Monday, 20 February 2012

13. Disciplining Bella

 Once upon a time, in the middle of winter, a beautiful baby girl was born. Her hair was fair as the fairest baby in all the country and she was the happiest little girl in the world!  Her perfect heart shaped lips puckered gently as she slept and in her waking hours she laughed and smiled bringing smiles to all she met.  As she grew and learnt mischievous ways, just like other children she needed to be disciplined. Her loving father would sit her on his knee and before he’d said a word, her perfect little chin would drop to her chest, her red heart lips would hide between her pearly white baby teeth and her big, beautiful big brown eyes would stay steadfastly on her father’s sad face, through a curtain of blonde gentle curls. Sad at his daughter’s mischievous, naughty ways, father struggled to control his urge to smile and put aside the discipline she needed. He bit his lip to stop the smile and often had to avoid her appealing eyes.

       Many years later the more experienced father and his wife adopted a young dog from a rescue centre. It had been nearly five years since they’d left their own dogs behind in a different country and having a playful, obedient juvenile chow x staffie in the house gave them both many smiles, many happy hours, many frustrations, and many discipline opportunities.

       Bella came into the lounge with her ears back, alert and playful, darting from one to the other. She nudged Mum and looked appealingly into her eyes.  Mum knew that look! Yes, once again Bella had ‘played’ with her cosy warm bed, pulling out the foam pieces from the padded side. As Mum swept the foam pieces together, Dad called the mischievous pup to sit at his feet. After a few calls she slinked right up to him, her ears flattened out to the sides and obediently sat as close to him as she possibly could. She looked up with big, brown, guilty eyes waiting to hear the verdict. Mum stood with the broom and the evidence between them, but not a word was said. Bella looked from one to the other, shuffled a little uncomfortably, still waiting for sentence to be pronounced.
       What Bella did not know was that Mum was not crying because Bella had once again treated her bed as a toy, but Mum had her hands over her face to hide the uncontrollable smile and was shaking with irrepressible laughter until the tears rolled down her cheeks!  She looked at Dad and saw him trying to stifle his laughter and her tail began to wag! How can a parent administer discipline when faced with those pleading eyes?! How can they rebuke when the perpetrator says I'm sorry with the look only a dog can produce?!
       As Dr James Dobson rightly says, Parenting isn’t for Cowards!

  Go to bed naughty Bella! (Mumble: good dog!)!!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

12. Lost!

        Yesterday I was beginning to think Bella was suffering from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. Don’t laugh! It’s a recognised ‘illness’ similar to the ‘winter blues’ or other such names. After weeks and months of rain, grey skies, snow, not being able to get anywhere, it’s understandable how some people can get down and fall into depression.  For a full week the snow stayed on the ground and the temperatures didn’t go above 0C and Bella started looking more and more lethargic.

       She must have thought, in her little 12-month-old brain that she needed a good day out! She was afforded a rare treat on her early morning walk (7am – it’s just getting light!) and was let off the lead for a run – and so she ran!! Once under the fence and among the yachts she simply disappeared!
Where it all started!

       We set off tracing the early morning paw prints but there was no response to our calls. After nearly 2 hours, having had no breakfast and almost literally climbed out of bed and into wellies, it was time to return home – maybe she’d found her way to the front door. A cup of coffee and off again in a different direction. Along muddy paths littered with dirty pools of melted snow-water and rain, through woods with fallen baby pinecones, horse chestnuts and bare winter branches. Down to the river – again – among the yachts where the wind was playing the masts like Culamoya’s Chimes.

        Everyone we asked promised to keep an eye out for her, but no-one had seen her in all their various paths. Aiden double backed with his dog after saying he’d heard a dog barking in the woods; Jemma brought her family on a half-term winter jaunt through the woods! Lucy got her half-term teens out of bed with “Come on, we’ve got to look for Bella!” (Thank you boys!) And others we didn’t ask names. Again and again we walked through the boatyard calling kindly, peering under boats and across the fields, but the wildlife were not bothered, so it was unlikely she was there!
Empty silent woods

        A cup of coffee at the Butt & Oyster (thanks Lucy & Dave!) to calm the fears and rest the weary legs! Back home again, but no-one was lying on the doormat waiting to greet us. The next search was in the car! Along the main road keeping one eye on the traffic and one eye on the fields, although it was unlikely she’d got anyway near the main road being so afraid of the noise of the cars. Down Richardson Lane which meets up with one of our regular walks. By this time it was early afternoon and the air was still. Only a few birds twittered and flitted within their tree.

       Once again up to the woods to the path above the houseboats, but we were the ones who disturbed the hare which took off with no Bella on its heels. We even drove down to Shotley Gate just in case. It was now late afternoon and there was nowhere else to look. Home, a cup of coffee, register her as lost on Petlog (she's micro-chipped, and just wait.
Houseboat on the River Orwell @ Pin Mill

       The sun was due to set at about 17:09, so around 5 o’clock I went on one last walk, with the lead in my pocket, following the path we would have taken around that time of evening. Past the home of the ginger cat, past the invisible barking dog, past the playing fields where other dogs were running after thrown balls, to the field of ‘long grass’ where Bella has enjoyed many times of amusement bounding after imaginary (or maybe not so imaginary) field mice and other long grass inhabitants.

       As I neared the field a cheeky Daschund came bounding up barking at me, and its owner was struggling to close a farm gate into the field where Bella had lunged on the lead and broken new snow just a week ago. When I got closer, who was on the other side of the gate but – BELLA! It was now getting dark and rain was starting to fall heavier. She was only too happy to have the lead slipped over her head and stand beside me while the dear lady listened to my joy and relief at finding our Bella!

       She’d seen Bella from a distance and at first thought she was seeing a deer (buck!), but when she realised it was a dog and there seemed to be no one with her, she called her. Bella must have been so desperate to somehow find her way home that she responded and followed the lady and her dogs all around the field! She was trying to close the gate so that Bella would maybe stay inside the field and be a little safe and that was when I found them!

        The walk home was about as perfect as she’s ever been! No pulling, no tugging, no smelling, just trudging home! Some food and then she collapsed on the lounge floor – muddy legs and underbelly ‘n all and slept while Daddy stroked and rubbed her with great thankfulness that she’d been found!

        I wonder what her version of the story would be?! How many hares, rabbits or pheasants outran her? How many had serious palpitations as she was determined to catch them!? Where did she hide all day? How much dirty puddle water did she get through in the ten hours she’d been on her own? Did she ever think she was in trouble? Did she ever think she’d get home? Did she cry and think, “I’m lost! Sniff, sniff!”

      Home! Where you’re loved!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

11. Happy Snowy Birthday Bella!

According to the Blue Cross when we adopted Bella in October 2011, Bella was probably born in February 2011. That makes her 1 year old this month! Will she consider fun in the snow as her birthday party?!
It's unfortunate that we can't let her go loose, but she'd be a dot on one of those yachts down at Pin Mill before we knew it!
 I'm sure that dead rabbit is still here somewhere!

 The local tobaggoning slope looking over Pin Mill.

 (Lucy in the yellow jacket!)

 Cold bum!

And did she have fun? 
Firstly by almost tripping a lady on the path ......

Bella managed to go around the lady so I had to drop the extender lead. Fortunately she doesn't like the big red thing - it makes quite a clank when dragged across the tiled conservatory floor! - so when she saw it coming after her, she stopped and waited for me! The lady was unhurt and understood as she is a dog owner herself - thank you ma'am!

And then in the field .....

 She was convinced there was something down there!

So with three walks on the lead out into the white fields, and one short excursion into the garden which wasn't enjoyed that much, Bella returns to a warm bed a happy - exhausted - pup!

Happy Birthday Bella!