The Puppies All Grown Up

Random 2 (3).png3From the cute puppies Zed found abandoned under a bush in the Portuguese countryside we now have two boisterous teenage dogs!  Meet Random and Bramble.


Our English dog, Millie seems to be getting along fine with them.  I think she keeps out the way most of the time.

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At least they have plenty of space to run around in…

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…and Jay adores them too.

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Zed’s looking after them at the moment while I’m in Cambridge doing a spot of candle making…more about that here!




Why Computers Are Bad For You

Dog outdoors, dog lying down, dog in countryside, dog with lead, black dog, labrador cross, German shepherd cross

This morning we were out of dog food.  I had the bright idea of boiling up some pasta.  I popped on the pasta, went out and checked some blogs on the computer.  Then another, then another until…came across blog about dogs,  dog = cooking pasta = burning smell = burnt pasta, burnt pan.  Aaargh!  Fortunately the dog will eat anything, hungry or not.

Cooked a late brunch, scrambled eggs and rosti.  While cooking late brunch prepared soup for actual vitamins later.  Went up and did some work on the computer.  “Something smells good”, said Jae, as he lay down on the sofa looking bored.  Feeling of guilt as I should be playing with Jae in the holidays, doing cool stuff like sailing or surfing which is one reason we moved to the Silver Coast.

I suggested a board game. Jae retreated before I could come up with the sentence “how about some maths homework?”  Went back to work on the computer.

Soup, eating al fresco

Jae returned a while later.  “What’s that weird smell?” he asked.  I leaped up from the computer to retrieve yet another blackened pan off the stove.  Picked out the bits of veg. that weren’t black to try and retrieve lunch.  Unfortunately the children won’t eat anything, even if hungry.

Meanwhile, Jae went in the pool.

child swimming, swimming in portugal, above ground pool

Looking forward to dinner tonight.  Maybe I’ll just go straight for a flambé.


Lizard Love



I strolled into the bathroom after lunch to put the freshly washed towels away. It was light and sunny and now we have a shower screen it’s looking very like a normal bathroom and less like a semi-renovation job.

“Kids, come and see this!,” I shouted.

I put away the laundry and peeked closer into the bath tub. A baby lizard was scurrying about. Here’s the thing. I’ve always liked lizards, they remind me of Mediterranean holidays, and because we don’t have them in England they’re quite special and something to call the family about in a highly excited, squeaky voice. The kids raced in and we all peered into the bath at the very worried creature who had probably figured out by now that he couldn’t climb out and escape.


Er…the actual lizard

My daughter, after several attempts, managed to gather it into her hands and carefully carry him, or her, out into the sunshine and put him out by the wall.

I’m surprised there wasn’t a request to keep him as a pet. I think we’ve all realised that a dog and two guinea pigs is enough for now….oh, and mustn’t forget the stray.

dog, stray dog, stray dog in portugal

…mustn’t forget the stray!

Pet Dispersal

Black labrador and German Shepherd cross breed

“What are we going to do with the dog?”  said Zed.  “And the guinea pig?  Thank goodness we didn’t treat ourselves to a goat!”

guinea pig

We were off on a break and decided it was a bad idea to take the animals.  They should have their own holiday.  So the organisation began.  At this point I was pleased we didn’t have ten ducks any more ….

Dog and ducks in snow

and that we hadn’t yet bought a llama or two.

llamas, uk, national forest llama treks

We had however recently acquired a guinea pig.  Hmmm.  Not such good timing.  Fortunately our friends at ‘Hey Portugal’ magazine were more than happy (well didn’t mind) to have a temporary pet.  So Zuko – or Womble as he’s been nicknamed much to the children’s dislike – went off to eat carrots at chez ‘Hey Portugal’.

Then it was Millie’s turn. Millie loves going to our friends who live near Castelo Branco.  So much so that she almost jumped out of the car window one day when we approached them and if she could would have squealed with delight.

Castelo Branco, countryside, olive trees

Castelo countryside

I miss Castelo Branco.  Here we have our other renovation.

Village house, Castelo Branco, Portugal, rustic house

The other renovation

I miss watching the donkey and carts ambling through village streets, the rock roses and lavender and miles of pine forest.

fauna, Castelo Branco, Portugal

We drove down the drive to Millie’s new holiday home.  They have the prettiest house here with a traditional rustic annex and a gorgeous view. It’s up for sale and I’ll be sad when they move.  I have garden envy when I sit among the fruit trees and roses, jasmine and ….. hundreds of other flowers I can’t name.  (I have no professional interest in this particular house by the way!)  We left Millie happily scampering around the garden among the lemon and fig trees.

Castelo Branco, Remax house for sale Castelo Branco, countryside Portugal

Millie’s holiday home in stunning countryside

Village house for sale, Remax Castelo Branco, Portugal

120,000 E, 3 bed + 4 bed annex + garden

Back home  Zed has been watering our new fruit trees rigorously.  Our neighbours at Casal Garcia suggested they nip across and water from time to time, take a dip in the pool and keep an eye out for strange things afoot.

orange tree, sapling

The new orange tree

There was just one little problem.  Dakota, the neighbour’s dog, has come to believe she lives with us.  I’m not sure why because we don’t feed her or encourage her in the house.  I expect she was slightly bewildered to find everyone had disappeared one day.  I knew she’d be fine though and it was nice to know there’d be a cheerful little dog running out of our garden to greet us on our return.

cross breed, stray dog Portugal



Adventure story age 8

Available in print or kindle on Amazon.




Where’s our Puppy Gone?


We were tempted by these puppies last year but common sense ruled.

“Dakota’s had puppies!” yelled Zed, coming in from taking Milly on her evening walk and looking slightly windblown with a light drizzle of rain still glistening on his shoulders.  “Who wants to come and see them?  I think we should see if we can have one.”

We raced over to the neighbouring barn.  Dakota isn’t our dog.  She lives under a table next door and belongs to someone in the village.   Whenever she breaks free she bounds over to our house and scampers around with Milly, our Labrador cross.  We don’t actually know her real name but Dakota is as good as any don’t you think? A little black and tan mongrel featured in a previous blog ‘Scruffy and Woofy’.



We peered under the table at the two tiny, black, newly born creatures wriggling around near their mother in the dark.  I could see two but maybe there were more hidden the other side of her.

“Should we ask if we can have one?” asked Zed. In that moment all common sense went out the window along with the unspoken and disturbing thought that maybe they weren’t wanted and would be drowned.  Home was, after all, a table.

The following morning Zed dashed out with a translated note which said something like ‘If you don’t want all the puppies can we have one?” and left it on top of the table for the owner to find.

Later that day the owner came by.  Zed tried out his Portuguese and after a conversation of sorts managed to establish that there were three puppies, that the owner was having one, another neighbour the other and there would be one for us.  Well, we think that’s what he said.  At one point the owner mentioned ten puppies and reeled off names across the neighbourhood.  Ten puppies?  Eh?  Where were they? What?

Dakota and her puppies were rehoused in a wooden shack the following day. At intervals I would peek my head around the door and watch them suckling or barging around the room. They were as cute as teddy bears and I couldn’t resist them, couldn’t wait for the day when we could take one home. They were black and tan like their mother.  There was just one little thought bothering me, we could still only see two puppies…not three…not ten…

Ola, ola!”  shouted a neighbour at our gate late one evening. My daughter translated their problem.  It seemed that the puppies had gone missing. Oh no!  Had we seen them? Knowing that Dakota plays in the garden we wondered if she’d brought them in and hidden them somewhere. Clearly wanting us to be the proud owners.  Were these the neighbours who were having the other puppy?

The following morning a makeshift fence had been put up in the yard.  Outside on the road stood Dakota, shaking slightly. I could hear the puppies whimpering in the shed.  They’d returned safely from their wander but she couldn’t get to them.  Emergency!!  I raced into the house to fetch Zed to help me lift Dakota over the fence. When we got back the dog was already the other side having found another way in.  As they fed and then scampered out to play I wondered whether we would be given the boy or the girl. I didn’t mind which. We hadn’t come up with a name yet. Maybe ‘The Wanderer’?  I bought a tin of puppy food.  Just in case.


We waited for them to be weaned, visiting them often, holding them, playing with them. They started eating solid food.  One evening my son came rushing in.  One of the puppies had gone!

The following day we watched the carnival parade in town then came home and cuddled the last remaining, gorgeous, fluffy puppy.  Was it ours?  When could we take it?  Where was the owner to ask? More importantly – do we really need two dogs?


carnival parade

The next morning Dakota was there, bounding happily in front of us as usual.  At the shack there were no puppies left.  Not ten, not three, not two, not one.  They say dogs start to look like their owners and with his light, tan, floppy hair and cute face Jae was starting to look uncannily like one of the puppies.  It clearly wasn’t the sign I thought it was though.

Done hens and ducks.  Tilly the hen.

Maybe a chicken instead.

Ah well.  They have chickens for sale in the Agriloja store.  Maybe a more practical option.  They are for sale next to the cutest floppy eared rabbits though…..


book cover rivoli

‘The Rivoli Wigwam’ by Alicia Sunday
A fantasy adventure
for 7-9 year olds.

Scruffy and Woofy – stray dogs or not?


A nearby motorway restaurant in Portugal told me they were a magnet for abandoned dogs. People could easily pull in and drop their dogs off and be sure they would be fed, getting leftover scraps from the kitchen.

At one point we were attracting our own share of dogs that don’t belong to us.  At first we thought they were abandoned but then, as they came cheerily bounding into the garden we realised they were clearly being fed elsewhere.  Further investigation revealed they were usually tied up in a garden up the road. Word got around the dog world our garden party rocked because suddenly there were others, whose nature I have no idea about and thus did not want to encourage, who hovered around the boundary of the house waiting for a personal invite.


One sported a collar with a broken chain, the other a broken piece of string round its neck. Having made friends with our dog Milly, these two small cross-breeds, cheery looking dogs which we stroked and petted, seemed to appear at any opportunity they were loose.  One was a small black and tan dog with some Jack Russell in her and the other a cross between a West Highland White Terrier and……something else.  They would wait outside the front door, eager to play.


These two were friendly and cute and happy and we didn’t mind that our own dog made good friends with them and indeed the children, who begged me unsuccessfully to take them in.  At one point one was sleeping in our garden, waiting to play in the morning.    When they were tied up we could hear them barking through the night so frankly, I preferred them to sleep loose even if it was at our house.  We had no idea what their names were and they had no tag.  So I nick-named them Scruffy and Woofy.  Woofy has since been renamed again by the children.  She is now an upwardly mobile ‘Dakota’.


I have had to revise this blog before posting and change it mainly to the past tense because sadly little Woofy passed away in our garden a couple of weeks ago.  Dakota is back on his chain and the other dogs have gone off to find another gang to hang out with.


How long can a dog go without eating?

Delighted to look after her

Delighted to look after her

I was wide awake.  It was pitch black outside.  I tossed.  I turned.  Finally I went downstairs to see if the dog was still alive.  The one I was looking after for the owner.  The one that hadn’t eaten for several days.  A gorgeous, friendly, Golden Retriever.  All I had to do was pop in and feed her twice a day along with the cat, and take it for a walk.  What was so difficult about that?  I was delighted to be of help. Another family had been looking after her but they’d had to return to England before the owners could get back.

The first evening meal and walk had been fine.  I’d fed her the mix of tinned and dry dog food.  Although on the walk I noticed she had the runs.  Drat.  Surely it would clear up by morning.

Unfortunately sad dog had a different type of the runs

Unfortunately sad dog had a different type of the runs

The following day the food was uneaten.  She was in her basket looking at me with sad, huge brown eyes.  Only a Golden Retriever has eyes like that.  Surely she was silently reprimanding me for leaving her in an empty house.  I arrived back in the evening after a day spent chasing around schools, to a pool of ….. stuff from both ends of the dog.  I cleared it up.  A virus?  Loneliness? I texted the owner who was suffering a family tragedy, played the whole thing down and took her back to our own house for company where she ignored our dog, Milly, followed me pitifully around, continued to mess from both ends and refused to eat.

Sad dog wasn't interested in Millie

Sad dog wasn’t interested in Millie

Guests arrived.  More mess in the living room from sad dog.  Sad dog still hadn’t eaten.  I gave it three days for the virus to clear, or for sad dog to get over whatever she had.  Three days came and went. She was drinking at least but….time for the vets.  Zed, my husband was in London.  Just me and the kids and the guests.  Who probably weren’t getting the attention I’d planned.

I called Diggory, my builder. He rang back that evening to give me the number of the local vet who I rang straight away.  No answer.  I looked up a vet on the internet and headed off in the dark, sad dog in the back seat, bewildered. Sat nav didn’t recognise the street so I’d made a rough map off the internet. I drove round and round the town in the dark. The road didn’t seem to exist.  Sad dog lurched around corners in the back.

Sad dog - time for the vets

Sad dog – time for the vets

In desperation I set off for the second vets located in a small village, driving with mad determination.  I couldn’t let sad dog die. She was thinner than a stray not the healthy Golden Retriever I’d been entrusted with.  I drove round and round the village, finally found the street.  No sign of a vet surgery.  I had to give up for the evening.  In a brightly lit house ten miles away guests and children were waiting for supper and bedtime and it was now nine o’clock.

The following day I dropped our guests off at the airport, collected my husband from the same airport, and found a 24 hour vet surgery in Cartaxo, forty minutes from the house.  We had to leave sad dog for tests and drove around in the dark trying to find the route out of Cartaxo, getting lost and trying to read the tiny, grey road signs.  The sat nav took us down unmade roads to nowhere. It always does that around Cartaxo.

A veterinary surgery - finally!

A veterinary surgery – finally!

Two hours later we returned so the vet could explain the results.

“I don’t know the problem,” the Portuguese vet said.  “You should leave her and we’ll give her fluids and do more tests overnight”.  We called the owners for permission, left the surgery and drove around in the dark, getting lost, trying to find the route out of Cartaxo again.

I rang the vet for an update the following day.  “Still not eating.  We should keep her for another night,” he said.  Oh dear.  The owners were due back tomorrow.  I had to return a healthy doggy albeit a much thinner one.

The owners drove straight to the vets from the airport.  Hurrah!  Sad dog had just started eating so they could take her home . The vet thought she’d probably had gastroenteritis.  Of course they got lost in the dark trying to find the route out of Cartaxo, while happy dog, reunited with her owners, peered out the back window of the car into the darkness with her big, happy brown eyes.

Sad dog now happy dog once more

After a week of not eating – sad dog now happy dog once more

All pictures except ‘Millie’ courtesy of