The Cottage Smallholder

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Freddie – a dog with personality



I knew on the recce visit that Freddie could be a good companion. His beautiful deep brown eyes sized me up carefully.
“Do you think that Freddie will be a problem?”
“Of course not. He’s lovely.”
Somewhere deep down inside I reckoned that there might be glitches. I could tell from his glance that he agreed.

Generally when I’m decorating houses I have learnt to be firm and cool with the resident dogs. Otherwise I’m suddenly having to deal with paint tinged disasters. Like the time that Buster, the Norfolk Terrier, took a short cut across my paint tray and rambled slowly upstairs. The furry feet acted like four small sponges and were harder to clean than the long trail of footprints that extended rapidly when he heard my shriek.

I ignored Freddie for the first two weeks and the gesture was returned. The only blonde hairs in the paint pots were mine. His life is a good one. Two decent walks a day, loving owners and a capacious leather sofa for super snoozing.

Last week Freddie was out of his cage/crate when I arrived, dozing beside the remnants of the latest tasty discovery. He has an appetite for dustpans, logs and sand paper but his real passion is strewn across his lawn.

A massive pear tree overhangs his garden. The branches are still full of firm chunky fruit. Each day there are a few more windfalls on the grass, crisp and tempting. Perfect for chomping and burying to retrieve later. Freddie finds this fun, digging a big hole, dropping in a pear and then nosing the soil carefully over the fruit. Then the soil has to be pushed aside to check that the location of the pear is perfect.

Relocation can take some time. It’s a wonderfully muddy, messy, pear chomping process.

Once the pear is buried there is the question that faces pear lovers the world over.
“Is the pear in the hole better than the twenty two on the lawn?”

More excavations. Followed by diligent sampling and comparisons between clean pears from the grass and those coated with layers of mud. Pear projects keep him happy for hours. Eventually he stands outside the French windows – carefully graded muddy pear in jaw.

This is when I finally put my brush down and say “Non.”
“No” doesn’t seem to work with Freddie but the definitive French word seems to do the trick. The fruit is quickly hidden in a raised bed and he saunters in for a power nap.

Gradually Freddie’s misdemeanours have racked up. When his Master arrives back from work he is waiting by the door to greet him. I make his apologies.
 – “After a long and muddy walk, he pushed past me and dried his paws on your beautiful white duvet.”
 – “I found him in the spare bedroom, barking at the ducks on the pond. I called him downstairs but he ignored me. Is he deaf?”
 – “Unfortunately he has eaten some of the skirting on the landing. Would you like me to repair it?”

This morning I arrived to find a chewed bottle of contact lens solution half opened on the kitchen floor. Freddie looked sheepish. I examined the bottle for a list of contents. The small print informed me that contents were detailed in the paper instructions that came with the bottle. Presumably F had eaten these.

In the killing grounds beside the sofa I discovered a ripped sponge bag, a small empty tooth-marked bottle of Listerene mouthwash and the torn remnants of a bubble pack of pills. There were a lot of semi chewed pills spread across the floor. Freddie watched from the sofa as I swept up the debris and put my dustpan well out of reach.

I telephoned his Master and rang the vet. F discovered a chubby biro while I was talking to the veterinary nurse. He quickly traded it for a dog treat.

The vet rang back an hour later.
“No problem with the contact lens solution. The Listerene mouthwash is more worrying and depending on the amount of pills he has eaten, there could be kidney failure.”
Freddie was wagging his tail, looking chipper on the sofa
“Shall I bring him in?”
“It’s too late. A dog needs to be seen within 15 minutes of ingesting pills. Bring him in if he starts vomiting or begins to act strangely.”

I kept F close by me all day. He loved it. While I was painting the windows upstairs he tested all the beds and barked through the open windows. When he took long naps I checked that it wasn’t a coma. Each time, he opened his soulful eyes, licked my hand and rolled over for a belly rub. On and off all day he tried to tempt me into the garden by posing with muddy pears outside the double glazed back door. At around four in the afternoon I’d fallen in love with this dark eyed, fair haired labrador.

Freddie is fine. He has survived his foray into the sponge bag and will be beside me tomorrow on my last day. I plan to arrive early and play a simple retrieval game. On the lawn with pears.

Related dog posts that may be of interest:

Dog days


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  1. We have three Cavalier KIng Charles spaniels, two of which came from ‘Many Tears Rescue’. They rescue dogs from the pound but particularly ex breeding bitches from puppy farms in Wales. The first has taken two and a half years to enjoy human contact and will now sit on our lap and enjoy the fuss we give her. The second eats everything in sight. She came to us very thin and has never stopped eating. She enjoys rubber gloves, towels, combs, socks and paper. We wouldn’t part with with any of them!

  2. michelle sheets

    Hi Fiona,
    As the proud owner of Honey (chesapeak bay mix) and Dixie (lab mix) I laughed over Freddie’s antics. Dixie is the same way, but usually confines herself to packing things around, only rarely resorting to full on destruction.

    Both girls do have a vegetarian streak in them, so much so that I had to fence off my garden. I figured this out after noticing that the “last run of the night” was getting longer and longer. I finally walked out with them to find that the had been helping themselves to the ripe tomatos still on the vines.
    Needless to say I don’t have a windfall problem in my yard, the girls eat them before I can pick them up. Apples, pears, cherries, grapes, all fair game.

  3. Ferdie, my daughter’s black Lab gazes at her adoringly when she prepares veg. “He adores cauliflower stalks,” she said. “They’re his favourite.” I put it down to typical Labrador Infinite Belly Syndrome, but was proved wrong quite convincingly. We made him sit and stay and then laid out a variety of foods. When we said the word, he roared off to investigate, with the piece of juicy beef being the first stop. My smugness rapidly turned to disbelief when he left it ( and everything else) and settled on the cauliflower. Needless to say, he returned to the meat once he’d scrunched up his favourite treat …

  4. Really enjoyed the story and agree you should definitely try and publish. You oculd probably make a whole book of stories about the dogs who’ve helped you decorate!

    Circe, our 15-month old Lab is almost the spit of Freddy, except her nose is a bit pinker. She’s also got similar dietary habits, having polished off pretty much our entire hazelnut crop this year and as many raspberries as she could get away with. We don’t have any fruit trees at the moment but my plan for replacing the boring hedge at the back of the house with espalier pears and apples is on hold, probably permanently, because I don’t think we’d actually get any of the fruit. Not that she’s missing out on her 5-a-Day as she’s not averse to putting her head in the shopping bags and pulling out whatever she can get – perhaps a pear or a banana, skin and all. The only things she’s really averse to are leafy veg and salads.

    Like Freddy, she’s also had medicine, and has demolished a mobile phone. She has a particular penchant for brushes. When we were staying at the in-laws she got their toothbrushes every time someone forgot to shut the bathroom door and one of the first things she did after arriving chez-nous as a pup was to steal the brush from the downstairs loo and run around the dining room with it in her mouth, like a flamenco dancer with a rose!

  5. I loved reading this entry too, and the comments.

    A friend recently lost her 8 month old pup & has been distraught, we have been discussing the “joys” of pups as her new pup arrives next week.

    Our 14 month old English staffordshire terrier is vastly more intelligent than the boy “Chaos” we lost last year. Easier to train, but harder to occupy, she wants constant companionship & will become destructive (spiteful maybe?) if ignored.

    She ripped a newish camelia out of the ground, along with the stake that I think was her target just a few weeks ago, just because I wasnt quick to open the door to let her back in, but has slowly learned over the past 10 days that she is not allowed onto the new garden beds.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Wendy

    I read your comment very late last night and was so pleased that you were the first to comment on this post!

    I appreciate all your comments they are always just what ‘The doctor ordered’.

    Hi Jackie
    Your comment made us roar with laughter. Thank you for dropping by.

    Hello Kay

    I love Cairns! Dr Quito had a Cairn friend until he had his terrible accident

    Our three Min Pins don’t tend to bury much stuff. Fly, my first Min Pin buried bones under piece of file paper in my ex husband’s flat. A very clean and green way of using the office detritus.

    Hello Magic Cochin

    Yes I’ll miss him. But the Min Pins won’t – they could smell him on my hands when I’ve returned home these past few days and three small noses were put firmly out of joint.

    Hi Pamela

    Bizarrely, Freddie has only eaten my sandpaper. Perhaps the smell of paint has put him off rushing around with a paint brush clenched in jaw.

    I prefer to work in a house with pets. Cats, dogs, chickens or even fish. My working world is generally just me and the paint pot. The radio is a real boon.

    Hello Jane

    I’ll miss Freddie but won’t forget him! His Mistress and Master were good clients and the past month has been a happy one.

    Hello S.O.L

    Henry and Sebastian sound like two heroes. Love the idea of Sebastian walking Henry. What a moving comment.

    Dogs can never be replaced but I’ve discovered that each new dog brings something valuable to our family. The first few weeks are tough as they are different from the dogs that they have replaced. But gradually they get used to us and we get used to them and the tentative bonds start to grow.

    I would find it hard to live without a dog or cat. They enhance my life enormously.

    Digger was a flat coat and a wonderful painting companion!

    Hi ICQB

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I might try this one day!

    Hi Sam

    He is naughtyish. He’s only 18 months old so is still a puppy in my book.

    This morning he race tracked around the garden (with pear). A joy.

    Hello Master

    Even though my Grandmother bred retrievers, I am a small dog person but I loved Freddie. He’s a wonderful companion. Intelligent and affectionate and clearly much loved. Who could ask for more?

    Hi Rosie

    I reckon that the fact that dogs like fruit and crunchy veg has been largely overlooked! The Min Pins feast on mountain strawberries stolen from the wild, ground cover in the garden. The also are keen on cucumber and chunks of carrots. When they burrowed into the fruit cage they ate all the raspberries that they could reach. Thank goodness they are small.

    Hi Jan

    I wouldn’t let the Min Pins get their teeth on my pears.

    I discovered that Labrador hairs are easily removed from eggshell this morning!

    The Contessa ate Danny’s beta blockers one morning and is still going strong. Six years later.

    Only some mice eat our soap. The mafia are clearly in the larder.

  7. 4. Labrador hair comes off glosspaint easily once it’s dried.

  8. 1. All my dogs love pears.
    2. A previous dog ate my father’s entire month’s prescription of water pills. She lived for another 14 years.
    3. My last labrador ate entire bars of soap with no illeffects at all.

  9. Any dog (notably labrador) owner will understand that story so well. Our current lab ate the table leg, chair leg, skirting boards, door frame, EIGHT seat belts and a whole lot more when we first got her. She too is a pear eater (although she doen’t bury them). Our other dog (a husky cross alsation) will eat and steal anything. Her favourite forage at the moment is sweetcorn which she nicks from the adjacent field. And earlier in the year both dogs would pick their own blackberries.

  10. As the ‘Master’ referred to in this blog, I would just like to say many thanks to Fiona for being there and keeping an eye on Freddie! She paints a very good picture of his character and various traits… He will certainly miss her!

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