Our family and other animals

Every night, about 10.00 pm, a mouse appears in the living room. It scuttles around the edge of the room until it reaches Rafiki’s cage. Then it begins to climb up into it. That’s no easy feat, as the legs of the cage are slippery. Sometimes the mouse almost reaches the lower tray, then falls back to the floor. But it keeps trying until it can squeeze through a narrow gap which allows it into the tray where the food waste falls. I can hear it scrabbling around. Rafiki knows it’s there, too. She sits on her swing with her head tilted, watching it benevolently. She likes furry things, and sometimes flies to sit on the bookcase with a teddy bear.

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When it’s satiated, the mouse takes on a new challenge – the water bowl, which is high up in the cage. Once there, it drinks its fill, then abseils back to the floor and vanishes.

Sometimes I see it (I’m saying ‘it’, but of course that is delusional. There are probably dozens of them) during the day, as it whizzes around my office. I don’t know why, the only food here is the biscuit crumbs in my keyboard and there’s no way it can reach there. Anyway, I’m quite used to it.

This morning while I was writing I caught a glimpse of movement beside the cushion where one of our dogs was sleeping next to me. Thinking it was the mouse I waved my hand to frighten it away before the dog woke up and jumped on it. But it didn’t move. I had a better look. And this is what I found.

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Just a little chap, about 3″ in length.

We’re used to wildlife in the house. Newts, tree frogs, birds, beetles, mice, it’s nothing new. I just wonder why? They have nearly two acres of field, dozens of trees and bushes, and a pond. But this house seems like a magnet for them. :D

I wanted to photograph the toad on my desk, but it was very squirmy and very dry, so I took it outside and put it on a stone, near the long grass.

Next, please. :D

Never say never

After losing Dobby nearly five months ago, we decided not to take on any more pets. Losing them is so traumatic, and we felt we couldn’t face any more. That left us with Tally, now twelve years old and as calm and well-behaved dog as you could wish for. However, he has become increasingly needy since Dobby’s death, and last week the first stirrings of new dog syndrome appeared, when TOH suggested that we should find a companion for him.

He wanted another Hungarian Vizsla – a breed we’ve had for over 30 years – that was a few years old and in need of a new home. None of the rescues anywhere near us had any, but an Internet search brought up a “4-year-old Braque Hongrois croisé” – a Vizsla cross. The dog had been removed from the previous owners because of ill-treatment:  it was attached to a radiator by a 50 cm. (20 inch) chain, without food or water. It was emaciated, suffering from muscle wastage, starvation, dehydration, skin complaints and numerous injuries.

A particular characteristic of the Vizsla is its unconditional worship of its owner. They’re known as “Velcro dogs” because of the way they stick to you, and they are highly sensitive, easily broken by harsh treatment. They ask you to love them, and to let them love you. If you can add to the mixture fun and food, they’re satisfied. The thought of such a gentle-natured dog being so badly abused decided us – we were going to get him.

There was a drawback – he was in the SPA kennels in Dunkirk, over 400 miles away, with horrors of the Parisian périphérique on a Saturday during the holiday season unavoidably bang in the middle of the journey.

We left home yesterday at 9.00 am, finally reaching Dunkirk at 4.15, fuelled by three chocolate chip cookies each. Tally slept all the way in the back of the car.

From the photograph of the dog – ironically named “Lucky,” I knew that he wasn’t going to be strikingly beautiful. Apart from most of the bones in his body showing through his coat, he had a rather flat head, and very flat feet, and he seemed to have lost the lid of his lipstick. :)  Still, looks aren’t everything.

Lucky

 

The SPA kennels in Dunkirk are tucked away in a peaceful cul-de-sac on the outskirts of the town. Thanks to the generosity of a retired couple, the entire place is being rebuilt into a beautiful modern facility. http://www.spadunkerque.fr/72641953 Work was well underway when we arrived, though not yet completed. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly, and I noticed that they also have boarding facilities for dogs and cats, which seems a sensible idea to help with the funding of the rescues.

We were led through the buildings to one of the new sections, where a dozen large dogs shouted from their spacious individual enclosures.

Lucky was easy to spot, the only russet-red among the blacks.

Forewarned by the photo and the knowledge of what he had endured, we were prepared for this less-than beautiful dog, cowed by his ill-treatment. What we hadn’t expected was a tornado of wiggling, wriggling, writhing, squirming, widdling, tail-wagging joyous missile, shouting “Hey – you’re here! I’ve been waiting for you. Let’s go.” Lucky bounced and jumped and spun in circles and nearly fell over his own feet in his excitement. He’s on the small side, with a large white splash on his chest, and a very male jaw, but looks like a pure Vizsla. Even after more than three months of care by the SPA, he is still underweight, with his ribs and backbone clearly visible. However, since the photo was taken, he has put on weight and his head shows the classic Vizsla “apple” shape. He’s now “up on his feet” and stands proudly.

With the paperwork done, the adoption fee paid, and Tally and Lucky introduced to each other, we set off for home. Lucky immediately burst past the dog guard and established himself on the back seat, and for the 8 hour journey home tried to force himself into the front against our raised elbows. He was bright and alert, needing to watch the road and take note of every péage or interesting noise within the car.

It was a little before 1.00 am when we arrived home, three of us ready for a good night’s sleep, and our new family member needing to gallop around the house and garden, inspecting every corner, every kitchen surface, behind every chair, round and round and up and down, with the combined energy of a bus-load of school-children arriving at the beach. He couldn’t keep still long enough for a close examination, but there are old scabs on his paws; the tip of his tail has been bleeding from wagging it against the concrete walls of his kennel; there is a small bald patch on the top side of his tail, and a sac of inflamed skin on his stomach from where the harness to which he was attached had rubbed him raw. However, he had been with the SPA for over three months being cared for and nursed by them until he was well enough to be rehomed. What condition he must have been in when he was rescued, I can’t imagine.

In the few hours we’ve had him (during which I managed two hours of sleep before he was wide awake and ready to eat/play at 5.18 am), we’ve found that he’s house-trained, and plainly used to being spoiled. He seems younger than 4; his teeth are tiny and he is puppy-playful.

Someone, somewhere, must have loved him once. So how did he end up near death through deliberate ill-treatment? We’ll never know, but we do know that there’s work ahead – he’s very wilful, but he’s never going to be chained to a radiator again.

Should he remain Lucky, or shall we change his name? My choice is Tommy – as he comes from Dunkirk, in memory of all the “Tommies” who didn’t make it back during the evacuation. However, being as we are fairly democratic in our family :D, and after TOH’s heroic drive yesterday, we need to agree. So I’ll try twisting his arm again today, unless he can come up with a better idea.

Photos will follow shortly. :)

You were wrong today, Mr Wrong

“A rainy day is like a lovely gift — you can sleep late and not feel guilty.”
― Elizabeth Jane HowardMr. Wrong

Unfortunately that is not always the case. Today was the date for TOH’s eye operation in Montmorillon. It was an early-morning appointment and is quite a way from us, so we had to be up at Horrid O’Clock. As is always the case when we have to be awake particularly early, neither of us slept well. I woke at 5.00 am, while TOH was awake on and off most of the night. Although we both set alarms, neither of us fully trust them, consequently we sleep badly, if at all.

Never mind. He would have a few hours to doze in the hospital, while Tally and I enjoyed another day of exploring the town. The morning started dull and grey, but as we neared Montmorillon the sun was making a timid appearance. Once TOH was dressed in a fetching, if somewhat sloppily fitted pink gown and he was installed in bed to await the operation, I skipped out of the door looking forward to taking some photos and walking Tally by the river.

Alas and alack, it was hammering down with rain and continued to do so for the five hours that we had to spare. Tally had a brief walk and wee on a small patch of very wet grass beside the river, then I parked the car in town and went to a café, where Tally behaved impeccably and was a subject of  great interest.

Back we walked to the car, in the rain, and sat there for some time, while I read my Kindle in between bouts of nodding off, and Tally dozed in the back. We drove around again in search of something that was worth photographing, but even the cherry blossom is at its resplendent best failed to lift the relentless grimness of the weather.

 

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Having had to abandon the idea of a riverside picnic, I settled for a pizza, freshly baked in a wood oven while I waited beneath a dripping awning, and eaten in the car.

To compensate for the miserable weather, however, I treated us to some of the famed Montmorillon macarons, pistachio flavour. Here they are, traditionally served by the dozen, glued to a sheet of paper.

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TOH reports no ill effects from his operation, other than feeling tired after a sleepless night. He is tucked up in bed. If we didn’t have chickens, I probably would be too, but they are a wilfull trio and refuse to go to bed until the last glimmer of light has left the sky, so I’ll be up for a few hours yet.

Tomorrow we have to back to the hospital for a check-up. Another early morning, another long drive, but there is only one word for the standard of cleanliness, friendliness and professionalism at Montmorillon hospital: Impeccable.