All Creatures Great and Small

Ah, if we could talk to the animals.

The dog has been testing the boundaries of meal provision.

He feels strongly that he should have several meals a day. He signals his intentions using mind melding techniques. After the children have been fed he staresย fixedly with a doggy sense of entitlement.

I think he’s messing with my memory.

For when I ask myself: “Have I fed the dog this morning already?” I’m drawing a blank. Yet when I sigh, and acquiesce, and fill his measuring cup and clang it into his metal bowl, I have this nagging sense of deja vu.

Did I feed him already? Did I?

Only his gently elastic girth betrays tell-tale signs that this dog is a master of mind control.

I think I’ve fed him at least three times today. Four, tops.

Phil came home yesterday having organised and delivered a conference.Lavish compliments have been flying at work. I wanted to hear some.

“Did anyone e mail you?”

“No.’ There was a short silence while the dog began a staring contest with Phil. My husband met his gaze levelly.”It would be great if the dog could send e mails,” he observed dryly.

“Like: Just CCing you in on this, but I need a walk. FYI, I need a bit of a poo. Re: my dinner: can I have it?”

The dog was FYI-ing for all he was worth. He was quite animated. Phil got up with a resigned air, and went downstairs to fill his bowl.

Maddie was chattering about today’s visit to an organic farm. She saw many things, and fed a donkey, but it was lambing which stole her heart.

What struck Maddie was the expression on the newborn lamb’s face, instants after it was born: total, bleary, bewildered bafflement. My daughter ย comprehended that this little thing had come from a womb and was overwhelmed by that most rude of changes, that from gestation to life.

She held a lamb later. It stuck its legs out stiffly and bleated. The bleat was echoed by its mother, feet away: tenor, soprano, tenor, soprano. Maddie could not translate, but the conversation had all the power of the dog’s silent entreaties.

I listened, smiling, but I was tired. For today has been Big Al day.

On the agenda for today: whirlpools, death and bones, and a big furry blanket.

I have this blanket which Al loves: maybe a little too much. It is a sumptuous source of sensory feedback, a fake fur fluffyfest. Trouble is, the dog had been lying on said furry blanket. It was dishevelled and mud-weary.

Al tackled the big bones question first. He had seen skulls and skeletons. But he wasn’t clear on how they got there.

“Auntie Kate,” he asked. “how do the bones fall out when you die?”

Pick the bones out of that one.

I took a very deep breath. “They don’t fall out, Al. The rest of you- I mean the rest of somebody – goes away instead.”

“But,” said the young inquisitor, “Where does the rest go?”

Beam me up, Scottie.

“It just gets smaller and smaller and the bones are what’s left in the end,” I ventured, and then uttered a silent entreaty to the fates. Please, don’t let me have to explain the whole beetles and decomposition thing, I prayed. I may just have to be unforgivably creative with the truth.

I was saved, totally unexpectedly, by a vortex. “Auntie Kate,” Al asked, in a startling about-turn, abandoning bones: “What is a whirlpool?”

You can’t say, “I don’t know darling, let’s Google it” with this four-year old.

Just round the corner, I remembered a science centre which had a working vortex model: a means by which one can create a whirlpool. “In five minutes, Al, we’ll go and see a whirlpool.”

There was a short, contemplative silence. “Auntie Kate, I need to be tucked up. And I want your brown blanket .”

“Al, the blanket is dirty, I’m afraid.” I shrugged apologetically, but the inquisitor was having none of it. I could see a storm looming. The blanket was a deal breaker.

In an insane moment I actually started to try to explain microorganisms. I looked at Al’s face. No deal.

Desperate times require desperate measures.

I said:”Al, there are tiny animals living in the blanket right now. They might,” I opened my hands in a gesture which showed I had absolutely no control over the situation, a hotelier with no room, “bite you. Not much, but a little bit.”

Even the possibility of these creatures impressed Al. “What will they say?” he asked in a tone of boyish awe.

I was all out of answers.

Leaving the conversation of a flea colony for another day, I grabbed our coats gratefully, and headed out of the door.


39 thoughts on “All Creatures Great and Small

  1. There is a time, indeed, when the maxim of answering all questions of the very young briefly, honestly ahd accurately, without any more detail than demanded, becomes too daunting! Distraction only works sometimes.

  2. First hehe, you’ve got to love a terrier with food issues, they totally have it over the spaniel eyes. Second, wow, you’ve got the answers rolling on that one. Third, eeeuw, fleas. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. LOL I know…I may have been a bit creative with the truth there, IE: I wanted to put Al off properly. The blanket does look- and smell- most odd. But so far thanks to preventatives we have had no little visitors of that kind.

      Which is a shame, because how on earth am I going to find out what they are saying?

    1. ๐Ÿ˜€ Ah, if only I were a queen, Lou: I am more of a haphazard animateur. People move around me and eat my food and use my stuff and, increasingly, tell me stuff.

      I’m just the one who stays still enough to write it all down ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Your canine child is indeed a master. I have the oddest urge to board a flight for Heathrow, search out your house, and feed the *poor, starving* creature myself ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As to the questions of bones and death, Felix and I had nearly that same exchange the other day, about bodies leaving behind their bones. I dodged with an offer of a story about dinosaurs, since it’s a bit of a drive to go play with the sand storm model at the museum in Boston.

    There’s tremendous comfort in knowing things are the same everywhere you go.

    1. There is ๐Ÿ™‚ How strange that your Felix was talking about it! It must be a stock ‘little boy’ question….I must use the dinosaur tactic next time. Excellent idea!

  4. Kate you are a genius, forgetful sometimes, but a genius nonetheless. I’m sure Al asks you all sorts because he loves the answers he gets.

    1. It’s mutual, Fiona: his questions tickle my funny bone. Random in the extreme, except that they are all part of a small boy’s attempt to make sense of a world, and therefore probably highly systematic…

  5. Wonderful! When we had Jennifer and she was into the “what” and “why” stage, someone sagely suggested that we answer her questions simply. She would let us know if she wanted more. You’ve mastered this, Kate.

  6. This post has me packing up vittles to send across the sea. What’s even worse is one of my clients right now is a doggie boutique. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I can just see Big Al now, talking to the critters in the furry blanket, asking them why they aren’t sucking his blood……….

  7. Dear Kate,
    Your writing style always draws me into what topic you present. You seem to have the ability to write short sentences that capture the questions in my mind. Then you fill in the spaces. A true gift.

    I’ve been away from reading and commenting on blogs for about three weeks because I’ve been working on a project. This means, of course, that I’ve missed your excursions into art and architecture, history and sociology and all the points in between. I hope that today I’ll get back on track.

    Thank you, Kate, for commenting on my postings. I’ve managed to keep up with my blog but with no one else’s!


  8. Dee, I read and comment on your postings because your journey has been such a compelling one. Thank you for sharing so much. An extraordinary journey ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. My best friend, an Early Childhood Educator, is on vacation in the Palm Springs desert. About now she will be managing the arrival of an elderly, questionably healthy Aunt who shares Susan’s delight over the outpourings of children.

    I had to introduce them to Big Al. Thank you so much.

  10. Big Al and my Sophia are the same age. I recognize the questions! And I get stumped a lot with how far to answer someone who REALLY wants to know. She, too, is fascinated with bones and I use an iPad app for some physiology lessons. She wanted me to download the reproductive organ section the other day and for the first time I tap danced and refused my granddaughter. Mom will have to take that one! Maybe one day my son will give me a little grandson…I’m awfully taken with Big Al! ๐Ÿ™‚ Debra

  11. LOL, love this, Kate – and that gorgeous pic! I’m dead sure our dogs get fed extra too, and I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve questioned if I fed the fish…as for Al, the “bones falling out” is beyond priceless! Thank you for the lovely laugh ๐Ÿ˜€

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