Meet Lily - a two-month-old Cocker Spaniel puppy, and the newest addition to our household. Like our other newbie Hugo, she too loves shoes.
After being dog-less for nearly four months since my dear old Riley passed away, when I heard there were puppies available from a breeder I knew to have a good reputation - the place our friend Roxy originated (see Portrait of a Best Friend) - I knew it was time. As much as I loved my sweet, beautiful collie, her life-long struggle with food allergies and colitis, then in later life a degenerative spinal disease, and the task of managing an aging large-breed dog in a home with a lot of stairs led me to the choice of a small-ish dog, of a breed well-known to me, from a source where healthy, good natured pups are the priority. I am committed to re-homing dogs from shelters and rescue groups - Riley was one such dog - and support their work 100%, but I made this choice because I wanted the experience of the tight, long-term bond I would form with a puppy. Finding a puppy that fit my desired profile through the rescue network could take a very, very long time and without a dog in my life I was truly not myself. I needed to feel whole again.
Lily is, however, quite a distraction, especially when combined with the presence of another youngster in the house. Kitten Hugo is now three months old. Lily and Hugo have really hit things off after a bit of a rough start. Within one minute of her arrival here, Hugo had whacked Lily across the nose with enough vigour to make her cry. I guess he wanted to show just who's boss right from the get-go! But a week later they're now playmates and best buddies. Their rough and tumble play-times and games of Chase Me are highly amusing, to say the least, not to mention totally distracting! My efforts to photograph them while in mid-wrestle have failed so far - all I get is a fuzzy blur of black and orange - but I do have a couple of pictures that can give a sense of what's happening:
Outside the house, the inter-species love fest continues. I have learned about the effect puppies have on humans. I have never had so many people stop to chat as when I play with Lily on the lawn! It seems everyone loves a puppy and wants to have a moment with a cute little wriggly girl who greets each visitor with a wagging tail and showers of puppy kisses.
Lily's first walk in the park was just a day or two ago. Given she's small, she spent a good part of the walk in my back-pack so as not to tire her too much. It was a nice, refreshing walk in the forest, riddled with missed photo opportunities - a yellow warbler that posed beautifully on a branch just a few yards away, baby cotton-tail bunnies munching on new grass beside the trail - because wrangling a squirming puppy and a camera at the same time proved to be just too much to manage. However, there will be many, many walks to come, and Lily will be my partner. She will learn, as Riley did, to wait quietly while I gather the reference photos that are the seeds from which artworks blossom back in my studio.
There is absolutely no doubt that Lily herself will provide artistic inspiration. She's not the first Cocker to have done so. Besides our friend Roxy there was Lady, a sweet girl who was my mom's dog some years ago...
... and more recently I completed this portrait of a darling boy named Ben who loves his ball.
So welcome Lily. You are depriving me of sleep and distracting me from my work, but you're also bringing great joy and a sense of contentment. You have some big shoes to fill but I expect you will grow into them and make them your own.
I think my old cat Rupert is particularly glad you're here, giving him a well deserved break by providing Hugo with a more energetic and much less crotchety playmate.