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Quote of the day: ‘If you’re uncomfortable around my dog, I’m happy to lock you in the other room when you come over.’ - Unknown

26 degrees centigrade today and only the end of March. Amazing.

Ambling down the drive with ten minutes to spare, Simon did indeed make it back to get me to the dentist in plenty of time yesterday. Enough spare time kicking around even, for a change of clothes and also to ram a couple of sandwiches down his gullet.

In a flash, dentist Xavier prescribed antibiotics and gave me another appointment in a few weeks, after everything should have completely calmed down.

In fairness, he probably got a faceful of my severe case of rancid halitosis and confirmed immediately everything I had suspected. He did, however, say it was of major importance to get the infection treated PDQ after such recent surgery.

I know the amoxicillin will kick in soon as it is a pretty hefty 1000mg dose twice a day for a full week. It cannot act fast enough!

And relax…

Sad news to wake up to this morning, about what seems the very early and untimely passing of Paul O’Grady. Comedically, I loved his irreverence and disdainful persona.

He was also such a champion of animal rights, in particular dogs.

I’m definitely a dog person. I think Simon deep down is more of a cat person. Cats love him but he’s very good indeed with the dogs too. Especially very much of late, when administering relentless doses of medicine to small dogs is requiring bending down or picking them up. Something that’s not really possible for me at present.

When I first met Simon, he was very wary of dogs having been soundly bitten by one as a youngster.

After we had first been living together a while, we obtained puppy Edna from a friend. After a couple of years, Edna gave birth to a litter and we kept Lily as well.

Edna was a lab x border collie, mainly black with the odd blotch of white. She’s been gone a long while now, but I do remember a terrifying occasion not long after we had moved into our first house together.

She was running around the kitchen like a loony, doing cracker dog; that round and round at full pelt ecstatic thing that dogs do when they are happy. She let out an enormous scream and continued to do so at full volume. One of her front legs had been briefly caught between the wall and a radiator pipe and had snapped clean in two.

The journey to the vets was hideous - Simon driving as slowly as possible with me in the back trying to hold and console a large-ish, screaming dog with a broken leg, which kept revolving in my hand like a divining rod as we drove around the corners.

Edie lived to the ripe old age of about 12 but developed a cough.

We took her to the vets where she was prescribed steroids but we could see she had begun to take a downward slide.

Popping the first steroid in her mouth that evening, she was still coughing.

On and on she coughed for about half an hour, albeit with the usual, odd smile on her face. In utter frustration, I let her outside and opened the door some ten minutes later to let her back in, only to find her dead on the doorstep, lying in the drizzle.

That was not a good day. Even worse for her though.

Lily, her daughter was mainly white with black ears and tail, and a perfect black ‘Batman’ logo across her side. Sadly, most of what I remember best about dear old Lils was her smell. Her ears reeked constantly and in her latter years, when she too was beginning to near her demise, her bowels gained a momentum of their own. Usually generously depositing their liquid contents around the entire perimeter of my dining room table. Most often when we had come in after an evening out.


She was a bolter too, detesting noise and became completely freaked out by fireworks, poor thing.

One November 5th, she escaped through my daughter’s legs, and careered off down the road apace. We found her over four miles away on the busy A505, still running away from the fireworks. She was lucky to be alive.

Arnie and Ruby, our current two little monkeys adore Simon, greeting him joyously every morning with squeals and squeaks of delight, knowing breakfast is imminent.

In the main, my family have always been dog people although my middle sister definitely is more of a cat person, despite her having a dog too.

As a child, I was always desperate to have a dog as a pet but that was a complete and utter anathema to my father. ‘Dogs should live outside and work’, according to him.

My grandfather was a ’celebrated-in-his-day’ gundog breeder and trainer called John Francis Kent. Born on January 14th 1886, he bred and trained mainly many Springer spaniels to Field Trial Champion level and was highly skilled and revered as a dog handler. Without fail, he was the most modest person I ever knew: mild mannered and gentle, quiet but able to delve deep into a dog’s mind to get them to do exactly as he wanted them to do. His dogs worshipped him, as did I.

It was a different era then and as farmers, those working gundogs were a part of our family’s everyday shooting and countryside life. They were never to be fussed or stroked at all.

My childhood was heavily dominated by ‘the shooting season’ and all that brought with it, whether it was Field Trials, shoots, or simply looking after my grandfather’s dogs when he was away.

It was originally my sisters job and then later mine to help out with this, at his cluttered, ancient cottage where the dogs were kept in kennels and runs at the rear. I was always slightly horrified at the dogs food which were rancid smelling, long strips of biltong-like, dried meat with added crushed up cereals, mainly maize. It all required soaking in water in the morning and serving in the evening. It looked and smelt appalling to me but the dogs loved it and definitely thrived on it. I would imagine ever smelling that again would transport me back to being a child again in a flash.

My grandfather counted the then George VI and his Queen among his distinguished customer list. It was HM Queen Elizabeth (who we would all know in the future as the Queen Mother) who would turn up with very little warning if they were on the look out for a new gundog. Her smart, chauffeur driven car gliding through the quiet and sleepy Essex village without ceremony or pomp. There, she would arrive for tea and a chat, to see the dogs that John Kent was training, and make her choice personally.

His oldest son, my uncle, was a very skilled and natural dog trainer too, better than him according to his father, but he had contracted pneumonia at the age of 21 and sadly died.

The family story is told that my Uncle Dick was dispatched out of the car on foot, to lead the driver through the dense fog through the country lanes. Shortly afterwards, he contracted bronchitis which led to pneumonia and ultimately his death.

The tragedy of losing his son never left my grandfather and for a considerable while he sank into an understandably sharp mental decline.

My father was in the army during WW2. Upon his discharge, he became so concerned about his father’s protracted deep depression that he too became enveloped in the family business of farming, dog breeding and training. Notably, he became the first person to train a dog for the Metropolitan Police.

In 1960, he was offered a role in America to train dogs there, for the Army I believe, but declined as my mother was expecting me by that time and he didn’t think it fair to leave his family for months at a time.

By the time I was 12, always wanting a dog but never allowed one of my own, I had worn my father down and he finally agreed that we could have a puppy. A springer spaniel of course. It was my grandfather who let it slip one day and I will never forget the twinkle in his eye as the secret tumbled form his lips.

Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea timing wise and had my father left it a little late for us to get a dear little pup? By that time, I was starting to be the rebellious and obstreperous little shit you all know now. Nevertheless, it cemented a love for the canine race that will stay with me forever. You can probably see from the pictures I didn’t command the same respect from my first dog as my grandfather did from his.

John Kent died on February 1st 1977. Very aptly and fittingly on the last day of the shooting season, aged 91 years of age. Standing on his gravel drive, he had said goodbye and closed the car door to a couple of American friends and customers, the Wunderlichs, who had been visiting that day. Simply sinking onto the ground into his Big Sleep.

His gentle demeanour left a vast hole in my life as by that time I felt closer to him than I did my father. After a pretty barren spell, thankfully my father and I became extremely close when I left my first husband.

But I’m definitely a confirmed dog person. Always have been and always will be. Nature or nurture?

All three of my children were brought up with dogs of various shapes, sizes, colours and smells. My youngest son spent much of his early years trawling around on the floor, covered in clouds of billowing dog hair, or sleeping in dog beds.

Alarmingly, he reached his love-of-dogs-zenith when he also went through a stage of barking and panting at the age of about two.

It pleases me to report that he grew out of that nonsense pretty damned sharp-ish after I served up his supper one evening in a dog bowl on the floor of the utility room.

His love of dogs though has never subsided. He has recently taken on a black lab pup called Revy and seems to be following in his great grandfather’s steps. At only seven months old, Revy is already very well trained and looks at him the same way I recall seeing my grandfather’s dogs looking at him.

All three of my wonderful children have buggered off and done their own things, exactly as we prepared them for and they quite rightly should do. The duty of a parent is to let your children fly the nest, prepared and ready for their lives ahead.

Hard to do but vital.

My furry, joyous, funny, loyal, loving little four legged stinkers though, remain here with us.

Best friends forever.



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I’m Jill, a RHS gold medal winning English professional gardener, garden designer and landscaper living in South West France since 2012. This is a personal account of my gardening life, some of the jolly and occasionally not so jolly japes that ensued while working, that probably caused my subsequent back problems.

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