‘Paddington, I’m bored!’ sniped the high pitched voice of Elsa. ‘Play with me.’
Did I say lazy days...what was I thinking. Elsa’s voice alone was enough to summon the devil and so I ignored the little she witch and closed my eyes.
Another Christmas. Where did the time go? Life had been busy and now here we were at the end of another year. The Christmas tree adorned the dining room with pressies below and decorations filled nooks and crannies through the rest of the house. I’d sniffed out a couple of brightly wrapped parcels. I peered at the name tag and smiled. Yep, they were for me. Santa hadn’t forgotten. While I mooched, Sooz, Pete and Nigel were busy preparing for us all to have a lovely...
‘Paddington, I’ll bite the nose off your teddy bear if you don’t play with me.’
I opened my eyes and glared at the little devil. Elsa, the new addition to our family – well not so new but still new enough – was sitting on the concrete apron that used to be my spot. It was the place I viewed the garden from, and dreamt of long ago days when I caught pesky rabbits for Sooz. Now they torment me by silflaying right under my nose. They know they’re on the right side of the gate and safe from my jaws, and so they mock me through the gate. And if that isn’t a big enough cross to bear – there’s Elsa!
I put my nose on my paws. ‘I’m changing my name,’ I mumbled into my fur.
I remembered Sooz speech to me: you’re older and wiser, Paddington. But there were times I wished she hadn’t burdened me with that responsibility, then I could bite the little...
‘Paddington, I’m going to tell Sooz, you won’t play with me.’
She smiled all sweet and innocent. Looks, however, were deceptive.
I’d heard Sooz say you have to live for the day, but I couldn’t help remembering the past when it had been the three of us – after Lola went to the big kennel in the sky.
As the sun caressed my face, I once more closed my eyes, closed my ears to Elsa’s incessant chatter, and drifted into a deep sleep...
It was a morning in February and the house was a hive of activity.
‘We won’t be long Paddington.’ Sooz patted me on the head before she disappeared out to the car.
I nodded and returned to my spot at the top of the steps. ‘Sure, Sooz. No rush. As long as you’re back by dinner time.’
They left and I resumed my morning snooze. I did a lot of that lately. It was a nice way to pass the time. No irksome Lola to contend with, just me and my humans. Life was good.
They returned a few hours later. Sooz had a bundle of fluff in her arms. Great, they’d dropped into the teddy bear shop and bought me another soft toy. I jumped up and rushed over to greet them. I’m not big on displaying my love and affection. I tend to understate rather than overstate. Keep the humans guessing is a good rule of thumb. So my normal mode of greeting is a casual saunter over to greet them, a wag of the tail, sometimes a smile, sometimes a nudge on the leg, where have you been? Bought me food? – That kind of thing, if you get my gist. I’m a deep thinker. I’ve heard Sooz say it herself.
Well, getting back to the bundle in Sooz arms. She was talking to it. I was about to tell Pete to call the doctor for her, when the bundle moved and looked down at me. I leapt up to take a closer look.
‘Hello, I’m Elsa.’
In the name of Lassie the Wonder Dog a soft toy that talks. I dropped down on all fours and looked up at Sooz. Alarm prickled the nerve endings along my spine. ‘What is it and why is it here?’
‘Paddington, meet Elsa. She’s a relative of yours from Bonibraes. Not sure of the connection but I’m pretty sure there is one. Her fathers from Finland–.’
Sooz was waffling and there was no getting a word in edgeways. ‘Stop right there, Sooz! Send it back. We don’t need it. Look at it. It’s brown.’
‘What’s wrong with brown?’ Elsa said, in a lofty tone.
I ignored it while I worked on Sooz. If I could get Sooz out the door and back to the car perhaps she’d return it. Sooz, however, had other ideas. She sat on the day bed and put the fluff ball next to her. I jumped up and poked a nose in its face. ‘Now look here, whatever your name is. We’re sending you back to where ever you came from. Don’t get yourself comfortable resting on Sooz’ lap. It won’t stop the inevitable... you’re leaving.’ I looked back at Sooz. ‘It’s not staying... is it?’
‘That’s a good boy Paddington, make friends with Elsa. She’s your new sister.’
What was she talking about? ‘Sister! I didn’t ask for a sister.’
‘Isn’t she lovely? Just think, you’ll have someone to play with now.’
Sooz smiled, and I gave her my I don’t love you anymore expression. It gets her every time but this time she only had eyes for the fluff ball.
Elsa shrugged. Her needle sharp teeth glinted as she pulled back her gums and smiled. ‘I’m here to stay. Sooz and Pete love me. After dinner you could tell me all about my new humans and home.’
Yikes! I jumped off the day bed and went into the kitchen. It was a bad dream – it had to be. But the fluff ball had an awful lot to say...no it’s a dream...a bad dream. I went upstairs to my bed, put my nose on my paws and closed my eyes. The quicker I sank bank into oblivion the quicker I would wake and everything would be back to normal.
One minute later I smelt milky breath on my nose. I opened one eye. It was staring at my face and about to pounce. It bounced off my stomach like it was jumping on a trampoline ‘Will you stop that?’
‘Paddington, play with me.’
It wasn’t a dream. My heart sank. ‘Let go of my tail. I said let go. If you don’t let go...’ I was drowning in the reality that my life was about to change. It flashed before my eyes. How could my humans do this to me? ‘Elsa, get off. Sooz, tell her to get off or I’ll bite her head off.’
‘Look Pete, Elsa and Paddington are playing nicely,’ Sooz smiled at Pete. What was there to smile about? Couldn’t she see I wasn’t smiling? ‘How lovely,’ Sooz cooed
‘Yuk,’ I was about to vomit. ‘Are you blind, Sooz? I’m not happy.’
Elsa woofed and snapped a mouthful of my tail between her teeth. An image of being rushed to the vet for an operation to re-attach it crossed my vision. Needles! Pills! Thermometer up the bottom! All because of a fluff ball.
‘Paddington, I’m only playing.’ Her high pitched puppy voice almost burst my eardrums.
She pulled back on her haunches and pulled on my tail. A large chunk of white hair separated from the end and went with her. I trembled with shock. ‘Sooz, my tail. My lovely tail. Look what she’s done. Sooz, stop her.’
‘Elsa, don’t be so rough.’ Sooz picked up the fluff ball and put her arm around me.
‘It’s no good trying to be nice, Sooz. You brought that thing here and she’s maimed my tail. I won’t be able to show my face in public when I got shopping with Pete Saturday morning. People will laugh. I have a certain standard to maintain. Get rid of it before too much damage is done to my person.’
‘She’s only a baby, Paddington. You were one once. Just think of the fun you two will have as she grows up.’
‘Fun! You call this fun!’ I climbed out of my bed, stumbled down the steps to the kitchen and made my way outside to my spot at the top of the stairs. I looked into the garden and wondered if there was some way I could separate the little monster from Sooz and bury it.
Over the next few days comparisons were made between us. I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was hurt and wounded all the same.
‘Do you remember how naughty Paddington was the first night we brought him home?’
Sooz and Pete were discussing my state of anxiety that first night like it was nothing, like I did it deliberately. And all the while Elsa feigned sleep, curled up on sooz’s lap, opening an eye and smirking at me. I usually curled up on Sooz lap... this was bad!
‘Yes,’ Pete said, a broad smile transforming his usually sombre expression. ‘I’ve never heard anything like it. I still have the tape I made that night. We should listen to it.’
And get a laugh at my expense – not likely. I was sitting at the foot of the bed when this discussion was taking place. Elsa, blinked at me and grinned. I was going to knock that grin from her lips. I stretched and made my way to Sooz.
‘Be careful, Paddington. Don’t sit on Elsa. Remember she’s just a puppy.’
Sooz pushed me to one side. ‘Sooz, it’s me. I sit there. Drop the fluff ball onto the floor and make way for me. I’m coming in.’
I put my backside down on the little creature. She yelped. ‘Not smiling now, are you?’ I whispered to the squashed rug beneath me.
‘Move, Paddington.’ Peter manhandled me to the end of the bed. ME! What in the name of Lassie the Wonder Dog was going on?
‘Paddington, you’ll crush her. You have to be careful.’ Sooz picked the fluff ball up and made cooing noises as it snuggled into her chest.
‘Yes, Paddington,’ Elsa’s lips opened into a sweet sickly smile. ‘I’m little. This is my place now.’
I vowed there and then I was going to do something about that fluff ball if it was the last thing I ever did. You’ve heard the expression...best laid plans.
As Elsa grew she developed a fetish for Pete’s underpants and socks. I’d be sleeping on the bottom of the bed and she’d dangle one or both items in front of my nose. She was persistent. How could I not grab the item? Before I knew it we’d be having a tug of war with Pete’s underpants and holes appeared. Elsa knew when to let go and I was the one found holding the item. Sooz blamed Pete for leaving them where Elsa could reach them. Pete blamed me for playing the game. He said I should have known better. She started everything and I ended up taking the blame. She was crafty.
One thing she didn’t do better than me was working out where to go to the toilet. It took her quite a while to figure out that you don’t pee inside the house. I didn’t offer any advice. She could learn the hard way. I liked to saunter by the puddles and screw up my nose in disgust. ‘Sooz, you wanted her. More mess to clean up.’ I always said this under my breath just in case I got into trouble. Sooz, however, was patient and a routine emerged. In the night, Elsa nudged Sooz in the face with her nose or woofed in her ear. This happened any time between 2 am and 5 am. I stayed in bed listening to Sooz moan about having to get up again to let her out. ‘Sooz, I tried to tell you,’ I’d murmur with a smile.
I was never one for sleeping on the bed, but I didn’t like it when Elsa decided that was where she was going to sleep. She wriggled her way in between Sooz and Pete, while I slept on the floor or in my doggie bed. Now and then I’d let them know I was around and join them. I tried wriggling in between them the way Elsa did, but after I sat on Sooz’ head a couple of times and pushed Pete out of bed I was asked to leave.
One good thing came out of Elsa, training Sooz, was breakfast time. Six am every morning, Elsa leapt on the bed and pummelled Sooz to get up and feed her. If Sooz didn’t move, Elsa dug her out from under the duna. Sooz soon learnt if she wanted any rest at all it was easier to get up and feed us. ‘Anything for a peaceful life,’ I heard her say. She’d make coffee and toast and we’d sit and watch them eat their hot buttered toast, drool dripping from our lips in anticipation of a morsel falling our way.
Elsa showed another side of her character at times like this...
‘Go away, Paddington. You can’t have any.’
She snapped at my face and I lost another chunk of hair. She was fast and I hadn’t known what hit me. ‘I was here first. Stop being such a bossy boots.’
‘Don’t come too close, Sooz is mine.’
‘She isn’t. She loves me best. And anyway, you only want a piece of her toast.’
‘I do not.’
‘Yes, you do. Sooz won’t give you any because you were mean to me.’
As I’d said to the fluff ball, Sooz didn’t like Elsa being nasty to me.
‘That’s not nice, Elsa,’ Sooz scolded her, while Peter removed her from my face. I felt vindicated and it reaffirmed my place in the hierarchy of our family.
‘See, I told you I’m just as important as you.’
Her caramel eyes turned dark toffee. ‘I’ll get you.’
‘Like I’m scared!’
And so now and then our little feud turned nasty and it usually happened over food. But she didn’t get the better of me. She was swift but she didn’t have my brains, weight and muscle power behind her. Not yet anyway!
The dream faded as dreams do and I opened my eyes, yawned and came back to my sunny spot. Over the last months we’d come to an understanding – of sorts – over the spot, but I still had one bone of contention, and that was the way she abused my person. I used to be proud of my coat. I had a fine tail and feathering on my legs. My beard always looked immaculate and my ears perfect. The thought of my tail made me swing around to check on it. It looked tatty and moth eaten and the bald batch in the middle hadn’t grown back yet. Elsa’s work. Sooz was forever trying to remove the knots from my neck and ears. Even my paws didn’t escape the fluff balls attention. How I longed for the old days.
Elsa looked at me. ‘Want to play, Paddington?’
‘I’ll get one of your bears.’
She had my attention now. ‘Leave my bears alone.’
‘I’ll tear you from limb to limb.’
‘Like that’ll happen. Sooz and Pete would never speak to you again.’
‘Harrumph.’ She slowly got up and sauntered over to my black bear. I tried to ignore her but she knew I was watching. I had many bears, but the black bear was a favourite. ‘Touch black bear and you’ll live to regret it.’
She sniggered at me. ‘What will you do?’
‘You’re about to find out.’ I might be getting old but I could still turn on a burst of speed when the need arose. I reached black bear first and picked it up. She took the arm and pulled. ‘Let go.’ My words were garbled. It’s hard to talk with a mouthful of black bear’s fur in your mouth.
‘I want it.’
‘You can’t have it.’
‘Do you two want to go for a run in the garden?’ Sooz came out of the kitchen. She must have heard us arguing.
Elsa dived down the steps to the gate. I put black bear safely on my trampoline and followed.
Sooz made us wait while she opened the gate. Muscles bunched, we waited for the command to go.
We sprang off the steps and raced into the garden. Elsa was fast and she was always a couple of body lengths ahead of me. But I’ve been around longer than her, and knew a trick or two. I’d take a short cut through the trees. She didn’t know what hit her when I jumped on her and rolled her over. She snapped at my face.
‘That won’t get you anywhere,’ I laughed at her.
She leapt into the air and raced away. One thing about Elsa she was fun to run with. I was quite exhausted by the time we walked back from the garden to the patio. She sat looking at me.
‘You know something, Paddington, I’m going to add something to the end of your story. And when I’m done I might even write my story.’
‘You can do what you like.’
‘My story’s going to be called Elsa’s adventures.’
‘And it will be better than yours.’
That would be a matter of opinion..
My name is Elsa, the younger, prettier, brainy sister of Paddington. I have a few things to add to his exaggerated story:-
I’ve been living with my humans and Paddington for nearly two years and not once has he mentioned me in his memoir. In fact, I believe he’s deliberately not written it to spite me. Well, I decided to take matters into my hands and so below is a brief outline to help fill in the blanks.
I was scared when I left my Bonibraes family. Who wouldn’t be? There I was, one minute happy with my mother and siblings, and the next I’m whisked away to start a life with people I didn’t know. My mother filled me in as much as she could on what to expect, but still, its gut wrenching to leave the only life you know, confined in a car and taken to the airport and then placed in the belly of a flying bird. There were other dogs travelling with me and we passed the time talking about our lives so far, and what to expect in the future.
The flight wasn’t too bad. The take-off and landing were noisy and it took a while to be unloaded and transported to the shed where we were to be picked up. We were all nervous. I of course went crazy when I saw my humans. As soon as my crate door opened, and I was placed in Sooz’ arms, all nervousness faded away. But I remembered what my mother said and performed as instructed with, lots of licks, lots of tail wagging and smooches. Mother was right, it was love at first sight.
My first meeting with Paddington was a different story. When Sooz carried me into the house this great big black dog bounded over to her. He jumped up and put his face close to mine. He had big teeth. I pretended to be scared so that Sooz would hold me tighter. I decided there and then that this dog needed to know I was under the protection of my humans. He also needed to learn a whole new set of rules. Life for Paddington was about to change, if I had anything to do with it.
I decided it was probably better to start the relationship off in the manner to which it was to continue and so I took over Paddington’s place at the top of the stairs that descended into the garden. A bold move.
‘Get out of my spot, pup.’
‘I’m not a pup.’
‘You’re in my place. Move.’
Paddington tried to remove me forcibly. I yelped and Sooz came to my rescue.
‘What’s going on here?’
‘Sooz, Paddington bit me.’
‘I did not.’
‘Paddington, be nice to Elsa. She’s just a puppy.’
‘But, Sooz. She bites me, pulls my tail and ears. It’s not fair. Look at me. You used to admire my tail. Now look at it.’
Sooz caressed Paddington’s head. “Paddington, you’re gorgeous. I love you both and there is no need to be jealous.’
‘Sooz, I’m not jealous. I just want my spot back.’
Sooz kissed his head and scratched behind his ears. ‘Hey Sooz, don’t overdo it.’ I got up and walked between them. I wasn’t having Paddington getting all the attention.
Paddington walked to the top of the stairs and sat down. ‘That’s not fair, Paddington. You tricked me. Give me back my spot.’
‘You win some, you lose some.’ Paddington closed his eyes. ‘And anyway I was here first.’
I have to admit the contentious viewing spot has caused conflict between us. But I usually win and that’s the way it should be. I’m a girl and Paddington needs to remember that. My next onslaught with Paddington was to get him to play with me when I wanted him too.
I found the ideal weapon. Pete’s underpants and socks. It works every time. Pete never seems to worry about the holes appearing in his underwear, but Sooz has plenty to say on the subject. But as long as Pete leaves them lying around, we’ll continue to have a tug of war with them. When I can’t find underwear, I pinch one of Paddington’s bears and in particular he’s favourite, a black bear. I usually saunter past him with it in my mouth. He takes the bait every time and we have an hour long tussle over the black bear. I let him have it back at the end, because I’m a good sister. Some of his other bears haven’t fared so well. One lost an arm, another a leg. One even lost its head. I couldn’t help but laugh at the headless bear. Paddington, didn’t laugh. Sooz had to bin the broken bears. I’m told black bear has survived a long time, I’m not sure how much longer though.
I haven’t said anything to Paddington, but I was mooching around the Christmas tree the other day and found two packages with our names on them. Santa came early. I was going to wait up for him, give him one of my biscuits, but I guess I won’t be able to now. I can’t understand how I missed his visit. It was probably just as well, because I suddenly remembered eating the biscuit I’d stashed. I was going to tell Santa about how good I’d been this year. I thought he’d be impressed with my A+ for obedience. I went to the same class Paddington attended. Sooz and Pete were away on holidays and so my friend Ruth took me. I won the teacher over with my cunning. Ruth was proud. Paddington had a reputation as a party boy at those classes. Can’t understand it myself. I, however, held my head up high. I would make sure to tell Santa about it next year.
While the humans were teaching me their language, I was teaching them mine. For instance when I need a pee in the night, I go to Sooz and prod her with my paw and nose and if that doesn’t work I bark in her ear. The bark gets her every time. Then at breakfast, I leap on her or dig her out of bed. During the day when she’s working in her office and I want to go for a run with Paddington, I prod and poke her. He doesn’t like me disturbing her, but I’ve heard her say she sits too long. It takes some persuasion sometimes...
‘Sooz, you’ve been sitting too long. Let’s go for a walk.’
‘Elsa, I’m busy.’
‘Sooz. The sun’s shining. Let’s go and see the koala at the bottom of the garden.’
‘Elsa, will you stop poking me.’
‘Not until you come for a walk.’
‘Oh for goodness sake. Okay, let’s go for a walk.’
‘Come on, Paddington.’
The best thing about Sooz taking us for a walk through the garden is she takes a handful of delicious chocolate drops for us.
This last weekend I celebrated my second birthday. Paddington didn’t wish me a happy birthday. My friend Nigel did. He even bought me a rubber bone. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t tell him. Although he might have guessed when Paddington took it as his own and I didn’t object. Next year I’m going to give Nigel a list, top of it will be a juicy beef bone from the butcher. One with marrow in the middle. I love munching on one of those.
Thinking about food and my stomach rumbled. ‘Paddington, do you think if we go and find Sooz, she’ll give us a bone.’
‘Doubt it. We had one yesterday. You know it’s not good to have one every day.’
Because for one thing, you eat too much of the bone and then in the middle of the night you throw it up. Last time you did it all over Sooz and Pete’s duna cover and it seeped into the duna beneath. She had to get the whole lot dry cleaned.’
‘Do you always have to bring up that incident?’
‘Yes,’ he smirked.
‘Paddington, next time I get something nice to eat I’m not sharing.’
‘You don’t anyway.’
I watched Paddington plod across the patio to sit in the sun. I have to admit that although I’ve made Paddington out to be a grumpy old man, he has been the best brother a girl could have. I ambled to him and licked his nose.
‘What do you want now?’
‘I just wanted to say that I love you, Paddington.’
‘Get away with you. Getting all soppy...you’ll be telling me next that I can have my spot back.’ His eyes sparkled in the afternoon sun and a smile lifted from his mouth.
I sniffed his ears and looked down at his tail. Perhaps now wasn’t the time to pounce on his tail. But there was no way he was getting his spot back.