aliisaacstoryteller

Ali’s Blog

The Dog from the Bog

Indi, BFF and VBBD

Indi, BFF and VBBD

“Help!” The  forest rang with the sound of my desperate scream. If there was ever a time for my knight in shining armour to appear and charge to my rescue, it must surely be now. Or my guardian angel, if I had one. Even a geeky random stranger would do. For I was outstretched full length on my belly in the dirt and being dragged bodily along a stony forest trail at speed, bumping my head on protruding tree roots as I went.

A voice in my brain was yelling “Let go!”

Another yelled back “Hang on, don’t let go, never let go, you’ll never get him back!”

The monster  which was so carelessly treating me like a human sledge was no demon, no ancient forest fiend carting me off to its lair for lunch; it was none other than Indi (ana Bones), my very own BFF (Best Furry Friend) and VBBD (Very Badly Behaved Dog).

And what had got us into this predicament?

Well, VBBD does not tolerate doggy rudeness. So when that innocent-looking little yorkie out walking with its human snapped some insult at us as it bustled self-importantly by, Indi launched himself with the force of a missile, forgetting (or not caring) that his own human was attached to him by a lead.

I was yanked instantly off my feet. The yorkie let out a most un-doglike squawk, and made a run for it into a tangle of undergrowth. The yorkie’s owner bellowed in alarm and followed her foul-mouthed pooch into the brush.  In the distance, I saw her scoop up what looked like a bundle of autumn leaves, casting reproachful eyes in my direction, and that was the last I ever saw of them.

You would think at this point that VBBD would have given up the chase. Not at all. He was enjoying his new-found power and the realisation that I couldn’t stop him. Suddenly, he was top dog, not me. And he was making the most of it.

However, even the fittest, strongest mutt-hound can’t continue pulling his (slightly overweight…ahem) owner around the forest forever. He took a flying leap into the peat bog for his daily dunk, and that’s when I finally let go. That pleasure was his alone; my golden lab emerged from the mud as black as the fabled Cu Sith, the Irish hounds of hell.

I crawled shakily to my feet, winded, scratched, bruised pride in hand, and limped slowly back to the car.

Following hard on the heels of the other ‘incident’, this latest episode was hard to take.

That time, I had been walking with my friend and her dog, Harry. Harry was older than Indi, so I thought he would teach Indi some good doggy manners. Unfortunately, Indi taught Harry all his badness, instead.

It was a big mistake to let them off the lead, even though the path seemed deserted. Another dog appeared, Indi challenged its right to enter his territory, and a fight ensued. Harry darted to his friend’s aid, and suddenly, the pair were a pack, ganging up on this lone stranger, which inevitably came off worse.

In floods of tears, I dragged Indi off to the vet. “I can’t have an aggressive dog in my house, I have my special needs little girl to think of,” I snivelled.

The vet knew Indi well. She looked at him as he made a fool of himself at her feet, rolling onto his back and gazing up at her adoringly, wagging his whole back-end not just his tail, and licked her hand. “Indi…aggressive? He hasn’t got an aggressive bone in his body,” she said.

“Well, would someone mind telling him that, because he doesn’t seem to know it,” I wailed plaintively.

This was not naughty puppy behaviour. God knows, we’d had more than our fair share of that; stealing Carys’s socks off her little feet, chewing everything in sight, specifically the boys shoes, Carys’s toys and the furniture, leaping up at the washing line and making off with Conor’s favourite work shirts, only returning them when they resembled nothing more than muddy rags, shredding all his bedding for the fun of chasing the fluff around the floor.

No, this was altogether something more serious. This was a case of Teenage Terrors. Like when the Dog Warden called round. I thought he was checking up on my dog license, and waved it brightly at him as he walked up to the front door.

“There’s been a complaint about your dog,” he said gravely, as Indi fawned around his legs. “He harassed a woman out walking her dog the other day, and nearly caused a rider to come off his horse.” He scratched Indi’s ears, and frowned, puzzled. “I can’t understand it. He’s not shown any aggression to me as I’ve walked up your drive. Best you keep him indoors from now on.”

“Yes,” I said miserably. “He hasn’t got an aggressive bone in his body, apparently.”

When I told Conor later, he said, “Well, you know I’m not an animal lover, but even I can see he’s not aggressive. It’s up to you, but perhaps you should think of finding him a new home.”

I seriously considered it, but I didn’t want to act rashly, and then regret it. When Indi came and laid his heavy head on my knee, slowly wagging his tail, I knew I couldn’t do it. The fault lay  with me. I had to get better control.

So VBBD stayed on the lead. We abandoned the woods for a while, where there were too many dogs all claiming it as their own, and walked the local country roads. Indi went often to The Dog Ranch, where he learned to socialise with other dogs. And we practised discipline at home. I became the boss, instead of just acting like it.

And the Dog from the Bog, well, he’s learned his place in the Walker family pack. He still has his moments, but finally, walks are becoming fun again. But with the benefit of hindsight, what would I do differently?

I’d never have let him off the lead, for a start. You may think you know your pet well, but they can change dramatically in the presence of a female on heat, for example, or a territorial male, or a jogger, or a child on a bike.

I would have used a slip lead earlier. Knowing how to use one properly makes a world of difference, and for a strong dog that pulls, it really helps the owner keep control.

And I would have established my role as ‘leader of the pack’ right from the start. It’s too easy to overlook the discipline and indulge a cute, playful puppy.

Finally, a word of warning: Don’t go and view that litter of pups unless you are absolutely certain you want a dog, and you have done your research. Once you see them, it is impossible to come away empty-handed.

Had I known then what I know now, I would probably be the very proud owner of a cute, fluffy kitten instead of an over-sized, over-enthusiastic, rumbustious eternally-adolescent mutt-hound !

Stalker

My daughter’s heart is a ticking time-bomb with a fuse of indeterminable length. It could blow at any minute.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

This will be her stalker, prowling along behind her for all of her life. A dangerous killer lurking in the shadows, awaiting its opportunity to pounce should we slip with the medication which holds it at bay. We will never shake ourselves free of its clutches. We can never hope to save her from it. But there is no way we are going to let it have her. At least not just yet.

Carys was born with Cardiofaciocutaneous Syndrome. It’s rare. Less than three hundred unique individuals worldwide share this affliction. Connected by nothing more than a flaw in the development of their genetics. We have never met these people, don’t know who they are, but they are our extended family.

I can still remember the day we were told our daughter would die before she was born. Until that moment, we had not known anything was wrong. Our first scan, we walked into that room full of such joy, such anticipation. I knew it was not good news before any words were said, by the frown on the midwife’s face, and the way she kept pushing the scanner over and over my belly, staring at the grey, fuzzy screen on the monitor with such intensity.

Our baby had a cystic hygroma and foetal hydrops. The prognosis was death by week twenty six gestation. Termination was mentioned, although against the law in Ireland. It would have meant a journey to the UK.

But stealing the life from this much wanted child was not an option for us. She deserved the chance to make something of it, such as it was. We decided to leave it to her, and let nature take its course.

In some ways, that might seem like the easy option, but believe me, there is nothing easy about waking up every morning and wondering if today will be the day your baby dies. Waiting to feel that first movement which proves life is still stirring within you. The joy, the relief, the elation, all tumbled together in the wrappings of fear and desperation.

Day by day, we muddled through the pregnancy, lurching from one medical emergency to another. Not knowing the demon which possessed our daughter, I trawled the internet for information, and realised with horror that there are a multitude of syndromes, not all of them with positive outcomes. I hoped and prayed for just five minutes of life, to hold my daughter in my arms, look into her eyes, and tell her how much we loved her. I needed her to know.

Instead of five minutes, we got seven wonderful, awful, amazing years, and counting. Our daughter’s syndrome has changed our life beyond imagining. It’s a long, hard journey, and it’s ours alone. It’s scary. Very scary, at times. But there are others plodding along similar paths, and we have much to learn from, and share with them.

I’ll share more with you, too, as time goes by. Because fore-warned is fore-armed, and living with a special needs child is not romantic, it is a daily battle. Some days you succeed, and win victory; sometimes, you admit defeat. Often, there is just  struggle, conflict, and stalemate. But you keep on going, because you know you have no choice, really. You can never give in.

The battle, and the journey, they are the price you pay for the privilege of sharing the lives of these exceptional children. In return, they give you far more than you could ever expect; unconditional love, and an opportunity to let go of all your preconceptions, open your eyes and your heart, and learn.

Its a difficult lesson, and an elusive one, but certainly something worth striving for.

 

 

 

Welcome to aliisaacstoryteller, my new blog!

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Ali xxx

Freebie Success!

4te-v3frontFreebie Success!

753 downloads…in just 5 days! That’s amazing! Thanks, you guys, for supporting me, and I hope you enjoy reading your free kindle copy of Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean! And if any of you would be so inclined to write a review for Amazon or GoodReads, I would be most grateful…

Don’t forget, there’s still time to enter The Great GoodReads Giveaway to win a free paperback copy of 4TE; the competition closes at midnight on New Years Eve…Good Luck, and a Happy New Year to all!

Ali xxx

4TE at #4 in Amazon Kindle Top 100!

4te-v3frontI am very excited and proud to announce that Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean Kindle edition has just reached #4 in the Top Free 100 e-books within the Historical Fantasy category! And #7 in the Children’s Science Fiction, Fantasy and Magic category! After just 1 day. I am delighted! Thank you to everyone who downloaded a copy, I sure hope you enjoy it!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/158582011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_kstore_1_5_last

Want a Freebie?

4te-v3frontThe Kindle edition of Conor Kelly and the Four Treasures of Eirean is FREE…yes, FREE on Amazon up until Christmas Eve, so bag yourself a bargain! Think of it as your Christmas present to yourself. Just click the link and enjoy!

What’s in a Name?

Well, in Ireland, quite a lot! Most of us don’t really think too much about what a name means, except perhaps when naming a new born child. Even then, there may be other more pressing factors affecting our choice, such as naming the child after a dearly departed loved one, for example. But Irish names all have meaning, and therefore, they have power. And it’s one of the many reasons why I love Ireland and its language so much.

Take for example the name ‘Conor’; it’s one of the more familiar Irish names, short, strong-sounding, easy to spell and say, a very popular choice amongst parents all around the world, not just in Ireland. It’s also the name of the hero of my book, The Four Treasures of Eirean, as many of you will know, and I chose it for those very reasons. But did you know that in its Irish form, it would be spelled ‘Conchobhar’? Not quite so easy to spell or say! It comes from the legendary High King of Ireland, Conaire Mor, who was reputed to have lived at the time of Christ, and actually means ‘lover of hounds’.

The name ‘Rory’ is an anglicised version of ‘Ruairi’, or ‘Ruaidhri’, which also features in my book, and means ‘Red King’. Red-haired, or red with the blood of his enemies he spilled? We don’t know, but we do know that Ireland’s history and mythology is full of kings named ‘Ruairi’. Quite possibly, these names were titles or epithets, just as England’s King Arthur was called ‘the Bear’. (Incidentally, ‘Art’ or ‘Artur’ is also an old Irish name meaning ‘bear’.)

And this doesn’t just apply to people, but places, too. I live near a small town in Co Cavan called Virginia, but in Irish, its name is ‘Achadh an Iuir’. This is believed to mean ‘the field at the fork of the river’, some say ‘the field of the yew’, but ‘luir’ is a similar word which derives from an old Irish word meaning ‘water’. As the town is built on the shores of the vast Lough Ramor, to me ‘field of water’ makes more sense. The Irish language seems to be as complex, and ambiguous, and open to interpretation as its mythology!

The Four Treasures of Eirean is based on this land, this language, this mythology, and readers have often commented to me on their confusion over characters names and pronunciation. If you have read the book, you will know it comes with a guide. If you haven’t, you will find the guide on this site. I say, don’t get hung up on correct pronunciation, or you will allow it to get in the way of the story. Just say the names how they most feel comfortable to you.

I have never heard anyone criticise Tolkien for the strange names of his characters, of which there were many, most just as indecipherable as my Irish ones! He based them on his own made-up languages; the language mine are taken from is real. The same can be said of Eddings, and practically all other fantasy writers. It’s a fact; fantasy novels are full of weird, unpronounceable names, and no-one bats an eyelid. Why should the names of my characters be treated any differently?

Someone once suggested that I get rid of all these ‘ugly names’ (true!) and swap them for nice, easy ones like ‘Eric’ and ‘John’ (also true!). I nearly choked on my cappuccino!(I know, I should have been drinking Barry’s Tea, but I wasn’t!). He was so missing the point.

This is IRISH mythology. Whether these characters actually existed in reality is irrelevant; the fact remains, they are solid and epic and larger than life in mythology, and those are the names they were given. Could you imagine Cuchullain becoming ‘Eric’? Or Fionn Mac Cool becoming ‘John’?

No. Neither can I.

So I’ll stick with my Irish names, and hope that you learn to love them as much as I do. Or at least find a way to pronounce them, at any rate!

Happy Crimbo Reading, everybody! Hope Santa brings you all the books you are dreaming of! Ali xxx