Encouragement and Support

Me: Do you have to watch every mouthful I eat?

Nell: Yes.

Me: It’s unnerving, Nell.

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous.

Me: At least Poppy gets bored after a while but you and Harriet never waver.

Nell: We are Labradors. It is our duty to offer you Encouragement and Support.

Me: To be honest, Nell, I could do without it.

Nell: We’ve had this discussion before. You know you need monitoring and we are willing to do it.

Me: Poppy seems to have recovered from yesterday’s visit to the vet.

Nell: She did well. Especially as she went into battle without a weapon.

Me: Why? Because Gladys had her sword?

Nell: I’m talking about her baguette.

Me: Didn’t she have it with her?

Nell: I’m afraid there was an unfortunate incident on the way to the car.

Me: Oh no.

Nell: David kindly offered to carry the baguette but by the time he got to the car it had gone.

Me: Did a Beefy steal it?

Nell: No. Evidence suggests that David ate it by mistake.

Me: But the car wasn’t even far away.

Nell: He says one minute it was there and the next it wasn’t.

Me: How did Poppy react?

Nell: Not well. When David arrived baguetteless and covered in crumbs she gave him a very hard stare.

Me: Terrifying.

Nell: Yes. All was not lost, however, as fortunately she had a cheese straw behind her ear.

Me: As one does.

Nell: Quite. Anyway, it turns out it wasn’t needed as the vet was very pleased with her and she was able to enjoy it on the way home.

Me: Which is fine as she’s the only one of you not to have put on weight.

Nell: I thought we agreed not to mention that word.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Sundays are Cuddle Days

Me: Look at you all cuddling with Kev.

Nell: Yes. We came to an important decision at Morning Thoughts today.

Me: I’m all ears.

Nell: Don’t be silly. You’re not a rabbit.

Me: Never mind. What decision?

Nell: Sundays are now officially Cuddle Days.

Me: Good. There is nothing like a good cuddle. Especially when it’s cold and frosty outside.

Nell: I would like to point out that Cuddle Days are not exclusive to Sundays, however. They can also be on other days, if required.

Me: That’s a relief. It would be wrong to limit them.

Nell: If an animal is feeling a little low, for instance, or in need of support, then a cuddle is appropriate.

Me: Yes.

Nell: There are many varieties of cuddles. Happy ones. Sad ones. Fierce ones.

Me: I’m not sure I like the idea of Fierce ones.

Nell: Fierce ones can be used when someone needs to calm down. You can also sit on them, of course. That usually does the trick.

Me: Dave is good at that.

Nell: Cuddles can be given by anyone.

Me: Including me?

Nell: Yes, it is one of your skills.

Me: I feel a certain degree of portliness helps.

Nell: Haven’t I asked you not to mention the word portly?

Me: My mistake.

Nell: Even large beasts can give and require cuddles.

Me: Dave loves them.

Nell: David is one of our top cuddlers. He needs to practice Waiting to be Asked, however.

Me: My Big Brave Beautiful Boy is just affectionate.

Nell: Not everyone wants a cuddle. Lady Anwen was quite taken aback.

Me: So was the delivery man.

Nell: Quite.

Me: Why aren’t you in that photo, by the way? You love cuddles from Kev.

Nell: Who do you think took it?

Me: Of course. Sorry.


Have you seen Harriet’s face?

Nell: Harriet says there are no bacon sandwiches this morning.

Me: That’s right.

Nell: It’s Saturday.

Me: I know.

Nell: Saturday is Treat Day.

Me: You’ve just invented that, Nell.

Nell: Have you seen Harriet’s face?

Me: She looks a little incredulous.

Nell: She can’t believe it.

Me: That’s what I just said.

Nell: I blame the vet.

Me: Harsh but understandable.

Nell: She said Harriet was ‘portly’.

Me: She never used the word ‘portly’. She just suggested Harriet might have overindulged at Christmas.

Nell: Everyone overindulges at Christmas.

Me: True.

Nell: Personally, I think the vet needs to learn some manners.

Me: She was perfectly polite, Nell.

Nell: Imagine if the first thing we did to visitors was put them on the scales.

Me: I’d rather not, thank you.

Nell: There would be an outcry.

Me: The vet is just doing her job.

Nell: Well, Poppy is going on Monday. She is not going to stand for being called ‘portly’. I can tell you that.

Me: Nobody said ‘portly’.

Nell: Why is it that we girls are on strict diets and David, who is capable of eating a whole pie by mistake, is called Magnificent?

Me: There is more of David I suppose.

Nell: The large beasts don’t get weighed.

Me: No, they don’t.

Nell: Neither do Henry and Horst. And Horst is twice as big as Henry.

Me: Yes, he is.

Nell: Nobody asks Malcolm to get on the scales.

Me: No.

Nell: Or any of our feathered friends. Owl Pacino has definitely put on weight recently even though he insists it’s just his winter feathers.

Me: To be fair it probably is.

Nell: Well, I have my winter coat at the moment. But was that taken into account? No, it was not.

Me: You are right. Sorry.


Dave has a lot to think about

Me: Dave is looking rather thoughtful.

Nell: Yes.

Me: He had a very successful visit to the vets yesterday.

Nell: I know.

Me: He weighs 47.8 kilos. He could do with losing a kilo, but he’s still perfect.

Nell: Yes.

Me: The vet said he was a magnificent dog. She even suggested that we contact the Kennel Club to have him registered as a stud dog.

Nell: Exactly.

Me: That’s good news, isn’t it?

Nell: It depends. Sally might not agree.

Me: Oh, I see what you mean.

Nell: We discussed it at Morning Thoughts and David is going to have a quiet with Charlie and Mutley this afternoon.

Me: Mutley can’t hear.

Nell: No. But he can listen and nod knowingly.

Me: Personally I think my Big Brave Beautiful Boy would make a wonderful stud dog.

Nell: I quite agree. He is both handsome and kind which is a winning combination in my eyes.

Me: Yes. He has a wonderful temperament. He is a great credit to you, Nell.

Nell: You are too kind.

Me: Talking of kind, thank you for coming to see my little sister Alex with me yesterday.

Nell: She is unwell. I was glad to be of comfort.

Me: You were glad to eat the cat food.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: I heard you crunching in the kitchen.

Nell: I may have stumbled across a few biscuits when I went to find water. I thought they were for me.

Me: You so didn’t, Nell. You checked to see if we were busy chatting and then you slunk in there and wolfed them down.

Nell: Slunk? I have never slunked in my life.

Me: It looked like slinking you me.

Nell: I was moving quietly in respect for the indisposed.

Me: Of course. Sorry.


No sausage

Me: You are going to have to forgive me some time, you know.

Nell: I know.

Me: We had a lovely day yesterday, didn’t we?

Nell: Yes. It was good to see the sun again.

Me: And rainbows.

Nell: And rain.

Me: Not much rain.

Nell: We were the only ones eating lunch outside.

Me: It was glorious down on the beach.

Nell: People actually pointed at us in amazement.

Me: They were admiring the view, or my hat.

Nell: Nobody is going to admire that hat.

Me: No, you are right. Our fish was delicious though, wasn’t it?

Nell: I had a very small portion.

Me: I know.

Nell: And Kev had sausages.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Sizzling sausages.

Me: Yes. His favourite.

Nell: And mine.

Me: I know, but there is nothing to be done.

Nell: People say that when there actually is something to be done. Like giving the poor starving animal a sausage.

Me: We both know you aren’t a starving animal. Anyway, you enjoyed your fish.

Nell: It was not a sausage.

Me: Then we all ran on the beach.

Nell: I ran on the beach. You didn’t do any running.

Me: I kicked your ball.

Nell: You did. Badly, but with a certain degree of enthusiasm.

Me: You met an optimistic young poodle.

Nell: It was very bouncy.

Me: You were bouncy when you were young.

Nell: I was never bouncy.

Me: And after another walk with everyone, including Mutley, we had a lovely dinner together.

Nell: There was no meat.

Me: I know. It was vegetarian.

Nell: I’m not a vegetarian.

Me: No, but James Beddall is, and you know how much you like him.

Nell: I can’t believe you just used the Kind James card. Leave him out of this.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Nell is not amused

Me: When are you going to talk to me again?

Nell: I don’t know.

Me: The sun is shining so I thought we might go down to the beach later.

Nell: Maybe.

Me: It won’t be no scones for ever, Nell. You just have to lose a few kilos.

Nell: I am a lady Labrador of a certain age, not a whippet.

Me: I know that.

Nell: The indignity of having one’s weight discussed publicly.

Me: Yes. Unfortunately the scales are in reception.

Nell: How would you like it if you had to weigh yourself in the front garden with people saying hello and discussing the weather all around you?

Me: I wouldn’t like it at all. In fact it sounds like one of those awful nightmares.

Nell: Exactly.

Me: But the vet said you are doing really well otherwise.

Nell: A Labrador cannot survive on a handful of dry biscuit alone.

Me: Of course not. I’ll ask Poppy to prepare lots of steamed vegetables and some chicken.

Nell: And then I have a needle stuck in me and something shoved up my nose.

Me: It was time for your boosters. The puppies and Poppy are going tomorrow.

Nell: Well, you need to prepare them. You know how much David hates a weigh-in and as for needles.

Me: Don’t you think it would be best just to take them? They might not get in the car otherwise.

Nell: You have a point. Going to the vets is not something anyone does willingly. The puppies dislike it and Poppy is extremely strong-willed.

Me: That’s why I didn’t tell you.

Nell: As a mature Labrador I would have accepted it.

Me: I’m not so sure about that, Nell.

Nell: Well, we will never know now, will we?

Me: No. Sorry.


Warm and Safe

Me: What awful weather?

Nell: It’s that Irish storm. Seamus.

Me: You mean Storm Brendan.

Nell: Whatever. My friend Pamela had to cancel her hair appointment.

Me: Why?

Nell: Well, you know Pamela is on the large side?

Me: Yes.

Nell: It’s in her genes. All Pyrenean Mountain Dogs are the same. You never see a skinny one.

Me: The mere idea.

Nell: Quite. We met at one of those dreadful public weigh-ins at the vets. Why they have to do that is beyond me. Anyway, where was I?

Me: You were talking about Pamela cancelling her hair appointment because of Brendan.

Nell: I don’t know who he is. Pamela cancelled because of the weather.

Me: That’s what I meant.

Nell: Stop interrupting me, or I’ll lose my train of thought.

Me: Why can’t Pamela go to the hairdresser?

Nell: There’s no point. Do you know how long it takes to wash and blow dry a Pyrenean Mountain Dog?

Me: I can’t say that I do.

Nell: Several cups of tea and an awful lot of biscuits. I know because I’ve waited for her.

Me: Gosh. But I still don’t know why she cancelled.

Nell: Because when she steps outside into all that raging wind and rain it will be for nothing. Unless you want the wild and tousled look, which Pamela doesn’t, it is completely pointless.

Me: I see what you mean.

Nell: No. This is a day for staying in and cuddling up in front of the fire.

Me: That’s what Dave and Harriet are doing.

Nell: Yes, David is keeping Harriet Warm and Safe. It’s what he does best.

Me: I’m going to do the same.

Nell: No. You have another book to write. Stormy weather is perfect for writing so no excuses.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


That Monday Look

Me: Don’t give me that Monday look.

Nell: What Monday look?

Me: It’s the What on Earth are You Going to Say Now look.

Nell: Well, go on then. Say it.

Me: This is going to sound silly, but you know Kev loves watching American Football?

Nell: Yes.

Me: And some of the family, including the large beasts, were watching it with him last night?

Nell: I prefer tennis myself, or a quiet round of golf.

Me: Yes. It’s such a confusing game. All that stopping and starting.

Nell: Monty the Moose tried to explain the rules but Alejandro and Olive said they were completely mystified.

Me: Mutley enjoys it even though he can hardly see and he definitely can’t hear.

Nell: It’s the theatre of it apparently. Gladys loves it and so does The Cat. Did you see what it was wearing? A sequinned bolero?

Me: I thought it looked rather smart. Anyway, talking of dressing up.

Nell: Yes?

Me: You’re going to laugh but I think Henry and Horst were wearing padding.

Nell: Padding?

Me: Yes. You know like the American footballers do. Big wide shoulders.

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous.

Me: I was surprised.

Nell: Henry and Horst don’t have shoulders.

Me: I never knew woodlice played American football.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: I suppose Henry would be a sprinter and Horst would be in defence because he’s twice Henry’s size.

Nell: Stop.

Me: I knew you wouldn’t believe me.

Nell: They were wearing life jackets.

Me: Life jackets?

Nell: Yes. After the incident with Kev’s bath.

Me: Kev’s bath?

Nell: They were on the tap and nearly fell in. Kev had to save them. They have now been issued with life jackets.

Me: What were they doing in there? Tap dancing?

Nell: Not funny.

Me: No. Sorry.


Think Twice

Me: Well, I think the puppies could ask for a bounce on next door’s trampoline.

Nell: There will be no trampolining so they can stop gazing out of the window at it.

Me: You are mean.

Nell: David always gets carried away. Don’t you remember last time?

Me: No.

Nell: David bounced Poppy and Gladys right up into the sky.

Me: They loved it.

Nell: Both puppies have a lot to think about and it’s not trampolining.

Me: What is it then?

Nell: If you must know we were discussing ‘Think Twice’ at Morning Thoughts. David in particular struggles with the concept.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: He and Harriet are taking today to do some Careful Considering.

Me: But it’s Sunday.

Nell: Sunday is a day of rest and contemplation.

Me: Not when it starts with show tunes from the Welsh corgi choir.

Nell: I know ‘Hello Dolly’ isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but you must admit the hats were excellent.

Me: I noticed Lady Anwen was there with Knitwear Wolf.

Nell: Yes. She wants him to visit Buckingham Palace.

Me: Does she now?

Nell: Yes. And she suggested he takes David.

Me: Dave would love it. He’s got a top hat.

Nell: All I can say is ‘Think Twice’. If he hasn’t mastered that he shouldn’t be meeting royalty.

Me: The thing is, Nell. I don’t think he ever will.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Some of us are impulsive by nature and I don’t want my Big Brave Beautiful Boy to change.

Nell: It’s not often that I say this, but you might be right.

Me: Really?

Nell: Shall we see if next door will let the puppies bounce on their trampoline?

Me: Will you be joining them?

Nell: Enough. Quit while you’re ahead.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


An eventful dinner party

Nell: Where’s David?

Me: Having cuddles and telling Tony about yesterday’s dinner party.

Nell: It was certainly eventful.

Me: Why?

Nell: Lady Anwen nearly choked on a fish.

Me: I didn’t know Poppy was serving fish.

Nell: She wasn’t. Someone threw a mackerel through the window.

Me: Why was the window open?

Nell: Because the Welsh corgi choir were singing outside. But that’s not the point.

Me: Why did Lady Anwen eat it?

Nell: She used to play netball in her younger days so when it came flying in she caught it.

Me: In her mouth?

Nell: Obviously. Luckily Knitwear Wolf knows the Dry Stick Manoeuvre.

Me: Don’t you mean the Heimlich manoeuvre?

Nell: No. You simply hit the person choking on the back with a stick or, in this case, a baguette.

Me: Good for Rupert.

Nell: Yes. It was a tense moment.

Me: I presume the Beefies were behind it?

Nell: Of course. Fortunately Gladys performed a contemporary dance before any questions could be asked.

Me: Quick thinking.

Nell: It was a frosty start until Charlie said ‘May I introduce Prince Rupert?’ and her eyes lit up.

Me: I bet they did.

Nell: She had no idea that Knitwear Wolf was royal.

Me: He isn’t. It’s just where he comes from in Canada.

Nell: I know that and you know that, but she doesn’t.

Me: No.

Nell: At dinner Mutley was on her left and nodded regularly in an interested way.

Me: Who was on her right?

Nell: Rupert. He was wearing an elegant knitted suit and was charm personified. He soon had her eating out of his paw.

Me: I don’t think he should have been feeding her, Nell. She can do that on her own.

Nell: Not literally. I despair of you sometimes.

Me: Yes. Sorry.