Lark’s Diary VI

I have been so busy that I haven’t even had time to write my diary. It’s because I have discovered the bestest thing ever! Children! We have had children visiting and although I didn’t know if I would like them, I think they are brilliant and I would like to see more. First we had the Norwegian children, Ask and Liv and they played and played with me. Then we had Caitlyn and Aiden who were taller and talked to me in English. Now we have just said goodbye to Patrick and Isla who were a little bit smaller than Caitlyn and Aiden but taller than Ask and Liv. I’m not sure if it means they are different breeds of children or if they are just older but they all chased me and ran around and I even got extra treats and helped them finish their meals so I think officially that children are the best thing ever.

Mum took me and Archie to see Dr Bum. He is a man who looks after animals and Mum says he usually starts with putting a thermometer up our bottoms and that’s why he’s called Dr Bum. He looked me over and checked my teeth and said I was a good girl. He looked at Archie, too, and said he was in very good condition but he didn’t use his thermometer which I am glad about. I am not sure what a thermometer is but I don’t want anything put up my bottom. I’m sure Mum wouldn’t let him.

We did have a horrible day when Mum went to hospital. Jan, the cleaner, was looking after us and I didn’t like Mum going out without me so I cried and sang the song of my people. Jan thought I would be happy if I sat in the conservatory with Archie because he was sleeping and not crying so she put me in there while she got on with the cleaning. I thought it would be better if I could see the big gate to see if Mum was coming home yet so I tore the blinds off so I could see out easily. When Jan came back, she said she thought she would have a heart attack, although she didn’t, and she phoned Mum to tell her about the blinds. Then she put me in my crate because she had to leave and by the time Mum came home, I had bent the bars on my crate and pushed the tray out of the bottom. I don’t like it when Mum goes out but she says she can’t always take me with her. I don’t know why. I’d be good, even in a hospital but Mum says they won’t let me in. I could go and cheer up the people seeing the doctor. I don’t know if their doctors are also called Dr Bum but seeing a little dog like me would cheer anyone up, surely.

We also went on a long journey to a place called Chester to see Ruth and Philip. I hadn’t met them before but Archie knows them and likes them. It was a long drive and when we got there, Mark gave us a sausage each. Archie ate his in two bites but I was clever and buried mine in the garden so next time we go there will be a sausage tree! I like burying things in the garden because then I can go and dig them up again only sometimes I can’t remember where I buried them. Real bones are the best thing to bury. Bonio go a big soggy.

We have had lots of visitors lately and Peter brought his dog, Ludo, with him. I didn’t like Ludo. I think he was coming to take my Mum away so I shouted at him a lot and tried to nip him on the bottom. Archie said it wasn’t the way to behave with a guest and put my head in his mouth but I wasn’t keen on Ludo at all. Until he was just about to leave and then I started to think he was OK. Maybe he’ll come back and I’ll like him next time. Archie is a bit of a tell-tale, though. It has been raining a lot and I really don’t like going to the toilet in the rain. I don’t know why Mum takes me out on my lead so we can stand in the rain for 10 minutes when I can just do a quick wee as soon as we get back in the dry. Archie was on his sofa in the conservatory and I had to have a poo so I did one quickly and he barked at me and told me off. Mum heard and came in and said “Oh, Lark!” which she says quite often these days. I think I’m back in the dog house again.

Lark’s Diary V

This week has been SO hot, the hottest ever anywhere in the world, I think. I have had to drink lots more water than usual and Mum keeps a big bowl in the garden for me and Archie. Last week she bought a hat to keep her cool and now she has bought one for me and one for Archie. Mine is a bit too small but Archie’s fits and he gets lots of comments.

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Anyway, it’s all turned out for the best because while Mum is waiting for my new hat to arrive, she has got me and Archie neckerchiefs and we have decided to form a club called the Pigeon Catchers Club and Archie and I are the only members. Every time a pigeon lands in the garden or flies over it quite low, we have to run like anything to see if we can get it. I’m not sure about what we’ll do next but then we haven’t caught one yet. It’s a good excuse to bark, too, which I quite like doing. If other people need pigeons catching, we could go into their gardens and help them if they give us some Bonio. We look very smart, anyway, and Mum says they will keep us cool so I haven’t even tried to take mine off yet.

I did a poo in the kitchen this morning. I didn’t even mean to, it just sort of slipped out and before I knew it, it was on the floor. When Mum found it she was cross with me. I still don’t know how to tell her I need to go to the toilet and I’ve watched what Archie does but I can’t work it out. I wish he would just explain because he always goes outside and never makes a mess inside. I don’t know what she’ll say when she finds out I’ve been weeing on one of the beds upstairs. Sigh.

The other night, while we were sleeping, there was some terrific noise outside and lots of lights flashed. Freya doesn’t like loud noises so she came onto the bed, too, which was nice as I like to sniff her. I watched it for a little while but then it got boring so I just went back to sleep. Apparently it was the weather doing A Storm which doesn’t happen often. And then another night the sheep outside were making a lot of noise in the middle of the night and Archie started barking because he could hear cats crying so Mark went downstairs and made sure the cats were inside. He thought it was a fox upsetting the sheep and Mum thinks a fox here might eat a cat, not like the foxes they have in towns. Archie says the foxes in towns are lazy and just go through people’s bins to get food and also enjoy a game called ‘Annoy the dog’ which means they all sit in front of your window and just stare at you. Archie says once he got so cross he broke the window trying to give the foxes a piece of his mind. Archie is a really tough dog and I’m glad he’s my brother, even though he does put my head in his mouth quite often.

I was a bit upset with Mum the other night. She met a man when we were out walking who was admiring me and asking who my breeder was and then he said “Her nails need clipping” which annoyed Mum because she already knew that and had the clippers at home. She had showed them to me before and I didn’t really like the look of them. In the evening, she asked Mark to hold onto me while she clipped my nails and I hated it. I squirmed and squeaked and did everything to tell her she didn’t need to do it but she carried on because she said half a manicure would look silly. I sulked after that, even though she gave me a Bonio and I got in my crate and didn’t speak to her. I know she only does good things for us but I can’t see the point of this.

Then I felt sorry for Mum when she fell over in the Castle. There were some old people there with funny clothes on and little fires and then a man shouted “Do you want to know the history of the Castle?” I thought “not really” but he carried on anyway for ages and then people clapped a bit and we walked around. There wasn’t even any free dog food to try. We saw another dog and wanted to say hello so ran ahead but Mum was walking Archie and he’s big and even stronger than me and she fell over and everyone went “Ooooh” and tried to pull her up. I tried to help but apparently I got in the way and then after that we went home and Mum went to sleep so I did, too.

Today we have visitors coming from a place called Norway which is a long, long way away. There are 2 grown ups and 2 children. I don’t know very much about children but all the ones I have met so far have been very nice so I hope these will be too. I have been told not to jump up at them as they are very little and I might knock them over but I hope they will play in the garden with me and we can run around and bark and chase toys. I am good at getting under bushes so we could make a den and have our lunch in it. I am quite excited. Now I am going to follow Mum around the house as she tries to find her slipper. I’ve hidden it in a really good place this time so I’ll see how long it takes her to find it.

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Lark’s Diary III

This week we have been doing lots of running around and chasing things. Archie still keeps putting my head in his mouth and when Mum strokes me, she says “You’re soaking” because he drools on me and makes my head wet. I don’t think he wants to eat me, though. He likes biting my knees, too, but they are tickly and make me kick him.

We went to Gibraltar Point and I saw 6 bees, 4 butterflies and hundreds of ants. There were some really good smells but we had to stay on our leads in case we ate the baby birds and that wasn’t so much fun. When we got back to the car, Archie and I pretended we didn’t want water until Mum had thrown it away and then we started panting so she had to pour out some more and then we drank it. She thought it was a great joke.

The exercise man came to see Mum again. Why she doesn’t just run around the garden and chase balls, I don’t know, but he is trying to help her keep moving. He gave her this thing that counts her steps so she can tell how much running around she does every day. I don’t know if the man knows but Mum doesn’t run anywhere so I don’t know if she’s cheating or not. I thought of a brilliant idea to help her. Every time she takes her shoes or slippers off, I take them quietly away and hide them all over the house and garden. Then when she gets up, she has to look for them so that makes her move more. I found a really good hiding place for one of her slippers, right underneath a bush in the garden but my Mum is so clever, she found it. She was very pleased because she said “Lark, you are a little so-and-so” which I think means she can’t think of enough good words to describe me.

Our garden is full of good stuff you can pick up and run around with. There is a pile of dead weeds, a wood pile, pegs and some stones but I found the bestest thing of all. It was black and like a big stone but it was very light so I could run around with it. Mum said “What have you got there, Lark?” as she is always impressed by what I find. She said it was charcoal and it’s the most brilliant thing. It makes my teeth black and I can get it on my forehead if I try. It tastes odd but I like it. I have sneaked it into the house and put in my bed upstairs. It is one of my treasures.

I am also becoming a bit of an artist. There are lots of nice things in the house and garden but some need a bit of an artist’s touch so I have decided to help Mum by giving them what I call ‘the Lark Touch’. Mostly done with my teeth, I have single-handedly made the garden hose reel a bit more modern with a twisted look to the casing and have removed the central part of the handle. It looks so much better and I am sure Mum will be very pleased when she sees it. I really am her little so-and-so.

Narnia is in my en-suite

I am so glad I am in the habit of keeping a diary of appointments etc. Whenever I sit down to write, the first thing I have to do is go back and look to see what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks. Otherwise it would just be a blog about what I have done in the last few hours and even that might be shaky. It’s a week with few appointments – just 4 by my count. It starts off with a visit to my local GP to ask about a second opinion from another oncologist. For some reason, I feel a little bad about this, even though it is obviously vital I have the right person looking after me. The more I think about Virgil, the more I know I wanted him to be the right person. My previous oncologist was already thinking ahead when she heard of clinical trials and keeping me in mind for things whereas I feel a little like something on a conveyor belt with him. See patient – tick! Arrange treatment – tick! See patient again in 3 months – tick! There is nothing in between. Not once does he check my lungs to hear how they are performing. It’s just not good enough. So my GP who seems genuinely nice agrees immediately to refer me and knows of the oncologist I am asking for. He thinks it’s perfectly reasonable, too, which helps. We then have to rush home in time for a visit from the community nurse, Wendy. She is also very nice and takes lots of notes and is very keen to help in any way she can. I say I don’t think I need her services at present but it’s good to know there are people just a phone call away who know about my situation and are happy to offer advice or come out to see me. And, surprisingly, it’s a 7 days a week service which I am very impressed by. She offers at one point to check my pressure points – areas where I may develop sores from lying or sitting in one position for too long. Obviously she just wants to see my bum. I deny her this treat but tease her with “maybe another time”. Honestly, the lengths people go to.

Tuesday is my birthday and we start with a verse of Happy Birthday sung by Mr Mason snr and, for once, he doesn’t do it in a silly way and for some reason I am very touched. I get a lovely cameo brooch/pendant from Mr and Mrs Safaie, a ring from Mr Mason and some incredibly luminous orchids from Mr Mason jnr. The card with it reads “Mother, Happy Birthday, Son”. As ever, he is economical with words. I also have a surprising present of money from my Dad. I can’t remember the last time I received a present of any kind from him so I am both startled and touched. I have an echo first thing and am miffed because the technician will not tell me my ejection fraction. Now, if I know the term ‘ejection fraction’, I probably have some understanding of what it means but she will not budge, even when I tell her it’s my birthday. Everywhere does something a little differently as I was told immediately what the result was at my previous hospital. I am trying very hard not to keep saying “When I was in London” or “at my previous GP/hospital” as I imagine it is very galling and I don’t want to come over as a snotty Southerner. After this, we head off to some Antique shops at Hemswell Cliff and browse around to our heart’s content. The day is stormy and cool, perfect for leaving the dogs in the boot together. They are starting to settle in a little more although Archie can be a bit of a bully and Lark is wary of him at times. She is sensible, though, and he is not a mean dog so they will be fine together. Mr Mason thinks she has settled in so well he decides not to wake her to put her in her crate overnight. On coming downstairs, we discover she has removed the bottom 12″ of our vertical blinds on one side of the sitting room window, presumably so she can see out better.IMG_20150521_102502095_HDR

On our way home, we see the Red Arrows have been alerted to my birthday and are doing an impressive display with 2 teams. I try to capture some of it on my phone through the car windscreen but the photos don’t come out well, as you can see. Still, it is the thought that counts. We drive home listening to the bumper CD of Novelty Songs given to us by Mr Neary. It’s a good day.

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And so, finally, to Narnia. For some reason, the psychotic cat has always had a thing about bathrooms. I remember years ago a friend telling me that one of her 15 cats, Florence, used to dash into the bathroom the moment the door was open to do a wee. I thought it was hilarious at the time but think it less amusing when the psychotic cat shows similar tendencies. Since moving, as you know, she has had something of a personality transplant and has eschewed the use of a tray but has gone freestyle, using the garden like a normal cat. But she still has not shaken her love of bathrooms. Our main bathroom is enormous with a double shower and huge rolltop bath and she quite likes it but not as much as the en-suite. If I get up in the night, she jumps off the bed to accompany me, desperate to get in there and then, once there, she looks a little disappointed and can’t wait to get out again. But she does this repeatedly. Whatever she expects to be on the other side of the door just isn’t and she is either an eternal optimist or forgetful. I think it’s something like Narnia and she just has to wait for the right time to come around when she will be swept off into a cat paradise, whatever that might mean to her. And her enthusiasm has started to rub off on me a little. Perhaps one day I’ll open it and Narnia really will be in my en-suite.

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Increasing pack size

Each week seems to get busier and busier. Instead of lounging in the garden, we have appointments, workmen and all sorts of admin to catch up with as well as continuing to unpack boxes. We have some new bookcases arrive which means emptying of more boxes which is good but also rather tiresome. It’s a job Mr Mason has taken on and is doing it well. The roof is finally finished. Alex and Dale come over to put the chimney pots on with the reknowned lime mortar. The weather is fickle and goes from sunny to windy with a hint of rain and they are concerned about the lime mortar setting well. They sit in the van for a while to see what the weather will do and then announce it will be OK, they have actually finished. There is a lot of chat as we thank them and they thank us for the work. Off they go in the van and half an hour later a huge storm crashes overhead with thunder, lightning and hale – the whole works. Suddenly their little white van re-appears and they rush up ladders with a tarpaulin while the rain lashes down. They were a few miles away and were worried that the storm would damage the lime mortar so, even though they had finished, back they came. They come down the ladders wet but smiling. The lime mortar has set sufficiently so the rain will not be a problem but I am rather blown away by their attitude. Having finished a job, they worry about the storm sufficiently to come back and make sure everything is OK. It’s an excellent service and not one I can imagine happening in many places. Another tick for Lincolnshire attitude.

I am still investigating the support network for cancer patients in the area. In London, it was pretty straightforward. There was the wonderful Maggie Centre at Charing Cross and I had a dedicated Macmillan secondary cancer nurse. There was also the Mulberry Centre at the West Middlesex Hospital where I could have massages or reflexology. The Mulberry Centre was a bit strange. The treatments were fine but it wasn’t the sort of place you could go in and just relax. The volunteers who staffed it were very eager and wanted to know why you were there and to engage you in conversation. I never found it a good place to go for anything except reflexology or massage. One member of staff got rather obsessed with Dog and would insist on coming to see him if he was in the car. He had to be brought out so she could shriek over him. What is it with people who shriek at dogs? They don’t like it. Here, there isn’t an obvious place to go so I reluctantly get in touch with the local Macmillan nurse who, as you will know, turns out to be marvellous. She is really intent on getting me hooked up with everyone so when I need something, I will know who to go to. I get a call from the local hospice who make me an appointment so I can go and be assessed. They provide all kinds of complementary therapies including breathing classes (which I think might be really useful), a choir and Reiki. I sit down to fill in the form I am sent and immediately it sends me into a dark place. So many questions I don’t want to answer about how I feel physically, emotionally and spiritually. Half way through it, I give up and go and help Mr Mason with the books, so depressing does it feel.

In fact, while I think of it, there has been a very black streak running through the whole week. I have decided to do lots of admin which means I can be productive whilst sitting down. Some of this is just letting people know of our new address and some of it is looking at finances and pensions. It’s the pension bit that I find hard. I have to make sure Mr Mason is nominated to receive my pension in the event of my death but then there are the new rules which came in last year meaning I can take some or all of my pension early. This means there are lots of conversations and emails discussing my health and forthcoming death, whenever that might be. I am desperate that Mr Mason is left in a good position financially and that there is nothing messy or complicated for him to be dealing with when the time comes. I hate thinking about it and there are quite a few tears. Luckily there are boxes of tissues in just about every room in the house so I am well prepared. I decide to engage a financial adviser who has been recommended by Mrs Hurley and think I will hand the whole kit and caboodle over to her (the adviser, not Mrs Hurley) and she can help me find my way through what feels like a mine field. I eventually get back to the hospice form and complete it, shoving it back in the envelope and deciding not to look at it again. I also get a call from a nice man called Aaron who runs fitness classes and regimes for people with cancer. He even sounds fit (in the literal sense) over the phone and he will come and see me, assess me and then become my personal trainer,  helping me to do excercise which will benefit me, taking into account my health and maybe link me up with some groups. It sounds good. The community nurse also calls and asks if she can come over to introduce herself and explain what she does and what she can offer. Another strand in my support network. Very different to London but I am starting to feel more secure.

On Friday we go to see Virgil and he is still rather stressed. Maybe this is his style in which case I will have to hypnotise him to make him more laid back. He has had more information but still not really enough and the date I was given for an echo was not one I could make. He sighs quite a lot and then says aloud everything he is entering into the computer system. We drag out of him that I can have chemo at Pilgrim Hospital instead of going to Charing Cross which is actually quite a relief. I love seeing the people at Charing Cross and at Maggie’s but it’s so tiring going there and back in one day. He says he will see me in 3 months at which I raise my eyebrows and explain at Charing Cross I am seen by the oncologist every 3 weeks. He thinks again and then agrees he will also do this. I also query with Virgil why the stickers on my appointment slips still have my old address on. He waves it away, saying it’s fine. When I get home I find a letter redirected from our old address asking me to attend the appointment I have just been to. I also have a letter from Charing Cross addressed to me at our new address with a copy of my oncologist’s letter.I start to wonder how much experience he actually has but know I have the safety net of my previous oncologist to fall back on. He can’t get through to the chemotherapy suite on the phone so walks us round there – Mr Mason later says how impressed he was by my turn of speed – to find out what time my appointment will be. Apparently, although there was a slot on Wednesday available earlier, it has now gone. They can give me an appointment on Tuesday. I know my previous oncologist would have waited until the following week but I feel I have said enough about what my previous oncologist would have done so say it’s fine. The lady on the desk already knows who I am because she has just prepared a file for me and a pharmacist arrives and says “Oh, is this the lady on Kadcyla?” I am the only person in the hospital to be treated with this drug so I cause a bit of a stir. The staff are incredibly friendly and give us a card to put on our windscreen so we will not have to pay any parking charges when we visit the hospital. I just have to make an appointment at the GP’s to have my blood taken and we are all set.

I also have a very exciting appointment to attend. Before we got Dog, I had decided I would like a whippet. Then we saw Dog and were smitten so took him. He is a sighthound, like whippets, but distinctly bigger with his Saluki parentage. We decide before we move that we will get another dog. Mr Mason jnr always says to Dog “We’re going to get a better dog” which is a mean thing to say. We would normally get a dog from a rescue but with the way things are, we decide to buy one from a breeder. I research breeders carefully through the Kennel Club and find one in Louth who has been recently inspected and breeds whippets and deerhounds. I email to see if she has any whippet pups available and get a response saying they are expecting a litter later in the summer but have 2 9-month old puppies if we are interested in a slightly older dog. To me, this sounds perfect. The dogs will have been house-trained and have basic training so we make an appointment and go over to see them. First we catch sight of the deerhounds who are magnificent and have won prizes at Crufts etc. They are huge and simply stunning. Both the whippets are gorgeous and have different temperaments. One is cheeky and ready to jump into trouble at the first opportunity whilst the other is quieter and more shy. Dog pretends to ignore them while we walk about in their run. He wees on everything we can see and the cheeky one, Leia, is desperate to smell his bottom, so much so that I fear she will get a wet head. The other dog, Lark, is more reticent and sticks with her sister for a bit. After a while, they all calm down and do a bit of chasing around, a bit of woofing and a lot more sniffing. Dog seems quite happy with them and we then have a difficult decision to make. One dog is a brindle and the other is white with brown spots on. The breeder points out which is better from a showing point of view although she knows we are not going to show the dog. It is very tricky to decide. But I’m all blogged out so I’ll let you decide which one you would take with a sneak preview. Photos courtesy of their breeder, Sue.

 

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