Thursday, May 29, 2014
Once the lambs are fed, it's back to the house. Cleo is off the lead and looking for one of her squeaky toys as soon as she's past the gate. Once a toy is acquired I'm invited to a game of tug of war. We play for a while with Cleo toning down her strength to accommodate for a weakling like me. Dad is a much worthier opponent but he doesn't get to play until later these days. Cleo is a very good tug of war opponent. She plays with the grandchildren when they visit and has never pulled one of them over even though some of her challengers are very small. Cleo fits her tug to suit the size and strength of the human on the other end of the toy.
Cleo's next job is to do a tour of the garden with me and help me pull weeds or plant out any new plants or rooted cuttings that need attention. She is a very "helpful" pup at these times. As soon as I begin to dig a hole Cleo plants her bottom on the spot and smiles at me with all the assurance of a dog who knows she's an invaluable help. For a short while I was able to trick her by beginning to dig a hole a few feet to the right or left of where I actually wanted the hole and as soon as Cleo plonked down in the hole I quickly dug the real one. Sadly Cleo was soon on to me and while she still sat in the first hole it was like there was a little spring in her rear end because she'd bounce up and settle down in the real hole in nothing flat. I now lock her in the laundry with a pork chew (Cleo loves pork chews) if I have a lot of planting to do, or put up with the "help" if I only have a couple of holes to dig. If it's a watering day Cleo has even more to do. She cannot resist water coming out of the hose and gallops around me to get at the water from different angles to position her mouth so she can gulp down the water. I'm trying to dissuade this behaviour because Cleo doesn't know when to stop and will make herself sick if I don't once again lock her in the laundry.
After the morning gardening session we are off for our walk. At the moment our walk is about a 2km round trip to the top of the hill towards the front of our property (for those new to this blog we live on 1,000 acres with lots of places for a puppy to explore if she's on a lead). Cleo is always very excited to go on these expotitions as Winnie the Pooh would say and makes my 2km walk a real work out. She's very good and just gives any sheep or lambs a nod of acknowledgement as she passes by without showing any inclination to chase them. Yesterday I let her off the lead once we were well and truly clear of sheep and started training her to come when called. Cleo isn't learning "Come" as quickly as I'd like - read Cleo is refusing to learn to come at all. She did very well yesterday until she decided it was a great game and ran towards me very enthusiastically and knocked me sideways. I have a back injury and being knocked sideways meant that walking back home was slow and painful after that. Naturally I suspended lessons and hobbled home, cursing myself for forgetting to take my mobile phone with me to call for help. Graeme finally missed me and came looking for me thankfully, but I was almost home by then with a very tired Cleo at my side. While I might have been making slow progress, Cleo, who was still off the lead found lots to bound over to and explore before rushing back to make sure I hadn't disappeared.
After our walk Cleo has personal time while I go inside to do the housework and quilting, recovering from being knocked sideways or whatever. She usually lies on the back porch with her bottom up against the screen door and goes to sleep. I firmly believe this is a strategic position so that she's instantly aware of any comings or goings of her family. She keeps a squeaky toy close by in case someone comes out for a quick game.
After her nap it's time to go find Dad and see what he's up to. Cleo is aware that she's neglected Graeme for most of the morning and as he's her favourite squeaky toy game partner she has to keep in his good books - so it's time to make herself useful around the farm. Cleo's "useful" behaviour involves following Graeme from job to job wagging her tail furiously in a show of farmer solidarity. She pitches in and helps whenever she finds Graeme prone under a piece of farm machinery and isn't above drooling on him to add that St Bernard touch of approval. Occasionally Cleo forgets herself and, in an effort to be even more "useful", steps on Graeme while he's lying under some huge piece of machinery. She is then told in no uncertain terms to "Go Home!" When Dad gets like this there is nothing to be done but to go home and sit on the back porch to wait to greet him when he comes inside. Cleo always makes sure one of her squeaky toys is left at the gate so Graeme can pick it up and come play with her when he gets back to the house yard.
With the advent of the new ferrets Cleo has a new task to add to her day. She feels it incumbent on her to check the ferrets every hour or so, going up to the cage and walking under it, licking any ferret tummy or feet available through the mesh floor. The ferrets sometimes move on to the mesh for this doggy greeting and sometimes are so over doggy greetings that they retreat to the safety of their bedding where no tongues, no matter how big, can reach.
By the time the afternoon has rolled around Cleo is ready to help collect the eggs. As I head off to the chook pen with scraps in hand, Cleo bounds down to alert the chooks of the impending raid. She then waits at the gate while I open it, but learned as a pup not to go into the chook yard. I didn't teach her this rule, the chooks did. When, as a pup, Cleo bounded into the chook yard ready to make some fluffy friends the chooks ganged up on her and pecked her nose every time she presented herself as a new buddy. It didn't take many such pecks to convince Cleo that the outside of the chook yard was the place for a St Bernard to be. Once I'm inside Cleo positions herself at the side of the yard close to the wire ready to share the scraps. Her favourite is stale bread. I sit on the horizontal post at the opening of the chook shed and scatter pieces of bread to the chooks, with the fox survivor sitting on my lap eating the bread without competition. I pass lumps of the bread through the wire from time to time and Cleo happily chomps on her share.
We also visit the galahs to check their food and clean their water bowl. Cleo keeps a good distance from the aviary ever since the day she bounded through the wire at the side of the cage and found herself inside with two furious birds. She couldn't get out the way she'd come in because the wire was bent inwards and far to sharp to push again. All Cleo could do was sit down and try to look like an innocent, bird loving dog until we noticed he there when we looked out the kitchen window. Once the galahs are fed, and Cleo tries to smile reassuringly at them despite the fact that Hedwig and Hermes are severely prejudiced against St Bernards, we head back to the house. Cleo then gets and egg in her bowl as a thank you for her invaluable assistance and a drink of milk to wash it down.
The only other task for the day is to help bring the ferrets inside. This happens around dusk as the night get a bit chilly. Cleo likes to bound around ferrets and me as we head inside. She runs circuits around the garden (except where I've put up puppy blocks to protect my plants) and is back in front of us long before we make the back steps. This slow progress is due in some part to Loki and Pandora who don't yet know how to sit on my shoulders for the trip inside. I usually have my hands full of something else, like a few items from the clothes line, or a plant pot or something so, while trying to reduce my trips outside at night and bring the ferrets in, travelling on my shoulders to free my hands is something I'd like them to learn. At the moment I can't bring other things inside because I'm too busy catching falling ferrets. Cleo seems to be front and centre as soon as one or other or both ferrets slide south. Cleo is more than happy to try and catch any ferret in reach and I'm desperate to do without her help so I've got rather good at ferret juggling.
After this exciting last task for the day Cleo settles down for a well earned sleep, but just lately she's noticed that sparrows nest in our ancient pine tree in the chook yard. They have roosted there for as long as we've been here, but it's just come to Cleo's attention. For some reason she's taken exception to their presence and spends a good while barking at them to be quiet! Cleo's bark is developing nicely and has almost reached sonic boom decibels so she's able to drown out the noisy sparrows as they flutter their wings and settle on their branches. Once silence in the pine tree has been achieved Cleo retires to her bed in the laundry and only comes out if Graeme or I go outside for some reason. Once we are thoroughly licked and told how long it's been since she saw us last Cleo returns to her bed and sleeps the sleep of a puppy who has had a very busy day.