#tenyearsdunne

Like it was just yesterday. I still remember you on one knee at Manchester Airport (if you want me to say yes to something, asking when I’m jet-lagged and just getting off an 8 hr flight is a good time to ask), and I remember Louise looking concerned that I might have said no when we got to the car. I can still feel the loose buckle on my left shoe that made my leg wobble throughout the ceremony. I can still taste that first sip of Yorks Tea at the reception. 
How are we ten years older in the picture on the right than we were in the one on the left? How have we had ten Christmases and Easters and moved house twice and country twice? How has our house been home to seven dogs and a cat in that space of time? Didn’t I just arrive at Heathrow and have my visa stamped? Wasn’t it just a few minutes ago when we drove to Atlanta to get my biometrics done, or to Berea to sort out your social security? I’m certain it was only a week or so ago, maybe a month, that I picked you up at Hartsfield right after you collected me at Manchester when we were basically living at various airports and train stations. Wasn’t it?
I’m so grateful for the macaroni and cheese, the shared nerdiness, the willingness to put up with my shenanigans, the flashlights bought for me to take to faire, the resolve to get up when the girls are howling so that I can lie in, the whispered, “love you, bye” when I think I’ve managed to get out the door without waking you, the love of travel and history, the debates over whatever has just been said on telly, the ability not to laugh in my face when I think I’m speaking Yorkshire, the shared love of Greenville, the support and encouragement to be a writer, the shared – and different – expat experience, and all the other things that I have been given over the past ten years that I most certainly did not and do not deserve. 
Ten years done and dusted, and as many more as I can get to come. Love you to absolute bits, Simon.

Lights at the Ends of Various Tunnels

Me and my girl at GARF,
photo courtesy of the Southern Travel Guide

Yeah, the last post was pretty grim, and if I’m honest, the work situation (that I still can’t talk about) hasn’t gotten any better, but there have been bright spots and that’s what we are going to focus on in THIS post.

One of them is featured in the photo: The Georgia Renaissance Festival. Now, this is not a new thing, not by a longshot, but apparently, the fourteenth year is the charm, hoopskirt issue notwithstanding. I have made friends at GARF in the past, cast members and vendors and directors and the like, but this year just feels different. I feel at home in “Newcastle” in a way I have yet to feel at home in “Fairhaven” after fifteen years in what we refer to as the Northern Kingdom.

What has changed? Me? Having Bryn? I don’t know. But this past weekend, I was able to play, really play, with both the cast and with my partner in crime, Lucy to my Ethel, and the only other member of HOEF that does more than one or two weekends at GARF, Anne. Perhaps it is the beautiful friendship that has formed between her Bo and my Bryn. Perhaps it is Anne’s extrovert that brings my introvert along, often kicking and screaming, to get to know the cast.

Whatever it is, I am profoundly sad on days that I have to miss attending GARF, even though it means a 5 am start every Saturday and a late afternoon arrival back home, dirty and sweaty and hot every Sunday between the middle of April and the first weekend in June. I long to be in the lanes, even though that means pulling turkey tendons out of Bryn’s mouth and replacing steak sandwiches that she snatches in the blink of an eye. I dream of the joust, and of watching with pride as Bryn thumps her tail when her favorite princess rides by, upside down in her saddle, even though I’m fighting the reflection of the sun off the light colored sand which is swirling about in my eyes and nose.

I’m hoping that this feeling of Rennie family will continue into the fall when I am again with my HOEF family in the dog barn on the eastern side of Fairhaven, and that we can project the kind of skilled performance that we are learning at GARF into our wonderfully laid back home at the Enchanted Chalice in Greenville, SC. Vikings ahoy!

I did say tunnels in the title, didn’t I? While GARF is the light at the end of one tunnel, the fact that I only have four days left until my summer break is certainly another. But that tunnel is not quite as bright because I will have several months of empty coffee meetings to look forward to without Daisy. While it hasn’t been easy without her, it has been easier because I’ve had work to distract me. Without my daily commute to Clemson, I am going to have to face what our reality looks like now; no queen on the end of my bed, huffing because I’ve rearranged my legs and accidentally knocked her about. No beautiful blonde/red fawn fur glimmering in the green grass of the back yard as she sunbathes. No teeth chattering in my ear.

But you see that muppet in the picture with me? She is a light of her own, and she and Willow are there to distract me when they can and snuggle with me when they can’t. Their light comes to find me in my tunnel and shines into the darkness to remind me to keep moving forward.

Finally, there is light at the end of the Superginormous Manuscript tunnel…book one in the three book series that it has become is almost ready to go to Amazon, and that is both exciting and horrifying. I took the first Camp Nanowrimo to edit the second book, and am not working on editing/fleshing out the third in between expense reports and mad garb sewing/laundering. So all in all, my life has far more light than dark. I just need to be able to remember that and hang on to it…and keep moving.

FTH Oopsie Daisy, 14 August 2004 – 2 December 2016

She truly was transcontinental.

You know, I’m sitting here staring at the blank screen and can’t even bring myself to type the words that she’s gone…and she’s been gone for two months now.  I still expect to come home and hear her whistling from the bedroom, demanding that I hurry up and let her out. But the whistle has fallen silent.

I listen for her toenails on the hardwood floors and remember how, when we lived in the UK, she made no sound at all on the carpet and could sneak up on me, suddenly jamming that needle nose into my ear and exhaling. There’s nothing in my ear now, no cold nose or loud exhalation of warm doggie breath. It’s just silent.

I call the other two dogs by her name and they look at me, with a mixture (I think) of confusion and sadness, wondering simultaneously who I am talking to and where Daisy is. I wonder that too.  Is she with the Fab Five Plus Clowny? Are they now the Magnificent Seven? I don’t get answers, though. As always, my Bridge Pack is silent.

We see things that she would have loved, go to places that made her happy, and the memories are sometimes so strong that I can smell her Frito Feet and feel her nose pressed up against my neck, as she would do to make sure of me. I think for a moment that I can hear her Snappy Jaw that should have struck fear, but didn’t, not in me…but there is no snappy jaw, not anymore. Everything is silent.

She was a larger sized female for her breed, but she was Bryn’s Little Big sister.  She was a good foot taller than Willow, and lorded that size over her Little Little Sister. They still run and play and I can hear their tags jangling as they bound up and down the stairs. But Daisy’s tags, still on her purple dragonfly collar, remain silent.

I want a do-over.  I want more time. I want for her to not have suffered through the heart murmur and the heart disease and the Lasix. I want to take her to Ireland and to Canada. I want her to have the jacket with all the little patches from everywhere she was able to visit. All these things I want…and all she wanted was to be able to rest.  Rest well, my world traveler, my Psycho Puppy Girl, my Angel…my Mei Mei.  You earned it.  I just wish it wasn’t so silent around here.

Sandy Paws Wrap Up or "I told you I’d blog that!"

Screaming at the beach is gnome-much fun!
Photo Courtesy of K. Lazenby

In its own unique way, Sandy Paws time has come and gone again.  We spend weeks on Facebook and in text messages and emails planning and laughing and looking forward to seeing each other.  We despair that we only see each other once a year.  We arrive, and from that moment on there is hugging and laughing and screaming and cheering and spending money and all the exciting things we’ve looked forward to for the past 364 days.

And it is gone, it is over, in the blink of tearful eyes.  Even though this year my time at Sandy Paws was infinitely more challenging due to the addition of one big furry puppy who only has manners when she pleases, it was still gone and over too fast, and we were heading back up I-95 to our lives and jobs.  How does that happen?  Why can’t the enjoyment last as long as the anticipation?  I find myself now back in those 364 days, waiting for Sandy Paws 2015 when I can see my FTH family again…hopefully with a much better behaved Bryn next year.

Now, on to the part of the weekend that made me put my “I’m Gonna Blog That” face on:

I will admit that in the past I have been one of those greyhound owners that I’m about to talk about…and I will extend my heartfelt apologies to anyone that owns a little dog or a big dog or any other kind of non-greyhound or non-sighthound dog that has come to a greyhound event and gotten the Hairy Eyeball from me.  I found out on this trip just how unpleasant even the most well-meaning people can be when they identify your dog as Other or NotAGreyhound and make a point of either looking at you like you’ve got four heads or telling you how to manage your dog in the sea of apparently ravenous high prey drive greyhounds ahead.  I mean really…I think if we did a survey of the dogs that attended Sandy Paws this year you would find that a great many of them live…are you ready? WITH OTHER BREEDS or even…gasp…CATS AND OTHER SPECIES.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have known, loved, and lived with some real Cat-Zappers.  I saw a foster dog catch my cat in his front paws in mid-air.  I know the possibilities.  But for crying out loud…the reception that Anne and I got when we entered the conference center with Millie (Boston terrier who lives with a greyhound and a bloodhound and was NOT on a flexi-lead, thankyouverymuch) and Bryn (wild-eyed Irish Wolfhound puppy of a mere 9 months who is still not sure about everyone and everything she meets) was less than welcoming.  Granted, not all of the almost 200 people that attended know me personally and/or know that I have a greyhound as well as the Big Hairy Beastie that came with me to Sandy Paws, but it’s a good guess that I do IF I AM THERE.

Here are just a few things to chew on if you happened to be in the vicinity of the traveling circus that is me, Anne, and our Nons at the Jekyll Island conference center over the Sandy Paws weekend.

1. The fact that Bryn pulls me around is not funny, really.  It happens when you have a puppy brain in a 97lb body attached to an owner with the upper body strength of a Keebler Elf (to borrow from Sheldon Cooper).  It is a little embarrassing, to be honest, because I’ve never owned a dog like her before and am still learning the best way for both of us to be able to walk calmly and pleasantly.

2. My wolfhound is not going to eat your (fill in name of other breed here) as long as I am still attached to her and/or am conscious.  There is no need to glare at me or pull your greyhound around on the other side of you to protect your precious greyhound from Bryn.  In fact, you may be called out on your Death Glare if we happen to see you do it.

3. I understand that not everyone likes big dogs.  But for heaven’s sake, y’all…this is a sighthound gathering and the hound in question is not an Italian Greyhound!  I’m assuming that most of the people there have at least a passing familiarity with sighthounds that are at least 50lbs and some much more than that (not always because they are big boys, either, but that’s another blog for another day).

4. If I tell you that Bryn needs some space then she needs some space.  It doesn’t matter how many whatevers you have raised/bred/raced/whatever in your day, I know my dog better than you do.  End of.  I appreciate all the offers for help over the weekend from everyone (including my friend Brian who asked me to let Bryn come running at him…which I did) and the compliments were fab for her and me.  It’s hard to believe she has only been in my life for just under 5 months…feels like 5 years some days.

5. A Boston Terrier on a stationary leash that is being held by her owner is probably owned by someone savvy about the prey drives of greyhounds and other sighthounds and will NOT be putting her dog or anyone else’s in a dangerous position, at least not consciously.  A person who brings a small breed into a sighthound event on a flexi lead is a different matter, but that, again, is a blog for another day.

Overall we had so much fun…Bryn slept most of the way home when she wasn’t trying to chew on her Auntsie’s ears or get in the front with Millie.  My FTH family is more precious to me than I can express and even now, as I sit here typing, the thought of THEM…the thought of US…it brings tears to my eyes at how important we all are to each other.

Metrognomes of the world, unite.  Onward and upward…to Mountain Hounds if not before!  (You can see pictures of Bryn at SP14 on her blog, Our Daily Bryn, beginning with the entry for 26 March.)

Meet Bryn…

Her ILP name will be something with beansidhe (banshee) in it, but I don’t know what that will be yet.

On Saturday, Anne and I drove up to Tennessee to pick up a five month old wolfie pup that was in need of rehoming.  Simon and I have always wanted a big fuzzy, wolfhound or deerhound, and so we jumped at this chance.

Daisy probably would have preferred that we hadn’t, but since she doesn’t have thumbs she doesn’t get a vote.  She does, however, get loads and loads of extra attention and has resumed sleeping in the middle of our bed, pushing us to the very edges and taking all the duvet for herself.  Fair play.

On Sunday, Bryn made her first appearance with the Hounds of East Fairhaven, giving the crowds something to ooh and ahh over and HOEF a full time wolfie member for the first time in almost a decade.  She was a star, braving the cold, trolling for turkey tendons, and posing for loads of pictures.  There is something about a giant breed that captures the attention, even when she’s only just a baby.

So far we haven’t lost any thing to her voracious chewing except for a tiny bit of sanity when she chooses a toy that squeaks.  But even that is tempered by the fact that she makes sounds that resemble Lucas’s Chewbacca as she chews…she is just hilarious.

We did a bit of puppy proofing before she came home, but for the most part we just keep an eye on her and keep her busy with appropriate things rather than wait until she’s chosen something inappropriate to dissect and investigate.  While it has only been just over 36 hours, she has responded well to correction when needed and is just a big old growly rumbly furry lovebug that tried to climb onto Simon’s lap for snuggles last night when she got sleepy.

We adore her and hope that Daisy will too in time…keep an eye out on the Lettuce for more stories of Bringing Up Bryn!