'I wonder if they behave like that at home, jumping about on the furniture and chucking the cushions around?'
'Probably, little tykes.'
They arrived, all four of them, an hour earlier than they said they would, on a brisk and windy evening, cheerful and unapologetic ('We left straight from work...'); the fire was lit and the table laid, the wine and beer chilled, most things already in hand, Tom was just sitting down with a bit of telly and a glass before getting everything ready, so it could have been worse. We chatted and I showed them around a bit, chased Gina out of the understairs larder and got Mimine down from upstairs. When we got back to the kitchen there was a poo on the floor in front of the sink, which I spotted before Tom walked in it.
'Can I leave that to you to deal with, love?' said Tom equably, rather as if he were asking me to fold the serviettes.
I gave Emmy the toilet paper and directed her to the loo, and quickly sprayed and wiped with bleach and paper towels. Mimine sidled up and looked into my face sheepishly.
'Was it you?' I asked her 'Never mind, don't walk in the bleach.'
'Her insides still aren't quite right, 'Emmy said 'she had to have so many antibiotics with her paw.'
I reassured them that Molly had once done it on the floor of the garden centre, and it hadn't been such a tidy one as that. Mimine, a wire-haired dachshund, is two years old and Gina's niece but about two thirds her size; she was rescued from a man who'd had her for hunting. He'd bred her purposely from Gina's brother but hadn't given her much of a start in life, and when, as a very young dog, she'd had her paw chewed to bits by a coypu, Emmy, Molly's vet, hadn't seen her until the infection was well set in and her owner said she might as well be put down. Emmy refused, took her from him and cured her; her paw is a withered stump but that doesn't stop her racing around like a hoodlum and giving her aunt a run for her money. Emmy said she'd had to pick eighty ticks off her when she first had her.
'He must have been a horrible man,' she said 'because Gina didn't like him and growled at him, and Gina loves everybody.'
The evening progressed OK, I think. Urban Dutch people, as they are, are accustomed to Indonesian food and so are happy to eat curry, and we were happy to accommodate a rumbustious pair of dachsies. They, the dogs, occasionally settled down for five minutes on the mat, but then they'd be off again. At one point everything went a bit quiet and I looked round the corner to find them gleefully crouched each side of our old sheepswool feather duster which had been tucked behind the radiator, having chewed a few bits off it and evidently deciding what to do with it next. I took that away, and after a bit Tom said he thought they really ought to go outside, since they kept prospecting at the doors. He went into the garden with them with a torch, and after about quarter of an hour the door banged open and the two dogs raced in, the wind in their tails, with Tom staggering behind them.
'They haven't done anything but they've had a great time,' he said.
They'd charged up and down the grass, growling and biting at each other, and disappeared under some hedges, it seemed, before finally coming back when called.
We settled to dessert, then they reappeared engaged in a theatrical tug-of-war with something. It turned out to be Molly's red rope toy, which she'd only ever played with politely, but they gave it a good going-over, having found it in another corner where we'd omitted to remove it from (there are quite a few things like that around). This went well and amusingly until Gina obtained firm possession and Mimine got frustrated and barky. So Tom picked Gina up and cuddled her to distract her - sausage dogs, even wiry ones, are a very amenable shape for cuddling - and she gave his ears a good licking. After coffee, which wasn't as strong as I think they're used to (but why drink something that's going to keep you up all night, for goodness sake?) Paul sighed and said
'I think perhaps we ought to take the kids home now.'
We assured them we'd be happy to look after Gina and Mimine any time they wanted to go away and we were available.