It was a breezy September evening.
The sun was dropping from the sky much earlier than it did the month before.
Autumn had well and truly arrived.
Ernie and Theo were sitting under their favourite tree.
“We never had that quarterly meeting,” Theo said. “How do I control the business if we don’t regularly review performance and update our plans?” he asked in a worried tone.
“Well, we weren’t to know you’d be going in for your ear operation, were we?” Ernie asked.
“No, that’s true,” Theo replied, “I’d not really noticed my hearing wasn’t as good as it used to be, it just sort of crept up on me.” “Is that a bit like how I creep up on squirrels?” Ernie asked.
“Nothing like that, nothing at all like that,” Theo replied with a hint of frustration in his voice. “Something can only be properly described as creeping upon you if don’t realise the fact until it is too late,” he added, “I don’t think that ever happens to the squirrels you creep up on.”
Ernie looked puzzled at the first part of Theo’s answer and wounded by the second.
He decided to change the subject. “Apart from your ear operation, did you have a good summer Theo?” he asked.
“Yes, thanks Ernie, I went with my humans to Suffolk,” Theo replied. “We had some good runs on the beach. I also visited my favourite fish and chip shop whilst we were down there,” he went on, “I needed a break to get over the operation and all the rushing round getting ready for our summer markets. What about you, Ernie?”
“My humans went on holiday without me,” Ernie replied in a ‘woe is me’ kind of voice.
“What! They left you all alone when they went away? How long for?” Theo exclaimed.
“Well, no I wasn’t alone. I went to stay with my brother Erik at his house,” Ernie explained.
Theo hadn’t met Erik very often, but often enough to know he is a bit unhinged. Ernie had also complained a couple of times about Erik constantly chewing Ernie’s ears.
“How did that go?” Theo asked. “Did you get any peace?”
“Oh yes, we got along fine,” Ernie explained, “Erik’s calmed down a lot. We didn’t fight over food or where to sleep and he left my ears alone…well, most of the time.”
Erik andErik and Ernie relaxing on their holiday
“I am glad you’ve had a good rest and Erik left your ears alone” Theo chuckled.
“So was I Theo, although I’ve had a bit of ear trouble myself,” Ernie explained.
“Oh, I heard you’d been to the vets, is that what it was for?” Theo asked in a concerned voice, “Is everything okay now?”
“Well, I was getting a very itchy ear,” Ernie explained, “and my human was putting something in it every day. I didn’t mind though because she gave me a treat every time she did. Then the vet decided to do some hair-plucking.”
“Did it hurt?” Theo asked with a worried look.
“I don’t know, I fell asleep before he did it,” Ernie replied. “I was a bit wobbly when I woke up, I felt a bit like I did when I drank my beer at Christmas,” he went on, “My human had to carry me to the car and I slept all afternoon!”
Ernie recovers from his operation
“Well, I hope you’ve recovered Ernie,” Theo said, his voice becoming more business-like, “you know we’ll soon be in the year’s busiest trading period, don’t you?!”
“Tell me about it, Theo!” Ernie said, “my human has already had me modelling a new bee-bandana and a red flower.”
“Yes, we’ve got lots of new designs for our Autumn and Christmas range. I was very keen to add that new bee fabric. I think it will be very popular.” Theo explained.
Ernie models Ernie & Theo’s new bee bandana rage
“I got some treats for being a good poser,” Ernie added proudly.
“You can’t call posing work Ernie, you love it!” Theo chuckled. “I’ve also been working with the humans on developing new products. I’m very excited about one of them,” he added.
“Is that our new harness?” Ernie asked, “I’ve been helping the humans to make sure it is a comfy fit,” he added.
Ernie oversees the design of his and Theo’s new harness range
“Well, yes I’m pleased we now have harnesses to match our collar and lead sets,” Theo replied, “but we’re also launching something really different in the next week or so.”
“What’s that?” Ernie asked in a curious voice.
“Poppies!!” Theo answered.
“Poppies? Like flowers?” Ernie asked back.
“Yes!!” Theo replied.
“Why poppies?” Ernie asked.
Theo tried to count how many questions Ernie had asked him already this evening. He lost count and gave up.
“Didn’t you do history at school?!” he asked back
“No, I only did obedience classes,” Ernie replied.
“Yes, and you weren’t top in those either from what I heard,” Theo replied chuckling. “Anyway, we have a day called ‘Remembrance Sunday’ in November. On this day our country remembers all the brave men and women who fought in the great wars. They do this by holding church services, marches and by wearing red poppies.”
“What’s that got to do with Ernie and Theo though?” Ernie asked.
Theo took a deep breath.
“Well, many dogs were involved in the wars too,” Theo replied.
“They took help to wounded soldiers and messages between the lines. They also sniffed out enemy soldiers and explosives” he went on.
“They must have been very clever and brave,” Ernie said with a wide-eyed expression.
“Indeed, they were,” Theo said. “The most courageous ones received a special medal called the ‘Dickin Medal’. It was also awarded to some horses, a cat and quite a few pigeons.”
“Pigeons got medals?” Ernie asked in a dubiously.
“Yes, 32 of them got the Dickin Medal between 1943 and 1949,” Theo explained.
“But, they aren’t brave - they fly away even when I chase them!!” Ernie exclaimed.
“They got rewarded for flying you dafty!! They took messages between the troops during battles,” Theo said exasperatedly. “Have you never heard of carrier pigeons!!?” he asked.
Ernie confessed he hadn’t. He thought about asking Theo how the pigeons knew where to take the messages to. Then he thought better of it, he didn’t want to push his luck.
It was only then Ernie realised the red flower he’d modelled for his human was one of the poppies Theo was talking about.
“I know what you mean now, Theo. I modelled a red poppy too!!” he said.
“Yes, well dogs wear purple poppies so we’ll be making some of those too,” Theo explained.
Ernie models Ernie and Theo’s Remembrance Day Poppy
“We’ve also got another new product idea on the go but I’m keeping that one up my sleeve for now,” Theo explained.
“But Theo, you don’t wear sleeves so how can you keep a product up them?” Ernie asked.
“It’s a figure of speech Ernie,” Theo said frustratedly. “It means keeping something to yourself.”
Ernie wanted to ask Theo how a speech could be made up of figures. However, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to understand even if Theo did explain it to him so he left it.
“I’ve also been planning the schedule of markets we’ll be doing between now and Christmas,” Theo said. “It’s going to be a very busy time for us,” he added.
“Tell me about it, Theo,” Ernie replied. “I’ve been in more stalls than a racehorse this last few weeks,” he said.
Ernie keeps an eye open for customers at Cheadle Makers’ Market
“Are you going to get to any of the markets yourself Theo?” he asked.
“Well, you know you’re the public face of the business Ernie,” Theo explained.
“I’ll try to get along to one or two but I am very busy on the planning and production side right now!”
“Yes, the humans would be lost without you on all that,” Ernie replied.
“I’ll do my best to pull the customers in!”
“That’s the spirit Ernie,” Theo chuckled. “We’ll soon be half way through the financial year you know. We need to set up a meeting to review performance, especially as we didn’t have our one planned for June,” he went on.
Ernie’s attention was beginning to wander, all this talk of performance was making him tired. He got even more distracted when he saw some sparrows fighting over a breadcrust further up the road. He was soon tearing after them.
“Did you hear me Ernie?” Theo cried. “We need a meeting in early October,” he shouted.
“Yeo Theo, I’ll be there,” Ernie cried back, his voice carried away by the chilly breeze.
Theo shook his head and chuckled to himself before heading home, mentally drafting an agenda for his next meeting whilst Ernie stood looking at the bushes trying to work out where the sparrows had disappeared to.