Look into those melting eyes. The look of love?
This tender-hearted beauty is our neighbour’s dog Indie, also known as Indiq, Q being the Breton diminutive for ‘little’ Indie. And, in a Valentine weekend special, this is her story. (Warning to softies, have the Kleenex handy.)
It was a bitter winter’s night. The snow was coming down in huge white whirling gusts, the wind wuthering like a wild creature around an isolated farmhouse in the Tarn.
Indoors, Monsieur and Mme Dupont were sitting in the kitchen, toasty warm in front of a crackling log fire. Suddenly Mme D. heard a sound, like a child whimpering. She cocked her head to one side, listened. There it was again! She looked at her husband, threw a shawl hurriedly round her shoulders and drew back the bolts on the ancient creaking wooden door.
‘Oh là là! Gustave !’ she cried.
Peering over her shoulder, Monsieur Dupont gave an exclamation of pity mingled with horror. (Probably something like ‘Nom d’une pipe!’) Bending down he scooped the tiny bundle into his strong farmer’s arms and cradled it close to his broad, farmer-like chest.
‘Where can he have come from?’ said Mme D, heating warm milk for the tiny waif.
‘I do not know. But look at these pose.’
‘Yes, pose, four of them on the end of its feet.’
(Film buffs will have cottoned on that M. Dupont speaks English with the same accent as Inspector Clouseau. Why he was suddenly speaking English to his French wife is irrelevant to the narrative.)
Mme D. pressed her hands to her mouth and tears of pity filled her eyes.
‘But they are covered with blisters! ‘
‘Yes. This little deug has walked for miles. And it’s a she, by the way.’
Here I am obliged to confess (in case the neighbours read this blog) that most of the above is somewhat exaggerated, not to say a pack of downright lies. However the most important bit is true. Our neighbours did, really, truly, discover a puppy at their gate, her paws worn out, panting with exhaustion. They already had two dogs, two horses and a cat so after scratching their heads they put her in the car and drove round the local farms to try to find out where she’d come from. Finally they found the right place and this is what they discovered.
The puppy’s mother had died shortly after giving birth. Fortunately one of the other farm dogs had a litter of her own and seemed to accept the idea of suckling the orphan. However the cruel laws of nature being what they are, when Step-Mum decided she’d done her bit for social services, she informed all her offspring (via some kind of canine communication system) that it was time to stand on their own four paws and go off and herd a few sheep.
The kids got the message, all apart from Puppy, who was turning out to be a big soppy softie, a bit of a clinger. Sterner measures were called for. Step-Mum opted for some tough love and took to disappearing at high speed into the woods, trying to shake off her adoring step-child. The farmer noticed she would return alone, a satisfied gleam in her eye, but then, hours later, a bedraggled Puppy would stumble back and flop at her side with an adoring look. This continued up until the day that Step-Mum finally succeeded, and Puppy found herself lost and abandoned in front of our neighbour’s gate.
What to do? The bottle of pastis came out and there was a pow-wow. Our neighbours had a soft-hearted niece (who incidentally lives next door to us), maybe if she saw Puppy…?
Honestly now, who could have resisted that two-month-old Disney version of cute doghood, with its silky black and caramel coat, little white bib, rose-petal-pink tongue, and chocolate eyes?
The waif was taken in and named Indie, in honour of the famous cinematic adventurer.
Boy, Indie had really fallen on her paws. All these people to make a fuss, play with her, give her puppy chews, tickle her tummy, it was doggy paradise! Better still Maman and Papa didn’t have any other dogs, just human children, who, she quickly learnt, were in fact her very own adoring Aunties and Uncles, otherwise known as the Slaves. Overnight she switched from being the runt outsider to the worshipped only child. She fell in lerv. Deep lerv.
And there were fringe benefits. Her doggy brain had registered the existence of two other houses nearby, no dogs there either. Perhaps she could acquire these as sort of second and third residences, places she could drop into for a mid-afternoon snack of juicy ham bone or saucisse de Toulouse? And these neighbours, sitting outside on summer evenings, had nothing to do except throw sticks! It was so exciting that she forgot what Step-Mum had taught her about walking properly, one foot in front of another and just bounced round on all four paws at a time, boing! boing! boing!
The months passed. Cute little Indie grew bigger. And bigger. In fact she began to bear an alarming resemblance to the Hound of The Baskervilles. But, in spite of her habit of sneaking up behind you as you were pruning the lavender and nearly giving you a heart attack, we all agreed that this growth spurt was a good thing, a great burglar deterrent. Unfortunately, in spite of her impressive musculature, even more impressive fangs, and the way she powered through the fields chasing rabbits like a rampaging rhino, her personality remained unchanged. Burglars? Did they have a beef chew in their pockets perhaps? Would they rub her tummy if she rolled on her back? Would they like a lick or a nudge from her wet doggy nose? Would they love her like maman et papa? Our neighbours should have called her Valentine.
But Indie is not just a dog who wants to be loved. She’s a sharer. Obviously Maman and Papa are top of her list, Aunties and Uncles next, but she’s anxious not to leave anyone out. This is why, in the last few weeks, she has intensified her ‘be nice to the neighbours’ campaign. How do I love thee, let me count the ways, let me shower you with gifts…
Now you may remember, if you read the last blog, that I am currently engaged in a literary tussle with the Muse, Divine Eureka, and the leading lady of my current oeuvre, the ghost of Alexandra. Concentration is essential. Which is why, a couple of weeks ago, I was not happy to be startled out of my trance by a demented howl from below.
‘Oh non! Merrrrde!’
A flood? A lighting bolt? An escaped bull?
I raced downstairs to find the Maître de Maison standing in the garden with a face like thunder.
His Maitreship merely pointed, finger quivering with accusation.
I went to inspect. Nestling coyly behind a large bush was a gift from Indie. A large gift from Indie. The first. But not the last.
We were on the list. Maman and Papa had already received numerous love-tokens, the most impressive being a half-digested rabbit regurgitated at the feet of Auntie, who suddenly came over all faint. Over the following days faithful Indie got into the habit of dropping off early morning gift packages chez nous. Now, not to boast, but we obviously possess the gift of dog-whispering. Had we not trained Indie in a matter of seconds how to sit and count to three before leaping into the air to catch her doggy treats? Surely it was just a matter of more whispering into her floppy ear. Kind of menacing growling whispers.
‘Come here! Look! Bad girl! Bad girl! Nasty poopoo. Grrr.’
But this time it didn’t seem to be working. Indie acquired a permanently mournful look as she tried to work out what was wrong. Maybe what was needed were extra morning deliveries, closer to the doorstep?
Finally we caved in and ratted her out to a horrified Papa and Maman. Would it get as far as an ASBO? Indie would sit with her head on one side as a frowning Papa pointed with his shovel at the lavender bush. Then she would slope off at his heels, throwing a last reproachful glance at the two snitches hiding behind the curtains.
This week, as Valentine ’s Day approaches, we have noticed an improvement. The gifts are diminishing both in frequency and size. For the last couple of days, the lavender bush has held no murky secrets.
Clever girl, that Indie. In fact I can see her now, from the window, giving the lavender a wide berth. Wait a minute, why is she sniffing round that tree? Indie! Indie!
A very Happy Valentine’s weekend to all!
I have not forgotten you, Biarritz Passion is FREE for 2 days, 13th and 14th Feb! Forget the rainy weather and enjoy romance in France….
Finally a very big thank you, merci beaucoup, to Bernard Arini at
who kindly invited me to appear on his blog. Check it out!