Wednesday, 28 December 2011

5. The Rise & Fall of Bella Houdini

It was a beautiful Christmas morning. The lights were twinkling on the tree, the shiny Christmas paper was waiting to be torn off, and we were relaxing for half an hour before heading off down the road to the Christmas day service. Ding-dong Ding-dong. No it wasn’t the church bells or the ‘merrily on high’ ones! The neighbour’s half smile and Merry Christmas wishes held that tone that said there was a problem.

I just wondered if you knew that your doggy is running around the school playing field.

Oh! Ah! That’s why she hasn’t been coming back when we call her!  Fortunately by the time Mrs Neighbour had called, Bella had returned. We would need to investigate the back fence – after church, after opening of presents, after Christmas lunch, after post Christmas lunch snooze, by which time it was dark. This event occurred in England, in December, ‘in the bleak mid-winter’, when the sun rose at 8.03am and set at 3.48pm.

Bella was restricted to going out in the back garden on the extender lead – to give her a little privacy if necessary! She was not impressed. She did benefit from one or two extra walks down the road at which times the desired result of bladder relief was attained.  But how did Bella Houdini get on to the school playing field. With one of us climbing over the school gate (that’ll give the villagers something to talk about ‘that new Baptist vicar….’!) and the other bundu-bashing among the fir tree branches, berry twigs and other indescribably prickly thick vegetation at the bottom of the garden, we found the three foot wire fence in good nick, no holes, and firmly secured into the ground.

Phase 2 – let Bella Houdini into the garden and see where she goes. While I was clearing a pathway between the fence and the sheds under the fir trees, Bella came and lay innocently next to me, ahh sweet!  And then she disappeared and was seen tearing around the beautiful green grass of the primary school!  Argggg! How did that happen!!

Fortunately Bella still loves us, and dogs do have a conscience! After 20 minutes of haring around the field and definitely a contender for the Dog Olympics, she was quite content to have the lead slipped over her head.  She refused to show us how she returned to home base so had to be lifted unladylike over the fence – with no thought of the pin and plate inserted in her broken back leg just three months ago!

Tuesday 27th December 2011 : Bella and handler went for their regular early morning, before sunrise walk. We live in a beautiful part of the country with fields through which there are footpaths, a pretty tidal river, country stiles etc. Dog + water + soil = one very, very muddy dog!  She returned from the walk with the legs and underbelly of a black Labrador. Anyone could see that she’d entered the house by the back door into the red slate-tiled conservatory, and on to the lino-floored kitchen. Much rubbing down didn’t seem to make any difference, but when she escaped to her bed, the green Blue Cross donated blanket turned black with green spots. The hosepipe sprayer will have to be engaged. (Has anyone invented a dogwash like the carwashes? One that can be installed at the back gate? complete with all-over spray, doggy shampoo, gentle brushes, rinse water, and blowdryer?) Spraying Bella down is not usually a one-man operation, but one man tried it anyway keeping Bella on the lead with the gentle spray nozzle massaging the mud off her underbelly. Once inside again, the lead was accidentally dropped making a sudden clanging on the slate tiles, Bella took fright, knocked the child safety gate being stored in the conservatory crashing to the floor and Bella spraying dark water on the white sofa, the white painted door and the glass door panes! 

This was the day Bella would be left alone with the family ‘visitor’ in the house – scary option for Bella, until said ‘visitor’ took her on a loooooooong walk, after which she became Bella’s best friend!  But before we could leave the house to drive Grandma back home (3 1/2 hr drive) after Christmas, the floors should really be de-mudded.  Oops! We’ve run out of floor cleaner. A spray clean-and-polish can was called in for the emergency. Bad idea, as we discovered later – don’t go into the kitchen or conservatory in your socks! (hint: "polish")

Wednesday 28th December 2011 : Back to a more or less normal daily routine – except that Bella Houdini is still restricted to indoors and like a cat, was following my every step around the house.  So Wellies were donned and in the pretence of Pooh Patrol Bella and I stepped gingerly into the back garden. So far so good. She lay, seemingly happy under ‘her’ bush and watched me go in and out of the garden shed, waiting for her chance! I saw her at the school fence, shouted NO, then realised she was squatting, sorry!  Next blink I could see her rear up like a polar bear on Frozen Planet and she was over the fence! Success – for both of us! She got over and I got to see how!

In previous excursions to retrieve her from the school playing field, one of us had a mobile phone to call for help from the other. This time it was just me. I had to clear the make-shift barrier we’d put up where we thought she could get over – and she didn’t – and with Wellies four sizes above my shoe size, I clambered over the fence.  By this time Bella Houdini was halfway through the course and was not going to come back to the finish line until she was ready! But once again it wasn’t a hectic chase across fields and she did slip back into the lead quite happily. Of course I felt the need to explain to another neighbour hanging her undies out in the wind to dry that I was not taking my dog for a walk in the private property school playing field, but having discovered how she got there, would now be making plans to prevent it happening again!

Bella Houdini has fallen. As will our bank balance once we get a new fence fitted. But we still love our Bella!

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