‘Never regret the good that you do’ is my favourite Jewish proverb. It helps console when things have gone awry, when tasks are burdensome and the heart not in it. We have had much of that of late. Few will have cared or noticed that I have been silent for several days; days during which we have gone about our daily routines – beach time, breakfast, sleep, the lighting of the stove, the beach again, Strictly and Downton – and so on. Throughout all this, of which there is much, I have felt more reflective than usual: there is a tightness, a churning in my chest – knots, you might say. There have been secret tears and holding on to Barnaby, that best of bears closest to the collective beating heart. Yes, Barnaby feels it, Newman and I know it, but I know best: I am aware that something big may be about to happen. All I can think about is family.
Upstairs I heard talk of brothers and sisters, as if the parting were about to come. I still remember mine: Jack, Finlay, Sergio, Flora and Leah – she whom I yet might meet one day – whom I can still smell on Little Brown Dog. Sooner than most, we leave them all behind. Barnaby was the first to leave Sophie, Molly and his other bossy sisters, as well as Oscar and the boys, including the wonderful Scriggins, the Tiny Tim of his family, whom the girls knocked over and left dazed and confused in the whelping pen but who found his feet and grew in size to fill his role in later life. All of us have found a place in the families we didn’t ourselves choose; life found us, as it were: we had no ambitions to fulfil, save to be loved for being ourselves. And to love and love and love, without question. Even in times we cannot fully comprehend.
This lovely picture was taken several years ago when a young Newman was introduced to Uncle Jonny for the first time. Metaphorically carrying his backpack with just a few personal belongings, he jumped into the back of the car without a hint of fear or apprehension and immediately sat like a hare gazing up at the sun. Like most dogs, he never knew his father; having left his mother’s warmth some time before, he clung delightedly to Jonny straight away for there was much to learn, and for Uncle Jonny to put up with. Such are the ways of families. Newman’s sunny boyish ways, enthusiasms and energy fly in the face of a rather lonely babyhood, I feel. The families we find ourselves in are miracles when all goes well. When our humans love us dogs they love our fathers too. I am told my father was a Scots gent of the Lynwater line, and I have seen some relatives at Crufts – very comely they are too, much furrier than I. When they love me, they love my father too, though this is never really noticed or remarked. I do not understand what binds humanity and dogs together if it is not love, since love is all I know, and the trust that love will always see us right.