Betty, true to form, arrived a little later than anticipated - although on the same evening she was expected. She steam-rollered into Giz-Town all guns blazing, ready to have plenty of fun with her very best friend and to play nurse-maid to Gisèle's suckling puppies.
After standing on her hind-legs and warmly embracing my partner in the hall, Betty suddenly remembered the situation in which she had left her little friend Gizmo and bounded into the living room.
"Where are they?!" she yapped, her small stub of a tail wagging wildly. "All my new little darlings?! Whooooooo's got the BIGGEST kiss for their Auntie Betty?!?"
The Giant Schnauzer skidded to an abrupt halt at the alarming scene which met her eyes. NOT a cacophonous melèe of innocent unweaned squalling newborns - just Gisèle alone on the sofa, clutching her teddy-bear tightly and staring blankly out of the window, rocking most unsettlingly backwards and forwards.
"What - where - wh..." stammered Betty uncertainly. Giz didn't seem to hear her.
"Elizabeth," I murmured to her, "Would you join me in the lobby for a moment, if you please?"
Betty, her eyes still fixed with concern on her little friend, barklessly nodded and followed me out into the small hallway.
As quietly and sensitively as I could I appraised Betty of the situation. She stared at me for a couple of seconds whilst her mind processed the sad news (Betty was by no means simple, but she was not the sharpest blade on the razor, if you catch my meaning). When I looked into her face again, the mighty dog seemed to struggling to hold back her tears.
At that point my partner went into the kitchen and began preparing the girls' dinners. With a sigh I told Betty about Gisèle's medicine-induced anorexia symptoms, and that it had now been a long while since Giz had taken a proper meal. Betty shook her head, but there was nothing but heartfelt sympathy in her eyes.
The young Gisèle herself appeared on hearing the rattle of biscuits being placed into dinner-bowls.
"Hi Betty," she piped indifferently, with a rather pathetic half-wag of her tail.
"Hi Giz, my friend!" wuffed Betty affectionately, as she nuzzled her little friend's neck and gave her several big licks. She was about to say something else, when my partner set the two dinner bowls (one small, with semi-moist biscuits, and one large, filled with juicy tinned meat and mixer-biscuits) on the ground. (Because of Gisèle's propensity towards Colitis, she is generally kept away from tinned meat).
Betty immediately fell upon her bowl and, with much mess, noise and slobber, began to gobble down her dinner. Giz, on the other paw, reluctantly crunched her way through three or four of her little marble-sized biscuits and then pushed the rest of the bowl away, untouched. Betty looked up from her meal, meaty jelly covering her snout and beard, and watched Giz with concern as the little Jack Russell glared coldly at the rest of her dinner. With a momentary pang, Betty looked again at her food and then turned to Gisèle.
"Giz," she barked gently, "I've eaten my mixer but not all of the meat. I'm not sure - " frowning as she struggled against all of her inner values and instincts "- I don't think I can finish it. There's only a bit left - would you like to finish up my meat?" I whipped around to look at Gisèle and felt a glimmer of hope as I thought I detected a flicker of temptation cross her face. "Go on, Giz," coaxed Betty, "I really can't manage any more. It would be such a great pity to have to throw it away..."
Giz took a few steps towards Betty's dish and ate a tiny bite of the jelly-covered meat. Her tail wagged involuntarily and, without much more prompting, she had finished off Betty's dinner. Betty, in the meantime, had crept around behind Giz and had eaten about half of what remained in the little bowl, to compensate for what she had offered her solemn little chum.
I cannot tell you how glad I was to see Gisèle eat a sensible portion of dinner for a change, and how utterly grateful I felt towards the once-selfish and obstreperous Betty. After Giz had finished eating, Betty gently and kindly ushered her diminutive friend back to the sofa in the living-room and quietly invited her to bark about what had happened. I heard Gisèle beginning to cry as she replied to Betty and decided to leave them to it. I remained with my partner in the kitchen as she did the washing-up.
I confess myself to have been utterly unprepared for the sight that met my eyes when I re-entered the living-room. I felt as though I had never witnessed a greater character-reversal (consider the early days of Betty's and Gisèle's acquaintance and such incidents as Betty biting off part of Giz's upper lip and her attempt to pull off the little Jack Russell's tail), or such an example of selfless love throughout ALL my years on Earth.
And, with apologies for its blurriness, I can assure you that this photograph was not posed, set-up or otherwise photo-shopped in any way...:-
I am barkless; utterly barkless...