Friends, collies, dogs with resolutions,
Oh my galligaskins, where does the time go? This is my fourth annual review and I still feel like a young pup finding my way in the world.
I concluded last year’s review by looking forward to doing more of the self-actualising stuff – through walking on mountains and writing about it all – having established that all my other needs were being met, according to this big cheese called Maslow. So let’s see how it all worked out.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
To make sense of my life in 2018, I have decided to take a tour through the unfolding seasons.
To be quiet honest with you, not much was doing in the New Year and I found myself joining in with that down-in-the-mouth trend that is so catching in January. What, with lots of slouching about, lying in front of the fire and supporting a rather extensive tum, after an over indulgence of Christmas treats, I could hardly muster enough energy – let alone enthusiasm – for even a short walk. I had metamorphosed from self-actualising Munro Buddy into lethargic mass of excess flab, mirroring my people.
Just as I was in danger of succumbing to something called sloth, I was saved from myself by the arrival of two very different events. Firstly, my personal friend, Julia Bradbury (of UK TV fame), sent me a present for allowing her to host my blog on her new website. Spotting the postie with a parcel I made contact – not altogether welcome – with his hand, getting through the packaging in a 1, 1, 2 and, before you could say http://www.theoutdoorguide.co.uk, I was sporting a rather spiffing buff and looking rather dandy, even if I say so myself. Ben’s personality and hiding lights under bushels are two mutually exclusive concepts, if you get my drift.
It’s possible that the bohemian look of this rather rakish neckerchief predisposed me to take advantage of the second happening, in that otherwise uneventful start to the year. While surfing the net on my blog site, as dogs do, I chanced up a weekly poetry challenge. Well I thought, as Border Collies do, why not. With the extra time on my paws and the new debonair look, what was there to lose, aside from a v. v. v temperamental ego. So, in the twinkling of a keyboard’s return button, Munro buddy became budding poet and, oh my dog, with what results. Ping, ping, ping … went the notification alerts on my PC, as readers liked what they saw, necessitating a quick visit to the garden, my tummy getting all excited.
Since that day, most Tuesdays have been a creative frenzy as I put paw to paper turning a two-word prompt into structured poems. Would you believe it, I am the only dog poet among this company of new literary friends. Colleen Cheesebro provides all the rules, the two words and, each week, Colleen selects one author as poet of the week. You could have blown me down with a writer’s quill when I achieved this accolade myself, at only my second attempt, with a little Senryu I wrote.
Folding into warm contours
Dissolving in dreams
This is what Colleen wrote about my poem,
“Other than the fact that I ADORE dogs who write poetry, the simplicity of Ben’s words tells the whole story of this Senryu and the fabulous picture posted with the poem. It just felt like something a dog would write about. Sometimes the simplest things bring the most pleasure.”
Me and Colleen have become great friends over the last year and she has given me such encouragement. You can read all about the challenge here. Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge
By the by, if you need something to help you dissolve into dreams at night you can read all my poems just here All Ben’s poems
Eventually we seemed to be turning from winter into spring, as snow and ice gave way to buds and blossom. By this time and with slightly longer walks, I was beginning to fight the flab, looking towards the Munro year ahead.
Alas, my aspirations became a causality of the Beast from the East, when a late blast of bitterly cold weather swept across the UK from the North Sea, lasting well into April and thwarting my fitness regime.
Then, just like the return of an old friend, the ‘cruellest month’ flipped into May and, with that transition summer asserted itself early, casting spring to the dogs, in a rather questionable manner of speaking.
As the annual cycle of growth accelerated so the old girl began to back peddle faster still. By the time she was 15, Canine Cognitive Dementia had set in and her back legs were, well… let’s just say it – useless. I found out lots about the CCD condition and have written a whole page of advice, in my own inimitable style, to help others Ben’s top tips for doggy dementia
The old girl’s 15th Birthday (not her wine!!)
Suddenly, we all became allied healthcare professionals, our raîson d’etre being two fold:
To keep the old girl going, as long as she was happy.
Not to keep her going a moment after she wasn’t happy anymore.
My main role in this nurturing environment was to help maintain an aura of calm by suppressing my ADHD tendencies (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Doggy), something I have written about before. I did my best but it was v. v. v hard work.
Alas, I had to play second fiddle, which is also quiet hard for a self-confessed egoist who thinks he is conductor material. I kept hearing phrases like ‘his time will come’ and ‘we’ll make it up to him’, but they didn’t mean at lot to me at the time. I did get a lot of long walks during the week away at our caravan and just had to alternate my people, so that one of them could take on carer responsibilities for our old girl. All the walking was getting me match fit for the Munros which were, apparently, just around the corner; something that rather puzzled me as we always seemed to spend hours getting to Munros in my van. I concluded that it was a very long corner.
Just then, nearly half way though my year, our orbit tipped out of kilter, everything went topsy turvy and it is only now, at the beginning of 2019 that we are getting back to normal, if I can ever believe in such a thing again. Firstly, just at the end of that May holiday my female person went away and then she kept coming and going for weeks on end. Being a dog I hadn’t a clue what was going on but boy did I do a good imitation of “I’m your best friend, just try and beat this welcome”, every time she came home. David tried his best too but, to be honest, he just hasn’t got the style or, for that matter, the waggy tail to go with it. Anyway, I just made damn sure I got in first to get all the cuddles.
We did make a Munro trip shortly after and spent three glorious days together, scouring the hills, reaching high peaks with fabulous views and we got to the top of 5 Munros. We even reached the first big landmark, notching up the 50th Munro for our bag. In the evenings we’d soak up the unparalleled beauty of the highlands while listening to our own special song, “You say it best, when you say nothing at all.” As nighttime approached I’d jump in the back of my van and snuggle up for sleep in the little space I had available, falling quickly into zzzs after our energetic day on the mountains.
When we are away my person does a lot of talking into those strange things bi-peds are always putting to their ears. I do worry about her… a lot, though it seems to bring her some sort of comfort. Then she puts the horrid thing to my ear and it really freaks me out. I look all over for the voice but I can never find him and it makes me sad. When we went through this ritual on our third night we both ended up sad because the voice machine told us the old girl was going further down the tubes. We vowed we would go home after our next walk, a day early; arriving as a surprise cavalry, bringing reinforcements.
The rest of the summer was sung to the old girls tune, her every wish our command. Ben was never the centre of attention in those tranquil dog days. Not actually neglected you understand but just left to my own devices. I kept tapping away at my device of choice and on 19th August I was award the title ‘Poet of the Week’, for the second time. The dog poet honoured a second time
This brought me such a lot of joy at a sad time for us all. My poetry kept me going because, without the Munros to write about, the soul had gone out of my prose.
There wouldn’t be anymore mountains in our collecting bag until the old girl didn’t need to be looked after anymore. None of us wanted to bring that day forward, not one little bit. Even a self-centred dog poet like me knows intuitively when a bit of the old altruism is required. Thus on those summer evenings, when we came in from the garden, I’d snuggle up to the old girl – forsaking my rightful place on the soft furnishings beside B – and offer a bit of fellow comfort. I think she liked it. Walks were reduced to lots of running after ball – maximum energy from Ben, least effort from my people – but you won’t catch me complaining about that and it was always meant to be just a temporary arrangement.
Feeling a little overwhelmed, must sleep. Part two shortly.