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A Tale of Tails…

What is this thing on my head?

What is this thing on my head?

Flossie here, I thought I had seen the last of this contraption when I was a mere one-year-old pup! The Boss surely threw it away long ago. Hence, I felt quite safe when we went into the Vet’s waiting room, ready to have my tail looked at.
A sore had appeared and despite my numerous lengthy licks, it had not got any better. I am sure it bothered the Boss more than it bothered me but I went along with her plans to have the Vet look at it anyway. I find it best to humour her.
I got into the car without any trouble. I got out of the car. I saw the door to the Vet’s and something inside me flipped.
I began to walk backwards. Maybe this was not such a good idea after all.
The Boss did not seem to get the hint. She pulled the old trick of promising me a treat and in through the door I went.
Inside, it was not too bad. As long as I could stand near the escape route, I felt fine. There was an old black Labrador lolling on the floor and something in a basket in the area the Boss says is for cats. The lady behind the desk knew me straight away and greeted me in excitement. I was only trying to say hello, matching her excitement with mine. Why did the Boss haul me back? I could have made it up and over the counter, no trouble.
The Boss seemed a little flustered and sat down on a bench. I deemed it best to stay close to her. However, she appeared not to want me on her lap.
After what seemed an age, the nice lady Vet came out and called me into her surgery.
Now, you can’t blame me for being a little cautious can you? Memories stick. Was I going to get drops in my nose? (The Boss swore she would not go through that again – although I thought it entirely reasonable of me to put up a fight. I was a little surprised when we found ourselves in a heap in the corner with the Vet straightening up and admitting defeat.)
Or were they going to try and look in my ears? I had to be sedated for that not so long ago. Well, who wouldn’t be worried if some great, green coated Vet, however kindly, suddenly lifted one ear which was incredibly painful and proceeded to stick something into it?
I waited, a tad nervously, while the Boss related some story about how I had been licking beneath my tail and how it had developed into a sore that would not heal. The Vet lifted my tail slightly but I was too quick and twisted round, my head slipping out of the Halti, and backed myself into the corner.
“I think we’ll have to sedate her again to have a proper look,” The Vet decided, “bring her back tomorrow morning at 8.30am. Off you go now Flossie.”
I didn’t need telling twice. How was I to know that the Boss was not quite ready for an exit? I have to admit, I didn’t know she was so strong.
By the time we finally left, on her terms, I was quite panic stricken of course. I didn’t even consider that I was to come back tomorrow.
I jumped in the car and hoped they would forget all about it by morning. The Boss is always forgetting things. Why not this?
Alas, it was not to be.
Well, maybe she did forget because it was her friend who actually dropped me off at the surgery. That’s what confused me, I did not suspect her friend could be so mean.
This time, I was whisked out to the back and manhandled into a cage. It’s true that my entry would have been a little less traumatic, had I not planted all four feet firmly on the ground and refused to budge, necessitating the Surgery nurse actually getting into the cage with me. I hoped for a tasty treat when I saw her there but no, it was not to be. “Nil by mouth,’ she said.
Apparently, I had a little sleep after that while they took a proper look at my tail. Woozy and wobbly, I was greeted by the boss herself when I woke up and taken home. They had found a lump and needed to operate. Operate? I was not prepared for that but worse was to come. After the op, I emerged with this thing on my head, stitches in my side (they had found yet another lump – both benign it seems) and my beautiful feathery tail was shorn. How shall I ever look my fellow Goldies in the eye again?
Mind you, the sympathy card can be played once more as I bang into doors and chase food around on the floor. Charlie is very wary of me and the little humans run for cover when they see me. (I upended a couple of the smaller ones with my cone, before anyone could stop me, earlier.) It was an accident of course, I only wanted to lick them.
I don’t know how long it will be before my poor tail is back to its glorious self but in the meantime, the lion look is quite fetching don’t you think?…

Not quite the tail I am used to...

Not quite the tail I am used to…

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We’re Going on a Pear Hunt…

Yes, it is that time of year again. The tree that was festooned in blossom in early Spring and provided shade all summer, is now ready to let go its fruit.

This would be good under normal circumstances. The tree is rooted just yards from the back door and the pears it produces are invariably juicy and sweet. There are far too many for us to use ourselves so we give lots away.
We have already handed out bags to hairdresser, daughters and work colleagues…other years have seen us putting boxes of pears outside the barn , on the roadside, for passers by to collect.
This last ploy has always been successful. Many people passing on foot, return with their cars to load a box or two into their boots.
Flossie, a lover of apples, rubber balls, bits of string and anything edible or not, loves pears too. Hence, when the initial few fall, she is first to gobble them. It is up to me to gather the pears before she gets to them. This is not the easiest of tasks.
I have to get ever more observant and compete with Flossie who can hear a pear fall from the other end of the garden. As she stands, begging to go outside, I have to find my boots and squeeze past her substantial frame. In rain or shine, bag in hand, I wander around the tree picking up any pear I may see. I check further afield and only when I am satisfied that I have them all, will I let her out.
At first there are just a few on the ground. Looking up, I can see hundreds dangling in the leaves. One strong wind and they’ll be down. I place the first few in my bag and stow them out of Flossie’s reach. Flossie is eager to get outside and of course, she will find the pear that I missed, the one that rolled into the shrubbery unseen. Ecstatic with her find, she pelts off down the garden to munch on it. The odd pear in her diet, would not be a problem of course. It is the number she eats that turn her into a bloated ball of fluff.

Every morning, I am out there, hunting for pears while Floss and Charlie stare at me from within. One morning, I collected 65 in one fell swoop, the next morning, 97. Since then, there has been a steady stream of fruit which now languishes in bags and boxes and my washing basket (all I had to hand).

A few pears...

A few pears…


More pears...

More pears…


IMG_1812
The pear tree

The pear tree

Her favourite time is after dark when she can find all those pears I just cannot see. Replete, bloated and obviously in pain, she lies there panting at the end of the day and invariably, will have an accident on the kitchen floor in the night.

Every year, we have tried to forestall this situation by collecting the pears as they fall. Dave has designed weird and wonderful contraptions, mostly involving netting stretched beneath the tree, but all failed. One year, a branch, laden with fruit, grew too heavy and broke. The resulting hoard was easy to collect and resulted in several boxes set at the roadside for passers-by. If only we could catch all pears so easily!
Alas, our good intentions are thwarted, year after year.

The time has come I am afraid to take action. The pear tree has to go. Sad as we are to chop it down, it is really in the wrong place, so close to the house and in the path of our planned extension. These past weeks of pear hunting have been a pain. Flossie, who had trimmed down so nicely after last year’s feast (yes, it is that bad) is looking bloated and unhealthy again.

Who took all the pears?

Who took all the pears?

So, We’re going on a Pear Hunt one last time…we’re not scared…

*”We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” is a children’s book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, a favourite with my children and now my grandchildren.

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In the Woods

“I’m completely lost,”
The disembodied voice reaching my ears sounds a little desperate.
I walk a little way into the wood and come across a large, border collie attached to an extendible lead. Surely the voice doesn’t belong to him? My eyes run the length of the lead until they alight on a somewhat rotund, figure emerging from some bushes.
“Oh, hello—Darcy has got me completely and utterly lost—one minute we were on the path, the next he took me on so many twists and turns, I have no idea where I am, truly.”
The lady looks quite happy to be lost, quite jovial even but I sense her confusion as she spins round, the lead twisting round her legs. Darcy is very interested in Flossie who begins darting around him playfully.
Fearing for the woman’s safety as both dogs begin a circle of her legs, I stand between them and her, arms outstretched.
“Oh they are fine,” she grins. I’m not so sure. I grab Flossie’s collar and order her to be still. For once she listens.
The lady untangles the lead and I relax my stance.
“Where do you want to be?” I ask. If someone is lost, it helps to know where they mean to be. The lady looks at me. She has a slight squint and a possible twitch, maybe she is winking, I don’t know. I am not sure which eye is fixed on me. Perhaps she is nervous?
“I left my car in Woodend—then Darcy dragged me here, there and everywhere,” she explains, gesticulating wildly.
I indicate the path down which I have just come.
“Woodend car park is just up there, less than a hundred yards past the stile,”
“Oh, yes, I recognise it now, oh dear, so I am here then after all! Darcy has taken me all over the place haven’t you Darcy? I don’t know, I thought I’d never find the car park—silly Darcy, dragging me this way and that.”
I have a sudden image of Darcy dragging his hapless mistress across ditches and through brambles, courtesy of the extendible lead.
“It is easy to get lost,” I soothe, “All paths look the same at times,”
I speak from experience. I well remember bringing my youngest son here as a toddler and finding ourselves utterly lost in the middle of the afternoon. This was back in the days before everyone had a mobile phone. I only began to panic a little when I realised it was time to go and pick up the other children from school. At that point, I made a decision to cut straight through the woods and see where I ended up. Not the best decision I have ever made, nor the worst. I eventually found my way out and got to the school to find four accusing faces lined up at the window. I was late.
I smile and murmur a few inane but polite, end-of-conversation type words, you know the sort of thing,
“Well, glad you know where you are,”
“I had better get on,”
“Cheerio then,”
As I speak, I am moving slowly away from her. I have taken no more than three steps when I realise she is still with me. Darcy is following Flossie at the end of his fully extended lead. Both are now being followed by the jolly lady. I dread to think what might happen should Flossie reach the bridge and decide to leap in the water for a swim, as is her normal want. Darcy will surely follow and the lady at the end of his lead—it doesn’t bear thinking about. I stop. The jolly lady stops and we continue our conversation for a bit. Darcy, frustrated at having literally, come to the end of his tether, tries to tug her forward but she stands firm, as long as I don’t move. If I move—she moves.
“Well, I’d better get on…” I try again.
The jolly lady is telling me about her encounter with a boxer (the dog variety, I think) and how Darcy has a dislike of boxers. I cannot resist telling her about Keano’s dislike of black Labradors since having a lump torn out of his chest by Paddy. I know I shouldn’t but it’d be rude not to make conversation since she is shadowing me.
I am just wondering how long I can stand here, with Flossie now fully submerged in the stream and Darcy straining at the leash, when jolly lady decides at last, she should make a move.
“Don’t want to get lost again!” she quips, tugging the panting Darcy in the direction of the car park.
I smile in relief and we carry on, Flossie now a very wet and happy dog.
We have gone but a short distance along the path when Flossie spies a little terrier, wagging his stubby tail in manic fashion. Flossie charges forward, despite my words of caution. I have seen the lady who is with the terrier. She has stepped off the path and is watching Flossie race by, her dog in hot pursuit.
“I must be the most neurotic woman in the forest,” this lady tells me as I reach her. It isn’t a common greeting. She has completely dispensed with, “Good Morning.” I see how she has mounted the bank and is clutching at a tree for support. (Not a good sign)
“I was knocked down by a big dog once and ever since, I am really nervous of them,” she confides, one eye on Floss who is now returning for her home run. I raise my hand,
“Flossie, here!” I trill. To my relief, Floss makes a beeline for me and pulls up short by my feet. I clip her lead to her collar. I resist the temptation to tell the lady about the time a large German Shepherd, chasing Jess, my super-fast lurcher, came up behind my knees, knocked me clean off my feet and gave me concussion. That story still smarts a bit. I fully understand her fear.
“Don’t worry, you walk on. I will keep her on the lead for a while in case she doubles back,” I say.
“Oh, thank you, she is so lovely, I’ve never met a Golden Retriever that didn’t have a lovely temperament—except Dexter—” her voice drops an octave and a shadow crosses her face. I sense bad memories, “Dexter is a great big old retriever, not at all nice and very grumpy—”
(Is he the dog who knocked her flying?)
I make a mental note to avoid Dexter at all costs. I smile and walk on with Flossie having assured her I understand and no, I do not think she is neurotic at all (I do of course, but it’d be rude to say so).
Flossie has given up on the terrier now anyway and is trotting along happily beside me. I release her when we have gone a few more steps and she speeds off in the direction of the next water hole.
The rest of the walk is uneventful for me. Flossie has a run-in with a pigeon and a tree but I enjoy the autumn sunshine and the carpet of golden leaves that now deck the forest floor. I am loving the solitude of the wood and the inspiration it gives me. I hardly notice that we have come to the end of the walk when I spot the woman in a green Barbour. She is standing by the stile with her back to me, shading her eyes and looking back towards the car park. She is calling something. I am closer now.
“Dexter!” she shouts.
I am taken aback. Visions of The Gruffalo spring to mind as I look around me for the infamous, grumpy retriever. Maybe I will just quicken my step and get back to the car. I pass the woman. She sees me and smiles. I smile back, one eye keeping a look out for Dexter.
As we turn the corner into the car park, a Basset Hound waddles towards us and throws Flossie a disinterested look.
“Ah, there you are, Dexter!” says Barbour woman behind me.
That’s Dexter?
Well, just goes to show, they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It seems you shouldn’t judge a dog by its name either.
Now who’s neurotic?

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The Reluctant Top Dog

 

flossiealone

Flossie – 3yrs

Hello, Flossie here,

I am very sad to report that I have lost my dear old friend Keano. Ol’ Keans, who had slowed to a virtual stop in the last few weeks, has left us. The Boss is sad, the Boss’s family is sad but they all agree, he had a very good life. Unlike other dogs we have known, he did not require an operation or drugs or round-the-clock care. He simple ate his dinner, walked into the garden and collapsed. Very tidy! (Trust Keano to make sure he ate first).

The Vet confirmed his heart had given out and helped him slip away without pain.

This event occurred the night before the annual Barker BBQ which was difficult I imagine, for the family. This annual party had been planned for months, a live band had been booked and the garden was set up with tables and marquee. What could they do but go ahead?

The Boss says it took the edge of the sadness because some of our guests brought their dogs, including Doris, and I made some new friends, not least, Jerry and Maisie, a Springer Spaniel (hence the name) and a Labradoodle. I confess that for the next few hours I did not really notice that Keano was not around.

Things changed the next day. The Boss sighed a lot and I noticed Keano’s bed had been removed – ouch! That did confuse me. That’s when it hit me, I was now, top-dog. All those responsibilities that Ol’ Keans took upon himself, are now mine.

The Boss has read that sometimes, the personality of the dog left behind, blossoms. I think she is waiting for something to happen but honestly, I feel just the same as before.

The house is very quiet. Ol’ Keans had a tendency to bark at everyone and everything coming with spitting distance of the house. The Boss was always alerted to the paper landing on the mat or the postman calling or someone knocking at the door…now these events happen in silence. I know they are waiting for me to step up to the mark and bark but it just isn’t my style.

I bark when I want something, to go outside for instance, at the dog next door when she is in her garden but why bark at the paper? Why bark at someone knocking at the door? I just don’t get it. I always thought Ol’ Keano went over the top. In latter years, he has barked at the family when they arrive which they put down to failing eyesight.

So, the family are waiting for me to transform into something of a guard dog. Do I look like one? They’ll have a long wait! Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to fill Keano’s shoes and keep the family together but I am really hoping they don’t expect too much…

Keano not keen on sharing his bed with me when I was a pup!

Keano not keen on sharing his bed with me when I was a pup!

Me and my friend

Me and my friend…

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Dognapping and Mischievous Mutts

Flossie here.

Dog napping? Really? Yes, it seems to be the case. There have been several reported incidents of dogs being snatched from their own back gardens of late. Golden Retrievers and other pedigree mutts, appear to be the target.

I have borrowed time on the Boss’s computer to talk about this terrifying subject.

No one has actually bothered to mention it to me, officially, of course. Oh no, I have just had to eavesdrop on what are normally, mind-numbing conversations. I have learnt over the years that when the Boss sits down with a cup of tea in hand and there is another human nearby, they will sit and talk for some time so it is safe to curl up on feet and slippers. Not so if the human has a small baby in his or her arms. That could mean a sudden dash to fetch cloths or nappies when a dog, incumbent on the said human’s slippers, might cause said human to curse rather loudly.

So, there I was, the other evening, no baby in sight, dozing on a particularly pungent pair of shoes left by the Dave man (the best kind) when a visiting little human told the Boss that a 12-year-old Golden Retriever had been snatched from a friend of a friend’s garden in the next village and that there had been other, similar reports. A couple of Spaniel pups had met the same fate it seems.

My ears pricked up of course when I heard this terrible news. I did not take kindly to the Boss’s joke that she would put me outside the gate with a label on my collar, saying, “Please take me,” I know she loves me really so I ignored it. It would appear that these vagabonds are sussing out people’s dog walking habits and following them home. Most self-respecting dogs, myself included, when back from a walk, will want to inspect the garden—just to ensure everything is as it was left. This, it seems, presents an ideal opportunity for a thief to strike.

“We must be careful when walking the dogs,” said the Boss, Well, yes, of course—who walks their dog carelessly? I sometimes wonder about the Boss.“The wood is probably the worst place to taken them,”

—what, no woods? Eek! But no, she was right, the woods is a very good place for anyone to nab a dog. I was nabbed myself by a well-meaning but misinformed lady when I was a pup. I could hear the Boss yelling for me at the top of her voice but was powerless to respond until the lady who had clipped a lead to my collar, believing me to be lost, managed to contact the Boss on her mobile and I was returned. These days I make sure I keep the Boss within my sights at all times. She has a tendency to wander off you know.

So, please tell me, why this very morning, the Boss gathered leads and towels and other ‘wood-walking’ paraphernalia, and readied the car for a trip to—the woods!

Had she forgotten the previous evening’s conversation? Was she to be the world’s first careless dog walker? I was tempted to refuse to leave the house. I contemplated barricading myself in the kitchen.
“Flossie, walk!” trilled the Boss.

The pull of the wild was too strong for me, alas. I found myself whining and barking and running round in circles and leaping into the boot of the car unasked. Ol’ Keano just padded out and stepped daintily into the back seat (a perk of old age presumably)

Ol’ Keano is not overly bothered about dognappers of course. Being a cross breed, he has little to fear. Not so the dognappers, should they meet with him and try and grab me. Keano can be pretty fierce when he wants to be. I decided to rely on his grumpiness to deter any wrongdoers.

In no time at all we were in the woods. I sensed the Boss was looking around her a little more than usual. Was that Landrover a little suspicious? Was its owner just casing the joint? We had parked further round the track and the Boss took a different path into the trees. Was this a subconscious effort on her part to be careful?

Some way to our left, a bearded fellow was walking along the path. The Boss hesitated, did she know him? If she had worn her glasses she might have recognized him. As it was, she’d left her glasses in the car so, to her, he was probably just a fuzzy shape. She walked on. We followed. Actually, we didn’t follow, we forged a path ahead, keeping her within our sights at all times of course.

Hello, what was this? A look-alike hurtled towards me. I didn’t catch his name but this fellow liked to play. His owner was talking to the Boss. He was discussing the case of the stolen retriever.“This is probably an easy place for them to be taken from, that’s the problem,” the man said gravely.Humans are strange. Why in dog’s name did they bring us here if they think it is so dangerous?

On my fifth or sixth circuit, I paused for breath and the Boss called me on. As we cut through the trees, the bearded fellow was standing, looking towards us. He appeared to be calling my name. Aha! I raced towards him. It was only as I got there I remembered the dognappers. He looked ok though so I allowed myself to be fussed and then raced back to the Boss who had decided she did know the chap after all. All was well. Though, actually, all was not well. The bearded fellow was asking if we had seen Gus. (Oh, he must have been calling “Gus” not “Floss” then). The Boss was concerned and we walked with the bearded man for some way, calling “Gus” but meeting only other dog walkers. Gus had disappeared.

Good Golly, was this the dognappers at work?

Gus is a small, ginger Staffy/whippet cross if you ask me, but if the dognappers steal a 12-year-old retriever, are they really experts in these matters? I looked at the Boss. She seemed not to be thinking the same thing. Several other people said they had seen Gus running through the trees. Hmm, was he just trying to scare us? Had he not heard that there are dognappers in the area?

We continued on our walk, keeping eyes and ears peeled but there was no sign of the little ginger Staffy until we came to the car park. Just as the bearded man was preparing to send news home that he had gone missing, Gus appeared as though by magic.

The bearded chap was much relieved and the Boss looked positively delighted. We had by then, been joined by quite a crowd, three whippets, a poodle and a spaniel to name but a few. I think the whippets scared Gus off again for a minute but he soon returned, tail wagging and looking just a tad too pleased with himself.

The Boss clipped my lead to my collar and as we walked back towards the car, I caught sight of Gus, grinning mischievously from the bearded man’s car as they went by and I swear, that little Staffy winked at me!

Flossie

I know I am in safe hands…

Keano, on guard

…when Keano is on guard!

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