We have a new member of the family. Her name is Nola, she is very tiny, very cute, already much beloved by all the tribe. She also has four legs and is the colour of marmalade. When introduced to the rest of us on last
Saturday’s Family Zoom, everyone descended into a kind of collective sigh of adoration. It took a while for us to return to the normal exchange of Important Information - like what everyone was cooking for dinner and who was watching what on TV.
Nola belongs to our eldest granddaughter, Katie, and her soon-to-be-husband Nathan. Never has a puppy been better planned and prepared for. She is a Much Loved Pup.
I always knew Katie would have a dog one day. She managed to contain her aspirations for a good few years as a child, thanks to the arrival of several pet guinea-pigs, all
of whom were given the names of chocolate bars. This made it extremely difficult for me to tell my Twix from my Curly Wurly though Katie and her younger sister, Eleanor, not only knew every guinea-pig by name but could point out each one’s individual
characteristics. For instance, how one (don’t ask me which, but it was obviously some kind of chocolate bar) would twitch its whiskers in just a certain way the moment it (he? she?) saw dinner approaching.
When the girls came to stay for a few days every year in the lead up to Christmas and at the start of the summer holidays, their all-time favourite outing was a visit to my lovely friend Clarissa who
was always more than happy for them to take her dogs for long walks in the countryside around her home. Love is a dog on a lead.
Their favourite game in those
now long-gone but always oh-so-fondly remembered days was called, simply, “Dogs.” Now, you know me, I love playing kids games. Bring on Junior Monopoly (so much fun than the adult version)! Nobody, I solemnly aver, plays The Game of Life with as
much spirit, ingenuity and enthusiasm as I. My grandchildren’s parents have been known to refuse to pack The Game of Life when they come to stay, on the grounds that every game lasts, well, a lifetime - but I generally suggested that their children should
sneak it into the boot of the car when nobody was looking. I tell you this as mitigation for the fact that I really, really struggled with “Dogs.” It wasn’t just having to crawl about on all fours (just as well they’ve grown out of
that game because I’d never manage it these days) but also having to woof to indicate pleasure - or pain. Occasionally the girls would relent and allow me to be the owner of said dogs (which they both considered the most boring part to play.) Sometimes
one would take pity on me and agree to join me as a human: “You can be my sister, Nanni!” said Eleanor once. Just like that, we vaulted over the Generation Gap.
There was a time when Katie, then aged about ten, thought she might like to be a vet when she grew up. “How do you think you would cope if you had to put an animal to sleep?” I asked her, once. We were on a family holiday, sitting on the
side of a swimming pool, cooling off our feet in the water. I should have known my Katie would have an answer: “Nanna, I’m only a child!” Enough said.
Now she is all grown up and her childhood dream has come true in the shape of Nola. All that preparation - the walks with Clarissa’s dogs; the endless games playing at being a four-legged friend, swishing a non-existent tail and barking to order;
learning through practice on the much-loved guinea-pigs, how to care properly for a pet - has borne fruit in the shape of a tiny, marmalade-coloured ball of fur.
haven’t met Nola in person as yet but she has already survived a visit from the Rascally Trio who are known to smother any dog they meet with almost too much love. “Gentle! Gentle!” their mother tells them - so often that I honestly believe
they think “gentle” is another word for “stroke.”
By the way, Nola is derived from the Irish name “Fionnuala” meaning
exceptionally pretty - which seems about right to me.
She is undoubtedly very, very sweet - though I have to admit I’m kind of glad she isn’t named
after a chocolate bar…