Tuesday, 31 January 2023

A Life Full of Animals - part one


A Life Full of Animals - part one

I have never known a time in my life without animals, apart from the three years I was at college.

My earliest memory is of Bob the Collie, for whom my father laid a place at the table. There followed Sombre the Smooth-coated Collie, Ginger the cat, Punch the Springer and Judy the kitten.

The first dog Barry and I had was a yellow Labrador called Whisky. She was three years old and she was my birthday present from Barry when I was in my final year. I couldn’t keep her at college so Barry kept her in the officers’ mess at RMCS Shrivenham, where she led a very convivial life. She was a patient and very friendly dog, and eventually a great companion to and protector of our young children. 
Whisky with Gareth
We thought her not to be a natural guard dog, barking only at buses and ladders, until one night in Northern Ireland when Barry came home very late, she barked menacingly at him before she realised who he was and was then abjectly apologetic. She was not averse to helping herself to choice morsels from other people’s shopping baskets, when the opportunity presented itself, and enjoyed ‘picking’ blackberries, too.

Biddy with Gillian

As she aged and our children grew, we decided to get another dog, to ease the pain of Whisky’s passing, when the time came. Thus we acquired Biddy, a 7-month-old smooth-coated Jack Russell terrier, (JR) the long-legged variety now known as Parson Jack Russell. She had already been cubbing and never lost her penchant for searching underground, once disappearing for several hours and emerging mostly brown, rather than her usual tan and white. She was enormous fun, always seeking to ingratiate herself by sliding round on one shoulder in front of one of us and submitting. She was very much Barry’s dog, loving to huddle inside his jacket. When he wasn’t around, Biddy’s preferred companion was Gareth, particularly in the forest. She was expert at climbing trees.

Biddy and Gareth

After Whisky died, Biddy was lonely, missing her old companion and so we got Leo, a rough-coated, short-legged Jack Russell. He had been a stud dog and in our innocence we thought we would have no problem keeping him and Biddy apart when she came into season. How wrong we were! Biddy had five adorable puppies, and we kept Daisy and Sam. Daisy was a very pretty broken-coated girl and liked sleeping in the cat beds we suspended from the radiators, for by now, we had a cat, a beautiful brown Burmese.


Susannah, Gillian and Gareth with Biddy and her five puppies

Daisy, Sam and Biddy at the seaside
This came about because Susannah had wanted a rabbit. We had experienced heart-ache with Gillian’s previous rabbits and so persuaded Susannah that a cat would be preferable. We called her Alicat and we were encouraged to breed from her. JRs are reputed to be cat killers but when we brought Alicat home, Daisy jumped on my lap, watched by the other three, and we never had a problem. Of course, each of our then three children had a different favourite kitten and soon our menagerie grew, until by the time Bethan, our fourth child, arrived, we had four JRs and nine Burmese. We also had guinea pigs and pet mice and gerbils, all of which reproduced at will.
Sam with Susannah and Bethan

Bethan with Barry, Sam and Daisy

Sam was also broken-coated and immensely strong for his size. He loved collecting logs, the bigger the better. He really was a big dog in a little dog’s body. He and Leo did not get on once he grew up, so Leo went to live with my parents. Sam’s life was short and sweet. Out running with Barry one day, he ran off and was knocked down by a car. He died unexpectedly after surviving a few days with the vet. He was six years old. Biddy had spent much time licking his ears and little Daisy was somewhat overlooked. Clearly, Sam was his mother’s favourite and she pined for him.  We commenced our search for our next dog. 

I had long wanted a Dalmatian and soon Cariadd joined our family from Wales. She was smaller than the JRs when she first arrived, but soon outstripped them and proved to be a good problem-solver.

Biddy and Cariadd

Cariadd. Bethan, Biddy and Daisy

Barry holding one of Cariadd's longer 'sticks', watched by Bethan

She specialised in carrying long branches, more like young trees, through small gaps and was the perfect running mate for Barry. She also had a terrific smile, which worried people who were not familiar with dog smiles. We were sometimes told, ‘Your dog’s snarling at me.’

Many breeds of dog smile, or snark, some with closed lips, others with varying degrees of tooth display and nose wrinkling. I must admit it can look quite alarming!

I believe that once you have two or more dogs you can never go back to just one. Dogs need dogs and the one that’s left alone becomes depressed. A ‘new’ dog, whether baby puppy or older dog, rejuvenates the survivor and rekindles his or her energy and enthusiasm.

When our last JR, Daisy, died, we had to find a companion for Cariadd, and this came in the form of Dalmatian Dominie, from Devon, four months old and a really big puppy. She was as soft as butter, a little dog in a big dog’s disguise. Cariadd, not noted for her maternal instinct, allowed the youngster to chew her neck and never grumbled at her. Dominie was not well coordinated as a puppy and fell in our pond every day for a week as she thundered over the bridge, but she grew into an athletic dog who could turn on a sixpence, giving any chasing dog a great work out.

Dominie with our eldest grandson, Callum (now 25 and an expectant father)

We were very taken with our Dalmatians, delighting in their elegance and intelligence, and it was good to have not one, but two big dogs to which we could reach down a hand to be nuzzled. As Cariadd aged, and, sadly, dogs age too quickly, we decided to look for a third Dalmatian. Bethan had enjoyed building obstacle courses for Cariadd and was keen to try showing a dog. Dominie, beautiful though she was, was simply too big and Cariadd had never been keen on the show ring.

We thought it would be fun to have a liver Dalmatian, so green-eyed Buddy left his home in Cornwall to live with us. His eyes didn’t remain green. He was a handsome boy, devoted to Bethan. When we brought him home, Dominie’s expression was one of pure joy. We could almost hear her saying, ‘My puppy, oh, my puppy.’

Dominie with baby Buddy

Labradors are renowned for being greedy, but Dalmatians can match, if not outpace them. Ours all learnt very quickly that food was freely available on work tops and we had to find places they could not reach. Naturally, they didn’t attempt to thieve while we watched. We were careful about not allowing them ‘dangerous’ foods, like grapes or macadamia nuts, but even so Buddy demolished a chocolate cake and lived to tell the tale. Our grandchildren still laugh about that.

Buddy does the leg work while Dominie waits

In the meantime, the cats were ruling the roost, and attempting to find a way into the fish tank for a tasty fresh snack. When they had a spat, as cats do, they would find a dog to curl up with. The cats never attacked the dogs, just each other. Sometimes, a dog would stand between two arguing cats, to calm them down.

Cariadd and 6 Burmese

After Buddy came seven-month–old Frodo, from Lincolnshire, a dog bred primarily for looks rather than temperament. He was always gentle and loving with everyone in our household, particularly Buddy, but reactive with unfamiliar dogs, not a good trait in a show dog. He became my Velcro dog and remained so until his death seven years ago.


Frodo the Faller


  1. Wow! What a life! I'm pretty sure that a measure of how well one lives is how many animals you've allowed into it all. If that's the case, yours is one of the best. Thanks for dropping by the Farm, and I hope your new year is terrific!

  2. Wow. You've had a lot of pets, especially dogs. We've only had two dogs and three cats, all long gone now and the freedom we gained when they died was good but I wouldn't change having them. Both dogs we saw from pups to old age.

  3. Oh my, that is a LOT of pets! (and more children than I could have handled, too :)) When I was growing up we only ever had one cat and one dog at the same time, plus a budgie at one point. You must be a fairly laid-back person to take a menagerie that size in stride :)

  4. Just wanted to add how much I loved the photo of the movie star dog (scarf and sunglasses) and the pup in the slouch hat. All the photos were wonderful, actually :)

  5. As a child about five or six, my family had one dog, one cat and one bird. I don't remember what happened to the bird, but the dog went with my brother when Mum left home and took my siblings. When we moved house the cat disappeared and was later seen by old neighbours still hanging around but could never be caught. After that we had no more family pets until my own children were old enough to help care for them and we only ever had one pet at a time. Right now I have just my cat Lola, who will be fourteen this year and likely to live quite some time still as she is in good health, but once she is gone I will have no more.

  6. I loved reading about your fur family. My daughter has never been without multiple cats and dogs. She would adopt them all of she could. Right now we have a chubby cat who can say MAMA when he stands by his dish asking to be fed.

  7. Good heavens, that really is a LOT of animals! The problem I have with animals is that their lives are so short. I would be a wreck if I had so many, and thus lost so many. You must be made of stronger stuff. Pam from In This Life (can't comment other than anonymously, bother Blogger).

  8. A lifetime of sweet dogs and wonderful photos with your family, a lovely post. As far back as I can remember we had dogs. I have this memory of Skipper, our first Skipper, when I was a child in my mother's arms. Dad introducing me as he held him in his own arms. We were in the garden at the time. Thanks for sharing these wonderful memories that brought back my own.

  9. Thank you all for your kind comments. Pets bring a lot of joy and, at the end, sadness, but we feel it's a tribute to those who have gone before to take on another. They are never forgotten, never replaced, just added to the catalogue of much-loved family members.


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