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Our peaceful menagerie

Hooray – it’s December! Deck the halls and all that! We’ve put our Christmas tree up, and explained to Buddy and Star that they mustn’t pee on it or try to eat it. They are actually outraged that our local pet store has sold out of dog treat advent calendars, and until more stocks arrive they have to make do with watching the smaller pets in the house receive their advent calendar treats, which isn’t quite the same thing at all!

Which brings me to the point of this blog; the other animals our dogs live with. The latest arrivals are three Guinea Pigs, who are so sweet, and spend their time running round their large cage, squeaking and rumble strutting (yes that really is something Guinea Pigs do!), and popcorning (Google it if you don’t believe me!) and eating far more than should fit into those small furry bodies.

We think they’re sweet anyway. Buddy thinks they smell very intriguing, but is prepared to live and let live. Star, on the other hand, appears to want to get into the cage with them and sort out who is top dog. The noise of them scuttling around the cage, or their various vocalisations send her into a frenzy of barking and whining and pawing at the cage, which is just out of her reach.

She was the same with the rats, which she now happily co-exists with. In the early days, she was constantly barking at them, and pressing her nose against the bars of their cage, inhaling great lungfuls of rat aroma. It was so comical any time an equally curious rat scampered up to the other side of the bars to investigate Star. She would leap away from the cage, and stand staring at the rat, tail wavering, head on one side, as if to ask, “What on earth are you?”

We also have a gerbil, but his home is a tank, which gives the dogs much less sniffing opportunity. The other animals our dogs have to live alongside are nine Indian Runner Ducks. Since they live outside, the dogs don’t come into contact with them too much, but when they do they run straight up to the duck’s large enclosure and stare and sniff. Thankfully they don’t bark – maybe they remember these strange, upright, quacking creatures as the small, fluffy, cheeping babies that hatched out in our lounge – but whatever it is they only exhibit interest. The ducks, by contrast, flock tightly together and run as far away from the dogs as their enclosure allows.

Living in a rural area, our dogs encounter sheep and cows by the fieldful, and have learned not to turn a hair. The sheep often mistake Star (a Bichon Frise) for a long lost lamb, and can become agitated that she is the wrong side of the fence. Horse riders can pass us on walks, rabbits can frolic unmolested, and in general our dogs have learned to live in peace with most fellow animals.

In fact there is only one animal that I have ever seen rile Buddy, and that is a pigeon. Not a specific pigeon, any and all pigeon annoy the heck out of him. When he was a puppy, pigeons would perch on top of the swing in the garden, and he would bark futilely up at them. As he grew even a pigeon in his air space provoked a volley of barking in his beautiful Labrador bass. I’d love to know what they coo at him to antagonise him to that degree.

The Guinea Pigs are settling in nicely, but I’m sure Buddy is wondering what animal we will choose to join our growing menagerie next. Maybe pygmy goats, or giant rabbits, or even a normal sized cat? You never know!

Take care,

Julie x


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Chloe Cavoodle is an assistance dog who posts all about her life in Sydney - her human, Liana, suggests we stop interactions with all strange dogs. Hear why! Plus hear the first chapter of Julie's book Crufts or Bust about Julie and Buddy's attempts to qualify for Crufts.

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