Who Let the Dogs Out?

Or rather: who didn’t let the dogs out? Part of our morning go-to-school-and-work routine is to let the dogs out at the last minute and check that the doors are locked before we leave. I’m usually the last to leave and up until the end of last year I had the privilege of taking (by then only) child No 3 to school every day and since she despises being late and wanted to help me as much as possible to get ready in the mornings before we left to ensure we’d leave early, she would let the dogs out, check that they have enough water, put my handbag, mobile phone, car keys and lipstick (everything I need at the last minute) ready at the front door. Not that I ever caused her to be late but she wanted to make sure. It was quite an adjustment for me when she went to high school this year and she didn’t need me to take her anymore and my handbag, phone and car keys weren’t waiting for me at the front door in the mornings! She still lets the dogs out and checks their water bowl, but that was now the extent of her last minute house checks.

Then one morning a while ago Ironman left home after us, and we didn’t have to let the dogs out when we left because he could do it. I reminded him to let them out and lock the back door and No 3 – not trusting dad to remember – wrote him a note to remind him, which she left on the kitchen bench. By that time No’s 1 & 2 had both left. That afternoon we arrived home to two very excited dogs who were so happy to see us as they met us inside the house as we walked in the front door, where they wouldn’t have been able to be had they been let out! Upon closer inspection we found that the back door was open (security fly screen with dog flap was thankfully locked though) and the dogs had had free reign of the house all day. They must have thought we wanted them to have a party! Hmm, so much for all the reminders to let them out…

When I told my husband that he’d forgotten to let the dogs out and lock the back door he was quite adamant that it was our (the other human inhabitants’) fault for not doing it because he wasn’t used to doing it. Of course. The funny thing was that the exact same situation repeated itself not long after that and again, it was our mistake. Luckily the dogs behaved themselves and didn’t make a mess in the house, but they probably had an absolute blast sleeping on our beds all day and eating the cat’s food!

Letting the cat out is, on the other hand, a serious thing in our house. It’s council regulation that cats have to be kept inside at night, and after the trauma of our previous beautiful and loving ginger boy-cat getting mysteriously killed one night while we were out nearly two years ago (he loved roaming and never stayed inside when we tried to keep him in), we taught little M to stay inside at night and she only gets fed her dinner once she’s inside and the window with the cat-flap has been closed. Everybody knows the drill and our Jack Russell cross Kelpie, T, knows it as well. She’s particularly obsessed with the window where the cat (and her predecessors used to) goes in and out and late afternoon she starts watching our movements in case we’re going to move towards the window and close it or hears us say the word, then she’ll race to the window at top speed with nails scratching on the floor and jumping up towards the window on her short little legs regardless of whether the cat is at the window or about to come in at that moment or not. What she thinks she’s going to do once she gets there and there’s no cat is still a mystery to us, but she does it without fail. She’ll even take off for the window if the cat was sitting calmly right next to her when we said the word and one of us starts moving towards the window and the cat will just look at her with an air of detached amusement while T runs for her life on this serious mission of getting to the window.

T, guard of the window (and house)

T, guard of the window (and house)

Once kitty is inside for the night we all have to be extremely careful that she doesn’t escape so no doors or windows without flyscreens can be left open. I’m paranoid about this as I can’t bear the thought of a repeat of what happened to our ginger tom. And then one night a while ago my husband and I were sitting outside having a quiet drink and the next minute kitty M came casually walking along the top of the fence with the neighbours as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for her to be walking the (top of the) back fence at night while we sit outside watching her and having a drink. It only took a split second for me to realise that there was something very wrong with this picture and then we had to try to coax her inside again since catching her was completely out of the question. As we were trying to persuade her to come inside my mind started racing to work out where she’d got out and once we had her inside I went around the house to look for her escape route and found that child No 1 had left his bedroom window wide open and the flyscreen nowhere to be seen. Naturally a curious cat is going to investigate and accept an invitation like that! Child No 1 was out that night but I couldn’t wait until he got home to let off steam and sent him a text message doing just that.

But it seemed that one assisted escape was not enough for M and her co-conspirator child No 1 because not too long after that he left the back door open one night and that time it was him, child No 2 and I who spent about half an hour foraging around in the garden looking for a mostly black cat on a cold, wet and windy night and she wasn’t giving herself up without making us work for it. She was probably having a quiet giggle to herself watching us trying to find her.

Most nights around the time that we have dinner it’s like our M cat decides that she’s been couped up in this Alcatraz that is our house for way too long (maybe two hours by that time) though and she starts running through the house like a cat possessed literally jumping off the walls (from the floor about a metre up in the air against a wall, kicking off the wall with her back feet and off in another direction). Just like a bouncy ball, as child No 2 described it. If we’re lucky we get another show as well where she somehow manages to get the dogs involved and she starts playing hide and seek with them hiding behind a couch and then jumping out over/past/onto the dogs and shoots off behind another couch and she has the dogs running around in circles not knowing where to look for her and when they find her she has already darted off to another spot. It’s the best live dinner entertainment!

Miss M, the queen and ruler of dogs. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

Miss M, the queen and ruler of dogs. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

Z, hide-and-seek playmate

Z, hide-and-seek playmate

But our best letting-the-dogs-out tale yet is of our Kelpie/Jack Russell girl T who was home alone one Saturday afternoon when she was only a pup of about six months old and we all went out but my husband didn’t realise that the garage door didn’t close properly behind him as he left and she was left sitting there with the big wide world inviting her to go walkabouts but being the good, caring, and faithful girl that she is we got home later to find her sitting right there at the open garage door watching the road and guarding her house.

The Mystery of the Missing Steak

A steak went missing off our outdoor table a few years back. We had friends over that night, and it was their steak that mysteriously disappeared off our outdoor table while it was left unattended for a while. The two men had taken the meat outside to cook on the barbeque, and left it on that table when our friend received a call from their daughter to fetch her from work, and so the meat was left unattended, but the two guys never told me that they’d left the steak uncovered. Open. They left and when they returned, walked outside to barbeque the meat and the next thing I heard was: “Where’s the steak?!!”

Now our family has two dogs and a cat.  One of the dogs is a Jack Russell crossed with a Kelpie, with probably some Red Healer in there as well. She has the most beautiful, loyal, intelligent nature, she watches behaviour patterns (ours and the cat’s) and reacts accordingly – as an example, our previous cat preferred to drink water from the bath, and eventually T decided it was a good idea to jump in the bath to drink some water as well (next to the cat), and nowadays we hear her jump into the bath and know she’s waiting for water; she tries to herd the cat by blocking its path and trying to get it into a corner, she anticipates when the window where the cat goes in and out will be opened or closed and runs towards it at such a pace that she skids on the stone floor regardless of the fact that she’d run past the cat who bemusedly watches her on her way there, while at other times walks so quietly on the pads of her feet that you can’t hear her nails as she stalks the cat, and then sometimes she lies still on her back while the cat play-attacks her; she picks up on our moods and in general tries her best to make everyone happy. But having a Jack Russell mum and a Kelpie dad meant in her case that she has short little Corgy-type legs with a long body like a sausage dog, plus she’s put on a bit of weight over the years. Not the type of build that is predisposed to jumping very high…

Our other dog is a little Jack Russell crossed with a Fox Terrier. Another beautiful girl whose ears and nose pick things up way before her friend T’s do, typical of the Fox Terrier in her. She gets so excited when child No 3 (her owner) gets home that she whines with excitement until No 3 takes off her shoes, and then Z carries the shoes (one at a time) to the couch where she loves to lie down. She never chews any shoes, but she has to have some in her lair. If no shoes are around, she’ll run into No 3’s room and if her wardrobe is open, take out a shoe and run with it to the couch. I keep saying that we need to train her to take shoes to bedrooms and not out of them, but it keeps falling on deaf ears. She loves to sit with us whenever we eat outside, and seats herself on a chair like the rest of the family. She is built the opposite to T, with long legs and a small body that enables her to jump vertically into the air. If the pooches happen to be inside the house when you come home, they both race to the front door so excitedly as if you’ve been away for hours even if you’ve only been gone for ten minutes, and Z jumps up into the air, vertically, so you can see her through the glass pane of the front door bobbing up and down and looking like a bouncy ball or a yo-yo. Very cute. She has been called the jumping fleabag by another of our friends, something No 3 takes personal offense to. The bottom line is, this little dog has an extremely strong sense of smell and the ability to jump vertically into the air, and quite high…

On the night the steak went walkabouts, there was general confusion for a moment and at first I thought it was a joke, but it quickly turned out to be serious and the steak was really missing. The container it had been in sat glaringly empty on the table. It hadn’t gone far though and since the dogs were the only real suspects, we soon enough discovered to our absolute horror, our two dogs on the lawn happily chewing on two beautiful pieces of steak!  I was mortified, but the whole situation was also hilarious. Z has never before (or since) stolen food off our table, but at least she was kind enough to share it with T. She shouldn’t have done it though, but in her defence: the steak was left uncovered! For a temptingly long time! The worst part was that, apart from other shared food, we were planning on having a low-key dinner that night which meant hamburgers for us, and we therefore only had hamburgers to share! More mortification!!

We’ve laughed and joked about and re-told this story numerous times since, but never again left meat uncovered and unattended on the outside table. In the meantime we got a new little rescued kitten who is an absolute character. She is playful, loving, cute, adorable and sometimes acts like she thinks she’s one of the dogs. She jumps on them as if they’re her playmates, and T tolerates it patiently while Z reacts instantly by either counter-attacking or running away. In the garden she runs around like a cat possessed and mock-attacks me as if she’s a ferocious beast, and waits for me outside the front door in the shrubs in the afternoons when I get home from work and again, storms to me as if she’s going to attack me, then meekly rolls over on her back and looks up as if to say: look at me – I’m so cute! Ever since her early days in our family, she took to jumping onto the kitchen bench when I was preparing food, and no manner of picking her up and putting her on the floor demotivated her – she just kept coming back. Eventually I started keeping a water spray bottle handy and even just the motion or sound (without actually spraying the water) taught her very quickly not to go there, but she still went and sat on top of the water cooler and watched the proceedings from there. None of us could bear chasing her away from there because she did nothing wrong and was just too cute for words.

Our routine on the days when child No 1 finishes work late, has become to leave his dinner out for him on the kitchen bench so he can just heat it up or eat as it is, whichever he wants to do. One night a while ago when I put his plate there for him I thought I’d better cover this with some paper towel in case M (the cat) decides to investigate the kitchen bench as she does think that no area is out of bounds to her and as we were having hamburgers (again!) the meat might have been tempting to her. I then got busy doing something else, child No 3 was out and child No 2 was playing the piano when next minute she burst out laughing and admonished the cat at the same time. I went to see what was going on, and it turned out that M was on the floor eating No 1’s hamburger patty! No 2 said she’d noticed that the paper towel covering No 1’s plate had moved so she put it back but didn’t notice that anything was amiss until she saw M and the hamburger patty on the floor. How on earth that tiny little 4kg cat managed to pick up a hamburger patty and carry it in her mouth while jumping down to the floor is beyond me. She hunts insects on a daily basis, and brings them into the house to show off and play with until she’s bored with them, but never has she carried anything bigger than that. (She wears a collar with a bell and won’t be able to catch birds because the bell will warn them if she’s coming.) That was a hamburger patty wasted as it went straight in the bin, but it was too funny to be angry at her. What is it with our pets on the nights we eat home-made hamburgers? Needless to say, tonight’s leftover meat was covered with a plate while it cools down to a suitable fridge-storing temperature, but the funny thing is that our pets aren’t undisciplined. Really. The dogs do as they’re told, even though sometimes it means going outside so slowly and with their heads and ears drooping so low it nearly touches the ground so you feel really guilty for sending them out, but they still obey, and M is learning not to jump onto our bed in the mornings until my alarm has gone off, even though she has a relapse every now and then when she thinks it’s time for us to wake up and she then jumps onto the bed and then onto the headboard, walks across the headboard and jumps down on Ironman’s side (this must have maximum effect in her mind as she gets to jump on both of us in the same lap) and she does this repeatedly, but it’s all small stuff. Their only minor little shortcoming is that we have to watch them around meat…