Sunday, December 20, 2009
Jilly the Dog
8 years ago Trish drove myself and the two grandchildren who were staying with us, to; ”Pick up my Christmas present”. An unknown destination and present lay ahead. “You’ve always wanted one”, she said, “You’ll really like it” (Case of wine or whiskey?)
Later, as we drove away from the address, I stared at the little blond puppy that was crying on my lap. I know I’d gone on about wanting a dog – but a dog’s for life not just Christmas, I didn’t mean it!. It was an aspiration perhaps. Too much trouble perhaps? Maybe I only liked the idea of owning one?. It might cramp my style. I couldn’t go climbing, canoeing, skiing, mountaineering, could I? After all a dogs for life not just for Christmas, isn’t it?
Driving home the subject of names came up. Trish said it was called Lily. Number two Grandchild sitting in the back, coincidently called Lily, burst out crying indignantly; “I don’t want to be called the same name as a dog” she wailed. With my newly acquired alter ego now asleep on my lap I announced it would be called Fang. Or Killer, or Ripper. The children in the back seat protested vocally and persistently. “Anyway she is a girl and you don’t call girls that kind of name”, one of them observed. The eldest suggested that as the previous owner called her Lily, a simple change to Jilly would suffice and would not offend the sensibilities of her sister. This was greeted by a loud, “Yes” from Lily. .
As we drove home I suggested to the kids that Jilly would do for dinner and asked them which bit they would like for the weekend joint, suggesting that we could have a leg each, which was an improvement on a chicken shared between four after all. More protests from the back followed loudly.
Jilly was whining on my lap and I gave her some gentle strokes. “Well”, I thought, she’d live outside in a kennel. End up being a tough dog and perhaps make a tolerable companion on my forays into the outdoors and nights in Igloos, snow holes, canoeing trips and so on., If I had to go to places where dogs were excluded, I could always tie her up with extra helpings of dog food!
I couldn’t let her outside that night as it was pointed out I didn’t own a kennel and without one she might be eaten by a fox. A large cardboard box was placed next to the Stanley and the children put her in and showered her with good night kisses and hugs.
Christmas morning dawned cold and bright and we’d ignored the odd crying from the kitchen during the night Carefully hidden dog food and treats appeared from cupboards and quickly disappeared down Jilly’s mouth.. I could see that the dog wasn’t going to starve to death. She could stay another few days anyway.
I needed a walk. Jilly, no doubt deciding I was a food source, decided to follow and ran at my heels. This was fine until we got to the Bog Field and she didn’t know that the bright green bits were wet. Very wet! Not wanting to upset the grandchildren too much by leaving her I pulled her out of the deep black water where she was struggling and let her go. She gamely ran at my heels over every obstacle I put in her way. I was suitably impressed by her spirit. A few minutes later she stopped and whined. Clearly she was going to be a liability! She was shivering. Mmmm? Ok, she was rather small and wet, and it was rather chilly. I picked her up and tucked her into my jacket. A few minutes later and she wanted to be down and off again, exploring and running and sniffing at everything and anything as she ran alongside me. A few minutes later and she ran out of steam and ground to a halt. I picked her up and ran back to the house wondering what was wrong with the present.
”Where did you go and how far was it”, I was asked when we arrived home.
“She’s tired”, Trish announced, after I told her where we’d been. Jilly was now fast asleep in her cardboard box. Outside would clearly have to wait!
As her stamina increased, our forays into the hills got longer and longer. The landscape I looked at obtained new meanings as she quickly spotted where the fox, badger, mice and the hares lived or passed, her nose following the scent trails across the fields and though the hedges.
Scrambling up a steep rocky gully to the summit of Ireland’s highest mountain proved she was quick and fast over the steepest rock and followed me along the narrowest of cliff ledges sometimes in deep snow. She helped in map work when I struggled in cloud and darkness along rocky mountainsides quickly noticing that she picked the best routes. She proved she had an excellent memory and could retrace exactly the route we’d trodden before when revisiting climbs and walks. She proved equally adept at canoeing and wasn’t put off by the biggest or wettest rapids spending the trip testing the air and enjoying the views.
One spring night sleeping under the stars with only a small sheet of nylon as shelter I shivered with cold. Outside, so did Jilly. With little prompting she joined me under the shelter and we soon warmed up together.
But I really knew who was the real softy when hedge-laying on a wet, windy, cold day in Co.Kerry. Soaked to the skin she shivered in long grass uncomplaining. I took a fleece jacket and covered her. Eating my sandwiches later I realised I’d forgotten her lunch. We shared my sandwiches that day!
Jilly has become my companion on long walks and runs, birdwatching trips and other excursions into the outdoors. And I wouldn’t have it any other way either. Dogs are not just for Christmas!