"So, what brings you to England?" asked the young gentleman checking us in at the hotel reception desk, not really caring for an answer."Oh," I said blithely, "We're here to visit our dog's best friends."
I waited, watching for a reaction. The man's face gave nothing away.
"Aren't you going to ask?" I asked the hotelier wickedly.
The young man's face broke into a broad grin at my tone.
"Dog's best friends...?" he repeated shaking his head and looking at me inquisitively.
I knew he didn't care, but I explained anyway, tickled pink that we were in England because of my blind hound.
Gregg and I spent two days in London before visiting Ray's friends, Niki and Jez, in Newbury. They must be in the running for the world's best hosts because, quite frankly, they were. Although Gregg and I stayed at a nearby hotel, Niki and Jez gave us the run of their house, made us meals, and took us hither and yon to see the sights near and far. Niki also made sure to Skype Bryan, Ray's bodyguard from Pooch Pals, so that we could see what our hound was up to.
Bryan had set the laptop on the coffee table and sat on the floor in front of Ray while the candidate for Governor was cosily curled behind in his favorite chair. While Niki and I quizzed Bryan on the duo's activities, Ray looked bored and a little embarrassed that we would be checking up on him. After hearing Bryan enthuse about Ray's awesomeness, I didn't give my dog a second thought for the remainder of the trip.
While in Newbury, Niki and Jez were also able to provide us with all the animal companionship we could handle. While Gregg got his cat-fix from Phoebe, Dora, and Millie, I was able to cuddle with Conor the Blind Greyhound, Rocky the Wheeled Wonder, and Twiggy the Deaf Dachshund-mix. Also on the agenda during our trip, a visit to a donkey sanctuary where I was persuaded that having a braying donkey and a howling hound in the backyard would probably not be a good idea.
After eight days of enjoying the company of our hosts, seeing Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) from the top of hill high enough to see all of England, climbing the cliff that appeared in Broadchurch,
|Gregg, Jez, and Niki view Downton Abbey
in the distance
|Gregg and Jez enjoying a Beer
|Niki and Jez enjoying some liquid refreshments
When we arrived home, our ride dropped us at the end of the driveway. Chester, our next door neighbor's cat, came running to greet us, meowing loudly and happily at seeing us again. Gregg bent to pet the cat and I heard Chester purring crazily. I picked up the fluff bundle and laughed as he wiped cat spit on my glasses and nose, thrilled to have his property back where it belonged. I rubbed his ears, then put the cat down and dragged my suitcase to the front door anxious to see my dog again.
Ray met us at the door. He approached me cautiously, sniffed me up one side and down the other, then turned and headed to the dog door. I heard the flap ffffwwppp open and listened to a ten-minute shout-out in the backyard. I shook my head ruefully. As greetings go it was a bit underwhelming. Sadly, the next door neighbor's cat appeared happier to see us than our own dog.
|That there is a cliff.
|The beautiful, blind Conor
|Rocky wanting whichever he can con,
attention or food
|Twiggy, chillin' on the couch
|Dora, not exploring
|Phoebe and her luxuriant whiskers
|Millie, looking mad
|Enjoying the garden
|Lap-time with Aunt Jean
|...nap-time in his jimmy-jams
|Hounds abound all around
|Niki preparing dinner closely
supervised by Mr. Shufflebottom
|Sniff. We'll miss you Conor.