A good friend asked me recently, ‘Jen, do you ever think about where you will be in 5 years?’
On hearing his words, I did not need to think about where I’ll be, for I already knew as a destination has danced in my mind for many years. Now, as my life changes and my family now shape their own futures, the path to that destination is becoming a reality.
So where shall I be?
I shall be somewhere in France, perhaps sipping a good Pinot Noir or Gris, whilst basking in the hue of glorious sunset from the verandah of my home.
Along the verandah’s balustrade, brightly coloured flowers stretch upward and fresh herbs, of which I use to excite my cooking adorn the ledge. In the garden, my precious sausage dogs are taking in the scents, before rolling with passion on the freshly mowed grass.
In the small, yet quaint living room an overstuffed sofa bed bought from a second hand store, lies in wait for my two grown boys who are soon to arrive.
My french is now reasonable and in the last 5 years I have trekked the Annapurna, floated in the Dead Sea and gazed in wonder at the natural beauty of the Northern Lights.
My life is full of simple pleasures. Daily jaunts to the colourful market where freshly baked baguettes and locally grown produce are in abundance. Summer evenings see friends gathering under the vine covered terrace, their faces taking on a warm, orange glow from the abundance of fairy lights intertwined through the vine’s branches. Soft music filters through the night air, as does the laughter of people living a life well loved.
In the winter months snowflakes dance through the frosty air before blanketing the ground, and transforming my garden into a shimmering winter wonderland. Inside, I’m curled upon that comfy sofa in front of a flickering log fire, with the company of a good book and my beloved dogs.
I am content, I have fulfilled long held dreams.
Mostly though, I’m full of love for my beautiful children and loyal dogs who are, and always will be my greatest achievement.
I have a house full of Sausages. Not the greasy, squishy, edible variety, but more precisely, the loveable, quirky Dachshund variety.
Having my home filled with four sausages was not something I’d ever planned: it just kind of happened, as most things do in life.
And it all started with Kiri, or Saus as she was affectionately called.
Saus was a beautiful mini-wire haired dachshund who came to live with me by chance 10 years ago.
After having had 3 litters (grrr) and still only 3 years old, she was apparently no longer of any ‘use’, therefore she was in desperate need of a new home. Mum had heard about her from a friend, so Mum called me asking if I’d consider adopting her. On hearing her story, I was more than happy to go and meet her to see if we got along.
The meet and greet did go well and Saus entered my life and touched my heart like no other. Her spirit had been severely broken at some point in her life, however she came to trust me and my love for her, in doing so, we became one.
There are no words to describe the depth of her beauty and my love. She was simply Saus, a beautiful, yet incredibly shy being who gave me permission to be the centre of her universe.
I am, and always will be humbled by her trust.
We shared 5 magical years together, years filled with so much love, so much laughter and so many discoveries of her quirky, sausage ways.
Her passion for cheese. Her need to burrow into her doggy sleeping bag and most of all, her great love of being in the car. She didn’t have to go anywhere, just getting in and being in the car was her pleasure.
It was the getting out and walking bit she didn’t fancy: and her hilarious antics surrounding getting in and being outof the car can be read about here.
But sadly, on one tragic summer morning, I lost my girl unexpectedly from complications of the heart.
I was devastated. And there are truly no words to describe my grief. In losing her, I too was lost.
She had become my world and when she died, part of me died with her. I was inconsolable.
Then the day after my Saus died, I had a call from a rescue organisation asking if I’d be interested in re-homing a male, mini-wire. My response was instant. No, I could not imagine taking on another right now.
Yet a good friend had other ideas.
Despite my inconsolable grief, my friend talked me into going to meet this little fellow. ‘Jen, you might need him as much as he needs you…’.
As I sat on the grass in a park where his current owners and I had agreed to meet, I watched Stanley (then known as Joey) jump out of the car and cautiously walk toward me. With his little wiry head darting from side to side, his body language seemed to scream fear, clearly he was frightened of what lay ahead.
Standing momentarily beside the man who held his lead, he looked around before tentatively walking toward me, cautiously sniffing the area around where I sat.
I didn’t speak, I simply let him do his thing. Then without warning, he climbed onto my lap and buried his head in my arms. I was completely taken aback, yet held him close, hoping my touch would lessen his fear.
A little while later I placed him gently on the grass, stood up and walked toward the picnic table to retrieve a bottle of water. Stanley followed and would not leave my side. At that moment I realised he had made his decision, I was his person.
So Stanley came to live with me, and just as my friend said, we needed each other. In his company, my grief over losing Saus slowly subsided and I believe his memory of a life less than perfect also faded.
Four years on, his loyalty has never waned.
However in the early days of him being with us, that loyalty also seemed to cause him to suffer from separation anxiety. Family told me that when I left the house without him, he would wait by the window, forever watching for my return.
And it was this anxiousness that led to Oscar’s arrival.
At the time I was also still working for an international airline as cabin crew, which had me jetting off to various destinations for up to 4 days at a time. This was hard for Stanley (and me, I might add), so I decided a companion may help ease his separation anxiety.
Enter Oscar aka Bear.
Oscar came to us as a pup, full of life and love and the perfect companion for Stanley. In an instant Stanley was his protector and the two became firm friends.
Whilst I’m told Stanley still ‘waits’ for me, it is not as prolonged as it was before Oscar’s arrival.
Oscar is a standard wire-haired dachshund, so now as an adult dog, he is quite a bit bigger than Stanley and gloompfs along like a big ole bear. And that’s how he came to acquire his nickname, Bear.
About two years after Oscar’s arrival I had another call from Devoted to Dachshund Rescue (D2DR) asking if I would foster a male black and tan smooth, whose family were going through a divorce and could not keep him. At nine years old Simon had only known one family, however within minutes of him coming to us, it was if we were that family. His owner dropped him off and he didn’t look back. Simon seemed to love being with his new brothers, so the decision to keep him was made and Simon became part of our family.
A year later I had another call. Would I foster again? Yes, of course, however Eddie was different. Whatever had happened to him was beyond tragic. You really have to wonder what possesses someone to subject a defenceless, sentient being to such cruelty.
Eddie, as we chose to later name him had been found in an industrial waste bin wrapped in wire. Extremely emaciated and terrified, he was allegedly taken to a pound where he stayed for 6 weeks before D2DR was called. On getting the call they drove 3 hours to retrieve him, and then called me.
When I first saw him I melted. The fear is his beautiful amber eyes was absolute. Ribs and spine protruded through his rich, copper coloured coat and on closer inspection, he had a severe overbite.
I knew that in time, his physical issues could be mended, yet his emotional trauma was another story and would obviously take time to heal. His fear of people was deep seeded, but interestingly, just as Stanley made me his person, it was my son Max that became Eddie’s.
Two years on, Eddie still has an intense fear of strangers and also being outside of his comfort zone: his home. Going for walks is not his thing, nor is being anywhere that involves mixing with people other than his own. He is content to be at home, with his family.
So now I have a house full of Sausages: and what a house it is…
What better way to start [again] at the beginning than with a Weekly Photo Challenge.
My feet are again placed on the proverbial starting “Line“line as last week I unwittingly deleted all my followers that I had acquired over the many years I’ve been a WordPress user.
How did I make such an error?
I decided to change to WP.org and on following instructions, migrated data etc and followers over to the new site. After a few days of frustration I decided it wasn’t working for me, so returned to my WP.com. However on deleting my Jetpack subscription I did not realise that my followers would also be deleted.
A collection of shoes in the carpark, yet there was not a soul on the beach?
Practising playing with zoom exposures…
Call me naive, or stupid if the cap fits, but as I still had my original site live, I simply presumed all would be well. No, it wasn’t
So all that’s left to do is to stand on the starting line once again and hit the ground running.
For a number of years my blog was called Quite Simply, but I came to the realisation that just as I had grown and changed over the years, my blog needed to also.
I knew the new name needed to reflect the true loves of my life, and it also needed to be flexible and not limit ways in which I could document and share those loves: animals, photography & plant-based eating.
So just who are Stanley & Bear? They’re dachshunds, and incredibly special ones at that.
Stanley is the 2nd of my four dachshunds that have come into my life, following the passing of my beautiful Kiri. He is loyal, loveable and the silent leader of our sausage pack. Oscar aka Bear, arrived into our home not long after Stanley, and like Stanley he is a wire-haired dachshund with a gentle nature and loving soul.
Simon & Eddie complete our foursome, yet unlike S & B, they are of the smooth-haired variety and came to us as fosters with sad backgrounds. We chose not to re-home them with strangers and instead adopted them to complete our Sausage family.
When it came to re-naming my blog, using Stanley & Bear seemed to fit as the name enables me to encapsulate what I love most in life. Animals, photography and plant-based eating.
You may ask how photography and plant-based eating falls under the Stanley & Bear umbrella. Firstly, S & B are simply incredible ‘models’ from a photographic perspective and they are always willing to help if I’m setting up a photo shoot. That’s Bear on the left doing a spot of quality assurance checks on a batch of freshly made vegan mayonnaise: recipe in a post soon.
Secondly, they are sentient beings whose right to live a life free from harm is of the utmost importance. Just as it is of the utmost importance for me to eat a healthy, wholesome plant-based diet.
And lastly, it would’ve been a mouthful to have included all the boy’s names in the title, so hence, Stanley & Bear was born.
I hope to take my blog to a new place: sharing images, plant-based recipes and the antics of my beloved Sausage boys.
Travel affords wonderful experiences and at times, unfortunate ones. And it is the latter that often allows the true spirit of human kindness to shine.
In the last few days I have bathed in that kindness and I’m so very thankful.
Last week I started to feel those tell tale signs of a cold and sure enough within a day, I was reaching for the tissues and beginning to look like Rudolph’s long lost sister.
Even though I felt a little more lethargic than usual, I simply put it down to environment and whilst I did feel lousy, I pushed through. But as the days progressed, my lethargy and fatigue levels increased to the point where I could barely stand.
Alone in a hotel in Siem Reap with a raging fever, I realised I was very ill and needed to see someone. I went to the reception desk and instantly Paulo the manager was at my side. Without hesitation he called his tuk tuk driver and took me to hospital.
My simple cold has manifested into pneumonia, which although debilitating at least it’s now clear as to why I am feeling so ill.
So even though I am still alone in my hotel, I’m actually not for the wonderful Cambodian staff are continually checking on my welfare.
It is not in their job description to do so and I’m overwhelmed by their kindness. It is so comforting to know that people, albeit strangers, have taken the time to care.