Tuesday, 27 August 2013

and then there was Max

So, first things first, this is Max. He's 13 days old today and he will be coming home with us in October. He opened his eyes to have a little peek at us, then promptly scrambled off to have his lunch. He's tiny and a bit wrinkly and very, very lovely. This is really the most important news you need to know; the rest is just backstory, but do feel free to stick around if you're curious.

When Jasper died, a surprising number of people asked if we would get a new dog. Dog owners, non-dog owners, dog haters, dog lovers, didn't matter - dozens of people asked us this question right after he died. At the time, I said no, definitely not. I am not putting myself through that heartbreak again. It was horrible and I didn't want to experience that kind of loss a second time. As time went by, I still didn't want another dog (and my stomach sank when Paul said he definitely wanted another) but I hated not having a dog. Jasper left a huge hole in our lives, crumbs on our floor, and the absence of toenail tapping on our floors. 

As we got to the six month mark, I started to feel like the time was right to get another dog. I had a look at the Kennel Club site for local breeders, and thought to go back to the breeders who gave us Jasper - but then somehow this seemed wrong. It's totally irrational, but I didn't like the idea of getting a dog that may be genetically linked to Jasper; it would feel like we were trying to replace him or that we would expect this dog to be the same. There was also the nagging worry that Jasper's cancer may have been hereditary, so getting another dog from the same line may have some risk. I had a long look at the KC site and narrowed it down to a few breeders, but one in particular caught my eye. They're called Copperwheat Labradors and they had quite a few accolades from the KC. I got in touch with them and they arranged for us to visit in a couple of weeks.

A colleague of mine was showing off photos of her new puppy at work the other day, which just happened to be a Copperwheat Lab. She said she spotted some handsome Labs at a horse event and asked where they got their dogs from, and they recommended Copperwheat. I took this to be a good sign and we looked forward to our visit.

When I spoke to Ken from Copperwheat, he said he didn't have any black boys available with their current litter (our preference), but invited us to come and see the pups and have a chat about what they do. He said they do have several litters a year, so I just assumed we'd have to wait for the next one - which is fine, seeing as we're in RenoHell at the moment.

We took Jack and Mia with us, only telling them in the car where we were going (they weren't that excited about it, to be honest.) Ken turned out to be a lovely, friendly man who is clearly enthusiastic about his dogs and training dogs for field trials. He talked us through the process of getting a dog, asked us about our experience with dogs, and we had a long talk about their health checks, hip scores, and lots of other things that will bore the socks off anyone who isn't a dog person. Then the fun began: we met the puppies.

It took huge amounts of restraint to not run off with all the puppies in my handbag. They were so small and sweet, curled up around each other. It ends up that one boy did end up becoming available and as Ken held him aloft, he said "This would be your dog!" Their mother greeted us gently, calmly, affectionately giving us her head for a pat. Ken's dogs are all so chilled, it's amazing. We're used to Jasper's lead-lined tail and the way he barrelled out of the house (and up the stairs and through the house), it was so strange to be greeted by a dog that simply wags its tail and gives you a little nuzzle. 

Ken then brought out several of his dogs, all different personalities, all ages, and various levels of training. They were all astoundingly well-behaved and beautiful. It may sound strange (or shallow) to keep going on about good behaviour, but a docile and intelligent dog that is highly trainable is ideal, especially for a family pet. Copperwheat also provide information on training, house training (very important!), and ask you to come back with the dog after a few months if you would like advice or just to let them know how you're getting on. It really felt like Ken ran the Rolls Royce of dog breeders. We were so impressed.

So needless to say, it took us about 2 seconds of deliberation to confirm that we would very much like that boy we saw at the beginning. By this point, the kids were markedly more excited. We left feeling excited and happy, me feeling a bit emotional. We never saw Jasper as a very young pup as we got him at 11 weeks old. We will see this pup again at 4 weeks, then we'll take him home at 8. 

I realised that this pup was born almost exactly 10 years after Jasper arrived in our home. Everything just seemed to fall into place. I know that this dog will break our hearts again one day, but the alternative of never having another dog in this house was equally heartbreaking. I also know that this dog is not Jasper, and will have a personality all of his own. 

And suddenly all the mess and the chaos and the stress of renovating seems a lot more bearable.

Friday, 23 August 2013

building mayhem

Our renovations are now in full swing and by the gods, I am stressed. It's the mess, the demolition dust that hangs in the air and sticks to my lungs, and the lack of privacy when I'm at home during the day. It's not appreciating that we would be pretty much without a usable kitchen many weeks in advance of the new kitchen fitting. It's having to lift off dust sheets, trying to remember where we've stored things, and brushing a layer of plaster off the kettle just to make a cup of tea. It's chaos. I'm grumpy and I've got constant heartburn.

"It'll all be worth it in the end," everyone and their dog tells me. Of course it will but for the moment, it's NOT FUN. I've got a hideous cold today and all I want to do is curl up under the duvet. Instead, I had to get up early this morning to let the plasterers in and take Isla to nursery. Then I had to go forage for food because I can't make anything in my kitchen while they are scraping the walls and slapping plaster up. At this very moment, I'm sitting on my bed with a bag of food next to me so I don't have to go down to the kitchen. This cannot possibly be normal.

They've put the new concrete floor down in the extension and have been plastering over the hideous Artex on all the ceilings downstairs. When I went down this morning, everything was covered in a layer of condensation. All the pictures, cards, and drawings on our fridge were soaking wet. I am breathing in this damp horrible smelling air while dealing with a chest cold. Thankfully today it's hot and sunny outside so with all the windows and doors open, this should get rid of most of the moisture. It's also letting a few wasps in, but I'm willing to compromise.

Our bedroom is my haven. Our other upstairs rooms are full of mess and clutter from the other rooms downstairs (sorry kids), so this is the one place I feel like I can escape the insanity. Paul has taken Jack and Mia camping for a couple of nights, so it's just Isla and I at the moment. Last night, we sat on my big bed watching movies and fell asleep together. I had a terrible night's sleep from my cold and the stress (I can't lie down without suffering from heartburn/reflux. It's like being pregnant again.) Isla snored away all night long, cheerfully telling me "I slept very well!" when she woke up this morning. Bless her. She is going to be so pissed off when she has to sleep in her own room.

The kids have been great, I have to admit. They've mostly stayed out of the rubble and away from all the tools and debris. Jack's been so excited since day one ("I really like our house! I can't wait until our new room is done!") and Mia...well, she's Mia. Happy but generally doesn't really quite grasp what's going on and doesn't seem to care that much. Isla seems to have regressed a bit - acting up, talking "babyish", and getting very clingy when I leave her at nursery. There's been a lot of change for her with all the renovations and with starting school next month. She's been enjoying the extra attention from us (when Jack and Mia went to their grandparents' last week) and from me this week. Mostly, she's been enjoying having total control over the television.

I am stressed out the wazoo. I don't deal well with unpredictability and a lack of control, but that's what you get when you renovate. Thankfully the building company we're using (Ambury Developments) are fantastic and very reliable, but things are still beyond our control as it's the nature of the business. Like today for example, when the plasterer told us that we should wait around 6 weeks before we paint the walls in the extension. SIX MORE WEEKS. That's bloody October. I had no idea we wouldn't be able to properly finish that room for so long. Then there's the kitchen - I didn't think about the fact that knocking down walls would mean losing quite a few cupboards/storage space. I hadn't planned on packing up the kitchen until the new fit, but we ended up having to pack up about half the kitchen the day before we left on holiday. That was a hoot. And then there will be a lag of up to one week between having our old kitchen completely ripped out and the new one getting started, and then another couple of weeks before the new one is finished. The kids are all like "Yay Dominos every night!" No. No we won't.

I am eternally grateful for the kindness of friends and family who have given us a sympathetic ear and have offered to have us over for meals to give us a break from the mess. I know that it sounds shallow and selfish to be complaining about doing renovations when there are families struggling with much bigger issues every day of their lives. I am also grateful for the fact that we're in a position to do things like this. But for now, please, I need to moan. I need to vent and get it out. I need a good cry, a large glass of wine, and a hug. I need to make it through deadline time at work. I need this cold to bugger off. I need to take a deep breath.

For now, I'll just hide up here with my mug of tea and pot of yoghurt.