NOT ALL THINGS THAT BOUNCE ARE BALLS

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Beau is almost 7 years old. Not a venerable age for a small dog but perhaps a respectable one.
And in those years he has learned many things ; footpaths are for the exclusive use of small canines ,especially those of the French persuasion,
Sofas are for sitting on and hiding bones in.
Beds are for sleeping in, pillows are both for resting your head on and also for lying bodily on.
Humans are more predictable – or perhaps, just plain gullible – than fellow canines.
Although it would be quite impossible not to have a human in your life and for those dogs without one, well, that’s just confusingly remiss of them.
But this morning he learned a new truth; that not all small round objects are balls – especially when they fall from shopping baskets and bounce enticingly along the footpath – no, they are most likely to be lemons!
Just proving that older dogs can still learn new things.
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BEAU’S BARK BAGS AN UNLIKELY INTRUDER

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Beau lifts his nose to the wind. It carries the scent of rain. In that instant, he is no longer Beau, pampered pooch of New Farm but his far distant ancestor the wolf. An instinct honed by ancient DNA warns him, a storm approaches

The sound of my voice breaks his concentration, transporting him instantly, from the tundra of his long-dead ancestors to the considerably more mundane environment of Lower Bowen Trc.

“Hurry up Beau. The storm is on its way.” He finishes his pee, rakes the ground and tosses a defiant bark at the darkening night sky. We hurriedly make our way home. Once there I quickly manoeuvre freshly potted plants into the centre of the courtyard – allowing them the full advantage of promised rain – Then tidy away the garden utensils and detritus of an enjoyable afternoon spent repotting.

Downstairs, secured against inclement weather, we make our upstairs to prepare for bed. Teeth cleaned, Beau on his blanket at the bottom of the bed, I plump the pillows and settle into a satisfying read with Nancy Mitford’s “Love in  Cold Climate”.

It’s not long before the book slips from my fingers and Morpheus lays claim to consciousness. Bedside lamp off, I surrender completely to his enticements. As I drift towards the shadows of sleep, I hear the distant thunder grow closer and the rain begins to beat a steady tattoo. The best lullaby of all is the sound of rain on the roof.

Suddenly, I’m woken by the crack of thunder and Beau’s ferocious barking. I sit bolt upright, alarmed and disorientated. Have I been asleep minutes or hours? I see Beau, a silhouette against the sudden flash of lightening. He stands alert, his small body rigid with fear – or braced for challenge. “Hush Beau.” I whisper urgently. He ignores me and leaps from the bed, heading for the door , his barking growing more frenzied and insistent. Is the storm the cause for his alarm or is there someone downstairs? Possibly an intruder!

By now the storm is fully apon us. The wind and thunder providing a deafening crescendo but not as deafening as Beau’s shrill barking.

“Beau enough,” I shout with bravado from the top of the stairs. Should there be intruders, I want them to know we’re alert to their presence and not in the least afraid. Who am I kidding?

My body is tingling with coursing adrenaline. Beau is at the French doors looking out into the courtyard. I take small comfort in the thought, at least they’re outside and not in the house with us.

I come to stand beside Beau. Both of us peer through the shutters into the driving rain. Suddenly a flash of lightening shatters the darkness. It is in that instant, I see something! There, underneath the vibernum tree. I’m sure a figure crouches under it’s dripping branches but, in a moment the image is gone, engulfed once again by complete darkness.

An idea penetrates my fear-addled brain. I reach for the light switch. My intention to flood the courtyard with light, thus exposing the intruder. I flick the switch. Nothing! Has the power been deliberately cut? No, I admonish myself. More likely a power failure due to the ferocity of the storm.

Beau has stopped barking but continues to emit a low rumbling growl. His focus of attention is still in the courtyard. The fury of the storm is almost spent. The rain is easing.

Should I ring the local constabulary to report an intruder in the garden? Before I can reach for my mobile phone, I notice the pilot lights for the television and sound system flickering to life. The power is being restored and suddenly the courtyard is illuminated. Finally the intruder is revealed!

“Searle’s Premium Potting Mix” I read in confused disbelief. A nanosecond of utter incomprehension. It’s then I fully realize the extent of my hysteria. My sinister intruder is no more than an empty potting mix bag, blown by the storm into the lower branches of the vibernum tree. Its resemblance to the human form exaggerated, when viewed through fear, darkness and driving rain.

I look accusingly at the now silent Beau. He affects nonchalance by scratching an ear. Do I detect a hint of embarrassment with the avoidance of my eye? After all it was he who sounded the alarm: cried wolf as it were. Before I can comment, he has bounded up the stairs, leaving me to follow.

I settle back into the pillows, reach for my book and console myself with the thought: Thank God I hadn’t involved the local constabulary. It would have been all to embarrassing.

MAN’S BEST FRIEND

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I awoke to find the room filled with a strange luminosity.
Through the shutters an unearthly glow so bright I could almost read by it.
A full moon as large as a fifty cent coin sits low in an indigo sky.
A sense of disquiet, a vague feeling of being bereft but why?
Then I remember I’m sans my hound.
He is enjoying a brief sojourn at the beach with my dad.
I never loose sight of Beau being a canine. I don’t see him as surrogate child or myself as a parent.
With genuine perplexity the unenlightened will ask, “How can you invest all that emotion in a pooch. He just a dog?”
“It is because of that very reason, he is a dog!
A gloriously funny, loyal, intelligent, sometimes willful, at times stubborn but always loving entity.
In short a wonderful companion.
An amazing reality for me is, I have derived more comfort and succor in times of high stress from this small canine than I have from a loving and supportive family, wonderful friends or indeed any partner … So, go get yourself a little dog or a big one for that matter!
It’s the path to salvation.

A DOG OF A DAY

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It interests and sometimes amuses me when people claim that dogs resemble their owners. I could never see it. I would look at my canine, Beau and think, “Utter rubbish. Where is our similarity ?” The only resemblance that I can see is we both have a slight overbite and that’s not readily discernible because Beau’s is most fortunately disguised by his luxurious moustache.

That opinion was challenged recently when I went to pick up Beau from his groomer.

The young woman at reception asked me to take a seat. I’m informed Beau “Isn’t quite done ” and it would be a few minutes before his groomer could deliver him to me.

After waiting a short time, a woman bustles into the reception area. She is in her middle years, bobbed grey-blonde hair held back by a Alice band and a look of disagreeableness marring her otherwise attractive features. She seems vaguely familiar. Maybe I have seen her in the Village or possibly the dog park.

“I’m here to pick up Teddy,” she announces. “He’s not ready yet Mrs. V,” the receptionist says pleasantly. “If you would take a seat, he won’t be long.”

Taking a chair beside me she fixes me with an assessing eye: “You waiting for your pooch too?” I nod an affirmative.

“Never have then ready on time,” she says grumpily. I look back to my magazine not whishing to engage any further.

An air of belligerency emanates from her persona: “I have this theory, “she continues, effectively ignoring my snub, “that dogs resemble their owners.”

Reluctantly, I abandon the magazine. “Do you?”  I enquire with exaggerated politeness.

“Yes my Teddy looks just like me.” She pauses and then says, a challenging look lighting her eye: “What sort of dog do you think he might be?”

I always feel at a disadvantage with that sort of question. It’s like being asked to guess a person’s age. The potential for embarrassment is high should you get it wrong.

I look to the receptionist seeking help with the awkward conversation but she avoids my eye. Her face is bright pink. Is it from suppressed laughter or discomfiture ? Perhaps a mixture of both.

“Take a guess,” demands my interrogator, refusing to let go the issue. Its then it suddenly dawns on me. I recognize the familiar assertive and vaguely disgruntled demeanor.

With her greying hair, bushy brows, short stocky body and a suggestion of whiskers growing on her chin, she is a dead ringer for those busy bodies of the canine world, the schnauzer.

“Would Teddy be a schnauzer ?” I ask tentatively, trying not to sound mischievous.

‘Yes, ” she cries, punching the air triumphantly. “The best dog on the Planet, don’t you think?”

Thinking her question rhetorical I don’t respond and return to my magazine wishing myself anywhere other than here beside her. She remains determinedly unperturbed by my coolness and continues to demand an answer to her question.

Finally I’ve had enough. Turning to the woman, I opine. In the nicest possible way: “Schnauzers are handsome dogs but unnecessarily belligerent and nosily opinionated. Unfortunately, they don’t possess sufficient intellect to support their opinions or the where-with-all to realize that social interaction isn’t always conducted as an altercation. Now, if you would excuse me I see my dog is waiting.”

As I hurriedly push Beau out the door, desperate to be gone from this hectoring woman. I hear her remark to the receptionist: “Typical poodle owner; just like their pooches – highly strung and no substance. They share a remarkable resemblance though. Both have a long nose and overbite.”

The door closes, effectively sparing me any further imputations against my character and that of my canine companion. It’s not until I reach the sanctuary of the car that I noticed the groomer has removed Beau’s usually luxurious moustache, thus revealing a long, pointed nose and the much discussed overbite.

I don’t need to consult a mirror to understand the geography of my own face – a rather long nose, combined with a slight overbite.

Perhaps that odious woman had a point after all. We do indeed come to resemble our pets.

“Sorry Beau. No dog park until the moustache grows back. We can’t possibly allow a schnauzer owner the last word.”

Beau cocks his leg and then paws the earth with fierce determination, growling as he does so: “My thoughts exactly, Beau. Perhaps give the dog park a complete miss for all time.”