Gisèle, I am happy to report, has made an outstanding recovery. Not just from her appalling colitis, but also from her spinal injury. Thanks to the vet, my partner and the tender attentions of Betty, little Giz is once again her bright-as-a-button self. We are overjoyed. The word "miracle" is not one I often employ - but, in this case, there is none other more appropriate.
This evening, we all enjoyed a delightful walk in the woods and it was a true joy to behold Gizmo racing hither and thither as though illness and injury had never visited her at all. The open, honest, happiness of Betty, at having her much-loved little friend back again with undiminished character and energy, is also as beautiful as it is heartfelt. The two of them raced around after squirrels like a pair of complete nutters, leaping across ditches and vaulting over fallen trees, laughing and squealing with sheer elation.
My partner and I were highly diverted in watching them - but, after a while, I noticed that they seemed to be running in a circle. A wide circle of around a mile's circumference, to be sure, but a circle nonetheless. They were obviously pursuing a scent of some description. To my experienced eye it quickly became apparent that Betty, the larger and slower of the pair, was pursuing the scent of Gizmo - and Giz in turn was pursuing a combination of her own scent and Betty's.
"For goodness' sake!" I thought to myself, groaning inwardly, as my mind drifted towards my friend Ewan - a truly lovely dog, but one who is SO daft that even his empty skull's echo has got an echo - "Surely they can't be that stupid? God can't have let two more like him slip through the net!?!" I decided that I had to intervene as the two ladies sped past once again, Gisèle for her fifth circuit and Betty for her fourth.
A moment's consideration led me to conclude that Betty would be the easiest to intercept. Accordingly, on seeing her approach, I put myself directly in her path. Happily, she spotted me and stopped in plenty of time. Less happily, Gizmo was so committed to the chase that she failed to notice until it was too late. Skidding and slithering in the mud from the morning's rainfall, the little Jack Russell went careering into Betty's flank and the three of us crashed to the ground in a tangle of legs, tails and snouts.
"Brilliant!" panted Gizmo, her eyes shining and her tail wagging wildly, "Can we do that again?!"
"No." I barked firmly, seeing Betty about to enthusiastically agree. I explained to the girls that they had each been running after the other and, at the moment of realisation, they both dissolved into giggles at their own foolishness. My hope for their future developments was restored.
En route back home, we stopped for a moment whilst my partner collected a book which she had loaned to a friend. It is an excellent tome by vet Bruce Fogle, published in association with the RSPCA, called "Know Your Dog" (see here). The book is illustrated throughout with excellent and helpful photographs and so, in order to settle them after their excited walk and their suppers, my partner sat Gisèle and Elizabeth on the sofa and gave them this book to paw through.
I accompanied my partner into the kitchen and attended her whilst she did the washing-up. I was amused to listen to the two girls on the sofa, fussing and cooing over the photographs of little infant puppies and gossipping about the various fur-styles of the older dogs in the book. They seemed very happily occupied, so I followed my partner upstairs whilst she changed the bed-linen.
Now then. A moment's digression, if you'll permit me. If you are a parent, or the owner of more than one active and sentient animal, you will know that, if you can hear them then all is generally well. It is when things are suddenly and uncharacteristically quiet that you KNOW mischief is a-paw. In actual fact, this is often the way with more serious situations. Several months ago my partner volunteered to be the "accident victim" in an unpleasant - but staged - motorway car crash. It was a training exercise by the local Fire Service. My partner was wedged into a car (with guidance as to what her "injuries" were to be), which was then rolled down a motorway embankment and into a tree. The plucky Firemen had to act as though it was a genuine emergency, manage the (unaware and regular) traffic, secure the scene and cut the crashed vehicle from around my partner, keep her alive, free her, and finally lift her to safety. All MOST interesting. And, let me bark to you here and now, if you are ever unfortunate enough to be in a real accident then you could not be in better and professional hands. (And, before you suspect that these noble Firemen were eschewing their duties in order to b*gg*r about on a motorway embankment with my partner, one of the things that my partner had to agree to was the possibility that if a REAL 999 call came through she would have to be left alone in the crashed car until the Firemen had dealt with the genuine emergency and then returned.) Anyway - prior to the arrival of the Fire Crews, whilst she was sat shivering in "her" crashed car, she asked the Training Officer how distressed she ought to be in order to sound truly authentic. She asked if she should scream and cry out in pain.
"No." replied the Officer. "If you're screaming and yelling, then you're clearly not the priority. The folks we look to first are the ones who are very quiet, trembling or mumbling. If you've got the energy to make a racket, then you've got the energy to keep going." See what I mean? But enough - yet again I have digressed too long.
Returning to the present, as I patiently (i.e. without laughing) sat and watched my partner wrestle valiantly with a recalcitrant duvet-cover, it suddenly struck me that things downstairs had gone awfully quiet. Padding to the head of the stairs, I cocked my head to one side in order to listen more carefully. Lots of whispering was going on, accompanied by MUCH muffled giggling. This did not bode well, so I thought I had better investigate further. I had not even begun descending the staircase before a sudden and dreadful thought gripped me. With an increasing sense of foreboding I went downstairs. But I needed no visual affirmation - my worst fears were confirmed: Betty and Gizmo had found the chapter on courtship and reproduction.
Amidst stifled hysterics, the two girls were looking at a large photograph of the two dogs (or, more correctly, a dog and a bitch) engaged in "the act" (I trust I need not be more descriptive). Elizabeth, by my reckoning, was no stranger to the ways of the flesh, but this was quite clearly the young Gisèle's first such educational foray.
"Look!" squeaked Giz, barely able to speak through her laughter, "Look where he's put his pee-stick! Ewww!! Hiihiihiihiihiihiihiihiiiiiii.....!" Betty spluttered the beginnings of a reply, but she then noticed me peeping through the balustrade at them. Betty nudged Gizmo in an obvious, though what she intended to be a subtle, way; the two of them glanced briefly from me back down to the picture in the book (which now lay open on the floor) and then dissolved into fresh volleys of giggling. As I had been seen, there was nothing to be gained from trying to slink back upstairs, so I mustered as much as I could of my little-remaining dignity and finished my descent of the stairs. "Good evening ladies." I remarked, determinedly ignoring the open book and seating myself by the French window. I could feel the two pairs of eyes on the back of my head, accompanied by yet more ill-suppressed giggles. At length:-
"You ask him!" That was Betty.
"No, you ask him! Hiihiihiihiiiiiii.....!" giggled Gizmo.
"You ask him! Hurrhurrhurrhurr - snort! - hurrhurrhurrr." For an attractive and elegant lady, Betty possessed an absolutely filthy laugh. I half-expected Sid James and Kenneth Williams to appear through the door at any moment.
"Nooooo! YOU! Hiihiihiihiiiiiii.....!"
Gisèle's high-pitched giggle was starting to seriously grate on my nerves, as was the apparent reason for them. I stood up and turned to face them.
"Can I help you with anything, ladies?" I barked irritably. Betty, somewhat uncharitably, gave her friend a gentle push and Giz tumbled onto the floor in front of me.
"Hiihiihiihiiiiiii.....! Umm... does it hurt when you sit down...?"
"Your 'Little Jasper'!" barked Betty, emboldened by her friend's courage. "Does it hurt when you sit down? Do you have to move it when you sit down so you don't squash it?!"
"Er - I've never really thought about it." I muttered. "So I suppose that must mean that no; I don't. Anything else?"
There followed a succession of increasingly cheeky and detailed questions, all of which - naturally - were interspersed with saucy giggling. At one point I, unfortunately, let down my guard (I was amused by one of the ladies' pert remarks and deluded into informality by the shared union of our laughter) and barked:
"Oh G*d! I remember the night Little Jasper was impaled on a sharp thorn! That's something I won't be repeating!!" (By this, I refer to the occasion - described in an earlier blog-post - when my partner and I were still living at my partner's parents' house and ventured onto the front lawn well after the witching-hour to view a rare full-lunar-eclipse. The eclipsed orange moon was strikingly beautiful and a once-in-a-lifetime (at least, for me) spectacle. Alas - prior to returning to the house and my bedchamber - I lifted a leg to download a final, pre-sleep, wee-mail. Unhappily my target of choice proved to be a large rose-bush and I inadvertently speared Little Jasper on a large and unyielding thorn. My screams woke up half the street and I had to lie down with Little Jasper carefully draped across an especially-chilled cushion for the next three days in order to fully recover). Following my relation of this harrowing trauma, my voice trailed into nothing as I saw the two girls gaping at me in open-mouthed horror. And then:-
"Hurrhurrhurrhurr - snort! - Hurrhurrhurrhurrrrrrr....!"
"Hiihiihiihiiiiiii..... ohnostopitplease - hiihiihiihiihiihiihiiiiiii..... ohnoithurtsdon'tithurtsBettyplease, hiihiihiihiihiihiihiiiiiii..... ohBettynohiihiihiihiihiihiihiiiiiii.....!" The two helplessly giggling dogs clutched and pawed at each other as they collapsed together, lost in their united hysterical, mocking, laughter.
"Oh, naff off, the pair of you." I grunted, which only served to increase their mirth at my - and my Little Jasper's - expense.
I stomped back upstairs in high dudgeon. As I rejoined my partner, who had vanquished the stubborn duvet and was now attending to the less-troublesome pillow-cases, I flopped to the floor and sighed.
"You know," I opined, "I think I actually preferred it when they hated each other...."