. . . asks Nico, my little friend, fixing me with his Feathers McGraw eyes. Well, I answer, let me think . . .
Ball skills obviously. Every day now I practise them furiously on the beach, as I fearlessly drive hither and yon, back and forth in order to retrieve in double-quick time. It is safe to say that I am utterly obsessed, I admit it; feeling more and more as though I am living the spaniel dream as I bring the beloved ball back, again and again and again. And, if I can swing another go, again. No ball is chucked too far, in too dense scrub or water too deep: I am fearless and relentless in my pursuit of the quarry. Today, I dodged the line of competitors in a long-distance run, as they slogged along from Seahouses to Bamburgh. I hardly noticed them, nor the horses exercising in the surf. My focus and concentration were complete. I am spaniel, watch me fly!
Utter dependability is vital, too. I am never far from Kemo Sabe’s side, no matter what she is doing. Nothing she does seems boring, nowhere dull, no matter how still she sits, how many hours go by. As I curl near her feet, above me on the screen she views I might hear the voices of pirates or detectives, or catch the hooves of a passing horse outside in the street. But throughout and no matter what, I remain her anchor, rounded into a ball as I rest, always near enough to tickle and treasure. Like patience on a monument, as someone famous once said.
Knowing how to raise the roof is important. I know the difference between Kemo Sabe’s footsteps on the gravel and the approach of a stranger and it is my job to let that difference be known with my broad vocabulary of sounds and signals. I am excitable, I admit it: it is – – I know, my worst thing, but when I think simply must speak. That’s a spaniel for you.
It is an uncomplicated package, Nico, and I can now recognise that you are quite a bit like me. Your courage in warning strangers is extraordinary, as is your determination to keep up with the big boys as we explore the rock pools; your intelligence in finding ways around them does you credit, little fellow. Your excitement when it’s time to put on your jumper for an outing is inextinguishable until you are safely on your way with the rest of the clan. When as quite a babe the outgoing tide threatened for a moment to carry you with it, as you floated in your sheepskin jacket, you were unperturbed: you were never in danger, a lesson you learnt without being taught, Kemo Sabe’s arms sweeping you up to safety in a trice. Though our days are even busier for your arrival, miraculously time has been made to indulge my greatest joy – a spaniel’s repeated return to its beloved owner: as I heard someone say on the radio this week, if you want to be loved, get a spaniel.