Animal Perspective – Week 36 of the 52 week short story challenge

 

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Hola!

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Scooby, I am eight years old and I was born in Valencia, Spain.  I am what is called a ‘random’ dog; you can also use the phrases ‘crossbreed’ or ‘mongrel’ but I prefer random because it suits my personality.  With regard to my parentage, rumour has it that a flat-coated retriever and a German shepherd dog may have been involved but hey – who really knows? Let’s face it – I am one handsome dog.

For the first three years of my life I was a Spanish dog; I poohed over low white walls, had no need of stairs and chased feral cats to my heart’s content.  That’s how we did things over there. My Spanish Mum taught me how to sit, stay, fetch, lie down and use my paw to make requests.  She also made sure that I had a pet passport and all my jabs were up to date.  I believe that she loved me very much.

In 2011 I came to England.  I don’t remember why.  It was cold though and I got into trouble over a neighbour’s cat.  You have to bear in mind that I was used to cats being vermin – like rats and pigeons and squirrels – there are kind people in Spain who try to look after the feral cats but there are so many that most people see them as a nuisance and don’t make a fuss if you remove one or two.

There was most certainly a fuss once I got to England.  I was no longer a bueno perro for doing what came naturally to me. I was the terminator dog. I was in deep trouble. Then I got out again.  Another cat bit the dust. My Spanish Mum could no longer cope with my Spanish ways and she signed me over to the RSPCA.

I was locked up for eighteen months.

My picture was on the website; a nice man did a video of me running around and playing with a ball, and I became very popular with the RSPCA staff and volunteers.  People came to see me and said how handsome I was – especially when I grinned or cocked my head to one side.  But other dogs came and other dogs went; as soon as people knew about my little problem with cats they turned away.  Many of them had cats of their own, or other pets that they thought I might take a fancy to.  I was an unknown quantity and people – quite understandably – were not prepared to take the risk.

There was a boy – well almost a man – who wanted a dog.  He loved animals and grew up in a house full of cats. His Mum promised him that when all the cats had finally made their way to moggy heaven, they would look into having a dog.  She told him to check the RSPCA web pages but not to fall in love too soon because they had to go on holiday first.  She also told him to put his laptop to some good use and do some research on what it meant to be a responsible dog owner instead of playing games where humans killed other humans.

His Mum spotted me on the web pages and pointed me out to the Boy and to his Dad.  His Mum liked my big brown eyes and the way my ears flopped over.  She could see that I had been at the kennels a long time and that I desperately needed a home of my own.  She told the Boy that if I was still there when they came back from holiday, they would come and visit me.

Right from the start the staff were very honest about my cat issues; from the very first phone call the Mum made, she knew what they were taking on but she and the Boy had fallen for my charms already (they had to work on the Dad a bit because he had never owned a dog before).

They came to visit me on the Mum’s birthday and took me for a walk in the wood outside the kennels.  I pulled a bit.  Well quite a lot actually but they persevered and by the time they brought me back to the kennels it was a done deal.  A deposit was paid and before they had even left a yellow sign with ‘Home check’ was put up outside my kennel. Somebody wanted me at last.

They came again the next day; the Boy was in charge because he was to be my new master – aided and abetted by his Mum and Dad.  I recognised them, and as a consequence began to show off my talents a little. I still pulled but they were impressed by the way I responded to basic commands (and the dog treats they bought me).

Each time they visited we got to know each other better and I began to love the Boy.  He hugged me and praised me – well all three of them did – but his actions were the most important.  I stopped barking when I saw them enter the car park and wagged my tail in ecstasy instead. Kind people cared for me and hoped that one day I would find the right family, and they had their fingers crossed.

One of the visits included a walk to a car; the Mum was worried about whether I would be nervous about cars as I’d been in kennels for so long.  Ha!  I jumped up onto the tailgate, sat down on the blanket and gave my famous grin.

‘Take me home now please?’

Unknown to me, the Mum and the Dad were doing things to make their house a safe haven where I couldn’t get out and chase the local cats.  They put trellis on top of the fence panels so I wouldn’t be able to climb over.  They found a dog-owning fence and gate maker who mended their old gate and made a special new one so that I wouldn’t get out of the back garden. They had loved their own cats and didn’t want to put temptation in my way.

They passed the home check and once the gates and trellis had been put up it was agreed that I could come home.

By this time I had my own lead, half-check collar and a harness which the Boy bought with him whenever they came to take me out.  He always had his Mum or his Dad with him when we walked but on this day he took me out alone.

When we got back to the kennels he didn’t hand me back the way he used to.  His Mum and Dad appeared from the office and they were both smiling.  The Boy was smiling.  They lifted up the tailgate and as the Boy strapped my harness to the safety belt, I smiled too.

We went home.  Mi casa.

Adios.

 

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A tale of two fridges – well- four actually’

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When Hub and I bought our first house 27 years ago, we were given a fridge freezer as a moving in/engagement present by Hub’s parents. My tiny fridge with freezer compartment that had served me well in my studio flat looked in danger of collapsing if it was removed from its little cubbyhole in the kitchen. I left it there for the new owner, together with an Ercol wall unit and a temperamental Baby Belling.

We bought it from Bejams –  a company now known as Iceland  – but in those days it only sold frozen food and things to keep the food in, and long before they started using A, B and Z-list celebrities to promote their products.

The fridge freezer sat very nicely in the tiny kitchen of our two up, two down end of terrace ex council house, and made up for the disappointment of finding that what we thought were kitchen units turned out to be doors with a big empty space and a gas meter behind them.

The little house was Uni Boy’s first home too; he cruised around the furniture and we were slightly worried that he was having problems walking. Then we took him to Southampton Common , plonked him on the grass near the Ornamental Lake and watched in amazement as he ran, and ran, and ran. Hub managed to stop him before he reached the lake.

When Uni Boy was just over a year old, and Gap Boy was more than just a twinkle in his father’s eye, we moved North and rented a house.  We let our little house to a mature student, his wife and daughter, and endured several months of them grumbling (via the agent) about the shortcomings of our happy little home.  We couldn’t get house or contents insurance because of our tenant’s status and they unfortunately they turned out to be a ham-fisted pair judging by the constant breakages and replacements they demanded.  The fridge freezer survived their clumsiness however.

We decided that we wanted to stay in the North; we had made good friends, Hub enjoyed his job and Uni Boy was busy running everywhere (and climbing into my Dear Friend’s fish tank).

After Gap Boy was born, we started saving up money to buy another house – providing we could sell the old one.  The tenants moved out and on to wreck another property after a couple of years.  We had the house professionally cleaned and tidied and put it up for sale.

The estate agents kept us apprised about viewings and we thought that they were looking after our little house.  Unfortunately they were slapdash and left the spare set of house keys in the kitchen drawer.  We got a phone call one Monday morning telling us that someone had broken in through the kitchen window and ‘somehow‘ managed to unlock the back door and take out the fridge freezer.  The burglar(s) tried to take the washing machine and the boiler but were too inept to manage the plumbing.  Oh, and the spare set of keys were no longer in the office, did we have them?

Surprisingly enough, the little house still sold and we went looking for a home for the four of us and our family of cats.  We had moved North with five cats and were down to four after our tiniest cat had curled up under the radiator one night and gone permanently to sleep. We lost another the night before we moved when he ran out into the road when a dog wuffed at him and was run over.  He is buried under our magnolia tree. The other cats lived out their happy moggy lives in the new house.

Our new house-to-be was occupied by students when we went to visit it.  The owner had left the students to show prospective buyers around and was perplexed as to why there were no offers after eighteen months. We found out why.

We visited just after Christmas.  They refused to let us in.

We called the estate agent and he arrived within minutes and threatened to call the owner.

They let us in, scowling.

The curtains were closed, the wreckage of a Christmas tree leaned drunkenly in the living room,  three hung over students were slumped sullenly on the sofa.

The agent showed us around.  His bright and breezy attitude at odds with the sulking students.  The kitchen was dirty and filled with rubbish – some of it in bin bags.  The downstairs bathroom and bedroom were damp, smelly and unaired, the living room too dark to see anything, so we climbed the stairs and were pleased with two of the bedrooms.  The occupant of the third obviously had a bad temper as there was a huge fist-shaped hole in the plasterboard.  The agent had described the upstairs bathroom as ‘impressive’.  It was.  It was a huge tart’s boudoir.  All white and pink and gilt and scalloping.  Uni Boy eyed the bidet with interest. He later informed friends that our new house had a ‘bumwasher’.

We visited twice more and saw the real house hiding beneath the students’ wilful neglect.

The owner appeared to have had lessons in artexing as every room in the house had a different pattern – on the walls and on the ceilings.  The stairway and upper hall still have the capacity to remove three layers of skin when you brush against it carelessly.  Under the grime, the kitchen turned out to be a seventies nightmare; brown and white tiles, pine cladding, pendant lights and pseudo Mediterranean arches that  blocked out the light. The front room and dining room ran the length of the house with patio doors opening on to a quiet courtyard – filled with more bin bags.

The purchase of the house was rather fraught; the students were reluctant to move, the owner was reluctant to change the locks or drop the price due to the state of the garage roof.

We won in the end.

With the help of our new and incredibly supportive friends, we moved out of our rented house, cleaned it from top to bottom and moved into the new house.  There wasn’t an awful lot of money to spare and though we kept the existing horrible hob and crusty cooker, the fridge freezer was beyond redemption, so we bought a new one from Iceland – RIP Bejams.

As the boys got bigger and consumed more food, we took advice from our Dear Friend and invested in a second fridge freezer which was installed in the downstairs guest bedroom after the garage proved too cold for it.  Uni Boy moved into the room when he started at high school and needed more peas and carrots (peace and quiet).  By this time he was cooking elaborate meals for himself and had already acquired a taste for grana padano cheese and soya milk, so having a fridge freezer in his bedroom was a must.

Hub and I were permitted to keep food in UB’s fridge freezer but GB was told in no uncertain terms to keep out.

Now that UB is away at uni, his room is frequently occupied by our Bezzie Mate.  He tells me that the fridge freezer is rather talkative – especially in the middle of the night.  It sighs like a mournful ghost apparently and is even more disturbing than the sound of GB thundering down the stairs to cook noodles in the early hours of the morning or Scoobs giving me his uproarious first thing in the morning welcome.

After fifteen years of living with the artex and pine-clad hell of our kitchen (we replaced the worktops and cupboards a few years ago, and bought a new cooker but I still hated it) we are having a new one.

Being kitchen virgins so to speak, we have relied on the support and advice of our friends. We were told to get at least three quotes.

Then we walked into Wickes and I fell in love with a black quartz worktop with multi-coloured sparkles in it.  Shiny shiny!  Shortly afterwards I developed an attraction for what turned out to be the most expensive set of kitchen units in the store.

The kitchen designer came out and measured up our horrible kitchen.  Scoob liked him – possibly a bit too much because he handed the job over to his colleague.

The kitchen fitter/builder came out and scrobbled Scoob’s head.  Scoob was smitten and so was the fitter.  I viewed my horrible kitchen as a monstrosity; he rubbed his hands gleefully and told me that this was his favourite kind of job and he couldn’t wait to get started.

Having had a boiler and radiators fitted the previous February, we decided to wait till May and give the weather a chance to warm up.  Three days of sitting together on the sofa huddled under a blanket with a nervous and wuffing dog had taught us a lesson.

Our kitchen designer drew pretty pictures on his computer and all the bits were ordered and paid for.  We now have a letter from head office containing a blue balloon and a piece of string which we have to attach to the gate so that the delivery men can find us.

So sweet.

The hob, the oven and the microwave are included. We are using our own washing machine and dishwasher. I have chosen floor and wall tiles and matched up the paint with the units. Oh, go me!

The only thing left to do was to find a snazzy American-style fridge freezer and a tumble drier that would fit in the gaps.

Hub did his methodical trawl through ‘Which’ magazine.  I hopped about on the Internet going ‘Oooh’ at very expensive and rather impractical monsters.

We headed to that big electrical/computer store and whilst Hub nipped into Halford’s for wiper blades, I did some fridge freezer stroking and exploring.  That was when I found the beauty that heads this story.  It is a fridge  with a nice, cold, ice-cold water dispenser and loads of shelves. And the beauty has a freezer brother with a tippy ice-cube tray and oodles of drawers – also pictured.  The handles are full length and very tactile, and even when put side by side, they are still only 30cm wider than the conventional 90cm allowed for the American-style monsters. It would also mean that we could get rid of the fridge freezer in UB’s bedroom and ensure that BM would have quieter nights when he comes to stay.

We also found a not very glamorous but highly rated by ‘Which’ tumble dryer with a condenser and a sensor – all this is over my head.

Clutching our measurements we toddled off to Wickes in the hope that the gorgeous chilly twins could be accommodated in our ner kitchen.

Oh, go Wickes!  Not only did our lovely designer redesign the kitchen to incorporate the twins, we got a refund for the bits of kitchen that we no longer needed.

So, today, 27 years after the day we first started going out with each other, Hub and I have purchased the last three essentials for our first new kitchen.  Work starts next week and apart from having to control Scoobs and move into camping mode whilst normal services are suspended, our only other shopping trip will be to pick up the tiles and paint in quantities as advised by our eager builder/kitchen fitter.

Now begins the mass chucking out of fifteen years of womble-hoarding in the kitchen cupboards.  I will be awarding a prize for the most out of date object found.  Lovely Friend and her Hub are coming over to endow us with some much needed ruthlessness.  I foresee many tip trips ahead.

We will be having a kitchen party once it is all done and I have been told that with my new kitchen will come a housework gene that has hitherto been missing.

So woe betide anyone who leaves a mess on my glittery worktop or puts a dirty cup in my Belfast sink!

No one gets hurt if they don’t act funny – aggressive dogs,chatty women,cold callers, joggers – and cats!

Ey Up (that’s Northern speak for Hola)

Week two in my new home and I’m slowly getting my humans sorted out.

I confess – we have all rather fallen for each other – my Mum because she gets up first and plays silly games with me in the garden and is actually beginning to understand what I want.  My Dad because he runs fast with me and makes me grin and I am SO pleased to see him when he comes back from this thing they call work.  My Boy because he laughs when I do funny things, he gets up in the middle of the night and hugs me when everyone else is asleep, and because he is MY BOY.

We’ve done rather a lot of stuff this past week.  After the adventures at Spike Island, my Mum and Dad took me to a local park where they knew there would be lots of dogs, geese, ducks, swans and those funny little black things – coots and moorhens – I think.  There were also some disreputable characters smoking whacky baccy under the railway bridge but we’ll draw a line under them.

We did running – me and my Dad.  My Mum was in charge of the Scooby Snacks; I get them when I sit, stay, lie down and don’t pull anyone’s arm off.  I growled a bit; only at dogs that looked a bit dodgy (and the chavs under the bridge of course). Some of the other dog walkers we encountered put their dogs back on leads when they saw me pulling a bit – very considerate.

We were all enjoying the walk when this woman  with a very wet black labrador came up to us.  The labrador was a bit lippy so I barked a bit  – back atcha Soggy Snout!  My Dad took me over to the pond and gave me a hug so that I stopped barking.  The lippy labby shook smelly canal water all over my Mum, and the woman said she recognised us from the RSPCA.

The woman said “Isn’t he socialised?  I didn’t think they were supposed to be homed until they were socialised?”

Pardon me?  All I did was growl a bit.  Your dog has been chasing the wildlife, jumping in and out of the canal, making people wet and smelly by shaking himself all over them, and actually – he growled at me first!

My Mum was trying to get away from this mad woman who had now gone on to complain about the park and how she hated bringing her dog there because he always jumped in the canal, frightened the ducks and made people wet when he shook himself.

Oh for heaven’s sake woman – put him on a lead then!  Or don’t bring him to the park! And most of all don’t accuse me of not being socialised when your own dog wouldn’t win any prizes for grace or charm. I’m the one that’s been incarcerated for the past eighteen months after all.  Woof!

She went in the end and we walked on through the park, ran a bit more and then I got to stick my nose out of the car window and drool all the way home.  I love fresh air!

By comparison the next day was a bit quiet; my Dad was off shooting things with paintballs and my Boy was off shooting things with little white pellets.  There are a lot of these pellets in the garden but you can’t eat them.  I had a quiet day with my Mum, although she did take me for a walk round the block after I woofed at the United Utilities man outside.  My Mum and I were both very pleased when my Dad and my Boy came home though.  There was much excited tail wagging and grinning – on my part – my Mum doesn’t have a tail but she smiles a lot.

There have been other incidents this week; nothing terrible really but my family now know that in addition to cats, aggressive dogs and mad women, I don’t like joggers either.   Someone knocked at the front door the other evening when my Mum and I were dozing on the sofa/watching Pointless.  Oh boy did I bark!  Whoever it was had vanished by the time my Mum had calmed me down – Hah! Another cold caller bites the dust.

Oh, I have a new bed!  I still have one in the dogservatory but this one is furry and fluffy and takes up quite a lot of floor area in the living room.  I still like getting up on the sofa to have hugs but this new bed is good to crash out on and keep an eye on everyone at the same time.

I’m gradually getting introduced to my family’s favourite places too.  Yesterday we went down to another place on the river by the big bridge, no dogs but a dangerous looking jogger who got the benefit of my most menacing growl.  He passed us again but my Mum was sneaky and spotted him first; she sent me and my Dad up some steps into a lovely smelly wood and by the time we got back the jogger was just a dot in the distance.

I was a bit muddy when we got home and my Boy decided that I should have a bath.  My Mum and Dad were dubious.  Bear in mind that for the past two weeks I have been firmly told that the bathroom is out-of-bounds; it also has a clattery floor that makes my nails slip and it smells of flowers.  My Mum put a towel on the floor and with the generous dispensation of Scooby Snacks managed to get me to acquaint myself with the bath.  I got one paw in it and my snout but that was all.  I think she understood that this bath thing was a non starter so she filled a container full of warm water and we all went back into the living room where I had a fairly decent wash and brush up of the undercarriage area.  Hah! Managed to avoid the bath AND got lots of hugs into the bargain – not  to mention the Scooby Snacks.

Tonight we went up to the Monument to watch the sun set.  It was a bit chilly for the humans but I loved it.  The whole place smells of rabbits and other dogs and even more rabbits but no cats.  I had a really good sniff around, we watched some buzzards circling and a couple of planes and helicopters but the humans wimped out eventually and we went back to the car.

So I am a happy perro.  Life is full of food and snacks and sleeping and running and walking and games of hide and seek in the garden with my Mum, but best of all are the hugs.