Our family and other animals

Every night, about 10.00 pm, a mouse appears in the living room. It scuttles around the edge of the room until it reaches Rafiki’s cage. Then it begins to climb up into it. That’s no easy feat, as the legs of the cage are slippery. Sometimes the mouse almost reaches the lower tray, then falls back to the floor. But it keeps trying until it can squeeze through a narrow gap which allows it into the tray where the food waste falls. I can hear it scrabbling around. Rafiki knows it’s there, too. She sits on her swing with her head tilted, watching it benevolently. She likes furry things, and sometimes flies to sit on the bookcase with a teddy bear.


When it’s satiated, the mouse takes on a new challenge – the water bowl, which is high up in the cage. Once there, it drinks its fill, then abseils back to the floor and vanishes.

Sometimes I see it (I’m saying ‘it’, but of course that is delusional. There are probably dozens of them) during the day, as it whizzes around my office. I don’t know why, the only food here is the biscuit crumbs in my keyboard and there’s no way it can reach there. Anyway, I’m quite used to it.

This morning while I was writing I caught a glimpse of movement beside the cushion where one of our dogs was sleeping next to me. Thinking it was the mouse I waved my hand to frighten it away before the dog woke up and jumped on it. But it didn’t move. I had a better look. And this is what I found.



Just a little chap, about 3″ in length.

We’re used to wildlife in the house. Newts, tree frogs, birds, beetles, mice, it’s nothing new. I just wonder why? They have nearly two acres of field, dozens of trees and bushes, and a pond. But this house seems like a magnet for them. :D

I wanted to photograph the toad on my desk, but it was very squirmy and very dry, so I took it outside and put it on a stone, near the long grass.

Next, please. :D

Someone, somewhere …..

….. must be wondering what happened to their beautiful dog.

Tommy has been with us for three and a half weeks now, and we still haven’t found a single vice in him.

He sits and waits for his dinner until he is told he can have it.

He can be walked off the lead, never goes more than 20 metres away, and comes when called.

He is fully house-trained.

He is incredibly affectionate.

He gets on with other dogs.

He goes to bed when we do and sleeps all night.

He understands “No!” and stops whatever he is doing.

He is really rather beautiful – although I may be biased. :)

In the evening, at about 8.00 pm, he wants to be cuddled. I mean a proper cuddle, on my lap, all 24 kilos of him. He sits and looks up at me like this

Cuddle time.

Cuddle time.

until I make space for him, when he climbs up, digging his dear little claws into my thighs, then puts his head on my chest and falls asleep. When his weight becomes more than my legs can bear, I put him down and tell him to go and lie down, which he does instantly, either curling up on one of his blankets, or climbing onto a chair.

He has been somebody’s well-loved pet, I am certain. Wherever they are, whatever caused them to be separated, I wish I could tell  them that he’s well and happy, because they must be wondering.


Not breaking, but entering

Living in a hamlet of only 7 permanent residents, you may think nothing exciting ever happens. On a large scale, it seldom does. I think the most dramatic event was when our English neighbour was arrested and imprisoned for drug running; and there was the time the medical helicopter came to transport a neighbour to hospital.

But there are always small day to day events to interrupt the peace. Trapped birds, lost dogs, a drunken woman delivered to me by two handsome Frenchmen at 1.30 m, when I wasn’t looking my best, and the Jehovah’s twice-yearly visits…..

Today it was Mrs Nextdoor in a state of laughing embarrassment. Having returned from a shopping trip she found herself locked out of her house. She had failed to properly secure the safety lock on her front door, and as she went out it had clicked into place. Now she was out in the sun with two baguettes, two bottles of good Bordeaux and a set of useless keys.  The only solution was to find somebody to climb a ladder, undo the first floor window through the missing pane, scramble through the window and down another ladder in the pitch dark to the ground floor, and undo the safety lock.

burglarLuckily TOH was here, because I’m pretty hopeless  on ladders, especially in the dark.

Mission accomplished, Madame, her wine and baguettes safely indoors.  It’s small things like that which enliven our lives, dragging us away from the chilled rosé as we sit indolently day after perpetually sunny day on the patio, watching the tomatoes and courgettes ripen while the French fairies do the weeding, lawn-mowing, laundry and housework. :D

Two Steps Backwards, about our first few years living here in France, was published in 2004 by Transworld Publishers. It is still available in paperback and continues to sell in modest numbers.

Two Steps Backward


Death of a milk bottle



From the photo, you may think that this milk bottle has fallen victim to a French hunter with his shotgun. But no.

Like half a dozen similar milk and water bottles littering the house, this is one of Tommy’s very best toys. The investment in large chewing ropes, Kongs, Dogwood pine cones, “indestructable” jelly-like shapes of various kinds was a waste of money. After a cursory play, Tommy discarded them and devotes his time to seeing how many perforations he can insert into a bottle before it disintegrates. Both he and Tally love removing the caps, crunching on the plastic (especially when we are on the phone), and shoving the thing around the tiled floor. It makes the kind of noise that is beyond description.

Yesterday we took him to the vet for an MOT, and he passed with flying colours. All well. His weight is up to 23.5 kilos, which is probably right for his size. The damage to the tip of his tail, and the skin flap on his chest, both caused by friction on cement, are unlikely to get any better, thinks the vet

Play, food, cuddles are Tommy’s exclusive interests. At night, he becomes a lap dog, more comfortable for him than for me, but it’s only for 2-3 hours, then he takes himself off to bed. :)

He is very puppy-like in his behaviour, extremely boisterous, and Tally has had to reprimand him severely. That would be like being punched by a butterfly, but it causes heart-wrenching howls and yelps.


Tally – as gentle as a buttefly


We don’t know whether he is 100% Vizsla, although he certainly has the looks, and with true Vizsla Velcronicity he hasn’t left my side until today. The upside of that is that when we go out for walks, he can safely be let off the lead and will not go more than 20 metres away, and returns immediately when he’s called. The downside is that he panics if I go out of the gate without him and tries to ooze beneath it, and I haven’t been able to make a move out of his sight.

Today there was a breakthrough. I noticed that he was absent from his mattress next to me in the office, and went to look for him. Here he is, on one of his blankets he had dragged into the dining room.


Yes? You wanted something?



I am calm and relaxed.

We are, of course, besotted with him. It seems to be mutual. :)

Here are some things that Vizsla owners have found out.


Bed games

All photos taken by TOH.

Small step

Tommy is settling in very happily.

Yesterday a potential problem arose when both TOH and I went outside the gate, leaving him on the other side, with Tally. He began yelping and squealing until TOH returned to the other side of the gate.

Today we both had to go to town. At first we left him with Tally, in the garden, but as he saw us leaving he first of all wedged his head through the bars of the gate, and then tried to squeeze himself underneath it, screaming blue murder.

It’s quite understandable from a dog that has been abandoned, tied up and left to die. However, inevitably there will be times when he has to stay at home without us, and anyway it is far too hot in the car for any dog at the moment.

We once had a beautiful German Pointer who suffered from separation anxiety, and tore doors off their hinges and destroyed anything and everything if he was left alone, so with some trepidation we put Tally and Tommy in the house while we went out, prepared for the worst when we returned.

An hour later, when we came back, both dogs were standing at the window, wagging their tails, delighted to see us, and showing no sign of stress. That’s a huge relief. This little dog is coming up trumps. Yesterday we had a short session of walking on a loose lead, which he seemed to pick up very quickly. When we turn off the lights at night he goes straight onto his bed and stays there all night, no fuss, no noise, no mess. Despite having been starved, he is gentle and well-mannered at feeding time, and apart from his own food he has shown a liking for tomatoes, potato peelings and red peppers. He’s only spat one thing out – a black olive. :)

He’s chilling at the moment, having made his bed just the way he likes it:


Now it’s time for him to have his first bath – I wonder how he’ll react?




What? How? Why?

I have a question – several, in fact.

What did I do to you to deserve the way you treated me?

I know you loved me once, because I am fearless and I know all about sitting on laps for cuddles, and sitting like a good boy for treats. I am not afraid of loud noises, angry voices, raised arms.

I’m house-trained, affectionate,  obedient, full of fun, and soon I’ll look beautiful again when my sores have healed, my muscles grown stronger and more flesh covers my prominent bones.

Where did it go wrong?

What made you abandon me?

How could you leave me to die, chained up with no food and water, covered in sores? Did you wonder how long it would take for me to die?

Why, if circumstances made it impossible for you to keep me any longer, couldn’t you have at least taken me to a refuge?

Do you ever think of me?

Would you be happy to know that I was saved just in time from the slow death to which you condemned me?

Would you be happy to know that now I am safe, and cared for, and loved? And that I am giving my new family the love that I gave you?

Would you be happy to know that if I saw you today, I would bound up to you and greet you with joy?

That’s because I am a dog, and my love is unconditional.