We all develop habits, and I am no exception. To tell you the truth, I’ve developed an impressive list….
But where to start…? Oh yes, perhaps I’ll start with pet Pete:-
I have a number of ways of getting Pete out of bed, and it all started because of Lola and her inability to tell the pets she needed to go out.
‘Paddington, I need to go to the bathroom, can you wake Pete and tell him to let me out?’
‘Lola, it’s two in the morning… he’s not going to be happy.’
‘Paddington, will you do as I ask… I’m about to have an accident.’
I dragged myself out of my quilt and made for Pete’s side of the bed. I placed my front paws on the edge of the bed, with my back feet planted firmly on the ground. Pete was snoring softly. It seemed a shame to wake him… but I had to do my duty.
I hit him with my paw. ‘Pete,’ I barked into his face, and he moved ever so slightly. ‘Pete… Pete, Lola needs to go out. Oui Pete!’ He stirred, rolling onto his back. ‘Pete…. oui Pete, get up… Lola needs to go to the toilet… she’ll have an accident, and you know how cross Sooz will be if that happens… Oui, Pete…’
I breathed over his face. That did it.
‘What the hell, Paddington… dog breath… yuk.’
‘Dog breath… what’s wrong with my breath?’
He stretched across and picked up the clock from the side table. ‘It’s two o’clock. Go back to bed,’ he plonked it down with a thud.
‘No, can’t… Lola’s busting. Pete, get up.’
‘Oh for the goodness sake!’ He climbed out and followed me down the stairs to the kitchen where Lola waited by the door.
‘Thanks, Paddington,’ she said sleepily.
‘My pleasure Lola… can I go back to bed now?’
‘How will I let you know when I want to come in?’
‘Scratch on the door and Pete will come back.’
‘Oh yes, the way you do… okay.’
I’d learnt scratching on doors was a sure-fire way of gaining attention. ‘I left Lola with Pete and climbed back into my quilt. Sooz hadn’t moved; she had no idea these night time excursions happened. One of the good things to come out of them was that Lola now knew how to scratch the door, so it wasn’t just me getting into trouble for wrecking the woodwork.
Then there were the odd occasions when I got caught short. I followed a similar routine, except I’d jump onto the bed and hit him with my paws, lick his nose or even his mouth, even though he hated his face licked, and then I’d blow my doggy breath into his face, while barking loudly in his ear. If that didn’t work, the kangaroo hop by the side of the bed generally did it. I needed to create different versions so he knew this was about me, not Lola.
Then there were the occasions I heard prowlers outside, and that’s when I reverted to my primeval state and go into crazy mode. Generally this happened because of Lola… she scared easily.
‘Paddington, did you hear that?’
I stifle a yawn with my paw. ‘No… what was it?’
‘Something made a noise… go and check.’
‘Lola, it's in your imagination… go back to sleep.’
‘I can't. It sounded scary… please Paddington.’
‘Oh well, if I must… where was the noise?’
‘It started on the roof. It sounded like heavy footsteps… it might be a ghost.’
‘Lola, your imagination runs away with you at times.’
However, she was usually right when she heard noises. I’d become familiar to the sound possums made when they stomped across the roof, or when a fox ventured into the garden looking for rabbits and caught one… boy did they make strange noises. We even had koalas crossing our land on their way to the park. They tired quickly and took refuge up a eucalypt tree. They made the strangest noise when they met up with one of their kind. I’d heard Sooz say they were mating, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. The fearsome and scary grunting meant one thing to me, they had to be killing one another.
But even though I thought I knew all the noises of the night, as I said, Lola had a sixth sense and so when she insisted someone was breaking into the house, then I took action.
‘Don’t worry everyone, I’ll check,’ I used my high alert bark on such occasions. I didn’t like to confuse the pets with the same bark, otherwise they’d never know what was happening, so I invented a different bark for every occasion: there was the smooth away woof, the equivalent of all’s well, don’t panic, then the long drawn-out howl which meant there’s a weer wolf on the prowl and I can’t sleep and then the sharp meaningful bark, there’s something moving through the garden and it needs investigating and finally the bellowing chorus meaning high alert, danger, danger.
Generally, these barks worked, albeit, with an argument from Pete on the occasions when he didn’t believe me. It was times like these that I wondered if I needed to work on my technique.
When Pete went away and Sooz put me in charge of her safety I prowled the house all through the night, barking all my different alerts. She believed me every time I thought someone was breaking in to murder us and together we searched the house for intruders… we made a fantastic team.
Then there was the garden to consider. Unfortunately investigating the garden often needed to take place on the weekends, which didn’t bode well with Pete. He liked to lie in and didn’t take kindly to my insistence at being let out. I had to develop a new technique to move him and stumbled on one purely by accident.
It worked like a charm and was so easy, I’d often laugh at why I hadn’t tried it sooner. I’d pinch something he held dear to his heart, like his underpants, or a cherished shirt or sweatshirt, a shoe or something even better like a precious gadget. Clothing was easy, I’d roll the item up in my mouth and make sure he saw me do it, tease him with it and when he took up the chase, run off. I loved taunting him with his precious items and even let him get within an arm's length of me and just when he thought he had me, I’d rush off again. Once he was out of bed the rest was easy.
‘Paddington, give that back!’
‘No… come on Pete… come and get it.’
Nine times out of ten this method worked. I would let him catch me, so he could retrieve the treasured item, and in turn he’d let me out… both of us were happy.
When I wanted something from Sooz, I quickly learnt a different type of persuasion was needed.
Saturday and Sunday were treasured days at our house and it was a ritual to sleep in which meant breakfast was always late. I’m not saying Sooz forgot to feed us, but she was neglecting her duty and I needed my breakfast at the same time daily. I was still growing and altered meal times didn’t bode well with my sense of humour and so I found a technique that worked.
‘Sooz… I’m starving,’ I barked into her face.
‘Paddington, I’ll get up in a minute.’
She pushed me off her chest. ‘But Sooz… Lola is starving.’
‘You mean you’re starving, Paddington,’ said Lola. ‘Don’t bring me into it.’
‘Paddington, you’re getting heavy. Do you have to lie on top of me?’ grumbled Sooz.
‘Sooz… you’re nice and comfortable to rest on… you need a wash… lie still while I wash your hand.’
‘Paddington, go away.’
Lick… slurp… lick… slurp… slurp… ‘Sooz, you taste good,’ lick… slurp… slurp. ‘Now your neck.’
‘Okay… that’s enough. Pete, do you want a coffee? I’ll get the fat boy his breakfast.’ She kicked off the quilt and made for the kitchen.
‘Fat boy!’ I sat on the bed watching her go. ‘Sooz, I don’t think that’s a very nice thing to say.’
‘Does it matter… if the cap fits…?’ muttered Lola as she descended the steps. ‘She’s up now, and we can have breakfast in bed.’
I followed a little miffed at Sooz words and what did Lola mean if the cap fits? Fat indeed.
‘I’m a growing boy,’ I said to Lola when I joined her and we both looked up at Sooz when she pulled a couple of biscuits from the doggy barrel.
However, I forgave Sooz and decided I liked weekends as much as everyone else in the house. Sooz, brewed a pot of coffee and took two cups of the vile smelling drink back to bed, along with a sweet biscuit for them and a doggy one for me and Lola. My biscuit barely touched the sides and when every crumb was devoured, I’d jump on the bed and sit drooling, while watching Sooz eat hers, hoping a morsel would fall my way.
And so that’s how it began, first it was weekends and then I’d nick something of Pete’s during the week. It kept him on his toes and it became a ritual. Lola said a habit, but I begged to differ on that. I was helping Sooz carry the dirty washing down to the laundry, but I secretly loved that Pete chased after me to save his precious pieces.
I must admit food had become an obsession in my life, and I couldn’t help but sit pressed up against Sooz and drool every time I saw her or Pete with food. I even did it to Lola. She had an indifference to food which I couldn’t understand. I for one couldn’t get enough to eat.
Lola, I’d learnt was easily distracted during meal times, and so I discovered, if I stirred her up, barked and annoyed her, she’d walk away from her half-empty bowl, and then I could dive in and suction up what was left, before she realised what had happened.
This did back fire on the odd occasion when Lola got wise to my little game, and then she’d swing back and bite me on the ear. I knew when to retreat… Lola, I’d learnt over the years didn’t take prisoners.
However, food was a weakness and I soon realised from the onset that Sooz controlled everything that went in and out of the kitchen. I’d hang about with her, sniffing and inhaling the wonderful aromas of cooked food. The kitchen was my favourite room in the house, and I found that if I hung out with Sooz, she’d sometimes drop something tasty. It was my duty to keep food off the floor. What can I say… somebody had to do it?!
I have to admit to getting crafty. I’m not proud of my actions, but all I can say in my defence is that Lola didn’t really want those bones I pinched off her… It all started when Sooz gave us a bone to help keep our teeth clean, or that’s what I heard her tell Pete was the reason.
‘On your beds,’ she said.
‘Come on Lola… we’re getting a bone. Yahoooooo.’
I raced to my trampoline, skidding to a stop when I reached it, while waiting impatiently for Sooz to arrive. She’d always give Lola her bone first.
‘Ladies before gentlemen,’ she said.
‘Hurry Sooz,’ drool pooled at my feet. ‘I’m starving.’
‘Don’t grab,’ she scolded, when I whipped the bone from her fingers.
While I worked at my bone, Lola looked at hers as though it was going to bite her. I waited until Sooz disappeared indoors and then barked a distraction at her, and she walked away confused. That’s when I picked up my bone and moved it to her trampoline.
‘Ha ha ha,’ I laughed. ‘I have them both now.’
The only trouble with this strategy was, Lola sometimes told Sooz, and then I’d be in big trouble, or she’d get fearsome and demand it back in person. I preferred it when she blabbed to Sooz, at least I didn’t get bitten if she intervened. On the rare occasion, Lola did nothing and Sooz didn’t find out… then everyone was happy. Yes, I was at my happiest when I wiled away an hour or two over food.
One day I had a brain wave for the most fantastic game, and it came into my head from the technique I’d developed for getting Pete out of bed. I needed play time, it was important to my mental health and well being. I instigated the game on the evenings when they came home from work. Sooz was usually in the kitchen cooking. She had to feed us all, but Pete, well he didn’t have anything better to do.
And so after he’d gotten changed into his evening clothes, I’d go hunting out a piece of his clothing. Pete had a bad habit of leaving his clothes conveniently within my reach, and sometimes I’d be really lucky and find something he loved more, like his wallet. I’d stroll up to him with it in my mouth.
‘Paddington! Give that back.’
‘Sooz, Paddington’s got my wallet.’
‘Get it off him,’ Sooz replied.
‘I can’t… he’s playing that stupid game.’
I smiled as best as I could, considering I had this soft spongy leathery thing between my teeth.
‘Leave it,’ said Pete.
‘No, come and get it from me.’ I backed away under the bed and made a run for the stairs. He chased after me, and I made it to the table. He stood across from my corner not sure how to reach me.
‘Good boy, Paddington. Give me the wallet.’
‘Uh… uh… come and get it.’
‘Sooz, can you help?’
‘Not at the moment, I’m busy.’
I was quicker than Pete, and as he rushed to my corner, I circled the table to his. I laughed at the look on his face. ‘Come on Pete… chase me.’
‘I’m not playing anymore,’ he said in a huff.
‘Oh… why not?’
I knew I drove him crazy and followed at a safe distance as he climbed the stairs to the bedroom. On this occasion Sooz crept up behind me. Sneaky, I didn’t hear her coming… I’d been ingrossed in keeping my distance from Pete. She sank her fingers into my dense coat and I melted under her touch. She removed the wallet from my teeth and handed it back to him. She was laughing. I took this to mean I wasn’t in the bad books, and so the chase game evolved.
Over the years, I’d developed a lovely way of greeting people when they came to visit. However, the fly through the air or face to face greet, when I jumped like a kangaroo didn’t go down well, neither did the nose in the crutch greet… well that’s how we four-legged people do it. However, I heard Sooz loud and clear, when she said it wasn’t the gentlemanly thing to do.
It was impossible for me to be indifferent towards visitors. How could I go against my loving nature? And anyway it was rude. And so I followed them around, sat on the chair with them and tried to share their meal or better still biscuit, if Sooz offered food. Whether they liked it or not I couldn’t possibly allow people to leave our house with the feeling, they’d not been welcome.
Lola has led me to believe my worst habit is when I ignore my pets when they call me. To clarify, Lola told me she heard Sooz and Pete say it was my worst habit. Personally I don’t see it.
My worst habit surfaces at times when I’m in the middle of very important stuff. Like chasing rabbits, or saying hello to someone on the boundary fence line, or burying a bone, or sniffing out the most wonderful scent that I can't possibly leave… would you? And I’ve asked my pets the same question… but they never answer.
However, Sooz’s answer to my worst habit is to drag me back to obedience lessons when such events tip her over the edge. I personally don’t get it… of course I know what “COME” means. But and this is a big BUT, there are times throughout life when you have to do what you have to do. Unless of course, your name was Gromit and as Lola told me on more than one occasion, Mr. Perfect Gromit, always did as he was told.
‘Paddington, you’re developing a lot of bad habits,’ grumbled Sooz.
‘But he’s a character,’ said Pete.
‘Thanks Pete. You wouldn’t like it if I was boring… now would you?’
On reflection, I have only lightly touched on my bad habits. The ones I have chosen not to mention in these pages are… I have to admit too embarrassing to talk about. Nevertheless, I believe the ones mentioned are more to do with character building and after all, I am, if nothing else, a character.