About Maria Matthews

A published writer and avid reader, who likes to take a quirky look at the world about her. Bob is the steady anchor in a house governed by the mayhem of two parents and two grown children who have left home but frequently drop by to either check out the fridge or check in with Bob and Ellie. Maria's free time is divided between family, work, writing and volunteering.

Does anyone know how to build an ark?

It is cold, it is very wet. So wet in fact I am contemplating building an ark. But Ellie, Judy and Cooper are not bothered all they want to do is run and play, or train.

As I pull another pair of leaking wellington boots off my soggy feet, I wonder how did I get into this? Then I look at her sparkling eyes and realise – it is all your fault. But, we do have fun even on the wettest coldest days.

Famous words

I found this short quote from an unknown author and it simply stuck in my head.

You are going to be fine you come from a strong line of lunatics!

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An Extra Four Legs

It has been weeks since I have written anything. There are many reasons for this,  and the main one is that I lost my mojo as some would call it back when Dad and Bob passed away.

Time has stretched as days have been spent sorting through Dad’s many years of collecting books,  which he stored in a random fashion in his study or in an extra shed outside. The second reason is that we have, as you may know, given a lot of time to finding Ellie a companion.

Our visits to the pounds in the various counties resulted in nothing sparking an interest in her. We would gladly have taken quite a few of those dogs home but, she didn’t seem to show any sign of friendship to any of them.

Then one afternoon for some strange reason I called to our vets and spoke to them. This is where I learnt about Dugg /Doug (jury is out on how we spell it). He is three years old, a golden labrador who lived with a lot of other dogs but whose owner needed to find him a home. So we met him and Ellie didn’t shy from him or look annoyed when she met him.

We brought him home on trial. It was a trial. He appeared happy to be with us until each evening when the howling and barking began. It was like having a baby in the house. We were not sleeping and many a conversation ended with, “he is a sweet dog but his howling is driving me nuts.” In short, we gave him time, attention and he, in turn, tried our patience, but Ellie tolerated him and was no longer crying or looking sad. Sometimes she looked frustrated and tired, like us, but he didn’t have many issues beyond his night time love of howling.  He wasn’t overly fond of men but he is losing his distrust. Ellie and Doug are getting closer as you can see from the pictures. He is still a little too thin but as my kids say, “you will easily fix that mum!”

He loves babies, likes Brook and Belle two other four-legged occasional visitors and is a gentle sloppy idiot, who likes to eat fruit straight from the garden. It seems as though my pal Bob pushed me to the vets on that afternoon, so Doug is staying, what else could I do?

 

 

Rolling Days and the search has started

In some ways, it seems like Dad and Bob only left us yesterday, in spite of this when it returns the pain at their loss can be intense at odd moments. But I know, am aware this is part of the process we call living. The bit I find the most distressing in all of this is how Ellie has reacted. Around our house she sometimes seems lost, wandering to odd corners where Bob used to go to, the strawberry patch being one and then coming back to join me. Her sighs and sad looks have affected everyone. At dad’s house, she no longer races to his back door eager to be let in and given her welcoming pet from him.

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To offset her feeling of loss, I take her with me whenever I can or I invite other dogs to come and spend an hour or two in her company, but I cannot always be with her.

So, after almost 20 weeks with just Ellie, we cannot bear it any longer and have decided to find her a buddy. We can’t replace Bob but we can find an acceptable friend to fill some gaps.

We have discovered that adopting a dog is not easy. For one thing, our garden was inspected. We failed the first inspection. Though, we did explain to the gentleman that if Ellie chose a large dog the short section (4-foot long) of the wall which is only 5 foot six inches tall, (the rest being an impressive 6 foot high) would be raised to the 6-foot height needed. Our thinking on this is: the garden is secure, locked gates and if Ellie decides a Jack Russell is to be her new living companion then why raise the wall? But they were not happy with this answer.

Then you have The Form to fill in, some of the questions are so detailed and personal I expected to be asked how often I shower. However, we dutifully have filled in forms sent off photos of our garden.

In the past week, we have visited 3 rescue centres. They are all spotlessly clean. The dogs look well-fed but the problem is they are either not interested in us or they are female dogs and our main stipulation is that it is a male dog.

The question for you kind readers (all four or five of you) is, have you gone through a similar experience? Are we better off to merely concentrate on keeping Ellie healthy and happy or should we continue our quest?

I will keep everyone posted on Twitter and Instagram #FindEllieAFriend

Tips from our Grandmothers or Great-grandmothers

My kitchen is no different from most with its (sometimes) shining cooker, fridge, washing machine, kettle etc. But have you ever wondered about how life was for our grandmothers or great grandmothers who had only their hands, strength and patience to do everyday chores? Well, I often wonder about their strength and resilience particularly after reading a small Readers Digest book “What our Grandmothers knew.”

Here are a few of their beauty tips:

Treatment for dry skin: apply a face pack consisting of beaten egg yolk with a few drops of lemon juice added. If this doesn’t work they recommended, after washing the mask off your face to rub in a homemade skin cream made up of 1/3 oz of lard mixed with a pinch of zinc oxide.

This one is very seasonal – to get relief from sunburn. Grate a raw potato and spread between two layers of gauze. Apply this to the sunburnt skin.

Another which made me smile – relief for tired eyes: Boil some cornflowers in water, allow to cool. Then make compresses by layering the flowers between gauze. Lie flat for 15 mins with compresses over each eye.

Do you wonder that years ago many dogs lived outside? If they lived indoors they would have dined off the beauty treatments while the lady was wearing them!

 

Bob was always partial to fruit and veg and never considered picking his own to be work.

Lessons Learnt

In our inconsistent world, some of the most powerful lessons we learn come from children and (in my case) our dogs. This is only my opinion before I get a truckload of replies all denying this is the case.

There is a tv program that tracks young four and five-year-olds at play. I love watching it as I am reminded or there resilience and love of basically having fun. They also say what they think, which is also a mind opener. If we say what we honestly think the only thing we often open is a can of worms!

I have had many dogs come and go in my life and they all taught me something different, some times about myself. The poodles my mum had basically taught me:

you cannot make someone do something just because you wish it to happen. Poodle number one often was dragged by me out on a walk and I inevitably arrived home carrying him!

Poodle number two taught me that simply giving someone time and sitting with them, listening or holding their hand is often all that is required.

Poodle number three; fun is important.

However, I was reminded of all of these things when Bob arrived into our lives. He was a great people dog. He loved to sit at the gate and wait for the children to pass by on the way home from school. This feat alone gained him many jelly babies, some crisps and a few extra inches around his middle, and a long list of admirers.  While he did this, Ellie and her collection of tennis balls would appear and she would push the balls through the gate while the children chucked them back.

He was patient, sitting calmly staring at me at 6pm each evening to remind me it was time for his food and meds.

He gave comfort to both Ellie and me whenever we returned from a long search cold and tired, with a wag of his tail and a lick across my hand and on her ear, he appeared to say, tomorrow is another day. 

It has become evident that Ellie continues to miss him but that too is another learning curve – dogs emotions run deep.

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From Ellie I have learnt a different set of lessons, never give up, don’t say can’t without trying. We have done some crazy things like swimming the river Boyne, or on one occasion climbed a great height (in torrential rain)to get around fallen trees and blocked pathway to find a missing person. Taking shelter from a snowstorm in a forest and then hitching a lift back to base in a tractor.

I would love to know what others have learnt from their canine buddies and what adventures they have taken with them.

 

Missing – Dad and Bob.

Of all the things I have ever written this is the toughest.

As this is Bob’s blog I will explain his story first.

On the 23rd of April, my best 4 legged buddy passed away. Bob has always been with me as I type my blog entries. His favourite position was to sleep on my feet and snore softly as I typed. It is an overused statement but – I miss him.

We were told, as many of you know, in March of 2018 that we would be lucky to have him with us for another month or two.

For me my emotions are like a daily rollercoaster as only four weeks before Bob, my Dad passed away. I was starting to come to terms with that loss when Bob left us.

I am still recovering from the shock of losing two strong well-loved individuals, (yes I know that Bob was to most – only a dog) who played such a big part in my daily life. In fact, in the past four years, my life has been centred around them and visits to Doctors and Veterinarians.

For Ellie, life has become a confusing place. She always had Bob with her except when she was working and even then when she arrived back home, he was at the back of the car ready to welcome her. Now when she gets out of the car she tends to stand and look around the yard as though expecting him to amble around the corner to say hello. She is not the only one who does this.

I really don’t want to stop writing the blog as I am still learning and working with dogs, but I am open to suggestions from the few who read my ramblings. But without Dad and Bob, the world has tilted.

I have visited the vets many times, as I stated above, but on that horrible evening, there was something that sort of freaked me out. The only four-legged client at the surgery was an Elkhound pup! Norwegian Elkhounds are not a popular breed here in Meath.

As always any and all comments are appreciated by me, and Ellie.

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Update on Bob

Mr Bob is becoming a grumpy demanding old dog! No other way to put it, I am afraid to say he is relishing the role. If there were a doggy version of Father Ted, he would be Father Jack!

He doesn’t call for whiskey though he did lick some off my fingers with great enthusiasm which would indicate that if a bowl or glass were offered it would not be refused.

Bob still makes everyone smile, as he plods about the house, walking under the visiting Brooke (Greyhound of a very leggy variety) as though she were not there. His meds have increased a little and on each occasion, I call to the vets to get a new batch, they express their surprise and delight that he is still king of the castle. I have attached a few photos of the grumpy, sometimes smiling old dog. Please note I did try bribery to get him to look at the camera, but…

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I am not looking at the camera

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I refuse to say cheese

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Who wrote this book?

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How old we become…

Isn’t it odd how old we become on the outside while inside we still feel like a twenty-year-old? That is my one observation having spent some days visiting with my dad.

His dementia has progressed at a frightening rate. So much so, that we had no choice but to bring him back to the nursing home where he feels happy. For me, it was a tough decision in one way, because I remember his reluctance to consider going in for respite eighteen months ago and his refusal to move mum to a local nursing home. However, I was happy knowing that, he is safer with many carers around him than just one of us with him twenty-four seven.

It is now two weeks since he moved house, and the weight has lifted from my shoulders, years and layers of stress are falling away and I have gained a little weight. Dad too is experiencing a lightening of years as he takes part in musical afternoons, dancing with anyone who is willing to risk getting their feet shuffled on, or squashed. His bright cheery “Hello,” gains him smiles and conversation. He is taking part in art classes, and on Wednesday of this week, he was a baker hoping to enjoy tea and queen cakes which he had helped to whip up and bake.

Just like Bob he is managing to hold on to his good humour and winning ways.