When I heard Sooz mention a trip to the farm, I pricked my ears. They often went without me, and their reasons were many: grass seeds, snakes, swimming, mud, dust, rain and the sports car only had two seats. In my mind, all were weak excuses.
‘Pete doesn’t have to come,’ I barked. ‘He can stay home with Lola and you, and I can go in Stormy.’ Stormy was Sooz’s pride and joy, her sports car named after its colour which, of course, was stormy blue. However, my suggestion fell on death ears as it often did whenever her precious little stormy blue sports car came out of the garage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jealous of it, and once I’d peed against its wheel to show it where it stood in the scheme of things, I felt happier. All I really wanted was to hang out with Sooz in it, the top-down and breeze in our hair, so I could bark at the local dog population and show them how special I was and people in turn could hoot their car horns… well in my dreams that’s what happened, but to date, my dream had not come to fruition.
Today, however, I was determined not to be put off, and so I hung around Sooz with a hopeful expression plastered over my face. ‘Sooz’, I barked her name with a hint of authority. ‘Next to meal times, visiting grand Moo and Poo at the farm is my second most favourite thing to do.’ And why wouldn’t it be, with acres to run around on and dams to swim in and lots of cows to bark at? It didn't get much better than a trip to the farm!
‘I think we’ll take Paddington with us’, I heard Sooz say to Pete.
‘Yippeeeee. I’m going to the farm. Lola, guess what, I’m going to the farm…yeah.’
‘I’m not coming!’ she snapped belligerently. ‘I don’t what to come. I'll stay here and look after things.’
‘They might not ask you to come,’ I laughed at her. ‘You’re such a stick in the mud, Lola. You don’t know what you’re missing.’
‘Oh yes I do, thank you very much. I hate driving in the car, and I hate all that walking. I have bad memories of going to the farm. Did I ever tell you about our cousin Bella? She hates me. And when Gromit was alive, he made me walk with him, and then he’d bark at the swans and ducks on the dam. He made such an awful noise I’d always end up with a headache. And then there are those horrible cows. Did I tell you about the time they chased me?’
‘No Lola, you’ve never mentioned any of those things. What do you mean cows chased you?’
‘Do I have to spell it out? Oh never mind Paddington, you really are thick,’ she turned and walked away grumbling to herself. ‘Too many bad memories… so no thank you… I’m staying at home where I’m safe.’
I gazed after her surprised by all she’d said – poor Lola was a troubled old lady and would put a damper on things.
And so I was more than happy when we left home without her. ‘She’s such a pain in the car, Sooz,’ I moaned. ‘She grumbles at me if I accidentally touch her, and it’s usually her fault because she paces and collides with me. This way, I get the back seat to myself.’
Sooz didn’t answer, but I guessed she got the gist of my complaint. I’d told her on numerous occasions how bad it was sharing the back seat with Lola.
The farm is half an hour’s drive from our house and is nestled between Macclesfield and Strathalbyn, in a place I’d heard my pets call Bugle Ranges. The weather, as it turned out was a lovely autumn day, with lots of sunshine… very conducive for walking.
As was the norm on these trips to the farm the pets and grand pets had to eat before anything else took place and lunch took ages and with nothing for me to eat, I got restless for a walk. Finally, Sooz and Pete made a move, and I herded them out of the dining room.
‘Yeah! Time to walk!’ I barked encouragement at them. The grandparents shouted they would follow, and so I herded Sooz and Pete out the door as they moaned about feeling bloated and needing a snooze. ‘I don’t think so Sooz,’ I barked. ‘You’ll feel fine once we get going.’
Sooz needed hurrying along. Sometimes she’s slow, so I reminded her, with a push from behind that a walk meant moving along a bit faster than a snail's pace.
We headed into the open paddock, and I chased after her. She suddenly came to life and was in an excellent mood, frolicking and running, and I joined in the fun chasing after her and jumping up and planting my dirty paws over her bright blue leather jacket. It needed a bit of dirt smearing over it to make it look used, and she took this in good spirit and didn’t chastise me for doing all the things I’d been taught were bad manners. I moved her towards the dam where I felt an immense urge to go swimming. However, Sooz was hard work and kept going in the wrong direction, until in the end, I had to trip her up and remind her with a tongue licking across her face that she was supposed to be taking me to the dam.
‘Come on Sooz… let’s go swimming.’
Pete followed at a sedate pace behind us, and he didn’t seem to notice Sooz was getting covered in as much mud as I was.
‘When we get to the dam Sooz,’ I barked, ‘will you throw a stick for me?’
‘Let’s find a stick, Paddington.’
Sometimes I had to let Sooz think she came up with all the bright ideas.
I sprinted off down the slope, and the sparkling water came into view. She was hot on my heels as I galloped ahead and dived into it. The water was beautifully cool and smelt delightful, and so I lay down in it.
Sooz stood upon the slope gazing at me with a look of disgust upon her face. ‘Oh Paddington… you’re going to stink.’
‘Come in, Sooz, the water’s wonderful.’
She picked up a stick, and I scrambled to gain purchase on the silt floor as it oozed up through my paws. I escaped it and flew from the water to take a flying leap at the stick. As I hit Sooz’s legs, mud and water dripped down her jeans, but I didn’t care, I wanted the stick and worried it out of her hands. Once I had the prize, I shook the excess water from my coat and covered her in millions of droplets.
She was still in good humour because she was laughing and jumping up and down.
‘Yeah this is fun… isn’t it Sooz?’ I barked. I let her take the stick from me. ‘Throw it a long way out!’
She threw it, and I swam out to fetch it back to her. Although I didn’t give it straight back to her… she could chase me for it… that was much more fun!
I lost that stick and got another one, there were plenty lying around. We were having so much fun, me swimming and Sooz throwing the sticks that the afternoon disappeared, and I started to feel weary.
In the distance, the grandparents came into view, and I sprinted around the dam to reach them. They sat on a log watching me swim after more sticks that Sooz kept finding and throwing for me. Everyone was in good spirits, laughing and joking about my athletic abilities that I felt like I owned the world.
‘I’m feeling tired, Sooz,’ I said, lying down in the muddy water with my tongue lolling out the side of my mouth. The silt from the dam floor was thicker this side, and my coat was sucking it up like a sponge. But I felt shattered and was barely able to lift a paw or do anything about it, and my stomach was rumbling. ‘I’m starving, Sooz.’
‘I think Paddington’s exhausted… time to head back,’ she said. ‘He’ll need hosing down before he gets in the car. Look at his coat.’
‘Really Sooz… I like this water better than that clean stuff out of the hose. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.’
She ignored me, as was her way, and I followed them back to the house while thinking what a fantastic afternoon, it had been.
‘Can we come again soon… please Sooz… please Pete… can we?’
‘We’re going to have to bath Paddington,’ Sooz looked at Pete then back at me. Why was she worrying about my appearance? ‘You’re filthy,’ she scolded me.
‘Have you looked at yourself?’ said Pete.
‘Who cares? It will wash off!’ I yapped. I had far more important stuff on my mind than having a bath. ‘Can we come again soon… can we? Grand Moo and Poo… please… please!’
Come over for a movie night and bring Paddington,’ said Moo.
‘Ohoooooooo,’ I howled. Wait until Lola hears about my afternoon, she will want to come next time, especially when she hears we’re having a movie night.
I had a sudden thought! I rather liked having Sooz and Pete to myself, so I might not tell her how good the afternoon was. She can stay at home, I thought, where she’s happy. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her…