The start of a journey

 

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It seems that I’m often on motorways at this time of year, in the weeks leading up to Lammas, when the fields are golden with wheat and yellow with rape, and cylinders of gathered hay scatter the land.  There is something rich and hopeful about this part of the season and something calming about viewing it at speed from a long straight road that cuts through the landscape.

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But there is nothing serene about this journey.  We are travelling to a specialist veterinary hospital, where our dog, Winston, will be checked over by a neurologist and receive an MRI scan, after developing a sudden weakness in his back legs.  I watch the fields unfold, attempting to dampen the anxiety of this unexpected journey.  Suddenly, I glimpse something strange at the side of the road, something I know shouldn’t be there.  For a moment, I don’t know what I’ve seen, but then I realise it is a deer, walking on the verge.  We hold our breath – she’s too close to the motorway –  but in a moment, she turns and melts safely into the trees.  I’ve often thought that the deer is the spirit of the woods, a gentle, airy spirit, barely glimpsed.  Seeing her now is a good omen, I think.

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At the hospital there is talk of slipped discs and surgery, meningitis or stroke.  There is definitely a neurological problem, but it seems to be at the low end of the scale.  We leave Winston for assessment and drive home silently.  As we do, the month’s heat gathers into ominous clouds, hinting at a storm that doesn’t come.  To a house that is silent and strange without him.

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The clouds finally break the next day.  A light drizzle sets in that won’t do much for the withered plants, but brings the temperature down to more comfortable levels.  We’re bringing Winston home today.  He has two calcified discs, that have caused inflammation of his spine, but they’re hopeful that it will settle with medication and physiotherapy.  He is confused and crying after the anaesthetic, panting beside me on the journey home with wide eyes.

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We settle into a week of worry and waiting.  Winston has been my walking companion for almost six years.  It is because of him that I re-discovered nature.  It is on our walks that I see what I see.  But he is forced to rest, only short visits to the park at the end of the road.  Yet there are still glimpses to be had on short walks, or on no walks at all: gilded clouds above our back yard, swifts screaming high in the sky near sunset, goldfinches chattering on the telegraph wires, my only ladybird of the summer on our gate post.

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A week later and we return to the hospital for a check up and to see the physio.  Dark clouds mass over the motorway once more.  Winston’s neurologist wants to watch him walk, so we take him outside to find that rain has finally come.  More than drizzle this time.  Strong, soaking rain.  We don’t care that it’s falling as we walk, we’re all refreshed by it.  And with the balm of the rain comes good news.  He is stronger, the inflammation must be settling.  We come away, for now, with instructions for massage and gentle exercises.  This is not something that will go away.  We will have to manage it, there may be things he can no longer do, it could become worse.  We don’t know how long the journey will be or where it will take us.  Back at home, I stand in the yard as the rain falls, tilting my face into it.  I’ve waited weeks for this, for the benediction of rain.  The scent of it in the air is like hope.

99 thoughts on “The start of a journey

  1. Oh Andrea, Winston is adorable, like a little otter….I’m so glad that the prognosis is hopeful. All I can offer is a lesson that I’m learning myself – take each day as it comes. Don’t let tomorrow’s possible trouble overshadow the happiness of today (inasmuch as that is ever possible, us human beings being the way that we are). There is much to learn from a dog’s total involvement in the moment, their attentiveness and joy, and Winston looks as if he is a most excellent mentor in these matters.

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  2. It’s a benediction indeed, Andrea. For the land, for you, and for sweet Winston. Our grand-dog had a problem a week ago too, and we worried and waited for the news.
    Maybe you should name your sweet companion “Winston Benedict” as he has been a blessing to you too. My best wishes to you all.

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  3. There is nothing to add to what I have already said. You are a fine writer, one I look forward to each week. I do not say that to too many writers. Sending best wishes to your walking companion.

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  4. I wait for your posts.. Each one is uplifting and inspiring; your observations and your choice of words surprise and comfort. Thank you for sharing.
    Winston has such a trusting expression! Wishing him better health soon.

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  5. Oh, Andrea, my heart goes out to you and little Winston. It is so difficult when anything goes wrong with our small best friends, and especially when it’s something that a week of pills or the like won’t make better. Winston looks to me like a Border Terrier (or close) which means he’s a scrappy boy with a lot of heart; I know he won’t take this lying down. Sending love and healing light to him – and you – for his feeling his best for a long, long time yet to come.

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  6. Our animal companions are our children. I am keeping little Winston in my thoughts and prayers, Andrea. It is good news that the inflammation is going down.

    Your writing is beautiful, as always.

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  7. ‘He is confused and crying after the anaesthetic’ I remember that my Jack was like this after his first dental surgery. His sobs nearly made me dissolve into a puddle of tears. I spent ages afterwards just holding him and consoling him. I hope your dear Winston will enjoy a good quality of life now the problem has been diagnosed. For him, I suspect, good quality will include just being in your presence and knowing he is loved.

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  8. Ah, your darling Winston. It’s so difficult to be faced with our furry loves’ decline, especially since they can’t speak to let us know. He has the face of the kindest angel, your companion on this journey. I’m hoping for a good prognosis moving forward and many more lovely walks in nature.

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  9. I always get a tear in my eye when I read about health issues with these precious gifts to humanity. I know what you mean when you say that Winston re-awakened you to nature. They have a way of reminding us of things we sometimes take for granted. I’m glad to hear that Winston is improving, but it’s so difficult to watch them in any sort of discomfort. Here’s to keeping him feeling as well as can be. Those photos of him are adorable.

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  10. Your writing is, as always, gorgeous, Andrea. Even through the pain of worry, you find the beauty around you.
    I hope Winston’s condition becomes more than manageable so that you may take longer walks. We all benefit from them.
    Lotsa love,
    Dale

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  11. Ah, what a cute pup! So sorry he’s feeling low and having some health issues. I’m currently dealing with a kitty that is feeling bad. She’s had antibiotics, anti inflammatories, X-rays and supplements. Next week is her fourth follow up visit. I’m hoping all is cleared up. We love our pets. They bring so much joy into our lives. How wonderful that Winston helped you to re-discover nature. He really is a special one! Hoping he feels better. x

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  12. Oh, Andrea. He is adorable and has the sweetest eyes. I am sorry he is in any pain at all but am so glad he has you. They are furry angels, aren’t they? They keep watch over us as much as us them.

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  13. Oh, Andrea — poor dear, Winston. He’s such a sweetie. I’m so glad that it isn’t anything fatal and he’s set to improve. I know that when our dogs are in pain, it’s as if we’ve in pain ourselves. Give him a gentle stroke from me, and lots of healing thoughts x

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  14. All the best wishes for the cute little Winston ! As you rightly said Andrea, rain symbolises hope. I believe, Mother Nature is far beyond the reach of medical science and the healing can be much better than what doctor expects. Just wait and see …….
    Prayers going up and blessings coming down !

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  15. How lovely to rediscover nature with your little pal. It’s tough when things like this happen .. thinking of you and Winston and fingers crossed for better health for him soon. So pleased to hear it rained …

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  16. All my best wishes for cute little Winston !
    There is much, the Mother Nature holds than what the medical science knows. Your little buddy will come around …. its only a matte of time. Just wait and see …..
    The prayers going up and blessing coming down !

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  17. Dear Andrea, such a heartfelt post.
    Winston is too cute for words. I’m sure the house was indeed silent while he was away. I know that feeling too well, and felt it again when they took Crystal to have the cancerous growth removed. The emptiness. But she came back strong.
    It’s wonderful that you are feeling positive. Hugs on the wing!

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  18. Oh, I hope that Winston will be able to join you again on these wandering walks across the country. It’s hard to witness our fury friends hurting. Looks like yours is in good hands, both with the knowledgeable vet and his loving family.

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  19. Hope this reaches you Andrea,hoping dog ok! Had to comment on ‘benediction of rain’ a very singular phrase,if you dont mind a very none-arty guy (if theres such a term) with the affront to make a challenge to it,or am I way out of my depth?? Regards to miss Bland.

    Sent from my iPhone

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    • Well finally, don’t you reply to your emails?! Hope you’re well, Winston’s doing okay but we’re at the physio tomorrow so we’ll get a progress report then. I hear you’ve been taking to the seas under your own steam, be careful out there 🙂

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  20. My goodness, Andrea. I’m so sorry to hear about Winston’s condition. I can imagine what joy he’s brought you and your spouse so far—and will continue to do. Hoping for a pain-free and content future for all three of you!

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  21. oh I am so glad Winston is doing better and that you two can continue to walk so your followers here can relish your words and thoughts on the changing seasons! I’m not quite ready to let Summer go but our heat wave has also abated. it’s been a difficult path this year but father sun has energized my mood as the golden grasses sway in the breeze and the young deer grace the little hill with their genteel quietness. ( except that they eat my flowers lol).

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  22. Lovely to visit you after to long dear Andrea. Oh I do hope that your darling Winston is feeling much better. As we have agreed many times, our pets are family and how we grieve when they suffer. I hope you are both enjoying your lovely walks again… xxx

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  23. Okay, now, reading backwards chronologically, I see these posts all about Winston. Praying for Winston! My mom is in the hospital, and she was greatly cheered by a therapy dog named Brody. He put his paws right up on her bed to offer his comfort and love. Sending love and healing to Winston!

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  24. It’s good to know Winston is able to walk, albeit a little now. He did look a little sad in the picture before he reached the vet. It must be have hurt awfully. Absolutely loved the write-up.

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