The government really ought to do more to support the small-scale
farmer. I mean if it’s good policy to get everyone to put ethanol in their
gasoline so that people in the middle of the country can sell corn, surely
sending the odd case of Bollinger to a chicken farmer on the Western edge of
the country isn’t too much to ask? Such were my thoughts as I raked up storm
debris during a lovely lull between showers. Let the record show that it has
finally stopped raining. Oops, no… scratch that. It’s on again.
When I went out this morning to release the girls I expected woe and
brickbats. To deter rats we’ve taken to removing food from the pen at night
and so, though they can march up and down and scratch, there’s no corn, or
whatever it is that’s in those pellets we put in the hopper. Organic something.
“Starving!” was what I expected. “We’re starving here, while you roll around
with your cases of Bollinger and whatnot.” But no. Genteel cooing was what
greeted me. Solicitous inquiries after my health. Comments on the weather. I
can only think the chickens are worried by the fact that the rat tunnel has
“I’m sorry,” I tried to explain, “our local hardware store has been taken over
by a chain. Their lawyers apparently think that rat poison is too dangerous,
so now they only sell traps and items that pretend to have rat poison sealed in
them, but are totally ineffective.”
“Never mind,” I said. “Just know, I’m on it. Oh and by the way…while I have
your attention…we’re getting a puppy.”
I thought it might be best to reassure them immediately, “He’s being raised and
trained, to some extent, on a chicken farm.”
Mimo wanted to know what a chicken farm is.
“Ah,” I said, not wanting to explain that in this instance it’s not about eggs.
“What’s a guppy?” Appenzeller cocked her head inquisitively.
“Puppy,” I said, happy to have a question I could answer, “a small dog.”
Mimo, “How small?”
“Really quite small.”
Pecorino saw an interesting possibility, “Will we be able to be the boss of
“That,” I said, “remains to be seen.”
Cheddar wanted practical information, “What is the name of this animal of which
There they had me. It’s a conundrum choosing a name for someone or
something, particularly if it’s a name you’re likely to have to shout late at
night across all the neighborhood. The owner of the farm where the puppy is an
evangelical of some sort; she has the date she was “saved” tattooed on her arm.
My first (mischievous) impulse caused me to think, “Bawabbus” might be fun.
“Yes, we’re going to name the dog in response to that scene in ‘Life of Brian,’
‘Welease Bawabbus.’” Or Brian. What was the earth’s first dog name, do you
suppose? Tinkle? Fog? Dog? Stop Scratching? When we were picking out the
puppy I said without thinking, “Come along, chum,” and the breeder thought that
might be a fine name, “Chum.” I could give happenstance a try—that is how we
chose puppy after all— keep it simple, not worry. But there is “the shark
Our most recently acquired animal, a Maine Coon cat, is called Sonsie,
from Burns’ “Ode to a Haggis," and because he truly does have an “honest,
sonsie face.” The older cat is called Jeeves because he appears and disappears
silently and quickly. Herding dogs tend to have very simple names. Mac, Bob,
Tim, Bob. I’d name the dog, “Bob,” but I have two friends named Bob and this
could be confusing. Can’t do “Grant” because anything with an “a” in it I
pronounce differently from the rest of the family and the puppy would have to
understand we were shouting the same thing. General Lee? A burden for a mere
dog. Not going to call him Winston or Monty. Top herding dogs’ names: “Gus,
Finn, Cooper, Bailey, Boomer, Otto, Hawkeye, Ace, Lucky, Gunner.” If I ever
call a dog any of those, just shoot me. Australian cattle dog names? “Zip,
Digger, Jarrah, Miki, Ace, Ajax, Bikkie, Bear, Blue, Brumby, Bucket, Buddy,
Cliff…” Nope. I could open a book at random and pick a word, “Hoplite,”
“Dunkirk,” “Howitzer.” How about our clan motto, “Touch Not the Cat Bot a
Glove”? Can one call a dog, “Bot”?
I could try, “Ozil.” With an umlaut. (Arsenal’s best player).
Somehow my mind keeps returning to “Stan.” As in Stanley Laurel. “Billy" as
in Billy Connolly? “Eddie"? As in Izzard? “Harry" as in Worth? “Spike" as
in Milligan? “Banana” from the funny professor in Law College who always
finished, “And the answer’s a banana.” Bertie? It would be fun to say,
“Bertie!” as aunts do, very severely. Or Psmith. Or Bruce. As in “G’day
Bruce, this here’s Bruce, that’s Bruce…” The Philosophy department of the
University of Woolloomooloo. Also, “the Bruce,” hero of Scotland, thug.
On the phone my father surprised me, saying that he’d eaten duck at
home. Generally he gets through a lot of salad and fruit and so on, but in the
evenings he's been on what I think of as the Marks and Spenser "airline food
diet.” I’m sure the duck came in an aluminum container, pre-cooked, with sauce
“Was it fun?” I asked, for no reason.
“I had to clean the oven.”
We have such different views of food. And pretty much everything. But
The puppy’s an English Shepherd. Arriving at the end of Feb. All
naming suggestions will be considered.
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