Friday, 26 April 2013

A-groping and a-growling we will go!

It's been something of an open secret for the last few months that I have been suffering from acute depression and anxiety - enough to give me panic attacks out in public. I've been trying various forms of treatment and medication, but for one reason or another, they have not managed to do the trick thus far.

Readers of this blog will know that my mother has a dog, a Jack Russell terrier by the name of Toby. He's a family dog and something of an attention whore, but a highly intelligent one, nonetheless.
Intelligence was a hotly-debated topic with our previous dog, Skip. He was a pure-breed English Springer Spaniel, and bloody huge. I don't mean fat, but tall and stocky - I would often have people stop and ask me what breed he was, because you just don't get Springers that large. However, Skip was either clever and sneaky or just plain bloody daft. Honest - we couldn't work it out, even after a dozen years.

Back to Toby.

He loves to cuddle up next to you on the sofa, wedging himself tightly between you and the arm of the sofa (or chair, if you're skinny). In fact, it's slightly alarming, because he curls himself up so much you wonder how he manages to breathe.
However, once he's there, it then becomes a case of symbiosis. He's feeling so much better for cuddling up to you, sure. But, as you stroke him, you feel yourself feeling better too. It's an established fact that petting animals can help people's mood to change for the better - generally. There are limits, of course.

Me - I'm a dog person through and through. Some months ago, Julie thought it would be a good idea to visit a rescue centre, one which allowed you to meet and greet the animals.
We both came away wanting a dog - different dogs, though. Julie liked a Jack Russell, while I fell head over heels for a female boxer by the name of Princess. She'd been there a long time and had developed that institutionalised mentality; resigned to her fate. I'd walked up to her pen and managed to coax her to the door. We sat there for a little while, 'chatting', while I tried to stroke her through the gate.
Unfortunately, we can't have a dog. We don't have the money, we're both technically working full-time - and the terms of our house rent forbids it.
That meant that, after Julie came back to get me, I had to stand and leave Princess behind.
She started crying, and it broke my heart.


More recently, we were out on a drive and had stopped in Hythe in Kent. It was lunchtime and we walked along the semi-pedestrianised high street, peering into various cafes. Hythe was busy, and the cafes reflected this, so we kept walking, hoping to find somewhere a little quieter.

Enter Truly Scrumptious.

As you can see, it's set back from the street a little, sharing a courtyard with some other establishments.
It seemed to be a little quieter than the other places, so we decided to give it a shot.
As we walked in, we heard rock 'n' roll music playing; that was a plus for me, as you all-too-often find that the omnipresent Heart FM will be worming its way through the cafe speakers. As I headed up to the counter to ask whether they had soy milk (I also have a milk intolerance), I was gratified to see the largest collection of teas and infusions I have ever seen outside of a supermarket. Heck - I've seen supermarkets with less of a range. Apparently, tea is an obsession of a level normally associated with coffee drinkers for one of the owners. That said, I was told that her husband (sorry! I forgot to ask your names!) is precisely that sort of coffee enthusiast.

Fancy a brew? Of course you do.

In the end, after some agonising over the infusions, I went for a pot of our celebrated favourite, Lapsang Souchong - with soy - and a plate of chips with cheese and chilli. Julie just had a sausage inna bun and a bottle of Coke.

As we waited for our order, more people arrived. In fact, it rather looked as though we had got there and ordered just in time to beat the rush. Some stayed inside, some went and sat outside. Mind you, since they had dogs with them, the cafe policy meant they had to remain outside.
We were sat next to a large plate glass window, and a couple arrived with their dog to sit at the table just outside from us.

Oh, but what a dog.

This is Finn. What a handsome chap.

Obviously, there is a large amount of spaniel going on there and since my family had had an English Springer before, I was definitely melting inside. At our table, my tea arrived, much to Julie's disgust. I paid it hardly any heed. The same went for the i crossword we were poring over. I was trying to decipher the clues, but I kept being distracted by the dog outside.

In the end, Julie gave up, exasperated in a good-humoured way.

Er, what? I think you'll find that's stroked' or 'petted', love.

Of course, I did give in to my impulse and went outside to introduce myself to the dog and his humans.* As it turned out, the dog went by the name of Finn and had an interesting story.
Finn was found wandering the streets, somewhere in Ireland (I forgot to ask which Ireland. Mea Culpa). When he was picked up, he was taken to one of the Dogs' Trust centres in Scotland and from there, he was then adopted by a couple from Suffolk. And there I was, an ex-pat Brummie (Birmingham) from Eastbourne,  on a day out to a Kentish town bumping into an Irish dog and his new family. Cool.

Apparently, Finn is a cross-breed, a mix of Springer spaniel and setter, the latter explaining the grey spotting on his coat. Funnily enough, his humans (whose names I also neglected to note. Sorry!), had always said they didn't want a spaniel, because they had had experience with them before and found that, like me and Skip, spaniels can be just a tad brainless.
Happily, Finn cast a spell upon them, and they were immediately smitten.
As was I.
Oh well. At least I didn't have to worry about Finn's future, he now had a good home, it would appear.

OK folks, I want to make a little request here.
If, like me, you want to have a dog for a companion, then I would like to congratulate you on your choice. However, when you go looking for one, please be careful about the people and places you get them from. Puppy farms are not illegal, but if you do go this route, be very sure that they are registered with all the proper authorities, and that the animals have had all the shots and medication, with the documentation to prove it.
Please don't buy from a small ad in a local newspaper, or via some unknown on the internet.
In fact, considering the amount of dogs that escape, are discarded or rescued from owners who mistreated them, why not go to a rescue centre, be a hero and rescue a dog yourself. You'll feel even better when you 'fondle' them, then.

*Yes, I did make a fuss of Finn. He was a happy dog, as most Springer spaniels are, and his grin and his energy was infectious. Yes, I felt a lot happier for his presence.