For the last few weeks, my creative mojo has gone west on me. I’m back in my creative writing class working on my project; Pepper’s book (its working title is “Charlie and Me”), but I’m drawing a total blank in terms of getting any new material written. With c.25 chapters drafted already, I was hoping to finish the first draft before the end of 2011, but that’s looking unlikely now. Frustration.
And by co-incidence, my current dog Toesun was with me eight years just two weeks ago. He arrived only 3 months after Pepper had passed away tragically and was roughly about a year old when I got him, making him nine now. He has been a faithful and fun companion, but not a patch on his predecessor when it comes to character or sailing adapability.
By the way, Mojo was the name of my sister Marys’ dog, who was a contemporary and best mate of Pepper. So I’m hoping this exercise will clear the channels and allow my own mojo reassert itself. I’m off to walk Toesun in the rain now – ou est l’inspiration?
We’ve enjoyed a lot of good times together over the last eight years, both on land and at sea. While he has been somewhat reluctant to come on board at times, once on the boat he settles into the routine of life at sea and is great with fellow crew.
Being a good looking dog also helps. I’m reliably told he’s a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and he exhibits all the standard characteristics of that breed – loves water, is forever retrieving balls from neighbours gardens, plastic bottles from ditches and is very playful, especially with young dogs and puppies. Kids also love him and it was for that reason he came to be with me.
The family who took him into their home as a puppy had a number of young children. As he grew from his fluffy puppy stage, he got quite tall and frisky and was continually jumping on the kids. The parents were very upset to have to let him go but they had to put their children’s safety first. I located him at the Wicklow SPCA shelter at Sharpshill and fell in love with him immediately.
On the day I went to view him, I also saw a cute little Jack Russel type terrier in the County Pound next door which was to be put down in 24 hours if no-one took her. Not realising there lurked a softie within my skin, I agreed to take both of them, thinking some of my family would love to take on the wee cutie. Sure enough, my brother Dermot and his family fell in love with her as soon as they laid eyes on her. They called her Lucky (after her lucky escape from the executioner’s needle) and she is still very much queen of the castle in their family home in Enniscorthy.
My own new buddy Toesun was a bit slow to settle in – no-way would he get on my boat, he seemed to be afraid of the water and he took a while to get over marking his new home. Luckily, his first six months with me were the off season for my sailing school so I had time to get around his little issues and sure enough, he came good in time for my first batch of sailors in 2004. There were problems along the way – his overly frisky behaviour made it necessary to have him neutered, a neighbour gave him a present of a lamb shank bone which unfortunately perforated his gut and required major surgery and recently, he split his paw opening an artery, which necessitated a general anaesthetic.
Apart from spending half his life in a sail training environment either on board or waiting in the car while I conducted my theory courses, his education extended to 3 years in UCD while was doing my B.A. in Geography and Welsh. His smellers have investigated every blade of grass, explored every pathway, frollicked in the campus woods and even suffered being locked in the car for longer than planned, when his master’s jacket with car keys inside was taken. Recently, he has accompanied me to my creative writing classes and Irish Times journalism course, so it could be said, he has had a well rounded edumacation.
But problems apart, this lovable dog has proved to be a wonderful companion for me over the last 8 years. We’ve sailed up and down the Irish Sea, walked all around County Wicklow and elsewhere, he sleeps on my bed every night and is always there looking for some new adventure. He plays with all the local dogs, rips balls to shreds and will swim for hours chasing sticks or plastic bottles; and in keeping with most of his fellow canines, loves to give the postman a bit of a hard time of it. My customers, friends and family all get on well with him and he also is a hit with many of the members of Wicklow Sailing Club.
Pepper was with me for a short but wonderful 8 1/2 years and now Toesun has only 6 months to go to reach that milestone – fingers crossed he’ll be with me for a lot longer. You might ask where he got the name; his previous family called him Tyson but he neither black nor a street fighter and I wanted to keep a similar sounding name not to confuse him. As he had a dew claw (extra toe) on his right hind leg, my buddy Ivan and I used that in concert with bos’un (a desired nautical term) to come up with Toesun.