To all my doggie friends, I humbly apologise..

because I honestly just didn't get it, but I am now grown up enough to admit, that a dog really can change your life. My hubbie and kids are furious, of course, because if I said, "look, we are not getting a dog and that's final," once, I said it a thousand times throughout their childhood and I can appreciate their frustration, in that now they're all grown up and flying the nest, Roxy dog moves in. Mum, who didn't like dogs, is now hopelessly smitten.

The thing is, I was never a dog person. I grew up in a rural village with cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and any other stray, injured creature that walked into our lives but we never had a dog. I don't think we ever asked for one either. We had enough to do, cleaning out bloody rabbit cages, most of which we ate, by the way. We never named any, it was too traumatic. I'll never forget the look on my mum's face when my little sister asked where Flopsy was as we tucked into our pie. Which is why I think I resisited, knowing full well that having a dog would only add to my very long list of all the responsibilities and general mental torture of bringing up three boys. I just knew that should I have given in, I would have been the one doing most of the walking and feeding, despite their promises and in my opinion, I would basically have been taking on another child.

And I was right, I am chief treat and bone purchaser, vet appointment monitor, poop bag supplier and tennis ball provider and, of course, I do the longest walks. But am I bothered? Absolutley not because our early morning ritual has become something so special that I am truly grateful that Roxy came into our lives. Now dont get me wrong, living on the edge of our small town and pretty close to the beach, I was no stranger to a stroll on the sand but since I've had a companion, the beach has taken on a whole new meaning, as even though we take off on the same 3 mile circuit every morning, through the fields and then onto the beach, like the weather and the sky, no walk is ever the same. Every day the landscape has offered up something new, either through the gentle life cycles of the plants, the wildlife, (of which I have to be far more observant than speed merchant Roxy), or the natural, ever changing, seaweedy debris on the beach. Walking the same route every day isn't boring, because if you allow yourself to leave your headphones at home, free up all your senses and really observe what's going on around you, it becomes something of a meditation and an observation of everything that is wonderful about the planet we inhabit. Many a plot twist for my latest book Trust Me, I'm a Personal Trainer has been worked out during this sensory reverie and thankfully, Roxy doesnt think I'm mad when I talk to myself. At least I hope she doesn't.

The Scottish summer has so far been fabulous, of course, and for the last few weeks, the beach has been nothing short of stunning. The light and the colours have been spectacular at times and the regular appearances of the dolphins, a solitary heron and an occasional lone seal, peeking at us from a safe distance, have only added to the genral awesomeness. Roxy loves to romp in the sea, all Bo Derek like, with any male dog, or any dog actually, willing and able to take her on and her eternal optimism that she may one day catch up with the low flying Oyster Catchers is heart warming. I'm not sure what she'd do if she caught one. Kiss it to death probably.

And amazingly, the sea has been warm. Yes I did say warm. I do not lie. You may not believe it possible for the Moray Firth to be anything other than baltic, but it's true. It's warm. It's so warm, that this morning I finally took the plunge and went in. I'd been building up to it, inching ever fiurther in up to my thighs over the past few weeks but hadnt been brave enough to put the cossie on and just go for it. Sometimes it just takes a crazy friend to help you out and so it was that at 6.30 this morning, she turned up, silouhetted against the sun like a 007 heroine and kept me company on my first plunge. She brought me webbed gloves and goggles. I brought a flask of Earl Grey tea and a packet of ginger nuts. Not that I needed it, as it was, as I said before, warm. It was warmer than the hotel pool I swam in in Ibiza. The water was warm, the sun was shining, the beach was empty and we didn't drown and because the ground is so dry and the grassy paths have turned into carpets, I even managed to walk all the way home with bare feet. I probably looked completely deranged but for me this morning was just about perfect.

So, once again, I apologise to all you doggie folk, and in a nod to Don McLean, I now understand just what you've been trying to say to me all these years. A dog really is for life and for Roxy, I am very, very grateful.

#scotland #dog #labrador #dogwalk #beach #seaswimming #morayfirth #nature #sea #nairn

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