Lesson Eleven


This is Weston’s latest favorite spot up in the veggie beds, the highest part of the garden.  She looks over the deck, neighbors back yards and our garden. She’s started resting her head on the wooden garden bed borders and just chilling out there while I work.

Her lesson – enjoy the view!


Lesson Ten: Put Yourself First


Our little yellow dog continues to teach us lessons.  I’ve struggled over the past 6 months to do something that brings me such joy, takes away any ‘blues’ that I might be feeling, shreads any stress and makes me feel so very happy and good.  Exercise.

I have always loved sports, played basketball and field hockey and ran track at school, started running marathons in my mid-twenties and pushed myself to run two ultramarathons.  I am one of those weirdos who loves physical exercise (as equally as I love food and wine.)  It just makes me feel better.  The majority of the time I am moaning as I’m putting the sneakers on, but once back, I am happy.  I love being outdoors and this amazing city that we live in is a mecca for out door pursuits.

I’ve tried many new sports over the years which I think has helped with any motivation.  Marathons in my twenties, tennis (ha, quickly gave that up,) learning to row competitively on the Thames in London in my thirties, ultras and kayaking in my forties and now paddle boarding.

This business takes a lot of physical effort – each breakfast for guests takes at least 4 trips up and down stairs, there is the bed making, the cleaning, the gardening – I love it all.  But the past six months of juggling this business with our other jobs plus walking a little yellow dog everyday pushed “me” and my needs way down to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.  (It even made my needs into to-do’s.)

This is not a new story.  Each new mom and dad could tell the same, each new business owner would tell me to suck it up, anyone dealing with any stressful life situation would not be ‘taking good care of themselves.’

Our yellow dog needs daily exercise.  Without it, she’s loopy, a nut job, completely bonkers.  She digs holes in the garden, barks, won’t eat her food….with a good hour walk or swim she is calm, sweet, happy, content.

I am starting slowly in this new year to put myself first and ensure that I sweat each day.

That little dog is a wise one I tell you…

Lesson Nine: Discovery

IMG_1377 IMG_1378 IMG_1379 IMG_1380On days that I don’t bring Weston to the beach for a swim, we walk in Pukekura Park.  She’s been walking here since she first came home to us, and is a favorite of the staff that work there.  (Well they always stop and pet her, so I assume she’s a favorite.)

We live just steps from an entrance into the park, and spent 9 months in the House before Ms. Weston arrived.  In that time I ventured into the park just a handful of times for a walk, preferring my runs on the walkway or going about my daily tasks.

Now, I know the Park.  Weston’s walks are rambles.  They are not quick, nor are they done quickly.  We take paths that look interesting, ones that I have no idea where they lead.  We stop to look at trees, benches, ducks, ponds and leaves.  We stop and say hello to all we encounter.  We take our time and we run… all in one walk.  Weston has swum in almost all of the bodes of water.  (Naughty puppy – she’s not supposed to.)

Her response to seeing the beautiful amphitheater of the Bowl of Brooklands was to slide in and swim with the ducks (all the while, I’m holding her leash, giggling and trying to firmly pull her out.)

Her response to discovering that the lion actually had water coming out of its mouth was to get in there and drink.

This little dog has helped me discover this amazing park.  When I first walked around it while visiting New Plymouth I thought, ehhh, it’s Ok but it’s no Central Park.

Nope it’s better, it’s ours and it’s just steps from the House.

Lesson Eight: Trust


Rodney recently re-built the back fence and there is a part where it meets one of our raised garden beds where Weston can sit and see over to our neighbor’s yard.  She’s been sitting there these past few weeks and just barking.

Bark bark bark.  Bark bark bark.

We’ve been running back there, scolding her.  I’ve assumed it’s just because she can see over, and she’s just marking her territory.  We’ve been a tad bit frustrated (ummm, that’s not how our neighbors would likely describe our loud desperate yells of “Weston!” echoing over the backyard.)

Just marking her territory.  Nope.  We were wrong.

There is a chicken in their backyard.  A chicken.  A chook.  A gorgeous, fat, high stepping chicken with a red frilly head.  Just wandering around his backyard…next to ours….in the city.   This New Yorker still has something to learn about life in New Zealand.

We’re hoping the fence holds, and now trust Ms. Weston’s bark bark bark.  There is something there.  Maybe they will share some eggs?

Lesson Seven: Be in the moment


We’ve recently had a diagnosis of elbow dysplasia for our sweet Weston.  Go ahead, google the term, the first description is horrible, “Elbow dysplasia is a common cause of front-leg lameness in large-breed dogs.”  OK, don’t google it.

Weston has had a weird gate and a bit of a limp at times for as long as we can remember.  It started so very slightly and we’d ask each other, “do you see a limp?”  Her obedience instructor was the one that called it out, and made it real.  She saw us walking down the walkway and thought, there is something wrong with Weston.

We’ve since had a few rounds of x-rays, have a plan to deal with it, (involving someone losing a bit of weight =) and are managing it.

The thing is, Weston doesn’t speak English.  She hasn’t heard this diagnosis, she only knows that she feels some pain some times, but the main thing on her mind is whatever she is doing right at that minute.  Swimming, sunning herself, playing with the soccerball, digging another hole in the garden.  She hasn’t changed one bit.

She doesn’t spend time worrying about how this may affect her some day.  She is just happy, active, sweet, saucy, naughty and completely in the moment.  I am choosing to take her approach.  We could let this affect the way we interact with her, but there is no way I am keeping this dog from the joys of her daily swim, or from running down the beach, or having her afternoons in the back yard chasing fantails.

She’s going to set the pace – she continues to teach me!



Lesson Six: Taking a new path

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Each morning  I take Weston for a walk.  We started with short ones, 10 minutes for each month she was old.  We are now at our maximum of about 60 minutes.

For months, I waited for her to learn how to swim.  People would ask “ahhh, a Lab.  Does she LOVE to swim?”  And for months we watched as she walked in water, but never made the swimming motion.  The progression to swimmer took place during an evening visit to Back Beach and is accredited to the help from a more talented dog named Anzac.  Weston fell in love with Anzac and quickly became a swimmer as she followed him into the big waves.

Our morning routine is now a walk in Pukekura Park during the week, (walkway on weekends) and then a swim in the Te Henui stream across from our house. The swim now ads at least 15-20 minutes to our routine.  (She gets a puppy massage and is dried off post-swim before being able to come back inside.)

This is our pattern, and she knows the route and often leads me around each corner.  I know how long it takes and can fit it in post-breakfast service and pre-room make up.  Last week, she altered it.

We headed up a path we hadn’t been on and up into the woods.  We went along for awhile – me anxiously checking my watch to ensure we were ‘on track’.  These walks are our time together, and are often a relaxing start to the day.  But sometimes, if I have a busy day my to-do list is heavy on my mind and these walks become a to-do instead of a joy.  So this morning, I was a bit annoyed that I was off my schedule and anxious to get back to get on with the doing.

But then, we stumbled upon this sculpture by the Govett Brewster artist in residence.   I knew about it, and had gone to a Monica Brewster talk by the artist one rainy winter night, who explained why he likes to work with glitter.  But I hadn’t made the time to go and find it in the park.  It was just outside our daily walk route.  A gorgeous, whimsical gold glittering tree just outside my daily routine.

Thanks Weston for reminding me to go off path, get lost, put away my to-do and be in the moment.  Who knows when you’re going to stumble upon a glorious gold tree amongst a sea of green ones?

Lesson Five: Watching the world go by

Weston loves to sit at our front gate and watch her world of New Plymouth go by.

She wags her tale, listens to the loud cars, greets people walking by….she can sit there for a very long time.

We too love the view from the front of the house.  After a long day of service and working in the garden, we love to end our day by having a glass of wine on the front porch and watching the sun set.

Learning to pause, and spend time quietly watching the world go by is a wonderful reminder that life is made up of these tiny celebrations.  It is not time wasted, but time best spent.