Letting the dogs out to relieve themselves (or 'go potty' as our American cousins so whimsically term it) is an exercise in observation and fast reflexes. Our current cats, two beautiful Ocicats, who think they would enjoy exploring the garden, are reduced to quivering, shivering bundles of apprehension when they manage occasionally to slip out past a dog or a human. The drill is as follows: first check the whereabouts of the cats, particularly sly Monty. Then, standing on one foot and waving the other in the direction of any passing cat, make loud 'shoom, shoom' noises to deter them at the same time freeing the screen from the groove and sliding the very heavy door to the left. Dog/s are released and cats are still safely indoors. When the dog/s are ready to resume their positions on the sofas and chairs, repeat the process in reverse (no, not 'moosh, moosh') When all are safely gathered in – and it can sometimes take a long time if the dogs decide to go out singly – settle down with a cup of whatever takes the fancy until the next time. On cold, very wet or windy days, when the netting is not required it is usually fastened back by a bungee to a hanging basket.
I say 'usually'. One day when it had not been secured thus Frodo went out to potty (I actually rather like that expression – it beats 'pee' and 'pooh' - or worse.) I was hanging about waiting for him to ask to come back in when I heard a loud clanking, the sort of noise the wire screen makes when the wind blows it against the patio door. However it was not windy. Looking out I saw Frodo staggering and my first thought was that he had run into the netting which had caught him in the throat. As I watched I saw him fall to the ground; his legs started paddling furiously, his head was pulled back by an invisible power, his jaws were stretched painfully wide and he was foaming at the mouth and growling. With horror I realised he was having a fit. My heart was pounding as my beautiful dog, lost to the world, continued to be subjected to forces beyond his control. The episode seemed to continue for minutes. Eventually, he struggled to his feet and promptly fell in the pond. He clambered out, covered in duck weed and looking rather confused, stumbled around and fell in again. Frodo was no longer an ordinary dog – he had become a Faller, one of that special breed which bring to their human companions joy and sorrow, laughter and tears. Many have commented on the closeness that develops with an epileptic dog. The label 'Velcro dog' is apt, of which more anon.