Life as I knew it was about to change. Forever.
Those you you close to me will know that we had a bit of a traumatic time round about Christmas 2010 and the first half of 2011. Basically, a close member of my family ended up going from a very fit middle-aged man to a non-ambulant wheelchair user overnight. Things like that, especially when they happen so close to home and you're dealing with the emotional and the practical side on a day-to-day basis, can have a massive impact on one's outlook.
We all know that we should live for today. Carpe Diem and all that.
Life is a funny old thing. We come into this world and we leave this world in the same way - with absolutely nothing. So we spend our lives coping with the ceaseless conflict of living for today, yet being prudent enough to make sure that we will also be comfortable tomorrow.
The term 'Bucket List' has suddenly become trendy and modern. For those unaware, it was first made popular by people with terminal illness who make a LIST of what they want to do before kicking the BUCKET.
I'm one of those outstandingly lucky and privileged people who had ticked off all but one of the items on my bucket list by mid-2011:
Go to New Zealand, spend a year travelling, work on a high-speed train, test out new caravans for magazines, qualify as a windsurfing instructor, run my own business, and many many more besides.
There was only one thing left on my Bucket List, which I was leaving until I retired. That one thing was 'Get a dog'.
I love dogs, having grown up with them. The family's Airedale Terrier 'Rex' used to accompany me on my first solo caravan tours in my late teens in my old Thomson Glenmore. Happy, happy days.
I suddenly realised that I had cut my working hours in the 'day job' to 50 per cent to fulfil other requirements, and was only working two days a week. I had also cut out a lot of journalism work. Suddenly, I stopped and took notice of the signs, did some research, and started to realise that, indeed, looking after a dog properly was 'doable'. And, given the closeness of my wake-up call to live for today, I realised that leaving the delight of getting a dog until my retirement could be way too late.
So, dear reader, I am delighted to present to you my wonderful, devoted, chilled-out and laid-back little friend, Dougal:
Altogether now…. 'Awwwwwwww!'