Sadly our dad isn’t here all the time. He works abroad and, when he isn’t actually at work, he is often off (abroad again) on some course or other. Obviously when he is here he has our undivided attention, and our mum’s undivided attention, 24/7. We love the way he takes over our training when he is at home. “No, you have a bit of a lie in and I’ll feed the animals, no problem.” And mum comes downstairs at around 8 am or thereabouts to five of us on the sofas, the telly on full blast and dad with a coffee and a guilty-ish grin and we are all licking our lips, thinking ‘Thank you for the breakfast treats, dad, a few bits of fruit tart, Hobnobs, pain au raisin or croissant with butter and black cherry jam never did a heartbeat’s harm to a dog or two ….’ and the two wee bairns are sitting there (on the floor because they are too small, legs too short and stumpy as yet to jump onto a sofa) thinking, ‘We’ve landed on our paws here.’
At about 9 am mum might say, “You didn’t give the bairns any chocolate, did you? No bits of anything potentially dangerous to dogs? Have you fed the cats as well? Did you remember the chickens and Ronnie? And the goldfish?” Usually the answer is in the negative, except for the chocolate bit, and off she goes to feed the rest of the animals.
Our mum is always busy, although she never gets around to filling all the empty jars she stores, ever hopeful, with jams and chutneys and pickles and things. We admit to taking up a lot of her time but it is happy time. She works in our little biblio, she translates and interprets and makes telephone calls and arranges electricians and plumbers and medical appointments for friends or folk who call her, she finds homes for needy animals, she will drive a long way to help some person or some animal needing someone willing to jump into a car and drive a long way for them. She is busy sometimes as well cursing puppies for refusing to wee in the rain and preferring to plant puppy puddles inside our kitchen or our sitting room or our dining room.
Our dad isn’t here just now and this is what our mum did today. She is the mouse and she was playing.
She sorted all the animals out - fed, watered, happy, safe – and went shopping for the ingredients to make soup. Some of the ingredients popped up out of her potager and some didn’t. She fretted about our old girl Kira and translated some paperwork for a friend while fretting. She lit the woodburner in the dining room so that we could all lie down and relax while she translated. She played with us and laughed when midget runt Ruby fell into our paddling pool, full of rain water, but the rain had stopped for a wee while so the rest of us stayed dry. She lit the woodburner in the sitting room for a couple of hours in front of the telly and we all trooped in. Kira can’t jump onto a sofa any more so mum lifted her up and sat down next to her. This is their conversation, nose to nose. Our mum and our Kira, adopted nearly 14 years ago.
Do you remember being the frisbee-catching champion in our village for seven years running? Do you remember jumping off bridges and into Lake District tarns and swimming for hours chasing sticks in the water? Do you remember running away that time your dad and I had a terrible row and shouted so loud that you took off down Seamill Lane and hid behind a big black bin and I came after you and found you and it took me ages to persuade you to come home? Do you remember all the times I arrived home with some other poor dog and you just sighed and accepted it and never made a fuss? Do you remember how I relied on you to train the new bairns? And me telling you that there could never be another dog in our family who isn’t just as perfect as you are and that you must do a good job of training them? Do you remember how we sleep downstairs in your nana’s bedroom sometimes when your dad is away because I can’t manage to lift you up the stairs but I can manage to lift you on to an old French bed (more or less a double) and you and I just lie there quietly together and you never move, nor make a sound, until it is time to wake up and get on with it all again? Do you remember how much you love things with motors and how you jump about with excitement when a lawnmower or a stone or wood cutting saw is started up? Do you remember spending hours in some garage or other with your dad while he tries to get some engine or motor going?
That’s what the mouse did today. She had a very long and very important chat with our old girl, Kira. And Kira remembers all of it, but not the bit about her lumps and bumps and her arthritis and her white bits that used to be black and her eyes that aren’t as great as they used to be although she can still manage to catch those special Kira balls that mum throws.