ROB THE RETRIEVER‘S MORNING WALK

Rob the Retriever leapt out of the car, crazy with excitement. This was what he had been waiting for half the morning. He loved the morning walk along the lane with his Master, and sometimes, which was better still, Mistress came with Master. On extra special days, young Mistress came, too, and those were the best days of all. Young Mistress had almost as much energy as Rob, and the two of them had a great time together, chasing each other up and down in the long grass beside the lane.

But even when only Master was there it was still exciting. Strange smells and interesting rustlings under the leaves kept Rob on the alert. Of course, he knew the lane like the back of his paw, but there was always something new to surprise him. Then he would put his nose to the ground and run after it, his eyes darting from side to side, his ears straining, trying not to miss a thing.

There were so many animals to visit, and to pass the time of day with. The rabbits and the field-mice wouldn‘t stay to chat, of course. He had the feeling that they really didn‘t trust him, and he couldn‘t think why. He wouldn‘t have done them any harm.

Nell, the collie at Halfway Farm, didn‘t trust Rob either. Every day Rob would trot in through the gateway of the farm, his feathery tail held high and waving "Good morning !" Every day he was sure that this was the day they would make friends. And every day Nell snapped and snarled at him.

"Go away ! Go away, you rude dog !" she would cry.

She would crouch low to the ground, snap at his heels, and scoot him out of the gate. Rob had no choice but to go. It was most undignified.

"Can‘t think what‘s wrong with the silly animal !" Rob would say under his breath. "All I want to do is make friends, and she treats me like one of those stupid sheep of hers."

He would stand there in the lane, hopefully wagging his tail. But it was no use. Nell just stood there in the gateway and barked. Loudly. Very loudly.

"Oh well, Rob would say, and sigh once again. "No harm in trying again tomorrow !"

A rich country smell caught his nostrils, and he was off, chasing his nose again. He came to the gate of the Home Meadow and pushed his nose between the bars. Jeanie and Heather, the Highland cattle, were there, watching out for him, and passing the time chewing huge bundles of grass. Their great, long horns stuck out of the sides of their heads like bicycle handlebars, and their big sad eyes were almost completely hidden behind their thick brown fringes.

Rob waved his tail at them.

"Good morning ! I‘ve just been to call on Nell !"

Jeanie and Heather tossed their heads, snorted, and chewed some more grass, before Jeanie replied in her usual broad Scots accent,

"Ach ! A dinna ken why ye bother ! She‘s a nasty, snappy wee beastie, wi‘ the shairpest teeth in the county ! We aye gie the wee thing a wide bairth !"

Rob put his head on one side.

"Well, I like to be friends with everybody. So I‘ll just keep on trying."

"Aye, weel," said Heather, "ye‘re welcome to try !"

Rob picked up a branch which had fallen from the hedge, and set off, dragging it down the lane. Jeanie and Heather stared after him as best they could from under those great fringes, and then returned to chewing the grass. Rob now remembered Master and, dragging the branch along with him, went back to see if he was all right, and whether he would like to throw a stick. He put down the branch in front of Master, and danced backwards and forwards, asking for it to be thrown, because he knew that Master loved throwing sticks. He couldn‘t think why.

Master broke off a suitable length from the branch and threw it as hard as he could along the lane. Rob raced after it, skidding and slithering to a stop, picked up the branch and trotted off down the lane‘

He reached the gate to Lane End Farm and there, lying in the shadow of the barn, was Old Lad the Labrador. When he saw Rob, the old dog rose slowly, very slowly, to his feet. It took him a long time nowadays to do this.

First he put his front paws firmly on the ground, and then he straightened his front legs. Next he heaved himself up on to his hind legs, and slowly managed to stand. Then he stood quite still until he was sure he had got his balance, and then carefully, very carefully, he wagged his tail. It was all a very slow and painful process and he didn‘t do it any more often than he could help. But he did like to have a word with Rob every day. It gave him something to look forward to.

Rob waited in the lane while Old Lad made his way slowly up to the gate. Rob knew better than to go into the farmyard to meet him, because Old Lad had explained that he liked the bit of exercise it gave him to go all the way to the gate himself.

When at last he reached Rob he barked,

"Now then, young fellow ! And what have you been up to today, then ?"

Rob dropped his stick at once, and sniffed around his old friend.

"Well, I ‘ve been trying to make friends with Nell. But she never seems to want to be friendly."

Old Lad nodded his head in a wise kind of way.

"Ah well, d‘you see, it‘s her job to guard the farm, you know. Mustn‘t blame her for doing her duty. She‘ll come round in the end - if you don‘t make a nuisance of yourself."

Rob thought about it for a while and then said,

"Yes, I see. Then I had a chat with Jeanie and Heather. They said Nell had the sharpest teeth in the county, and wasn‘t worth worth bothering with."

Old Lad growled, and shook his head.

"They‘re just a couple of silly females. No need to take any notice of anything they say."

Rob listened with his head on one side and his ears cocked, and then went on,

"Then I ran back to see if Master was all right. I gave him a stick to throw. He likes throwing sticks, you know."

Old Lad wagged his tail, and looked wise again.

"Well, they do, you know. Never quite understood it myself. But you keep your Master happy, and you‘ll not go far wrong."

The old dog and the young dog looked across to where Master was chatting to Old Lad‘s master, Farmer Brown. Rob‘s Master turned and called to him,

"Come along, Rob ! Time to go home !"

Rob had a last friendly sniff with Old Lad, who said to him,

"You know, Rob, you‘ve got yourself a good master there. Comes of good stock, I‘d say. Goodbye, young fellow ! See you tomorrow !"

Rob picked up his stick and ran off to join his Master. At the corner he stopped and turned, to give a last wave of his tail to his old friend. But the old dog had found a patch of warm sunlight, and was already fast asleep.

Oh well, thought Rob, there‘s always tomorrow for a walk along the lane.