Chapter Seven – Snow and Favourite things.
Enough depressing talk, time to introduce you to some of my favourite things.The first of course is sausages. A delicacy that was not as forthcoming as frequently as I would have liked, but I would have to say that over my lifetime, this juicy addition to my diet ranked number one on my favourites list.
After sausages comes cheese and the smellier the better. In later years, cheese would feature heavily as part of my repertoire of party tricks; many guests would vie for the opportunity to see me in action.
The next two of these on the list are very cold. The first is ice cream and I first got a taste of this when I was about five months old towards the end of my first summer. Sally and David were sitting in the car down at the beach and we had just had a great run and games on the sand. There was an colourful van parked next to the beach and a man was handing things out to a long line of people queuing up. David went off and came back after about ten minutes holding unusually smelling items in each hand. One went to Sally and they both started licking the object and making appreciative noises.
I am normally a very polite person and even back then had very good manners but it did not take long for the smell in my nostrils to send a message to my tongue that if this was very good for them to lick that perhaps I might join in on the experience. I indicated that this was the case by sticking my face as close to Sally’s as I dare and licking my eyebrows. Thankfully she got the message and she took some of the white stuff on the tip of her finger and held it out to me.
I sniffed carefully, for whilst it might have been good enough for them to eat, I still like to illustrate the fact that I have ultimate control over what I deign to put in my mouth. Demonstration of willpower over, I wrapped my tongue around her finger and was first shocked at the ice coldness, but then my taste buds went into overload as the creamy sweetness filled my mouth. This began a life long love affair with ice-cream, and whilst only indulged infrequently, remains one of my very favourite treats, right behind sausages.
The second cold experience was in my second winter, which had been as wet as ever. Sally used to despair sometimes as she placed yet another pile of wet towels into the washing machine and dryer. It was not only the towels that needed when I returned from a walk in the rain, but the towels from the back of the car, and those that had to be placed on the sofa to accommodate my damp fur for the rest of the day.
However, one morning was particularly dark and threatening and was also very chilly. I of course had my own fur coat and was largely indifferent to cold weather but even I thought it a bit rash to tackle the beach this particular morning.
Suddenly when we were half way through our usual walk, large white pieces of fluff began falling from the sky. They landed on my nose and made me sneeze and when I used my tongue to remove them. They were cold and reminded my of the feel, if not the taste of ice-cream. Since I had accomplished my essential business of the “fragrant packagel”, it was decided we would return home as more and more of the white stuff was falling and beginning to settle on the sand.
We got back to the car and drove home much slower than normal as even I could tell that the road in front was a completely different colour to normal.
Apart from a quick trip outside into the garden before bed, we all stayed tucked up in the house for the rest of the day. Sally and David did not seem concerned about the strange white stuff falling on our house and garden so I was curious but not frightened by the new experience.
But oh boy, the next day was amazing. The sun was shining and when we opened the front door I was greeted by a thick carpet of white ice-cream with both cars covered from top to bottom with at least six inches of the stuff.
Sally had her rubber boots on and a thick coat and suddenly she and David were laughing and running around in the carpet of white. As usual I had to check this out cautiously and leaving two back legs inside on the mat I stretched out and tested the white stuff first with my nose and then with my tongue. Cold but not immediately dangerous, and if it was safe enough for Sally and David to be running around and throwing lumps of it at each other then it was good enough for me.
I charged out the door and found myself up to my belly in the stuff – I joined in the shrieking and shouting going on and ran around my two owners barking and snapping at the white stuff. I stuck my nose down and ploughed up the long lawn leaving a furrow, then back again before rolling around on my back. Sally and David started piling the snow on top of me until just my head was showing and then ran away – I shook all the snow off me and raced after them and for the next half hour we played like young puppies getting soaked and exhausted in the process.
As the cars were buried we had to walk the lane that day and for me it was as if we had entered a strange wonderland where nothing looked familiar – it was exciting and one of those days that stays in your memory all your life.
While we are on the subject of snow, it brings to mind another favourite, but this is a time not an object, Christmas. Now I suspect that you are probably thinking that this time of year was my favourite because of all the food that was on offer as part of the seasonal celebrations. Not so. Actually, I loved the cards and the presents best.
Our mail in Ireland was left at the end of the drive in a post box attached to the gate so I never had the luxury of attacking a postman or grabbing the mail as it came through the front door. I would wait until Sally or David arrived home from work and emptied the box as they opened the gate. Even as a puppy I had developed a little party trick that involved ripping apart any paper that happened to fall or be lying on the floor. To be clear this did not always go down well with my owners, particularly if the paper was on the floor of the office and had only temporarily been situated on the carpet for storage purposes. There were a number of occasions when I heard Sally and David using words that were not part of my normal vocabulary when finding a particular pile of paper in shreds.
However, once I learnt that there were certain no go areas, they both indulged my little foible by allowing me to gently remove the envelope from a piece of mail when they brought it into the house and provide the highly valuable security measure of shredding it to pieces therefore removing all traces of the address. As head of security this of course fell into my role specification and it also helped if there was a little advance on payment at the end of the job in hand.
Anyway, at Christmas the amount of post escalated and not only did this provide countless minutes of my time involved in the security aspect but it also gave me some wonderful sniffing experiences. Sally and David had lived all over the World and some of the hands and places the cards had been through gave them a very exotic aroma.
The excitement did not stop with the Christmas cards because there was the tree. A large one that was placed in the bow window and decorated with all sorts of sparkling bits and pieces. The biggest draw for me however, was that over the two or three weeks leading up to the special day, parcels, some of which were also very aromatic, appeared beneath the tree covered in lovely coloured paper, just ripe for ripping.
For security reasons my owners’ many gifts to me were not put under the tree until the morning of Christmas Day as they felt the tantalising smell of a dried pig’s ear or smoked ham bone might have been far too much for me to resist.
I can smell them from here – pig’s ears in the blue wrapping paper.
Bliss, not only did I get to rip the paper off my own presents but my owners very graciously let me rip the paper of theirs. I would lie, in heaven, as I became surrounded by a mound of shredded, brightly coloured paper and my job done I could then place my new bone between my front paws and begin my own celebrations.
This leads me onto some very special male bonding with David. Bones are very special to dogs and are very rarely shared with anyone else, even special pack members. But there is a slight problem however that occurs when you are halfway through eating said bone. It is difficult to hold between one’s own paws and still get a good grip with one’s teeth.
When I was still a young dog, David lay down one day beside me and held the bone for me, between my front paws, upright and exposed for further chewing. I took advantage of the kind offer and this simple action became one of those pleasures that no day would be complete without. I have spent many happy hours lying on the floor with David and occasionally if I was desperate with Sally beside me holding my bone for me to enjoy to the full.
I sometimes needed to remind them of their duty by standing in front of them, half eaten bone in mouth and an encouraging look in my eye but usually they volunteered and took pleasure from it too.
There were many things in my life that made my favourites list but it would be a very long book if I told you about them all. However, there is one favourite thing that I embraced from the moment I entered my new home until today. Where I bonded with David during the bone ceremony, I bonded with Sally in a different way.
That is the “love”. When I was very small, Sally would lie on the floor with me and I would curl up into her like a spoon with my head on her arm and go to sleep much as I had with my own mother before we were parted. I think that Sally instinctively knew that I would miss many things about my life with my mother and sisters and one of those would be the feeling of safety and warmth that comes when you have a full tummy and are sleepy.
At first she would lie down and pull me gently into her and stroke me until I dropped off to sleep but after a few weeks it became a daily ritual to have a “love in” as she called it. Even though I am now a very large and old dog and Sally’s knees are not as good as they used to be, there are still times that she will lie on the floor and I lie down beside her with her arm around me and it takes me back to those early days. It is those times when I feel the most contented, safe and loved and if I get a massage down my back and shoulders at the same time I am in heaven.
Of course boys have a different way of expressing the love and David and I spent many happy hours rolling around on the floor in play fights and sharing my marrow bones but we also had our quiet times and I like nothing better when David would rest his head on my back while I napped contentedly.
Thank you for joining our ‘love in’ today and hope you will join us next time.
©Sally Cronin 2009
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