Wednesday, 28 December 2011

6. Run Bunny Run!

It was a dark and icy December night. Bella, under house arrest for trespassing, was walking under supervision and restraint for the last toilet of the day. There are no streetlights in Bella’s ville. Most Christmas lights had been switched off and thick dark curtains kept the warmth in the homes of the villagers and the light off the pavements.

Dog and handler stepped out, dog enjoying the cold fresh air and handler bundled in jacket, hat and scarf with head down aiming for a suitable dog toilet spot as fast as possible. 

Suddenly, both Bella’s ears pointed to the stars as there in the middle of the pathway huddled a little grey fluffy ball. Not one to look before she leaps, Bella quickly dominated the little bunny, standing like a giant over it. Bunny froze. Handler franctically jerked the lead but not before Bella’s nose and teeth had well and truly tickled the ribs of the very frightened bunny rabbit.

Why didn’t Bunny run? Was he deliberately waiting in the predator’s path? Was his Christmas lunch giving him bunny tummy trouble and impeding his getaway?  Had Mrs Bunny thumped him out for telling scary stories to his Bunny boys and girls?  Or had he been caught in a clandestine meeting and bravely stayed to protect a Bunny Beauty now hiding and shivering with fear under the holly bush?

Run Bunny! Run!  Bella’s handler was clearly a bunny-lover and watched sadly, but with relief as Bunny slowly hobbled off into the darkness. Of course Bunny may have been injured before meeting Bella, or perhaps he was a Granbunny with bunnitis in his joints and bunions on his toes. The good news is that when Bella and handler left that spot on the path, Bunny had disappeared under his own steam.

(Hope he wasn’t someone’s pet Houdini Bunny!)

5. The Rise & Fall of Bella Houdini

It was a beautiful Christmas morning. The lights were twinkling on the tree, the shiny Christmas paper was waiting to be torn off, and we were relaxing for half an hour before heading off down the road to the Christmas day service. Ding-dong Ding-dong. No it wasn’t the church bells or the ‘merrily on high’ ones! The neighbour’s half smile and Merry Christmas wishes held that tone that said there was a problem.

I just wondered if you knew that your doggy is running around the school playing field.

Oh! Ah! That’s why she hasn’t been coming back when we call her!  Fortunately by the time Mrs Neighbour had called, Bella had returned. We would need to investigate the back fence – after church, after opening of presents, after Christmas lunch, after post Christmas lunch snooze, by which time it was dark. This event occurred in England, in December, ‘in the bleak mid-winter’, when the sun rose at 8.03am and set at 3.48pm.

Bella was restricted to going out in the back garden on the extender lead – to give her a little privacy if necessary! She was not impressed. She did benefit from one or two extra walks down the road at which times the desired result of bladder relief was attained.  But how did Bella Houdini get on to the school playing field. With one of us climbing over the school gate (that’ll give the villagers something to talk about ‘that new Baptist vicar….’!) and the other bundu-bashing among the fir tree branches, berry twigs and other indescribably prickly thick vegetation at the bottom of the garden, we found the three foot wire fence in good nick, no holes, and firmly secured into the ground.

Phase 2 – let Bella Houdini into the garden and see where she goes. While I was clearing a pathway between the fence and the sheds under the fir trees, Bella came and lay innocently next to me, ahh sweet!  And then she disappeared and was seen tearing around the beautiful green grass of the primary school!  Argggg! How did that happen!!

Fortunately Bella still loves us, and dogs do have a conscience! After 20 minutes of haring around the field and definitely a contender for the Dog Olympics, she was quite content to have the lead slipped over her head.  She refused to show us how she returned to home base so had to be lifted unladylike over the fence – with no thought of the pin and plate inserted in her broken back leg just three months ago!

Tuesday 27th December 2011 : Bella and handler went for their regular early morning, before sunrise walk. We live in a beautiful part of the country with fields through which there are footpaths, a pretty tidal river, country stiles etc. Dog + water + soil = one very, very muddy dog!  She returned from the walk with the legs and underbelly of a black Labrador. Anyone could see that she’d entered the house by the back door into the red slate-tiled conservatory, and on to the lino-floored kitchen. Much rubbing down didn’t seem to make any difference, but when she escaped to her bed, the green Blue Cross donated blanket turned black with green spots. The hosepipe sprayer will have to be engaged. (Has anyone invented a dogwash like the carwashes? One that can be installed at the back gate? complete with all-over spray, doggy shampoo, gentle brushes, rinse water, and blowdryer?) Spraying Bella down is not usually a one-man operation, but one man tried it anyway keeping Bella on the lead with the gentle spray nozzle massaging the mud off her underbelly. Once inside again, the lead was accidentally dropped making a sudden clanging on the slate tiles, Bella took fright, knocked the child safety gate being stored in the conservatory crashing to the floor and Bella spraying dark water on the white sofa, the white painted door and the glass door panes! 

This was the day Bella would be left alone with the family ‘visitor’ in the house – scary option for Bella, until said ‘visitor’ took her on a loooooooong walk, after which she became Bella’s best friend!  But before we could leave the house to drive Grandma back home (3 1/2 hr drive) after Christmas, the floors should really be de-mudded.  Oops! We’ve run out of floor cleaner. A spray clean-and-polish can was called in for the emergency. Bad idea, as we discovered later – don’t go into the kitchen or conservatory in your socks! (hint: "polish")

Wednesday 28th December 2011 : Back to a more or less normal daily routine – except that Bella Houdini is still restricted to indoors and like a cat, was following my every step around the house.  So Wellies were donned and in the pretence of Pooh Patrol Bella and I stepped gingerly into the back garden. So far so good. She lay, seemingly happy under ‘her’ bush and watched me go in and out of the garden shed, waiting for her chance! I saw her at the school fence, shouted NO, then realised she was squatting, sorry!  Next blink I could see her rear up like a polar bear on Frozen Planet and she was over the fence! Success – for both of us! She got over and I got to see how!

In previous excursions to retrieve her from the school playing field, one of us had a mobile phone to call for help from the other. This time it was just me. I had to clear the make-shift barrier we’d put up where we thought she could get over – and she didn’t – and with Wellies four sizes above my shoe size, I clambered over the fence.  By this time Bella Houdini was halfway through the course and was not going to come back to the finish line until she was ready! But once again it wasn’t a hectic chase across fields and she did slip back into the lead quite happily. Of course I felt the need to explain to another neighbour hanging her undies out in the wind to dry that I was not taking my dog for a walk in the private property school playing field, but having discovered how she got there, would now be making plans to prevent it happening again!

Bella Houdini has fallen. As will our bank balance once we get a new fence fitted. But we still love our Bella!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

4. Freeeeeeeee!

I figured it out eventually – Dad was not feeling too well, so I didn’t get my 7am walk. (accusing look on face). He did let me out this morning and fed me, but he didn’t come back down to take me for a walk! The house was so quiet. What am I supposed to do? I’ve slept all night, and now I’m awake! Why is everyone so absent and quiet?!  Oh good! Here comes Mum!

 Hello Mum! Hello Mum! Hello Mum!  I love you! I love you! I love you!  I know she loves me too and I’m sure she’ll take me for a walk. Yay! She’s opening the door! Come, let’s go! Come! Come! Come!  Hey! Don’t go back inside! Hey! I want to go for a walk! Come on, out this door! Muuuuummmm!  Oh well! I know they still love me, maybe we’ll go soon.

It’s cold out here! I think Mum said it was 1°C, but I don’t mind. I’ve heard Mum say something about Husky and looking at me when talking to visitors about the cold!  Oh well, I’ll just wander about the garden a bit, watch the children at the school – oh, dear this must be one of those days they don’t come to school, it’s quiet out there too. Ooh! Bird! Hello bird, come play with me! Hey bird come back, let’s play chase!!

OK I think it’s about time we went for a walk. Hello you two inside there! Can you see me? There’s a tree inside so maybe they can’t see me! Why do they have a tree inside? Yoohoo?!

Yay! They’ve seen me. I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready for a walk! No, I don’t want to come inside, I want to go out for a walk!! They just don’t get it!  Ooh! wait, here they come! Yay! I see coats! I see scarves! I see boots. Wheeeee! I’m going for a walk, at last! Whee! Sit still! Of course not, I want to go, come on let’s go, come on, come on, come on. I can’t sit still, I’m so excited!  Especially ‘cos Megan is coming as well!

Oops, this is a bit different, the path is slippery, fun! Come on Mum, run, let’s go! I can’t stay next to you, I’m too excited, I want to run!  Oh dear, we’re going to the noisy place. Oh I hate cars, they make such a noise when they go past me and it’s scary, I hate it, no Mum, please don’t take me there! OK, let’s get away from the noise. Another slippery path, but this is fun slippery – mud. I like mud! Big field, so many smells, please let me go Mum, please let me go Mum, please let me go!

I promise I’ll be calm, just for a while. I promise and then you’ll let me go?  Yay! Wheeeeeeee! I loooove running! Wheeeeeee!  Ooh bird! Ooh rabbit! Wheeeee! Was that Mum calling? No, it was probably just the trees talking! She doesn’t mind me enjoying myself!  Uhmm, oops where am I? Oh there they are, good, as long as I know where they are! Rabbit! This is fun!  Mum isn’t even calling me back!!  Seagull, hey you’re the one who teases me from on top of the house roof! Come back here! Hey!!  Oh hello, Megan, are you coming to join me? Come on then, let’s run!  Come, I’ll fetch you! Hey! That was sneaky! I was having such fun. Oh well, maybe another day. I suppose we’d better go home, I’m starved, I didn’t have much breakfast!

It's a different story from Mum's side!!!  Bella could have beaten anyone at the 100m or 1000m for that matter! She just disappeared down the path, fortunately didn't see the hare that we saw dashing across the field, but she obviously saw something and flew across the other field in the opposite direction. The fields are fallow in winter so we could see Bella as a small dot in the distance, happily running, smelling, darting, and enjoying her freedom. She couldn't hear us call, so Meg offered to retrieve her. 10 minutes later Bella was calming just a little at the end of the lead in Megan's hand and quite happy to go home! So were we! I thought I'd lost a dog!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

3. Bella's List .... of things to destroy!

              So you heard about the duck statue, the flower pots and the pond pump hose. And now we have discovered why our Sky suddenly lost its connection last night: Bella had chewed through the little bit of cable before it goes through the hole in the wall to the lounge!  Will have to ask the tech to site it a little higher!  On top of that, it appears that the electric cable for the pond pump – not just the water hose – has been chewed! Amazing the fish are still in the pond – well they were the last time I looked!

              The washing machine problems we cannot blame on Bella – I don’t think! And I don’t think the water seeping out of the main down-pipe has anything to do with her – or at least I hope not! She has dismantled the trellis which was along the same wall, but nah! it can’t be connected!

             The vet has seen her for the last time regarding her leg and he doesn’t want her taking long walks just yet – long as in 1hour. So somehow we’ve got to get rid of all the frustration and energy without taking long walks and playing rough! Mmmmm! Poor thing! She’s missing out on puppy-hood!
Who? Me?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

2. Canine respect & archaeology

       Bella has been with us for a month. She is beautiful, soppy, lovable and responsive to simple discipline. She jumped on the white sofa just once – yes of course she had muddy paws! She took Daddy’s sheepskin slipper out into the garden – just once! “No!” simply means NO and when we say “Out”, you can almost see the bottom lip curl as she turns and walks away!  The vet has taken the final x-rays of the broken leg/pin & plate and given her the all clear; just one more vet check-up next week. Let the long walks begin! 

       On Monday we went out along Lings Lane, a tar road linking Chelmondiston to Harkstead with open fields on both sides. Bella is still on a lead as we’re still not sure of her ‘recall’.  The peace and quiet of a cool country walk is definitely good for both body and soul!  While Bella enjoyed the new smells on the side of the road I was enjoying the misty line of trees, the sun giving off not much more light than the energy saver lightbulbs, and the birds twittering and twattering as they extracted reluctant earthworms from the farmer’s fields! After 45 minutes and within sight of what I presume was Harkstead church, I realised that however far I walk, I have to walk back again, and we turned around, but this time taking a ‘footpath/bridleway’ route across the slowly greening fields and after about 20 minutes or so, happily found ourselves at the (closed down) Red Lion pub next to the bus stop and just a few minutes away from home.

       On Wednesday we went the other way towards Shotley and Bella put up no argument as we walked down the narrow pathway past St Andrews graveyard and into the Chelmondiston Baptist Church graveyard (there’s a public pathway going through the CBC graveyard!) However, once on the main road with cars, postie’s van, farm trucks and delivery vans ambling past at 30mph, Bella was as frightened as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs (got that from a Google search!!) Her tail was safe between her legs but she was obviously very, very scared. I will have to look up the counseling on that problem.  We eventually found a footpath and enjoyed another walk through open fields on a beautiful autumn/winter day.  I decided that Bella had been really good and unclipped her lead – she sprinted 100m ahead, stopped, looked back at me tail wagging furiously and I had that sinking feeling that she wasn’t going to come back when called. I’d hardly pulled my hand out of my pocket with the ever-present treat than she ran back and was duly rewarded and safely clipped back onto the lead!  Whew! She enjoyed the burst of freedom and I enjoyed the fact that she returned so quickly without a fight or cajoling!

       After both these walks Bella spent the rest of the day sleeping, either in her warm sheepskin basket in the kitchen or in/on the old tyre in the overgrown corner of the garden! But on Tuesday, when the only walk she had was with Daddy in the pitch dark at 5pm, she had an archaeological day in the garden!  I’ve lost count of how many balls have ‘appeared’, some probably thanks to the primary school on the other side of the fence! My desk is right next to the window overlooking the garden and I get to see all newcomers - who are immediately investigated.

       The ornament duck which once sat next to the pond, has now died. Its throat was totally removed as were its feet.  The 20cm diameter frog pond ‘thing’ which appeared this morning has been replaced on the stone next to the pond, but I’m not too sure how long it will stay there – in one piece. Yesterday a black piece of ribbed hose joined the treasure chest and I only discovered today where it came from. I switched on the pond pump while I was clearing debris – chewed sticks, trampled Chinese lantern flowers and a red velvet bow – but noticed that the water didn’t seem to be flowing into the pond as strongly as it had been. Pushing aside the greenery that almost engulfs the pond I found the water wasn’t quite getting to the top rock, but was flowing quite gently out of a chewed black piece of ribbed hose! 

       Next to the pond was a bottle – one of those old-fashioned green thick glass bottles. Where did she get this from?!  After a bit of cleaning I could make out the words ‘Talbot & Co. Mineral Waters Ipswich’.  I can’t find the same image on the web, but the Talbot & Co. company dates back to 1840, so there’s some Googling to do to see if I can find out when ‘my’ – sorry, Bella’s bottle was made. I’m sure it’s not worth much but I’m almost certain it’s a collector’s item – another sale on Ebay!

      There is one garden ornament that has earned Bella’s respect and has not experienced even a slobbery lick – the little latex mould garden mole!  He is her doorkeeper and worthy of all respect and appreciation. He holds the back door open in all weathers to ensure that Bella can go out if she needs and come in if she wishes. Brave little mole!


That’s all for now – I wonder what she’ll do when/if it snows?!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

1. Of Muddy Fields & Tidal Rivers

Do you remember those puppy days? When a walk to the end of the road was pulling, coaxing, and pirouetting around dog and lead?  At 9 months old Bella has had to adjust to a different household but for the first month she was only allowed 10 minute walks while she was recuperating from a broken leg. But after the all-clear from the vet, the longer walk was a Big Thing! 

7.30am. It was a dull, overcast autumn day, with a cool breezy wind blowing past our faces as we stood patiently in the backyard, waiting for said puppy to stop tearing around the garden and to become calm and submissive before the lead was snapped on – as per The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan!

She was so good as she walked down familiar tar, smelled familiar bushes, watched with interrupted intensity familiar seagulls in their morning ritual, but soon she got beyond the doggy smells of the lane and into the field where until now she’d only had a whiff of the horse smells. The excitement grew as she started to pull as if she was playing a game of solo tennis! We managed to distract her before a roll in buck droppings, which would have meant banishment from the kitchen bed, and then she quickly learnt the ways of the country stile. She goes under, the lead gets passed under – oops no, she went through the wrong hole – and then human climbs over and retrieves lead - what a palaver!

A distinctly sea, fishy, boat smell keeps her nose close to the ground as we walk single file past the boat yard, with tantalisingly new, albeit yucky, smells mingling about 12 inches from the ground.

For us humans, the sight at the end of the muddy fields and smelly boatyard is the prize of the morning. The sun is just a 40w glow behind dirty white clouds, the air is still, the River Orwell is very, very gently lapping up the slipway and the yachts dotted at anchor sway contentedly. The sight that famous oil paintings are made of!

Bella’s first visit to water – apart from puddles with which she has no problem:   maybe there is no Labrador in her after all! In our human wellies we wade a little way down the slipway to try and coax her to try the healing streams, but apart from her toenails, nothing else is going to intentionally get wet!  Unbeknown to her however, walking four paws through puddles has thrown up muddy splashes to her golden belly, and then like a good puppy, she sits, left leg comfortably tucked under so that her haunches sit fair and square in the muddy puddle!

We are so blessed to have this picturesque spot on our doorstep, and Bella will have many more opportunities to dip her paws into the tidal River Orwell!

Back home, the mud needs to be banished.  Remember those puppy days? Having eventually found the most comfortable spray nozzle that doesn’t make her look like a Springbok in the backyard, she runs off to dry herself under the bushes and to continue the game she thinks we’re playing. Ears up – well perhaps one folded over – she stands on the forbidden not-yet-planted vegetable plot and plops down in that playful pose – and the clean blonde underbelly is magically turned to muddy black underbelly! 

Fortunately she prefers being outside to inside, so humans leave wellies on the doorstep, close the back door and settle down to a warming cup of coffee. Bella will play herself clean – eventually!

(Photo of Barge at Pin Mill by Megan Kelland -