Just another calm 24 hours in Paradise

A swallow-tail butterfly gently skips up and down on its way to nowhere in particular. The gentle south-west breeze takes the edge off 38 Celsius degrees of heat. The pool water is crystal clear, and refracting light in myriad directions. I’ve finished trimming the hedges at the limits of our land here, and now lunch with local chums beckons. Last night, Coco came into her first heat, so she must be watched for signs of wandering.

And then, I notice that our eldest terrier Foxie is missing. In the baking heat of a southern French July day, I wander about over three miles of countryside yelling my head off in that high-pitched ‘my, how we shall have fun’ way that dog-owners do when trying to get their animals to return.

And at the point where I’m already 15 minutes late for a lunch appointment, Fox pitches up looking hacked off that I’d left the grounds. I pick her up and find a tick. I pull out the invader in that careful anti-clockwise manner as if disabling a UXB, at which point the dog goes ape-shit bananas and zooms off upstairs.

When I return, she’s still upstairs (very unusual when it’s hot here) and unwilling to be further examined. But – not liking the look of the tick’s bore-hole – I pin her down on the sofa and get multiply bitten in the process of dousing it with TCP. She goes mental again and hides under the spare-room’s bed.

Later still, I serve supper, and Foxie wolfs the lot down. She seems OK now. Around 7.15 pm, she’s disappeared again.

The hours from then until 3 am are spent scouring the local wild lands with a torch, and rendering myself hoarse shouting about biscuits, treats and raw chicken wings. But she’s absconded. I go to sleep in the hallway with the door open. I don’t sleep. Foxie doesn’t return.

By 11 am the following day I am frantically ringing every neighbour until – as a last resort – I call the local bakery. “Ah, b’e oui monsieur Wad,” says the familiar voice, “votre chienne est ici”. The bakery is over a mile away. HTF…..

Discussions of a canine bitch nature with close chum Jenny reveal that when one bitch is on heat, sometimes other females in the pack find the botty-stink too much to bear, and put as many miles between them and it as they can.”

So in the house here by now there are three long lengths of string-twine attached to two dog collars allowing the on-heat and the off-piste terriers to pee, poo, drink, eat and generally mooch about, but not to disappear. As they criss-cross unthinkingly hither and thither, Foxie and Coco create a tableau of maypole crochet. When night falls, both doors are closed and Tiggy – thus far bored with the whole episode – retreats to her usual ‘den’ underneath the cutlery cupboard. What on earth could now go wrong?

I untie the two potential escapees and bung them in the kitchen ready for bed. But Tiggy is gone: she has legged it through the one open window in the sitting room.

It’s seven minutes to midnight here now. Tiggy, suitably chastised following an hour of angry garden-searching, is fast asleep in the kitchen – as is Coco, the one pup supposed to in charge of the Escape Committee, but who has not once attempted to stray anywhere. Foxie has been TCP’d again and is eyeing me balefully. I am all dogged out at the moment. I just want to sleep without wondering which country one of them might be in by tomorrow morning. It’s been that kind of year.