The long hot summer was drawing to a close. Ernie and Theo were lying under their favourite lamp post watching the shadows lengthen on a warm September evening.
“So, that’s the end of summer then, Theo?” Ernie asked glumly.
Theo didn’t know if his little friend was asking a question or making a statement. He took a deep breath before replying:
“Well, technically speaking yes Ernie,” he explained. “The 1st of September officially marks the start of Autumn.
We’ve had some lovely Septembers these past few years though you know. Just feel how warm it is this evening!”
Ernie wasn’t really able to comment. He’d only lived through two Septembers and he couldn’t remember much about yesterday let alone what the weather was like a year ago.
“I am sure you’re right Theo,” Ernie said, brightening up, “you are about everything else.”
Theo didn’t reply to Ernie’s flattering comment. He changed the subject instead.
“Anyway, warm or not, Autumn is going to be a very busy time for us,” he announced.
“Why? Are we going to Northumbria again?” Ernie asked, his tail wagging ever-so-slightly. “We were very busy running on the beaches but it was good fun wasn’t it?” he added.
Theo never ceased being struck by Ernie’s ability to put a question into his every sentence.
“No, I don’t think we are,” he replied, “and yes it was.”
Ernie looked downcast. He asked Theo what they were going to be busy doing if it wasn’t running on Northumbrian beaches.
“We are moving into ‘Ernie and Theo’s’ busiest trading period Ernie. The demand for our handmade pet accessories should be very high in the run-up to Christmas," Theo answered with a very serious look on his face, “there is an enormous amount to do. We won’t be running on beaches for a good while my friend.”
Ernie’s new-found optimism about a warm Autumn was beginning to fade faster than the setting sun. He knew, though, that Theo got cross when he showed no interest in “Ernie and Theo’s” so he tried to be positive. He asked what they were going to be busy doing.
“Well, the humans and I had a big planning meeting this morning,” Theo explained. “We reviewed ‘Ernie and Theo’s’ performance so far this year and set sales targets for the all-important Christmas period,” he went on. “We agreed the craft markets we’re doing to the end of 2018 and some new product launches. We also decided how to enhance our website.”
“Wow,” Ernie replied. He always found “wow” was a great word to disguise a yawn.
“Oh yes,” Theo added, “and we also agreed how to fully exploit our membership of the Co-op’s new ‘Local Traders’ website. Its really exciting to be involved with local.co.uk with all the other talented local makers around Greater Manchester Ernie.”
“My you were busy,” said Ernie. “I wonder why I wasn’t at the meeting?”
“If you’d looked at your e-mail you’d have seen you were invited Ernie,” Theo replied with a hint of impatience in his voice.
Ernie said he was sorry for not checking his email. The truth was he always found more interesting things to look at than his email - like the birds in the garden; the dirty plates in the dishwasher and the empty crisp packets in the wastepaper bins. He knew Theo was getting irritated with him so he tried to change the subject.
“What new things will ‘Ernie and Theo’ be selling then Theo?” he asked.
“Well, the Pet-Humans are currently testing a new training bell,” Theo replied.
“What’s one of those?” Ernie enquired.
Theo was beginning to think he was on a canine version of “Mastermind”. However, he bit his tongue, figuratively speaking of course, before answering his little friend’s question.
“It’s hangs on the door and has bells on. You ring the bells when you want your Pet-Humans to do things for you,” Theo explained. “For example, your friend Flossie has got one,” he went on, “it hangs on the patio door and she rings the bells when she wants to go into the garden.”
Ernie thought about this for a minute. He had a bright idea. His tail started wagging very violently
“Could we not do training collars too Theo?” he asked.
“What would one of those be?” Theo asked back in a puzzled voice.
“Well, it would be like a training bell but the bells would be on a collar,” Ernie explained.
Theo was even more puzzled by Ernie’s reply and asked what the point of that would be.
“Well, every time you want something you’d just need to shake your head and your Pet-Humans would come running. It would be a lot easier than us having to find our training bell every time we wanted something” Ernie explained excitedly. He loved it when he knew something Theo didn’t.
Theo was getting increasingly baffled despite Ernie’s explanation.
“But Ernie, what do you need so often that you’d want to be able to shake your head rather than run to your training bell?”
“Oh, I am sure I’ll think of something Theo. Humans are always inventing labour-saving devices you know. I think it’s time we got in on the act, after all we wear more legs out running around than they do,” Ernie replied, feeling very clever.
The sun had almost disappeared below the horizon. A cool breeze was whistling in the trees.
“That’s all very interesting” Theo said in a disinterested voice. “However, I’ve got to head off home,” he continued,
“If I run fast enough I’ll get there before the treat jar’s put away for the night.”
“Yeo Theo,” Ernie replied, “sounds like the sooner we get those training collars into production the better.”
Theo’s eyebrows went up and he smiled. Just once in a while his little friend surprised him. “You know Ernie, I think we might add training collars to the marketing plan,” he said.
Unfortunately, Ernie didn’t hear what Theo had said about his great idea.
The wind had blown a very chewable stick from a nearby tree. Ernie had bounced off in hot pursuit. At least for now, the very same wind had clearly scattered all Ernie’s thoughts of training collars across the nearby common.
A very reassured Theo set off in pursuit of a sleepy treat jar.