The splatter of rain as it hit the corrugated iron roof lulled me into a deep sleep. I was curled up on my pet’s bed for an afternoon nap, my nose resting on one of Sooz’s fluffy tops and her wonderful scent filled my nostrils with every breath I took and everyone now and then I was jolted awake to find a bit of it inside my mouth. Oomph… not sure she will like that hole in it! I released it and closed my eyes again.
It was unusual for me to think about an afternoon nap and even more unusual to hide while having it, but since our visitors had arrived, I’d found a need to put my head on paws and get some shut eye.
I lifted my head at the sound of knuckles rapping on the kitchen door. It was my cousin Angel… I just knew it. She was the only one who knocked with formality, and if she was looking for me; I realised my afternoon nap was over.
I heard the door creek as it opened, and I could see her in my mind's eye poking her head around it and then my thoughts were confirmed by the sound of her voice.
‘Paddington… Paddington, where are you? It’s time for a walk.’
Her voice was soft and sweet, and my heart melted. In the couple of weeks since Angel had entered my life, I had grown fond of her… very fond.
I yawned, stretched and jumped down and my feet made a distinct thud when I hit the floor. She heard me.
‘Paddington, there you are,’ she looked up the stairs at me. ‘Good boy… how about that walk?’
‘Yes, Angel,’ I said rushing down the steps to where she stood with her arms outstretched. ‘Where are we going today?’ I pushed my face into hers and sluiced my tongue over it.
‘Yuk, Paddington,’ she giggled loudly before nuzzling her chin into my coat and scratching me behind my ears. ‘I’ll check with Sooz and see if I can take you to the park.’
Park! My ears pricked at that… I loved a walk through the park. ‘I don’t think she will let us go out. It’s raining.’ I told her with authority.
‘She will,’ she replied with confidence. ‘Come with me Paddington and we’ll find Sooz.’
Buoyed by her confidence, I followed her obediently into the indoor-outdoor room, where Sooz, and her sister Di were sitting talking over afternoon tea.
‘Sooz, can I take Paddington for a walk to the park?’
‘It’s raining darling, perhaps when it stops.’
I saw her face drop, and I nuzzled her hand. She placed it on my head scratching me behind my ears. ‘A bit to the right,’ I told her, and she obliged by moving through my coat scraping her nails along my skin. ‘And now to the left,’ I moved my head under her finger tips, sighing with the pleasure of it.
It appeared to me, that Angel was the only person in my life that totally understood everything I said. She answered me when I talked to her, expressed a similar opinion to mine, liked me better than Lola and understood my mood swings. She didn’t always appreciate my need to disobey and spent hours trying to correct a number of my bad habits. In fact I would have to say she was darn right bossy, however, she gave back a lot of love, and so it wasn’t surprising that we’d become inseparable.
‘Oh look,’ shouted Angel. ‘Rain’s stopped.’
She removed her hand and I felt desolate. She’d sent my body quivering during the ear and head scratching.
We both looked at Sooz with earnest expressions. ‘Come on Sooz, why can’t we walk? It’s nice walking in the rain and anyway Angel’s right, it’s stopped.’ I held eye contact with Sooz hoping to win her over with my gooey soft eyed gaze.
Sooz melted, as I knew she would, and she grasped my face in her hands and kissed my nose. I loved the way Sooz smooched with me.
‘It’s only a light drizzle now,’ said Di. ‘Is it okay if she takes Paddington for a walk?’
‘Yes. But you must promise me,’ and Sooz got all theatrical and both Angel, and I stared at her as she waved her finger at us, ‘that you won’t take him off his lead. He doesn’t always do as he’s told, and I know how unhappy you would be if you lost him, or he was run over.’
‘I won’t take him off his lead… I promise,’ said Angel.
Sooz stern expression softened into a smile, and I sluiced my tongue over her hand. ‘Don’t worry Sooz, I’m not running off. Why would I do that? I don’t know where you get these strange ideas from.’
‘That’s okay then,’ replied Di. ‘Go and put your shoes and jacket on.’
Angel ran off to her bedroom to collect her shoes, and I leapt alongside her woofing loudly.
‘Paddington, be good, otherwise they might change their minds and not let us go.’ She was panting as she climbed the spiral staircase.
I chased after her and raced up the stairs to the mezzanine bedroom. ‘This is great Angel. I’ve never had so many walks. Hurry up… come on.’ I picked up one of her shoes and jumped onto the bed with it.
‘Give that to me Paddington,’ she manhandled the shoe from my teeth and put it on her foot and then shrugged into a jacket. ‘Okay, let’s get your lead and go.’
Back in the indoor-outdoor room I stood by the front door waiting impatiently while Angel fetched my lead. Lola was lying on her trampoline and lifted her head to look at me.
‘I don’t know why you carry on the way you do Paddington. I find your behaviour extremely embarrassing.’
I looked at her and was puzzled by her remark. ‘What have I done now, Lola? I’m having fun with Angel… what’s wrong with that?’
‘All these strangers in our home… I don’t like it,’ she dropped her nose back to her paws and just when I thought she was going to sleep she lifted her head and continued. ‘There’s never any peace around here any more, what with Angel constantly screeching, and you’re invariably barking. Sooz and Di are always talking, and then Simon and Kat arrive with that other dog…’
‘Do you mean our cousin Aston?’
‘Yes… him. And then David and Pete make a different kind of noise,’ she sighed. ‘I remember when it used to be the pets, and nanny Sylvia and grandad John. No peace any more… So noisy,’ she mumbled. ‘I’m not as young as I used to be and nobody seems to understand I need my rest.’
I watched her put her head back down and close her eyes. ‘But Lola,’ I woofed into her face and she opened her eyes. ‘Everyone loves you. If you joined in you might find you’d enjoy yourself. I don’t understand why you ignore them… they’re our family and anyway it’s not polite.’
‘I’ll give you not polite,’ a low grumble rose from her throat and she bared her teeth at me. She looked ready to spring and I knew, when provoked, she could still come up with a burst of speed.
‘You know the trouble with you Lola,’ I said bravely while backing away from her,’ you’re a horrible snob.’
At that moment, Angel arrived and clipped my lead onto my collar. ‘See you later, she yelled.’
‘Remember what Aunty Sooz said. Don’t take his lead off,’ said Di.
‘I won’t. See you Lola,’ Angel stooped over Lola as she sank back down and patted her head. I could hear Lola muttering under her breathe. ‘Just go, will you? Don’t think I will forget your rudeness, Paddington. I expect a full apology from you.’
‘Come on Angel… lets go quickly.’ If she thinks I’m going to apologise she’s got another thing coming, I thought as I pulled Angel out of the door, and we raced down the drive towards the road.
Grasby Park is a wooded area that used to be owned by a local family who grew orchids there. I’d heard Pete talking about the park on lots of occasions. He was responsible for it and took great pride in keeping the weeds under control and briefing anyone who cared to listen to its history.
After the ascent along the dirt road, we entered the park through a gate. The scout hut sat back from the front gate and behind it the park stretched with a number of zigzag walking trails. With my nose to the ground, I dragged Angel after me. She was laughing and chattering away, and I was oblivious to most of what she said, because I suddenly picked up the smell of rabbit. But it was mixed with something far more delectable. Fox!’
‘Angel, take my lead off so I can find the rabbit and fox.’
‘No Paddington. I promised I wouldn’t.’
‘But Angel,’ I looked at her beseechingly. ‘I can get there quickly if you take off the lead. Think of the fun we can have when we take a pet rabbit home.’
‘Don’t be silly Paddington. You can’t catch a rabbit.’
I stopped and looked at her. ‘Are you serious? I’ve caught heaps of rabbits. Sooz never lets me keep them… it’s so unfair.’
‘Did you really?’ She looked at me with wonder in her eyes.
‘I wouldn’t lie to you… or anyone for that matter. You ask Sooz.’
‘Where do you think the rabbit is?’
‘Come this way. I know where there are a couple of holes. I bet the rabbit went down one of them.’
The strong aroma of fox was mixed with the aroma of rabbit. ‘I reckon the fox is hunting the rabbit,’ I mumbled this piece of knowledge to Angel as I couldn't get my nose off the ground. The smell was intoxicating. I suddenly picked up a movement and yanked on the lead, and it slipped from Angel’s hand. ‘Come on Angel… this way.’ I sprinted away, the lead dragging behind me.
‘Come back, Paddington!’
I could hear her heavy footfall over the rough uneven ground as she stumbled after me, but I had my vision on the rabbit and the bend in the track, where I knew it would be racing for its burrow.
‘Paddington, stop! Please… stop! Paddington, come back!’ Angel’s voice grew distant as I rounded the bend. My feet barely touched the ground as I ran and Angel had disappeared from my mind when the hole came into view. I skidded to a stop and sniffed around the entrance. The delicious aroma of fresh droppings met my nose and my heart accelerated. Yes this was the hole the rabbit had taken… there was no doubt in my mind.
The smell overwhelmed my senses, and I didn’t hear Angel come up behind me. ‘Bad boy, Paddington. How could you after I said I wouldn’t let you go, and then you behave like that?'
I lifted my nose from the ground confused by her anger. ‘What’s the problem?’ I barked. ‘Angel, the rabbit has gone down this hole. If we wait, it will come out.’
‘It won’t come out of that one, you silly boy. There’s probably another hole. I thought you knew about this stuff? Rabbits live in burrows under the ground. Honestly Paddington you are dense at times.’
‘Oh yes… of course.’ It suddenly became clear. ‘More than one entrance, that’s how they always get away and I bet the fox is waiting by one of the other holes.’ As I leapt away I was yanked back to a standing position.
‘I said NO, Paddington,’ she’d picked up the lead while I wasn’t watching and was now winding it around her hand. ‘You can’t run away again. If something happens to you what will Sooz say?’
I gazed up at Angel’s unsmiling face. She looked extremely glum.
‘I’m sorry Angel. I didn’t mean to run away. Will you forgive me?’ I nuzzled at her stiff hand. She ignored me and I suddenly felt bereft. ‘Please Angel… nobody has to know I ran off. It’s my fault, you won’t get blamed.
‘But that’s the trouble Paddington, I will and they won’t let us go for anymore walks.’
‘No… No way. Sooz wouldn’t be that hard. We don’t have to tell them.’ I jumped up and put my paws on her shoulders and licked her face. ‘I’m sorry… truly I am.’ I couldn’t stand the thought she didn’t like me anymore or we couldn’t go walking together. We were such good friends.
She smiled. ‘Okay Paddington. But never, never ever do that again, promise?’
‘I promise.’ I woofed my happiness as she ran her hands through my coat and surrounded me with her arms squeezing the breath from me. Thank Goodness I was forgiven.
We walked back home happy in each other’s company. ‘Are you going to stay with us forever Angel?’
‘No Paddington. We have to go home to England. But I will always be your friend and we can have fun while I’m here.’
‘Oh,’ I hadn’t realised she was going away. ‘Yes of course we will always be friends.’ I barked. ‘I don’t want you to go Angel.’
‘Me neither Paddington… friends forever,’ she said bending to kiss my nose.
‘Friends forever,’ I replied, kissing her back.