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...
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."
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.