Next month, Kate Middleton will guest edit the Huffington Post UK. She is doing this to raise awareness of children’s mental health. This is excellent. The press release states Kate,
” … will invite a team from the Post to Kensington Palace in mid-February and will use the guest role to highlight work being done by teachers, parents, researchers and mental health professionals.
In an almost uncanny parallel, I find myself doing my bit for the mental health of my children as we trundle into town at the weekend.
Perched on stools in the middle of the high street, the two volunteers for Guide Dogs know they are on to a winner when NG starts patting their life size stuffed Dalmations and asking me if her babyccino is still warm. The less frozen-looking one launches into a convincing argument for why we should sponsor ‘Eddie’ the black Labrador puppy. We will get video updates. A certificate. In 24 months’ time we won’t have to pay anything anymore, and a proud, mature Guide Dog will get to help someone, ‘maybe even someone like you,’ she says, pointing to NG, who looks rapt.
“OK. I mean, it’s my birthday this month and we have a Labrador already,” I say, neither of which matter AT ALL to the volunteer, though she gives me a dazzling smile. (I am, after all, the woman who cried over Facebook this morning because a stranger’s 12 year old chocolate Labrador has cancer). I give her my bank details and we leave.
“What did you do Mummy?” asks NG as we negotiate the Saturday morning hell that is a stiff Phil & Ted’s Sport and a busy Waitrose car park.
“I gave that lady some money so she can teach a puppy how to help someone who can’t see,” I puff. “Because some people can’t see, so they need a dog to be their eyes and help them do things like open the door … and cross over the road … and …”
“Play ‘hide and seek’?”
“Um, well, no …”
“But I can play ‘hide and seek’ when we get home.”
“And you can play with me.”
“And Bear Bear can play with me.”
Just then, NL lurches after a discarded ‘fat ball’ someone has stupidly let fall from their bird table, not thinking that in the winter it is not just starving birds that might be interested in lard. Before I can stop him, he has eaten it in one gulp, netting and all.
“Oh, Bear. You are A. GREEDY. DOG.” NG pouts. “Mummy, I did want to play ‘catch’ with that ball.”
“Sorry, darling. It’s gone in Bear’s mouth and into his tummy.” I am livid and worried. The vet’s number is engaged. I ring NW.
“Did he swallow it or chew it?” he asks.
“He sort of did that wolfing thing. Then gagged a bit. But there’s nothing left – it’s all gone into him. What the f*** do I do? He hasn’t done this sort of thing since he was a tiny puppy and he swallowed that non-existent fish hook.” (It’s a long story).
“Mummy, what you doing?”
“Talking to Daddy on the phone, darling. About Bear Bear.”
“Did Bear Bear go fishing?”
“No … well? What shall I do?” I am sort of whispering into the phone as I don’t want NG to panic, even though I am. Bear quietly gags but again, nothing comes out.
“Ring that 24hr animal hospital. I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s eaten worse things.”
NW is right. Apart from the non-existent fish hook – which was non-existent – Bear has consumed things that would be the death of weaker canines. He has punctured a bottle of Cillit Bang. Eaten raw potatoes (12 in one sitting). A whole raw turkey. Rotting fish on the beach. A teatowel. I find the number and dial.
“Keep an eye on him; he’ll probably be fine. Was there a staple on the netting?” asks the bored-sounding nurse.
“I don’t know.”
“Well … he’ll probably be fine. But keep an eye on him.”
“Ok,” I say, and hang up.
We walk slowly back home and I watch Bear like a hawk. Halfway back, NG, who has been pretty quiet, says, “Bear Bear?”
“Yes?” I say (being Bear).
“Mummy is keeping an eye on you, because you do need some eyes, Bear Bear. So you can be a Guide Dog Bear Bear.”
“Is Bear Bear ok? Can he play hide and seek with me at home?”
“I expect so,” I say.
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and a half year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and four month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)