There has been one reason, above all others, for taking my eye off the blog for a month or so, and it is this: the arrival of a new housemate. You will not, I think, be surprised to learn that the new housemate has four rather than two legs and barks (but only occasionally).
Miss P (for the purposes of this blog, we will call her that and to differentiate her from regular guest, Little Miss P, the Shih Tzu) arrived at the beginning of the year and, since then, has nudged her way into my heart as well as my home.
An indication of this came a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself writing quite spontaneously about Miss P. Here, with just a few minimal tweaks, is what emerged:
I had not been thinking about another dog. I already had the Edinburgh Boy; he was getting on, ten this year - almost elderly for a dog. We would be able to have off-days together, when we didn't go for long walks, especially when rain poured down incessantly as it had done for months, from the beginning of autumn and on and on through winter.
And then the sad, achingly sad, email about Miss P, a dog I had looked after frequently over the past year. A young bouncy crossbreed, with boundless stamina, who ran like the wind. A few kilos of pure energy. A bit of Border collie? A bit of lurcher? A bit of spaniel? Definitely a lot of Saluki. Not my sort of dog, really. Not a Labrador.
Life, however, has its distinct way of shaking you to your core and slamming the unexpected in your face like a splapstick custard pie - but without the laughs.
Miss P's devoted and loving owners had seen their world transmute into something they barely recognised and that they could not have predicted, which meant - and this was the very hardest thing - that they could no longer keep their dog, any dog, for the foreseeable future. But they could not contemplate the thought of their beautiful canine zephyr ending up with strangers who might not love her or understand her they way they had done.
She had been born on, but thankfully rescued from, what is euphemistically called a puppy farm, then fostered and eventually handed over to a rescue centre. And then the lovely owners found her, fell in love with her kind eyes, her silky coat and just the whole sweet-natured shebang of her.
So, she could not possibly go to strangers. Instead she came to me, despite the fact that I would never have chosen her in a 'pick your favourite dog' line-up. But she chose me because that is what rescue dogs do. Best not to fight it, just concede gratefully and graciously.
As it turns out, she is the dog of my dreams, or my dream dog, what you will: a faithful, affectionate, kindly dog, in love with life, with people, with other dogs. A dog who will run every hour of her waking day, if she can, but who will turn on a sixpence and hurtle back to my side like a rocket at the sound of my Acme dog whistle.
I am in awe, watching the exquisite line of her as she races up hillsides and flies across Exmoor's streams, her feathered tail rippling and flowing out behind her .
In the evening, curled up by the woodburner, draped across her beloved companion, the Edinburgh Boy, she sleeps contented, dreaming her doggy dreams.
And I realise that I cannot, now, imagine my life without her.