Monday, 26 August 2013

Monday 26 August 2013

The games bitches play.  Or - more specifically - the games Betty and Gisèle play...

With Betty due to return to her home on the forthcoming Wednesday after her longest-ever residence with us (over two months), I have been casting my mind back over their antics and capers.  They have never been so devoted to each other as on this visit - perhaps their late shared traumas (the "I Love Peaches Party" episode, the incident where Gisèle was trapped underground and very nearly buried alive, etc.) have drawn them closer - but I am happy to report that there have been NO distressing violent outbursts, no murderous attempts or horrendous savagings - not even the slightest irritable growl has passed between them.  Their mutual affection and delight in each other's company are such that I am even beginning to grow concerned for their moment of parting; I am certain that each will miss the other most terribly.

Gisèle, as you have probably ascertained for yourself from this blog, has an almost incessant and irrepressible sense of fun and desire to play.  Betty has always been more of an observer, content to sit quietly and watch.  She is perfectly happy to spend her day sitting in the garden watching the world pass all around her.  But Giz is never more persistent than when she is seeking a companion in her games - and her persistence is far stronger than Betty's contented ennui...

Below I list, for your information, their particular favourites - not in any especial order or level at which I find them unsettling...

1) Fighting

By far the most favourite game, played almost relentlessly.  Both girls know how to temper their bites so that no actual hurt transpires.  It can look vicious to the outsider but is not more than a game.  They race all over the house in pursuit of each other, laughing and wuffing.  When they clash they roll over and over, pretending to bite and nip at each other's necks and bellies.  They take it in turns to dominate, but Gisèle generally wins with her greater persistence and crafty cheekiness.  They will often play until they are exhausted, rest for a moment (giggling, tapping and nudging each other all the while), and then recommence.  It is tiring just watching them.

2) Dams (Mothers) and Puppies

As is common with most animals, humans included, the major skills of life are learned and perfected through play.  Thus, parenting skills are developed through watching one's own parents and playing make-believe games.  Young Gisèle and Elizabeth are no exception.  What chiefly strikes me about this other favourite is that Gisèle (who weighs in at an average of 7 or 8kg) always wants to be the Dam (Mother), whilst Betty (25kg) prefers the role of unweaned pup.  As Betty's snout by itself is bigger than Giz's little belly, am I alone in finding this somewhat troubling...?  Such a monstrous pregnancy and birth would certainly defy nature and prove fatal to tiny Giz - but reality rarely troubles these two friends when they are playing and Giz loves "nursing" her "helpless newborn".  Ye gods...

3) Come Bye!

This is a relatively recent addition to the cerebral toy-box.  One of Gisèle's very favourite activities is to watch the television.  We don't have a television in our home, so she is rarely able to indulge this pleasure.  My partner's parents, however, have a large and impressive set, so a weekly treat (my partner works in a different office every Wednesday, so Giz - and Betty, whenever she is resident with us - spend that day with my partner's parents) is to watch some television.  A few weeks ago, Giz and Betty were reluctant to leave when my partner arrived to collect them.  They had been glued to the BBC Alba channel (BBC Scotland), which was showing the finals of the UK and Ireland Sheepdog Trials.  I affected to ignore their saucy comments on the (mostly male) canine contestants but was genuinely rather charmed by their open enjoyment of the programme.

Once back at home, after they had eaten their dinners, both girls trotted out into the garden.  I remained for a time with my partner who was, first, cleaning the kitchen and then sitting at the computer writing a magazine article.  Bored with observing this latter activity, I sauntered over to the French windows and very nearly tripped over my own paws at what I saw.  Gisèle was carefully "herding" Betty around the garden in a very realistic enactment of what they had seen on the television.  Giz spotted me watching and broke off to explain.
"I'm a sheep-dog!" she declared, her tail wagging wildly.  "I'm in the dog competition!"
"Oh yes?  And what is Elizabeth up to...?"
"Show him Bettz!" yipped Giz.
"Me-eh-eeeh!" bleated Betty, in such a realistic impersonation of a recalcitrant sheep that I whipped around to look for a stray sheep in the garden. "Me-ee-eh-eeehh!"
"That's pretty impressive!" I admitted.
"Yes!" piped Gisèle, "I has to herd her around the patio, down to the front door and back along the border-"
"Don't destroy the plants, especially the honeysuckle, for goodness' sake." I muttered, "She'll go berserk if you do." (by 'she' I meant, of course, my partner).
"No," continued Giz, supremely unconcerned about potential plant-destruction, "Betty loses a point if she treads on a plant.  Then she has to go down to the end of the end of the garden, around the bench, back between the bird-table and the bench, once around your holly-bush and back onto the patio.  Top marks!"
"Yes, thank you, Betty." I shook my head with a smile at the pair of them.  "I'll have to get my partner to put the film Babe: The Sheep-Pig on for you.  I think you might enjoy that."
"Ooh, yes Giz!" chimed in Betty, forgetting to be a sheep, "That's a really good film; I like that one.  Don't watch the sequel though; there's bits in it that would upset you."
"Like what?!"
"Erm... Meh-eeh-eh..."

These are the top three - things head rapidly downhill from this point.  My partner has endeavoured to teach them my former favourite game "Dog's Bottom".  Betty has grasped the premise and enjoys a couple of rounds now and then, but the rules seem to be beyond Gisèle's comprehension.  When she is a little older, perhaps.

Today has been a Bank Holiday in England and so we had a nice, special, treat.  We went to a country park with lots of woods and a children's play-area with my partner's parents and her niece and nephew, Carys and Ewan.  There were games and frolics, a delicious picnic and a lovely walk.  Very tiring - I don't think I have seen the two girls so exhausted - but a truly lovely day out with Betty and Giz on their best behaviours.  Only a couple more days together for the girls; but today's amusement has set a perfect seal on this most good-natured ever of Betty's visits.

Happy days.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sunday 18 August 2013

And so - the inevitable has happened.  Gisèle went too far; both literally and figuratively.  A local countryside site and last Wednesday evening provided the location and the appointed hour of her crime.  Travel back in time with me now - to around 8.15pm on a sunny summer evening...

Towards the end of a lovely walk, we were heading for the path leading to the car park, approximately two-thirds of a mile away.  My partner was leading the way, Betty trotting affably at her heels and Gisèle was on the other side of the fence, keeping up with her mistress and best friend.  When the former two had reached the gate, they turned - only to find that the third member of the triumvirate was missing...

"Where did she go, Betty?" mused my partner, "She was here just a moment ago..."
Betty craned her head to peer into bushes and around trees as she turned with my partner to retrace their steps - but of Giz there was no sign.  They walked all the way along the fence-line, calling and whistling for the fugitive terrier.  Nothing.  By the time they returned to the gate it was beginning to get dark.  It being a very isolated spot, my partner's nerves were increasing considerably.  She called more loudly for Giz and, this time, it was possibly to discern several barks in reply.  Taking a deep breath, my partner and Elizabeth re-entered the darkening woods and started along the path again.  On further calling, Gisèle's voice could again be heard in reply.

The normal procedure when out with both girls is that Betty sticks to the path with my partner, whilst Gizzy heads off like a little scout in pursuit of their shared nemesis - squirrels.  As soon as Giz chances upon one, she barks and Betty races instantly to her side.  My partner has even witnessed (the girls didn't realise that they were being watched) Betty helping Giz to climb a tree towards a squirrels' dray - until she stopped them with a vivid description of what was likely to transpire when Giz decided to come down from the branches.  A hypothesis borne out when Giz subsequently chose to ignore advice and common sense, electing instead to attempt another tree-climb (with the connivance of Betty) which ended, as foretold, when the small terrier lost her grip and tumbled from the branches onto Betty's head.  Neither was injured, but Betty is no longer so keen on playing Sherpa Tensing to Gisèle's Hillary, I'm happy to bark.  Anyway, on hearing Gisèle's distant yips, Betty hastened to move in her direction.  My partner unclipped the lead so that Betty could guide the way and ran along the path after the mighty Giant Schnauzer.  She caught up with the large dog at the fence-line, quite close to where Giz had last been sighted.  Betty was in a state of some agitation; my partner scarcely less-so.

Another whistle produced the desired response from the errant Giz, but still no sight of her - and she had never been out of sight for this long before, being in general a cheeky rather than an out-and-out naughty girl.  Betty began to whine and cry.
"What are you doing, Betty, you muppet?!" exclaimed my partner, "Gizzy's not here!  D'you think she went back to the other car park?"
"Wuff!" replied Betty in her stentorian voice, pawing and picking at the wire fence, "Wuff!"
Another volley of somewhat panicked calls from my partner prompted further responses from Gisèle - and Betty began to cry in earnest.

My partner then tumbled to the horrifying reality that Betty HAD found her little friend Giz.  But little friend Giz was trapped underground.

Dropping to her knees on the floor of the wood, my partner took up a nearby stick and, stretching her arm through the fence-line (the top two strands of which were barbed-wire) began to scrape at the ground to locate the hole from which Gisèle plaintive and frightened little voice was issuing.  It was impossible to see her, though it was very clear that she was trapped underground and unable to free herself.  My partner called out to reassure her, as she desperately scraped at the ground with her stick, trying to assist Giz.  It was all to no avail, as the density of roots and hard flints in the earth were too strong and the stick snapped.  By now it was fully dark, my partner was in tears and Gisèle's cries were becoming weaker.  My partner grabbed her mobile 'phone and rang her mother to ask if they could come and bring a spade and a torch.  Alas! My partner's father had gone out and there was no way of reaching him.  Increasingly desperate now, my partner  swallowed what little remained of her pride and telephoned one of her friends (owner of Fizzy and the late Ewan), an eminently practical person who would know what to do.  She, accompanied by her partner, arrived some 40 minutes later, a little before my partner's parents arrived as well.

My partner was petrified at being there all alone in the dark - the site having a reputation as a meeting place for dubious types to engage in lewd and immoral acts.  In her fear and distress, she began to cry.  Betty stretched out a fore-paw and laid it tenderly on my partner's leg.  Burying her face in Betty's flank, my partner wept piteously.  I was utterly staggered to see Betty lift her paw from my partner's leg and stretch her whole arm over my partner's shoulder - I am not exaggerating - and they remained thus, whilst Giz whimpered from her underground prison; my partner being almost eaten alive by midges, mosquitoes and ants but refusing to leave poor Giz, until a much longed-for shout from my partner's father announced the arrival of the rescue party.  Communication was by voice only in the now pitch black darkness (the stars were out, but there was no moon, the canopies of the trees blocked all light in any case) to begin with; my partner being initially afraid to call out, lest the voices from afar belong to nefarious perverts, but the shouts quickly - and thankfully - became clearer and my partner's mobile 'phone rang with a call from her friend, checking for directions.  At length, beams of swinging torchlight could be seen threading along the path.  My partner cried out joyfully and raised her 'phone and waved it wildly, so that the light from it could be seen.

Happily thus together, the liberation of Gisèle now began in earnest.  "How on Earth did you know where she was?!" was the first question.  My partner admitted that it was not she who had located the imprisoned terrier; Betty had done it.  Betty herself was unable to express relief or gratitude for the arrival of and praise from the new arrivals - she was frantic with despair and misery over her best friend in the world.

My partner's friends first bravely climbed over the barbed wire fence, wrapping the top strands in their coats first to protect themselves.  And then they began to dig.

My partner's friends had each brought a spade, as well as powerful torches.  My partner's parents had brought another torch and their garden fork.  The latter two, and my partner, held their torches as the digging commenced - but the ground and the tangled routes, chalk and flint, refused to yield up their captive easily.

One of the first actions of the friends was to request a length of cloth, or towelling.  My partner's father removed his Airtex shirt, which was pronounced to be perfect for the job in question - stuffing it down the small hole in the ground through which Gisèle's cries could be discerned.  This was a time-honoured basic method to maintain a clear airway for the entombed one - for it was by no means certain that this situation was survivable.  As digging commenced, Gisèle began to scream in fear.

I wondered - I had never attempted such a thing in my present state of "existence" - but, somehow, I knew I could do it.  Before I descended, however, one of my partner's friends muttered "You know - what this situation really needs is an Ewan...". There was some assent to this.  I had never known, during our respective lifetimes, that my good friend Ewan was (despite his cerebral deficiencies) an accomplished and indefatigable digger.  I regretted not knowing this.  As a keen amateur archaeologist myself, there would have been much in the way of techniques and experiences that we could have shared. He would have had Giz out of there in a trice - and been glad to have done so.  But I digress.  Down I moved, down and away from the scene of the desperate surface activity.

Gisèle was approximately two metres underground, utterly wedged in a ventilation tunnel of a vast rabbit warren.  Her body was bent into a "U" shape with a large flint pressing into her shoulder.  As I stared at her I wondered how on Earth she had managed to get herself into such a predicament.  Giz is such a tiny and supple little thing, she had never before been trapped anywhere.  All I could surmise was that she had crawled towards the air supply and the source of my partner's and Betty's cries and continued until she became wedged, in the hope of being able to squeeze out somehow.  But there was no denying it - the little terrier was stuck fast with no hope of extricating herself.  She was very frightened and having difficulty breathing in the limited air space.
"Jasper!" she squealed, "Help me!  Help me!  I don't like it!"
"I can't help you Giz, you know that." I signed, trying to sound sympathetic.  Don't misjudge me, I was very sorry for her plight - but it was a situation entirely of her own making; and now others were labouring and fretting because of her.  "They'll get you out - you just stay exactly where you are and it'll be fine."
"Where else would I go?!" squeaked Gisèle.  At that moment, the spade above broke ground and a shower of soil and chalk fell onto Giz.  She screamed in terror.
"It's OK Giz!" called my partner, who continued to offer words of comfort to the trapped dog.

It was an extremely difficult task - harder than it first seemed - to liberate the tiny trapped terrier.  The tree and scrub roots were thickly dense and difficult to penetrate.  And that was even before factoring-in the large flints and compacted chalk.  Several times the liberation party lost contact with Gisèle and feared the worst.  Possibly the most frustrating point came when the large flint pressing onto Giz was finally dislodged and she, in her terror,shot backwards and disappeared down the tunnel again.  The exasperation of my partner and her companions was extreme.  The "digger" with the longest arms had managed to reach Giz with his fingertips - at one point her tiny snout was even glimpsed in the enlarged but still-too-small hole - and now she was gone again.  Betty began to wail and cry.  At length, Gisèle was heard in the tunnel again, whimpering and trying to dig herself out from her side.  As she was sounding noticeably weaker the digging recommenced on a more urgent scale.  And then, a sight that was enough to melt the hardest of hearts - even those of my partner's friends; who were no fans of Betty whatsoever.

The distraught Giant Schnauzer had flattened herself on the ground, turned herself sideways, and had stretched out her right forearm as far as she could.  She was trying her hardest to reach under the wire fence to assist with the digging.  Scraping and paddling the ground as hard as she could, she brought tears to more than one eye in her desperate attempt to help to free her beloved and entombed best friend.

After another half hour's sweat-inducing digging, a section of chalk and flint began to fall away.  My partner's friend advised everyone to stand ready.  A large flint was dislodged and, all of a sudden, with a quick apology to Giz for any imminent pain, my partner's friend grabbed Gisèle around the shoulders and hauled her out of the hole.

Betty collapsed in relief, giving great shuddering sobs, as Giz was passed over the fence into my partner's arms.  The whole end of the process reminded me forcibly of the birthing process - my partner's friend being the midwife; the Earth had laboured and delivered up little Gisèle.

Giz was trembling violently and was covered from snout to tail-tip in dirt and chalk-dust.  The first thing my partner did was to hold Gisèle up to Elizabeth's snout.  Betty, almost beside herself with relief, kissed and licked her best friend's little face whilst the deep hole was carefully refilled.

It was a quarter past midnight when Gisèle was finally freed.  A quarter past midnight.

A much-relieved but exhausted little party trekked back along the path, my partner still clutching Giz tightly to her and Betty leading the way with my partner's father, for half a mile back to the car park.  Personally, I felt they were d-mned lucky not to get a backside full of buckshot from an irate gamekeeper, as the group looked, to all intents and purposes, like an illegal badger-baiting ring.  Spades, torches, two dogs (one of which being a young terrier who had noticeably spent much of the recent past in an underground hole) in a remote part of the countryside... ALL the hallmarks combined.  But it seemed that, finally, luck was starting to favour the whole pathetic situation.

Profuse and grateful thanks were bestowed upon all who came to help (actual gifts followed the following day) and everyone departed for their relative houses.  The one minor (very minor) positive was the sight of all the stars twinkling so exquisitely out there, in the middle of nowhere, with no street-lights to reduce their beauty...

But 'twas neither the time nor the place.  With Elizabeth and - finally - Gisèle secured in The Gizmobile, we departed the whole sorry scene.

We hadn't even got a third of the way home before the inevitable next stage of relief and release washed over Betty, whose nerves had been stretched to breaking point - despite the fact that the very best of her character had been revealed to those minded to dislike her.
"What the BL**DY H*LL did you think you were DOING, you stupid little FOOL?!?" she roared.  And that was the only part of the ensuing invective that I can quote to you, dear reader.  I was astounded that Betty even knew some of the words and expressions which she flung in Gisèle's direction.  Eventually, as we were pulling into our own little cul-de-sac, Betty had either barked herself hoarse or else had reached a state of indignation that rendered her barkless, and she flopped down to concentrate on removing thorns, burrs and brambles from her own fur.

Gisèle was quickly cleaned and sent to bed without supper.  Betty, who was still in a state of utter distress despite the luckily happy ending, was cuddled, thanked profusely for her care, compassion and steadfastness during the late crisis and settled into her bedroom with Gisèle's supper as well as her own.

Elizabeth continues to exude tender concern towards my partner and a more mindful eye upon Giz - tactfully shepherding the latter away from further temptation into wickedness and bestowing affectionate cuddles upon my partner - possibly in part by way of apology for her past ill-judged misbehaviour but, most likely, because of their shared experience in almost losing the sweet, stupid, impetuous, warm-hearted little Gisèle.

Gisèle, on the other paw, has yet to show even a modicum of remorse which, I'll admit, has only served to provoke me.  I trust that Betty will soon succeed in guiding her onto an higher path...

Bit of a turn-up for the books, eh?  Good Betty.  Wicked Gisèle.  I don't know WHAT happened - but it didn't take place on MY watch, I can assure you of that...

For goodness' sake...

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Tuesday 6 August 2013

If you are reading this, then by now you will have noticed a small change to my blog.  It now features advertisements.  This was an innovation which I was very much against in all my years of life (and of which I am not entirely in approval even now).  Please be assured, however, that we have not sold our collective soul to dark or mercenary forces.  It is merely something that we are trialling, after it was suggested to my partner that she has "too much integrity".  For, when any advertisements featured upon this blog are clicked upon (by persons other than my partner and Gisèle), our household will receive a very small financial reward.  This is NOT an exhortation to visit numerous times for the sole purpose of clicking on the advert(s) but merely, as I bark, a trial.  If you are a regular reader then (not only do I salute and thank you) my partner will be most interested to hear your comments.

And before I leave the subject of finance entirely, I offer you one small observation:  although still not easy, life has become more tolerable for my partner and the girls now that they have made the decision to be thankful over what they DO have as opposed to mourning that which they have NOT.  Not for the first time do I learn that one's personal outlook and sense of perspective can make a grim situation that minutest bit better.

Away with such serious business then - and towards a FAR LESS intellectually-gratifying subject...

"Hur hur hur - snort - hur hur..."
"Hur hursnort - hur hur hur hur..."

"Oh, for Heaven's SAKE, pack it in; the pair of you!" I roared at the helplessly-giggling Betty and Gisèle.  They both looked up at me, still shaking with silent laughter.  The reason for this outpouring of hilarity was my partner.  One of her teeth had just fallen out and, for some odd reason, the girls found this deeply entertaining.

My partner herself was less-amused.  She already has one gap in her fangs where a baby-tooth fell out and no adult tooth ever grew to replace it.  Fortunately, neither of the missing teeth are front ones.  There is no way that my partner can afford to see a dentist (even an NHS dentist), so the second gap must remain, along with the first.  I advised the girls to take their laughter outside, before my partner found out what they were laughing at.  They headed out the French windows and laughed at each other going to the toilet instead.  Mad.

It defeats me as to why these two otherwise intelligent young ladies should be finding everything so amusing at the moment - sometimes it seems as though the only time not spent giggling and laughing are the hours during which they are sleeping - and I'm not even convinced that at least one of them (inevitably Giz) doesn't give in to "sleep-chuckles".  It is the weather, perhaps, which continues humid and close.  Or possibly that the two girls have never been better friends than they are now.  Fully at ease in each others' company, there seems to be no end to the amount of mischief they can conjure out of thin air.  Gisèle is happy to share her toys with Betty in the house now, and they are simply impossible to separate when out for their walks together.  My partner does, on occasion, find their exuberance somewhat trying, particularly during the late heatwave, during which both girls tore around like little (not so little in Betty's case) Tasmanian Devils after each other until their energy was spent, then after a few moments' rest and a good bowlful (each) of water, off they would go again.  I don't know what's got into the pair of them.  Neither one is in Season.  It seems that their joy in each others' friendship is all-powerful.  There aren't even foul-mouthed grumblings over edible treats any more...  As a reward for their particularly good behaviour today, my partner is taking them out to their favourite local woods for their evening walk.

And this brings me onto a long-overdue introduction.  One of the shining stars of our recent past - The Gizmobile, or Little Green Corsa II!!  The New Teal Megane with its bedevilled windows died an horrendous death when the engine's head gasket finally gave up the ghost, necessitating repairs that would cost more than the car itself had been purchased for, several years ago.  Panic-stations set in - but, very fortunately, my partner's parents were able to assist with a timely loan.  Accompanied by Sandy (this Sandy) - who might be 92 but whose mind is as sharp as a tack and is very knowledgeable about engines and cars - my partner and her parents went to look at some locally-advertised prospective replacements.  Easily the best and most beautifully-maintained option was my partner's secretly-preferred one:  a Little Green Corsa.  For a reader who may not recall the earlier days of this blog, written during my lifetime (and fear not!  The entire archive is all here; ready for your perusal, beginning with my blogging debut on Sunday 13 August 2006), the chariot during our "glory years" was our Little Green Corsa - and now something of a renaissance is here, with the settling in of Giz and the acquisition of the new similar car (with a CD player - wahey!) to that in which my partner and I were most happy.

Me, happy in the original Little Green Corsa

 The ALL-NEW chariot.  If you look closely you might see two dusky young maidens modelling the interior...:

Happy days!