We were truly blessed to be invited back to the south of France to care for a very special group of fur babies for two months this year. When we left last year we left a piece of both our hearts there and this time an even bigger piece was left behind.
They are all our favourites as each one is unique in their personality but what they all have in common is a never-ending amount of unconditional love that they give so easily in exchange for being fed, walked, talked to, hugged, play time and loved in return. It really is a small price to pay and one we look forward to giving.
To let each of their personalities shine through we felt it only fair to give them each a piece of the limelight. So, here is the Southern France Group we are so grateful to have spent the summer with.
Also affectionately known as Jazzles, he is without a doubt the leader of the pack and demands the respect required for such an astute position. In the group, he takes his role seriously and bosses the others around with growls (that we know don't mean anything), makes it clear what is his (everything) and who comes first (him of course!).
As his human slaves, it's important that we treat him the same too, giving him his food first etc so that the pack is held together as it should. What's beautiful with not only Jazz but the rest of the fur crew is that they have all been trained exceptionally well (a credit to their human parents) and they never step over the line when it comes to how they treat us.
When you get Jazz on his own, however, he is the complete opposite and relaxes into a complete smoocher. He is so affectionate, loves his cuddles and absolutely adores being the centre of attention which he rewards you equally with love and cuddles in return. One look into those big brown eyes though, and seriously, you'd do anything for him!
Jazz is also an International Prize winning Spaniel and it is a joy to brush him, something that has to be done almost daily to maintain his coat and remove the burrs he collects from playing outside in the yard. He stands so beautifully as you brush and is the epitome of a prize dog in both looks and stature. Just gorgeous!
Little Lipton is the youngest canine of the group and was less than a year old the first time we met him. Full of all the enthusiasm of a puppy he was adorable then but a bit of a handful as all pups are. Now almost two years old he is maturing into a beautiful soul and if we were to describe him in one word it would be "sweet".
Everything about him is sweet, his cuddles, his temperament, and his general attitude towards everyone. He loves nothing more than having his belly rubbed and that is his 'go to' at all times. When you are trying to brush him (almost an impossible task), when it's bedtime, when it's feeding time, any time is belly rubbing time for him.
The funniest thing about Lipton is when you do rub his belly his legs go crazy like Thumper the rabbit. So adorable! (Unless of course, you are trying to brush him.) His hair is also prone to knots as it is so fine so it's a quite a task to brush him regularly but take a look at his colouring. He is just so cute with his three spots down his back.
Dear Agathe, or "Teddybear" as she is affectionately known by us, is the eldest of the group, turning twelve this week. She clearly is mature as she doesn't let little things bother her (is happy to hang out with cats and dogs alike) but will stand up and let it be known if one of the others is pushing her around too much.
She is a beautiful balance between sensitive (she will whimper at the slightest pain e.g. a little burr) and strong (we are convinced she was a cat in her past life as she has had several near death episodes in her life and survived them). With a touch of sassiness and cheekiness that is endearing, she is such a joy to be around.
Nobody told Agathe that twelve is old either. Although she does like a good nap, her eyesight is wavering, and her hearing (we think it's called selective hearing though LoL). There is absolutely nothing wrong with her sense of smell or appetite. She will bounce out of her slumber at alarming rates if she has a sniff that the fridge is open, plus do twirlies excitedly as you put your shoes on in eager anticipation of her much loved walks, rides in the car, or cafe visits with you. She also loves a good back scratch in the grass and will take every opportunity to have one.
Sweet little Belle or Bellee Boo as we affectionately named her, is the energizer bunny of all the canines. She has been called a little manic but we just think she is misunderstood. She gets so excited about everything from cuddles, to car trips, walks in the forest, and of course, in true Spaniel form...food.
She will bounce up and down and do so many twirls it will make you feel giddy just watching her, all in anticipation of receiving a hug or some food. But get her on her own, and she calms down a little and is much more relaxed about everything (but still constantly on the lookout for what's happening next).
Our special time with Belle was brushing time in the morning where we would have some one on one time and lots of cuddles while sitting in the sun and brushing out the many knots she managed to create. As those big brown eyes looked up at you (with the longest eyelashes you'll ever see!) it would melt your heart and then at the end she would thank you with the gentlest of kisses... melt, melt, melt.
Mrs. Kipling is the mother of the group. Having been rescued from a puppy farm because she was about to be 'put to rest' because she wasn't producing enough puppies (OMG!), she now gets to mother the other four dogs, especially little Belle, and spends her time watching over them and playing with them in the yard.
As with all Labradors, she is affectionate, kind and has an endless amount of love to give to everyone. To think what she may have been put through prior to being rescued just breaks our heart but thankfully it hasn't broken her generous spirit. In return for back scratches, brushing, treats and cuddles she will give you unconditional love and the gentlest of kisses.
Mrs. Kipling, sometimes known as Kiples, is also extremely well behaved, rarely shows a great deal of excitement (except at food time) and used to be the quietest of the bunch until the matriarch Grace passed on late last year. Now she is using her previously unknown and very loud voice to let the human slaves know when it is wakeup time, feeding time, and if there is ever anything wrong. Loved by all who have the pleasure to meet her, we are so pleased she gets to spend the rest of her years in this wonderful and loving home.
Halifax is easy to remember because she is pure white and oozes elegance in her every move. Independent and yet affectionate she is the perfect blend of both as well as engaging when it comes to games but with a little aloofness and the odd quirky quality thrown in for good measure. An absolute delight to spend time with and absolutely adorable. Did I mention elegant...she really is so beautiful.
If you are familiar with the line of candy products called Haribo then you will know where this feline got her name from and she lives up to her name with her sweetness and playfulness. Haribo is also very affectionate and almost impossible to get a photograph of her because she just wants to smooch any time you enter the room. Such a gorgeous cat both inside and out.
Don't let Helix' tiny frame fool you! She is a little rocket in so many ways. Primarily an outdoor cat and a hunter, this means she often brings her "prizes" to show you proudly. This can be a tad upsetting when they are still partially alive but it's impossible to get mad at her because she's simply being a cat and that's just what they're supposed to do. When she isn't out searching for her next prey she is home looking for cuddles and is one of the most affectionate feline's we have had the pleasure in knowing.
Little Miss Hiro hangs out with the K9's of the house and we are convinced she thinks she is one! She is affectionately known as Miss Curvy these days because, well, she just loves her food a little too much and with four other cats in the house there's never a shortage. But don't let her curves (and her canine size) fool you, she will proudly check to see that you are looking before squeezing through the cat door, purely to prove she still can! Hiro (who was named after the Japanese character in the TV series "Heroes") is also the shyest of this household but loves to curl up on your lap while you watch TV and "help" you with your computer work. She also loves to roll in the dirt and then go inside just after the cleaner has been...she's smarter than she lets on we think.
Harper Lee Hashtag Sassy Cat
This gorgeous new addition to the household has the longest name of all the felines but it is absolutely necessary to describe her huge personality adequately. Harper Lee (after the author) Hashtag (because she's a girl of the times) Sassy Cat (because that's just who she is. Her tiny frame houses the bravest little girl with the loudest purr we've ever heard and we are convinced she has no fear, which is wonderful to witness considering she is a rescue. With only limited time with Harper Lee (she arrived near the end of our stay and needed to be climatised to her new environment and family members), we are looking forward to getting to know her more next time.
Admittedly there are very few downsides to the lifestyle we choose to live but saying goodbye to the fur babies is one of them. It's impossible not to get attached and as they all age and we know 'things happen' it really is difficult to say goodbye each time. But, we wouldn't change it for anything else in the world because the rewards you receive spending time in their presence far outweighs any sadness and we are just grateful for every minute of that.
We are also blessed to spend time with their human slave parents which makes it even more difficult to say goodbye as you start out as strangers and part as friends and the friendship continues to grow every year/visit. Our hosts in Southern France are no exception with their abundance of kindness, consideration, wit, humour and charmingness. An absolutely adorable couple who we look forward to seeing again real soon.