A home that's lost its dog - well, it's still a home but there's an emptiness two people can't fill on their own.
After our Ted died at the beginning of September, it became clear that although we'd be grieving for a long time, we'd feel better if we found another dog sooner rather than later. Not to replace him - a dead dog is like a family member or friend in that respect - but to provide a new focus.
We decided a long time ago that we'd like a rescue collie next time round, and we applied for a few, but dogs are much in demand during this time of Covid-19 and we didn't get anywhere. (We're also too old and too urban for some collie-specific rescues, who like their charges to be rehomed with childless 30-year-olds in possession of several hundred acres at least 25 miles from the nearest A road, and who are happiest belting around fields of a weekend in a competitive sort of way.) (I'm afraid we just do walks in the landscapes of poetry. 😊)
We also noticed that lots of dogs acquired during the first clockdown are being offered for sale by owners whose jobs have changed or who didn't realise how much work they'd be when they bought them, but they are also being snapped up really quickly.
Then the Northerner decided he'd rather like A Puppy as although he'd had dogs, he'd never Had A Puppy before. And since neither of us had had a bitch, we started to look for a female border collie puppy, and bloody hell, they're expensive. I paid £140 for Ted twelve years ago, and now they're between £1,000 and £3,000, frequently with a surcharge for a girl. Even what we used to call mutts but are now Labracockadoodlepoos cost a small fortune.
We started to resign ourselves to Winter Darkness, Covid-19, Brexit, and No Dog. Then, one Saturday evening, I was scrolling down one of those pets for sale websites, and saw a litter of black and white guinea pigs for sale in Wales. Except on closer inspection they weren't guinea pigs, they were border collie puppies - five bitches and two dogs - and they were only £400 each. Never did I move so quickly.
A Zoom meeting later, and we had ourselves a little bitch; we just had to wait for her to be old enough to leave her mum. We filled the time by poring over our weekly pupdates and choosing a name for her. Ideally we wanted something to do with poetry, and as she was born in Dylan Thomas country, I thought Polly the Collie Garter would be a good name. But the Northerner then countered with Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, which wouldn't do at all, and in the end we compromised and settled for Cwtch, that beautiful Welsh word that is both noun and verb, a request and a command; and means a cuddle and a snuggle, a little cupboard or nook, and best of all, a safe place in your arms. We also like that there's no exact equivalent in English.
2 weeks old
There was some anxiety during this time. A puppy we could afford, and not too far away (even though the lockdown meant she had to be delivered to us, rather than us going to pick her up). It did feel too good to be true. Could it be a scam? But no, it turns out the breeder, Scott, is just a decent bloke who loves his dogs. We're so lucky we found him and Cwtch.
Six weeks old
So here she is, galloping around on the longest legs you ever did see, half border collie, half hare. I still feel a bit ashamed we didn't have the fortitude to hold out for a rescue dog - in another, non-Covid year with unlimited travel we might have done - but when she's older, we'll look again for one that's in need of a home, this time with a steady female in the mix. For now, though, that seems some way off ...