I was curled in my duna, gathering my breath, churning over the events of the day. Quiet reflection I’d heard Sooz call it, except there was nothing quiet about my thoughts they were in fact running rampant and all because Nelson came to visit.
Why was it I always ended up looking like a bedraggled excuse for a Bearded Collie after his visits? On my way to my duna I’d stopped at the mirror in Sooz’s room and checked for damage. Tilting my head backward and forward I groaned at the sight of my torn tatty knotted ears, knots down my neck and chin and my beard… well it’s hard to describe the mess of my beard. If there is one thing a Bearded Collie of impeccable breeding, which I am, can’t stand is a messy beard.
I had finally come to the conclusion Nelson was a serial pest. I closed my eyes, put my paw over my nose and relived the hours leading up to this conclusion…
Nelson is small, wiry and quick. And when I say quick I really mean fast, jet propelled, perhaps even faster than the speed of sound. He comes through the front door into the indoor outdoor room like a bullet. He’s so fast it’s hard to know if he’s arrived or left.
Sooz was expecting her best friend Netty and their daughter Jessie for morning tea. Okay I should explain the daughter thing. Sooz loves Jessie like a daughter and for as long as I can remember and well before I was born they’ve had this relationship. I tried to work out if that made Jessie my sister but I got confused thinking about it so I gave up and accepted that Jessie is a special person in our lives. Now where was I? Oh yes, the day started when I heard Sooz announce their arrival...
‘Paddington, your friend Nelson is here.’
‘Where can I hide Sooz? Don’t let them in till I disappear… damn too late they’re in.’
‘Hello Paddington,’ Jessie dropped down in front of me and gave me a scratch behind the ears. I momentarily forgot I was supposed to be running for cover. Jessie scratched me in the very spot that needed strong fingers.
‘Hi Jess.’ I looked past her to see where Nelson was.
No sign of him. Perhaps he hadn’t come. And then it happened… Zoom… Zoom… Zoom… I swung my head right, left, up and down but all I felt was the air moving as he flew into the room and back out.
He finally stopped, breathed in my face and then threw his teeth around my beard. ‘It’s me… it’s me. I bet you’re glad to see me. Let’s play… come on Paddington chase me. I’ll get that rope and ball. Come on lazy bones.’
He nipped my ear and was gone. I was shell shocked by this time and he’d only been in the house two minutes. Where had he gone? He re-appeared with my rope and ball in his mouth.
‘Hey, that’s mine,’ I yelled as he disappeared outside. There was nothing else for it; I was going to have to chase him for it.
Zoom… he sprinted in front of my nose and dived under the day bed. For those who don’t know the day bed is made of solid wood. I tried to follow, that was my first mistake, I’d forgotten I was too big to get under it. Whack… I hit the edge and was thrown backwards. I nearly lost my head. Lucky for me I’d put the brakes on at the last minute so the impact was minor. I veered to the side of the bed as quickly as I could considering my large frame – nimble I was not – and tried to cut him off on the other side of it. He was a clever little thing and had anticipated my move. He performed a double summersault with a twist, sprang over my head and disappeared around the corner of the bed. Zoom… zoom… I didn’t know which way to look for him he was so fast. I spun around one sixty degrees and still I couldn’t see him. Where was that little devil?
‘I’m up here… Ha! Ha! Ha! You didn’t see me did you?’
I leapt at the day bed. By the time I sat atop it, he was gone. By this time I was panting heavily. ‘Nelson, you don’t play fair.’ I looked down at the ground waiting for him to standstill long enough for me to jump on him.
He stopped on the patio wagging his tail. I’d never seen a tail move as fast as Nelson’s. It was like a wiper blade on a car.
‘Come on Paddington… slow coach... can’t you get me? Ha ! I’m faster than you. You’re getting old!’
I deep growl rumbled in my throat at that remark. ‘Old, I’ll teach you to mind your manners you young pup.’ I leapt down from the day bed and chased him into the garden. I stood a better chance of catching him in open ground… or so I thought.
After doing three or four laps around two acres of garden, he came from nowhere and was under my belly. I spun around trying to grab him by the tail. No good he was hiding quite nicely under me. His teeth nipped my belly then my legs and then he took hold of a chunk of hair around my neck and pulled worryingly at it. He wouldn’t let go and pulled me along by the scruff of my neck. This is where I have to be slightly embarrassed as Nelson is only about five kilos and I’m thirty. But as I said he’s a wiry little devil and there was nothing I could do to stop him. He well and truly had me in the grip of his teeth. By the time I escaped back to the indoor outdoor room, my neck was ravaged and full of knots.
‘Sooz will get mad at you for doing this to me,’ I shouted at him. ‘I’ve just come back from the parlour and she always moans at the cost. She likes me to stay looking nice for a couple of days. Wait till she sees what you’ve done.’
His top lip lifted in a snigger. ‘No she won’t, she loves me too.’
‘No she doesn’t,’ I didn’t like the way he was trying to weasel his way into Sooz’s affections. ‘Sooz is mine.’
‘She isn’t. She loves me just as much as she loves you.’
My heart rate accelerated to a dangerous level as he taunted me. I didn’t mind sharing Sooz with Pete, after all Pete was okay, he lived here, played with me and took me for drives in the car. But I was not sharing my Sooz with Nelson. ‘I’m not playing with you anymore.’ I turned my back on him and walked to my trampoline.
For a few minutes the room lapsed into silence. Then I heard scuffling, toenails scraping into leaf litter, stones ricocheting over the patio, more scraping. What the hell was Nelson doing now?
‘There you are you juicy little bone.’
‘Bone,’ I leapt off the trampoline just as he leapt onto the day bed.
Sooz and Netty walked from the kitchen into the indoor outdoor room with cups of coffee and sat down either side of Nelson. Now what was I going to do?
He looked down at me with my bone in his mouth. ‘Thanks Paddington for leaving this juicy bone for me to eat.’
I crept closer and looked up at him. ‘I was saving that bone for later.’
‘I might leave you a bit if you apologise.’
‘For saying Sooz doesn’t love me. See how she has her hand on my head. I think you might be wrong.’
‘Sooz, take your hand off his head. You’re supposed to love me. He’s pinched my bone. Sooz… Sooz are you listening to me?’
‘They play so nicely together,’ said Netty.
Yes, Nelson loves visiting Paddington,’ confirmed Jessie.
‘I think Paddington misses Lola. Even though she didn’t play with him he misses her company. I think it’s good they have play time together.’
‘Yes Sooz. I do miss Lola. I would much prefer Lola over him,’ I glared hard at Nelson. ‘I don’t think I need play time with him. Sooz, you don’t know what you’re saying. Sooz, stop fondling his ears. Sooz… make room I’m coming up.’
I leapt onto the day bed as Nelson leapt down. He took the bone to the trampoline. It was like musical chairs. ‘You can have the silly bone,’ I grumbled. I sluiced my tongue over Sooz’s face. ‘Sooz, don’t invite Nelson again, he doesn’t play fair.’
‘’I think Nelson gets a bit much for Paddington,’ said Netty.
‘No, Paddington loves him,’ said Sooz.
‘No I don’t Sooz… I don’t know where you get that idea.’
‘They’re not playing. Why don’t I take that bone off him so they can play?’ said Netty.
‘If you want to,’ replied Sooz.
Netty came back to the day bed with Nelson thrashing around in her arms.
‘That’s my bone… Netty give me back my bone. Jessie tell Netty to give me back my bone!’ yapped Nelson.
‘He’s certainly a bundle of energy,’ said Sooz laughing. ‘You could be right about him being a bit much for Paddington. He’s not getting any younger he probably likes Nelson in small doses,’ said Sooz.
Oomph… not getting any younger what’s that supposed to mean? ‘I can still keep up with him Sooz. Don’t you worry about me, I might be seven but I’ve still got lots of energy.’
Nelson jumped out of Netty’s arms and was back on ground level. I jumped off the day bed and sprinted after him to prove a point.
‘I love to play Paddington, chase me… come on chase me.’
‘I’ll chase you, you little devil,’ I flew after him into the kitchen, up the stairs and onto Sooz and Pete’s bed. We stopped and looked at each other panting heavily.
‘You do like me don’t you, Paddington?’
He’d lost the arrogant expression and now looked sincere. What could I say? ‘Yes, of course I like you. But it would be nice if just once you’d play fair.’
‘I can’t help being quick, stubborn and wilful. It’s in my breeding, it’s what us Schnauzer do. We need a firm hand but we have the ability to wrap everyone around our paws. You Bearded Collies are tuned into command, we’re not. We’re bred differently, but as long as you understand the differences we can still be friends.’
I gazed at him. There was no doubting he was sturdy, muscular and had an alert look. His eyebrows, moustache and leg hair gave him a very distinctive appearance. He wasn’t so bad, he was just hard work. Perhaps Sooz was right, I’d reached a mature age where running around like a young pup exhausted me. I needed to slow down.
‘Will you promise to stop knotting up my beard? Sooz gets cranky when she sees me looking a mess. Especially after I’ve just come back from the parlour.’
‘Shall I try and lick out the knots.’
‘I don’t think it will work. But you could try.’
Nelson licked my face for a few minutes before pricking his ears at Jessie’s voice. ‘Nelson, time to go.’
I let out a sigh. ‘See you next time Nelson.’
‘Sure thing, Paddington.’
He leapt from the bed and was gone. I dropped down onto my stomach and put my paw over my nose.
Peace at last.