This is one of a series of stories about Oscar the owl. These stories were commissioned by Emma & Jo Specialist Holidays Limited as part of their Holiday Buddy package, designed for children staying in self-catering properties, both here and abroad. This story is the first in the series.
Oscar the Owl was not feeling very happy. Not so down-in the-dumps that he wanted to hide under his duvet and ignore everybody but just a bit – well – Out of Sorts.
He sat on his favourite branch of the oak tree and stared down at the cottage below. Normally there would be plenty of small children playing in the sunshine, not knowing that they were being watched, if only through one eye, by a young but distinguished owl; but today there were no children to be seen. The people living in the house had changed, all the children had gone and the new residents were a rather grumpy looking man and wife. The man had a large moustache and a bald head, his wife had the kind of pinched expression that you would get if you took your face in one hand and squeezed. Except that she did not have to squeeze her face, it was permanently pinched as if there was a nasty smell coming up from the drains, which there was not.
But it was not this couple that caused poor Oscar to be in a bad mood, it was the animal that they had brought with them; a small dog that spent all its waking hours yapping and tearing around in circles. It was more than an owl could bear. Oscar had tried folding his wings over his ears but it was no good, the terrible row went on and on. Why on earth, thought Oscar, do the dog’s owners do nothing about it, don’t they realise that an owl has to sleep, but they seemed not to notice the row. Perhaps they were just used to it.
“Yap! Yap! Yap!” went the dog, tearing around in a circle trying to catch it’s stumpy little tail. Oscar should normally have been sleeping at this time but sleep was impossible in the face of this dreadful row.
Percy Pigeon flew down and alighted on the branch next to Oscar. “Oh dear,” he cooed, “it is rather an imposition is it not?” (pigeons, as is well known, have a very polite way of talking).
“I can’t take much more of it,” said Oscar. “It’s driving me bananas. We have to do something.”
“If I may hazard a suggestion why don’t we ask Gerald to have a word with it. Perhaps he can persuade it to pipe down.” Gerald was a sheepdog that lived on the farm down the road. After years of herding sheep he had become a very diplomatic dog. He never had to bark at his sheep, he just had a gentle persuasive word with them and they would go wherever he wanted them to go.
“That’s a great idea,” said Oscar, already feeling a bit cheered up. “I’ll fly over and see him this evening.”
The sun was setting as a small owl drifted across the darkening fields to settle down on a fence that surrounded the farmyard next door. Oscar shrugged his wings and did a little gentle preening; he had a bit of an itch, which was usual for an owl. Then he looked around to see if Gerald was about. He turned his head right round so that he was looking directly behind him, then twisted it round the other way. No sign of Gerald.
He summoned up some huff and gave out a twit-woo. It wasn’t much of a sound because he was still a little owl but it had the desired effect. Out of the shearing shed came Gerald, looking about to see who had produced this rather feeble sound. His one eye (for he had lost his other eye in a fight with one of those town dogs) rested on Oscar.
“Hello Oscar, old chap, don’t see you round here often.”
“Er, hello Gerald.” Oscar didn’t know what to say. He was always a bit in awe of Gerald, particularly when the dog called him ‘old chap’. He decided to get straight to the point.
“Gerald, we’ve got this horrid little dog who yaps all the time. I can’t get any sleep because of it and we, that is Percy Pigeon and me, wondered whether you could tell us what to do about it.”
“A yapper, eh. What kind of dog is it?”
“A small one with a stumpy tail. It goes on all day long.”
“And what about its owners? Don’t they stop it?
“They don’t seem to be able to. From time to time they shout at it but that has no effect. They seem to prefer to shout at each other.”
“I see. A neglected, yapping dog.” Gerald yawned “It’s a bit late tonight but I’ll come round in the morning and see what I can do. Now you’d better get off, young owlet. It’s hunting time.”
Oscar, who had had very little sleep that day, felt too tired to hunt but he was also hungry. Perhaps he could snaffle a little mouse and then try and catch up on a bit of shuteye. If Gerald could do something about the terrible yapper there was hope for a good day’s sleep tomorrow.
“Thank you, Gerald. I’ll see you tomorrow.
“Good hunting, young owl.” The wise old dog turned and left.
At sun-up on the following morning Oscar was on his usual perch in the oak tree. He had been lucky last night and had caught a juicy harvest mouse. His tummy was full and he had even caught up on a bit of his lost sleep. There was a crash from inside the house and a sound of shouting, a man and a woman. The back door flew open and out came Mr Yapper, charging at top speed across the garden, yapping all the time. Oh no, thought Oscar, it’s starting all over again. He tried to block his ears with his wing but that manoeuvre (a difficult one for a small owl) was as ineffective as it had been yesterday.
Suddenly the noise stopped. The small dog was standing absolutely still, staring at the garden gate. The gate was opening, very slowly and very deliberately. Oscar swivelled his head around to see who it was. Gerald was pushing the gate open and, within a moment, had walked into the garden towards the smaller dog.
This set the yapper off on a frenzy of barks. Somewhere in its tiny mind it must have recognised that this was an intruder. Gerald stopped and sat down.
“What is your name, young dog?” The small dog seemed astonished because, for a short moment, it stopped yapping.
“Buster. I’m called Buster.Yap. Who Yap are you? Yap yap.” The yapping started again, it went on in a stream of yappery, quite out of control. Suddenly Oscar heard another sound, a deep, important sounding Bark! Just one. It was so surprising that the other dog stopped its yapping. This time it did not start again.
At last there was peace. Oscar was amazed to see both dogs in quiet conversation. It went on for quite a time. Eventually Gerald stood up.
“Oscar” he called. Oscar launched himself off his perch and floated down to alight on the garden gate. “Oscar. Buster and I have come to an understanding. He has been able to see that he suffers from that well-known condition, Neglectful Owners, one of the commonest reason for excessive yapping. I have persuaded him that he can have plenty of other friends if he would only stop yapping, a litle owl for instance, is that not so?”
“Yes, of course it is” replied Oscar and he gave Buster one of his best owlish winks. “There’s Percy Pigeon and all his relations, no shortage of friends.”
“So you see, young Buster, make your friends where you can find them but don’t put them off by all that useless yapping. Forget your Neglectful Owners unless they fail to feed you. If that happens come and see me.”
I am not sure whether small dogs can blush but if they can Buster would have been pink all over by then.
“Thank you, Gerald.”
“That’s all right, young dog.”
“Twit-woo” said Oscar.