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I’ll start with the funeral.  A month ago we buried our beloved, beautiful and so loving boxer dog Dottie. To lose such an important member of our animal family was absolutely devastating, and the tears continue.  

She is buried under a mound at Dot’s Spot – the patch of grass outside our kitchen door where she used to sit in the sunshine and check out the view. She’ll be there for ever in our memories and in spirit. 

The weddings are looming – James and Hannah have chosen Swallowtail Hill as the venue for their festival style wedding with glamping guests here this summer. The other bride will be Annie – my daughter and Sarah’s step daughter – who has decided to take the entire farm over for a week in September to marry her fiancé Tim. This is as it should be. Annie was one of the very first animals to live at Swallowtail Hill, being only four when it first became our family home.

Meanwhile Spring is springing, albeit with tantalising slowness. The hedges are touched with tiny green buds here and there, the tips of the bluebells and wood anemones are emerging in the woodland, the glutinous mud of winter is showing signs of hardening up, and the cabins and cottages have been painted, cleaned, chimney swept and generally refreshed for the start of glamping season. Mandy the Gardening Goddess and her new assistant Young George have worked wonders with the veg garden, while Chloe the Chef has delivered vast quantities of the new range of Swallowtail Hill preserves, which are of course cluttering up the kitchen. That is an overt commercial break – we don’t normally accept advertising in this blog, but we make an exception for goods and services of unusual quality.

On the animal front, Tonka spent the whole winter in the fridge. This worked really well, except for Sarah, who had to share his hibernation accommodation in her office. I don’t mean, of course, that Sarah also spent the winter in the fridge. That’s just silly. The fridge lives in her office. Tonka woke up last week. The encouraging sign was that a) his working eye opened (sometime tortoise eyes get frostbitten during hibernation – that’s how Tonka lost the use of his other eye prior to moving in with us), b) he ate, and c) he peed copiously (so would you after three months). The disappointment is that he hasn’t had a poo yet, and woken up tortoises are supposed to. He is, instead, walking in a way we can only describe as constipated. To understand how a constipated tortoise walks, close your eyes, imagine you haven’t been for 90 days, get on all fours, put a large box on your back, and use your imagination. I will report back, with photographs.

One of the pet rabbits also had tapeworm.  This is apparently highly unusual.  At least a tapeworm with a rabbit as a definitive host rather than an intermediate host (I’ve no idea what this means but Anna-the-vet and Sarah appear to have a range of disgusting photos to support their findings and Sarah has spent way too long on some veterinary websites).  As a consequence the rabbits have been wormed extensively.  Sarah then decided to worm everyone else just to be belt and braces about it.  I’m pretty sure she wormed me too – there were copious amounts of medicine around and dinner tasted funny one night last week…..  Anna-the-vet – worn out with Sarah’s endless questions – has suggested I put some kind of parental-lock on the computer to prevent Sarah spending too much time feeding her obsession for all things veterinary.

Back to dogs. Mabel, Dottie’s companion for life, was badly confused by Dottie’s death. How do you explain that to a dog? So we’ve been as normal as is possible under the circumstances, and I’m glad to report she’s getting back on form. Dogs do grieve; we’re both certain of it. However, when the Anna-the-vet vet decided it was time for Mabel’s anal glands to be dealt with, I suddenly had urgent business in London. There are limits, even to my compassion.

Anna-the-vet is in a permanent state of near hysteria in dealing with Sarah.   Sarah is unapologetic – she says Anna-the-vet likes the variety of conditions she’s presented with on a single visit to Swallowtail Hill.  Where else could she enjoy an afternoon of dealing with Mabel’s anal glands, rabbits with tapeworm and a constipated tortoise!

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