Friday, October 29, 2010

Fitzroyal happenings

The other day, when Sylvie and I arrived at Gamone with the three donkeys, I noticed the carcass of a pheasant alongside the road, just twenty meters from my house. Most of its feathers had been plucked, and its flesh had been ripped apart a little, but apparently not yet eaten. I said to Sylvie that it looked like the work of a roaming fox. Later on in the day, I was puzzled to find that my dog Fitzroy had not touched the food I had served him. Besides, from time to time, he would disappear from the yard for ten minutes or so. By the end of the day, it had dawned on me that the "fox" behind the dead pheasant was almost certainly Fitzroy. After all, these birds are raised on farms for the hunting season, and they're probably accustomed to docile farmyard dogs. So, Fitzroy could have easily pounced on the poor bird. When I checked the spot the next morning, only feathers remained… but Fitzroy was still searching around among the feathers for any remaining scraps of pheasant flesh. Sophia, too, joined in this frantic hunt for tidbits (molecules) that might still be hanging around in the mass of feathers.

On Monday, during our long walk down from Presles to Gamone with the donkeys, Sylvie had given me an interesting item of news. Back on September 3, before Christine and I "dognapped" Fitzroy from his birthplace up in the Alpine commune of Risoul 1850, I had taken several photos in which we see his twin brother. In the following photo, our Fitzroy is staring at the photographer (me), while his brother seems to be poking his tongue out:

Here's a nice portrait of the brother:

The following photo evokes the end of an amusing incident:

The two brothers had decided to stalk this hen. For five minutes, the little dogs had been simply strolling along just behind the hen, at the same pace, following her wherever she went, in whichever direction she turned. The hen got quite upset, because she probably imagined that the pups were about to pounce on her. Finally, the dogs' mother intervened and made it clear to her pups (in canine language) that they should cease their stalking... and the frightened hen fled to safety. Meanwhile, that was surely great training for later encounters with, say, pheasants...

Well, Sylvie informed me that Fitzroy's brother now lives with a young family not far from her flat in Presles. The dog's name is Eole (a French variation on Aeolos, the Greco-Roman wind god). So, Sylvie took Fitzroy on her knees and we drove back up to Presles for a surprise call on Eole and his new family. Now, at this point in my story, I'm obliged to admit that all my preconceived anthropomorphic visions of canine behavior simply fell apart. I had imagined vaguely that the two brothers would look at each other in stunned amazement, as if to say: "What the hell are you doing here? What's happened in your life since we were last together up in the Alps?" Not at all. They attacked each other (or so it seemed), as if they had just been brought face-to-face with a mortal enemy! It was all I could do to grab Fitzroy in my arms to prevent him from getting into a terrible brawl with his brother. Meanwhile, the young lady of the house came out onto her snow-covered front yard, intrigued by all the noise, and she prevented Eole from trying to jump up at Fitzroy. I think it was Sylvie who finally decided that, since the two males were of equivalent physical capacities, they couldn't really harm each other. So, we decided to let them confront each other on the ground. And the friendly miracle took place instantly. The two little animals raced around crazily like a pair of long-lost brothers. At times, their contacts were highly excited and physical, with lots of barking and snarling and rolling around in clinches on the ground... just short of a fight. So, five minutes later, we all decided that the encounter had lasted long enough. In the heat of this get-together, I was constantly trying to avoid slipping on the icy road in front of the house, and I didn't have an opportunity of taking photos. But there'll surely be other opportunities of us all getting together again in the future. Meanwhile, I like this idea of the two brothers living within a stone's throw of each other.

This morning, I removed the roof of Fitzroy's kennel, in order to modify slightly its form (making it more sloped). This operation enabled me to look down into Fitzroy's cozy little straw cocoon, with the bowl shape left by his curled-up body in the upper left-hand corner.

I took advantage of the fact that the roof was removed to add another thick layer of straw. Jean Magnat and his son then came along in a truck with the firewood I had ordered last week from my neighbor Gérard Magnat. In this photo, Fitzroy seems to be inspecting the quality of the yellowish acacia wood:

Later on in the day, I introduced Fitzroy to the pleasure of cleaning up my pressure cooker, while Sophia, confined to my kitchen (as is often the case since the arrival of Fitzroy), no doubt sensed with envy what was happening.

Having made that remark, I hasten to point out that Sophia is treated by me—from both a food and a tenderness viewpoint—like the grand old queen of Gamone that she is. I'm happy to find that her diet, over the last couple of months, has resulted in a significant weight loss.

In the evening, Sylvie phoned—in the style of a mother who had left her kids with a neighbor—to ask if the donkeys were OK. I was happy to reassure her that everything was calm at Gamone.

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