Over the summer holidays an ice-cream van has visited our little cul-de-sac once or twice each week. Most times that ‘The Happy Wanderer’ played out in the way that only ice cream vans can one or both children would charge downstairs yelling ‘Mum? Mum? Can we have an ice cream?’ Mostly the answer was yes (“and buy one for me while you’re there”).
I must confess to being partial to a 99, well, most sorts of ice cream actually but if it’s an ice cream van then it has to be a 99. Willow, we have learned, is also partial to soft serve ice cream, either a small dollop on a spoon or squeezed into the bottom little bit of the cone. She eats it very politely though, unlike some dogs. So throughout the holidays we would regularly get an ice-cream from the van and Willow would often get some too.
Today the ice cream man came calling again. Sensibly he waits until after 4pm when most of the children will be home from school. However, Son wasn’t home yet and Daughter has decided she’s on a bit of a health drive at the moment. So as the Happy Wanderer chimed out down the road only one member of the household reacted – Willow. She came charging through the house and up to the front door barking excitedly.
I could put this down to coincidence, however the fact is that it also happened at the weekend. I was out in the garden with Willow and we heard the van’s music. In actual fact he didn’t drive down our road on that occasion but as soon as Willow heard the chimes she rushed back into the house barking.
Looks like Ivan Pavlov was on to something…
Willow isn’t allowed upstairs as a rule. Mostly she’s pretty good about it but occasionally she does push her luck; when she does push her luck she does so extremely quietly – she sneaks upstairs very effectively so you can’t hear her.
Last night I was woken up at about midnight by the sound of Willow coming into our room which is pretty unusual. I assumed she was asking to go out so I got up, put a dressing gown on and went downstairs to let her out into the back garden. As we walked through to the kitchen I noticed Cat on the kitchen table. Except Cat is mostly black, not mostly white. And Cat isn’t that big. Or that fluffy.
We try and keep Cat in at night so we set the cat flap to in only – she can get in if she’s out but can’t get out again. Half of the cat flap was sitting on a kitchen chair; it certainly hadn’t been there when we went to bed. And a strange cat was on our kitchen table, panicking and trying to work out how to get out through a window, none of which were open.
He was gorgeous.
I say ‘he’ – he didn’t have the wide face of an un-neutered tom cat but he did have enormous paws so I’m guessing he was a tom. He had a lovely white coat with light grey markings and when I walked up to the table to make a fuss of him it turned out that he was also incredibly affectionate. Cat’s food is kept on the table to stop Willow eating it and he’d finished off what was in the bowl. Being a softie I topped it up with some more food – he was a bit damp and the weather had been foul all evening and into the night. He didn’t seem hungry though, more interested in getting some affection which I was happy to give, as was Husband once I got him out of bed to see what was going on. We opened the back door wide so he could leave, but he wasn’t in a hurry to go.
I would have kept him. Did I mention how gorgeous and affectionate he was?
Willow wasn’t too happy about all the fuss he was getting but every time she came close to him he growled loudly at her. She growled back but in a tone of voice that clearly said, ‘I don’t really understand what’s going on and why you’re here. I woke my folks up so they’d get rid of you, not make a fuss of you.’ Cat wisely decided to stay upstairs, letting everyone else deal with the intruder.
After about fifteen minutes or so, intruder cat realised it wasn’t raining anymore and decided to leave through the still open back door. I promptly locked the cat flap completely; I wouldn’t have minded if he came back but would have preferred it in daylight hours.
Husband and I went back to bed. Cat and Willow took a while to settle down but eventually the whole household was deeply asleep again.
Willow had her last check-up at the vet for her re-built knee on Monday. The vet signed her off, gave her the all-clear and said we could keep building up her walks by 10-15 minutes each week and – finally- she was allowed off the lead again when out on walks.
So the last couple of days when we’ve taken her out for a walk, we’ve done just that. The first time we made her sit and unclipped her lead she looked at us as if to say, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ but after very little encouragement she was off like a shot, tail wagging, tongue out, big grin all over her face. Yes I know I’m anthropomorphising but, I’m sorry, dogs ‘grin’ when they’re happy. What’s more she has been so good with it, running in short bursts but never straying far from us and always coming back when called.
Freedom and long walks, with some of the summer left to enjoy them in. Perfect!
“Are you a lark or an owl?” goes the question about sleeping habits. Are you up early like the lark or do you stay awake late into the night like the owl? Apparently it’s genetic but also changes throughout your life.
In this household, however, it would be more appropriate to talk about being a dog or a cat. On a typical day I will let Willow out of her crate around 6.30 whereupon she will bounce on me for a few minutes then run out into the garden and run around in circles. For the first couple of hours she’s constantly on the move until I take her out for a short morning walk after which she will nap for an hour or so and let me get on with some work. Later on in the morning she’ll be burning off energy again, asking to go out, playing and generally trying to get my attention until she gets a lunchtime walk.
Afternoons are usually calmer, at least until the children come home from school and although Willow would never turn down the opportunity for an evening walk, mostly she’s a lot quieter in the evenings. From around 8pm onwards she’s usually flaked out on the rug or quite often will take herself into her crate to doze and is quite happy to be shut up in her crate from around 9pm onwards.
Cat, on the other hand, is a whole different story. She will get up at six when I do but only because she knows that’s one of the two times of the day that I will put food in her bowl. She’ll have a quick snack and then get straight back onto our bed to sleep for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. Mid-afternoon she’ll get more food and then she’ll be out of the door and into the neighbourhood. She doesn’t have a regular routine, sometimes she’ll pop back briefly in the evening but most times she’ll stay out.
My personal opinion is that cats should be kept in at night, it’s safer for them and better for the local wildlife. In theory that’s what we try to do but Cat doesn’t always co-operate. If she does happen to come home after about 7pm I will lock the cat flap shut. However, particularly in the summer she often doesn’t come home before we go to bed and rolls in around three or four in the morning. Husband has suggested that her waking him up at this time by patting his face is the equivalent of the drunk coming home to say, “I really really love you…” before crashing out.
So, are my animals typical? Are yours the same? Do you crate your dog and keep your cat in at night? I’d like to know how they compare.
Incidentally, according to the RSPB, both owl and lark populations have decreased over the last few decades. Skylark populations, the UK’s most common breed of lark, have decreased by two-thirds in the last thirty years and consequently have been flagged up as being as high conservational concern.
I love inventive campaigns that actually work to get rescue dogs adopted, as I said in the post-script to this post. So here’s another one that I think is fantastic from Australia:
The Human Walking Programme
Before dogs can be rehomed they have to be rescued and I confess to watching a few YouTube videos from Eldad Hagar’s Hope for Paws channel. These show you the other end of the story, in this case rescuing abandoned dogs, often in a pitiful state, from the streets of Los Angeles.
Huge kudos to all those individuals and organisations who work towards helping stray and unwanted dogs (and other animals) find new, loving homes. And from our family particular thanks to Friends of the Animals RCT without whom we wouldn’t have filled our dog-shaped hole.
The good news:
The vet has given Willow the provisional go-ahead to go out for walks again.
The bad news:
Only for ten minutes twice a day until her next check-up.
The good news:
The act of walking, even for a few minutes, encourages Willow to take a nap afterwards. If she’s napping, she’s not chewing.
More good news:
We’re finally getting our hallway redecorated. Brother-in-law who, like Husband, is a pretty useful chap to have around has done some re-plastering, some painting and is currently fitting new skirting boards.
More bad news:
There are lots of interesting new tools for Willow to run off with and chew, with one notable exception. Willow has developed an intense dislike to the retractable steel tape measure that BIL is using so every time he tries to measure something he does so to a chorus of loud barking and growling. The sponge that he was using on the walls, however, was silently and stealthily taken up to the furthest point of the garden and systematically destroyed.
The good news:
Willow still manages to be very cute, even when she’s being naughty…