I am at a loss as to how precisely to account for it, but there seems to be an inordinate amount of devilment in the air betwixt these two pretty friends on this particular visit. Whether it is down to a premonition of the snow-showers due to arrive shortly, post-Christmas high-spirits, or one of them is shortly to come into season (if so, please let it be Betty and not Giz), I cannot say - but there was most certainly a vast deal more monkey-business between the two girls this time around.
I'll admit that I should have spotted the warning signs during the first weekend of Betty's stay. Though still cold, the sun shone and my partner took the opportunity to dry her washing outside and to tidy up the garden a little. These tasks accomplished, Betty and Giz opted to remain in the garden.
"Giz! Giz! Come over here for a second!" hissed Betty, her eyes twinkling, as she moved to the fence at the end of the garden and positioned herself behind a large bush. "Giz! Gizzy! Giz! Come here!"
"What?!" asked Gisèle, tearing her attention away from the tiny crocus shoots just beginning to peep through the earth and trotting over to Betty.
"Shhh! I want to try something! Go and hide behind that little bush there, so that no-one can see you on the path on the other side of the river! Go on!"
"But why-" began Giz, but Betty shooed her over to the bush a metre or so away and told her to stay put. After standing there for a few minutes, Gizmo began to bark questions again. At this point, a very small boy, well-guarded against the cold, pedalled along the path on a brand-new little tricycle - clearly a much-treasured Christmas gift. His parents and their dog - a border collie I didn't recognise - were a little way back down the path.
"Watch this..." whispered Betty. Taking care that she was fully concealed behind her foliage, Betty raised her snout and bellowed "WOOF!" at the top of her considerable voice. The toddler skidded to a halt on his trike - fortunately he did not fall off - and looked all about him in considerable surprise and alarm as Betty and Giz giggled helplessly. The border collie instantly ran up to his little human chum and shouted angrily
"Who's there?! Who did that?!". He jumped almost out of his fur as the unseen Betty's mighty bark sounded again.
"Show yourself!" demanded the angry collie, at which point Gisèle, from her hiding place, gave a shrill and - frankly, quite terrifying - shrieking bark. Both bitches collapsed in hysterics as the collie leapt back about three feet and flattened himself on the ground, his tail and ears well back.
"Come out here NOW!" he roared, "I'll teach you how funny it is to hide somewhere and shout at people! Come out! I know you're there; I can hear you laughing!"
The two girls stayed well-hidden, despite the enraged dog's shouts, and cackled on like a couple of biddy-hens. The dog and the child were chivvied on their way by the adults. "Don't let me catch you two clowns doing this again!" was the collie's parting shot in the general direction of the garden, which served only to elicit fresh peals of saucy laughter.
The "prank" was repeated several times that morning - with effects less amusing to the miscreants (both old enough to know better) than the instance described above, but still causing them to fall about laughing. Betty was all set for continuing for the rest of that Saturday, but Gisèle got a tummy-ache from laughing too much and had to go indoors to lie down and Betty quickly grew bored without her little accomplice.
But if you think THAT was bad - think again. It was as nothing to the stunt Gisèle pulled on the most recent Saturday - a mere three days ago. Betty has has a very positive influence on Gisèle in the way that the little Parson Jack Russell has increased in confidence and an eagerness to play with other, larger, dogs regardless of size. Equally, Giz has taught Betty the precious value of true friendship and that plenty of fun can be had with play fights, with no resulting loss of status or the need to descend into actual violence. Such lessons have proved to be a rich and fertile soil in which the seeds of mischief can flourish....
And yet - to view the image below - you would imagine that none could be sweeter or more pure than these two fair angels...
Dear, oh dear,,,