...with Milo the diesel-powered Lab
Let me start with a question.
What's large, yellow (well golden I suppose) totters around as though on stilts and enjoys a good sniff of a cat's butt?
Answer - Milo the diesel-powered Lab, and the subject of the latest post on the animals I have had the privilege and joy of owning.
Although I've always very much been an English Cocker Spaniel man, I had always a harboured a romantic vision of driving, roof down, along a private road in my small and scruffy 4x4 with a hulk of a Golden Labrador sitting next to me in the passenger seat "smiling".
After reading the excellent "Marley and Me" (later made into a rubbish film) and the barmy exploits of the unruly four-legged protagonist, I realised the "dream" would remain exactly that: a fantasy pure and simple.
There was no way I was going to put myself through the rigours of a potentially hyperactive, drooling yob-of-a-dog especially as I had no experience with the breed.
But that all changed when, quite literally, Milo dropped into my life...or perhaps that should read "plodded".
It happened a couple of years ago while we were away from home base in Paris, househunting.
Airport-bound after a couple of exhausting days spent driving miles visiting piles, we were brought to a stop while rounding a bend in the middle of nowhere by a slow-moving muddied-yellow form.
When we got out of the car, it slumped to the ground and just lay down where it was - an emaciated, worn out Lab with barely the strength to lift its head and certainly not the energy to continue its journey to goodness knows where.
We had met our Big-time love, Milo.
He had no visible identification and it was obvious from the state of him that he was lost and/or abandoned.
There was no fear or signs of aggression in his eyes just (anthropomorphising here, I know) a gentle, kind almost pleading expression for help as he allowed himself to be gathered up and placed in the boot of the car.
After a hurried call to the nearest SPA - closed - and a visit to the gendarmerie to report our "find" we looked at each other and then at him and...did what any sane people with a houseful of Cockers 600 kilometres away would do.
We left our contact details, cancelled our return flights and extended the agreement on our rental car to make the trip home with Milo.
He remained unclaimed despite our efforts to trace the possible owner, and after discussions with the gendarmes and our vet, we were allowed to "adopt" him.
And quite honestly, we've never looked back.
He is, simply put, the mildest-mannered dog.
There was the joy of seeing him filling out and fattening up - well as much as this lean Monsieur of indeterminate age was ever going to.
We had to get used to the idea of being able to sit down to a meal without needing to bark the constant "down" required to discourage a Cocker from trying to join in.
Mind you, that's partially because he's well-mannered and also because when sitting, his head is already at the same level as the table.
Everyone and everything loves Milo.
His primary joy in life is (as mentioned earlier) sniffing cat bums; no problem there as our moggies seem to have a built-in radar telling them this lumbering oaf is absolutely no threat.
Grace, our blind Cocker "adopted" him as her reference point or "guide dog" when she arrived, following him everywhere to such an extent that the pair are virtually inseparable.
Eclipse, an Irish wolfhound who is frightened of her own shadow and belongs the woman who runs a nearby dog grooming parlour, becomes a wanton coquette whenever Milo turns up for a quick wash and brushing.
And the owner of a local restaurant never tires of singing his praises and telling me how lucky we are to have such a fine-looking, well-behaved hound.
At least we were until the visit to the vets last autumn for Milo's annual check-up and shots.
That's when we received the bombshell that Milo had cancer.
At the time it was confined to the spleen but it was also the sort that would inevitably spread to other organs.
Incurable in other words, but the vet told us we could give him (and ourselves) a few more precious months by having the spleen removed.
The operation was successful, in so far as it met our expectations.
Milo's appetite has returned and he's regained most of the weight he lost post op'.
His advanced arthritis means he hobbles around the house and garden. Walks have become shorter and he is far less active then when he first arrived.
We're under no illusions though and know he won't be around for too much longer.
While he is though, and while that tail keeps sweeping and swiping everything in its path as he passes, we're going to enjoy every moment - together with Milo...our diesel-powered Lab.