Monthly Archives: September 2014

Mutiny on the Kayak

There is something so gloriously serene about kayaking across a beautiful diamond carpet of almost still water on a glorious, Spring morning. You’re almost inhaling all those positive ions and good vibes and feeling absolutely on top of the world. It’s just you and the sea and you’re floating along so effortlessly, almost levitating on a magnificent sea of calm absorbing all that superlative beauty.


Add two reluctant kids to the mix, not unsurprisingly, the experience can quickly turn on its head. Instead of everybody moving in sync, we ended up with Mutiny on the Yellow kayak…especially when two dogs decide to do a bit of kayak bombing!

Here's Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Here’s Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Welcome to my nightmare. Trying to set off on a simple kayaking expedition with my kids in Careel Bay, just off Palm Beach in Sydney. To put you in the picture, this is right near where they film the Australian drama series Home & Away except we’re on the Pittwater side which is just perfect for all sorts of water sports (other than surfing, of course).

I don’t know what it is with my kids. Why they don’t jump at the chance to get out there onto the water and carpe diem seize the day? Why do they prefer virtual living to the real thing? By virtual living, I’m of course, referring to playing x-box and Minecraft and all those electronic gadgets too much. At least, I’m blaming the gadgets.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go to the beach. Get into the sand. Go outside. The only time we ever stayed inside was when it was pelting down with rain and my parents practically had to bolt down the doors to keep us in. There was also the odd bout of sunburn which put us out of action as well. Instead of the parents hassling the kids to get out, it was the other way round. “Come on, Mum! Dad!” I remember a particular beach holiday when my Dad locked himself up with a very, very large doorstop of a novel called Shogun and that was the end of him for the holiday although he might have taken us fishing. We were trying to drag Dad out into the water. It certainly wasn’t the other way round.

Times have changed. Now, it’s me the parent doing the dragging or should I say still doing the dragging. Doesn’t anybody else want to get out there? My husband certainly does. He might not be the original Solo Man but he has kayaked down the Tasmanian rapids which Grant Kenny traversed in the commercial. My husband had a real thirst for adrenalin and loved pushing himself hard before he was consumed by the rat race.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Although my kids are in the sea scouts and seem to be happy enough out on the water there, for some reason our daughter is often terrified of going kayaking with me and today is no exception. She brought up almost each and every fear known to man and although there was a bit of wind out there she wasn’t going to drown in knee-deep tidal water especially when she was wearing a life-jacket. She wasn’t going to get killed by stingrays either, which seem to scare her more than sharks but then again there is what happened to Steve Irwin. That certainly added stingrays to the Deadly 60. Last but certainly not least on her list despite their size, was the vast army of soldier crabs which were hiding in their crab holes underwater. They were all about to come out to get her. With all these worries being brought up while she begged me to turn back, it was like she had swallowed the DSM manual. You know the great book the psychological professionals use to classify and define all your weird and wonderful idiosyncrasies. She was absolutely gripped with fear and all teary but her wretched mother kept going because if you keep avoiding fear, you never develop the neuropathways to overcome it.

I know I’m hardly Robinson Crusoe with my lifelong phobia of false teeth and the incredible fear of dogs which I had growing up but other people’s unrealistic fears always look much more surmountable than your own.

Anyway, as you can appreciate, Miss really, really didn’t want to go kayaking.

While Miss and I were in the yellow double kayak, Mister was on his own in the single kayak. These kayaks had been left behind by the previous owners. They’re certainly not the latest and greatest craft and do have a certain bathtub look about them but we love them and they have taken us on some fabulous adventures. We’ve explored the mangroves. We’ve also paddled back and forth across the bay trying to catch glimpses of the great giant flathead and the amazing flying mullet. Of course, their mythical proportions rival the likes of Nessy[1] but you know how kids can turn hyperbole into fact. Mister’s been out there very determined with his net but the giants of the deep have eluded him and retained their precious secrets. I have also been on a number of very serene solo expeditions and it’s so relaxing just to float on the water and drift. Simply drift.

So Miss and I are paddling along. There’s a strong headwind and so we’re not moving very quickly and I’m talking her through her fears and encouraging her when I notice Lady, one of our dogs, has just launched off the boat ramp and is paddling out to join us. We’ve only had Lady two weeks and we’re still getting to know her. She’s two years old and she comes from a farm and is quite a bundle of surprises. Yesterday, she leaped up off the beach and successfully landed on top of a 3 metre high retaining wall. She really does make anything look possible and is quite a gutsy, spirited dog.

While you could wonder about the logistics of having a dog in a kayak, I thought Lady would be okay. I haven’t weighed her but she’d probably weigh something like 10-20 kilos. I certainly have no trouble lifting her up. Consequently, when she decided to “kayak bomb” us, I didn’t really hesitate to pick her up and help her into the kayak. Geoff and I have been sailing on the little Laser with Bilbo onboard before so I though Lady would be fine and she was. She sat on the front of the kayak in front of me as I awkwardly paddled around her.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie...the calm before the splash.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie…the calm before the splash.

Meanwhile, when Bilbo saw Lady kayaking with us, he somehow overcame his huge fear of even getting his paws wet and launched himself into the water. I saw him wading out with all his fur billowing out. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him swim before except for the time he fell in the swimming pool chasing his tennis ball. Even for a Border Collie, Bilbo is a big dog and dry he weighs around 40 kilos so with his very thick woolly coat soaking up all that sea water, he was getting very heavy indeed. Well, he ended up on the single kayak with Mister who also weighs around 40 kilos. Mister is quite good on the kayak but not unsurprisingly Bilbo managed to capsize them and dog and boy were in the water. Bilbo managed to scratch Mister on the way out and apparently also tried to grab hold of him. It was only shallow water where at least we could all stand up so there was no risk of anyone drowning but there was certainly plenty of pandemonium.

I decided that this was also a good time to get Lady back on terra firma. The novelty of trying to paddle around the dog was wearing off, especially given my daughter’s catalogue of fears and I didn’t even want to consider how she’d react if Lady capsized our kayak. Needless to say, Geoff put the dogs back behind the fence before he headed out for a paddle.

As much as I enjoy a relaxing, solo paddle soaking up all that serenity, there was definitely a certain “je ne sais quoi” with this mad scramble of kids, paws, paddles and of course avoiding the huge ginormous Giant Stingray which is out there somewhere lurking in the very shallow depths.

It’s crazy experiences like these that become the great family legends. I can already hear everyone gathered around the family table laughing about the time Bilbo jumped in the kayak with Mister and they capsized and everyone roars laughing.

So much for peace and tranquility but as Helen Keller said: “Life is either a daring adventure or it’s nothing.”

I’d love to hear of any of your family adventures, especially family holiday antics!

Xx Rowena

PS Kids still aren’t seeing the funny side of things yet. Miss just told me: How would you like it if you capsized and the dog scratched you with its claws? Mister was also fairly gloomy about the experience as well. It seems there is a fine line between humour and trauma that we still need to work on. After all, your disasters always make the best stories.

[1] The Loch Ness Monster.

Walking Through the Storm…the Story.

Yesterday, the dogs and I got caught out in an exceptionally heavy rainstorm, despite my husband’s dire warnings.

I was considering whether to take the kayak out when Geoff called to warn me about a severe rain storm.He’d just seen it pass through at work and warned that it was bad… bad bad….dumping absolutely buckets and buckets of rain. Apparently, the storm was at Brooklyn only about 10 minutes away as the crow flies, near the Hawkesbury River Bridge, just North of Sydney.

My husband knows all these things about storms not because of his psychic abilities or because he’s some kind of meteorologist. Rather, he cheats. He looks up the Bureau of Meteorology’s website at where they show pretty pictures of the rain radar out at Sydney airport.

The dogs out walking.

The dogs out walking.

However, with ten minutes up my sleeve, I thought I had just enough time to take the dogs for a walk on the mudflats out the front of the house before the rain set. We’re on holidays at Palm Beach and the dogs are rather cooped up and needed to get out…as did I!

Well,as you can surmise, I didn’t look up the “bom site” or at least I didn’t this time.

Who was I trying to kid going out in this crazy weather? Looking at these storm clouds now, they're  definite trouble.

Who was I trying to kid going out in this crazy weather? Looking at these storm clouds now, they’re definitely trouble.

Sure, when I looked South, there were a few menacing-looking, dark clouds hanging low and gloomily, very close by along with the occasional rumble but when I looked North across to Lion Island, the dark clouds were still fairly high up and rain didn’t seem that imminent.

There seemed to be just enough time to make a run for it with the dogs and carpe diem seize the day!

Famous last words!  Yet, like so many things, it felt like a good idea at the time.

The decaying jetty is returning to the sea.

The decaying jetty is returning to the sea.

We set off. The tide had only just started going out and there was only a somewhat narrow “crust” of sand on the water’s edge to walk along. This route was broken up by a number of boat jetties. Most of these are fairly dilapidated with more missing planks and gaps than a seven year old who is missing their front teeth and has a number of wobblies as well. I found the state of the jetties along millionaire’s row rather surprising. Not only are many falling apart but they’re caked in slippery green moss and you could easily break your neck trying to step over them. Being an environmental sort, I was pleased to see the number of oysters growing along the pillars, forming fairly complete exoskeletons. However, that was until I was trying to squeeze through under one particular jetty and virtually had to hold my breath as I narrowly avoided being cut, sliced and diced by oysters on all fronts. It was a rather tight fit and perhaps I should’ve turned back but I must have heard the call of the wild. I had to keep going.

In what was a fairly dangerous move, I’d taken my camera along with me. If you’re not into photography or use the likes of your iPhone to take photos, perhaps you won’t appreciate the risk involved. You see when you are a photographer at heart,  as you’re staring through the lens, you are  even more focused than the lens in your camera. The rest of the world naturally blurs, fading right out of focus. This means that you can miss things which aren’t quite in your very limited orbit. In my case included some little, and even not so little, black rain clouds…and just a couple of lightening bolts!!

Indeed, for the true photographer, a storm quickly translates into a “photo opportunity” long before there’s any perception of danger at all. Photographers, especially when they’re staring fixated through the lens, will do anything to get the shot and are more than likely completely oblivious to any kind of danger or seriously impending doom until it’s too late…usually way, way too late!!

Fortunately, something or somebody often comes to our rescue. Australia’s legendary photographer Ken Duncan tells a fabulous story behind his iconic photo: The Power of One where he captures an African elephant in the Zambezi River. Just moments after he’d taken the shot, the elephant charged. Fortunately, his quick thinking guide saved his life but it was a sobering reminder. Apparently, the elephant had appeared further away through the lens.

Lady romping along before the storm hits.

Lady romping along before the storm hits.

Along with my own distractions, the dogs were having a ball. Of course, Bilbo our big Border Collie, doesn’t like getting his paws wet and was trotting along on dry sand while Lady was running through the water or just running, running, running. She was tearing around like a bat out of hell…or a dog who’d just been released from prison. Lady always has so much fun. I wanted to let the dogs have a good run, not knowing how long we’d be cooped up inside with the rain.

I hadn’t walked far and was feeling rather chuffed squeezing in quite a walk before the rain set in. But then I felt a couple of large raindrops plop onto my head and as we turned around heading for home, the sky suddenly opened up and dumped and kept dumping and dumping. I sped up as fast as I could but the rain was moving in fast and furious and we were absolutely drenched. I had my camera around my neck but just didn’t think I should stop to put it away and I also have to admit that I even took a few photos as we went. The wind had whipped up and was roughing up the sea. There were flashes of lightening and louder, very unmistakable claps of thunder. It was getting a little bit out of hand but while there was some possibility that I might have been struck by lightening, I  had somehow been transmogrified by the storm. Despite the wind and rain, the air was so incredibly fresh and invigorating and I felt so alive. It was quite mesmerising.

Bilbo and I in the laundry sopping wet but we made it back.

Bilbo and I in the laundry sopping wet but we made it back.

The kids weren’t so thrilled when we arrived home. Instead, I was in trouble. They had actually managed to tear themselves away from the X-Box and were watching me from the balcony with lightening flashing all around me. They were worried that I was going to get struck down. I don’t know whether I feel like I’ve become invincible after surviving all my other trials and tribulations or whether I just worry about more mundane things but I had no fear at the time. I was swept away in all the atmospheric moodiness of the storm. Even though the dogs and I were soaking wet, it was really quite exhilerating!!

As much as Bilbo seems to love standing out in the rain, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite so wet, The rain was falling off him in flowing sheets…almost Niagara Falls. Lady, who isn’t quite as woolly, fared better.

Turns out that the rain storm was fast and furious. Palm Beach recorded 8.4 mm for the day and  Terrey Hills, not that far away, recorded 6.4 mm in only ten minutes.

It turns out the kids’ concerns about us being out in the storm weren’t as crazy as I’d thought. Across the Sydney Basin during the time of the storms, 275 lightning strikes were recorded within a 30 kilometre radius of Baulkham Hills in Sydney’s North west. Looks like I might have just used up another one of my gazillion nine lives.

Of course, Geoff said I told you so but I did get some great photos and wrote a poem to tell the tale. That’s not just poetic justice but photographic justice as well!

I would love to hear about any close calls you might have had to get the shot!




Read about the storm and check out more photos here:

Walking Through The Storm

Walking Through The Storm

Inbetween the tides,

I walk my dogs

along the waterfront

leaving footprints

and pawprints behind

in the muddy sand…

At least, for now.

The dogs out walking.

The dogs out walking.

Time and tide giveth

but they also taketh away…

There is no forever here.

No eternity.

Only this very instant.

This particular tick-tock

of the wretched clock.

Tick-tock and it’s gone.

The decaying jetty is returning to the sea.

The decaying jetty is returning to the sea.

In this millionaire’s paradise,

jetties lie dead and dying,

falling plank by rotten plank

into the hungry sea.

Moss rises from the murky depths

taking over, moving in.

Green so green…

so much more

than just a three day growth,

there’s now really quite a beard.

Oysters colonise the piers

an aggressive exoskeleton

Layer upon razor-sharp cutting layer.

It’s now getting hard to see

even a patch of wood

through the decay.

Time and tide

wait for no one…

Dark, menacing clouds loom overhead

grumbling and complaining.

Although the tide has barely budged,

the rain is almost here.

We must walk on.

Stretch our wings.

Soar high above the water,

over the hills and into our dreams.

There is no turning back.

We haven’t reached nirvana yet.

With only the crust exposed,

the beach is still buried underwater.

I duck under the jetty,

a tight squeeze

through its sinister jagged maze

but there’s no turning back.

Holding my breath,

little bit by little bit,

I inch my way through.

It’s hardly Mt Everest

but I survived.

I have to keep walking.

Time and tide wait for no one.

Neither does the rain!

The dogs are sniffing.

Sniffing, sniffing, sniffing.

With more dog smells

than their wildest dreams,

it’s dog utopia.

Yet, heaven help him

if he finally met

his perfect match.

My boy is rather scared

of other dogs.

Raindrops start falling

on my head.

More than just

a little pitter patter.


It’s a dumping,







all diving for cover.

Lightening’s flashing.

I’m saturated to the very skin.

Two sopping wet, stinky dogs

and we’re not even home yet.

We could be dry.

Yet, we inhale the storm.

Electricity almost passing through me,

I feel strangely alive

as my children watch

through the window.

Crying, wondering whether

Mummy will survive.




How could I

walk on the wild side

when I’d been warned

about the rain?

Yet, in this great balancing act

between life and death

How can we live

while holding our breath?

Crouching in the nest

too afraid to spread our wings

and finally learn to fly?

Carpe diem

Seize the day!

Why be dead

before we die?

Time and tide wait for no one!

Bilbo and I in the laundry sopping wet but we made it back.

Bilbo and I in the laundry sopping wet but we made it back.

Rowena, Palm Beach, Sydney

A Tale of Two Growlers

Perhaps, I complicate things too much. Other people get a new dog and they might not even tell their friends about it until someone literally runs into them while out on a walk. The same way, some people somehow seem to forget to mention…Well, some people are so tight lipped that they don’t share much about anything at all except perhaps to say: “I don’t want to talk about it.”

I, on the other hand, don’t miss a beat.

Map showing the road from Morpeth to Ettalong.

Map showing the road from Morpeth to Ettalong.

So like a long, drawn out TV drama series, Lady’s journey continues. The “Tenterfield Traveler” has been through Raymond Terrace North of Newcastle and detoured out to Morpeth for a scenic adventure and after going back and forth around Hexham trying to get onto the freeway to Sydney, has traveled down the freeway and she’s and down the windy bends of Woy Woy Road until she is where she is…sitting in the car on her lead while we duck out the back to get Bilbo, our 8 year old Border Collie who defends our home to the death from perceived intruders, especially postmen, anything on wheels and a friend who drives my kids to school. He has been warming up to other dogs over the last couple of months but generally prefers to sniff their scent on a pole rather than meeting up with a real, live dog. Introverted and rather timid, he usually keeps his distance although as I said, he’s improved and has become acquainted with a few dogs on our walks.

I have had my doubts about thrusting another dog into his world but he is starting to struggle a bit and also gets quite withdrawn from us as well. I’m hoping that having Lady here might give him a second wind but it may be that he isn’t that well and I have been meaning to take him to the vet. Obviously, the vet is going to tell me he needs to lose weight but you try telling him that. I’ve been taking him for walks and he might have lost a bit but he’s certainly no lean mean fitness machine.


Bilbo and Lady first meet out the front of the house. By this stage, Lady had spent the day with us and is very much at home. The kids, especially Miss, were doting on her and she was being showered in love and was constantly wagging her tail. So by the time we arrive home about 6.00PM after spending the day together, she had bonded with us but didn’t realise that another dog was part of the deal. Not just any dog either but a grumpy old man!

Bilbo meeting Lady. You can sense his apprehension.

Bilbo meeting Lady. You can sense his apprehension.

Well, all things considered their introduction didn’t go too badly. Bilbo gave a deep growl and Lady growled back. Realising that they weren’t about to become Romeo and Juliet quite yet and the road to true love was going to be at least a bit rocky, we decided to take them for a walk to get them used to each other on neutral territory. We popped into on some friends to introduce Lady and then took the dogs home.

Last night, wasn’t great. Still the odd growl and they were giving each other the serious cold shoulder and avoiding each other completely. It was like they had known each other in a former life and theirs was a very long saga of love followed by dashed hopes, rejection and ultimately going their separate ways. You know how it goes. Just call it “Hollywood”.

For awhile there I thought it was going to be like Geoff’s sister’s place where they had the “front door cat” and “the back door cat”. If Lady went right, Bilbo went left and we were having to coax them forward, especially Bilbo who was withdrawing. They are obviously going to establish some kind of hierarchy but in the mean time, we just want them both to feel comfortable. As yet, there hasn’t been a joint photo session quite yet. Just small steps…very small steps.

I’m pleased to report that they are starting to warm up to each other today and they’re happy to be within arm’s reach. That’s certainly an improvement. There are four of us and only two of them so there’s certainly enough love and cuddles to go round. I must admit too that I am enjoying having a smaller dog who have fit on my lap without squashing me to bits and I can pick her up easily too. She’s still larger than a lap dog but  small enough.

Lady is a great laptop dog!

Lady is a great laptop dog!

We’re also going to have to watch them with their food. Lady is perhaps off her food a bit and Bilbo is only too happy to be eating for two, which is not going to be doing his waistline any good!! Last night, Geoff made a comment: “Warning! Wide load!” He’s not wrong. Bilbo dwarfs Lady.

Lady went for a short "drive" in our daughter's vintage  pram. It is the same model pram that I had as a little girl.

Lady went for a short “drive” in our daughter’s vintage pram. It is the same model pram that I had as a little girl. I guess that makes me “vintage” too.

After a very playful day running through Morpeth with the kids yesterday, Lady is quite sleepy today or perhaps she’s feeling a bit reflective. She seems happy to be here but perhaps she is thinking about home, the human and dog families she’s left behind and wondering when she is going home. That said, a friend of mine who is an authority on things psychological, told me as long as you feed them, a dog is at home. That they adjust quickly. That said, she hasn’t barked yet.

As the day goes on, things are getting better. Not yet friends but not the tale of two growls any more.

Perhaps, they are giving peace a chance after all!

Negotiations continue...moving towards some kind of settlement. It's not easy to share.

Negotiations continue…moving towards some kind of settlement. It’s not easy to share.

Lady’s Tour of Historic Morpeth

After picking up our new dog, Lady, from Raymond Terrace this morning, we drove over to the historic town of Morpeth, which is located on the Hunter River near Maitland. I adore Morpeth with its old historic buildings and streets so wide you could turn a bullock train around back in the day. As a serious lover of history, I’m not a great one for living in the present.

Walking the dog in Morpeth.

Walking the dog in Morpeth.

Even though Morpeth is only a couple of hour’s drive away from home, I don’t seem to get there very often. I think it has been two years since my last epic visit. If you haven’t been to Morpeth, you are really missing out. In terms of architecture, Morpeth is something of a time capsule dating back to the mid 1800s with rugged cobbled footpaths and colonial buildings with broad verandahs. There is even an original slab bark hut dating back to the 1830s which has been restored. In a sense you could also describe Morpeth as a shopper’s paradise but it’s not some trashy shopping mall but more of an experience with Miss Lilly’s Lollyshop, Morpeth Sourdough, ginger beer numerous cafes, old wares shops and irresistible boutiques. You can read about my previous trips to Morpeth here:

As much as I love visiting Morpeth and almost sent us broke on one particular trip when it seemed like I almost bought up the place, our visit today was about spending time exploring together and having our first adventure with Lady.

With a name like Lady, you would half expect her to be traveling to Morpeth in coach perched up on a plush, velvet cushion. However, she is a Lady, not the Queen and yet I still picture her doing the royal wave. Well, she would if she could. I don’t believe dogs can wave but there’s always someone keen to prove me wrong!!

It was really exciting to take Lady for her first walk but it was truly memorable to take her for her first walk in Morpeth, watching her run over the cobblestones with the kids. My daughter seems to have claimed Lady as her dog at this stage and she loved running along with her. Our original dog, Bilbo, is a big dog and a bit too much for her to take on  her own for a walk. Lady is the perfect size for Miss. I think Miss also likes the fact Lady is a girl dog. As an 8 years old, boys are mostly annoying pests!

You call that a cow? Lady, checks out the metal cow at Grazer's Cafe, Morpeth.

You call that a cow? Lady, checks out the metal cow at Grazer’s Cafe, Morpeth.

While Lady wasn’t too happy being tied up outside Miss Lilly’s Lollyshop, we were able to have lunch with Lady at a local cafe called Grazers, which has a cute cow theme. Lady comes from a farm with real cows so I don’t know what she thought when we photographed her next to a metal cow sculpture. I could almost hear her calling out through the obvious confusion: “Please explain!” While she might have been a bit baffled by the metal cow, there was no confusion over the kids’ ,meat pies. We had been warned that Lady can really jump and she was particularly keen on the kids’ meat pies. A dog is a dog, after all!

I've never met a dog who doesn't like a meat pie!

I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t like a meat pie!

Lady was also quite a traffic stopper as well. Being a Monday, there weren’t that many people out in Morpeth and most of the shops were shut but a few passers-by stopped for a pat and a chat. Lady is so friendly and affectionate wagging her tail and nuzzling up to everyone she meets. She almost seems to manufacture happiness itself and I can’t help feeling she’s exactly what our family needs…a breath of fresh air.

Pausing at the pansy patch.

Pausing at the pansy patch.

The historic bridge crossing the Hunter River is one of Morpeth’s main landmarks. We walked down a very steep set of stairs to walk beside the riverbank where Miss managed to find a bunch of prickles and blackberries but after just a scratch, she manged to extricate herself unscathed with a few directions from Mum. Mister loved exploring the river bank and lay down in the grass in the shade. It’s now spring and it was quite a warm, sunny day where a bit of shade went a long way.

Relaxing in an antique bathtub outside Campbell's Store, a Morpeth icon.

Relaxing in an antique bathtub outside Campbell’s Store, a Morpeth icon.

We had so much fun!!

Yet, as much as I love Morpeth, I also wanted to get home before dark and we still had to introduce the two dogs. It was time for the next chapter to begin. Would they be anther Romeo and Juliet? Time would tell.

Driving back home from Morpeth was a bit more complicated than I’d hoped. Morpeth is out past Maitland, which out on the New England Highway and it seems out this way all roads lead to Newcastle, whereas I was wanting Sydney. Somehow, I kept missing the turn off and I was driving back and forwards between Hexham and the Newcastle suburb of Beresfield. We ended up going back and forwards and even tried a back way only to find ourselves back on the road heading north. We weren’t lost. I knew we were facing the wrong way and heading for Brisbane listed wasn’t a good thing. I just couldn’t join up the dots and find our way out. Personally, I found the signs quite inadequate. Being a huge city, Sydney deserves a big sign not some kind of footnote while the Hunter Valley Vineyards has a huge, rather distracting sign.

As we arrived closer to home, I started briefing the kids on the all important new arrival. Or to be more particular, how we were going to introduce Lady to Bilbo. While Bilbo isn’t quite an old dog, he is very set on his ways and he’s quite wary of strangers. He’s an excellent guard dog and doorbell. We always know when someone’s turned up. The plan was to introduce the dogs in neutral territory out the front and hope for the best. I’m no dog expert but I knew this was going to take time and at least a bit of massaging. As much as I thought Bilbo might like a girlfriend and had been told about his new “friend”, as far as he was concerned, nobody had consulted his opinion and like all foreign bodies, Bilbo would no doubt want Lady out. At the same time, Bilbo had been warming up to other dogs at the beach and I thought he was ready to take the step step.

Well, as ready as he was going to be.

Introducing Lady…Our New Dog.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know by now that I have a penchant for melodrama. So when I say that picking up Lady today was like bringing a new baby home from the hospital, you’ll know what I mean. I get a bit emotional.

We were all so excited about meeting Lady although I have to admit that I still had a few murmuring concerns. Were we doing the right thing? Taking a new dog sight unseen was certainly a risk, especially when she needed to get on with Bilbo, our 8 year old Border Collie. At the same time, as crazy as it seemed, the decision felt so right and as my Mum would say: “meant to be”.

Just to recap…Lady is a 2 year old Border Collie Collie x Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.From the photo we’d seen, she looked like a small BC with a touch of the Spaniel thrown in. While she looked cute in the photo, I wasn’t buying her so much for her looks but for the mix of breeds.  We love Border Collies but felt that our next dog needed to be smaller. Geoff had mentioned getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and I thought a combination of the two would be just perfect but thought my chances of ever finding one would be slim.

However, I had looked up both breeds on Gumtree, an online classifieds site, and suddenly ads of puppies for sale started flashing at me almost 24/7. You could just imagine the incredible temptation as puppy after puppy popped up s all imploring me to take them home with those irresistible puppy dog eyes. As much as I knew clicking on the photos was only going to make things worse driving Gumtree into an obscene frenzy, I couldn’t resist. That was how we found Lady. She flashed up on Gumtree…our dream dog turned real.  That was a few weeks ago now. Lady comes from Tenterfield in North-Western NSW which could be a couple of countries away if you were in Europe so we had to wait for her to come down to pick her up. Today, was finally the day.

Time is a traveler
Tenterfield saddler
Turn your head
Right again Jackaroo
Think I see kangaroo up ahead

Peter Allen:Tenterfield Saddler.

Well, Lady is our “Tenterfield Traveller”. It’s been a long journey for her to reach us. We were picking her up from McDonald’s in Heatherbrae. This was about 1 3/4 hours drive away so I took the kids out of school and turned it into a family excursion. After picking up Lady, I was planning to spend the afternoon in historic Morpeth near Maitland where my Great Great Grandmother, Charlotte Merritt was born in 1864.

The plan all sounded good but then it needed to be executed. As we all know only too well, when the rubber hits the road, it can fly off in all directions causing all sorts of collateral damage. My first hurdle was the long drive. I am not the most confident driver. I get lost too easily and I also get fatigued. Moreover, after all the stops we had on the way to the snow, I thought we’d better allow plenty of extra time for contingencies.

However, the drive was very easy and straight-forward. This meant that we arrived 90 minutes early… just in time to order pancakes and hash browns…a dreadfully unhealthy second start to the day but I rare treat.

Our son waves while waiting at McDonalds to pick up Lady.

Our son waves while waiting at McDonald’s to pick up Lady.

Of course, arriving early only served to heighten our anticipation. I was so excited. Sitting on the edge of my seat excited. I was about to burst. Where was she? Lady! Lady!

Then, all was revealed.

If you are old, or should I say “mature” enough to remember a dating show called Perfect Match starring host Greg Evans and his match-making computer robot Dexter which was popular back in the 80s, you’ll remember that moment. After the contestant had made their choice, the wall would slide back to reveal their dream date or perfect match. For better or worse, it was their moment of truth.

Finally, we were heading out to the car park to meet Lady and her Dad.

Our very first photo of Lady with her Dad on the left showing the initial madness of dogs on leads and kids in a car park.

Our very first photo of Lady with her Dad on the left showing the initial madness of dogs on leads and kids in a car park.

Wow! Good decision. Great decision. Lady was not only gorgeous with beautifully soft silky fur, she is incredibly affectionate and friendly. Her Dad was gorgeous too. Given than Lady is black with just a touch of white on her chest and back paws, I’d assumed that Dad would be black and white but instead he turned out to be the ruby colouring and so lusciously golden. The funny thing is that you assume that Dad would be bigger than his daughter but as you can see from the photo, Lady was twice his size. Despite these differences, you can still see quite a lot of Dad in her facial features and she has his really soft Cavalier fur. She’s so beautiful to touch.

I had wondered how Lady would go leaving her family as she was not only leaving her human family but also her dog family but after a bit of a look behind her and needing to lift her into the car, she’s been fine. That doesn’t mean she’s forgotten. She wouldn’t know that this supposed “holiday” is permanent yet.

We have all fallen in love with Lady. Indeed, she is sleeping on my lap while I’m writing this post and seems perfectly comfortable. She seems quite used to being a Laptop Dog.

Next stop: Morpeth. It’s a significant detour and definitely not on our way home but I don’t get up this way very often and I love the place.

xx Rowena


New Dog’s Eve

Tomorrow morning, the kids and I are piling in the car and driving a few hours North to pick up our new dog, Lady. Lady is a 2 year old Border Collie cross Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which in the tradition of Spoodles, Cavoodles and two-minute noodles, makes her a Borderlier. Now, that she’s got a fancy breed, she’s ready to strut her stuff with all the other “posh dogs” (as my daughter calls them), at the beach. Moreover, she can tell them tales of growing up on a farm and what its like to grow up in your own dog family. She will be leaving her mum, Dad and older brother behind. Her current owner is selling up the farm and moving on.

We are really looking forward to bringing Lady home and having her as part of our family. I’ve got a feeling that as a two year old, she’s going to liven things up a bit. Bilbo our 8 year old Border Collie has slowed down a lot over the last couple of years and at 56 dog years is on the other side of middle age. We’re hoping Lady will liven Bilbo up a bit but I’m not sure what he’ll think about the whole thing. He’s used to being an only dog.

That’s right. Nobody asked Bilbo whether he wanted “a friend”.

Personally, I think he’s doing very well. There is on the other side of middle age getting a much younger woman and he hasn’t even had to sign up for RSVP or any other form of online or I guess in the world of dogs telegraph pole dating in order to hook up. For him, Lady is like a home delivery pizza. She’s just turning up on his doorstep without any spade work whatsoever. Lucky dog!! I have a few friends who would be more than happy with that kind of service.

But Bilbo is no ordinary dog. Or perhaps he is after all. Dogs are quite territorial and Border Collies can be a fairly shy, introverted breed but he’s fiercely loyal and this is where things could get tricky with Lady. Is he going to welcome her as part of our pack or is she going to be classified “an intruder”? He seems to like some dogs but likes his space, which is quite typical of Border Collies apparently. They’re not so keen on dogs who are forward. At least, he’s certainly not.

Yet, as much as they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, Bilbo has certainly ventured out in the last couple of years.  He’s been sailing, out on the kayak and he’s even started mixing with other dogs at the beach even if he still turns into a ferocious barker whenever my friend turns up to take the kids to school.

As an 8 year old dog, Bilbo is 56 years old. Of course, this doesn’t exactly make him old but he is certainly on the more mature side of middle-aged. He has what you could describe as love handles and some arthritis but is otherwise in fairly good health.

I guess the big question is: why are we getting another dog?

Our concern with Bilbo getting older and especially considering my own volatile health, is the whole issue of managing the passing of a pet and whether you have a cross-over or whether you wait. Of course, nobody has a crystal ball so it’s hard to know how to get the timing right. Our last two dogs died at around 8 so we felt the timing was about right. Hopefully, we’ll have Bilbo for years to come and he and Lady will get on well and run off into the sunset together although there will be no pups. They’ve both been “fixed”.

There are also a few other reasons that I’m excited about the new dog. As much as I adore Bilbo, he has become rather withdrawn. He usually doesn’t sit with the family much of the time and does seem to be in his own world. I’m not sure whether he’s on guard and I know he certainly loves lying out on the back deck in the sun and really heats up out there. He has started warming up to visitors but it’s been hard work. It really takes him quite awhile to warm up even to regular visitors.

Bilbo is a gorgeous boy but he got quite out of sorts when I had the chemo and is very protective of me in particular…and the kids. I’ve done a bit of research and read that Border Collies can get a bit anxious and on the look out for grizzly bears and that certainly fits his behaviour. He just hasn’t worked out that we don’t have grizzly bears around here…only the neighbourhood cats.

And we’re about to have Lady…!

So now there’s only one more sleep and it’s all happening. It all feels a bit like bringing a new baby home from the hospital except this baby isn’t brand new and should be a lot less work. After all, you can leave a new baby home alone. Not that Lady will be alone. She’ll have Bilbo.

Hmm…I wonder what Bilbo is going to think of his new friend…