Sibling rivalry


February has been a rather odd month, passing by in a whirl of freezing northerly winds, but with bursts of bright sunshine lighting up the rambla and bringing the almond blossom and wild flowers out of hiding.

Our lovely, big pile of firewood has shrunk to a sorry looking little mound, threatening to run out before the spring weather sets in properly, but Poppy and Minnow have loved settling in front of the blazing log burner as it works its way through our stash of logs.

We have often said that the two dogs are like a pair of siblings, bickering over toys, treats and our attention. Poppy is the older, softer, better-behaved and thicker sister, while Minnow is the cute but naughty younger sister, using her charm, quicker wits and lack of conscience to get her own way, usually at Poppy’s expense.

The competition for the best position in the beanbag in front of the fire has been mightily entertaining during the recent cold weather. We do, however, feel sorry for poor Poppy, whose good nature and dubious IQ often leave her scratching her head while Minnow crows smugly from the beanbag.

We may, of course, be mistaken. Minnow may not be devious at all. Poppy may not be getting regularly outwitted, and the Pope may not, after all, be Catholic. If I give you a couple of recent examples, you can judge for yourself.

Example one. The dog of the blog is settled comfortably in the beanbag. Minnow stands over her, crying. Poppy watches, slightly bemused, and does not take the hint. Minnow runs backward and forward between the beanbag and the humans, crying and begging us to intervene.

When this does not work, Minnow makes her way to the back door, and cries to be let out. Because we don’t want to risk a puddle on the floor, I open the door. Minnow rushes out, yapping joyfully, which entices Poppy to go out to see what is happening.

In far less time than it takes to type, Minnow turns and darts past Poppy, into the house, and curls up comfortably on the beanbag, while Poppy is still wondering what was so exciting outside.

Example two. Poppy has, again, managed to slip into the beanbag. She has her nose comfortably wedged under the toes of her back feet, enjoying the delicious fragrance, as it soothes her to sleep.

Minnow prowls about restlessly, shooting Poppy filthy looks, and trying to impress upon us that if we really loved her at all, we would address this patently unjust situation. We tell her that it is Poppy’s turn, and that she could be perfectly comfortable on the mattress in the crate.

Inspiration strikes.   Min saunters into the crate, pops her naughty little bottom into the air and starts to scrabble and dig in the corner, as if she has found something Very Exciting Indeed. Poppy opens one eye. Min yips excitedly and pounces on her fictitious find, watching Poppy’s reaction out of the corner of her eye and cranking up the amateur dramatics until the poor sucker falls for it.

The sting is complete when Poppy comes to investigate. She puts her head into the crate, and all she finds is the space vacated by the tiny terror, who is now, miraculously ensconced in the bean bag. The speed of the Min deceives the eye, and all that.

Although we have enjoyed watching the canine double act, we felt sad that Poppy was always at a disadvantage. Her sweet nature almost begs to be exploited, but that did not mean we should let Minnow’s unscrupulousness prosper unchallenged.

Knowing that Min likes to feel snug and nestled in the beanbag, we put her favourite cushion into an Addis crate, and encouraged her to try it out. It was an instant success. She turned around a few times, curled her tiny body into the hollow in the pillow, and settled down to sleep with a contented sigh.

We should have known that Min would want the beanbag as well. In no time at all, she was mithering at Poppy to get up and let her have a turn. She wittered and cried and cajoled and eventually managed to get her own way. Poor Poppy was left sadly pondering over Minnow beaming satisfaction from the beanbag, and the tiny, empty crate-bed.

Of course we sympathised. We know all too well what it is like to have Minnow run literal and metaphorical rings around us. We made soothing noises and told Poppy that she was our favourite, lovely dog, and that she has the best ears in the world. She gazed at us with her big, soft, mournful eyes. There are no words to describe the swelling of love this beautiful, gentle, sad-eyed girl inspires, as she waits patiently for someone to fathom the unfathomable for her.

We suggested that she could lie in the crate, and have a turn on the beanbag later. Something got lost in translation.

With a sigh, Poppy stepped her front feet into the crate. Bear in mind that this crate is a snug fit for Minnow, who weighs a mighty seven and a half kilos. We watched in growing amazement as Poppy, who weighs three times as much, shuffled about and found a way to fit all four feet into the crate.

“You’re too big, dear,” we told her. “You can’t fit your big body into that tiny crate.”

Poppy was not going to be deterred by a couple of gainsayers suggesting that her quart-size body was too big for Minnow’s pint-size bed. She whined gently as she tried to turn around and spiral herself into the available space.

We did the only thing we could, under the circumstances: we went and fetched the camera.