top of page
  • katherine halligan

What Happened Next

Well, the good news is that the puppy did not eat her poo.

She has eaten, among other things (despite our constant and exhausting vigilance), a spicy cinnamon candy, a tissue, a piece of aluminium foil, a feather, a spider, and (despite our constant and disgusting application of an apparently useless bitter-apple spray, which serves only to make us all retch and simultaneously to whet her appetite for whatever we’ve just sprayed) several samples of different kinds of furniture.

But — as yet (and I say that “yet” in a tiny little whisper because if she’s anything like my children, she will hear me and the minute I make a pronouncement about her development or behaviour, she will do the very opposite thing, and the gods will guffaw at my ensuing misery) — she has not eaten her poo.

So among the many things I am giving thanks for at the end of this insanely awful year, our puppy’s lack of coprophagia is definitely on the list, certainly in the top twenty. I am giving thanks for many other things, too, which I will enumerate in a moment, but first I would like to share with you What Happened Next.

Because the puppy not eating her poo was just about the only good thing that happened in the ensuing 24 hours after my last post (we also didn’t get COVID, nor did the roof cave in, but that was just about it on the good list).

Things got rather pooier in a less literal way.

In no particular order, our older daughter overdosed the puppy with vitamins (she lived — “she” meaning both the puppy and the child), our younger daughter decided to attend her class Zoom wearing no pants (by which I mean, for my UK friends, no trousers; at least she was wearing her knickers; and she lived too), the same younger child (still without pants) filled a sock with salt (we don’t know why), and the puppy discovered howling as a form of entertainment both before and after waking me up with her vomiting at 2:30am (was it the cinnamon candy, the spider, or the particular combination of the two that disagreed with her?).

And so the next morning I nearly reversed over a nun.

(You couldn’t make this up, and I promise you that I have not.)

Nun-spotting in a coastal southern-Californian megalopolis is quite unusual, but for it to happen the morning after I’d managed four hours of broken sleep was a confluence of all sorts of bad luck and prank-playing by the gods, who were by now in hysterics as they watched my day unfold.

But while they were rolling about up there, weeping with delirious laughter at the absurd horror of my situation, it seems they decided to spare that nun or else give her guardian angel a run for her money. The nun, like me, was on a mission of charity, buying gifts — we might safely extrapolate — for underprivileged children at Christmas (or we could avoid the cliche and credit her with more imagination and zest: perhaps instead she was planning a wild New Year’s Eve at the convent). So, thankfully for all of us but especially the nun, either the gods or that guardian angel (I’m getting a bit religious here, but that sometimes happens at this time of year) turned my head at the last second as she materialised at the corner of my vision, and so tragedy was averted.

In my defence she was moving fast (some might say supernaturally so): I’d already looked twice because I was tired and I don’t have a backing camera or any high-techery that beeps at me to prevent me reversing over the innocent, and she definitely wasn’t there… until she was. Luckily some primal (or angelic) instinct stayed me, pressed my foot to the brake with lightning speed, and the nun lived to die another day.

Lucky nun, and lucky me. Because there is no chance I would have passed one of those walk-the-line sort of drunk-driving tests, for in my exhaustion I was literally wobbling. So I’m not writing to you from the slammer, and she is off preparing for a wild night of can-can and bingo. We all win.

And so there’s another thing on the list of things for which I’m grateful (quite a long ways ahead of the puppy’s absence of coprophagia) as this year of years draws to a close.

On the subject of divine intervention, I am also grateful for my older daughter’s fast-acting calm presence, as she has pulled small but potentially life-threatening pieces of plastic film from the puppy’s mouth no less than four times. Given that we now sweep our floor at least three times daily as well as mop it once a day with bleach, we are not entirely sure where this is coming from (though our suspicions lie firmly with our younger child, who for all her many charms often reminds us of the charming Pigpen character from "Charlie Brown”, a walking mass of mess and chaos), but we are simply thankful that our puppy has her own guardian angel in the form of one of our children.

We are also thankful that our younger child has different gifts with the puppy, namely an extraordinary sixth sense around animals and ability to commune with and calm them; she is our very own puppy whisperer, who is able to read her moods and needs and make all our lives easier and better.

We are of course thankful for so much more than either of these puppy-related skills that have lately emerged in our two progeny: we are thankful for their artistic talents of both the two- and three-dimensional sort, for their intellect, their wit, their delightful senses of humour, their robust good health, their sweetness, their brightness, and their sparkle, all of which contribute to their amazing and unwitting ability to carry their parents through any low spot — and this year has been a low spot of epic proportions.

We are thankful for wake-up calls — whether at 2am by puppies or in parking lots by nuns — and for sleep, in whatever tiny dribbles we might achieve it. (For that almost-fateful night was hardly an isolated event; in fact, last night I netted a whopping 4.5 hours of sleep, and those extra 30 minutes have fuelled the writing of this very post, during which process — I am delighted to report — not a single nun was endangered. Safer at home, indeed.)

We are thankful for our little flying furball, for the way she makes us all laugh, the way she explodes with tail-wagging joy when she greets us in the morning and makes us all feel like The Best Humans Ever, the way she licks our faces off, the way she curls up in our laps, warm and fluffy and ridiculously adorable.

We are thankful that we have work, both of the cancer-curing, bacon-bringing sort that my husband has and the veganishly-poor-but-life-affirming sort that I have (for after a nine-month lull, things are quietly picking up again and I am happy to share that I now have another book deal in hand).

We are thankful that we are healthy, in this year when health and life are more precious and precarious than ever.

We are thankful that our friends and family — with one tragic exception, whose loss we mourn deeply — are alive and mostly well.

We are thankful that we have just three weeks to go until the giant shepherd’s crook of democracy appears in the wings to pull the Dictator-in-Chief (or DIC, for short) off the stage he has used and abused for four painful and terrible years. The end of the daily horror show is in sight, and the prospect of relief from the constant, umm, idiocy (I can’t say what I really mean to say, because I am a children’s author, but if I weren’t I might use one of my signature turns of phrase, which may or may not rhyme with “duck-jittery”; if you don’t know what I mean, share this with your friends during your virtual New Year’s Eve party and see if they can crack it) is knee-weakeningly immense. Whether he leaves the White House under his own angry steam or whether he has to be escorted from the premises, we are thankful for the prospect that he will no longer wield a terrifying degree of power, and that we will be led instead by a sane, kind adult, who will care for us with a unifying benevolence that is desperately needed more than any time since March 4, 1861, when Lincoln was first inaugurated. The States remain united, against all the odds in this oddest of years. (And although puppies and presidents produce poo — some rather a lot of it — if we’re lucky, no one will be eating it, which means we can simply quietly scoop it up and carry on with the better things in life.)

We are thankful that this pandemic has brought us closer and taught us more about the things that matter, that it has offered us so many silver linings in the forms of friendships rekindled, time to truly inhabit our home and make it our own, and presence with our children and with each other.

We are thankful for all of this and so much more.

We are thankful for what lies behind us, for the moment we are in, for the prospect of a brighter future.

We are thankful and we are hopeful; we are thankful that we can even be hopeful again.

I’ve shared what happened next, on one random day in my life, but now what happens next, in the randomness of all our lives? We don’t know, of course, because we don’t have 2020 hindsight.


And on that “yet” hinges everything: whether the gods may yet laugh, or whether we may yet cry, the future lies just ahead of us. The “yet” will happen — and may it not be a hairy, scary yet-i like this year has been — and we will live it.

Because we survived 2020, and we are ready to live the next year, the next day, the next moment.

So here’s to the next, and here’s to you — because I am thankful for each and every one of you, too.

Recent Posts

See All

Light at the End of the Tunnel

When my husband and I were first married we lived — due to his job and my need to be near a mainline rail station to London for mine — in a town in central England called Market Harborough. Our house

Evil Penguins and Other Beasts

I’ve touched more than once on the topic of insanity, and how we’ve all been wrestling with it of late. And though there are too many causes of our collective madness to list here, I am laying the bla

The Cliffs of Insanity

If you worried during my recent and increasingly long stretches of radio silence late last year that I’d succumbed to some sort of illness (especially THAT illness), thankfully you would be wrong. Unl


bottom of page