Odd Talk – Beano’s Mummy

“Would mummy like a cup of tea?”

That was the question old Mrs Baxter asked Beano.  Beano was a great lolloping Retriever with a huge brush of a tail.

Beano’s mummy, AKA Harriet, sat a little awkwardly on the sofa playing with a ballpoint pen.

“Would mummy like a cup of tea Beano Weano?”

The question came again, this time with greater emphasis on the word “tea” which was drawn out into a trailing “eeeee”.

Beano’s mummy cleared her throat and said in a small voice that was not her own. “Yes, I think she would please Mrs Baxter.”

Mrs Baxter cooed and rolled up Beano’s ears into unnatural tubular shapes.

“Ah – would she?  And would mummy like sugar?”

There was a pause.  Not entirely silent due to the slopping noise which Beano’s tongue was making as it licked Mrs Baxter’s hand.

Mrs Baxter opened her mouth to ask Beano the sugar question again, but Beano’s mummy dived in with a slightly-too-loud “No thank you mummy – er, Mrs Baxter.”

“Ah”, sighed Mrs Baxter.

Beano’s mummy ferociously fidgeted with the ballpoint pen and tensed as the lid snapped off and flew across the room.

“What’s mummy up to?” Mrs Baxter asked Beano with exaggerated impatience.  “What’s your silly old mummy up to eh?”

“Sorry,” mumbled Beano’s mummy, reddening.

Beano gave his mummy a look of disgust, and she tried to signal to him that it was time to go.

An hour later none of them had moved.  Mrs Baxter held command from inside the walls of her upright chair.  Beano was lying nonchalantly on the floor.  Beano’s mummy was pinned to the sofa in an apparent catatonic state.

Suddenly Mrs Baxter’s ice-cracking voice boomed,   “Beano, does mummy need to use the bathroom?”

Even the air jumped out of its skin.  Beano’s mummy spluttered out the remains of her cold tea.  She stood up and pulled her skirt into shape.  She was flustered.

“Beano my dear”, she said hurriedly.  “Shall we let Mrs Baxter watch Strictly?   It started five minutes ago!”

“Say bye bye to Auntie Miriam Beano,” said Mrs Baxter kissing the Retriever repeatedly on his snout.  He turned away and fixed his eyes on the empty fruit bowl.

Beano’s mummy was at the front door.  She felt old Mrs Baxter behind her and half-turned with a broad smile at the ready.

“Come again soon love”, whispered Mrs Baxter.  “We always put the world to right don’t we.  I do so love our chats.”

“So do we, “ replied Beano’s mummy, tugging at the Retriever’s ear.

 

 

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A Basket of Toy Amputees

All dogs have their favourite toys, but unfortunately these toys are the ones whose lives are destined to be short and painful.  They must endure being tugged, chewed,  disemboweled and ultimately decapitated or mortally wounded.   Some manage to escape into the depths of the dog’s bed or under the fridge, but even these are eventually sniffed out to meet their fate.  It is never play time for a dog’s toy. 

When I trained with Trudy, my Guide dog Instructor warned of the dangers of giving dogs soft toys because their inner stuffing can potentially choke a dog.   Likewise if a squeaker from a toy becomes lodged in your dog’s throat it can be fatal.

I took note of my Instructor’s advice and endeavoured not to buy Trudy any soft or squeaky toys.  But Trudy is a seasoned thief, and it wasn’t long before I caught her stealing my own cuddly toys from the bedroom.  (Yes, I do love teddy bears, and frogs, and beanies..!).    My old favourites began to lose the shine on their fur and to develop a slightly bedraggled, manky appearance.  Occasionally I would discover one of them lying dead in another room.   In the end I decided that I would buy Trudy a couple of soft toys to play with under supervision.

Three and a half years later I have some gruesome scenes imprinted on my memory.  Last Summer for example I bought a large dog-shaped doorstop. One morning I was shocked to discover that Trudy had blinded the dog and totally defaced its snout.   I have had to remove it from my lounge because it is too disturbing.  Its empty eyes and ripped snout speak of dastardly deeds.  Was Trudy ensuring that the doorstop dog would never take her place as my Guide dog?!  Suffice to say that the motives of Labradors are not always clear-cut.

In addition to the eye-gauging incident there have been numerous spontaneous massacres resulting in limbs and heads strewn all over the floor.   Wads of stuffing have appeared in the most unlikely places.  Eyes, ears and tails are frequently left abandoned in the hallway.  Many toys have ended their sad lives in the bin.   But there are some characters which have been consigned to the Sick Room, AKA “The Invalid Box”.  These are the all-time favourites which have treasured memories embedded in their remaining body parts, and which I am unable to throw away.  The Invalid Box is a very macabre collection indeed.  Several of Trudy’s “Invalids” are in fact headless, and many are just a torso.   

Trudy’s Invalid Box is now bursting at the seams.  With this in mind I have reached a momentous decision.  I have decided to undertake a mammoth project to repair those Invalids which have enough body mass to tolerate a needle and thread.  I am hoping that Trudy’s excitement at being reunited with some of her loved-ones will overcome her critical eye – for the truth is I cannot sew to save my life.   In fact, I cannot even thread a needle.  But with the help of the RNIB shop (from which I’ve  purchased an automatic needle-threader), Amazon and Google,  I have high hopes.

Some of the torsos may find themselves attached to different limbs from before, and some may even end up with more limbs than they started with.  But Trudy (fingers crossed!) will be gobsmacked to see the return of such legends as Myrtle the Turtle  (the prize she won  at the Guide dog of the Year Awards 2011).  Myrtle unfortunately suffered multiple organ failure in the early Autumn.

If the Invalid Project is a success, I may progress to sewing up holes in my own skirts and darning my Trudyfied socks.  The days of asking friends to mend things for me could soon be a thing of the past.  That would really boost my confidence.  Who knows what lies ahead in the sewing sphere of 2012?  Watch this crafty space! 

 http://www.ne.nfb.org/node/576

  

Defeat of the Gremlins: Just ask that Guide dog!

Guide dogs are adept at warding off gremlins, as I know from first-hand experience.  The gremlin who inhabits my flat is often at his most peevish in the early hours of the morning.  Trudy, whose criminal alias is The Hereford Hoover, is instantly awake the minute he pokes my eye to wake me up.  She bounces out of her wicker basket which is adjacent to my bed, grabs one of my slippers and whacks the gremlin out of my day.  It always works.

Even on the most drab and melancholy Monday mornings I can’t help chuckling at the gusto of my Guide dog.  I usually attempt to get back to sleep, but the wagging rudder thumps incessantly to remind me that I owe her one for chasing away the gremlin.  Once my arm is out of bed rolling up her Labrador ears into long tubes, sleep loses its appeal.  So at the point when Trudy’s warm, wet tongue slides over my hand I invariably get up.  Trudy is all fur and tail.  She wraps her paws round my feet, sprinting off as I grope around for the slipper which is nearly always still in her mouth.  I daren’t invoke the gremlin by checking the time – but it’s usually around 6 am by this point.  I’m still half-dazed, only just aware of a hot-breathing hound baiting me with my own slipper.  She pretends to lose interest, but each time I draw near she hares off again with her stolen booty.  After much hiding and seeking, pleading and grumbling, I finally reclaim my slipper – damp and crumpled after its encounter with a Labrador.

Fighting gremlins probably isn’t in Trudy’s job description, yet she is an expert.  She seems to sense when the insidious creature is lurking round the corner ready to ruin a morning or afternoon.   Up goes her tail, beating rapidly to ward off the malevolent spirit.  The climax of the ritual involves a complicated war-dance with Trudy wielding one of her toys above her head.   Her current favourite is a massive pink turtle called Myrtle.  Trudy won Myrtle at the Guide dog of the Year Awards and Myrtle is thankfully still intact with all her limbs attached.  Whenever the gremlin is about to steal my smile, Trudy grabs Myrtle and flies towards me snorting and panting.  Even if I’m not up for a tug of war game, Trudy charging towards me with Myrtle  hanging out of her mouth is guaranteed to make me laugh   Laughter is toxic to gremlins so my unwanted guest vanishes instantly.  One of Myrtle’s bonus features is that her tummy makes rude noises when it’s held in a certain way.  This feature has proved invaluable  in the war against gremlins.

You may be wondering about these gremlins.  I suspect there are many types and breeds skulking about in worldwide dwellings.  But the character who sneaks around in my flat is particularly destructive.  He tips over milk bottles, pokes me when I’m about to nod off in a chair, and sets off the smoke alarm when I’m really really hungry and just want a piece of toast….!  He pervades my mind and needles under my skin if he’s not dealt with in time.  Trudy will not tolerate him.  If he slips a morsel of despair into my lunch box she will take it out and replace it with a chewed sock.  I wouldn’t say it tastes much better, but it’s the thought that counts.  Chewed socks, stolen receipts, the entire contents of my bag – they are all brought in dribs and drabs to cheer me up.  One of the things I love about Labradors is that they never arrive on the scene empty-handed.  Even though Trudy’s presents are usually recycled socks, scraps of paper or stolen items from my laundry basket they are still presents from her to me.  The generosity of Labradors is unbeatable, and gremlins scarper at the sight of it.

Gremlins are intent on bringing gloom into your day, but Guide dogs are gremlin grabbers!  I really came to understand this when I was separated from Trudy at the start of my radiotherapy treatment.  After only two days without her I became aware that the nefarious gremlin inhabiting my flat had gathered a formidable army.  I was utterly defeated and could not function.  I did not even have any inclination to fight.  I knew that I needed Trudy back, so back home she came.  The moment she bounded through the door the gremlin legion lay down its arms and marched away.  They have not returned en masse since.

I think that most dogs are capable of being gremlin chasers, but as I’ve never lived with a pet dog I can’t be sure.  This got me thinking about stereotypes.  The Guide dog stereotype is a noble, obedient,, long-suffering dog with almost no will of its own.  As a Guide dog Trudy is exemplary, but thankfully she does not match the stereotype.  She can be noble – even supercilious at times when she spies a misbehaving pet dog who should know better (according to the Laws of Hound).  She can be obedient too when I really need her to be.  But she is so stubborn there are times when a battle of wills  determines the outcome of certain situations.  We have stand-offs, sit-downs and strikes in the oddest and most inappropriate places.    If Trudy had to wear a school tie she’d turn it inside out with the ends askew.  I’d almost certainly catch her smoking behind the bike shed with a can of lager in her free paw.  Yet she’d pass her exams and probably get into Oxford.  She’s that kind of “told you so” dog.

It makes me smile when I explain to audiences about the matching process of Guide dogs.  So much time and effort is put into matching the right dog with the right owner.  How did Worcester Guide dogs know I’m stubborn, love food and prefer to do my own thing?!  It concerns me that it might be obvious!  Being matched with a Guide dog is a bit like registering with a dating agency.  They pool your common denominators and mix up the rest, so at some point during your partnership you and your dog become one being.  I think this is what makes Guide dogs experts at chasing away gremlins.  Trudy knows before I do when something is amiss.  This means that the lone gremlin who wakes me up in the early hours does not stand a chance.  In fact I think Trudy is quite capable of chasing him away for good, but then I’d have a homeless gremlin on my conscience.

So next time you spy a Guide dog with a wagging tail and a glint of mischief in its eye, think of the gremlins it has probably chased away that day.  If your smile lasts for at least four seconds any gremlins you know may take a hike at the same time…..