24 July 2011

Learning to play together

We started the day slowly, given how late we had stayed up the night before. Our first destination was the outdoor market in Saint-Aignan. We managed to visit the church and the château grounds along the way, as well as to buy food for dinner — sausages, lettuce, peaches, and a melon.

After a lunch of leftover chicken, rice, and cheese, we decided to go for a long walk in the vineyard. Callie had been nervous around our friends' six-year-old son since their arrival, not knowing quite what to make of this miniature human being. She would bark at him, which scared him, and that just excited the dog even more. It was strange, because Callie was not afraid of the boy's nine-year-old sister, who is a head taller than he is. We guessed there was some kind of size threshold operating in the dog's mind. Was this boy really a person?

The afternoon walk in the vineyard was an attempt to ease the tension between the dog and the boy. It didn't really work. Callie charged him at one point, and then started running in circles around him, scaring him out of his wits. The dog's behavior clearly had to do with her herding instincts. People — especially children — don't really enjoy being herded by a barking dog, however.

The six-year-old boy playing with Bertie the black cat —
the cat's not asleep but instead rolling on the ground
with pleasure at being petted.

Walt took Callie out ahead and we walked the mile to the end of the road. Our friends daughter ran back and forth between Walt and the rest of us. She wasn't afraid because Callie wasn't afraid of her. Walt, the girl, and the dog ended up getting back to the house before we did, especially since we ran into Bertie the black cat out by the pond and stopped to play with him for a few minutes.

The nine-year-old girl playing with Callie the collie,
who's in heaven because she's the center of attention.

Callie and the little girl were playing with the tennis ball. I walked around the garden and yard, inspecting everything, and talking to the children's father. Then I looked over my shoulder and saw that the boy was also playing with Callie and the tennis ball. Wow! As soon as he started throwing the ball to Callie, taking turns with his sister and talking to Callie the way he heard us talk to her, using words and expressions the dog is familiar with — "Callie sit!" — the whole situation calmed down.

Picking up apples and throwing them to Callie
as well as putting some in the wheelbarrow

We went and got a pitcher of water and some glasses and we spent about two hours just sitting out back watching the children and the dog play energetically and nicely. I think the kids needed the exercise and the time outdoors after spending a month in an apartment in London and doing all the traveling they've done. At one point, the children's mother told them the ought to start picking up apples that had fallen out of the trees and putting them in the wheelbarrow. It was a good idea, because Callie loves to play with apples the way she loves to play with the tennis ball.

A job well done and a happy outcome

I think both the puppy and the boy learned something about the world yesterday. Now they aren't afraid of each other. Earlier in the day, we had had to banish Callie to the utility room downstairs, separating her from us and our guests. In the evening, after the afternoon of playing outside, that was no longer necessary. We all breathed a sigh of relief. I credit the little boy's parents and sister for not giving in to the boy's fear and for finding a way to make it work.


  1. This story warmed my heart. I'm glad you got some apples picked up and the children enjoyed your pets.

  2. Very nice story, Ken, with a lovely ending :) I'll bet those two kids really enjoyed having such a great, open space to run around.

    Enjoy the visit!


  3. Lovely story. Something about the last photo seemed like the essence of childhood and summer to me. So glad everything worked out so well after the bumpy start.

  4. Heartwarming. And that could have ended so differently, with everyone unhappy and a boy forever afraid of dogs.

  5. Sweet. Sounds like everyone did everything just right. Some days are like that!

  6. I learned not to fear dogs when I was ten years old, because my new teenaged neighbor and her dog Tippy were so patient with me, and I so much wanted to play with Tippy. Thank you for reminding me of that happy memory, through your story.


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