The other day, we went a bit mad and decided to have a family excursion. Well – as much family as we could muster together – the Elder One has reached an age where he is permanently AWOL and the guinea pig really couldn’t be arsed.
It wasn’t a special day out – just a regular weekday – but it was one of those gorgeously sunny, autumn days where you feel impelled to do something in a herd, clinging to the belief it really is SO much more jolly to be out and about with all your loved ones in tow.
Luckily, we had somewhere pleasant to go. A while back, we’d decided rowing lessons would be extremely good for The Younger One. We had broken the news to him that there was no Minecraft in rowing and then chipped his fingers off the computer keyboard while he was still in catatonic shock. Now he is forced to do Minecraft in his head once a week while manoeuvring a training skiff along the river with his instructor plus the parent-in-attendance puttering after him in a mini launch, annoyingly interrupting his daydreams about Creepers by shouting random words of encouragement. From a parental point of view, this is an excellent afternoon out, so when Thursday arrived with blindingly gorgeous weather, a rosy image of our family being lovely and family-like overtook us and we decided to approach the exercise as A TEAM.
‘Let’s ALL go to the rowing lesson together,’ we thought. ‘What the hell!- Let’s take the dogs too!’.
In the back of my brain, I did faintly hear the voices of passengers boarding the Titanic saying ‘Hopefully, we might see an iceberg!’ but decided it was best to just ignore this for the time being.
The plan was I’d have a relaxing stroll along the river bank with the dogs while The Bloke would manfully take on the task of pootling along the river with the instructor while eyeballing his offspring’s haphazard progress. It was all set to be a rather pleasant afternoon.
Dogs and I ambled happily off in picture-perfect, dog-walking harmony. Minute two of our amble, Dip (the idiot-git-teenage-mongrel-hell-hound) spotted a bunny frolicking on the grass in a very tantalising way. The amble promptly upgraded itself to a 2-armed high velocity drag. We pelted along for the entire length of my planned amble in roughly five minutes until I finally managed to employ the brakes on the Marina bridge with a cunning mix of threats and treats – heavy on the threats and a knackered bit of dog chew I found gathering fluff in the bottom of my bag . I took a minute to restore my ability to breathe and hopefully scanned the marina below to see how far the blokes in boats had got. NOWHERE was the answer. Our large lad was still parked in his vessel at the slipway while the instructor and The Bloke happily discussed interesting boaty things. Unfortunately, by this stage, Blue – my old Labrador – was revolving on the spot like a mini tornado because he could smell that river, and sadly, his brain had exploded.
If you are not in tune with Labradors, ‘exploding brain’ is a very Labrador thing – and there are two things guaranteed to make their lovely little brains spontaneously riccochet around their big, lumpy heads – the magic duo are EATING and SWIMMING. If it was feasible to serve Blue his dinner on a surfboard, there’s no doubt the excitement would take him out permanently. On top of that, Dip, (the idiot-git-teenage-mongrel-hell-hound) was entertaining himself by attempting to see if straining at the far end of the lead really would dislocate my shoulder if he kept at it for long enough. An elderly couple approached the bridge. I smiled my big, toothy, friendly smile. Dip smiled his big, toothy, friendly smile; Blue just levitated slightly on the spot with water-crazed eyes. The oldies clocked Dip’s grin and decided to hike energetically the long way round rather than venture any nearer the feral wolf on the bridge. Since my resuscitation skills were a bit rusty, decided we needed to move along.
Concluded the only way to achieve calm was to find somewhere to access the river so the dogs could have a swim. Eventually, fell over a peaceful little park occupied by another lovely family bonding over a lovely picnic who glared at me in a lovely way when two hyped up dogs dragged me past their coronation chicken sandwiches in the direction of the river. I can only assume they missed my big friendly smile due to the speed at which I hurtled past.
Cleverly, Blue had spotted the bit of bank that allowed access to the river and kindly employed his solid Labrador pull power to make sure I reached the bottom of the slope without having to worry too much about involving my feet in the process. I wasn’t feeling quite as playful as usual, so I scrambled back to my feet and elected to unhook his lead instead of bare-foot waterskiing into the centre of the river in his wake.
Everything was going quite well so far. The river was a gloriously tranquil scene – little boats dotted the other bank, swans floated serenely down the middle, fat Labrador was now happily doing freestyle and idiot-git-teenage-mongrel-hell-hound had set himself the task of christening anything close to the bank with piddle and become locked in an animated discussion with a duck who didn’t fancy being piddled on. Coronation-chicken-guzzling family seemed quite entranced by our presence. I was pleased to be livening up their day, so I threw them another smile and they glared pleasantly back. It really was a perfect day.
Unhelpfully, the riverbank was so bushy there was no view up the river, so when the end of my son’s training skiff suddenly trundled into view a minute later, I was busily rescuing the hell hound from a pissy, vindictive duck and didn’t quite see him coming.
At this point, I do need to mention a summer day – many years ago – when we went canoeing and took Blue, the Labrador. He spent that entire day repetitively launching himself out of my canoe, swimming alongside for a minute or two and then hauling himself back in again in order to vigorously share his accumulated water. My main memory of that day is five hours of being drenched to the skin in wet-dog-flavoured water while shouting a lot as I manically bucketed half the river out of a canoe that was desperately trying to capsize. Sadly, The Younger One had been in the front of my canoe that day. It had taken some intensive Minecraft and an animated conversation with the dog for him to get over the trauma of the dog’s scurrilous attempts to drown him. Turns out Blue remembered that day as the best day EVER!
As soon as Blue spotted the younger one’s canoe-like, boaty thing in the water, he instantly recalled that really fun day of his youth plus all the great attention he got afterward and headed after the rowing skiff with the subtlety of a submarine torpedo.
Teenage son spotted his less-than-beloved pooch in dawning horror an instant flashback to our canoeing trip annihilated his idyllic mental block building. His lackadaisical progress up river kicked up a zillion notches and he started frantically flying along the water while randomly squawking ’NO NO! BLUE! GO AWAY! I’M GOING TO HAVE A BONE TO PICK WITH YOU LATER!’ The mutt responded by revving up his underwater peddling speed several gears – this game was just getting better and better. As Blue hooned off after the skiff impersonating a demonic seal, The Bloke and instructor putted into view and automatically assumed the glazed expressions of the instantly depressed.
The Bloke started yelling from the launch, I was shouting from the bank, the idiot-git-teenage-mongrel-hell-hound was barking his head off since the rest of his pack were howling and he didn’t want to be left out. Heads craned in our direction, faces popped out of canal boats, the swans gathered menacingly ready for a good punch up. I worried about the coronation chicken lot behind me because I knew all that glaring is seriously bad for your eyes. I pinged my squawk level up a notch or so because – as we all know – shouting your head off is always the answer.
The outraged Younger One had now clocked up an Olympic qualifying speed but was still failing to outrace the zooming Labrador. In desperation, he successfully ruined the game by planting the canoe in a river bush, and my crazed squeal of ‘TREAT TREEEAAAT!’ finally penetrated Blue’s sodden brain cell. ‘BLLUUE! I’M GOING TO HAVE A BONE TO PICK WITH YOU LATER!’ echoed hysterically out of the river bush as Blue reluctantly paddled back to me. He planted himself in the mud on the river bank, drenched me in river mud and proceeded to howl his head off because we’d completely ruined his life. The coronation chicken lot behind me seemed to have exhausted their excessive frowning, so they tssked their way to their vehicle. Not sure that they clocked my apologetic smile; they seemed to struggle with eye contact – most likely due to eye-strain from excessive glaring. As I hauled my inconsolable Labrador and hyped up mutt out of the park, they motored off in polite fury – probably in search of an out-of-hours optometrist.
The Younger One has now had some SERIOUS chats with the dog about bad behaviour. Blue is exceedingly happy with all this extra attention coming his way, and next time we go out for a family excursion, he is sure to remember how to get loads of attention when he gets home.
Luckily, since I zoomed past fifty, I’ve discovered my memory recall is conveniently terrible. Give me a week and all I’ll remember is a nice sunny day by the river. It’s such a shame that the rest of the family are so detail obsessed….