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Continuing the story of our move from Spain to France with Rio, Part 6.

our big, fluffy Basque sheepdog now aged 18 months. (©) Sue Dayman, Mauroux, France

The house is situated in countryside and there are no pavements until you approach the village, so on our evening walks we are trying to teach Rio to stand still on the grass verge when a vehicle approaches. When he was small, he used to jump up at every passing car, motorbike, pushbike or even advancing skateboard. He loved the nocturnal rubbish-collecting dustcart and tried to accidentally end his life under the largest wheels most nights. As soon as we hear a car drawing near, we tell him to wait, then I give him a delicious doggie treat if he sits tight and it seems to be working. When we walk past the duck farm, he has to ignore the easy pickings as much as he can and walk nicely on his lead without pulling. I think they notice him though, judging by their demented flapping wings and the way they throw themselves at the electric fencing… However, he’s very fond of the post van. At least I think it’s fondness that makes him run down the gravel drive, bark crazily and chase the postman down the lane. Fortunately, the postman thinks it’s a friendly game… I’m not so sure…

The weather is sunny now without being unbearably hot. Moreover, Rio can push off out to play without returning home soaking wet and muddy. And smelly too until he gets a good brush and a dose of his ‘Canine Kline’ aftershave, but still completely covered in burrs. We are enjoying our life here a lot (no pun intended, but actually we do live right near the river Lot!) The Lavender bushes lining the driveway are out in full force, and I’ve picked a colossal bunch for a glass jug on the sideboard, as someone said the mozzies don’t like the smell. And hopefully, neither do the flies, of which there are hundreds, so we have placed sticky fly-catching strips on the ceiling beams, which look horrid when they are full of their little black bodies. Or worse, recently we found about forty a day on the ceramic tiled floor below a fly catching adhesive flower where they’ve been poisoned instead of stuck. Rio was a good flycatcher in Spain, even catching them in his jaws mid air, but here he has bigger fish to fry, or should that be bigger rodents to ransack. He dug up a small mouse on one of our walks and played with it a while before it dropped dead with fright. Nature can be cruel. He didn’t catch the large rodent in the kitchen though, so we had to put traps down. We haven‘t caught anything yet so perhaps we’d better get a cat.

Rio

Rio has his old armchair in the Grange, a stone outbuilding housing a large bread oven, where he likes to sit and snooze in the coolness of the ancient walls, and today, just next to his chair, he found a bird’s nest. It was about half way down the wall and well within paw reach. There were two tiny creatures shivering in there, waiting for their mama to return with scraps for their supper. We could hear Rio’s squeaks and squeals of excitement from the house while we were eating dinner watching the telly. Phil went outside and told him to keep away. He lay down obediently and waited until Phil came back into the house and then the barking and squeals began again. Leaving his dinner and knocking over the wine, Phil went outside again and barricaded around the nest so Rio couldn’t get anywhere near the by now probably frightened-to-death quivering chicks. I could see the mother sitting on the top of a wall, waiting for the coast to be clear before she made her entrance. With Rio’s heavy breathing the chicks were quiet and the mother stayed where she was.

We went into the village this evening as there was an art exhibition showing at the Tourist Office. Two local artists had laid on drinks and nibbles so we thought we’d stroll down and take Rio to stretch his legs, not that they need any more stretching, as he‘s beginning to resemble a giraffe; similar to boys who grow into gangly teenagers and the limbs don‘t know where to put themselves. Rio was delighted as everyone made a big fuss of him, and he lay down smiling from ear to ear, probably hoping for a nibble of garlic bread. He saw Queenie, another breed of sheepdog, female, whose owner, Steiner, doesn’t let her socialise with mutts as she got bitten by one once. Actually, she’s fine when he’s not looking, so it must be that she’s feeding off his own fear or anxiety. A dog can sense exactly what his owner is feeling and it seems as though the emotions go down the lead. Queenie is absolutely enormous - even more whopping than Rio, and has her hair prettily tied up at the front. Rio likes to do his ‘play bow’ routine to her, but she just snarls and bares her teeth at him, so he backs off and leaves her alone. We sat down to drink, nibble and chat with all the friends and neighbours that had turned out. A little black village dog came walking by all on his own, looking something like a shaggy terrier-cum-poodle, very sweet and a little bit shy. I usually let Rio introduce himself doggie-fashion, and so they had a good sniff and parted company happily. He returned every so often as there was food around.

A couple were present with their two dogs and they told us that the male was not sociable, only the female, so when I wanted to let our dogs introduce themselves they pulled him harshly away. I would have liked to see what unsociable behaviour he had but my husband said to leave it as perhaps the owners know best. He didn’t look particularly aggressive (the male dog, not my husband), but I did notice he definitely wasn’t castrated (I'm still talking about the dog). Later on we spotted he was tied onto a post with some thin rope while his owners were socialising. All of a sudden, there was a big commotion! The dog had pulled and heaved on his rope until it broke and leapt onto the little black village dog with a vengeance! There were many snarls and barks…then we could hear whimpers. Rio tugged at his lead to get involved but we kept a tight hold on him. The owners ran over and pulled their dog off by lifting his hind legs, the man got bloodily bitten in the process, and the little black dog was just about able to hobble home, very obviously hurt. Their aggressive dog was put into the car and that was that! No apologies to anyone or any offers of vets bills to be paid! These people run holiday gites, and sometimes have guests with children. I will remember not to recommend them!

As midnight approached, additional tables and chairs were put outside and dinner was served upon white linen tablecloths under the light of the moon and stars. Mouth watering dishes washed down by a splendid red wine. Bliss.

If you have enjoyed these articles, please email me at:- suedayman@yahoo.com
Or even if you haven’t, I would love to hear about you and your canine friends.

More next week.
(©) Sue Dayman, Mauroux, Lot, France.

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