Life changed for me when Willow came to live with us. Willow is a whippet (a large whippet, but he is still considerably smaller than a greyhound). He is a rescue dog, and finding him was pure serendipity.
Since we moved to our old farmhouse on the Pennines we have had a selection of animals. We "inherited" a dozen chickens when we took over the house, we bought a small dog, a terrier that we thought would be suitable for the environment, and he was, only for terrier read "terror". Scamp was frightened of nothing and no-one, and bit everyone silly enough to think he was cute! Our few acres have been rented out at various times for sheep and cattle, including one memorable season when Rufus the bull was in the field but decided he preferred the grass in our garden and jumped over the fencing. Thankfully he was very placid, but it was still unnerving to have a two-ton bull staring in through the window! We also had a succession of hamsters and gerbils for the children, plus a couple of feral barn cats.
Our "terror" lived a long and happy life but when at last he passed away we decided that it wouldn't be fair to have another dog until one of us was at home most of the time. Then there was the choice of dog to be considered – certainly not another little dog, but would an Irish wolfhound be too big? Gradually we slipped into the comfortable lifestyle of not having any animals to tie us down and the idea of a dog was one of those vague ideas to be considered at some future date.
Then in May 2012 I met a friend for lunch. She had just returned from a trip to the vet and told me of the beautiful healthy dog that had been handed in and was in urgent need of a home. I have to admit a whippet was not on the list of dogs I had considered, but no sooner had I met Willow than I was lost. He was so gentle and elegant, and with such soulful brown eyes, how could I walk away? So we took Willow home and made him ours.
Or rather, he made us his.
Almost two years on and he is definitely part of the family. He has his own chair where he curls up while I work, unless, of course, the fire is burning, when he prefers to stretch out on the rug and absorb the warmth. In the summer he likes to lie in the sun and moves around the house in search of the warmest spot. If all else fails he also likes hiding under his blanket!
One of the reasons for having a dog was to get me out of my writing chair occasionally and of course Willow needs exercise, but thankfully not a lot. A good walk in the morning and he will then sleep for hours while I get one with my writing. I think he must have been a town dog in his previous life, because when we first took him out on the moors he did not like getting his feet muddy. Now he loves to run and splash through the mud. He also likes the snow, but not quite as much as he enjoys lying by the fire afterwards! Willow also loves to run and it is a real teat to take him into the field or onto the moors and watch him zoom around at breakneck speed
Greyhounds and whippets are "sight hounds", that is, they see their quarry, rather than smelling it – although I can assure you that Willow's send of smell is excellent, he can sniff out a pheasant hiding in the next field. He is also adept at finding the little treats I carry in my coat pockets for him when we go walking – if I bring my coat into the kitchen to dry off then I have to empty the pockets or hang it up really high. If I don't his pointed snout is poking in the pockets and stealing anything edible.
He is a very gentle, loving, undemanding dog and I find that taking him for a walk is a great way to think out new stories or resolve any little problems with the plot. It is also great exercise, of course. Willow is great company, he never complains if I want to take him for an extra walk or if we have to delay going out while I finish writing a scene, and at the end of a busy day, he is only too happy to join me on the sofa! A perfect writer's dog.
So, what would be your perfect dog? Do share your thoughts with us.
You can learn more about Sarah Mallory on her website http://www.melinda-hammond.co.uk/ . She also writes as Melina Hammond. Her next two books are:
Lady Beneath the Veil – February 2014 – Harlequin