Winters can be bleak in rural France. The light doesn’t last long and that can get to a person, even someone like me who grew up in the north of England and who therefore should be used to a permanent vista of grey. So my wife, bless her, hatched a plan to lift my mood.
“I think it will do you good,” Natalie said, though I noticed a slight hint of nervousness in her voice. “A puppy might be just what you need.”
I mulled this over… it may indeed be just what I need or, it may be that your maniac of a wife has run out of excuses for introducing a new animal to the household and is brazenly using your seasonally adjusted mental fragility as a devious excuse to add to the numbers.
Either way, we were getting a new puppy and whether it was my mental state or hers that was the catalyst was now utterly irrelevant; the decision had been made.
I put up the usual token objections which were swatted away with the usual ‘I’ll-take-that-on-boards’, but I felt that there was a sub-text. I’ve read about dogs being taken into old people’s homes to cheer up the residents and this felt a bit like that.
It’s fair to say that Natalie’s solution to most things would be an animal of some kind; I daresay she’d sort out Brexit with a kitten, but in the time we’ve lived in France we’ve had, or still have, six dogs, three horses, four goats, at least a dozen hens, briefly a wild baby rabbit, six cats, four goldfish, one donkey, two mice and a live, thrashing lizard tail.
All of them are or were rescue animals in some way or another. For example, our fourth goat, Bambi, arrived because Natalie was flagged down by a man in the street who promised to eat the thing if she didn’t immediately put it in her car boot and remove the temptation.
And so Kipper the puppy duly arrived. A seven-week-old English Setter, abandoned by his mum, hand-reared and not yet in control of any of his limbs or his curiosity. Natalie had adored him online, and adored him in person. Which meant naturally, I was dreading the first time I would be left in sole charge of him – and he did not disappoint.
Natalie was also nervous about leaving him alone with me, I could tell. OK, I once mislaid one of the goats, but I still maintain that that wasn’t entirely my fault. History though eh? It has a habit of repeating itself… I really thought I’d lost Kipper. For 20 frantic minutes I scoured the place, inside and out, calling his name, which of course he didn’t yet respond to. I was desperate, partly for fear of losing him and partly for fear of what Natalie would say if I did.
If I really had lost him, I had two options: leave home immediately and never come back or fake my own attempted suicide and hope to get some sympathy that way.
I was genuinely close to tears from the frustration and then, then he turned up. He came lolloping to the top of the stairs, flailing like a baby giraffe or a young Peter Crouch. There was a look of hurt embarrassment on his face that was to some extent obscured by a mousetrap hanging off the end of his nose.
He whimpered, not out of any specific suffering really, more a sort of canine ‘What the hell, man!’ and he just sat at my feet looking up at me as if to say, ‘Is life always like this?’
“I know how you feel mate,” I said, picking him up and gently removing the trap. “I know just how you feel.” He’s going to fit in very nicely around here, I think.
Ian Moore writes a bimonthly column in French Property News. Click here to subscribe.