Our Tess was a year old last month. She arrived in this world just after we knew that my husband's first incumbency was going to be in Dorset, so she was named Tess - after Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'. She is the daughter of our collie and has the same loving nature as he has. Living in a rectory affects all members of the family, including the dogs. They have had to cope with long periods of being shut in the kitchen when there are house groups here. It is surprising how many people don't like to share their seat with a large, ungainly collie or a wriggly pup. Those longing gazes that watch every mouthful of biscuit eaten with the coffee, and the inevitable dribble that lands on shoes, just doesn't appeal to some of our visitors.
For other visitors, they provide a wonderful distraction, or comforter through difficult times. As the Rector@6 and I grow into our roles, so do the dogs. Recently they have been learning to sit quietly in church when they come with us to morning prayer in the church. I'm rather proud of how well they are accepting this. Tess does insist that she sits next to me on the pew and Jed lies at my feet. It is surprisingly reassuring to have them there....when they are quiet. Unfortunately they haven't quite got used to the idea of other people joining us and will emit loud resonating barks if the church door opens. This is not good practise!
The canine numbers at the rectory have doubled recently. We are dog sitting two vicarage dogs from Hampshire, while their owners visit family in Australia. In a moment of generosity, the Rector@6 and I offered to look after the two dogs. We thought that with our nice, large garden and being surrounded by open countryside, we could offer them a home from home. We have made it to the end of week three! I'm not sure who is the fittest - but regular walks must be taken by both the Rector@6 and myself because neither of us can manage four dogs on our own. This was a little thing that we failed to realise when we made the offer. So come rain or shine (fortunately plenty of the latter) we are tramping over the stubble fields. We have found that these two visitors are not like our collies. They come back on most occasions then suddenly one disappears across the field, or into the hedge, despite our frantic blowing on the dog whistle. For the first week, I expect the village thought there was a man hunt or police emergency because of our frantic tooting on the whistle from across the fields. We had been assured that both dogs came back on two bursts of the whistle - well our Tess does now!
It has been quite an experience - our Jed is not impressed with his harem in his house and I am afraid to say, has cause a couple of 'incidents'. We all still have all our fingers and the dogs have all their ears but two of them keep a wide berth of each other and will take every opportunity to curl a lip across the room at the other. Fortunately, it is only in the house and they can be walked off the lead together, without problems.
If rectory visitors thought we took a long time to get to the door before - we take twice as long now, as each pair of dogs needs to be put in their respective beds, before we open the door. Otherwise our visitors may be sent hurtling backwards down the steps, as four black dogs come flying at them! We haven't had many visitors lately (the continuous barking at times, or the loud shouting, may have deterred a few).