I’m just back
from a delightful few days staying with some new friends in London while
Himself went off to Berlin. He said it was for work but you know what he’s
like, he probably thought he was joining Smiley’s People for some sort of Cold
War spy-swap shenanigans.
real reason for his journey, it gave me the chance to have a jolly of my own.
New sofa to lie on, new garden to run around in, gourmet meals, and walks in
the park. All very satisfactory, especially Acton Park, which had some enticingly
Of course, as a
Cockapoo (half Spaniel, half Poodle) I love the water, though my hosts seemed
rather surprised that I should make a bee-line for the mud. They were even more
surprised when I shook myself clean right next to them.
Share the joy, I
There are many good
health reasons for a chap to take a mud bath, including: flea control; relief
of arthritic aches and pains; and soothing hot spots and skin irritations.
Fortunately, I don’t suffer from any of these ailments. I have another reason
entirely for rolling around in the mud.
here with news of an exciting game I’ve just invented.
I call it Sticks and Stones and it goes like this.
Obviously, nothing beats the fun of making your human throw a ball over and over again. It must be some deep instinct, a hangover from hunter-gatherer days that triggers the reflex action of throwing a ball as soon as you lay it at their feet. It’s so sweet to see them in the wild behaving naturally, isn’t it?
But, I digress.
Here’s how to
play Sticks and Stones.
Stage One: Assuming
that there’s no ball, look for a good-sized stone when you are out walking with
your human, preferably somewhere it’s safe to let them off the lead. Pick up the
stone and run away with it until you hear a cry of “Oi, mutt (or something similar).
You’ll ruin your teeth with that, give it here and I’ll get you a stick
instead.” Easy peasy.
putty in our paws, aren’t they?
Stage Two: Look
pitiful and reluctantly give up the stone (which would actually ruin your teeth
by the way) but only when Himself has produced a decent stick and thrown it. Insist
on one with a bit of heft, not some ancient twig that will disintegrate in
seconds. Sometimes they try to fool you into giving up the stone without swapping
it for a stick. That’s not a problem as there are always plenty of stones to go
around and you just begin the game again.
Stage Three: And
here’s the twist… when he throws the stick, don’t bring it back. I’ll say that
again. Don’t bring it back. I know. It’s devilish isn’t it? Your human will
probably just stand there not knowing what to do while you find somewhere to
lie down and chew the bejesus out of it. Chances are this will unsettle your
human whose chucking instinct you have just thwarted. Don’t feel bad about this;
it’s good for them to learn new tricks.
Stage Four: At
this point Himself will almost certainly pretend that he didn’t want you to
bring it back to him and that what he really wants is for you to carry it home.
At which point you pretend to lose it in the long grass and he’ll tell you to
find it and you can run round sniffing the ground, pretending you’re as blind
as bat. Of course, you do know where it is, but the object of the game is to
make him look for it himself. There’s hours of fun to be had from watching your
human walk up and down a field cursing until he gives up.
Stage Five: You now have two options, either casually locate the stick and pick it up with a superior air and continue the game as before for a further round or, if you are fairly close to home, you can go for broke and pretend you can’t find it either. That way you arrive home without the stick for an outright win.
endgame requires careful timing otherwise there’s the humiliating prospect of
walking through the gate with the blasted thing clamped between your jaws and
Himself patting you on the head and declaring that you are a ‘good boy.’
playing Himself at Sticks and Stones for
a few weeks now.
Midnight here relaxing after a hard day’s fishing.
week, Himself taught me everything he knows about Carp. It didn’t take long, a)
because I’m a fast learner, and b) it turns out that he doesn’t know that much
about our noble quarry. Not enough to catch them anyway.
went in Rosie the Campervan to a secret location for a couple of days: a farm with
a private lake, not far from the River Severn. It looked promising to me, not
least because the lake was so small that there didn’t seem to be anywhere for
the fish to hide.
It was a team effort. His job was to sit on his bottom by the water all day holding a fishing rod and staring at a tiny float; mine was to dig up tree roots, chew sticks and bark at anything that moved.
I did my job rather well
Himself got off to a decent start by landing a fish (which with typical hyperbole, he called a whopper) at the close of play on the first day. He was so pleased with himself that he insisted on photographing said beast before returning it to the water. I’m surprised he didn’t attempt a selfie although it was wriggling somewhat.
sad to say that things went downhill the next day with only a handful of carp,
whose proportions were so modest that one might more accurately call them bashful.
For some reason, this was deemed to be my fault and I was obliged to spend hours
on end tied to various trees to stop me running around on the bank.
My only consolation is that, as you can see from the following clandestine snap on my spy camera, Himself spent nearly as much time tied to a tree as I did.
It ran away but I ran faster and I dispatched the wee creature. I’m not sure who was most surprised but there you are. I may be pretty but never forget that I’m descended from wolves. Besides, the world would be a better place if you humans only consumed what you caught and killed with your own teeth.
Himself was not best pleased and wouldn’t let me eat it, which was a bit rich considering that he’s about to head off to the Masai Mara on safari next week. I bet he won’t complain if he sees a cheetah bring down an antelope.
“Magnificent,” he’ll say. “Nature red in tooth and claw.” Then he’ll gaze through his binoculars at said cheetah as it demolishes the carcass. But I catch a leveret in a Gloucestershire corn field and I get shouted at.
Talk about double standards.
It happened this afternoon and I think Himself has got over it now. We went for a walk in the woods afterwards and he hosed me down in the garden later to cool off. We’re officially friends again, though it was a testing time for both of us.
Captain Midnight here on the final evening of our sojourn in the Emerald Isle.
Himself and I spent a jolly couple of weeks keeping one step ahead of the rain in Rosie the Campervan. It’s been a pretty good trip: lots of beaches to run around on; long walks along country lanes; and cosy sleeping arrangements for the pack. Himself claims to have done “lots of writing” but he always says that.
Best of all was two nights of wild camping by the River Blackwater, so we could meet up with our old friend and guide, Glenda Powell. Himself spent hours thrashing around with a two-handed fly rod, under her watchful eye, chasing non-existent salmon while I got down to the serious business of sniffing out interesting things to roll in.
Otter shit is my new favourite perfume: distinctive, pungent, lasts for days. Astonishingly, not everyone seems to like it. Himself actually swore at me until I got off the bed and settled down to sleep on the front seat. I think his exact words were: “Jesus Christ, Ted. Are you trying to kill me?”
Himself took the picture of me in the Fishing Hut, relaxing after a hard day in and out of the river. He’d drawn a blank on the salmon front, but Glenda and I encouraged him to wait for the evening rise and go after trout instead. He left at dusk, lightweight fly rod in hand, and returned happy and triumphant a couple of hours later at 11.00pm.
When I asked for some evidence of the “half dozen good-sized trout” he claimed to have caught, he pointed out that photographing wriggling fish, in the dark, using only his left hand, whilst up to his waist in water, would have been tricky to say the least.
I suppose we’ll just have to take his word for it.
He said that fly-fishing alone on the river, casting by moonlight, with just a tug on the line to indicate a take, was… now what did he call it… oh yes… “A glimpse of heaven: the most fun you can have with your waders on!”
He had a large whisky to celebrate. I got a bit of leftover bacon.
Last weekend, I took Himself to Richmond for a day of clowning with our dear friend Mary and half a dozen other practitioners of the red-nosed art. It was exciting stuff, I can tell you!
First, there was dancing and, as you probably know, I’m pretty nifty on my hind legs. Then came the actual clowning. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when Vivian, our teacher from Nose-to-Nose, said the important thing was to go on stage without any preconceived idea of what to do, Himself said that I’d be a natural as I’d never had an idea in my life.
What a cheek!
“Unlike you,” I told him, “I live in the Here and Now.”
“Precisely,” said Vivian. “Clowns are sensitive, compassionate souls who show their feelings openly and pay exquisite attention to the world around them. They are full of playful curiosity and wonder.”
“Remind you of anyone?” I asked Himself.
“Mmm. Not really,” he replied, looking away.
“You Sir, are being economical with the actualité.” I said. “I’m a dead ringer for that description. Give me a red nose, I’m doing the next improv.”
And so it was, dear reader, my triumphant debut as El Doggo the clown: jackanapes, jester, fandangler and fool; star of stage and screen; born to perform; applauded by an ecstatic audience.
Captain Midnight here, your Care in the Community correspondent.
I suppose it had to happen sometime, but I confess I didn’t see it coming. Himself came out with me for my morning stroll today and I noticed that he was walking rather awkwardly. After a couple of hundred yards, a look of bemused concern came over his face.
He looked up at the sky for enlightenment and then at me, as if to ask what was going on. The cause of his discomfort was pretty obvious but I decided it would be kinder to let him find out for himself. He hobbled on for another 50 yards with me trotting along beside him. It wasn’t until we turned the corner by the postbox to go up Windmill Lane that it occurred to him to look down.
Two completely different shoes: one red, one brown.
“Ah,” he said, with that razor-sharp perspicacity for which he was once famous. “I expect that’s it.”
The dear old chap was obviously a bit embarrassed. “They were under the bed, this morning,” I said, taking pity on him. “Perhaps I moved them around by mistake while you were asleep?”
“Yes, I expect that’s the reason,” he said, seizing on this scant morsel of hope. “I wasn’t really looking when I put them on. It could happen to anyone… couldn’t it?”
He didn’t sound entirely convinced, but meekly followed me back to Folly Cottage for breakfast. While he made the toast, I went upstairs to fetch the other mismatched pair and present them for his inspection. “Phew!” he said. “At least I didn’t put them in the fridge.”
I jumped on his lap and gave his chops a friendly lick.
Captain Midnight here reporting from the other side.
That’s not strictly true, I suppose. But Himself and I did spend an enjoyable evening flirting with the idea, last week. We’d been out shopping in Nailsworth during the afternoon and came across a poster advertising a Death Café to be held at The Canteen (a rather groovy, dog-friendly coffee shop) that very evening. Himself goes there sometimes for breakfast and I get to sit under the table and charm the other customers with my world-famous impression of a well-behaved hound.
He can get a bit maudlin left to his own devices around the subject of death and dying, so I decided to go along to keep him company and to find out what it was all about. By the time we got there, fifteen, eighteen, twenty-two, a lot of people were sitting round tables, having a chat. We sat next to a nice young couple from Stroud and Himself got stuck into the conversation.
Afterwards, Himself said how helpful it had been to share experiences and to ‘normalise’ the subject. He donated a couple of his books to the book table. Did you know that I feature quite prominently in one of them? Just thought I’d mention it in passing. They asked if he’d be willing to talk about them at a Dying Matters event next month. Naturally, Himself agreed. Well, he’s not going to turn down the chance of a few minutes in the spotlight, is he?
Off the record, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. Humans worry too much. We canines are much better adjusted to the vicissitudes of life and death. When I wake up in the morning, I know it’s going to be a good day. So far, this has happened every morning since I was born. I suppose one day I’ll go to sleep and I won’t wake up. I won’t know anything about it.
Captain Midnight here with news of my latest wheeze.
On Friday mornings, the lovely Ella picks me up from home in the Funbus and takes me off for a few welcome hours of pack time. The van is conspicuously marked Playschool for Dogs but this is merely a cunning ruse to keep our humans off the scent.
They think they are packing us off to remedial school to learn how to behave with other dogs. In fact, Playschool for Dogs is a canine respite scheme that gives us dogs a much-needed break from the responsibility of caring for our people. For a few brief hours, we can forget about the demands of 24/7 tail-wagging, face-licking, sofa-sitting and walkies twice a day.
Of course, the first rule of Playschool is don’t talk about Playschool. I think telling you that it exists is OK, but as to what actually goes on there, my lips are sealed. I shall say nothing about running free as the wind, joshing with the boys or amorous encounters with the L.A.D.I.E.S. You’ll just have to imagine it for yourselves.
Caring for a beloved human is pretty demanding. So, the chance to relax for a whole morning once a week with my own kind is a real treat. As you would expect I make a great show of being pleased to see Himself when Ella drops me back at the house, but the truth is that I’m loving it.
A lot has happened since my picture was taken at 17 weeks old, though I notice that Himself has still got that old leather jacket. It wasn’t fashionable then and it’s certainly not fashionable now. Frankly, it’s rather embarrassing to be seen out with him in public, though it would be against the Canine Code of Conduct to tell him so.
If you are not familiar with the Code, I should tell you Rule One is: Make your human feel good about Him/Herself at all times. Rule Two is: Don’t bite the postman, and Rule Three is: Don’t hump lady visitors. I’ve got a clean slate so far on Rule One, though I have got a bit of form for breaching Rules Two and Three and I’ve actually forgotten Rules Four to Ten.
But, I digress. The whole point of this blog was to show you what I looked like as a youngster in the South Gloucestershire version of Smallville, before my superpowers developed and I became Captain Midnight.
Think of it as a sort of origin story.
My agent is currently negotiating with Marvel Comics for my starring role in the next summer blockbuster: Captain Midnight Rides Again. The movie business is all about inclusion these days, so after Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, I think it’s about time for a canine superhero, don’t you?
Himself says he wants to audition for the role of Nick Fury. But apart from inadequate skin pigmentation and a complete lack of acting talent, he’s also got one too many eyes, so I don’t think he stands much chance.
Hang on, Midnight. The Code. Remember Rule One.
“Go for it, you handsome brute. You were made for the part.”
“You really think so?”
“Of course. It’s a shoo-in.”
“Well, if you say so.”
Even I couldn’t manage a third round of encouragement without choking on my Winalot, so we left it there. I hope they let him down gently.