It feels as if the weather is about to break. It is trying to. And not before time. Mr Long is about to snap, or else break us, after a week of strange encounters with other residents of the Midlife Garden, climaxing in a torrid day for our little German sentry dog.
The hot weather has brought crazy critters out in force. It started with Mr Long finding an interloper amidst the tubs on the patio. Like any dachshund he approaches any creature smaller than him with curiosity and a simple checklist:
A: is it dangerous? (If the answer to this is ‘No’, go to question B. If the answer is ‘Yes’, bark at it)
B: Can I eat it? (If ‘Yes’, then do so, if ‘No’, bark at it)
Badger had clearly found something that was either dangerous, or inedible, or both. It turned out to be a toad hiding under the trailing lobelia and Badger initially tried to bite it, only to discover that toads secrete an irritant to put off predators. Mr toad just sat and smiled as Badger tried to bark with a mouthful of toad venom.
We moved the toad to the front garden, and all tried to move on, although Badger remained on the alert.
Next up, the Dachs discovered caterpillars. Hawkmoth caterpillars. The first was a green version, which freaked him enough. A few days later it was two cigar-sized brown versions. These feed on Fuchsia, which was where our intrepid whiffler found them, just going about their business. The sheer size of them was enough to wind our clockwork dog up to eleven. The ‘eyes’ on a hawkmoth caterpillar are supposed to deter predators and they certainly put the willies up Mr Long. Not that this stopped our guard hound from obsessing about caterpillars all evening. He tends to over think these things.
Yesterday, Mrs B was sitting quietly in the sunken area when she was alarmed to hear rustling under the pallet seating opposite her. We know there are vermin around here – none more so than Mr Long, who barks whenever he thinks he sees a rat around the recycling area or shed. He never actually attacks them – suggesting he regards them as dangerous, which is fair. So, on hearing the clear movement of rodents in the cavity below the pallets, Mrs B called for assistance – which Badger was keen to provide, if an anxious, barking dachshund can be described as help.
It was not, however, a rat, but a mole, which I quickly despatched – to the ditch two hundred yards up the road. The mole was not happy, but I do not want moles in my garden. The plan seemed to work, until a couple of hours later I discovered a mole once again in the same spot, in the leaves underneath the seating. Either we were dealing with a “Homing Mole” with Speedy Gonzales-like qualities or just another dumb rodent. Badger tried to attack this one. He obviously did not see it as dangerous but was not convinced of its nutritional qualities. I caught this mole and, in case it was the same one, I despatched it more permanently.
The Long Dog was now on a mission and as we sat in the shade on the patio, he flushed out a frog from behind the flowerpots. I often see frogs around the tubs – I guess they are keeping the slug population at bey, so I am happy to see them. Badger does not share my delight and decided to chase the frog across the patio. Each time it stopped, he stopped, nudging it with his chisel-like nose. The frog would then leap away, at one point landing on the back of the recumbent Labrador, who casually got up, wondering what was on her back. The frog leapt off and into the pond, pursued by the Dachshund who tiptoed around the edge.
By now our Dachshund was beyond wired. The world is a big scary place when you are not much bigger than a Pringles tube on corks and he was struggling to cope. Taking the dogs for their afternoon walk seemed like a good way to re-set the highly strung snack tin, but this backfired when the empty field we were walking around was invaded by a dozen heifers charging around the circumference towards us. Badger gamely ran after Ella and me to the gate, blissfully unaware of the bovine blitzkrieg that was heading his way.
The evening saw us trying to relax on the sofa, but still Badger wanted to check the garden, so we gave him “supervised” exercise, like some convict. I spotted a frog sitting by the pond, just as Whiffle Boy saw it too. The frog exited stage left, pursued by a dog, who, straining to see where the frog had gone, toppled into the water. Dachshunds are not water dogs and the inadvertent dip put a literal dampener on proceedings. He spent a sorry few minutes licking himself dry.
It seemed the fun and games were over when we wearily pulled the bifold doors shut on the kitchen and put our tired dogs to bed. Half an hour later we were woken by Mr Long whining, and then barking once again. I wandered into the kitchen to remonstrate. As I switched the light on, I caught sight of something flying towards me at knee height, with a Sausage Dog in hot pursuit. Whatever it was, missed me and landed in the corner. It was like a scene from Family Guy. I looked and laughed. It was another (the same?) frog. Badger was determined to have it this time, and once more I had to come between him and his foe like the sober friend in a pub fight.
“Leave it Badger, he’s not worth it” or words to that effect. Words which actually had no effect. For the next several hours, even with the frog now safely airlifted to the pond, or Rwanda, or wherever, Badger continued to pace the kitchen floor looking for more caterpillars / frogs / moles / heifers. Assuming it was the scent of the frog that was disturbing him, we moved both dogs to the living room for the night. The choice of sofas and beds seemed to settle them, and we eventually slept.
I had placed their bowl of water on the hearth with a piece of newspaper underneath in case it spilt. When Mrs B saw it the next morning, she gave an ironic laugh. The article in the paper, describing life for many people of our age, was titled “We are having the best sex of our lives!”
“They clearly don’t own a dachshund” she said.