Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Telling Tales - articles by Samantha David


Getting Dolly off the Sofa

      The trouble is, all Dolly does is sleep on the sofa.  Take last week.  It was a fabulous day and I fancied a good tramp over the hills, so I woke her up and we set off.  But a short trundle up the lane was enough.  Having sniffed the air, done the bins and left a few smells for the other dogs, Dolly just went home and back to bed.

      Now, I do understand her feelings.  I even confess to sharing her inclinations.  But enough is enough.  The truth has to be faced.  My dog Dolly has turned into a slob.  Which is why I've adopted a whole new canine strategy.  Dis-obedience training.

      The point is, if she wasn't so well-trained, instead of sleeping peacefully on the sofa while I sit in front of the computer, Dolly would be striding up and down demanding walks, or popping out through the catflap so that she could steal the birdfood.  See what I mean?  Why doesn't she scrabble at the fridge door any more?  Why doesn't she chase chickens and overturn bins and plunge barking into the river after the rats?  Too well-trained.

      Why doesn't she wake me up in the small hours by howling at the moon or falling off the bed?  Instead of lying on the sofa, she ought to be disembowelling the cushions, chewing slippers and trying to open the hamster cage.  Over-trained - or just a bit bored?

      I started off by burying three scraps of crispy bacon in the cat basket.  It drove her potty because she didn't know what was smelling so delicious.  At first she thought it must be the catfood bowls and licked them all extra clean.  But that bacon smell was still tantalising her nose, which made her think that perhaps she'd sat in something yummy.  So she spent ages licking her tail.  But the scent lingered until finally she began to suspect that something was lurking underneath the crochet patchwork in the cat basket. 

      She began digging, slowly at first, and then faster and faster until all the underneath layer of newspaper came flying out of the basket with the blanket.

      “What you doing, Dolly?” I asked.


      “Huh?  Bacon?  In the basket?  Are you sure?”

      Dolly wasn't sure.  The smell was getting stronger and stronger, but the basket was empty.  It was all most confusing.  She sat down and scratched her left ear. 

      Then the cats came in and started ranging to and fro, tails up, noses down.  Bacon, bacon, there is bacon.  It is here somewhere.  Where is it, and why has this canine dug up our bed?

      Dolly was nearly frantic.  She'd just spent a exhausting half hour excavating the cat basket and now the ruddy felines were about to appropriate her prize.  She rushed to and fro barking and sniffing and at last, wonder of wonders, pounced on the cunningly-hidden bacon bits where they had stuck to the newspaper.

      The cats looked at me reproachfully.  What on earth was I doing?  Why had I ordered the dog to dig their bed up?  Why had I covered their blanket with bacon fat?  They flashed their eyes at each other, clearly agreeing that the last of my marbles had just rolled under the sofa.

      I shrugged.  Having finished the bacon, Dolly was snuffling through the torn newspapers, ears pricked, tail going like helicopter blades, eyes shining with excitement in case there might be more hidden treasure.  Let the cats despise me for a mere human, I'd got the dog going.  Laughing, I went back to the computer. 

      The next day, I got some ox liver from the butcher and at the very smell of it, Dolly was off the sofa.  “What you doing?” she asked, her black eyes gleaming through her scruffy white fringe. 

      “Ah ha!  Just you wait and see!” I told her.  “First you melt the bacon fat in a roasting dish, then you toss the cubes of liver in it...”

      “Woof!  Wa-wa-wa-wuff!” shouted Dolly, leaping round the kitchen trying to trip me up.  “Wuff!”

      “Then you put it in the slow oven...”

      “Uff!  Woof!  Wa-wa-aw-woff!”

      To the soundtrack of thundering barks, I put the liver in the Aga and went back to work, dropping half a dozen cat crunchies across the floor.  Dolly couldn't believe her eyes!  What was wrong with me?  Biccies on the carpet?  Liver in the oven?  Why not in the dog?  Where were her scraps?  What on earth was going on?

      She spent the afternoon trotting busily between the computer and the Aga, cleaning up the biccies and attempting to bring me to my senses.  Liver does not go into ovens, she said.  What's wrong with you?  Ah, here's another one.  Crunch, crunch.  Liver goes into dogs.  Small white dogs called Dolly. 

      “Wuff, Muma!  Wuff!”

      On day three of my fiendish plan, delicious dried liver cubes in my pocket, I went roaming over the hills again.  This time with Dolly enthusiastically trotting at my heels.

      Up we went, through the village, past the old mine workings, under the railway bridge and out onto the hillside where you can follow the sanglier tracks through the wild herbs.  Dolly glued to my side, I scrambled up the path until I came to a sheltered bank carpeted with goat-nibbled, springy grass.  It was the furthest I'd persuaded Dolly to walk for months, and I stopped to catch my breath.

      “Treats,” panted Dolly, her sides heaving.  “Wuff!”

      Grinning at her, I sat down and let her snuffle into my pockets til she found the liver and wolfed it down.  Good girl, clever girl.  Who's a good dog?  I scratched her ears and she leaned against my leg.  We sat there for a few minutes in the shelter of the north wind, enjoying the fabulous views of the mountains in winter and the warmth of the sun on our faces, and then it was time to go.

      “C'mon Dolly!” I said.  “Home!”

      She didn't move.  The poor thing was fast asleep on my knee and she really didn't want to wake up.  Guiltily wondering if I hadn't overdone the dis-obedience training, I carried her home.  She is 13, after all. 

      But the next day she chased the neighbour's cat onto the terrace roof, the day after that she had the hamster cage off the shelf, and in fact... there she goes now, out of the cat flap with the sausages I was going to cook for dinner.

      “Well done, Dolly!  Atta-girl!” 



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