The immediate post-Peaches-Party was a subdued and rather pathetic time. Betty trotted into the house after Gisèle and clambered into her favourite armchair.
"Up you come, poppet." she prompted kindly, holding wide her forearms for Gisèle to jump into. The tiny Jack Russell hopped up, settled herself, and allowed Betty to commence her washing-off of the sticky, viscous cat milk covering Gisèle's face, head and neck. "Eurrgh!" exclaimed Betty, wrinkling up her snout in disgust "That stuff tastes revolting! What on Earth do cats see in it?! Laddie says they all go crazy for it..."
Gisèle sniffed. Elizabeth assumed that this was a cursory reply but, when her washing activities moved closer to Giz's face, she saw that the little dog was quietly crying. "Whatever's the matter, sweetie?!" enquired Betty gently.
"I don't understand..." whimpered Giz, "What happened? Why was Peaches so mean to me?! I... I thought..."
"Oh Giz," sighed Betty sadly, "It was a lovely party. You laid on a lovely spread. Nicely planned and SUCH good fun. Until Peaches turned up, anyway."
"But it was a party FOR Peaches!" sobbed Gisèle miserably. "And he was SO horrid! Why? What did I do?"
"You didn't do anything wrong, lovey." soothed Betty, in between her licks. "Oh! Your Giz-tuft is growing back!"
"Oh no, really...?" sniffed Giz, looking up at last, "I was hoping that had gone for good."
By way of explanation, when Betty had inadvertently inflicted a serious tooth-based injury upon Giz, the vet had had to shave the little dog's neck and skull-cap in order to treat the wounds and keep them germ-free. The fur had mostly all re-grown, save for the odd little tuft of fur that stuck up on the top of Gisèle's little head - much like the unfortunate 'comb-over' Sir Bobby Charlton sported during his footballing career (see here for a reminder). Giz had been optimistic that the tuft would not re-grow, as it was something of a source of embarrassment to her. Apparently not. "Are you sure?!" she implored.
"Yup, definitely." replied Betty. "See?" She gently grasped the end of the still-short but obvious regrowing tuft and gave it a soft little tug, after which she immediately resumed her thorough washing.
"Oh b*gg*r." muttered Giz.
"What?!" barked Betty quietly. "I like it! It's cute - especially when you have it clipped back and up with one of your sparkly fur-grips."
"It makes me look like a t*t."
"You think it does - but it really doesn't. It makes you look extra pretty - even more pretty than you already are."
Gisèle grunted her thanks, but I could tell that she was not convinced. She was still deeply hurt by how the party had turned out and the cruelty of Peaches' meows.
"Why was he so very, very nasty to me?" she persisted plaintively, fresh tears welling in her deep brown eyes. "All I was trying to do was be his friend..."
Betty finally finished giving Gisèle her bath.
"All right," she sighed heavily, "Look. There are lots of different types of characters and reasons why some people are mean. But they all basically boil down to three specific sorts. First, there are those who are either mentally or physically extremely unwell and cannot control what they are saying. That doesn't explain Peaches. Next, there are those who don't know any better. They don't think about the effect of what they are saying and doing and they don't change their ways because they can't understand that they way they are behaving is wrong. Again, that does not account for Peaches - but it DOES explain, though cannot justify, me. I used to pick on you because I thought it was funny, because I didn't realise just how much I was hurting you and because I didn't know any other way of behaving."
Betty paused, looking ashamed of her former behaviour towards Gisèle. Giz, however, barked nothing, but continued to listen in silence to her friend.
"But then I learned how very, very special it is to have a proper friend, like you Giz, and I understood that the things I had been doing and saying were inappropriate and cruel. I honestly don't know of any other creature who could have forgiven me for what I did. But YOU forgave me Giz. You forgave me and still wanted to be my friend, and I can never love you or thank you enough for that."
The large Betty was temporarily silent once more, and looked as though she was close to tears herself.
"You said there were three types." prompted Gisèle quietly.
"What? Oh yes." said Betty hastily, "The third type is the worst of all. That type of individual knows that what they are doing and saying is wrong - and they choose to behave that way. I do not know if they actually enjoy it - perhaps they do. But they are cruel and devious and they carefully select their words and actions in order to cause maximum distress to their victim. They deliberately seek to provoke conflicts and then enjoy either watching and/or participating in the resulting effects. They will set you up specifically to fail and then berate, mock and laugh at you as you flounder trying to achieve what they expect of you. They delight in setting friend against friend and sowing discord wherever they appear. They are basically and utterly devoid of compassion, empathy and moral compass - and nothing anyone ever says or does will EVER be good enough for them. This type is irredeemably unpleasant - and it is into this last category that I believe Peaches falls. He cannot help himself. He knows exactly what he is doing - and actively enjoys the misery and despair he wreaks."
Gisèle seemed rather stunned by this.
"You mean - " she whispered, "That nothing I ever bark or do will help Peaches to be nice...?"
With a heavy sigh, Betty shook her large, hairy head.
"You know," she replied sadly, "I remember reading something that Jasper quoted on this blog once. He said 'You can't polish a turd'. I'm sorry to say that I think he was right."
"But - I... I don't-"
"Gizzy, sweets, you are young and almost uniquely pure of heart. I know that it is difficult to understand - especially for you, to whom the concepts of selfishness, cruelty and bullying are virtually alien - but, I am afraid to bark, that there ARE people out there in the world who are just plain nasty."
"So, what can I do...?" squeaked Gisèle.
"Nothing, really." replied Betty, sighing again. "All you can do is to just keep on being your lovely little self. You're a very good girl and, just by being yourself, you show people that there ARE still good folks out in the world and you can give hope to those who are victims of bullies like Peaches. And in the meantime, let Laddie and his acquaintances beat the sh*t out of the little maggot." This latter statement finally succeeded in getting a small, watery smile out of Gisèle, and Betty grinned back down at her.
Betty continued to enumerate Gisèle's qualities and how it was important not to let bullies succeed but, after a while, she looked down and saw that the little Parson Jack Russell Terrier had fallen fast asleep. Betty drew her long, powerful arms tighter around Giz's small sleeping form, gave her little head a gentle kiss and settled down to sleep herself, holding her precious friend close and safe in her strong embrace all night.
But we move ever onwards! Next time: the advent of the Giz-mobile (like the Bat-mobile, only much more fabulous) and further summer adventures!