I was in my bed, on my back, legs in the air. I personally found it a comfortable way to sleep. But Lola had something to say about it… which didn’t surprise me… she had something to say about everything I did.
‘Paddington, gentlemen don’t lie with their legs in the air. It’s most unsightly.’
I decided not to bite at her barb and pretend sleep. Today was my birthday, and I reckoned I was entitled to ignore everything Lola said... even if it was only for one day.
Pet Sooz wandered past me on her way to the bathroom. She knelt down and ran her hand over my stomach.
‘Oh… Sooz, I love my tummy tickled.’ I squirmed under her touch and batted my eyelashes at her. She scratched all my itchy spots and started untangling a knot of fur under my chin. She had this constant need to keep de-tangling me. ‘Sooz, that hurts… do you have to?’
‘Happy birthday, Paddington,’ she said, standing up.
‘Thanks. Sooz… don’t stop scratching… its sooooo relaxing.’
‘I’ll give you a brush after breakfast,’ she said, ignoring my request.
‘No need Sooz… a few tangles never hurt anybody.’ I distinctly remembered the last time she took the brush to me… it hurt.
‘Let’s get a picture of the birthday boy,’ said pet Pete.
I opened my eyes and saw Pete standing over me with a camera in his face. ‘Pete, do you have to?’ I said, too lazy to move and hoping he would find my sleeping position unsightly the way Lola did.
He didn't. I heard the click… click… click… of the shutter. How many pictures did Pete need to take of me? He already had zillions of me: in action, sleeping, eating, and fooling around, posing and now on my back… I worried about pet Pete.
Pete wandered off and I got an upside-down view of Lola, when she sauntered by. ‘Not a good look,’ she said her nose in the air. Lola was such a snob. I'd spent hours working on her, trying to show her how much fun we could have… if only she’d lighten up. However, so far, I hadn’t broken through her outer shell, and she continued to act like a Queen.
She stopped and looked back at me, and I wondered what spiteful remark was going to leave her regal lips. But, she surprised me, when she said, ‘Happy birthday, Paddington.’
I rolled over to look her in the eye. ‘Wow… thanks Lola, that’s nice of you.’
‘Don’t get used to it,’ she muttered.
I put my nose on my paws happy and content, and thought about my first year of life.
Wow what a year, and it all started with a plane trip from far north New South Wales to South Australia.
The outback adventure rated high on my list of memories. I thought about all the friends I’d met along the way, and Power came to mind. I wondered how he was going… would I ever see my friend again?
Graduating puppy and middle school were monumental feats. My friends at puppy school followed me onto middle school, and now we were all close to finishing high school. We’d travelled the journey together, and I’d heard many of the pets say what fine adults we were growing into. We’d all gone home proud that day and couldn’t wait until graduation when our teacher, Alexis, promised a party.
I was constantly called on to show off my many obedience skills to family and friends and even strangers who visited our house… whether they wanted to see or not, Sooz put me through my paces, and her words were etched in my brain for all time:
‘Paddington come… Paddington sit… Paddington drop… Paddington stand… Paddington, play dead… Paddington stay… Paddington look… Paddington speak.’
I chuckled quietly when I remembered the time she took me aside to teach me to speak. I never understood why she was compelled to do this, as I speak to her all the time. The trouble with Sooz is… she never listens. If she did, she’d realise how silly this whole speaking episode was. Anyway to appease her, I played the game.
She held eye contact with me and then it started. ‘Paddington… speak… WOOF.’
‘Why are you woofing at me, Sooz. You look silly.’
‘Paddington… speak… WOOF.’
‘Sooz, I know how to woof. Don’t let Pete hear you woofing, he’ll worry you’re turning into a dog.’
‘Paddington… speak… WOOF.’
‘Sooz, this is getting tedious, can’t we have a normal conversation.’
‘Paddington… speak … WOOF.’
‘Anything for a quiet life… if I must… Woof.’
‘Good boy Paddington… do it again… speak.’
‘Woof,’ I was in heaven when Sooz rubbed my head. ‘Ooh… arr… Sooz that was nice, can you scratch me behind the other ear… it’s itching.’ I pushed my head into her hand, but she wanted more from me.
‘Come on Paddington, you can do it. I've got something nice for you if you speak.’
‘Something nice… like a tasty liver treat…? Woof.’ I gobbled up the morsel she passed me. ‘Yum… thank Sooz for the chicken treat. I’m very partial to them. Shall I woof again?’
‘Woof. Can I have a liver treat this time please? I prefer them… you know the ones… you gave me one the other day… oh and Sooz can you scratch behind the…’
‘… let's scratch behind this ear… is that nice Paddington?’ said Sooz. ‘That’s for being a good boy.’
‘Oh yes, that’s wonderful,’ I said to her, when she rubbed and scratched. ‘Thanks Sooz, I love you. Can I have another liver treat?’
I grinned, when I thought about that funny episode with Sooz. I’m still not sure what it all meant, but it pleased her. And of course, I performed brilliantly… it was my duty not to let her down. It had nothing to do with the many treats that came my way, like I’d heard someone mention. Well, they were wrong… I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate Sooz looking after me…, but I knew my duty and anyway how could I resist when everyone cooed, and ah'd and said how clever I was.
There were many high moments, but there were also a few low ones. I remembered an incident recently, in fact, the last few days and I’d upset Sooz over the silliest thing. It started when I was stalking a rabbit. She wanted me to come… but how could I?
‘Paddington… Lola… COME!’
I heard her quite clearly shouting to us from the patio. And I only have myself to blame, because Lola warned me.
‘You’d better come, Paddington,’ she said, trotting up the slope towards the house.
‘But Lola, I can’t leave the rabbit. It’ll get away.’
‘There’ll be another rabbit… don’t make Sooz mad.’
‘And what did I do…? I made Sooz mad. She came down into the garden, and man handled me back to the house. I’d never seen her that cross before. Perhaps Lola was right. I needed to heed Sooz when she called.
‘You know what the word… COME… means, Paddington,’ she said angrily. ‘When I call you, I expect you to come to me straight away… got it?’
‘Got it, Sooz,’ I sluiced my wet tongue over her hand and looked remorseful.
However, there was another rabbit, only this time, much to my surprise, I caught it. I didn’t know what to do with it once it was in my mouth… so I decided to take it home. I thought Sooz would love the furry rabbit with it’s cute white cotton tail… but she wasn’t impressed, and tried to convince me to give it up. I backed away from her. I didn’t want to give it up. Boy, did she get mad.
‘Paddington, drop it.’
‘Paddington, I said, drop it.’
‘… Sooz, I want to keep it. I’ll look after it and feed it. Please Sooz.’
‘Paddington, how many times do I have to say it…? Drop it.’
And that’s when I made a fatal mistake… turning around, I ran back into the garden with the rabbit.
I heard her… the whole neighbourhood probably heard her.
‘P… a… d… d… i… n… g… t… o… n,’ she stretched each letter of my name and brought Pete running from the house, because I heard him shout. ‘What’s wrong?’
I didn’t hear the reply, because I’d disappeared to the dam where I decided to hide my new friend.
I put the rabbit down. It was still… very still. I nudged it with my nose… ‘What’s wrong with you?’
There was no reply.
I nudged it again. No movement... was it playing dead?
‘Oui rabbit… you need to hide down a hole… quick… I’ll come and get you later.’
There was still no reply.
I was confused… why wasn’t it moving or talking?
I heard the scrunch of leaves and looked up to see Pete and Sooz trudging through the undergrowth towards me. I picked up the rabbit and ran to the opposite side of the dam. They could spend hours chasing me around it… I reasoned, there was no way they could corner me. I would not give up my new friend… they would have to concede defeat on this one.
Unbeknown to me, they split up… crafty pets.
I hurtled around the corner straight into Sooz arms.
‘I’m sorry Sooz… I didn’t mean it…you don’t have to pull my collar so hard… I’ll come, as long as the rabbit can stay… yelp… Sooz… don’t you love me anymore?’
‘Paddington, I’m cross with you. You’ve killed that poor rabbit… I know you like your food, but if you think, you’re eating rabbit you can forget it…’
‘… Eat my friend… Sooz, what a dreadful thing to say… why would I want to eat it? Yuck… how hideous… I’m going to be sick… ugh…’
Sooz hung onto my collar and led me and the rabbit back to the house. Pete brought up the rear and locked the gate on his way through. No escape now. He disappeared into the kitchen, and moments later came out with a biscuit… my favourite variety… the beefy smell drifted to my nose. How unfair they would use food as a weapon.
‘A fair exchange… a biscuit for the rabbit?’ said Pete.
I looked at the biscuit. My tongue slid past the fur and out the side of my mouth and drool dripped in a pool at my feet. Biscuit…? Rabbit…? Biscuit…? Rabbit…? What should I do?
‘Okay… I’ll take it from you, as long as you promise not to hurt the rabbit.’
I put it down. Why was it not so appealing now it had stiffened? I couldn’t make sense of it. Pete picked it up and carried it away, while I sat on my trampoline munching the biscuit and wondering what I’d done to make the rabbit stiffen like that.
‘Why do you perform beautifully at doggy school, and yet when I ask a simple thing of you at home, you forget everything you’ve learnt?’
‘Well Sooz, I had a lapse of memory. Don’t worry, I’ll be good from this day forwards… I promise.’
‘I think he needs to go back for another lesson on the meaning of… COME,’ said Pete, returning without the rabbit.
‘What did you do with the rabbit, Pete?’
‘I’ll book him in. I think Alexis has a course coming up on… Total Recall. That should fix him,’ said Sooz.
‘I don’t mind if you think I need a refresher course.’ I know what COME means. I just didn’t want to do it. But, if it makes them happy, I’m happy… and anyway; it means I get to see my friends. ‘Okay Sooz, book us in.’
‘It’s a game to him,’ said Sooz, ignoring me as usual.
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘I can’t deny it Sooz. It’s fun when you guys chase me. I like playing chase, especially when I pinch Pete’s underpants, and he has to get them back. Do you remember that pair you never found… ha ha ha,’ I laughed into my paw? ‘I buried them in my hole. I’m not going to tell you where… it’s a secret.’
‘We need to know we can trust him to come back. His life might depend on it one day,’ said Pete, still going on about my not coming back.
I realised I needed to reassure him. ‘It’s okay Pete… I momentarily forgot what I was supposed to do in the excitement… I won’t be naughty again.’
‘Ha ha ha,’ Lola choked and spluttered. ‘That’ll be the day.’
I ignored Lola and listened to my pet’s voice their concerns to each other. It suddenly dawned on me… I’d thrown my pets into a panic over the rabbit incident. How could I allay their fears? And what did Pete mean life and death?
‘Ha ha ha ha,’ Lola muffled her laugh into her paw. She lay on the trampoline watching me squirm. I could see she loved every moment of my discomfort.
‘You’re a silly pup,’ she said in an uppity tone. ‘You’re nearly one-year-old, and still you act like you’re on your mother’s teat.’
‘L… o… l… a,’ I stretched her name the way I’d heard Sooz do with mine. ‘I do not,’ how offensive of Lola to say such a thing. I wondered about the rabbit. Lola would know what happened to it and however as much as I didn’t want to ask her... I was compelled.
‘Why did the rabbit die?’
‘Because… you scared it to death… you're a silly… stupid… ignorant pup,’ she said, her tone laced with distaste.
‘Oh… they can’t have strong hearts then?’
‘No Paddington, I imagine not.’
I yawned at the memory. Was the rabbit incident only yesterday? I’d learnt a big lesson from it… I needed to ensure, in the future; I didn’t scare the next one to death.
With the thought of rabbits, I stretched and stepped out of bed.
‘Want to go out birthday boy?’ Sooz looked down at me.
‘Yes please, Sooz.’ It was good to see Sooz didn’t hold a grudge against me. She still loved me… it didn’t seem to matter what I did… she always fell back under the magic spell I wove around her.
‘I’ll let them out,’ said Pete.
I scrambled past him, taking the stairs in one leap and reached the door first and when he unlocked it, I barged through racing to the gate. Lola chased behind me as was her way and when Pete swung the gate open, I saw it… I blinked. Were my eyes deceiving me? There was more than one rabbit… there had to be a least a dozen and they were nestled under the trees eating… totally oblivious to my presence.
‘Rabbits… Lola, there are lots to chase today. Yahoo,’ I shouted, racing like the wind towards the dam. When they saw me they dispersed, zigzagging through the trees and disappearing from view into the bushes and down the many holes, I’d sniffed out in the dam wall.
I had plenty of time to catch another one… I was going to lay in wait until they came out… because at some point they had too and this time I wasn’t giving it up… Sooz would understand… I hoped.