We all know the old saying; home is where the heart is, and I’ve always found those words endearing as home can be wherever your heart is happy, irrespective of geography or material possessions.
My heart has been happy living in many spaces, but right now, it is happiest simply being in the space I’ve created over the last 10 years.
So in light of Co-vid19 and its restrictions, spending time at home without visitors has not been a concern. As an empath, I find being in my own home with only my dogs & family as company, gratifying and empowering.
Yesterday restrictions were lifted slightly, allowing up to 5 people to visit your home. These restrictions came at the perfect moment for it was my youngest sons 22nd birthday the previous day. And unlike me, he often prefers the company of his friends, rather than time alone. So with the combination of a birthday and lifted restrictions, he invited 5 of his friends over for a few celebratory beverages, to be shared in front of a fire on a cool May evening.
As twilight descended, I stood for a moment and took in my surroundings.
And as my son’s friends arrived, their joyful chatter and laughter filtered through the garden and the sound warmed my heart. A little later as they settled around the fire, I decided to capture this moment in time, for being a silent observer to that beautiful moment made my heart happy.
Today I had to go to work. But today was different, very different, as along with 4 of the most amazing, beautiful and honest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, it was our last day.
The company we worked for, like thousands of other businesses, has closed as a result of the economic downturn brought on by Covid19.
Sadly though, we have not been asked to take paid and or unpaid leave with the hope of returning in the future. The company went into Voluntary Administration, and along with all stores Australia wide, our store has been permanently closed.
And whilst I feel immensely sad that I’ve lost a great casual job and I’ll no longer share my working hours with those fabulous women, we all still have our health and our families, a sentiment countless thousands of others around the world cannot share.
Unfortunately, this scenario is being repeated, not only in Australia, but throughout the world. So many people have lost their jobs, and as I walked through Sunshine Plaza with my son today, to drop off my shop keys, the reality of those job losses was evident.
The massive shopping plaza that houses over 340 stores, was deserted. Over 95% of stores were closed.
Yet, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. From a financial perspective, I am able to comfortably stay at home and share this difficult time with the best family anyone could ask for. I am not alone; I have food on the table and an abundance of love from human and canine family alike.
So please, whilst it may be difficult that we cannot travel, go on holidays, see friends or simply do what we took for granted, be mindful of what you can do.
You can simply take the time to embrace what is really important. Time. Time spent with those you love and who love you in return.
Stay home, think about those not as fortunate, and embrace this new way of living…
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…
As the aircraft descended through a haze of pollution, my first glimpses of Udaipur came into view. White stucco – like buildings dotted the landscape, and the lakes synonymous with the city, sparkled in the early morning light.
Purchasing a pre-paid taxi ticket inside the clean, modern airport, I exited to find drivers waiting to be called to take the fare: a site contrary to what I’d expected. In a very orderly manner, one fellow (who may have been the supervisor) took my ticket then gestured to one of the many drivers. My designated driver nodded respectfully, took my case and motioned for me to follow.
On the 40 minute drive to Animal Aid, the India I had expected presented itself. Horns blared, cows mooched and people jostled with cars, bikes and truck for the same piece of space on roads and paths. It was manic, yet not frightening or confronting. It was India.
After passing through the small city, winding roads that carved through small hills deposited us at the gates of Animal Aid, where a cacophony of animal voices alerted me to the fact we had indeed arrived.
Dogs, donkeys, goats and cows all milled about, some oblivious to my arrival, whilst others inquisitive: sniffing, smooching and seemingly quite interested in finding out just who I was.
A little later in the day, after being warmly welcomed by the family, I wandered around the shelter meeting the many animals whose lives have been transformed by Animal Aid.
Helping to feed a group of calves, I felt a gentle but firm nudge on my left thigh. Expecting to see one of the numerous donkeys who were milling about, I was surprised to find at my side Buff, a baby water buffalo. Roughly the same size as a small cow, Buff was determined to have my attention and let it be known by continually nudging my arm whenever I stopped scratching behind his ear.
Who would have thought after leaving Australia feeling excited and also a little sad at the thought of leaving my beloved family that 48 hours later I would be making friends with a water buffalo?
Afterward as we sat in the garden drinking chilled Pinot Grigio and dining on a delicious lentil curry at twilight serenaded by the sounds of animals, I felt content.
Similar to my departure, my arrival was bittersweet. I do feel content and happy, yet also wish I could share this contentment with my best friends: Stanley, Oscar, Simon & Eddie.
With the arrival of a long-awaited Indian visa, the day of my bittersweet departure has dawned.
I say bittersweet because I’m torn. Torn between the joy of fulfilling dreams and the pain of leaving behind those who complete my world.
Max, Rob, Stanley, Oscar, Simon, Eddie & Mum, fill my life with love, laughter and joy: leaving them, albeit temporarily breaks my heart.
“I feel so selfish,’ I said to Mum this morning. “I desperately want this job in India, but I don’t want to leave you, the boys and the pups”.
My ‘pups’ are my adored four-legged family and they will not understand. And that breaks my heart.
A few years ago I went to live in Taiwan for 3 months and I wrote the post, wish I could speak Dachshund . The feelings expressed in that post mirror my feelings today.
Interestingly enough Oscar, the patriarch of my canine pack is decidedly different today. Normally he is a very chilled, laid back chap who sits alone and simply surveys the day’s events without too much ado. Yet today, he has not let me out of his sight.
I believe he knows. Yet he does not appear to be sad, which is comforting as part of me feels he is giving me the reassurance I need. Letting me know it will be okay, and that I shouldn’t worry. As I write now, I can feel his gentle, rhythmic breathing – it is indeed reassuring and comforting.
Fast forward a few hours and I am now sitting at the airport waiting for the first on my four flights that will see me finally in India in 48 hours. And whilst I walked out of my door earlier this afternoon with quite a heavy heart, I also left knowing that all will be okay.
As we drive through the magnificent Allgau Alps region in the country’s south-west, fresh white snow blankets majestic peaks, which sparkle like huge diamonds in the afternoon sunshine.
Against a backdrop of brilliant blue sky, the effect is breathtaking. I am unable to take in the beauty that surrounds me for the narrow, snow-covered road snaking around the edge of the mountain demands my attention.
The road thankfully widens as we enter the quaint village of Tannheimer Tal, and without fear of plunging off the side of the mountain, I am finally able to take in my surroundings.
The village, nestled in the heart of the Tannheimer Valley is walled with ski fields which host a myriad of runs. As we watch, skiers and snowboarders weave tracks continuously through the freshly fallen, powder white snow. Traditional Austrian chalets dot the landscape. Wooden shutters frame windows adorned with bright red bows and fairy lights in obvious celebration of the festive season. From chimneys perched upon snow-capped rooftops, smoke lingers in the frosty air. The effect is homely and inviting.
Against the side of one chalet a brightly coloured sign announcing ‘Zimmer Frei’ (rooms available) grabs my attention. As we have no accommodation booked for the night, we decide to stay.
Later, as we dine on freshly crumbed schnitzel while sipping a superb local Austrian wine, I am joined by Isolde, the owner of Alpengastof Zur Post, and she tells me the guesthouse has been in her family for over 400 years.
The cosy dining room, with its carved wooden chairs and red chequered tablecloths oozes charm. Family photos dating back to the early 1900’s cover the walls, add to the feeling of homeliness and warmth. After dinner, we head upstairs where thick doonas lie invitingly across pine beds. From shuttered windows, the view is simply magical as moonlight showers the Alps and adjoining ski fields.
This region is the perfect place to base yourself for an Austrian winter holiday, as it is guaranteed to excite skiers and snowboarders, both novice and expert. Non-skiers can also delight in winter activities on horse-drawn carriage rides, ice-skating, and moonlight toboggan rides.
King Ludwig’s castle of Neuschwanstein along the famous Romantic Road is only a short 20 minute drive and the fabled city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen an hour away. But the beauty of this area can not only be found in the magnificent mountains, snow fields and crystal clear lakes, its beauty is also found in its people. They are friendly, hospitable and brimming with warmth, making your holiday in Austria a truly uplifting and invigorating experience.