Sunday, 7 December 2008

The golden retriever, the children and the beach

Shhhh! Don't tell Marie, but I'm getting as much enjoyment from our puppy as she is. Maybe more, in fact. The children are enjoying having him, too.

Blaze, our 5 month old Golden Retriever puppy, has been with us for less than 2 weeks, but he's already housetrained, sits on demand, fetches (indoors only) and only chases the cats occasionally. He's got used to his new environment and his self confidence has grown. Both cats have dismissed him as a threat to their safety and wander around our home as if he's not there. If Orla would stop pestering him some of the time, everything would be perfect.

What I most enjoy about having a dog around the place again is walking him. I had forgotten how enjoyable that could be. I live in a particularly beautiful area. My little town is surrounded by gentle hills, each of which offers panoramas of both countryside and the sea. We have open moors and dense woods right beside us. When, some days, it is misty, the countryside takes on a mantle of mystery. When it is windy, the coast with its crashing waves and sea-spray is the place to go. A walk this close to Nature never fails to lift my spirit. I've tried to pass this fact on to Marie, but she simply cannot conceive going for even the simplest walk. She gets to see a lot of scenery while we are out driving, of course, but much of the countryside and the vast majority of the coast is inaccessible by car.

It is an interesting fact, unknown to the majority of the many tourists who visit us, that we have coastal erosion all around us. The headlands on either side of our town with their cliffs between 20 and 40 metres high are disappearing into the sea at a rate of about 1m per year. As they collapse, fossils become exposed. Ammonites predominate. And when one of these becomes exposed, it is the first time it's seen light for 400 million years! We regularly get busloads of university students here looking for them. I try to imagine what the coast would have been like when my house was built about 400 years ago. The headlands would have stretched out into the sea about 400m further than today. That's the length of 4 football fields! A nearby town lost an entire row of houses complete with all their gardens the sea side of the road. If you were to walk there now, you wouldn't find any evidence that they had ever existed, but you might notice the high wall subsequently built there to defend the houses on the land side of the road from suffering the same fate.

Back to the present day - and the children, the dog and I could be found today at a nearby beach enjoying the calm and relatively mild weather and beautiful sunshine. (Apparently some parts of England are suffering from freezing weather, snow and the like. The weather is kinder to us here.) Blaze was dashing around in and out of the shallow sea water and digging pointlessly in the wet sand while the children were having a ball getting thoroughly soaked (see short video). Fortunately I had taken the precaution of bringing towels and blankets. Life can be very good here. We are all so lucky.

Marie continues to take the dog to the grassy area 20m from our home (in daylight only) but hasn't progressed beyond that. However, she is currently victim to a stomach bug and is unsurprisingly disinclined to be adventurous.


rosiero said...

I'm really pleased for you. There is nothing nicer than a walk with the dog to lift your spirits - I know my walks with Snoopy have helped me over many a troubled thought. There is something nice about walks near water too. All very soothing. The idea of being the first to come upon a fossil for the first time is amazing.

I loved the video of the children - they are obviously having a great time. I half expected Orla to cry when she fell in, but she just giggled and carried on. Fantastic. At least you can show the video to Marie and she can feel she joined in, but is she going to try to walk Blaze with you?

ladythinker said...

Oh Robert what a lot can happen in 2 weeks. Great news - this is wonderful. I am soooo jealous. Almost tempted enough to go and 'spring' Blaze's sister from their mother's place.

Mandy said...

Hi Robert

Wasn't sure which of your blogs to look at first so went for this one.

Blaze looks delightful and sounds like he has easily become part of the family.

I can't believe the weather has been mild enough for you to get to the beach but can remember Autumn holidays from way back when and there is something about the seaside at that time of year.


Lynn said...

i LOVED the video. The water looks freeeeezing but even though Orla falls in she is still giggling

Robert said...

Rosiero - What's this about Snoopy? I ddidn't know you had a dog? You're right, of course, walking the dog removes you from everything for a while and instead you focus on your surroundings. That's why I believe I'm so lucky living here. I have asked Marie to go on a very short walk with Blaze & me, but so far it hasn't worked.

Robert said...

Ladythinker - I lost you for a while when you swapped blogs! Now I've got a feed to both of them, so I won't lose you any more. Anyhow...I think that we've been lucky (so far!) with Blaze's progress, but who knows how his sister might have turned out!

Robert said...

Hi Mandy & welcome to your first (yes?) visit to my world. I've only got one blog, but I had a problem with the layout and had to do a lot of work to resolve the problem. I'm told that this can interfere with the feed & can send out several versions of the same post. Perhaps this is what happened to you? If so...sorry. was a little colder here yesterday but still warm enough to go to the beach again for 3 hours (the kids never seem to get fed up with it). The temperature here is pretty low (about 6 degrees) but with almost no breeze and a lots of sunshine, it seems warmer.

Robert said...

Lynn - the sea IS freezing!! But the kids don't seem to care. I worry about them getting too cold, so when they get wet enough I take them home!

I've got an idea - why not get together with Marie...she can help you to go out of your area in a car, and you can help her to walk more than 20m away from me/the car? I know (I should by now!!) that nothing is straightforward in agoraphobia, but what do you think - good idea or rubbish?

rosiero said...

Robert - I have blogged about Snoopy and our walks in the past - for example see my post of 16 July - and it is also in my profile. Snoopy is nearing ten years old now... a part of our life for so long.

Sarah♥ said...

I am so jealous of where you live. I'd love to live near the sea and walk along the beach. To me, that is my idea of heaven.

Good to read Marie is still getting out with your pup. Hope she's feeling better now :)

How do you think the meds are working?


Robert said...

Ok Rosiero, I consider my wrists comprehensively slapped lol. I'll pay more attention in future. (Hopefully there'll be a future?)

Robert said...

Hi Sarah - yes, Marie's bug is now on its last legs & I expect it'll have gone by tomorrow.

I hadn't thought about the meds for a while, but now that you mention it, Marie's background anxiety seems less. Not much improvement on the agoraphobia front yet, I'm afraid. I told Marie that you were asking about her. "Thanks for asking" Marie has told me to tell you.

Rachael Hale said...

Blaze looks lovely :)I love taking Jimmy for his walks as well, it can be so relaxing just putting on my i pod and walking.
I Hope Marie feels better soon, stomach bugs are awful.

Sarah♥ said...

Hi Robert,
Just wondering, does Marie do much exposure work on her own? I know she's able to go out in the car with you for quite some distances. Was it this year when Marie drove the car alone to meet you from work (or somewhere) i can't really remember (typical)!!! Is Marie still driving out? I know, SO many questions. Please, don't feel you have to answer, i am curious as to how Maries agoraphobia is behaving at the moment.


Robert said...

Hi Rachael - I was obviously been underestimating the therapeutic value of walking the dog. But I'm a convert now! Marie's bug (soon to be ex-bug) has been doing the rounds in this area. I hope it misses you!

Robert said...

Sarah - I know I don't have to answer, so this is all because I want to. Ok?

Marie drove 8 miles on her own in Feb. this year (you've got a good memory). After that, she took Joe to school & Orla to nursery for a few months. Then she stopped...and now she can't drive anywhere on her own. She can still go almost anywhere in the car with me.

Marie has never done any exposure work, either on her own or with me. Refuses to - too scary for her. Her agoraphobia is worse now than it was at the start of the year.

Ask as many questions as you like - I don't mind!

Best wishes

Sarah♥ said...


I am exactly the same. Exposure works wonders for some people, but for me, it is most definitely the scariest aspect of 'recovery'. If i can't even face the first step to getting over this, how the heck am i ever meant to get well?

It scares the life out of me. Today for example, i went to get Stink from school and suddenly i was like "What the hell am i doing?", i really wanted to go back, i kept walking back towards home, then turning back to the school. I HATE HATE HATE having those feelings and not knowing what the hell to do with them.

I really don't know how to do this. Do you think its possible to be knocked down so many times by panic, that you do just give up trying? I don't know if i can honestly stand anymore of this. It's a constant battle within myself and i'm tired of fighting.

I just want life to be simple now. I think i've had my share of this bullshit. If things are sent to test us....I'VE BEEN TESTED NOW! Time to move on.


Casdok said...

What a lovely part of the world you live in. Perfect for dog walking.

Grumpy Old Ken said...


Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm new to this game. At first your site frightened me to death, I wondered how you coped. Now I realise you laugh at life whatever. Life is never simple, if there is a god I reckon he's having a laugh. Have a cousin in Yeovil and we are big fans of your top coast. Watchet in particular is pleasant. (We are ancient motorhomers)
Would love to put you on my list. Will be back.
Good luck


Faith Hoffen said...

Hi Robert,

That sounds like a beautiful area you live in. It's too bad that your wife can't enjoy it with you; but maybe she'll improve with your dog now. We have a golden retriever too; they're great dogs!

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

Casdok - thanks for popping in. Some posts about my ASD son to come soon & I'll submit his pic to your "Faces Of Autism" site in due course..

GOK (Grumpy Old Ken, not the (in)famous gay fashion expert) - Glad you survived your first impression of my site. Deceased readers are bad publicity. West Somerset coast has the advantage of being much less "touristy" than most coastal areas. However, my favourite location in this area is Lynton/Lynmouth & The Valley of the Rocks.

Faith - I agree with you about Golden Retrievers. I love their placid nature and tolerance of small children.

goodfather said...

Wow, that water looks COLD! I love the constant stream of laughter in the vid, heheh. Kids just don't seem to mind cold water. I'm glad your weather was good! I hope it holds out.

Kit Courteney said...

Robert - I've been busy lately but just caught up with your recent posts. What absolutely fantastic photos. Seriously - the combination of a dog like Blaze and such stunning children is gonna be a winner!!!

I read on Rosiero's post about you wondering about subject matter and so on.

Please don't think about stopping blogging. Personally I find Marie's story incredibly interesting. And your posts are written with such enthusiasm (whatever they are about) that I would dearly miss them.

By the way - LOVE the appearance change of the blog. Looks really good.

KatduGers said...

Hi, thanks for popping over to my blog. I am SOOO glad you didn't get a little rat dog!! Only the nicest people have retrievers and labradors - I have had both obviously! And Blaze is just gorgeous - I hope Marie manages to get out again with him when she's feeling a little better physically.

Michelle said...

That puppy is such a cutie!

I've found that being ill affects me mentally as well. Also, give it time. When going that far becomes "normal", where she doesn't give it a second thought, then the next step can come.

I just noticed your header. Did you change it? My younger son has some Asperger's stuff. He's a unique kiddo.

Henry the Dog said...

My mum says that walking me sorts her head out - she says it's therapeutic (whatever that is) I think she means it makes her feel good. Blaze is gorgeous. My mum used to have a black one called Sam. I'm the absolute opposite of him. I'm small but not ratty. I think that introducing a dog into your life is a really good idea. By the way, mum used to live in the UK and she says that somerset is lovely and that it was one of her favourite places.

Robert said...

GF - You had a pretty bad Xmas present, didn't you? I hope the future is brighter. Yep, the sea here IS cold. But the kids don't care. We are lucky with the weather here - it seldom gets very cold. But it's the kids who brighten up my life...and I know that you know what I'm talking about.

KC - More flattery please!! lol I'm not thinking of giving up blogging. The blog started out with a narrow subject base, so I'm just contemplating how to broaden its scope.

KG - Thanks for stopping by. I like all dogs, but I must confess to preferring larger breeds. My previous dogs have been Springer Spaniels and Collies.

Michelle - you're right about the "one step at a time" approach & I'm hoping that Marie will expand her "safe" area in due course. Full marks for observation!...I changed the subheader. I have previously posted about my ASD son (sever Asperger's) and I intend to elaborate on that theme. One can feel so alone with an autistic child.

HtDog - CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! You are the 1st dog to comment on my blog. Your mum sounds like a very nice girl. Let's face it - any girl who likes dogs and Somerset must be ok - yes? Blaze had a look at your pic, but he said it was a bit small and don't you know that dogs don't have very good eyesight? Anyhow, feel free to mark this territory anytime you choose.

Kaci said...

Wow, the place you live sounds absolutely gorgeous! I'm new to this site and so I am still trying to figure out how everything works. I've read a few of your blogs and it's nice to get a different perspective about agoraphobia.

Robert said...

Hi Kaci. Is this your 2nd visit? Let's hope that there are more. You're very welcome here.

Best wishes.

Lavender mace said...

The beach is one the best places to take a dog, they just love it.

That's terrible about the erosion. We live on a protected creek and a beaver has moved in. I'm curious to know what will happen. The water is creeping closer by the day to the road. As land owners we are forbidden to do anything to shore up our side of the creek, but we have no idea how the county will react if it affects the highway. We like the idea of having a beaver on the land though, as long as we can get to our homes.

Leila V. said...

I'm so jealous, your puppy is adorable, and your surrounding area breathtaking.

Rachel's Diary said...

I dont know what i would do without my 3 doggies! Glad Marie has benefitted from havin this new little life in her life! ... lets hpe this little doggy helps her! .... x x x

Robert said...

LM - sounds like you live in an interesting location. Must be interesting to have beavers share that area with you!

LV & RD - Thanks for the comments. The puppy is enriching all our lives.

Anonymous said...

my puppy just turned 5 months friday(May 1, 2009). He is a golden retriever also. We've had him since he was 2 months old. He was housetrained within two weeks also. Golden retrievers are very intelligent dogs. Have fun with your puppy!

Robert said...

anon - thanks for the comment. My puppy is less puppy-ish now! But more adorable & affectionate. He's a full family member now & we're ALL having fun with him.

I hope you get as much from YOUR puppy!