11 January 2010

My favourite picture

Dulwich Divorcee has kindly nominated me for a meme to display my favourite photo and say why. It has certainly challenged me because there are any number of different types of photo I could put up, but to chose one to be the all-time favourite is another matter.

If sheer quantity of photos were the deciding factor, it would have to be one of Kay. I have thousands of photos of Kay. Her godfather once joked that when his own daughter was a baby, he took thousands of photos in the first few weeks and had them developed in the one-hour processing service. Then when the child was a toddler, he took hundreds of photos and had them developed in the 24-hour service. By the time the child was a teenager, there were only a few photos here and there which were sent off annually to the developers and returned a week or so later. We found this story amusing at the time, but oh so true now. There are several albums of when Kay was a small baby and perhaps one as a toddler and one to cover the entire teenage years. However, it is not to Kay that I look for the source of my photo, as our anonymity is paramount to my blog story.

I then look through all my holiday snaps and there are indeed places which have delighted me and conjured up all sorts of memories when I look at them. Some are of the places where I lived abroad and others where I just passed through. But trying to choose one over the other is difficult. They are all special in their own different ways.

The one I have finally chosen is of Snoopy, our loveable dog, as much a member of our family as any human. Let me tell you why I love this photo and the background to it.........

When Kay was a toddler, we decided to go on a camping trip. She loved it so much, we went lots of times after that. Our favourite place for a weekend escape was in the New Forest and, if you have never stayed there, it is well worth a visit as the wild horses roam all over the roads and forests and even in and out of the designated campsites. We have seen many a pony stick its head inside a tent if it smells food. But one year, when Kay was about three, we camped on a sheep farm up in Yorkshire for a change. During our summer evening stroll round the farmyard, Kay was attacked by one of the farmer's border collie sheepdogs. It wasn't a vicious attack, thank goodness, as the dog was chained up and could only reach so far, but it did manage to grab Kay by her trouser leg. It was a close call. Fortunately Greg was able to give the dog a hefty kick and it released its grip. We were later told by the farmer that the dog had been taunted by the farmer's grandchildren earlier that day and the dog was obviously getting its own back on the nearest child to come near it, which just happened to be Kay.


To say Kay was traumatised by that event is an understatement. She would cower whenever she saw a dog coming towards her and refuse to pat a dog despite our reassurances or those of the owner that no harm would come to her. By the time she was seven, it was beginning to take on phobia proportions and, because Greg and I love dogs and had both had dogs as family pets when we were children, we decided it was important to get Kay over this fear as soon as possible. We were going to get Kay a dog.


Kay was OK about the idea but less so about the practical reality. On our first visit to Battersea Dogs Home, she was fine looking at the dogs as long as they were behind the bars of their cages, but when she excitedly chose a black labrador cross breed called Charlie to inspect more intimately, she later backed in utter terror against a wall of the room we had been shown to, as soon as the dog was brought in to get to know us. Sadly we did not take Charlie home that day and even had a complete rethink about getting a dog at all. We returned to Battersea several times after that, as well as other rescue centres in the area, but always with the same result. Kay was terrified close up to any dog. Eventually we accepted that Kay would only be happy with anything with a leg at each corner, as long as it was a cat or a hamster or a gerbil. I remember Greg saying with vehemence that we were not having a rodent in OUR house, as the little critter might get loose and we would never find it again in our house with all the stairs and hiding places. So we settled on cats and ended up chosing two kittens at a rescue centre not far from us. As they were not ready to leave their mother yet, we had to wait a while and visited them once or twice to see their progress before the handover. On one such visit, I mentioned that we would have really liked to get a dog and the kennel maid didn't need telling twice. She dragged Kay and me over to an enclosure where there were two puppies remaining from a litter of six. They were a cross between a Manchester Terrier and a German Shepherd. The Manchester Terrier gave them the colouring; the German Shepherd contributed to their size. Of the two puppies, Snoopy was the runt of the litter, very submissive and therefore much more suitable for a little girl, particularly one who was nervous of dogs. Snoopy also needed some tender loving care and therefore a quiet home with a little girl and lots of love was a perfect match for him too. We went into his enclosure and he rolled on his back and widdled in the air. It was love at first sight.....for him, for Kay, for Greg and for me. We signed on the dotted line straight away.

A week later, once all the innoculations and paperwork had been done, we were the proud owners of two kittens and a puppy. It was bedlem toilet-training all three of them, working out the general care for them and coping with their anxieties at being abandoned overnight. I can remember Greg sleeping on the kitchen floor in a sleeping bag to keep all three company for the first few nights. (They were the happy days before Greg became an alcoholic.) Kay was delighted with this new menagerie and would invite all her friends over to see them and pet them.

To cut a very long story short, Snoopy did the trick. He got Kay over her fear in a flash. As she grew, so did he, so she was not at all afraid by the time he reached full adult height. Because of his size and colouring, many people think he is a doberman. If I had a pound for every time I have been asked if he is a doberman, I would be a millionairess, but his head is a different shape for a start. He looks as if he ought to tear your arm out and he can be quite an alarming sight when he rushes to greet callers at the front door, but in reality he is such a soft, gentle animal who would more than likely lick you to death. He has his own pet passport and has travelled abroad many times in the car with us. Because of his sensitive nature, he does not like to be left alone, so we always make a point of taking him with us, where at all possible, rather than leave him on his own in the house. He still does not like to be left alone at night and because we are rather soft in that department, we have allowed him to sleep with us in the bedrooms and (shock, horror) even on our beds. Fortunately he is not a smelly dog, in fact he has the most amazingly comforting aroma about him, which makes you want to nuzzle into him, and he does not drool either like some dogs do.

And so to THE PHOTO...... I have chosen this particular one of Snoopy because it shows such detail. If you click on it, you will even see his lips. I love all the little whiskers round his mouth too. Those lovely brown eyes can just make you melt and give in to him. They follow you around until you are forced to put on your boots and take him for a long walk in the park. I have this photo on my laptop desktop. We shall certainly miss him when he goes to that big kennel in the sky: not something we like to think about too often, particularly as he is nearly eleven. He has not only served his original purpose but has enriched our lives with his love and devotion.

Rather than nominate anyone to do this meme, I shall open it up to the first five to comment. Meanwhile, here is that picture of Snoopy..........................

17 comments:

aims said...

There is something very comforting about an animal that loves you completely no matter what. They fill all those gaps that are otherwise so empty.

Lovely photo - and he's a cutie.

Millennium Housewife said...

As lovely as that post was, and as adorable as the picture was, the thing that stuck me most was you talking about Greg pre alcoholic days.. How amazing and loving to sleep downstairs with the pets, and what a family man he seemed to be. A mixture of happiness and deep sadness enveloped me at the thought.

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

A beautiful photo Rosiero and a wonderful story. I too was struck by Greg in his "normal" days. It helps to make sense why you want to stick by him and I mean that in the kindest way.

I will take up this meme and will have to think about which photograph of the hundreds I have will be my "favourite".

MsCatCalls said...

Lovely photo lovely dog ... but I was struck by the lovely image of Greg too . Ive been following your blog since the start and of course many of the pictures are not so good so this is from a different time in your lives together . Half was through writing this Im realising other people are struck by the same thing!

Robert said...

The photo was indeed excellent, but the word picture you painted of a happy family unit acting as a single unit, dealing with a problem, was truly amazing.

Gill - That British Woman said...

I can see where people think he is a doberman....he looks lovely though........

Gill in Canada

The Merry said...

Oh, he's beautiful! Lovely picture and a lovely post.
You're much more patient than I am. The next person who asks me what mix my purebred-from-the-rescue-German-friggin'-Shepherd is, I'm telling them she's a poodle.

Jenny Rudd said...

I hope you don't mind but I mentioned you in my own blog today. I hope you aren't offended. Reading your blog you sound amazingly human and very clever to be able to articulate what is going on in your life. You must be exhausted and yet have inexhaustable energy.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That's a great photo. I wouldn't be without my dogs, we have 4 border collies as you probably know. Such amazing companions, loving you unconditionally and never sulking.

CJ xx

Flowerpot said...

Well you know what I think about dogs - they are just wonderful. And Snoopy looks terrific! Glad to hear about Greg when he wasn't as he is now.

Pam said...

Hello, I just found your blog so it will take me a while to play catch-up on your posts, though I have read a few and they have taken my breath away.
Snoopy looks and sounds like a lovely dog. I'm glad I found you and will add you to my read list.

Nota Bene said...

Love the picture, love the story behind it... and a happy New Year to you...

Nechtan said...

Hi Rosiero,

Great post. A really fantastic lead up to the photo. And the photograph is lovely. A smashing looking doggy.

All the best

Nechtan

rosiero said...

Thank you all for your lovely comments. It is funny how close you can get to your writing that you don't see what others see. I had not been aware that the bit about Greg being a family man and doing lovely things would stand out as much as it did, but a lot of you saw it! I suppose it is a hell of a contrast with the way he is now.

Jenny Rudd - Thank you so much for what you have written about me in your blog. I just hope in the process that I can help others like me and also highlight to those who have no personal experience of alcoholism just what it is like.

Nechtan . Yes, he is a good-looking dog. In fact when we camped one year up in Scotland and visited the Callander Highland Games, he won first prize in the Most Handsome Dog category. I still have the rosette he won.

Arhonda Bend said...

I loved this post. If only all parents whose children have a fear of dogs were as proactive in addressing that fear as you were, but then a lot of the parents are afraid themselves. The little girl next door is terrified of Roxy (our GSD) and poor Roxy can't understand it at all.

Like Snoopy, Roxy has made her way into all areas of the house, including the beds.

It's a pity Greg can't see what a wonderful person he can be. It's not every man would spend the night on the floor in a sleeping bag to make a few four legged friends happy.

Jay said...

I came over from Strawberry Jam Anne. I love this post! It's such a similar story to ours, with our younger son and James the greyhound.

Son No. 2 was fine with dogs until the third incident involving a Jack Russell. We'd done the right thing and asked if the first two dogs were OK to stroke and the owners had said yes, and they'd snapped at the poor kids face. The third dog was behind a front door which he'd knocked on and leaped straight at his face and just about missed his nose. That was the last straw for him and he instantly became dog phobic.

When he felt able, we went to adopt a dog from Wood Green. To cut a long story short, when we saw the greyhounds, I remembered what lovely calm, peaceful dogs they were, we looked at them all, and brought James home. James was young and bouncy, but he was absolutely brilliant with Son No. 2 and they became inseparable. We've always had greyhounds since, and Son No. 2 loves dogs now .. except he's still wary of JRTs!

The picture of your Snoopy is beautiful. I love the way he's looking so trustingly into the camera too.

James is long gone now, but hopefully Snoopy will be with you for a long time yet!

dulwich divorcee said...

Gorgeous picture, Rosiero, and thanks so much for rising so brilliantly to the challenge, I know you were not looking forward to making a selection but I think you've found a corker there x