Each year since she arrived in England, our daughter-in-law, Ali, has gone to Canada for a few weeks to catch up with her family and friends. Between visits Ali’s mother, and sometimes her father, come to London. Ali missed her usual Christmas trip in December 2019 and with no parental visits since the pandemic began, the pull of Canada became increasingly strong. A week ago and at very short notice a work opportunity there arose and Ali, our son Joshua and our grandson River flew off with their coveted negative Covid-19 tests. 

The last thing to be done before departure was to find somewhere for their dog to stay. They would be away for eight to ten weeks and where better to lodge Lupey than at the kennel of Mum and Dad? This blog is about our first days together; more precisely, about how both Lupey and I have changed since she last stayed with us some two years ago.

Lupey, who is a miniature wire-haired dachshund, was born in Germany almost ten years ago and, as a puppy, was bought by Joshua who was then living in Berlin. In human terms she would now be in her early sixties. These dogs were bred to chase rabbits from their warrens and, in keeping, she is tiny. However, despite her size – she could easily live in a hat box – she has a piercing bark which she uses to ward off dogs and strangers, sometimes imaginary! 

I am not a dog enthusiast and the contract we struck before we offered to house Lupey was that responsibility for her care would fall mainly to Rohan. I would be there as a back up, just in case! We always had family dogs when our children were growing up but I saw them as verging on the unhygienic – being licked was always anathema to me and washing up their food bowls was not far behind. Moreover, taking them for walks was more burden than pleasure and following behind to pick up poos was both embarrassing and degrading. 

But that was the past – Lupey and I have now changed and being together has become easier. First, Lupey and her desire to dominate. When we used to take her for walks she pulled on the leash as she forged ahead leading the way. Now, pulling is rare and what was once a tug-of-war with the inevitable aching shoulder, is now a calm saunter. In keeping with this behaviour, at home she no longer rushes into places out-of-bounds. Previously when backs were turned, she would rush up stairs to our bedroom, and, if the mood took her, sleep on our bed. This is now a thing of the past. 

Next to her licking, her desire to ‘wash’ me has now stopped. Instead, soon after I sit down on a sofa, she is snuggling up beside me resting her head on my thigh. Now, when she is close by, I find myself enjoying stroking her back and even speaking to her.

Finally – her barking. Her annoying – infuriating – yapping outbursts are now much reduced; she is less easily provoked, stops immediately if told off and, importantly, the bark itself now feels rather different – hers is no ordinary bark. Recently, a German woman staying nearby approached us rather hesitantly asking if we could resolve a conundrum. After some introductions she explained how, unlike any of the other dachshunds around, Lupey barked in German. Moreover, on the one occasion she had spoken in German to tell her off, Lupey appeared to understand – « How could this be? ». When we told the neighbour of Lupey’s early years in Berlin, she was satisfied – in a surreal way everything now made sense. What’s more, when I now hear the bark it has a redeeming feature. 

In many ways, Lupey’s changes are in keeping with her age – what else would one would expect of a 60-year old? I too am ageing – almost 80 years now – and for me the more recent changes have been influenced by a year dominated by the lethal Coronavirus pandemic. 

These last ten months have been tumultuous. Everyone will have been affected and for my part, in response to this raging viral storm I became anxious, frightened, suspicious, sad and helpless. In addition, I have grown even closer to, and more appreciative of Rohan, my family and my friends. And with this there has come a greater understanding of ‘others’. Accordingly, this once rather intolerant old man has not only softened a tad, but has noticed himself listening and feeling more sympathetic and open-minded. In my dog-sitting role, it is this more accepting side that has allowed me to warm to Lupey, to tolerate and to like her. It does feel that our changes have complemented one another.

The illustration shows a photo of a reflective Lupey sitting on a chair

For helping me write this blog, I would like to thank Joshua, Sarah, Rohan and Vivien.

27 thoughts on “Lupey and I Grow Old

  1. Dear Joe
    Lupey could not be in better hands . Nice to know that she is loved.
    Love to you all . Urs

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  2. Hi Joe
    I fully emphasise with your story.
    We once dog ( and house) sat for friends. When I started I thought the dog scruffy, smelly and not that attractive He was rather like Hairy Maclary the dog of a children’s story.
    However I also soon fell in love with that adorable dog. He taught me the house rules. eg I had to ask him to come onto his blanket on the couch. He whimpered at me till I worked it out.

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  3. Dear Joe,

    I remember dear little Lupey from her younger and spritelier days. I love the fact that it’s been identified that she barks in German! I felt tension loosen and blood pressure drop as I imagined that calming sofa-time you and Lupey have (but still chuckled at your abhorrence of having to carry the “dog walkers’ handbag” when out and about). Such a touching blog that speaks volumes. Thank you.

    Love,
    JJ x

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  4. Ahhh, what a lovely relationship that’s been built due to time, understanding and mutual affection/tolerance. If Lupey could share her story, I wonder what she’d say about being left with her grandpa!

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  5. I love this Joe. We all need to adapt to a new way of living. Becoming more caring towards others and the natural world is very necessary to cope with the changes we are all facing.

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  6. Dear Joe,

    I loved the story of your relationship with Lupey and how you have both changed. As you know we have several dogs who join us for after-swim coffee. My favorite is She. She is a border collie who is quite an antique fellow. In human terms he would probably be about 90- he is such a polite dog-he lies down as soon as he comes to the beach, but if I greet him he staggers to his feet in an arthritic way and quietly wags his tail. Elderly dogs are a delight but so are elderly humans!

    Love

    Robin

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    1. Joe really loved hearing your description of “middle aged” Lupey. Not a great dog lover myself for reasons you so eloquently described. However I somehow bonded with Lupey when she was young and vigorous in Traguennec… she seemed to love me ( maybe cupboard love) and her to me….
      So glad you two have aged gracefully!

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      1. Dear Elona, Thank you for your comment. I remember well how, in Tréguennec, Lupey would wait at your door in the morning and then greet you excitedly when you emerged. I have to say that Lupey has endeared herself too selected others too in this way. Love, Joe

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    2. Dear Robin, Thank you for your comments. Your note adds a very important dimension. In some instances animals, in your case ‘She’, can be the ‘person’ with whom one identifies and who serves to make you welcome. Thanks very much for the story. Love, Joe

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  7. Dear Joe
    Like you, I think I have “softened a tad”, seeing other people’s point of view more than before. In the past I tended to understand other’s views in order to make my views more persuasive. Now I am trying to be a little more objective. For example I have been trying to understand what, deep down, is driving Trump’s red neck supporters. Simply condemning them doesn’t work in a democracy when they have well over 40% of the vote. For many of them they believe their way of life and their very identity is under imminent threat. Given the increased poverty of what we used to call “white trash” since 07/08 banking crash, this is more rational than liberals might care to admit; and for which I, as part of the liberal elite in this country, mutatis mutandis, might care to admit. x Ian

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    1. Dear Ian, Thank you for your comments. We both believe we have changed, but, over the years I have noticed how some changes are very private. What’s more, while they are no less important, they often go unnoticed by ‘outsiders’. Let me know if those close to you see a change. Yours, Joe

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  8. Renate Gosain writes
    Hi Joe, I thoroughly enjoyed your blog about Lupey and how dogs mellow and adjust their habits as they get older much as we do. I love Lupey and wish that I could be around her more often. Enjoy each other! Renata

    Joe Collier reply . Dear Renate. I am pleased you liked the blog. I suppose it is just possible that you will come to London later this year. If you do, Lupey would love to catch up. Yours, Joe

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  9. Dear Joe
    Like dogs, this blog seems to have been very popular. I too enjoyed this canine tale. Interesting that you attribute the changes in you to the covid experience. Perhaps it was Lupey’s job to draw attention to that?

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    1. Dear Andrea, many thanks for your comment. I am sure Lupey was influential, after all, in any relationship with animals the question often arises as ‘who trains who?’ I suspect Lupey might see it that she is influencing me, but that aside, I know many other human beings who feel changed as a result of the COVID experience. Love, Joe

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