Our best friends


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This magnificent creature was making the most of the water in the dog’s bowl at my gate. He could have been Captain Scott’s dog Osman, the wonderful husky who saved so many dog’s lives when the team fell into a deep icy crevasse. Gallant Osman hung on at the brink, taking the whole weight of the dogs and the sleds until they were rescued. This hero survived Scott’s disastrous Antarctic expedition, and ended his days here in New Zealand.

If I’m reading history, it isn’t the dates and the battles that stick in my mind but the children and the animals, and I hate to read in the news that a head of state has donated two Russian wolf-hounds, or a splendid race horse on a state visit. The poor creatures are torn away from their homes and given to uninterested strangers speaking a foreign language.

To this day, I sorrow for Mary, Queen of Scots’ little Skye terrier who came with her to the block, hidden in her long skirts. When the Queen’s head had been severed, the faithful creature rushed out and stood howling between the body and the head. Nothing would entice the little dog away from the remains of the person she was devoted to. Finally, when the Queen’s body was removed the little dog was repeatedly washed by her grieving ladies to remove the blood and the smell, but she refused to eat, and died shortly after of a broken heart.

Marie Antoinette’s pet- dog who shared her solitary confinement, was left behind when the white-haired, dignified Queen was hustled out to the guillotine, and was adopted by the prison governor – we don’t know for how long that little dog pined.

And Joy, the Russian Tsarevich’s spaniel, was found in the deserted house in Ekaterinberg, eight days after the massacre of the Russian Royal family, when an army of White Russians took the city and a group of officers rushed to the Ipatiev house where the family had been imprisoned. The little dog was starving and wandering around looking for his master. History does not put my mind at rest as to the fate of this little dog. (It also seems to suggest that being the beloved of royalty is a dangerous destiny.)

But just as bad was the fate of Joseph Banks’ dogs. Banks was the naturalist who sailed with Captain Cook on his first great voyage in 1768. Besides cluttering up the tiny ship with four servants, Banks also brought his two pet greyhounds with him.

After two years voyaging, still at sea, the Endeavour called at Savu Island, and after a drunken night dining with the local Rajah who wanted an English sheep and an English dog, Cook gave him the last sheep on board, and Banks gave him one of his greyhounds. What the sensitive greyhound went through pining and parted from his life-time companion, and the men who he knew and loved, to be abandoned on a tropical island among people who had no idea of what a dog or a sheep was, doesn’t bear thinking of – not by me at any rate.

And at Matavai Bay, Tahiti, ten years later, the captain of another English ship, the Mercury, reported that an English pointer left behind by a previous ship: “singled them out, showing its joy by every action the poor animal was capable of.” Which tells us that the dog was capable of distinguishing between races, and was homesick, and was probably hoping to go back to its old familiar home across the sea when it recognised the sailors. I wish I knew that the sailors had taken it back home, but I fear they didn’t.

Then there was Mackenzie, from New Zealand’s South Canterbury, a cattle rustler. His dog was brought into Lyttleton court as a witness. She slipped her chain and ran over to the dock, scratching and whining, trying to get in and join her master. The red- bearded rustler, who’d refused to speak a word until then, began to weep. He begged to keep the dog and take any punishment the court meted out.

“I ‘ll make your roads, I’ll break your stones… only let me keep her.” They didn’t let him keep her of course, being men of stone themselves, and the little black dog was sold to a farmer who she refused to work for, only knowing commands in Gaelic. We don’t know the end of either her or her master.

But what we do know is that too often it’s only their owners who care about their dogs. Once the person who loved them is no longer there, a dog’s life is an uncertain one. Which is why I love the wonderful people – and many of them are bloggers – who rescue and adopt the dogs who have been left behind. And in my experience there is no dog as devoted as one who has been rescued. I used to have three at a time, and wherever I walked, from kitchen to garden, from bedroom to study, fourteen feet moved

The gratitude of a rescued dog never ends. They know that all their happiness is the gift of love from a stranger who becomes their beloved.Last year, when his mistress died, Lochi, a rescued German shepherd, a beautiful silvery creature, went to mass every day at the church of San Donaci in Italy as soon as he heard the bells ringing. He sat where his owner last lay in her coffin. He died two months after her of a broken heart. (wonderfully, so as not to disturb him, the local priest served mass down in the church instead of at the altar.)

If only people had hearts as big and loving as dogs we wouldn’t have places like Syria and Palestine, Ukraine and Afghanistan and all the other broken hearts in the world. There is a mantra : let only love prevail…


Food for threadbare gourmets

Still lotus-eating at the end of the long dry summer, I sat in a bower in my dearest friend’s green garden, enjoying a long talk and a simple lunch with her. Just a delicious glass of chilled rose, a slice of salmon on a bed of brown rice with goodies in it, and a salad of green leaves, translucent slices of ripe pear, and parmesan flakes mixed through with the vinaigrette, followed by coffee and a chocolate truffle… what more could one desire… love and lotus –eating !

The brown rice had been cooked and then marinated in soya sauce. Sun flowers seeds, sultanas soaked until plump, chopped apricots,  spring onions, and walnuts then mixed through. Delicious with the salmon, but just as good with warm lamb or chicken I suspect…


Food for thought

You might quiet the whole world for a second if you pray.       And if you love, if you really love,      our guns will wilt.

St John of the Cross, translated by Daniel Ladinsky



Filed under animals/pets, bloggers, cookery/recipes, food, great days, history, love, royalty, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

60 responses to “Our best friends

  1. Love, love, love this!


  2. Well, there’s a new window into history! One day, it won’t be the hidden histories of women that are told, but that of animals. Well, one can hope. How very beautiful.


  3. Dogs are indeed amazingly faithful in their love. My grandmother told me of her little dog who managed to find her and her family when they had been accidentally separated at the end of WWII. The dog walked miles to get to another village where his human family had been sheltered from the bombing.
    Thank you also for the Marie-Antoinette’s pet mention. Although French, I had no idea.


  4. Good to hear from you Evelyne… what a happy story about your grandmother’s little dog – so good to hear happy endings…
    At least Marie Antoinette’s dog was looked after – unlike her little son… you know about him?


  5. Goodness, what misery. poor wee things.. I do hope I manage to out live my dogs.. what a thought.. c

    On Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 4:26 PM, valeriedavies


    • Yes, I have achieved that goal… they all died happy !!!


      • good, because this was a sad page..c


      • Dear Celi – I will do better next time! Joie de vivre next post ! XXX


      • Oh yes. I know it is important to know, and deal with reality, god knows we do enough of that out here. We are surrounded in ice and so many times a day I have this image of your Nuns gliding across the ice in the evening on their borrowed skates their habits flying out behind them. i am now haunted by that image.. I worry about the bits of corn stalk that stick up through the frozen sheets tripping them. Your Nuns have come to live with me now.. funny isn’t it, what catches the imagination. drops through a window and onto the solid floor of our memory… never to be forgotton.. hmm.. c


      • Celi, I just loved what you wrote about the nuns… should have got back to you earlier, but life has run me over rather recently…
        Glorious picture that you painted… and lovely thought about memory and imagination…love the way your mind works !!!


  6. love this post and so adore the wonderful husky… Barbara


  7. Makes me want to go rescue a dog right now. Sigh for allergies.


  8. I am pleased to nominate you for the Versatile Blogger Award. The rules are here: http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/vba-rules/ Congratulations! —Jadi


    • Dear Jadi, congratulation on your awards – so well -deserved.
      And thank you so much for thinking of me, but I will say no thank you… I just don’t do awards… honoured though I am that you thought of me… warm wishes,.Valerie


      • Hi Valerie, I decided a while ago to respond to nominations as it gives me the opportunity to promote the blogs I admire. I completely understand your decision to decline it though.


      • No strings attached and I completely understand. The reason I respond to being nominated myself is that it gives me a chance to promote the blogs I like. I knew you were going on one of those lists!


  9. Beautifully written Valerie., and oh how I agree with your sentiments at the end. I openly admit I’ve howled at the death of both a budgie and a rat so easily because of the devotion they’ve displayed – animals few would credit with those kind of feelings.
    Would that the world showed half as much feeling for each other as animals and owners do for each other and would that the owners of all animals showed as much feeling for the animals as the animals often do for them.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx


    • Thank you you so much David, so good to know that you enjoyed it… Yes, I agree with all you say… even goldfish have intelligence and even the life of a spider is worth saving ! Great to hear from you, Valerie


  10. Anonymous

    Thank you Lovely story


  11. Dogs and horses are human’s best friends. (And guinea pigs too). 🙂

    Valerie, you might like this book ‘Animals at War’ Usborne Young Reading for your grandchildren (if they are young). My daughter loved reading it and frequently reads it again.


    • Hello Paula, yes, you’re right, and rabbits and parrots – and all of creation if only we let them in !!!
      Thank you for the book reference – lovely idea … but my grandchildren are all now at university, and looking at things like DNA and Nietsche, and suchlike !!!!


  12. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/hotga/MicroObject.asp?item=8&themeid=2591&object=2580028&row=9&detail=about Dear Osman did have a happy ending, thank goodness. Valerie, a beautiful post, full of wonderful, thought provoking stories. Husky Rescue NZ operates from Christchurch http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/christchurch-life/9292166/Huskies-suffer-cold-shoulder. It really is sad how we fail our “friends”. Look how closely we are linked http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLeYCAuNDY8 Mmmm… a lot of links in this comment but I am passionate about this subject.


  13. Poor doggies. Such sad stories. (Hunds in Swedish)


  14. Rescue dogs, wonderful creatures. I have a new one who is still trying to learn my home and still socializing. She is still a bit fearful and it breaks my heart. But she is lovely and loving.

    These were wonderful though at times heartbreaking stories. Thank you for them. The pictures were beautiful.


    • Dear Val, so good to hear from you. I had been puzzling how to answer your last post, but knowing that you have a loving companion gives me some peace of mind. Nurturing yourself sounds like no 1 priority at the moment, and your little darling will help you do that, I hope
      Thank you as always for your encouragement. so glad you liked the pics – he was gorgeous wasn’t he… amazing intelligence


  15. Since I’ve never read a post of yours I didn’t like, we’ll take that part as given (and I’ve already given it my gravatar seal-of-approval above.) Some miscellaneous thoughts….

    On the subject of dog bowls…I love the many businesses in downtown Naperville have water dishes out in the summer for passing thirsty dogs.

    On foster dogs…We fostered several pit bulls and it and they were such a joy. If anyone’s interested, here are a few links about Janie, our first foster, who has a forever home now. There are a few more, but I don’t want to overdo it. 🙂


    On giving animals as gifts…I agree with you in the main, but I would love to have been one of the people gifted with a gorgeous Arabian by some wealthy sheik. The horse would have been loved to death! 🙂

    On dogs as pets…Too many people take on a dog with regard for how much time and space they have, what type of dog is best based on those things and the requirements for that breed rather than how the dog looks and then, if things don’t work out, too many just dump their pets. How can they??? In addition, there should be more spaying and neutering, which would go a long way to help.

    OK. That’s it. Way more than my two cents’ worth. 🙂 Have a wonder-filled weekend, Valerie.



  16. As I lead a life in transition and move forward to the next chapter I long to have the company of a dog…..it must surely happen. On reading your blog I feel uplifted and know that the joy of rescuing a dog is ahead! Thanks for blogging your writing is looked forward to each month.


  17. Dearest Valerie,

    Little Widget (the one who put his paw on my shoulder in that picture you saw) was a rescue dog. He’s the one I continually ask to meet me when I get to heaven (He may have a long wait there, though. Doesn’t matter, as long as he gets there and if he isn’t allowed in then I don’t want to go there anyway.)

    Your post is heartbreaking and heartwarming and the picture of the visitor to your dog friendly aid station is beautiful. The dogs in your neighborhood are blessed.

    Kia Ora,



  18. Valerie,

    The same can be said for cats. I hate to see anyone abusing any animal or abandoning them.



    • Dear Sunni,
      Really lovely to hear from you. I so agree and cats are a whole other story- gorgeous things – hope all yours are thriving…. I don”t get another one as they live so long and I don’t want anyone else to look after my utterly spoiled pets…love Valerie


  19. Both sad and touching, I hate to think of what dogs feel when their people are unexplainably gone.


  20. Yes, I feel the same… good to hear from you Andrea…. hope your weather is improving..


  21. What a beautiful dog! Do you always leave a bowl of water for passing dogs? What a lovely idea.


  22. two engaging goldens

    It saddens me a lot to hear of animals suffering. I have planned to get a rescued golden when I next find myself dogless (I cannot imagine living without a golden). I think I am privileged to be able to have many animals, cows, chookies, goldens and budgies, as well as lots of wildlife, to share my life with. Also a hubby who shares my love of animals. You are very considerate to leave water out for passing pooches. Joy


  23. Luanne

    Oh my, I had to skim the 2nd half, Valerie. How did you find out this information about the dogs left behind? There are so many sad animal stories in the world, and I find that I feel more burdened by it as I get older. I worked for an animal welfare group and on behalf of other groups when I was younger because I’ve always been moved by the fate of animals at the hands of humans, but now the burden seems heavier, and I become closer to feelings of despair with each sad story.


    • Lianne I know how you feel… I didn’t really find out about these dogs – as I read history, their stories stuck in my mind, much more than dates and politics… as you can see…


  24. I share your passion for our four-legged friends. We owe them a great deal of gratitude. Their loyalty is unfathomable. They understand our thoughts, feelings and language even better than we do. I thought that you would appreciate this story….

    “This soldier, I realized, must have had friends at home and in his regiment; yet he lay there deserted by all except his dog. I looked on, unmoved, at battles which decided the future of nations. Tearless, I had given orders which brought death to thousands. Yet here I was stirred, profoundly stirred, stirred to tears. And by what? By the grief of one dog.

    Napoleon Bonaparte, on finding a dog beside the body of his dead master, licking his face and howling, on a moonlit field after a battle. Napoleon was haunted by this scene until his own death.”
    ― Napoleon


  25. Dear Valerie,

    No one loves as unconditionally as a dog and they ask so little in return.

    As a young wife I had a dog, Ginger, who lived 18 years from the day she was born in our spare bedroom. We called her a Mexican Heinz (part chihuahua and part everything else in the neighborhood.) I remember a particular time I was distressed and she literally cried when I did.

    I’m touched by your love for animals. Beautiful post.




    • Thank you Rochelle, so glad you enjoyed it… did you get another dog when Ginger died?


      • No. We never did get another dog. We had two cats at the time I had to put Ginger to sleep. One of the cats, Shyler, lived to be 18 also. She left us nearly 3 years ago. With busy schedules and not a lot of home time to care for them, we’ve felt it would be unfair to a pet. I miss the warmth and loyalty and think that one day I’ll perhaps get a rescue dog.


  26. talesfromthelou

    Well said Valerie. “There is not enough love to go araound”


  27. What amazing stories you’ve shared. These poor grieving animals and no one caring enough to understand. Very touching post, Valarie.


  28. Thank you Lynne, dogs do touch our hearts don’t they?


  29. Amy

    Amazing stories, Valerie. I appreciate your thought — if only! Your beautiful photo reminded me of my dear Evan… he drank a lot of water 🙂


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