Sunday, November 29, 2009
Two Life-Changing Experiences
On the day the Iraq inquiry opened in London last week, coincidentally two palpable weapons of mass destruction were unleashing themselves at home.
Mabel was first. The younger of our two working cockers, she’s always fancied herself as a proper gundog. Now nearly two and despite having no formal training, she races across the kitchen to retrieve her favourite toy and deposits it, saliva encrusted, into whichever lap wears the most expensive trousers. The louder the shriek of the recipient the more she takes it as praise for her extraordinary talent. She doesn’t just wag her tail, her whole lower body heaves from side to side in jubilation.
But despite her golden spaniel cuteness, Mabel’s real ambition is to become a rabbit killer. She and her sister Truffle spend hours in the garden sniffing them out, and occasionally they stumble over one and give chase. Which is fine by me: rabbits are the scourge of any garden. Having just planted several hundred specimens from the Northern Ark nursery in Longhorsley (no imported polytunnel plants there, just naturalized Northumbrian herbaceous stock) I had visions of our local rabbits summoning the entire county to sample our juicy shoots on the first day of spring. Our problem is, despite running themselves ragged and trampling all the borders, our wretched dogs have never caught a thing.
Until last week. It was a wondrous sight: Mabel on the doorstep proudly straddling a monster over half her size. I accepted the gift with genuine pleasure, then shooed her away in case Jo threw a fit: my Californian wife has tolerated quite enough north east wildlife already, including mice in her bathroom and bats and frogs in the hall, without having bunny blood on the carpet. I watched Mabel outside, head held high, strutting the rabbit in triumphant circles round our big yew tree, with Truffle following miserably behind. When I went out half an hour later, they had obviously reached a compromise, because I saw Truffle carrying just the head. Gross, as Jo would say.
I was about to go over and retrieve the carcass when I heard a scream: “Tom, come quick”. Not another mouse, I thought, and dashed inside.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Izzy, after ten determinedly lazy months where she wouldn’t even turn over in her cot, had suddenly taken it upon herself to crawl. From the sitting position she keeled over and, instead of collapsing in her usual sprawl on the carpet, gave first one, then two wobbly little shuffles on her knees. She paused, look up at me and gave me the biggest grin. I broke into spontaneous applause and she giggled hysterically, then, as if to show this was no one-off achievement, proceeded to race across the room towards the television remote lying on the floor. Whereupon Jo and I realised life would never be the same again.
As I write this Jo is unloading gates, fencing, and samples of new carpeting to cover exposed bare boards throughout the house. The saucepans in the kitchen have been raised to a higher shelf – everything below three feet has been elevated out of harm’s way. The DVD player already has butter smeared around its slot and the cat has taken cover under the sofa. Mabel and Truffle are licking Izzy’s face in welcome to their new four-legged playmate.
What a difference a day makes. In one small step she’s left her innocence behind. I’m watching her now as she grabs the remote again and C-Beebies switches to News 24. Some pundits are discussing Iraq. I wonder what Izzy will make of the lies of our generation’s politicians when she’s old enough to understand. She grimaces, then bashes the remote until C-Beebies returns.