woods with the dogs and the cat never far behind, amusing the neighbours with the Homeward-Bound-style walks the girls always chose to make. Waking up to four black paws landing squarely on the bed, face-licking commencing. Summers in the garden with sticks and balls lazily thrown and now and then some hilarity-enducing attempts at agility courses. Bending down to tell a 9 month old puppy not to lick the plates in the dishwasher, truly believing the message to be received and understood, and smiling in exasperation when chasing away a 12-year-old dog from doing the very same so many years down the line. Each of us children packing up at different times to leave home, nervously stepping away from all the comforts there, and being greeted with such a welcome on visits back. Leaving on our wedding day with kisses goodbye to an always adoring dog, face upturned to us all as ever. Christmas dinners round the big table with wrapping everywhere and the dogs and cat Instagrammed, party hats askew and loving the festivity of the day, before all tumbling out to throw snowballs that Ginny hunted for incessantly once they landed, ever sure that she would find the ball she was sure she’d seen just in the next drift of snow, and ever the puppy she once was nomatter her age.

Looking back, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, and the last few years haven’t been the easiest for our family. In all the different phases of our lives, however, the good times have been made even better by the pets running alongside us on all our journeys, and the worse times been helped by the reassuring weight of a gentle dog’s head in a lap whenever it was needed most.

Ginny was faithful, kind and above all loving, and as our lives meander on in whatever directions they do, she will remain an unforgettable part of our family story forever.

 


In my own little family, we have been preparing for change too, although of a much more positive kind. We are beginning to get things packed up to move house in a few weeks’ time, bringing to an end an era here and beginning a whole new one we’re very excited to start.

We have lived in our little cottage for over six years – it’s the only place we’ve ever lived together and it’s been home to so many memories over the years. It’s quite a thought to be leaving it behind; but we are looking forward unreservedly to starting a new chapter in the new house. It’s close enough to where we are now to mean we keep our same area in many ways, but have a new village to get to know just one along from where we live now, we keep our open fire and gardens and add more space inside and hill views from the windows in the new location which I’m so looking forward to waking to every morning.

 

The hard work has begun sorting and beginning to pack, and it feels, with new starts on the horizon for others in our family as well as us, as if change is all around us. This one though is one I’m so optimistic about making, and we are throwing ourselves both into making the most of our last few weeks here in the house we’ve loved so much and into preparing for the new.

In the midst of it all, when the shifting of  seasons becomes too much, I’m glad to be able to stand still for a moment with my boys, whether pouring morning coffee, spending evenings in in front of favourite TV programmes, taking night-time walks along the waterfront or increasingly light wanders with Charmer on the farm.

 

Starting the day with a curious Marley-rat

 


The daily walk out with my oldest boy ♥

 

In a time of endings and beginnings, heartache and hope, I’m grateful for the family and friends, both human and animal, I have, and for all the memories too of those we’ve loved and lost.

 


Charmer, Maisie (2004-2014), Ginny (2003-2017) and me ♥

Sunny Sunday ☀️

This weekend was one spent enjoying time with family and friends, with, as it happened, back to back celebrations – a graduation, friend’s birthday party and Mother’s Day all rolled into a busy, warm and memorable couple of days. In amongst the festivities, it was absolutely wonderful to find time to enjoy the wonderful sunshine, sitting outside in a street café in the city, being out in the garden from first thing and watching the sun glint off the water all weekend long. 

Yesterday, waking from a busy day of enjoying family and friends, found myself with a spare couple of hours on the first morning of British Summertime, so the pony and I took a wander down the track, the sun already high in the sky, enjoying the morning light. On our way we passed so many walkers and cyclists, dogs and children playing; everyone drawn out – even on one hour’s less sleep – to greet the spring day.

 

Later in the day, my mum and I headed out for lunch to the beach, taking the dogs with us, and it was a lovely time to spend. We are sadly preparing to say goodbye to Ginny, our 14-year-old collie, who I recently wrote about here, as her difficulties getting around now that her back legs don’t support her anymore are getting too much to ask her to deal with long-term. Yesterday however, being helped down onto the beach and enjoying an ice cream, the sea air and the waves lapping in, she had a lovely day; ending back with the family all together at our house.

 

All being gathered, pets and people alike – Marley, Reuben and Perry eyeing up my mum and dad’s lurcher Katy curiously and clamouring at the bars to meet her, Ty taking the opposite approach of curling in his ball until he could be sure the extra people and animals were gone, Ginny sitting out the back door in the sun watching the world go by and the rest of us laughing and chatting inside – was the perfect way to bring to a close a sunny weekend.

 

Hope everyone else had a good one, and have a great start to the week. Xx

 

Our Ginny ❤

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:

Our Ginny…. ❤❤❤❤❤