Our little dog Suzy is causing us some concern. She was abandoned outside the house four years ago, a skinny frightened, shivering little thing. The slightest bang still frightens her and she runs and hides in the toilet if we have a thunderstorm or even just swat a fly on the wall. When she first arrived I immediately took pity on her but Clive thought she was ugly and was adamant that we did not need another dog.
The kids and I fed her in secret and made her comfortable in the outside kennel, pretending to ourselves that Clive hadn’t noticed. The longer she stayed, the more we hoped that Clive would agree to keep her, she was such a sweet, sad little thing. She really wasn’t any trouble, and she was so desperate to be loved that we didn’t have the heart to send her away.
At the time we had a young female dog, Jess,the sister of Chici, the dog we have now adopted from our Spanish neighbours. She was due to be spayed but as the time for her operation drew closer, we had noticed that neighborhood dogs had been taking a keen interest in Suzy, and were worried that she could be pregnant. I persuaded Clive that it would be sensible to take Suzy to be fixed at the same time, and off we went.
The day of the operation was very cold, and when I arrived to collect the two dogs, the vet made a big fuss of finding some old jumpers to keep the dogs warm in the car. He stressed that it was important for them to be kept indoors in the warm. You can just imagine Suzy’s smug little smile of satisfaction, the minute she finally made it over the threshold and into the house – I don’t think the smile has left her face since. Now she reigns like the queen of Sheba, sitting on her favourite armchair in front of the fire. I’m sure she smirks at Clive whenever she looks at him, poor Clive, he never stood a chance.
Suzy does have a very regal expression anyway, and does a very funny Meercat impression, which she is happy to demonstrate to our guests, it is so funny.
Over the last couple of years she has started having epileptic fits. She is having on average one a week, which the vet says is not worth treating but it has recently started to cause problems with the other dogs.
Normally, Scruffy, Suzy, Chici and Buster all get on very well, but to my dismay something happened the other day that made my blood run cold. I was in the kitchen when I heard the dogs barking. It just sounded like they were playing so I ignored it, but then I heard a pitiful crying sound, and on running out, discovered that Chici and Scruffy were attacking Suzy, who was having a fit. Luckily she was fine, but I dread to think what would have happened if I had not been there. It is very worrying and upsetting to realise that even the friendliest dogs can revert to their natural instincts when another animal is perceived as a victim.
We had experience of the damage dogs can do to another animal when our goats were attacked.
It was in the summer and luckily the bedroom window was open. I was suddenly woken up by the sound of frenzied dog barking. Our dogs in the house had heard it too, and were barking to go out and investigate.
I ran outside and could hear that the barking was coming from the direction of the goats. Then I heard the worst crying sound I have ever heard, it still haunts me now. I just ran blindly in the dark with bare feet, ignoring the cactus thorns and stones, my heart pounding. As I approached the goat pen it was obvious by the noise that the goats were being attacked by stray dogs. I just screamed and shouted as loud as I could as I entered the pen, and thank goodness the dogs ran off, squeezing under the wire fence. In the dark I couldn’t see if the goats were hurt, but I ran my hands over them and they seemed o.k.,
Fudge felt wet around her neck but I put that down to saliva. I pushed them into their shed and shut them in, just in case the dogs came back, and went back to bed.
To my horror, when I turned on the light to wash my hands I discovered that they were covered in blood.
Armed with Clive and a torch this time, I ran back down to the goats to see what was wrong. Poor Fudge, her injuries were terrible, it looked like the dogs had been trying to tear her throat out. Holly had been luckier, with only a small cut on her back. I cleaned them up as best I could and rang the vet. Thankfully, after a week of having to give them daily injections they were both fine, but what a frightening experience.
For the next few weeks we had to shut the goats in every night, which they weren’t too happy about. We did locate the owner of the dog, who promised to keep them under control in future, but it has left me very worried, every time I hear a dog bark at night.
Animals! Who’d have them? Life would certainly be easier without them!
As if we haven’t got enough problems, Clive has got it into his head to rear a couple of pigs for meat. Considering that apart from a couple of the cats, I’m sure Clive could quite cheerfully say goodbye to all our animals, we really should humour him in this latest challenge. There is a small problem though (and no, its not the smell, as apparently if you keep them clean they are not too bad). No, it’s the fact that Elizabeth is a vegetarian and I also know for a fact that I will not cope easily with killing Pinky and Perky! With the best intensions in the world, the pigs will become pets, and though I am trying to convince myself that the pigs would have a good life with us, and would be destined for meat any way, I know I would find it impossible to allow them to be killed.
This summer has been one of the best as far as the animals are concerned. They all look lovely and healthy and happy and have settled in to a nice routine now and are quite often the highlight of the holiday for our guests, who often make comments in the guest book to that effect. It is so lovely to see little children who live in London with no pets delight in having a dog outside their door when they wake up in the morning, or a cat sleeping on the cane over their patio. Of course they love to help groom the horses or feed the goats, and collecting the eggs is a firm favourite, though I have lost count of how many eggs have been dropped by little hands on the way up from the field to show Mum and Dad.
Guests often comment that we should make more of the fact that we have the animals on our website, but we have to explain that as not everyone feels the same about animals it is difficult as we aim to please everyone, and if people don’t like dogs then we are more than happy to keep them in our own courtyard so that they don’t bother them. (And we certainly don’t allow them to bark all day as we know how annoying that can be.) In the recession we value every single holiday booking and tailor each holiday to suit the guest, so that if they are not animal people then they won’t have to worry about them and visa versa.
We are very aware that animals can put some people off, we were actually asked recently by some Norwegians who were making a holiday enquiry if we allowed our dogs to swim in the pool! A chance would be a fine thing as they are all scared of it, and anyway the pool is gated, but sadly they decided not to book, despite our assurances. Oh well, you can’t win them all, but we do try our hardest to!