Home is wonderfully comforting and familiar. But it has one new thing in it. It has a four-year-old brindle lurcher called Stanley.
I was not going to get another dog for a while. I thought I needed time and space for my heartbreak. A few years ago, I would have been shy about using such a word about a canine, but I discover that dogs crack the heart just as much as humans do, and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I thought too I might like a moment of liberty, of not having the responsibility, of being able to travel on a whim. I was going to get my passport renewed and go to St Petersburg and Copenhagen and perhaps to see the Fjords.
What a lot of nonsense that idea was. A house without a dog in it turned out to be a thin, sad place. I kept seeing the ghost of my darling old girl in every room. I hated not having anyone to walk. And there was Stanley, staring out at me from the internet, as if pleading for a good home. I have a good home; it seemed rude not to take him. So I went to Somerset and got him and put him in the car and drove him to Scotland, and now he has his first big northern snow, which he seems to regard as a tremendous joke.
He is different in every way from my soft lab-collie crosses. He is lean and fast and compact, like a racing dog (there is greyhound in him), and he is comical and playful where they were elegant and gracious. He has their same talent for making friends, though. As we stopped overnight at the motorway miracle that is Tebay, complete strangers came up to speak to him and stroke him. He has such a nice face that people see him and smile. This gives me profound delight.
It’s funny, having a new dog again. I have to get to know all his quirks and habits, his loves and hates. I have not yet found his sweet spot, although it is not for want of looking. I have to invent a routine that shall suit him, and work out exactly how we shall fit together. I shall map his character, from day to day.
Despite being a rescue, he is quite independent, not nervy or needy as I had feared. My last dog would lie down next to my feet as I worked, as close to me as she could possibly get. She would follow me gently from room to room, like a faithful shadow. This one has taken himself off into the next room, clearly regarding the writing of words as a thing of no interest. He is curled politely on his special new sheepskin rug, which I bought from a nice man in Tetbury market whilst I was in the south, quite happy on his own, waiting until I should see fit to take him out again, into all that larky snow.
The rescuing of a lost dog is not what I thought would happen to me now. It was a sudden, imperative whim. I am gladder than anything that I followed it. I have a dog for Christmas, and for life.