The Last Furlong

Comments on the race of life.


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Things that go bump in the night

The Furlong family have been having a discussion about Bunny, the Shepadoodle that is viral on TikTok. Bunny talks to her owner by pushing an array of specially designed buttons on the floor. Bunny asks questions, makes statement and comments that seem wondrously intelligent.

She/he has been taught all of it through conditioning over many months. That Bunny does all of it all by herself because she is thinking things through seems to me to be a cockadoodle story.

I want to tell you a better one.

I’m deaf. Severely deaf. At night, when I remove my wondrous hearing aids, I cannot hear a thing.

Bass, the dog, sleeps in his bed on the floor at the foot of my bed.

Bass is not a talker. He never barks at us. He only barks at every delivery guy that walks past the house from his seat on the bay window windowsill in our lounge, and every person who rings the doorbell. If Bass wants something from us, we get ‘the stare’.

The silent stare.

Well, its no good silently staring at someone fast asleep in bed

who is now deaf AND blind.

So, he has learned ALL BY HIMSELF, without any conditioning from me, to bump the bed leg with his body.

Bump

Bump

Bump

Oh! She’s up! And now the light is on. And now she’s paying attention!

I think that’s very, VERY clever, yes?

Thank goodness he seldom does it, but he has done it enough times now to know (scientifically) he understands exactly what he is doing.


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Bed Dog

Our dog’s loyal servants, US, have been well trained in all aspects of his life.

We make ‘nests’ for him when his baleful eyes tell us he screwed up the one he was making .

We turn on the outside light at night and open the door despite bright moonlight and a perfectly good dog flap so that he can see when his stare tell us he wishes to do his business but we must open the door and turn on the light first.

During the day, the dog flap works well, but it doesn’t work when its dark, evidently.

Our life is timed by his commands. Noon is lunch. Three o’clock is supper. Ten o’clock is bed.

A short sharp yap is ‘look at me!” An excited barking from the couch in the bay window means “look at them,” and the hysterical yip yaps, squeaks and loud barking happens if someone is at the door.

Mr Furlong has a routine. When the doorbell rings, he ushers the dog into the forbidden front room where it leaps on the chair in the window with great joy. Mr Furlong then closes the door and Bass is trapped in the room, allowing us to deal with the people at the door. From the front bedroom window, the dog can observe, comment and warn us of the dreadful danger of any visitors.

So we are well trained and have succumbed to every whim of our master.

Except one.

It’s the race for my bed.

I love dogs ON the bed but not IN the bed.

Bass burrows. He nests in just about everything he can find. I have to make certain my duvet is dog burrowing proof.

Mr Furlong is more relaxed. Sometimes after the visitors at the front door have left, we ask “Where is Bass?” Having been let into the forbidden front bedroom, he is making sure to have a cosy kip deep inside the happy dark, under Mr Furlong’s duvet.

Mr Furlong is a pushover.

But not me.

Under MY duvet?

Never!

Well almost never. We are still working at it Bass and I. He’s finding me very hard to train.


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Not one, not two, but three!

In all the whoohaa of Mr Furlong having a “stroke ” that was a Complex Migraine, did I tell you about the dog’s foot?

Bass cut his main pawpad. It put him out of business for a week .

Epoxying it cost us £57.

So today we had a proper walk.

There were not one, not two, but three squirrels! Bass was delighted. He never catches them, but he always tries.

I am happy to report his foot is healed.

Mr Furlong is doing well too. But not up to chasing squirrels,

yet.


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The inside job

Mr Furlong caught the big old rat in our Humane Rat Trap (notice important title with caps) TWICE. The trap is so humane, the rat got away. TWICE.

The first time it consumed all the delicious treats Mr Furlong had laid out for it and simply climbed out again because Mr Furlong had laid the trap incorrectly.

Mr Furlong laid the trap again, correctly this time, with a sumptuous, scrumptious dining table. And the rat was caught again.

But not.

This time, rattie had a friend inside our home. The insider. A co conspirator who let him out in the most ingenious way. This time rattie escaped because of an inside job, so clever, Mr Furlong arrived at my bedroom door and announced that rattie was ‘Einstein’!

But Mrs Furlong, (me) in a manner that would have made Hercule Poirot proud, went outside to survey the scene of the great escape. On the shelf that seals the exit, were four small stones weighting it down and so opening the door. Rattie walked in, devoured his loot, and walked out again. Could it be that he did that intricate calculation all by himself? Indeed the most intelligent rat in the world? He placed stones on there all by himself with little rattie hands selecting stones from the surrounding gravel?

No, Mrs Furlong had another idea. Nearby, there was an area of intensly scratched up gravel. I knew who did that. The dog. He does that occasionally to my annoyance because he flings little stones down the steps there. But this time, he’d had a real hum dinging scratch – more than normal.

So, for your entertainment, I reconstruct the crime.

Rattie climbed into the trap, feasted, and at that point, was well caught. Doggie discovers rattie there, and disconcerted by his discovery, sniffs around. Doggie makes his claim on The Furlong garden by doing a territorial scratch with stiff legs, proud demeanour, and strutts. His scratching in the gravel is so vigourous and adamant, that he flings little stones all around the place, some of which land on the closing panel, weighing it down, and opening the door.

And rattie, in his own good time, simply climbes out again, the way he had before.

We have to make another plan.

Fortunately, at this point, rattie has no idea that the restaurant he has so bountifully dined in, is actually a trap. I reckon he’d walk in again, if we placed it anywhere dog proof.


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My first outing

When I was teaching in a primary school, a popular topic for writing letters was “Write to your aunt/grandma/uncle/grandpa telling them about…….”

“Dear Aunt Emily RIP,

My first outing after lockdown was pretty disappointing. I lost it.

In public.

And I was very rude to a stranger, which I regret.

What happened was this.

Mr Furlong drove me and the dog, (sorry, the dog and I) up to Asda so that I could choose a few plants for our garden which is now mostly weeds. (or should which be that?)

The dog was on a retractible lead.

I chose a trolley which (or possibly that) I spritzed well with my isopropyl alcohol 70% spray, and started off to the outdoor plant section. Somewhere deep inside the Trolley Bank, the dog found a large dried out (or dried-out) chop bone with spiky points that people call T bones. The dog was delighted, but I was horrified. It’s exactly the very bone we would never ever feed him. (Or should I have written, the very bone, rather than exactly the very bone?)

I yelled “NO”.

He dropped the bone. I kicked it out of the way. He ran after it. And I ran after it too for I’m not a good kicker at 75 (or should that be seventy five) and don’t kick that far. So I kicked the bone around for awhile, yelling all the time. Eventually the dog won the match and chomped the bone up while (or maybe whilst) I stood over him beating him over the head and yelling some more.

During this dignified performance, a man took advantage of my mental health problem, by snitching my meticulously cleaned trolley.

I’m afraid, Aunt Emily, I did not behave well.

I do not wish to tell you about it. But the man looked surprised.

Anyway, I did actually walk the dog home, and fortunately, half way home, it absolutely bucketed down with rain. (Not sure if bucketed is a word). It was fortunate, because it took my mind off things as (or should that be because) I had no raincoat or brolly with me. ( or should that be nor?)

That is all I have to say Aunt Emily RIP,

Hope to see you soon,

Your niece,

Susan

XXXX

(Or perhaps the XXXX is wrong)

With love might be better?

Hope to see you soon,

With love,

Susan.”


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Dog humour

I don’t know if dogs have a sense of humour. Do they?

Something happened the other day, that made me think they do.

In fact two things happened.

Maybe, the habit of dogs arranging their toys might be just that too. It’s dogs communicating something. Bass no longer arranges his toys. Well, maybe he does, but I’ve stopped noticing.

The first thing that made me decide Bass was actually playing a joke on me, was when I lost him on a walk. He often disappears into the wood and then suddenly pops out. But that day, he wasn’t popping out. I called him. No popping. I called him again. Still no popping. I called louder. And turned. There he was right behind me in ‘play’ mode, with his front down, bum in the air, tail wagging, inviting me to play! Laughing at me in fact. Well that’s the impression I got.

Mr Furlong had an extra fatball when he was feeding the birds the other day. So he tossed it whole on the bird feeder table. A fatball is quite heavy for a bird to carry away. So when the fatball disappeared completely a few hours later, Mr Furlong asked me if I’d taken it and put it somewhere else. But, of course, I hadn’t. The mystery continued the whole day, but was solved as I pulled my pillows over to get ready for bed. There, neatly tucked under my pillow was the missing fatball. Mr Furlong didn’t do it. Mrs Furlong didn’t do it. There is only one Furlong that could have done it. And that was you-know-who.

Oh, and then there’s the plastic garden frog, I forgot about…..but that’s a story for another time.


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Shedding

This time of year, two things in my life drive me nuts.

The Holly tree sheds thousands of leaves that blow around the garden and that savagely pounce on your hands and feet at unexpected moments. The only solution is to constantly sweep them up every day from under the tree where they fall. It drives me nuts. The tree belongs to us, but the chap in the flat upstairs has begged us not to cut it down because it shields his balcony from prying eyes.

And then there’s the dog. We have now had him long enough to know that he sheds. He SHEDS.

He sheds in the Autumn and then in the Spring. The Spring shed is the worst.

The best way to keep on top of it is to brush him every day. Otherwise he drops clumps of fur in unexpected places like the bathroom floor where you suddenly discover them lurking like black spiders at you feet in the dim light of a night visit. The scare stops you sleeping for the rest of it.

So we need to be grateful at this time of Covid19 lockdown. At least we have something to DO!


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The bumpy field in extraordinary times

I worked out a walk I could do without venturing far from home. Behind the Furlong house is a field and a private road which we call “our back passage”. The road services the backs of the houses on our side of the street.

I figured I could walk up and down our back passage, should we go into lockdown. And now we have.

The bumpy field is owned by a group of people who bought it years ago to stop it being built on and as a place for their children to play. Thank God they did. But there is one rule. No Dogs Allowed.

So, when we go out for a walk now, I’m going to let Bass free on that field. Stuff them. Some of the grumpy old ones have died, their children grown and gone, and the rest will be stuck inside their houses, just like us.

Who is going to care?

These are extraordinary times.

Bass is going to love it!


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Wiley dog

The Furlongs had a cat once that realised if it crashed out of the cat flap, it chased the birds away. So it learned to carefully open it, quietly, and then gently support it with it’s tail so that the flap closed almost silently.

Animals aren’t stupid.

Now and again, Mr Furlong and I have to sleep together, like now, half term, when the grandchildren stay.

Bass, the clever dog, never ever, ever gets on our beds at night. He never tries to. He has his own bed.

Except when we are sleeping in the same bed.

The interesting fact is that Bass is a sort of clumpy dog. He’s heavy. He lands after a jump like a ton of bricks.

Except when we are sleeping in the same bed.

During the night, this not dainty dog, becomes light as a feather. He tip toes onto the bed. He somehow ends up between us like a heavy rock. Furthermore, he won’t be budged and sticks to the bed like a limpet.

He knows dogs in this house don’t sleep on our beds at night. Yet he claims a place without us even knowing.

Silently, lightly, in the night.

It’s always a surprise.


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Canine communication

Dogs are amazing creatures. They communicate with us in so many different ways.

After a good year of getting to know our new rescue dog Bass, we find he is an excellent communicator. He has his own language. We are learning it, and he is learning ours. It’s subtle.

Its not what visitors see when they think that the damn dog is just jumping up and barking at them.

It’s what Mr furlong and I see from long hours spent together. Bass’s facial expressions change to carry meaning. We recognise several different kinds of stares, of looks, of facial commands to us. He makes sounds we recognise the meaning of, little pleasure grunts, of lip smacking to remind us it’s grub time, of tiny squeaks, of types of barks. Many different kinds of barks.

Dogs can talk if you have time to notice.

Dogs can work too.

The fact that dogs can tell their owner/trainers about illicit drugs, cancer, noxious weeds, death, corpses, track missing people/criminals, lead blind people, anticipate epileptic seizures, collect newspapers, or bring you a beer from the fridge, is admirable.

Cats and horses don’t do that.

Dogs are far more intelligent than we ever give them credit for. They have never allowed themselves to learn how to vacumn the house!