THE Christmas songs are playing — EVERYWHERE — and the festive season is well and truly underway in Marbella.

As I sit down to search (frantically) for inspiration for my last column before Christmas, I think back on the past year, what it’s brought me, what it’s taught me.

On this day last year, all of my worldly possessions were floating under a metre and a half of water in my mother’s basement when the floods hit the coast and I penned my first column for the Olive Press, in which I lamented the misfortunes of my then situation and the flood’s devastation: “Homeless, jobless, penniless freelance writer and single mother”
Well, I’m no longer homeless (squatting in my mother’s spare room), I now have a little beachside apartment with a (slither!) of a sea view from my bed.

I guess I’m about as jobless and penniless as a freelance writer ever is— all the more so now — in December, as chasing bills becomes futile before Christmas.

And, yes, still very much a single mother as I’ve become so independent in my parenting now that I couldn’t have it any other way (control issues alert!) Whilst ‘The Novel’ has made little (no) progress (except in my head!) this past year, 2017, has been filled with giddy highs and some sobering lows.

The saddest moment of the year came in May, when our dog Baby-Boy died after fourteen years of silly, soppy, unconditional love.

He was The Monkey’s first playmate, and it was a wonder to behold the patience and understanding the docile poodle had, as an eighteen-month-old child tugged on his ears and rode him like a ‘horsey’.

Anyone who has owned a pet knows that they become more than just ‘an animal’ and part of your family. And after fourteen years, his loss was felt throughout our family, the Monkey experiencing his first taste of grief.

I noticed the loss most as I sat up at night, chasing yet another deadline, searching for inspiration in the darkness without the warm bundle of fur at my feet where he used to sit with me on cold nights, (a canine hot water bottle!) offering me company when the rest of the house was asleep.

RESTING: Natalie with her dog

 

For a while, I thought we’d not get another dog… but gradually the longing for playful canine company grew. Last month the yearning ceased, as we finally headed up to the Ojen-based animal shelter, Triple A in search of a dog.

The number of abused and abandoned animals in this part of Spain is alarming and shows no sign of slowing down, as Triple A continues to receive new animals almost every day.

Last month a bag with ten newborn puppies was delivered; all in desperate need of shelter, food, medical care and love. Triple A provides all of that — but the shelter needs financial help, as they rely almost entirely on donations, sponsors and organised events and this month they will no doubt exceed 400 dogs, and these dogs need homes!

If you are thinking about getting a dog this Christmas then I urge you to please think twice before heading to a pet shop or breeder who supports cruel puppy mills.

I know the fashion in Marbella is for ‘designer’ pooches you can put in your handbag, and that many think shelters will only have big dogs, hunting dogs, mongrels and “ugly” dogs, but there are dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes all in need of loving homes.

We fell in love with a couple of Yorkies. They’d been abandoned together so the shelter didn’t want to separate them — and neither did we! Scared, shivering and terrified, they spent their first night at home curled up and trembling. Six weeks later and I can’t imagine life without them.

They say ‘A dog’s for life, not just for Christmas’, so please make it a rescue dog and give it a chance at a life.

Yes, it has been a beautiful year, and I write this column a little warmer than last year.
One dog on each foot.