Ella is a retriever / lab cross. There’s probably a posh name for this – like a labtrine or something. I guess someone somewhere has already thought of crossing the shitsu with a poodle (how much for a shitapoo?) but the key feature of our dog’s genetic inheritance is an overweening desire to bring back anything that is dead. Like rigor mortis rabbits (with which she nearly took Mrs B off at the knees the other day) or pigeons that have been half eaten by sparrowhawks. But she will also attempt to retrieve stuff which has not actually been shot or died of starvation.
Autumn around these parts brings out the birds and beasts that are trying desperately to fatten up for the winter months. The pheasant is one such bird trying to fatten up for winter though it has not idea that all it has been successively bred for is to be shot by posh boys in tweed before being collected by their soft-mouthed coated canine companions. It might explain why they have the aerial ability an early Wright Brothers prototype, making them tempting bait for anything that will chase – thus cutting out the gun-toting middle man. The other morning our over-keen gun dog disappeared down the lane after a pheasant. It seems the bird’s idea to try to out-run the labrador failed as two minutes later – much to Mrs B’s dismay – the dog returned with bird in mouth (is that worth two in the bush?) and placed it Mrs B’s feet.
However, as Mrs B tried to move the corpse out of the road, the pheasant jumped up and ran into the ditch. Miracle? Maybe. The chances are that the Lazarus-like recovery of the bird was just the “headless chicken” response of a bird that was pretty much dead. But Mrs B retains the notion that the pheasant is still out there wandering the hedges and ditches. Aaaah.
Elsewhere Ella has less success chasing the squirrels that pilfer the walnuts. Looking from the Labrador’s eye view, how hard can it be? Squirrels are small, slow-moving, can’t fly, and appear to be such easy targets to chase down and destroy. And yet….. Ella spends many a long hour gazing into the branches working out how she can climb the tree to snag the rat. Fudge did climb the tree once – having chased a squirrel at such pace towards the walnut she actually ran up the trunk almost to the bottom branches ten feet up before, like Wile E Coyote, she noticed gravity was about to take effect. It was long way down.
The constant chasing is symptomatic of the turf war between dogs and squirrels over who owns the walnuts. Ella retrieves them (naturally) and it is a subtle observation game to tell when the lab has a nut in her mouth. But Fudge has taught her how to crack them open and eat them. So seeing the squirrels tucking into them will only annoy the territorially jealous dogs.
Elsewhere Ella employs her jumping skills indoors as aprt of the self-appointed dance police. She won’t allow any dancing at any time and attacks any offenders. On he whole she is a very quiet dog and the only time she barks is in her sleep. A Fat Boy Slim gig (which we went to at Pilton Party in September) would be her worst nightmare, but I suspect what really makes her howl in her sleep are those pesky squirrel varmint.