When I realised just how long it had been since I had posted regularly on El Perro, I started to beat myself up, tell myself about good intentions and where they lead, accuse myself of a lack of stickability and self-discipline, and generally feel I had a neglected, failed project on my hands.
The blog, you see, had been started as a way to make myself get down to writing something every day. I love to write, to organise at least some of the thoughts that swirl around my head in the non-stop internal conversation that I am told we all have. I do hope we all do, and that it wasn’t just someone being kind to make me feel better about my grasshopper brain!
Over the last eighteen months or so, I have held forth about all manner of things, from the serious to the downright daft. I have shared stories, recipes, poetry, the pattern for a fleecy monk caftan, and all the other things of which the world clearly needs more.
Dick van Duck was a rich source of fun and photographs, and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing his progress with everyone. Of course, not everyone gets to hand rear a duckling, so it only seemed fair to let you watch and pretend you were rearing one too *
Dick returned to live with the Crispies and the rest of the ducks over in Sedella, and I am pleased to report that he has taken to duckhood very well. We have been over to visit a couple of times, and he has been happy to have a cuddle, let me stroke his beak, and fondle his lovely leathery feet.
Part of the reason that Dick had to go was that his dander was causing me breathing difficulties. The other part was the arrival of Minnow.
Minnow was a tiny scrap of puppy, about seven weeks old when we found her wandering the streets in the next village one night. We planned to take her to one of the local animal charities, but they have more than enough puppies needing homes, and she slept through the night, and she was seriously gorgeous. A trip to the vet in the morning and a visit to the Chinese shop for a collar and a bowl, and Minnow was officially adopted.
Poppy, the Dog of the Blog, is scared of tiny puppies. For the first couple of days, she steered a cautious path around Minnow, wanting to be friendly, but very worried by the tiny ball of energy. When Minnow fell asleep, which she did a lot at first, Poppy would move in and curl up with her, but Minnow awake was just too much.
Dick van Duck was another story. I regret to say that his lack of brain-power shone through where Minnow was concerned. He was curious about the new arrival and hoped it might be edible. Strangely enough, the new arrival hoped Dick might be edible too. She would pick up feathers Dick had shed and throw them about, pouncing and play fighting with them. Unfortunately, she also wanted to be allowed to help herself to some that were still attached. Dick did not take kindly to this, and would lower his head and charge at her, a two legged, feathery, enraged bull. He might be fluffy, but bitter experience showed me that he can do serious damage with the sharp end of his beak.
(We were somewhat surprised to note that Dick van Duck and Minnow weighed almost exactly the same, although Dick was probably three times the size of Minnow. This would be accounted for by the proportion of feathers to body in a duck and the fact that birds have very light bones.)
Poppy would make herself as small and inconspicuous as possible under a table or behind a chair, or if she was feeling brave, she might try to referee. Things were rapidly descending into chaos. It was impossible to call which of Minnow, Dick van Duck and my nerves would survive the constant bickering.
After a week or two of skirmishes that always stopped as soon as the camera came out, we decided that Dick would have to go. We had already been gearing ourselves up for him leaving home, but the arrival of Minnow and an impending trip to the UK tipped the balance.
Upon our return from the UK, house-training a puppy kept me away from the blog.
Every ten minutes or so, there would be a tiny puddle. The mop bucket transitioned seamlessly from duck poop to puppy puddles. We tried to teach Minnow to use newspaper, as she could not wait until we could take her upstairs to the terrace or downstairs to the street. She was bright, and caught on very quickly. She also realised that four tiny, tiny wees would result in four treats, whereas one proper wee was less rewarding.
Poppy learned that her humans are a soft touch and would reward her every time Minnow did something right. She soon lost her fear of the interloper,** and stood by, egging her on to ever smaller wees,
The next step was to move the newspaper gradually toward the door, so that eventually we could move it outside for a couple of days and complete the training process. We tripped over newspaper on the stairs,continued the mopping and burning soggy paper, and told ourselves the end was in sight.
Around this time we discovered that Minnow has a bionic bladder. She had us convinced that she could not go without a wee for more than about half an hour. Not true. If we took her out, we could be away from the house for several hours, and she would stubbornly refuse to do anything, saving it for the newspaper indoors, in order to have the associated reward. Pavlov never said anything about THAT! On reflection, the fact that she never once got us up in the night should have been a clue.
There followed a couple of weeks of almost constant supervision for Minnow. Countless trips outside, making encouraging noises and ecstatic displays of delight at any success left us tired, frozen, often wet through, and with an even greater reputation with the neighbours.
I returned to the UK for my mother’s 80th birthday, leaving the long-suffering Geoff to look after the menagerie. By the time I returned, the house training was almost complete. We still have the occasional slip up, particularly if the weather outside is nasty. If she is feeling really naughty, Minnow will wee in Poppy’s bed or dump on the landing, but on the whole, she has settled in beautifully, and Poppy is delighted with her new playmate.
“So,” I hear you say, “things are ticking over nicely. We shall soon return to regular updates from the madhouse.” You would think so, wouldn’t you?
You will have heard the saying “Nothing remains constant except change.” Before the ink was even dry on my boarding pass, something else had happened to turn my life on its head. But more of that another time…
*You would need to ask my daughter about the watching and pretending approach. She invented it.
** I said interloper, not antelope. The menagerie has not stretched that far just yet.
Coming soon … celebrating the extreme age of my beloved and MENAGERIE ROAD TRIP!