Living Between the Lines

Birthdays, training days and pond days

As birthdays go mine starts well – some lovely presents and cards and the prospect of a day ‘doing as I please’ once the usual chores are done.

I haven’t forgotten the training session I have booked for Flossie this morning but last week’s was so calm and easy I don’t give it much thought.

The dog trainer is arriving at 10.30 a.m.

I have time to nip into Bishops Waltham and pick up a few bits, post a few letters and be back in time for a cup of tea and a quiet read of the newspaper. Yes, this is going to be a wonderfully relaxing birthday…

Neither dog has been out for a walk but both have been running about the garden and are not too lively when the trainer arrives. In fact, Flossie does herself proud by not attempting to jump and remembering the man with the bag full of treats so well that she is the model pupil.

“Right, I think we’ll go outside and try some ‘come when called’ now shall we?” The trainer suggests, seeing how well Flossie is taking to the ‘no jump’ rule.

Off we go, into the garden leaving Keano indoors.

For the first five or ten minutes all is well. Flossie wanders around and responds to every call to ‘come here’. This does not surprise me. I can wander round the common and Flossie will always come when called if nothing more interesting is occurring.

We venture further down the garden. Flossie investigates a few flower beds and disappears behind the middle hedge in search of something she has sniffed out earlier.

The trainer calls her. Flossie comes ambling back, slowly but surely, sitting at his feet patiently when she gets there and waiting for her treat. He sends her off again.

Talk about a false sense of security!

This time, Flossie disappears for longer behind the hedge. The trainer calls her. I don’t think he knows what is in store but I do. I just have this feeling that events are going to take a turn for the worse.

Flossie doesn’t come back. We spot her making for the end of the garden.

Did I tell you that there is a very large pond in the garden that backs onto ours?

Did I tell you that Flossie loves to swim in it?

Have I told you that our long suffering neighbours are forever having to bring her back or phone us up to let us know that our wet and highly exuberant puppy is causing chaos yet again? I should also mention that we are, at this very moment, awaiting installation of a new fence which will render the divide ‘dog proof’.

Dave did secure the fence as a temporary measure the other day to ensure she can’t get over it for the time being but as the saying goes,

“When one door closes, another opens,” Flossie is aware of this saying.

Finding her way barred she makes a detour. Even as we run down the slope towards her, she has disappeared through a gap in a side fence, pounding through the one garden to reach the other. As the trainer attempts to regain control and I hope fervently that none of the neighbours are witnessing this latest escapade, Flossie launches herself into the pond and paddles happily across.

Fearful that she will now run up to our neighbour’s conservatory and, perish the thought, enter their house, dripping with pond weed, I yell and the trainer leaps into action. Since he is more dressed for such an occasion than I, he gallantly pushes his way through the hole in the fence, tramps through the undergrowth and tears through the brambles which divide one garden from the other. I am aware that he does not find this as easy as he hoped and at one point I believe he is stuck in the brambles.

Finally, he frees himself and staggers into the garden, emerging by the pond.

Once there he calls and Flossie joyfully runs to him, expectant of a treat. She gets this as he grabs her collar. With one hand firmly gripping the collar, The trainer attempts to pull her towards the fence. Flossie twists on the collar defiantly. The collar threatens to slip over her head. Trainer, now half in, half out of the garden, clings to it in desperation.

“I think we need the lead,”

The lead of course, is in the kitchen.

Did I tell you our garden is quite big and quite long?

Did I mention it slopes steeply at the end?

Birthday or no birthday, I begin running up the slope towards the house. My run is more of a slow jog actually. I nearly come to grief under the pear tree. I have forgotten that the pear tree outside the kitchen has dropped so many pears in the grass beneath it that running across that particular patch is like running across marbles. I leave you to imagine the rest.

I had a little pear tree...
I had a little pear tree...

I stagger across the patio to the kitchen door and grab the lead and the Halti ‘just in case’. Taking a deep breath I head back. I avoid the pears.

Running downhill is easier.

The trainer manages to snap the lead to Flossie’s collar. Flossie digs her paws in and refuses to budge. The Halti is needed. Once the Halti is in place, the trainer tries to persuade Flossie to climb back through the brambles that she earlier leapt across with ease. She is not keen.

I am standing on the other side of the fence shouting encouragement. I am not sure who I am encouraging but eventually, both trainer and Flossie hurtle back through the brambles and after a slight delay while we try to identify the gap through which both climbed in the first place, trainer and dog are back in the right garden, trainer slightly scratched and ruffled, dog wet, smelly and dripping with pond weed.

We abandon the back garden and after a few aborted attempts at ‘come when called’, during which Flossie finds and eats something rather inappropriate in the flowerbed, we move out into the road once more for some, ‘walking on the lead’.

We have only gone a few yards when an elderly lady approaches us carrying newspapers.

“Hello! Training are we?” she smiles.

I glance at my very wet and very smelly dog whose breath reeks of cat excrement and say that, yes, we are training.

“Ah, which house do you live in then?” she asks. I am puzzled, I know this lady, she has often stopped to chat as she passes.

“Oh, yes, I’m sorry, the sun is in my eyes,” she apologises, waving her arms about and laughing hugely as she realises it is indeed me.

We can’t walk on as Flossie is straining on her leash to get to the woman. She must look like a prime target to her, standing in the middle of the road, waving her arms in the air.

“I don’t mind dogs, but one bit me on the mouth once so I don’t like them jumping at me,” the lady tells us. I make the appropriate sympathetic noises and hope the trainer has a tight hold on Flossie who appears to have forgotten everything she has been taught at this moment and is up on her hind legs. The trainer swiftly rectifies this and Flossie sits.

“So what’s your other dog called? Beano, Deano?”

“Keano,” I offer. She nods in agreement.

“Well, I am just delivering the local paper. I’ll be at yours in a minute,”

I do a quick mental calculation. Keano will be in the hall, waiting by the front door for our return.  If the old lady pushes a newspaper through the door, not only will Keano bark but he is very likely to grab the paper with his teeth from the letterbox. (A very bad habit we may train out of him at some point). The thought of this little old lady meeting with Keano’s teeth is not good.

“Let me take my copy,” I suggest brightly.

All this time, the trainer is waiting for Flossie to calm down so we can walk on but he is also waiting for the little old lady to stop talking. It would be rude to just walk away.

I take the newspaper and the little old lady wanders down the road waving happily.

We spend a pleasant fifteen minutes getting Flossie to walk nicely. She does very well. We reach the end  of the road. We turn back. As we approach the house we see the little old lady standing chatting in our neighbour’s doorway.

“She didn’t get far,” observes the trainer with a smile.

Back in the safety of the house, with Flossie banished to the kitchen prior to a promised shower with the garden hose, the trainer gets ready to leave.

“I think we should meet on the common next week don’t you?” he asks.

I agree. Meeting on the common will be good. No neighbours, no pond, no nasty surprises … I hope.

For the rest of the afternoon, a shampooed and far sweeter smelling dog lies at my feet as I type.

In a moment of birthday madness, I let her out into the garden. She wont go near the pond again today. By 4.15 she has not come back. At 4.30pm she finally barks to come in.

Even from this distance I can see that she is soaking wet and dripping with pond weed.

I have just called my eldest son who has kindly rushed round to block up the hole in the fence.

As for Flossie, its shower time once more.

As I said, a lovely relaxing birthday 🙂

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Patricia

    Happy Birthday…
    What a great story – see, all the activity gave you a great post birthday gift.

    We have shared life with several puppies, but when my birthday rolled around my youngest always, always did something to make the day impossible to enjoy…so…I stopped celebrating my birthday and waited until after school started and then went to lunch and maybe a movie with a friend….I saved my change in a red piggy bank for this event.

    The second year I was working this plan, my youngest was in middle school and I went to the piggy bank…and it was empty…so no lunch or movie…

    I prefer spending the day alone now…:)
    Oh this was fun and I had been thinking about a new puppy in my life….I am not ready!

  • Deb

    I’m laughing so hard it’s hard to type. I love Flossie almost as much as I love your stories about her. Plus she makes me feel so much better about Toby’s lapses.

    I didn’t realize we share a birthday week. That’s very cool. I hope the remainder of yours was happy and pond weed free.

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