G&Ts in the Garden with Flannel the Bedlington Terrier
It won’t be long until Sue, a retired nurse, will be leaving her cosy Yorkshire cottage of 34 years for a new place that will be better suited for her and her other half Michael. Part of those 34 years has been shared with Flannel, the adorable 11 year old Bedlington Terrier. It’s been his house too and he knows it inside out.
He knows the country lane in front of the house where he’s been let out for countless sniffs and wees. He knows the fields beyond the garden where his favourite game to play is football. And he knows that when the sun’s out, the conservatory is the prime spot for sunbathing. For Sue and Michael I knew that this shoot wasn’t just about getting pictures of Flannel in his later years, but was about capturing their life together before they set out on the next chapter.
We begin our shoot as I do all Pet Stories shoots, just having a chat and a cuppa. I like to do this so that the animal I’m photographing feels relaxed around me, but from the moment I knocked on the front door, Flannel was there, bum wiggling, tail wagging and with the biggest toothiest grin. It’s like he knew he was having his photograph taken.
As we sit and chat, Sue and Michael tell me about how they met. Michael jokes that Sue took him in as a stray, tail wagging and puppy eyed. He now lives with Sue and Flannel as if he was their pet. Flannel comes to each of us for a cuddle, before finally sprawling out like a cosy sheepskin throw across Sue’s lap. I’m told this is a favourite pastime of his.
Sue excites Flannel by saying, “Find Pants …. Where’s Pants?!”. He reacts by digging about in his toy basket and eventually retrieves a toy. Sue explains that when he was a puppy, he had a rubber chicken toy with flame-printed pants, named ‘Fire Pants’. However, Flannel now responds by bringing back any old toy when he hears just ‘Pants’.
Talking of names, I don’t think I’ve come across a dog more suited to their own. He is Flannel. I absolutely adore it.
We take the shoot out onto the county lane. A spot Flannel knows and loves. Spring is just creeping in, so the sun’s out but we’re quite high up in the Yorkshire hills so there’s a cold breeze, ever so gently lifting Flannel’s pom pom ears. They’re a signature cut for the Bedlington breed and were once a defence mechanism. I didn’t know until Sue told me, but Bedlington Terriers were bred to catch rats. So once upon a time when they were sticking their heads down holes and they came into contact with a fox or a badger, the animal would be fooled into grabbing at the fluff at the ends of their ears, meaning they could quickly escape with their ears still intact.
Apparently Flannel doesn’t even flinch when he sees a squirrel, so his hairdo isn’t so much a necessity. But he does look like a ‘rock-hard Poodle’, a nickname that’s stayed with him after a passerby dubbed him the hilarious term in his early years.
As the sun starts to set in the distance over Bradford, Sue and Michael have a quick game of football. Flannel’s fave game to play. He jumps and darts from side to side as if he were a puppy. He’s in his element. Sue tells me more about when he was a smaller.
All tired out from their kickabout, the trio take five on the garden steps. A lovely spot for a family portrait and also a meaningful place.
As we make our way back into the garden, Michael tells me about how they have several ‘G&T stations’ and when the weather’s nice, they follow the sun down the garden stopping at each one. It’s then when he insists we must have one. I of course accept the offer. We sip a Parma Violet gin as Flannel conks out in the conservatory.
Just before I leave, Sue and Flannel have a last little cuddle in the warm conservatory. I love how similar they look and Sue tells me they often get told how alike they are in appearance, especially when she wears her grey felted coat.
The sun dips behind the hills, creating a gorgeous stream of light just in time for some really lovely photos. They’re some of my favourite that I’ve taken and I’m so chuffed that I can capture this moment for them both. It reminds me that there’s quite a bit of change on the horizon for Sue, Michael and Flannel. They have so many memories and habits associated with this house but it won’t be long until new moments are made at their new place.