My Hairy-Chested Hero : Guest Blog by Christina Hollis

portrait of author Christina HollisToday, we welcome our first guest blogger of 2018, Christina Hollis, a writer with quite a pedigree.

Christina has written non-fiction, historical novels, and modern romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon and other publishers, selling nearly 3 million books in more than twenty languages.

But today, Christina is not talking about her writing.
Today her guest blog is about Alex, her beloved hairy-chested hero…

My Hero with the Hairy Chest…

Intelligent, a good listener, the perfect companion for long country walks—but that’s enough about my husband. I’m here to tell you about Alex, our retriever/labrador cross.

dog and mistress on morning walk in woods

Alex and Christina on their usual morning walk in the woods…with bonus sunshine

How Alex arrived

Our son Jeffrey wanted a dog from the moment he could say the word. Like my own mother when I nagged for a dog, all I could focus on was the downside of pet ownership. Inconvenience, mess, noise, expense…the list went on and on. We tried to put him off. We already had a cat. Wouldn’t that do? No. Cat’s won’t chase balls, or come when called[1].

retriever-labrador cross puppy Alex at 8 weeks old

Alex at 8 weeks

Jeff wouldn’t let it drop.

If we had a dog, you’d have company when we’re all out enjoying ourselves, Mum.

If we had a dog we could get fit, taking him for walks.

If we had a dog, we could teach him to sort the laundry/pick up things we’ve dropped/answer the door/fetch help when one of us falls down a well.

We lived with Alex the virtual dog—that amazing hybrid of Rin-Tin-Tin, Lassie and Gromit—day in, day out for about fourteen years before the real pup was born. (And you can find out more about how we finally gave in on my blog)
Finally, on 31 March 2016, we collected Alex as an eight-week old pup.

[1] Not all dogs do this, either. Source: Bitter Experience…

But who rules the roost?

Well socialised and brought up in a family home with cats, Alex wanted to make friends with our big old neutered tom straight away. Jynx the Norwegian Forest Cat had ruled the roost for so long that, when Alex bounced up and gave him a lick, he sat back on his haunches and soundly boxed the puppy’s ears.

Alex and Jynx : armed truce?

Cat and pup then shot off in different directions, Alex to his crate and Jynx to his favourite fast-food restaurant in the woodshed.

Any sensible animal would have given Jynx a wide berth after that. Not Alex.

As he grew, he spent most of his time trying to make the cat love him. This involved galumphing out of nowhere while Jynx was busy stalking voles in the long grass, or trying to squeeze into the cat basket to share a cozy nap.

It took about nine months before the cat stopped trying to kill Alex on a daily basis.

Alex the schemer?

It’s not that Alex is a slow learner. Far from it. He soon discovered two fail-safe ways to grab our attention.

One is The Slow Steal.

He likes to be included in everything, whether it’s washday, feeding the hens, or checking the greenhouses. He stands close beside me, watching. When he thinks I’ve done enough, he’ll reach forward and very gently pick up a sock, feed scoop or trowel, and plod away with it. At a distance of a few metres, he lies down to wait for me to come and fetch.

I keep telling him retrieving is part of his job description, not mine, but it’s not working!

Alex’s other pastime is Search For A Star.

This involves sitting directly in front of the television with his back to the screen, staring at us until we give in and take notice of him. He’s grown into a big dog, so this doesn’t take long.

This is when we first noticed the uncanny resemblance between General George S Patton Jnr, Mary Berry, Dr Sam Willis and Beverley Goldberg. As far as we can see, they could be quadruplets separated at birth.

head of Alex obscuring TV picture

Dr Sam Willis on The Silk Road. Or possibly Beverley Goldberg on holiday. Who knows?

Alex the lovable…and more

Every day, Alex proves why retrievers, labradors and their crosses are so good as assistance dogs. Put your arms around his neck, and he leans into the affection.

He can be good… Sometimes

Apart from trying it on with the retrieve, Alex’s standard of obedience is not bad, but definitely in the “could do better” category. He never jumps up, doesn’t bark, and waits to go through a door or gateway until humans have gone through first. He sits patiently waiting for the command to eat at mealtimes. He doesn’t beg when we’re eating. He also comes when called, and walks on a loose lead…most of the time.

Selectively deaf when he spots a friend (and that means every local person, and all their dogs) Alex can be very stubborn. He has a habit of sitting down, immoveable, and giving us a wicked side-eye. (You think we’re going for a walk in that direction? Think again!)

He also cannot resist chewing sticks, and sniffing out wild boar carcasses. Apart from the potential vet bills and eye-watering fragrance of dead pig which often hums around him, Alex is that pet I always wanted as a child. The odd character flaw only adds to his appeal.

My (hairy) hero!

No person or animal is perfect, but if you don’t mind a lot of body hair, Alex is close to the definition of a romantic hero: the strong, silent type who’s always there for you, in good times and bad.

More about Christina Hollis

Joanna again:
Many thanks to Christina for her lovely tales about Alex. He sounds quite a character, doesn’t he, in spite of the hairy chest (and other eccentricities). I’m hoping to meet him one day.

You can find a selection of Christina’s work on her website, or follow her on Twitter @ChristinaBooks. Christina is on Facebook and also blogs regularly about writing, cooking  (yummy recipes!) and growing things. (Yes, hairy-chested Alex may occasionally stick his nose in to any of those.)

Christina’s latest books form the fantastic Princes of Kharova trilogy from Wild Rose Press that I guarantee you won’t be able to put down:

cover His Majestys Secret Passion by Christina Hollis cover Her Royal Risk by Christina Hollis cover Heart of a Hostage by Christina Hollis

The latest, Heart of a Hostage, is available here

Heart of a Hostage

Princess Maia has it all—including a horrible fiancé chosen for her by the king, and a family bullying her into doing the right thing—but all she wants is her independence. When she falls into the hands of rebel leader, Mihail, she tastes real freedom for the first time. Mihail is a lone wolf, Public Enemy Number One, and heir to a fierce tradition. A dangerous reputation, a castle full of guilty secrets and now rescuing Maia are all woven into his master plan. He can’t lose.

Until his unexpected hostage turns out to be the house guest from hell…

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