Ordinary things, extraordinary to witness…

The other day, we had friends visit with their dogs (3) so we could all go for a walk together. You might wonder what they are thinking having three dogs, so here is the back story:

We need to rewind 3 years, to when this all kind of got kicked off.

We live in a Catholic country. Our kids attend a school that is considered Catholic. Thus, they do Catholic-y type things like Communion (amongst other celebrations like Easter, Christmas, and so on). Because the kids are still of grade-school age, there are some kids who take their First Communion. There are also some kids who are not Catholic, and while there is no pressure from the school to participate, there is peer pressure. And to be quite cynical about the whole thing, that peer pressure isn’t about celebrating the Eucharist or about completing the third of seven sacraments. No, communion has becoming about the presents, the party, the pretty new clothes… so we parents who do not participate in this particular ritual often end up being required to offer a “spring ceremony” (lentefeest). Many families choose to offer a non-religious alternative to almost the same process as the whole First Communion celebration, while others do an activity as a family. In our particular case, we did an outing plus made the offer to TheMinecraftMaster that we would match his savings 1:1 so that he could afford to buy something he desired. We laid out an array of interesting options for an 8-year-old: an iPad, Nintendo, or similar or… and I kick myself to this day for suggesting this type of thing… a cat, rabbit, or even a dog. Bear in mind, we had 3 dogs of our own at the time, but we mentally categorised them in to two small indoor dachshunds (which really only make up one normal sized dog if you stacked them, doesn’t it?) and our elderly outdoor “guard” dog, who really lived indoors but mainly just remained in our media room napping.

Fully expecting our electronics-mad young man to select something of that ilk, imagine our surprise when he selected to have a dog. Not just any dog, but a Border Collie. We tried to dissuade him of his choice, but he was quite determined that it was a dog that he wanted, a dog of his own, and he was focussed on getting just that. Turns out, he did not have sufficient funds to afford a purebred, registered Border Collie, but we also learned his irresistible plea for a 50€ discount from our neighbouring backyard breeder was completely resistible. So, not thwarted by that, I turned to Google and found a rescue dog, 7 months old, that certainly resembled a Border Collie to us all. And fit within budget. We made an appointment to visit said dog. TheMinecraftMaster petted her and nodded that he wanted to take her home with us. He pulled out his saved up cash and duly paid for his dog. The fees are to cover costs like inoculations and sterilisation – in this case, chemical sterilisation which will need renewing in 2 years time. He even received 10€ back to “help him on his next endeavour” and headed for home with his Alopekis (this unfamiliar breed, and her story about getting from Greece to Belgium is another story for another time). He called her “Flower” and was so pleased with his new furry friend. It was spring, it was the Easter holidays, and the two bonded.

Fast forward to the summer. We cared for a friend’s cockerpoo, Darcy. He is a lively, bouncy, thrilled-with-life type dog, and loved being outside, so he hung out mainly with our elderly guard dog and Flower. Flower is a quiet, peaceful type, and Darcy literally ran circles around her. Luckily, the dogs got along, so while there were quite a few now (5!), it wasn’t that horrific. They spent most of their summer days frolicking outside. Darcy’s people collected him, and all was well…

Until 2 months later when one of us noticed Flower was seeming to get fat. She’s a slight dog anyway, and this wasn’t a big concern, but it was a little noticeable that she was slightly more rotund than usual. Excellent, she must be eating well, we all thought. A few days later, as I sat watching some tv with the dogs on the couch beside me, absent-mindedly stroking Flower, and her stomach moved. I immediately thought, “this poor dog as really bad gas.” And our elderly dog must have been letting a few choice farts go, but I blamed them on little Flower. It wasn’t until the next day, we started to piece together the fact that maybe, just maybe, Flower was expecting. But she was sterilised! We have the papers to prove it!!

The following day, during a lovely Sunday lunch with my gynaecologist and her family, we got on to the topic of TheMinecraftMaster’s dog and how we were worried she just might be pregnant. At this point, we weren’t positive. With an offer to be scanned that very day (I think Flower may be the only dog in Belgium with ultrasound baby photos), we learned dear little Flower was indeed “in the family way”.

What to do?! Surely there has been some mistake?! This can’t be happening… yet it was. And four days later, Flower gave birth to three healthy puppies. One puppy remained with us, one went to the father’s family, and the third went to our visiting friends. Our friends are extremely caring animal owners, and had recently suffered the tragic death of one of their dogs. The timing fit with adopting Flower’s puppy. Needless to say, since then, they also ended up with an extra dog than they expected when after adopting our puppy, they rescued another. Thus the three.

But, that’s not all, our elderly guard dog eventually crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, and we were persuaded into taking in a refugee Bouvier des Flandres. We now were up to five dogs living permanently at our place.

Are you lost? Here’s a summary, which ironically is also size based:

2 dachshunds
1 Alopekis
1 Alopekis/Cockerpoo cross, and now
1 Bouvier des Flandres

Visiting friends:

1 cocker spaniel
1 Alopekis/cockerpoo cross
1 Spanish rescue dog

And we all decided to take a walk together. Thus the visit.

We didn’t really think it out of the ordinary that we would set off with literally a pack of dogs. We also didn’t think it to be too odd when it was decided that maybe it would be a good idea to bring along Teddy, our spotted pony, for him to get the experience of being out and about with dogs and people.

We poured out of the front door with 7 dogs (the Bouvier was to join us later), startling some people cycling past. SweetViolet and I joined the group with Teddy and set off, we considered it perfectly normal that we would get together for a walk. The day was glorious, the company great, the walk pleasant, and it was lovely to get out after a prolonged period of dark, gloomy weather. A lot of people were out enjoying the day too, and we turned a few heads. With such a gaggle of 7 people, 7 dogs, and a pony, we took up the whole country lane.

Or at least we thought we did, until a piece of farm equipment – one of the big harvesters – lumbered our way.

Teddy was quite sure it was a pony-consuming machine, and he was fairly relieved when he survived the ordeal. The dogs strutted past other dogs confined to their yards. And we caught a few Pokémon along the way. We ended up walking in various formations, but always with the pony being the rear vanguard.

My mother, aka Shorty, intercepted us with the Bouvier, and now we numbered 8 humans, 8 dogs, and a spotted pony.

But looking back on that day, we must have be quite the sight! I can just imagine someone saying “the other day, there were eight dogs and a pony…” and their listener waiting for the joke’s punchline. Which will never come…

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