Betty returned yesterday evening (but she and Gisèle were not permitted to actually meet until this morning).
But WHAT a different Betty! An humbled Betty - a contrite Betty - a quiet Betty - a GOOD Betty. The change in her nature left me barkless. Giz was more sceptical and hid herself away until her toiletry needs forced her into the open and the meeting, fraught with trauma and unsavoury memories, took place.
I have to bark that neither young lady relished this reunion. Betty was overcome with guilt and wrought with solemn contrition - most especially after she had witnessed her best friend's trembling and my partner's wrist, where the worst wound remains STILL swollen, raw and red. Betty would not meet Gisèle's eye, an almost imperceptible wagging of the tiny stump that remained of her tail was the only outward sign of Elizabeth's pleasure in seeing her little friend again.
I did her justice and pitied her.
The girls are not permitted to be alone together - but they quickly re-established the bond of friendship and love betwixt them with a truly heart-warming and lengthy cuddle. Both apologised for their late disagreement, which had occasioned so much misery and pain. The matter is now, therefore, closed between us.
Betty, however, as some of you may have surmised, has arrived with a certain piece of "equipment": a muzzle. To state that this is not a welcome item would be to grossly under-bark the issue.
After a very happy Saturday of garden-pottering, affable chat - with Gisèle outlining the finalities of her planned "I Love Peaches Party" (the date of which is set for this Bank Holiday Monday - the day after tomorrow) - Betty assuring Gizmo that "it was only the prospect of the party that sustained her spirits during the weeks of their separation..."; Giz fortunately missing the sarcasm heavy in Betty's tone - and a joyous, well-behaved, delightful early-evening walk in the girls' favourite local woodlands, the dreaded muzzle made its first appearance.
The girls had been in the garden, enjoying the sunset and the music on the stereo - a pleasant mix of jazz and country - when they were summoned indoors and my partner sensed a certain tell-tale mischief in the atmosphere. Nothing malicious or even mildly ill-intentioned. Just that certain air of minds bent on cheeky fun, the sort of which can rapidly get out of paw and result in accidents - the like of which regular readers of this blog are all too familiar...
Despite never having seen one before, Betty instinctively shrank back from the muzzle, even though it seemed a kinder and far-less-harsh type of those to which I had been a witness during my lifetime. Here is a link to the one Betty's owner selected for her: Betty's muzzle
"NO!" she cried as it was unwrapped. "No! I promise - I SWEAR - I'll always be good from now on! PLEASE - PLEASE don't put it on me, I BEG of you! PLEASE...!" Betty screamed and wailed and pleaded - but to no avail. My partner adjusted the muzzle straps, slipped it over Betty's snout, clipped it closed and drew the straps tight. Gisèle squealed.
"Oh, stop, STOP! It's horrible! PLEASE don't make Betty wear it! She can bite and hurt me as much as she likes, I don't care - PLEASE take it off! TAKE IT OFF!"
But my partner was deaf to all pleadings. Once the muzzle was firmly on, Betty made every conceivable effort to pull it off. Gisèle listened to her struggles with increasing distress, before finally running back to her friend and attempting to assist by nibbling through the straps. Giz was hauled away by my partner and was told to leave Betty alone. Trembling and quietly sobbing, Gizmo sat in her favourite armchair listening as Betty's struggles grew weaker and finally subsided.
The defeated Betty slunk back into the living room and clambered into the armchair beside Gisèle. It was a mark of the great friendship existing between the girls that Gisèle did not laugh at, or glory in, Elizabeth's humiliation.
"There, there..." soothed Giz gently, snuggling up to the miserable Betty. "It's probably for the best, you know, for your own good..."
Betty muttered a reply, which my ears did not catch. Sweet Gisèle laid a comforting paw upon one of Betty's. "Yes," she replied softly, "But remember how very bad you felt about what accidentally happened to me and my Mistress - see? I had to have two sorts of medicine AND stitches in my neck again, they only took them out two days ago -" She tilted her head to show Betty the fresh scarring and stitch-marks on her neck, where the fur had been shaved off and had yet to properly re-grow, "- and Mistress was very ill in hospital and is still in lots of pain. And I KNOW that makes you feel really, REALLY horrible, doesn't it?"
"Yes." mumbled Betty, her voice croaky and heavy with shame and mortification which had nothing to do with the muzzle she now wore.
"Well, if you had been wearing a muzzle then, it wouldn't have happened would it?" said Giz, in a bark which reverberated with nothing but kindness. "But more than that Betty - more than that. What if you had by accident hurt a dog we didn't know? Or a human? Or even the very, VERY worst of all - what if you had hurt a human child by mistake, when you were so cross that you didn't know what you were doing?!"
"Oh G*d!" gasped Elizabeth, horror filling her deep brown eyes.
"Suddenly, wearing a muzzle for a few hours a day doesn't seem quite so bad, eh?" sympathised Giz. "I'd gladly wear one myself to make you feel better, but we only got the one."
Not for the first, nor, I suspect, for the last, time my eyes filled with tears at the sweet goodness of the little Jack Russell. How powerfully she must have been tempted to laugh at Betty in her muzzle - and yet here she was, wishing that she had one of her own to wear simply to make her best friend feel less embarrassed. I wished I had a physical presence so that I could have embraced her.
"Promise not to tell anyone?" whispered Betty, moving closer to Gisèle and snuggling up against her for further comfort.
"Of COURSE I promise." yipped Giz faithfully, "And you won't be wearing it to the party on Monday. I will NOT have you humiliated in public. You are my friend and I love you very, very much Betty. I am so happy that you are in my life."
"I love you too, Gisèle..." murmured Elizabeth, before she was overcome and had recourse to silent tears of humble gratitude and affection.
At length both girls fell into a deep, peaceful sleep - each content and comforted by the presence and solicitude of the other.