In some outhouses behind the Castle are three little shiny snub nosed spaniel puppies. The first few months of life are just entrancing and the office team who work with us here at Highclere sit on chairs carefully brought in around the whelping box, happily continuing with phone calls whilst holding puppies.
The first one, a little girl, was born on a sofa in the Castle, 4 or 5 of us sitting quietly around Clemmie, the mother, trying to be supportive. Isabella, whose father Luis works with us, was there watching, an unforgettable story for her friends at school. It was then getting late, so the girls helped me carry a large dog bed upstairs with lots of towels and put it next door to my bed so I could doze and watch during the night. The next one was born at midnight and was sadly stillborn, a very low point, and strangely lonely. Clemmie and I had tried to breathe into it and make sure it’s nose was clear but I think it was dead beforehand. So she left it apart from her bed and I found a small box to put it into.
Number three was born some 4 hours later and I could spot him because he had 4 perfect white manicured feet. Nervous and carefully wiping him, I was hugely relieved he was fine – I had dreaded another repeat. The last one was born at the vets, a little boy who once he got the hang of suckling has never stopped. Clemmie was exhausted but wonderful and so kind.
Their eyes are now open, and their legs becoming stronger, so they pull on tassels, clamber into my lap and slide off, nibble my fingers and make me want to keep them all. Every day is wonderful and I think it remains just so for cocker spaniels for every day of their life. They are a gloriously enthusiastic and full of life breed.
I cannot keep them all and so I am trying to choose homes where they can be loved and love. The other part of the deal is they have to come back to see their brothers and sisters here and have the occasional party. However, I think I cannot help it and am going to keep the little girl, Evie. In a few years we can then make Clemmie a Granny and Rosie a great-Granny. I think Geordie is resigned and but will probably secretly be very grateful it is just the one….
It is magic and my next puppy party at the Castle will be even better with more friends, four-legged and two, and the chaos and pleasure of families.