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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lady and the Tramp

It was 5:30 in the morning and my dog was barking. There are two problems here. Number one: it’s Sunday. And number two: Cody doesn’t even bark when people come up the laneway anymore. It’s like he’s on work-to-rule or something. So when I heard this barking, I knew something was up. I put on a robe and pressed my face up against the window screen to see down the driveway. Nothing. But the dog kept barking. I grumbled, looked at the Farmer (who was sleeping on his good ear and hearing nothing), and trudged downstairs.

Throwing open the front door, I snapped at Cody, “Shut it! It’s too early! What are you barking at?!”

Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tail. A very special tail. It wasn’t a fluffy barn cat or farm dog tail. It wasn’t a skunk or squirrel or raccoon tail. It was a thin, black tail, curled up like a fiddlehead. And it was coming from something behind the cedar tree. I took a step closer.

Out from behind the tree bounded a big, black afghan hound. She pranced, danced, sprung and leapt across the garden as Cody bellowed. Then she stopped, sat down in the middle of the driveway about 50 yards beyond the end of his chain, and stared at him while he barked in frustration. For about two minutes she watched as I tried to quiet him. Then, bored of the game, she got up and left.

“Well. Wasn’t she somethin’!” I asked Cody. He seemed to agree, whimpering and retreating into his cave under the porch.

The next day, when the prancing pooch returned to terrorize my mutt, I met the owner, our new neighbour.

“I’m sorry – we lived in Manotick for years and never once did my dogs escape,” Julie explained. “But now, the minute I open the door, she’s off like a shot. She just can’t stay away. I don’t know what she sees in him,” she said, looking at my dog. “And now she is in heat!” The woman was obviously distressed. Has she never seen “Lady and the Tramp”, I wondered?

“Well, don’t worry – he’s fixed,” I said, motioning toward my dusty, tangled, slightly overweight Gordon setter. My neighbour breathed an audible sigh of relief.

Cody looked like he was going to bust a gut. He shivered and shook and tried to stifle a whimper, but it got out anyway.

Ember, as she is called, comes by her grace honestly. She is a very well-trained, champion show dog. She regularly takes part in regional, national and international dog shows where she meets every breed of well-groomed, well-bred, distinguished and dignified dogs. But she wants Cody. He looks a bit like her, with his long black hair. She thinks he is the perfect mate. She appreciates his roughness. She wants to run and play and chase sheep with him. She wants to curl up with him in the dustbowl under the porch. She wants to have little half-breed babies with him. But, alas, it is not meant to be. And if she keeps running through the bushes between our two farmhouses, she will get burrs in her long hair. And so she was put on a clothesline run, just like Cody.

Last night Cody and I went for a walk. We headed down the road, past Ember’s house. He spotted her and she spotted him. She started barking. And jumping up and down. Acting not very show dog-like at all. I hurried Cody past the house. He seemed embarrassed by her display of emotion and gladly followed me away from the scene. Julie came out of the house and we had a chat. She managed to get the dog to calm down. As I turned to leave, we heard a heavy sigh. Ember was lying flat out, with her face in the grass. “Is that the front end?” I asked. All I could see was long black hair. Even her nose was covered. I have never seen a dog do that before.

“Oh. She’s upset,” Julie said. Just then Ember lifted her head and looked at us, as if to say, “I cannot believe that you won’t let me free to come and see him. Don’t I look very, very sad right now?” What a drama queen she is. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Miss Ember at the Fisher Farm. Even if Cody is fixed.

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