We were woken again last night by the sound of rain clattering against our windows. It has been a recurring theme this holiday: on New Year’s Eve we had proper hail – the size of a proverbial golf ball. Actually, no: more the size of a marble, but exaggeration is all part of weather reportage, with floods being the worst on record, storms being the fiercest in living memory and rainfall that has seen animals queuing up two by two in the hope that someone would build a boat big enough to get them to safety.
We haven’t yet had forty days and forty nights of this weather, but it feels like it. So no point in even contemplating anything in the garden (apart from collecting the dog poo). The sum total of our outside adventures has been to take the dogs for a walk each day. A trip up to Alfred’s Tower the other morning was not exactly a runaway success, as the dogs got lost in the woods. Fudge, despite appearances to the contrary, has a decent sense of direction, but Ella is still a little naive on that front. So fifteen minutes’ walking, followed by ten minutes desperate calling saw the reappearance of a slightly bewildered lab/retriever cross. We decided to call it a day and led dogs back to the car.
Our regular local walk has become an assault course to test dogs and owners. Starting with a slide across sodden fields, one has to get past massive piles of horse manure, before wading through floods then avoiding the small field of pet sheep to get back to the lane. There one dices with the constant flow of traffic from the equine fraternity who trundle along to attend to their liveried ponies and horses. This would be fine, but Fudge has a vehement hatred of anything resembling a land rover or which might be a 4×4, so she needs to be closely monitored.
The horse shit is the first struggle, as both dogs see it as a free wayside snack, but not one that we are keen for them to feast on. The flood is more of a challenge for all. As a short-haired terrier who appears to have an allergy to water, Fudge is surprisingly chilled at plodding down the middle of the inundated lane, lifting her feet higher and higher as if running on tiptoe. Ella, meanwhile, for a dog whose breeding heritage involves retrieving from water, shows a surprising aversion to the wet stuff. She snakes her way through the hedge in order to avoid getting her feet damp. And her distrust of water was only increased the other day when she decided to wade through the deluge, blissfully unaware that there was a three-foot ditch running alongside the lane. Finding herself suddenly swimming, with only thick hedge in front of her, she did manage to execute an underwater turn – almost a tumble turn – and get herself to the other, shallower, side of the lane.
But she has not been back in the water since.
Back at home, Ella is keen to demonstrate her retrieving instincts. So long as is doesn’t involve water. She is constantly collecting slippers and shoes from around the house and proudly presenting them to us. This is mostly harmless fun, but not when she has enough time to start picking over the said item. On New Year’s day she reduced my slipper to its constituent parts over the course of a relaxing half hour when we were entertaining my brothers.
But it is not all cosy domestic retrieval games. Ella can produce the goods out in the wilds too (well, the garden). One evening she and Fudge had been in garden, doing whatever they were supposed to do, when I opened the back door to see Ella chewing on the decapitated body of a rabbit. I say decapitated advisedly, as the head of the rabbit was lying a few feet away from its corpse. Ella seemed quite pleased with herself. I bet Fudge wasn’t. Whether or not the dogs had actually caught and killed the rabbit or just happened across its lifeless remains, I cannot say. But I imagined a conversation between the two dogs going thus:
Fudge: “Great, we can keep this out in the garden and snack on it whenever we are let out”
Ella: “Yeah, maybe. But I really think we should take it back to our owners. They will be so pleased with us”
Fudge: “but what about our morning and evening snacks?”
Ella: “I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m just gonna take this back to the house….”
I can’t repeat whatever Fudge thought of that idea. But Ella got her way and the rabbit was duly disposed off (by me, over the fence). But we’ll never know whose idea it was to chew the head off.