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We have more than a handful of animals, 3 dogs and 6 cats (plus 1 stray with 3 kittens, shortly to be re-housed by our kind vet).

As is the way with dogs, they are all very individual. Benjy our oldest dog and a mongrel of uncertain mix,  likes to think he is the size of a horse but is actually the smallest of our dogs. He barks furiously at everything he perceives as a threat to him or us. That covers just about everything that moves, including all the neighbourhood cats, donkeys, cows and of course people.


We have to keep him on a chain as he is likely to nip, but he has the run of the whole length of the garden. When anything happens he doesn’t like, for example a donkey having a quiet graze on the other side of the fence, Benjy charges up and down the garden, his barking getting more and more frantic, reaching ever higher until you can’t really call it barking, more like hysterical squealing.

Funnily enough, when ever a donkey makes it into the garden, Benjy’s reaction is to quietly cry, almost to himself, only regaining his bravery when one of us goes out to investigate. Then, leaping to his feet, he will launch himself in the direction of the donkey, barking, howling and squealing fit to raise the dead, certainly enough to wake the neighbours, very embarrassing when its late at night. His antics are not usually helpful as he causes the donkeys to go tearing around the garden every which way, making it harder to get them out.

Bella is our Golden Retriever, she thinks she’s a bit posh. She’s not above having a bark or too to back Benjy up, but her bark is much more refined,  like she has a plum in her mouth, more of a Hoew, hoew  than a Whoof.



Bella has discovered an enemy who lives in the oven. When ever she catches sight of her alter ego in the glass of the oven door, she growls a low menacing rumble before launching into a serious of posh protests, often making me jump in the process. I’m usually cooking dinner at the time that she spots herself, she being there on the off-chance that I should forget who I am cooking for, and decide to give all the meat to her.

Bella has investigated around the side of the cooker for this fiend who’s after her titbits, she’s tried to look under the cooker and once, when I opened the door, she had a good look inside. I think she’s got an inkling that something’s not quite right, she doesn’t bark for so long any more and always finishes with a sheepish look in my direction.

The dogs are not allowed in our bedrooms, but Bella came in ours for some reason the other day, caught site of herself in the mirror and all hell broke loose, she was barking in her loudest posh voice, obviously most disgruntled that she is not allowed in the bedroom but that interloper is.

Looking for back up, she rushed out still barking, coming back with our third dog Baloo.   He was barking hell for leather,  but quite clearly had no idea what he was barking at, even when Bella jumped up at the mirror, nearly knocking it off the wall. Baloo doesn’t get the reflection thing, never has, in fact there’s a lot Baloo doesn’t get. All the commotion set Benjy off too. When all the dogs are barking the din is quite unbelievable, Baloo’s bark alone is enough to shake the foundations of the house.



Baloo is a Chocolate Labrador, not yet a year old but by far the biggest of the dogs, still growing and completely mad! Labradors are famous for never growing up and for loving to lick things and Baloo is no different.  He will lick anything and everything, he would give you a complete head to toe if you’d only let him.

He has taken it in his head to be a surrogate mother to the stray kittens, whether they need one or not. When the kittens were about 6 weeks old and still very small, Baloo would go and fetch one from the area in the garden that their mother has claimed as hers. Funnily enough she doesn’t seem to mind, maybe she’s glad of the help. Baloo would very gently carry this little meowing creature around to the front of the house, carefully lay it down and proceed to clean it, thoroughly, very thoroughly.

For the kittens, being licked by Baloo  must be like being caressed by a steam roller. By the time he has finished with them, the kittens look like they’ve been in a washing machine, staggering away like they’ve  just completed the spin cycle with their hair sticking up in points all over their little bodies, Baloo sits their with a ridiculously happy look on his face, resting his tongue for five minutes before going off to get the next one.

Like I said, all individuals and all lovely.

©Claire Pattison Valente 2008