Sophie heads down to the vets to have her cast removed. The adhesive on the plaster tears her skin when it comes off. The family diva accepts this indignity in pained silence. The leg is however very itchy. She's nibbling at the stitches within 30 seconds of leaving the surgery. The large soft collar goes on in the back of the car.
Her opinion of this development is clear from the less than happy look on her face.
Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse Bob takes one look at his sister and decides this is one young lady who is best given a wide berth.
To salvage the day there will be some roast chicken with tonights kibbles.
You wouldn't know it from this pre-breakfast photograph but Sophie is making great progress. She's finished her course of antibiotics. The vet has prescribed some soothing lotion to ease her discomfort which makes life ( for both dog and family ) much easier - and quieter. The difficulty will be keeping her calm until the bone surgery heals. She is already displaying signs of wanting to chase the cats that wander into the garden.
Bob can't fathom out what's happened to his sister. This second leg is having more of an impact on his well being than the first.
Pilgrims are observed and , if they get too close to the gate, barked at.
Across the lane The Old Farmers Christmas Star, a feature of life in the village, has developed problems. He's taken it down in order to install new bulbs. In doing so he's discovered that the stars metal frame is rusting through. There is talk of 'welding'.
The Old Farmer informs me that he's thinking of taking a winter break in the Ivory Coast. There has been no indication of any interest in, or relationship to, the Ivory Coast in previous conversations. For an Anglo-Saxon this part of Africa an unusual destination for a holiday. Angus wants to ask if the Belgian lady would be accompanying him but thinks better of it.
And here's something very beautiful performed in the Ecole Militaire in Paris and conducted by a man who clearly loves what he's doing. A good start to a Tuesday morning :
The hunting dogs have been out early. Bob is put on his lead to stop him giving chase. He is completely lost in an olfactory world of his own. Too busy following scents to even notice his old friends the donkeys.
Sophie is carried outside and deposited , in the sunshine, by the front door. The treatment a TB sufferer would have been given in the 1920's. Angus is of the opinion that fresh air also works for bad legs. Sophie is happy to be in a spot where everyone coming into the house has to say 'hello'. This morning she receives a tickle and a chat from The Old Farmer and the little lady with the purple hat.
Bob and Angus, on their way back from the Sunday rugby lunch and match, notice that the concrete facing has fallen off one of the old houses in the little market town. Behind the concrete the brick and wood facade of a perfect 15th century townhouse.
The stone lintels of two arches can still be seen. Stone is a scarce ( and expensive ) commodity in these parts.
Sophie goes to the vets on Tuesday to have her stitches removed. At the senior vets suggestion she's booked in at 7.30. ' That way it'll be quieter for her and for the patients that come a little later '.
Bob continues to have a lots of displacement therapy to stop him worrying about his sister.
Just another quiet Monday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde. It's going to be both warm and dry. A beautiful day lies ahead.
Sophie's 'irregularity' might be down to the fact that she was shaved rather too closely in the hospital. Much discomfort when what must be done is done. She screams - not just any scream but a wake the village scream. The unexpected things one learns when one has a recuperating dog.
Bob wonders why we haven't cured his sister. His disappointment is there for all to see.
Today the family fellow and Angus will spend the afternoon at the rugby match. Sophie will sleep in the kitchen while 'The Font' prepares Langoustine Risotto for dinner and webinars with the Pasadena astrophysicists.
Angus and Bob have been invited to the rugby players lunch before the match. A sign that we're now considered quasi-French ? This being France profonde the two teams will sit down to a four course meal. You would have thought they'd eat after the match.
Perhaps this concern about digestion is another sign that I've turned into my father. Bob has no such worries .
Off to the bakers bright and early. Townsfolk hurrying on their way to the first mass of the morning. From where I've parked the car it's possible to see from the disjointed roof line and not quite connected patching-ups that the old church has suffered many indignities in the last nine hundred years. Wars, fires, revolutions - it's taken them all in its stride. There's something reassuring in that.
Yesterday, Bob got six walks, two trips in the car and a long Mano a Mano on the garden table. Seems that canine anxiety cannot be dispelled by displacement activity. The bond between brother and sister is clearly very deep. He knows she's in pain so perhaps his symptoms are stress related.
Sophie was wonderfully 'regular' on Wednesday and Thursday. This was not the case on Friday.
She let 27 hours pass before letting anything else pass. Early in the morning Sophie announces that 'this is the time'. She howls. PONs are not big dogs but their lungs must take up 90% of their body. ' Look on the bright side ' says 'The Font ' at 1.40 am. ' At least she let us know '.
Thursday was wet, Friday was cloudy but today is brilliant sunshine. Being able to sit outside will hopefully make the reestablishment of a routine easier for her.
Bob paddles in the waterfall, fishes ineptly for minnows and finds some badger poo. Sophie sleeps. Things are once again on the up.
Sophie is still a little 'groggy' but is making good progress. Despite a midnight thunderstorm she sleeps solidly from seven at night until six thirty in the morning. Her appetite is 'robust'. Antibiotics swallowed enthusiastically.
Readers of the blog will not be surprised to learn that Sophie was not an easy in-patient. After the operation she made it clear that the staff at the clinic weren't going to get near her again - ever again. The female PON ' if in doubt howl ' approach to life. Faced with an 18 inch tall dervish, the surgeon, the night nurse and the anaesthetist thought it prudent to wait for 'The Font' to arrive and put on the harness. Sophie glared at them as she was carried out.
Bob is getting lots of long walks.
His drooling symptoms aren't getting any worse ( and he's not bothered by them ) but they're also not getting any better. No halitosis and no pain on his gums or swelling on his jaw so we don't think it's an abscess. However, one side of his face seems frozen which means he has to chew on his 'good' side.
The bakers in the little market town is starting to get into a seasonal spirit. The cake designs have taken on a 'cheerful' demeanour. Bob gets some choux pastry crumbs.
The central heating engineer never showed up. He calls to apologize ( half heartedly ) and says that he'll be at the house to look at the boiler on December 21st.
The village odd job man with the missing front tooth has started to decorate his balcony railings with a variety of flashing lights. He informs me that they '' won't be switched on yet ". This years colour scheme incorporates last years orange and red reindeer tableaux but adds three sets of Eau de Nile bulbs bought at a 'good price'. He shouts to his wife to turn them on. They surge into life. Angus once again wonders why the French have managed to convince the world that they are a sophisticated nation. '' Remarkable. Quite remarkable " I say truthfully.
... the joy a big brother feels when his little sister returns
..... a bowl of spaghetti, beans and kibbles after a lonely night away
..... and the trust that everything's going to turn out just fine.
Bob is up and about at 5:00 am. The family fellow, who is not allowed in the bedroom, is in the bedroom. To make sure I'm awake he licks my toes. This morning the PON boy is wearing his '' Excuse me but do you know my sister is missing ? " face. It's easy to anthropomorphize canine behaviour but there can be no doubting that Bob is concerned about his sisters absence. It is also quite clear that Angus is expected to get up and do something about it.
Bob continues to wears his concerned look as I ready the car to collect Sophie.
Sometimes he gives voice to his concerns. Mostly, he stands on his stump seat looking out along the lane for his wayward sibling.
He watches 'The Font' make Grapefruit Meringue Pie. An experiment.
The grapefruit pie a specialty of this bakers in Paris :http://hugovictor.com/ Bob is unsure about the grapefruit but is keen on the pastry.
Sophie has had the 'reinforced' option rather than the easier option of repairing the ligaments. The surgeon tells 'The Font' that she operated on the two back legs of a French National Greyhound Champion last year and it was up and running ( and National Champion ) again this year. This is good psychology and exactly the sort of thing a dog owner wants to hear. By going for the 'reinforced' option there is little chance of the family diva tearing up her knee again - seemingly, a common occurrence.
'The Fonts' recollection of yesterdays trip to the vets 1) Sophie's contented look as she met the specialist, the surgeon and the anaesthetist and 2) the generous size of the recuperation cage 3) the cleanliness - that smell that says they're not relying on disinfectant alone 4) the friendly and measured way in which all the pre-op tests were taken so that Sophie didn't feel alarmed and 5) the way the staff laughed when 'The Font' indicated that the right leg was the one to be operated on. '' Thank you for telling us. I think we might have worked it out ". How much easier life is when you have vets who blend humour, kindness and professionalism . The French have some great virtues.
A little record of things too inconsequential for a diary but which have somehow dominated our day. Sophie will be home by ten.
Sophie has woken from this mornings surgery and is letting the staff know what she thinks of things. They say we can collect her tomorrow morning . 'The Font' suggests ten. They suggest seven thirty.
Tuesday morning. The second leg, literally, of Sophie's path to recovery.
The family princess is up early.
A full ten minutes in the garden so a girl can do what a girls got to do.
Then it's into the back of the dog car and off to the hospital in Toulouse.
The glum look is due to the lack of breakfast rather than an awareness of what lies in store.
Angus can't help but feel sad that this young lady is about to experience the second night of her life alone. Alone is not a concept Sophie understands.
While 'The Font' drives Sophie to the hospital Bob and Angus wait for the arrival of the boiler engineer.
Those small things too unimportant for a diary but which make life, life.
Winter storms are forecast but the day dawns bright and sunny. Bob arrives in the bedroom at six to inform me it's a beautiful morning. We head off to the departmental capital. A pretty little town with a wonderful medieval bridge and a castle built by the Black Prince. When we first arrived the centre was full of small boutiques and esoteric shops including a Harmonia Mundi CD store. The town council, in their wisdom, gave planning permission for two out of town shopping malls. The streets around the cathedral now a sea of empty store fronts. Others are barely hanging on. This is known as the doughnut effect. The centre empty and everything moved out to the edge.
It is also the home of the cheese monger. This by dint of its excellence not only survives but thrives.
Today, we buy some Mothais, some Langres and some Chaource. Bob gets a little Brie de Melun. His tail does its physically impossible up and down movement while simultaneously rotating. Perhaps he has a double jointed tail ?
Off to the garden shop for a dozen red hyacinth bulbs ...
... and some bees wax from the Droguerie. Bob and his master like the Droguerie. It smells of lavender , eucalyptus and stale sunshine and is the sort of everything piled on top of everything else type of store that disappeared in the UK twenty years ago.
Sophie remains blissfully ignorant of tomorrows appointment. She walks round the garden four times unaided. Her brother is keen to have a game of savage my sister but one look from Sophie tells him this isn't a good idea.
A spectacular dawn. A band of thick cloud on the horizon blocks the light from the rising sun and seems to push it sideways. The ground, where Bob is busy hunting unsuccessfully for moles, briefly lit from below rather than above.
All the village cockerels are in full voice. They appreciate the mornings particular beauty. Deer , mostly in groups of three, briefly appear on the lane then disappear. Above us late partying owls, white feathers visible against the dark, swoop from the plane trees in search of one last snack. They screech. Bob glares at them.
By the time we've wandered up the hill from an unsuccessful fishing trip to the waterfall it's brighter. The mundane industrial bricks that make up the little church burn red in the sunrise . In seven years this is only the second time I've seen it light up like this. About a month ago, as the sun was setting and the atmosphere was full of dust from the Sahara, it did something similar. I chuckle at the thought that this little church is, for a moment, as inspiring as the grandest of cathedrals. A little secret whispered to this early morning dog walker and his companion. A sort of morning all is well with the world benediction.
Along the lane the trees and The Rickety Old Farmhouse don't so much glow as shimmer.
A quiet Sunday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde but a quite exceptional one. Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places. Bob of course is much more interested in the moles. The moles are not in the least perturbed by Bob.