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Where to begin? Oh, I know…

November 4, 2012

A new puppy, a colourful autumn, and Venetian inspirations: where to begin? I have just come up for air after three weeks of children on (unsynchronised) half term holidays. It’s been impossible to write about life: we’ve been too busy living it. Trying to fit meetings, appointments, travel and a vestigial adult social life into time looking after children, home and animals has meant that I have too often felt that I have failed in every department. I keep waiting in vain for a quiet week! And I wonder, for the millionth time, how on earth do working mothers manage, when I am floundering to keep my head above water despite being nominally at home full time? Now there’s a subject for a post…

Meanwhile, Venice has been in the news this week because of floods. Seeing the photos of St. Mark’s square under water has brought back my memories of wandering across the piazza in sunshine three long weeks ago; memories which had almost been submerged (tactless choice of word, perhaps) under domestic affairs since coming home. Impressions of Venice will keep, however, to be pulled out selectively like sugar plums in the dark months to come.

Let’s face it, I know what you really want. Puppies! What better than a warm puppy to cheer the shortening days? So, let me introduce you to the new member of our family. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Tarka.

When my beloved cocker spaniel died so suddenly in July, I told every doggy person I knew to keep us in mind if they should hear of working cocker puppies. I can’t imagine having anything else now. Working (as opposed to show-bred) cockers are a handful: cheerful, energetic and too clever by half.  They are also well known to be most gentle and loving family pets. And, very fortunately for my pining family, some generous friends offered us a puppy from a litter recently sired by their dog. It was a mixed colour litter, brown, black and golden. My younger son instructed me to choose the golden one but, in the event, it was the other way around: it was me that was chosen, by a little black girl pup with a white chin and chest. She could almost – almost – be the daughter of my late companion.

Tarka at five weeks old, paws around my neck

Since coming home to us she has endeared herself to everyone in the family, even our elder son who does not normally interact with animals at all. She’s been on a steep learning curve, working out her place in the pecking order of humans and other dogs. After a few sharp words from our Westie the two dogs are now getting on famously, although I think he sometimes still wonders what has (literally) hit him…

plotting an ambush



what the…?!

Tarka has also been beginning to learn basic commands – a cocker is happiest when busy – as well as taking her first forays into the woods.

She is an instinctive scent hound, nose down constantly, following intriguing new smells,

although other skills come less naturally, like learning how to get down a stony bank (the answer is a scramble the first time, a flying leap thereafter):

For me, it’s a poignant joy to be able to walk through the woods with a spaniel at my side again. In fact I think it’s the reason that my inspiration to write has returned.

For Tarka, it’s all just tremendously exciting,

and rather exhausting.

We’ll keep you posted.

You might enjoy Just walking the dog.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2012 5:54 pm

    awwww, she is adorable (says a cat-lover!)
    and a cute name for a puppy (or an otter!)

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 4, 2012 11:03 pm

      That’s very gracious of you, cat-lady! Thank you.

  2. November 4, 2012 6:17 pm

    Oh, cute new puppy tumbling through leaves.Delightful ( and the Westie will have that one shaped up in no time….no doubt he’s chuckling a little bit, too)

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 4, 2012 11:04 pm

      Yeah, he’s been instigating some lovely games of chase and tug-of-war with her. 🙂

  3. November 4, 2012 6:28 pm

    Cockers, like Border Collies, need a job to do or else they go self-employed often with disastrous consequences. Tarka is beautiful – and when an animal chooses you, you know things will work out well 🙂 I’m glad your inspiration to write has returned. Jo

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 4, 2012 11:08 pm

      Goodness, ‘self-employed with disastrous consequences’: there’s a sobering thought. Yes, I must keep her busy. Thanks for your kind comments.

  4. November 4, 2012 6:36 pm

    so glad to see your beautiful new puppy! curious about the name… is it a family name or some mythological creature? looking forward to more adventures from her!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 4, 2012 11:17 pm

      Her name comes from a once-well-known book, ‘Tarka the Otter’ by Henry Williamson, which I read as a child. It is a poetic but unsentimental story of the life and death of an otter in Devon, England. Both our other dogs have/ had names connected to the rivers round here, and we have otters on our stretch of river, so it seemed like a good name. Plus it’s important to give your dog a name you can shout across a field without feeling like a complete idiot!

      • southern gal permalink
        November 6, 2012 10:20 pm

        what a lovely inspiration for her name! i dont know that book but will have to find it for my nephews. and i agree with the suitability of a name to be yelled. (are you a fan of As Time Goes By? there is an episode wherein a dog adopts the family and one of the characters voices a similar idea).

  5. November 4, 2012 7:00 pm

    Oh, she’s gorgeous, DB! Those ears. 🙂 Yes grief and writer’s inspiration don’t go well together, but now, with hopeful new life bounding alongside you, I can easily see why the muse has returned.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 4, 2012 11:18 pm

      You are spot on about the muse and its absence. And I wondered if anyone would comment on those ears flying in all directions – aren’t they a picture!

  6. November 4, 2012 9:00 pm

    Adorable! I’ve had the puppy urge for a while now. Those pictures just made it worse! (Or better, depending on how you look at it!) Congratulations. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 4, 2012 11:19 pm

      Oh no, am I making you broody?! One day your pup will find you… 🙂

  7. Barbara permalink
    November 4, 2012 9:10 pm

    What a beautiful young lady! So pleased you’ve found her. x

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 4, 2012 11:27 pm

      Thanks, Barbara, I appreciate that.

  8. November 4, 2012 9:15 pm

    So sweet! I love puppy joy!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 4, 2012 11:27 pm

      Good for the soul! 🙂

  9. November 5, 2012 6:43 am

    What an infusion of energy! And just as sudden downtime – what a great final photo.

    Which depicts what working motherhood feels like – at least to me after 21 years of it!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 5, 2012 10:50 pm

      She still does that baby thing of going from top speed to crashed out in the blink of an eye. Very endearing.

  10. Jo Woolf permalink
    November 5, 2012 8:43 am

    How gorgeous, and she looks so silky soft!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 5, 2012 10:51 pm

      Oh she is. And I’m just going to give her another cuddle, just to make sure. 🙂

  11. Liz permalink
    November 5, 2012 10:20 am

    I love the smile on your Westie’s face! That’s a happy dog

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 5, 2012 10:52 pm

      Funny you noticed that. I’ve never seen a dog who smiles the way he does, in such a comic human way.

  12. November 5, 2012 11:21 am

    OOoh what a delightful post. I LOVE the new puppy (also saying this as a cat person!). I adore her ears which fly with abandon and joy as she careers around. And I loved the relaxed contented exhausted sleeping puppy photo at the end. Oh yes – she’s come home 🙂

    Look forward to hearing more adventures with puppy. Who will be carefully watched over by your Westie and friend in the shadows…. May you all have many years of joy with Tarka to come!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 5, 2012 10:53 pm

      Aw, thank you, Sian. I’m very touched by your kind comments.

  13. November 5, 2012 9:04 pm

    Tarka! What a lovely girl. So happy for you.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 5, 2012 10:54 pm

      Thanks very much. Nice to have some smiles and energy in the household again!

  14. November 7, 2012 4:57 pm

    Those ears ! Classic photographs that bring a smile to my face

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 8, 2012 10:54 pm

      Wonderful, that’s just what they were intended to do! Thanks.

  15. November 11, 2012 4:13 am

    As Alissa says above, Those ears! The ‘attack’ photo made me laugh. You’d best watch Tarka in a stiff wind; might just lift off and fly away. After my wolfhound died I swore no more dogs. Now I have two. There’s just something about their spirit and energy when sharing your space and walking with you. I admit I tell these two they will never compare to the wolfhound. But I lie. And they know it.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 11, 2012 1:08 pm

      What a difference it makes having, as you say, the spirit and energy of a dog in the house again. Not that we are not extremely fond of our Westie, but he is a self-possessed chap and is not a big one for walks. Walking with an enthusiastic dog again so lifts the spirits. My last spaniel was ‘The’ dog for me and I still miss her like an ache in my centre; but Tarka is a wonderful gift to us all. Like you, I couldn’t bear to go for long without dogs in the family.

  16. November 23, 2012 1:23 pm

    Somehow I must’ve completely missed this post before, DB. I have just (belatedly) shared it on Facebook…

    I’m not much of a dog person except for Cocker spaniels… I adore them! And particularly black cocker spaniels because we had one when I was a small child. I still remember our dog’s lovely soft floppy ears. *smiles*

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      November 24, 2012 11:47 pm

      Well, now, there’s a happy coincidence! What lovely dogs they are: hard work but worth it. And as you say, there are those ears… 🙂

      Thank you for sharing this on FB.

  17. March 1, 2016 9:39 am

    Awwww, so sweet. I had been actively pining for a puppy for years when I found myself at the local animal shelter last April and was hit with love at first sight by the “get me out of here, please”- sad eyes of a 9-year old black Cocker Spaniel who I named Sammy (Davis, Jr.). He has been a heaven sent angel of a friend and exercise motivation/ personal trainer to me. I thank him every day for having “rescued” me!


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