Emma the dog

Emma the dog

When my chocolate Cocker Spaniel, Emma, joined our family as a puppy, she was dog number three. Her canine companions were her cousins, Cocker spaniel Hayley, aged 6, and Labrador Pixie, aged 9.

Pixie was the maternal sort, and acted as ‘mama’ to both Hayley and Emma, cleaning their ears and faces, letting them eat from her bowl and telling them off when they were naughty. She did not play with them. Perhaps she believed that she was past such things in her old age. Hayley loved to play with her human chums, but considered it beneath her dignity to play with such a cheeky little upstart as her young relative Emma. Consequently, Emma was at a loss for a playmate sometimes whenever her owners were occupied.

Undaunted, Emma invented her own games. Her favourite toy for ‘alone’ play was not any expensive squeaky contraption, nor a tempting rope tug. No, Emma liked nothing better than an empty soft drink bottle. She would roll over on her back, the top of the bottle between her teeth, and grasp the body of the bottle with her paws, like a human baby drinking from a bottle. It was certain way of attracting our attention.

Once, she managed to undo the screw cap by dextrous chewing. This is another new game of hers. With the cap in her mouth, she flicks it off her head and that sends the cap bouncing across the floor. She then goes into hot pursuit of course, pouncing on the cap, grabbing it and ‘throwing’ it again. Sometimes we had to join in, as she would accidentally (sometimes I think ‘accidentally on purpose’) send it bouncing under the sofa, where short spaniel paws and fat spaniel noses cannot reach. In time, we just gave her the lids from our soft drink bottle as a matter of course.

Emma is 8 now, and enjoys her status as an ‘only dog’ for the first time. She is not entirely devoid of canine company though. Our house is on a back section, surrounded by houses on all sides. We have six foot wooden fencing, with gaps of about an inch between the wooden boards all around the house. It is just enough for Emma to be able to see the neighbours' dogs if they are close. The dog on the back section is a grumpy cross breed who barks at every human or animal that comes close. Emma simply ignores this dog, pretending she is not there. Likewise, the dogs at the front house pay as much attention to Emma as she does to them, which is none. The dog at the side house, by our washing line, however, is a little Emma-sized brown and white pooch and is Emma’s best doggie friend. The fence on that side is partially blocked, so the gaps between the fences are only open at each end, giving a four meter ‘blank patch’ where Emma’s friend is not visible. Emma only goes out there when we are not far away, as she does not like going far without us. When she does (usually when the washing is being hung out to dry), she stands at one of the open ends and barks for her friend to come and play. When he hears her, he comes running and the game begins. They see each other through the fence, and bark once. Then they both charge down to the other open end, wait for the other to get there, bark again and race back to where they were originally. They then bark, and so the game goes on! It usually ends when we have finished hanging out the washing and Emma reluctantly leaves her friend to come with us. We sometimes hear Emma’s friend calling for her to come and play, but she will not go unless we are near, so occasionally we oblige her and go and wait for her to have a quick game of ‘chase and bark’!

Emma recently thought her friend had moved house. You see, our front neighbours had acquired a pet goat kid, about Emma’s size. It is brown and white, much like Emma’s friend. Emma saw it through the fence and barked at him to come and play 'bark’, then set off down the fence line! She was most perturbed when, not only did her supposed friend not join the game, he was positively scared and ran off! It took a few experiences like this for Emma to realise that her friend had not moved, and that what is at the front house was in fact, a completely different species!

True story by Caroline Bailey

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Caroline Bailey
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