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The move from Spain to France with Rio, Part 9.

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

We walked down the lane with Rio trotting alongside as elegantly as a carousel pony whilst admiring the newly collected mounds of hay stacked up in the fields and the fragrance of herbs wafting across the warm early evening breeze. Lizards scuttled under stones away from birds of prey swooping low over our heads looking for their next meal. Then Rio started coughing. He choked until he stopped breathing and I did the procedure where you pull their chest in and I thought I saw an object pop out of his mouth. Thankfully, he started breathing again. It was horrible. He let me carry out an inspection down his throat but I just couldnít see far enough; I reached my fingers deep until he gagged. He looked up at me with his beautiful but sad amber-coloured eyes. Then he choked a bit more and ate tons of grass until he was sick on the grassy verge. Actually, the grass needs a bit of fertilizer as itís turned from green to yellow with the heat of the summer sun and lack of rain. We took him to the vets and he was given an antibiotic injection in case of any infection as maybe his throat could be inflamed and open to bacteria. He was in a bad mood later, growling and baring his teeth whilst eating, so I put the leather gauntlets on to deal with him. Then he guarded a ball so I took it off him, then he was fine. He went back to his old stroppy behaviour for a while but didnít get a reaction from me: I used to back off, which a dog interprets as him being the top dog. I just canít stop thinking that we may have lost him! We get wonderful large green grasshoppers around here and Rio likes playing athletics with them, so maybe one could have stuck in his throat; or perhaps he toyed with a toxic toad. He soon returned to being his usual docile self - obedient, no snarling, but sticking to me like glue. Letís hope he learns a lesson from this: actually, I hope it was a shock to him and will prevent him from picking up unsavoury articles on his walks. Here in France the roads are very clean and tidy, but in Spain, he used to collect horrible used tissues and fag ends from the gutters. Or old, stale chorizo sandwiches in discarded lunch bags. The more dried up and disgusting the better. Once he picked up an open tin of tuna and we had Ďfuní trying to get that off him. The lid was jagged and he didnít understand it was for his benefit. Sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind.

Weíve been here a while now so thought weíd have a garden party to celebrate our wedding anniversary, since we didnĎt have a housewarming do. Itíll be a good opportunity to see how Rio behaves with such a large group of visitors and a good occasion to invite the French neighbours in. Some of the people weíve invited have met Rio but many havenít. Also, not all of them even like dogs, so will he pick up on their body language and scare them? Being a sheepdog, he makes a very vivid and very nasty expression which would have warned the (quite stupid) sheep even from across a field what actions he wanted from them, and this face he pulls is not as lovable as his teddy bear happy face. It looks like something out of a horror film, with large fangs and twitching nose, complete with a curling Cliff Richard style top lip, and the first time we saw it we both backed off, giving Rio the perception that HE was OUR boss. We then had to train ourselves to be more assertive and in total command on every occasion with him until he accepted our authority. Several children will also be here, including the three little grandchildren, and I wonít be able to watch him every second whilst serving drinks and being on general hosting duties. I do have a chain handy, so will put him on it away from everyone if I feel any trouble brewing.

Rio sensed the importance of the occasion and took to following me around the house whilst I was preparing for the party. Trying to clean the tiled floors with him trailing behind my bucket and mop with his dirty paws was a challenge. I suppose I could shut him out of the rooms whilst cleaning but I canít bear to hear whining and scratching on the other side of the old oak latched doors. Have we enough loo rolls? Ok Rio, you go and get some more. Are the guest towels all replaced with clean fresh ones? Ok Rio, go and get the ones from the washing line. Youíd think from his facial expressions that he was really helping. Ever tried to wrap up pass-the-parcels with a huge, shaggy canine friend ĎassistingĎ? He loved every bit of tape and paper, judging by the kiddies prizes covered in bits of his fur. He watched while colourful balloons were blown up and tied to posts and furniture was re-arranged. Pretty posies of wild flowers were picked from the surrounding meadows and fields along with aromatic lavender from the garden to place in jugs of water. We laid several tables out with delicious food: well-seasoned spicy chicken (courtesy of my son, Sean, an excellent cook), quiches, an array of appetizing salads, hams, olives, cheeses, puddings, all manner of tempting, mouth-watering eats. The kitchen was stocked with wonderful wines, beguiling beers, gesticulating juices and plenty of ice. As people started to arrive I served chilled Sangria welcome drinks, reminiscent of Spain, and asked everyone not to feed Rio at all, as I did not want to start any bad habits and prefer that he waits for his dinner. Heís got used to seeing us eat before he does and lies low until he gets his grub. Thatís unless I forget and he has to remind me by pulling his bag of food with his teeth until I get the message. He doesnít usually try to steal it even though itís in a bag on the floor. He used to steal - there was the time he swiped a pork chop while it was still cooking in a hot frying pan. He could reach the table from a very young age and stick his snout suddenly into my plate knowing Iíd have to leave it. How his nose didnít get cut right off by a sharp knife, Iíll never know. Anyway, only one friend at the party fed Rio some cheese from his plate, and later on Rio came back to beg only from him time and again. He was great with all the children and enjoyed being chased, showing off his galloping performance of a Derby winner while they taught him how to hoola-hoop.

Now everyone has gone home and Rio is wandering around the house sadly like a lost sheep. He skipped expectantly into the garden and came back looking rejected and abandoned a dozen times. Last night he trudged into the childrenís room, found it empty, went into Sean and Sarahís room, found no one there, then settled down to sleep on my bedside rug, needing the comfort of knowing we are near, even though he prefers the cool tiled floor of the landing in such warm weather. Heís rediscovered playing with his own toys which he hasnít touched since the children arrived when he found that being chased by them and sprinting around the garden yelping was much more fun. Or biting a big hole in the paddling pool. Someone left a big pink plastic hoola hoop lying around and he chewed that too.

If you have enjoyed these articles, please email me at:- suedayman@yahoo.com
Or even if you havenít, I would love to hear about you and your canine friends.

More next week.
© Sue Dayman Mauroux, Lot.

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