Bonnie’s Story – Part Four – The High Road to Scotland with a Border Collie

At the end of the last post I was describing how well Bonnie took to her new diet. It was slightly harder for me, a longterm vegetarian.  Butchers shops are not comfortable places for me and ordering things in Catalan was difficult.  I felt I had to pretend the meat was for us humans, especially if I was ordering steak. Buying lots of human grade meat for your dog is not a common practice in Catalunya, maybe not anywhere.
But I did get borrowed kudos when I started enthusiastically asking for less popular animal parts.  Livers, kidneys, hearts….heads and necks….I even spent a few weeks searching for raw tripe only to find the EU has banned its sale.

Did you know that dogs like raw fish – whole and straight from the freezer?  Mackeral was popular.

Finding and storing fresh raw meat is harder when you are on the move. In July we set off yet again in the camper van, this time with our noses pointing north to explore the Highlands of Scotland.  Bonnie was in the best of health and so I took a flexible approach to her diet – dried food here, sausage and chips there, a chicken wing, half a rabbit.

The weather was very hot right from day one and as we drove north we looked for cooler days but it seemed never to happen and the sunshine followed us all the way to Inverness and beyond. We were so lucky to always find inviting waters

Rivers in France rarely disappoint

 Punting in Cambridge. Bonnie was the Queen of the Cam – tourists took photos of her

We passed through London and I showed Bonnie my old home in Stoke Newington. We were going to sleep in the van but our neighbours were still in the same house and invited us to stay overnight. Next morning we walked through the Victorian cemetary that stretches along the back

 My Catalan partner finds this interest in old graveyards totally incomprehensible but I like them and loved the view from the back window of my house

 It was like living beside a nature reserve and in Spring the dawn chorus was amazing

 I have a story to tell about this sculpture but will save it for another time

Visiting Family

We met family all along the route – without planning it we visited almost everyone, even those who are no longer with us.  One niece lives near Folkstone where we landed. Then in London we went to my brothers old home, still full of memories both happy and sad after his death the year before. Then to my sister in Cambridge. Up to the borders and another niece and nephew and grand-nephew.  After that we headed north with the sun still blazing and met another of my sisters in Newtonmore in the Cairngorms.  Close by is the river where my fathers ashes were scattered and as we were also visiting many of his hydroelectric dams we felt that we were really on a family odessey
We were heading for Inverness where I was born but first we took a right turn to Findhorn Bay. It was still incredibly hot and we stopped for some more river swimming before we reached the coast

I was born on the east coast of Scotland but we moved to the west when I was 6.  I hadn’t realised it before but my deepest sense of home is in this north eastern corner. So good to take Bonnie there.
The light feels just the right sort of light and the beaches seem like proper beaches

 We stayed at the long established New Age Centre and Ecological Community, Findhorn, famous at one time for its huge vegetables grown in sand and apparently aided by nature spirits

Of course we visited the house where I was born in Inverness and also went to see the Dolphins that live in the Moray Firth. Every day there are groups of visitors and professional photographers waiting at the point for the tide to come in bringing fish, and dolphins close behind.

All the coast line is magical. 

This is Rosemarkie where I first learned to walk.
My mothers ashes were scattered here so the place is thick with memories and feelings

For the first five years of my life we spent the summers in Rosemarkie. 
The Fairy Glen is just as mysterious 50 years on

One day we met a look-alike puppy even more foxy than ours

We headed west through spectacular mountain scenery. Every day was better than the last
Some fellow campers at Fortrose had recommended the free camping at Shieldaig

Heaven on earth – apart from the midges which finally began to attack us at nightfall
Now we were driving southward and stopped to camp on the Silver Sands near Arisaig

Here began the part of the journey requiring Ferries – Caledonian MacBrayne took us from Skye to Mallaig, Mallaig to Rhum, Ardnamurchan to Tobermory on Mull

And finally from Mull to Oban.

Bonnie is used to boats after all her trips to the Scillies and was a natural island hopper

 On Mull we camped wild, spending some nights alone in the car park above spectacular Calgary Bay

There is a nature reserve with sculptures nearby –  Calgary Art in Nature.
Bonnie with recycled sandpipers

 We stayed with my other sister in Port Appin and then slowly made our way out of the mountains down to Glasgow, stopping off to visit the spirits of our aunts  in Tighnabruich.

Clutch Foot

In Glasgow we parked the van and finally had a rest from driving. Too late I realised that over 4000km of driving is hard on the legs and I developed tendinitis in my clutch foot which took more than three months to resolve. We visited my niece who lives in a flat overlooking the River Clyde and I felt amazed that this journey had so cleverly wound its way around all the family as well as many of the special places of my childhood.

In early August we arrived in Cornwall – in spite of my ankle we managed to climb Carn Galver

After a month in our lovely cabaña we set off again for Folkstone and the journey through France. My ankle problem meant abandonning the camper van in Cornwall and we bought a little Spanish car in the UK which carried us home.
No more camping so we stayed in hotels.
One rainy night we went dripping into a family hotel in who-knows-where mid France.
They welcomed us and Bonnie with smiles and I had one of the best meals in my life.
Trout with almond sauce.

 We took a new route south and passed over the Millau Viaduct

When I was passenger  I could have Bonnie with me.

We got home in time for the big Independence demonstration on September 11th.
They took my name! – Via Catalana or The Catalan Way!

 I really expect the next episode with be the final one but please don’t avoid it thinking it will be too sad.  I leave you today in the late sunshine of that September on the coast road near Sant Pol. There were many more lovely adventures to come.  I hope you will accompany us to the gentle peaceful and beautiful end of the story.  Till tomorrow my friends

Bonnie’s Story – Part Three – The Love of a Collie

The summer of 2012 was supposed to be our summer of rest and recuperation. After we left Duna in her new Norfolk paradise we travelled slowly down to Cornwall in the camper van, enjoying peace at last.  Bonnie loved camping and it was great to take her to some favourite places like Waylands Smithy the Neolithic Burial Chamber on the ancient Ridgeway. It is a very powerful place.

We parked overnight on the Ridgeway which is one of the oldest highways across England and were kept awake by a strange clicking that couldn’t be turned off in the dashboard.  Every time it stopped and I returned to bed, it started up again. Eventually I decided we must be parked in the middle of the ley line so decided to move the van. Only a few metres back and the sound stopped

We arrived in Cornwall early August and only a few days later received the terrible news of my brothers death in London. Once again we left Bonnie with our friends and returned to London in the van.  A few weeks later we went back yet again for the funeral and by the time we were able to finally settle down in Cornwall, the summer break was almost over. Bonnie and I stayed on for another month and my partner had to fly back to Catalunya.
Can you see her?

This period of being just Bonnie and me in our country cabaña was very peaceful.  I wanted rest and time to grieve and she was happy to just play all day in the field with her friends. We took long walks together and she was the perfect kind companion as I tried to make sense of a senseless death and to somehow come to terms with the loss of a sibling. 
One sunny day we spent hours on the rocks at Perranuthnoe

In the autumn we made the journey down through France this time accompanied by my friend Val. We found wonderful campsites by rivers and on the last night in the Cathar area of south west France we stayed in a hotel that not only allowed dogs in the bedrooms but in the restaurant. Lovely France!

Back in Catalunya we had many more wonderful trips.
We returned again and again to Sant Nicolau where we felt so much at home.
Here we are in St Pere de Pescador

We took the train from Granollers to La Molina. It is a ski resort and quite deserted when there is no snow.  A sagging dolmen reminded us of Cornwall

We went walking in the hills between the Valle Oriental and the Mediteranean, often with our friends Oreneta and Chuck. Don’t they make a lovely couple?

We went to collect water from the natural spring at Santa Fe in Montseny

At Sant Hilari Sacalm – the town with many spring water fountains – Bonnie at last learned how to drink from the fountain but she always preferred the hand method

Here she is at the Font del Ferro – the water is full of iron – you can see how much she adored her new friend. He doesn’t like his picture used here too often but it would be an empty story if he wasn’t included.  After the initial moments of barking at him when they first met, she gave her heart to him completely. She loved me of course but she always went first to Pep when we came home together.
It was a doggy thing!  I didn’t care – I just wanted her to be happy and safe

I took her several times to Barcelona – always feeling very excited to be there with her. She was very good on the train and the only time it felt difficult was when we sat outside a cafe on Enric Grenados in Eixample. I hadn’t realised they use that pedestrian street for skateboarding – her pet hate.
Here she is with Barcelona down below when we went to stay overnight in Nou Barris

In April 2013 we drove to the borders of Catalunya to explore the Ports de Beseit where there are amazing rock formations

 and deep gullies of crystal clear water

We were camping again of course – you can’t have a better holiday from a dogs point of view.
When we were in Granollers most of her walks were in one of the two parks nearby. This is the walkway of Park Ponent. I used to worry she missed the Cornish countryside but I think she was happy anywhere and everywhere so long as I was there and it was quiet and had interesting smells.

And in the Park Nou (new park) she sometimes met friends. She had begun to get over her fear of dogs and was her old friendy self. This is Aslan – a very popular male collie sharing a ball with her

We went back and forth to Sant Nicolau, spending time with Blue

engaging in cat staring competitions

and we celebrated my birthday there with my friends Janet and Bev.
I love this photo

In April 2013 I felt relaxed enough to leave Bonnie in Granollers so I could go to a family wedding in Scotland. After so many separations it never felt easy to leave her but it is also so good to come home to a dog meeting you at the station ( and a man of course!)

A few days later she suddenly seemed strange and I went to the vet feeling like an over anxious owner but as we walked there, she deteriorated and I had to carry her the last few metres. They took blood tests and discovered Erlichiosis, a tick borne disease which is not found in the UK but is quite common here. Sheep carry these ticks and if you are unlucky – the ticks carry the disease

We were so lucky to have the 24 hour Veterinary Hospital Lauro close by. They kept Bonnie in overnight and treated her with fluids and antibiotics and she quickly responded. It had been serious as her platelets were dangerously low and she was very anaemic which is why she couldn’t walk all the way to the vet. There is a sunny bench outside the vets where you can have visiting hours

After this scare I changed her diet to a natural raw one – giving her totally raw meaty bones like chicken legs, quartered rabbits, beef chunks, liver and kidneys, even a whole chicken once, head included. She began to thrive and I had never seen her look so young and so healthy and fit.

Well as you see the story is still not finished – it is like the Arabian Nights as I don’t want it to end!  How did I ever imagine it would be in two parts?  Well, I will continue tomorrow for those of you who are still with me. It is such a pleasure for me to see how full her life was.
Highlights to come include the amazing journey to Scotland in the camper van in one of the hottest summers the UK has known. See you soon

Bonnie’s Story – A Border Collie Goes to Live Abroad

It is a week since Bonnie died.  I have no idea why she got cancer but it is impossible to avoid wondering if something I did caused this change to happen in her body. In this Part Two of her story I will describe the good and the bad experiences that we had after moving. I don’t suppose I will ever know if the big change I put her through could have harmed her health but I do know she had many wonderful adventures and even just the fact of the fabulous weather meant that she was able to go places and do things that would not have been possible if we had stayed in Cornwall. 

Part Two  Bonnie Moves to Catalunya and the Mediterranean

The trip down south went very well. Blue found it tiring but Bonnie of course enjoyed the journey and the feeling of being in a pack on the move. We travelled with my friend Marta and stayed in hotels,stopping off for snacks in French cafes. It was a wonderful moment when we had a break and for the first time felt the warmth of Mediterranean sunshine amidst the scent of wild herbs

It certainly was different to suddenly have three dogs in our house. There were beds, water bowls and cosy corners all over the place and we had to create routines for eating and walking that made everyone happy.  I became the dog woman of Granollers.  I had worried that Blue would hate being in a busy town but actually she began to blossom here. She walked fairly slowly due to her arthritis but on the streets she had a good excuse for dawdling – the smells!  She loved sniffing all the corners, all the smells of other dogs and people. The warmth of that first winter immediately started healing her aches and pains and she got a new jaunty lease of life.
For an older dog I think that a town house is perfect.
People in the street were incredibly friendly and welcoming to us.

We all went to the mountains and the woods and to the beach and enjoyed lots of cafe stops with the dogs happily waiting under the tables for treats to drop down to their level.

Problems started gradually between Duna, the resident springer spaniel and Bonnie.
 Duna couldn’t cope with the new hierarchy and although Bonnie was submissive and avoiding conflict, skirting around the edges of Duna’s domain, it gradually turned nasty.   At first they played together but Duna occasionally would launch herself at Bonnie and fight, tooth and nail. What was amazing was how strong Bonnie was in her own defence. She found her teeth without a doubt. She always won these fights, sometimes having Duna on the floor, bleeding from her face and neck. Bonnie would always walk away at this point and then Duna…..would relaunch the attack.

How do you separate two fighting dogs? 

I searched the internet for advice and found one very useful piece of information that I want to pass on here.
If you try to separate two fighting dogs by holding their collars you will probably get bitten, by mistake, but seriously bitten sometimes to the bone. What you must do is grab the back legs of the aggressor – not the victim who you would make more vulnerable – lift them up and walk backwards as if you have a wheelbarrow. It absolutely works and they can’t reach you to bite. 

Bonnie was well trained and I could stop her fighting with a command but clearly I had to first remove Duna from the battlefield. Bonnie would then stop instantly.
We were all damaged in these struggles. I badly hurt both my hands and dislocated a finger. Bonnie became nervous of meeting other dogs, Duna sustained many wounds, and both Pep and I were bitten before we discovered the above method. Blue was able again to keep a distance from most of these problems but once I saw her go for Duna, nipping her back legs as Bonnie dealt with the front end.
It was a situation that couldn’t go on and we all went through a desperate time.  Duna spent more and more time on the lead and out on the patio.  Fights happened on the street, on the beach, in the woods, at home, in cafes, at the houses of friends. I became increasingly desperate to find a solution.

In spite of this we did have many happy adventures. Duna was unpredictable and sometimes left Bonnie alone for weeks. We went to Almeria in the camper van and impressed our neighbours by our ability to live in such a small space with two people and three dogs, two of whom had to be separate.
They all loved swimming in the warm Mediterranean sea. 

By May things were so bad between Duna and Bonnie that I took her and Blue away for a country break. We went to Sant Nicolau for the first time, a place I had found on the internet and all that interested me was that they welcomed dogs and we could rent a cottage for a week of peace

Blue was ailing by this time and in her doggy wisdom she had several lovely days before going into a rapid decline which meant I let her go while we were there. The vet came to the house and it was a peaceful and gentle death at the end of a long sunny day. The owners – now my friends – could not have been kinder and more helpful and so we were somehow led to the best ending in the best place.

Blue died in this magical place and is buried there under some apple trees, her presence marked by one of my sculptures, the Blue Dog. Bonnie loved to lie on the grassy patch when it regrew.

Bonnie and I were alone for the first time in our lives. The day after Blue died we went to Llança and shared a plate of steak and chips looking out over the sea – comforting each other

Then we went for a swim in one of the lovely coves. This was the day – sorry the photo is not good

It felt strange and exciting to be together alone in this new land, the beginning of something new. I thought it would last for so many more years

Later that summer we yet again made the journey back up through France, camping all the way to Calais and the tunnel. The two dogs were kept apart at all times

By this time we had decided to definitely find another home for Duna. I have to add that Duna was and is a beautiful dog and very loving when she is is not feeling passionate hatred. I knew it would be easier to find the best home in the UK, in the country with someone who was going to give her the outdoor life she deserved. We were so lucky to find exactly the right couple who fell in love with her days after we arrived and she now lives a blissful life. Her days are spent with the man who works on farms and gardens,  evenings are spent either fishing or walking with her new owners, and at night she is to be found lounging on the sofa or the bed, cossetted and adored by the woman. 

From that day in July when Duna was adopted by her new family, Bonnie’s happy and exciting life with us truly began. She became our be-by dog and accompanied us always wherever we went.
We spent the rest of the summer in Cornwall where she was queen of the cabaña where we stay.

In Part Three I will finish Bonnie’s tale of her life with us – till tomorrow

Windy and Wonderful Ametlla del Mar

Before those days gently slide away into the past I want to write a little about the rest of our trip to Els Ports and the Delta.
The campsite began to fill up on Easter Friday and as it wasn’t very special staying there we decided to move on. There was nothing wrong with it but I’ve become fussy about campsites after visiting so many in the past three years and this was one of the ones, for example, with no toilet seats!
We thought we’d set off early and have breakfast before going to hear some drumming.
The van had other ideas

Luckily a campsite is a great place to find experts in almost anything and we had two car mechanics arguing over what exactly was causing it to refuse to start.
Then there were at least 12 people who helped push-start us and we were off to visit Vallderoures a beautiful walled town over the border in Aragon, with a castle and church and a bridge leading into the old central square

There was a special Easter celebration of drumming at 11am and even with the van problem we got there in time to find a shady parking place very close to the town but far enough away so that Bonnie wouldn’t be frightened by the sound of 100 drums.
Everything was easy and we went first to look for a cafe with wifi and found one overlooking the river and the town

Thank goodness we had ordered our breakfast before finding out their password was ‘vivaespaña’!  While this sounds innocent enough to any British person who remembers the song, to a Catalan it is a code for something not so light-hearted!

With Bonnie safely sleeping in the van, outside the city walls, we squeezed into the square to listen to and feel the drums. I got interested in all the faces – this guy for example.

By the castle there is a garden with a Via Dolorosa – a walk taking you past each station of the Cross. Here is the fourth one – Jesus meets Mary on the road.

Later we drove to the coast meaning to find a campsite by the Delta. But Ampolla was full and too much of a culture shock after our quiet walks so we continued east to Ametlla del Mar. There we found one of the best campsites in the world. It was dark when we got there but the following morning we woke to find the sea only minutes away down a quiet cliff path and the sound of the waves all around us

I liked Ametlla del Mar very much – even though the Tramontana was blowing and the internet wasn’t working in the campsite and the harbour cafes were a bit expensive.  It was one of those places where you arrive and immediately start planning when you can come again!
Oh and the campsite is called Camping Nautic!

On Sunday we set off for home but it was so hard to leave that we took a little diversion to a Naturist beach. And had our first swims of the year!  No pictures – sorry!

a change of scene

We set off in the van heading south. now we are exploring the Ports de Beseit.
Walking along the rivers is like being in a fresh unsullied world. We have seen some magical places.
for now…this is just a taster