What a week. We have been excessively busy - but I am glad to report that the evenings are drawing out and there is, once more, sufficient time for the girls to enjoy a walk (albeit a brief one at the moment) after work. Although the weather is still somewhat unpredictable of late, last weekend heralded some definite signs of approaching spring. Betty and Gisèle were very happy to be out in the garden and enjoying the warm early sunshine. The former was sitting upright on the small patio, enjoying the gentle spring-breeze on her snout. The latter was sitting on the border by the side-fence, gossiping happily with Rosie the Westie on the other side of the little wooden boundary.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a large, stranger of a dog heading towards us. I vaguely recognised him as belonging to a human visiting a relative two streets away. He was a big lad, a Doberman Pinscher for the most part, and he was definitely strolling our way. It did not augur well that strolling beside him was a very chatty Peaches (evil hell-cat). Uh-oh...
Peaches did not have the nerve to venture any nearer than the top corner of our little cul-de-sac. Such reticence, alas, did not affect the erstwhile newcomer who continued, alone, to the pavement next to our garden and gave Elizabeth a cursory greeting.
"Good morning." she responded, uncertain what to make of the big dog. The visitor, meanwhile, was looking over Betty's shoulder at Gizmo and Rosie.
"Are they the only ones you've got?" he asked.
"Excuse me?" frowned Betty, staring at the Dobermann.
"Those two, there." he repeated, "Are they all you've got? Don't you have any bigger ones?"
"Bigger ones - what?!"
"Oh, never mind. That one -" he nodded towards Gisèle. "She's very pretty. But she looks very young - is she pure?"
"I beg your pardon?!"
"Pure. Is she pure?"
"Pure as in...?"
"Pure. You know - pure. Is she virgo intacta...?"
"What?!" spluttered Betty, "I don't know!! Um... - yes, probably..."
"Right." nodded the big dog. "Is it extra for that?"
"Is WHAT extra?!"
"You know - for... some places charge extra for... that..."
Betty merely gaped at him, opening and closing her mouth like a startled goldfish.
"Well, " barked the big dog briskly, "What's your price for her for..." he considered for a moment "...half an hour...? Or have you got a deal running for a whole hour?" He regarded Gisèle again - Rosie had long-since escaped into her own house. "Oh, go on." sighed the dog, "I'll take her for the full hour."
"I'm sorry; I cannot understand you." replied Betty. I sensed that the Giant Schnauzer was just a few more badly-phrased questions away from losing her temper. I could already see her whiskers bristling and judged it prudent to remove little Gisèle from the scene as quickly as possible. Accordingly -
"Giz, would you accompany me indoors now please?" I barked.
"Why?" whined Gizmo, not wishing to depart the scene of mounting tension. But I had sensed what was a-paw in the Dobermann's enquiries and it was unfitting that the pure and innocent Gisèle should be exposed to such scenes. "Is there going to be a fighting?" persisted Giz, "A-cause I's good at fighting. I's small but I can run underneath big dogs and tear open bellies! If Betty is going to be in a fight then I wants to be in it too!"
"Inside. NOW." I barked, leaving no room for negotiation. Gisèle meekly trotted indoors, and I took care that the French Windows were closed behind her. My partner and I unearthed a favourite doll of Gisèle's, and she happily accepted it and capered upstairs to wash her baby-doll and sing it to sleep. Gisèle thus occupied and safely out of harm's way, I wandered back towards the garden, wondering how the h*ll, given my lack of a physical presence and Betty's feminine delicacy, we were going to get rid of the impertinent newcomer, who was loudly persisting at our fence.
"Look!" he was shouting aggressively as I re-entered the garden from the house, "I've got money to spend here!"
Just when I thought all was lost, an unlikely saviour appeared in the form of Laddie, the cockney market-trader who had moved into the next cul-de-sac fairly recently and who was very taken with Betty. He had obviously heard the increasing cacophony from the garden and trotted over to see what was a-paw (and probably also to flirt with Elizabeth who - alas for him! - viewed Laddie as socially unacceptable for one of her bloodline).
"Alright, Duchess?" he grinned at Betty, with a wink. Laddie was trailed by his usual "fan-base" of giggly young female cats, hanging upon his every bark, but they hung back at the entrance to our cul-de-sac, scenting the proximity of the foul Peaches and being nervous of the massive canine newcomer.
"No!" snapped Betty, irritably. "This idiot" (indicating the Dobermann) "won't stop asking daft questions - and he keeps offering me money for goodness-knows-what!"
"Eh?!" frowned Laddie, "Money for what?"
"The Parson Jack Russell Terrier!" replied the Dobermann, "I've offered a fair price for her! So, what's the problem?!"
A flicker of understanding passed across Laddie's face. He raised a paw and gave the larger dog a well-meaning pat on the shoulder.
"A word, friend, if you wouldn't mind...?"
With a last, irritated, look at Betty, the Dobermann turned away with Laddie, who was quietly muttering to the newcomer.
Betty and I exchanged a mystified glance at the two dogs meandering towards the neighbouring cul-de-sac, Peaches (the instigator of this tawdry mess) having long scarpered. B*st*rd. All of a sudden, the Dobermann Pinscher gave a mortified yelp. He made as if to turn and come back in our direction, but Laddie prevented him, with a firm arm and paw around his shoulders. The scrappy, but well-meaning, mongrel walked with the Dobermann all the way back to the house in which the latter was holidaying - during which snatches of the newcomer's barks drifted back to us on the breeze, including the phrases "apology...", "mortified...", "cannot apologise enough...", "respectable ladies...", "deceived by that cat...".
After a while, Laddie returned. He pushed a couple of dried sausages through the fence.
"There you go, Duchess." he grinned at Betty. "One for you and one for the pretty maid indoors. Don't tell me Master; he'll think I've gone soft!"
Laddie went on to explain that the foul, amoral Peaches has been telling all dogs who would listen that this house from which I write is, in fact, a high-class brothel for dogs - of which Betty is the Madam.
Most local dogs have come to know Gisèle and, by association, Elizabeth - and appreciate that they are respectable beauties. The Dobermann was a newcomer, however, and was unhappily hoodwinked by the wicked feline's tawdry assertions. Happily for the honour of these impugned ladies, which I had no physical powers to defend, Laddie left us in no doubt as to the fate of the ghastly squit Peaches, should he ever get his paws on him. Laddie might be as common as the dirt in the street - but his sense of decency raised him higher than most dogs I'd even known.
And Laddie's intrinsic goodness did not go unrewarded. When he came back to see if Betty and Giz had enjoyed the sausage-treats he'd given to them, Betty rewarded him with an open, unaffected and sincere smile. Betty did not openly smile very often - but, when she did, it was joyous and exquisite to behold.
"THAT'S it!" grinned Laddie, his tail wagging wildly, as he basked in the radiance of Betty's smile. ""THAT'S my girl! And if anyone - EVER - mistakes a Princess like you for a tart again, I'll tear 'em apart with me own fangs and flog their gizzards on me stall!"
Is this a trace of Lady-Chatterley-style romance in the air that I scent...?