It was a late March evening. The sun was falling down a cloudless sky. The evening air was slowly sucking away the daytime’s warmth.
For once, Ernie arrived before Theo at their favourite lamp post. They’d not seen each other for weeks. Ernie was looking forward to catching up with his wise friend.
He waited patiently by sampling scents from the daffodils and crocuses budding out nearby.
Finally, Theo rounded the corner and Ernie went over to meet him.
“Yeo Theo, great to see you. Isn’t it a lovely evening? How are you?” Ernie said loudly.
“Good evening Ernie, it is nice to see you too,” Theo replied. “Yes, what a fine end to the day it is and I am very well thank you”.
“We’ve not seen each other for ages, what have you been up to?” Ernie asked.
“Missing all your questions!!” Theo laughed. Ernie had asked three questions in less than thirty words – good going, even for him!
“Sorry Theo” Ernie replied in a slightly hurt voice, “you know how curious I am.”
‘Make that four questions’ Theo thought to himself, before replying that Ernie was indeed a great curiosity. Ernie didn’t know whether being “a curiosity” was a good or bad thing – and he certainly wasn’t curious enough to ask Theo. He decided to take a different tack.
“Well, you can’t have been that busy if all you’ve been doing is missing my questions,” he suggested mischievously.
“I was joking Ernie,” Theo replied. “I’ve been far too busy to miss all your questions!”.
“Oh, don’t you like me asking you questions then?” Ernie asked in rather hurt tone.
“Yes, of course I do. I love answering your questions,” Theo replied. “It’s just, I’ve been rushed off my feet. You know what it’s like when your name’s over the door,” he added.
Ernie decided against telling Theo he couldn’t find this door with their names over although he’d hunted high and low for it. Instead, he asked Theo what he’d been busy with.
“Well, where do I start?” Theo said. “Checking the inventory; monitoring sales and expenditure; compiling next year’s budget; booking our Spring and Summer markets,” he explained breathlessly, “oh, and I tested our new treat bag.”
Ernie’s ears pricked up at the mention of treats.
“What did you think of the treat bag then?” he asked.
“Comes in an excellent range of designs,” Theo replied. “I insisted on them being fully lined though. That helps to keep the rain out so the treats don’t go soggy. They’ll be very popular.”
Ernie said he liked the new treat bags too but not as much as their contents. He didn’t understand what Theo meant about lining them. Soggy treats tasted as good as dry ones to him. But he knew Theo knows about these things even if he didn’t, if you know what I mean.
“Anyway, that’s enough about me,” Theo went on, “what’ve you been up to Ernie?”
“I’ve been out and about a lot meeting my mates and getting free treats” Ernie replied.
Theo harrumphed and thought to himself - ‘no surprises there then’.
“You mean at the markets?” Theo asked.
“Well, I’ve been to a couple. I went to the Bramhall Worker Bee market last week,” Ernie replied. “My human took me to Bramhall Hall. I met Ralph and Lola. Ralph was a top young doodle. We played ‘chase me’. Lola was a very suave spaniel who sat watching us in her smart red coat,” he went on. “I think she thought we were a bit daft.”
“Never, really – why ever would she think that about you?’ Theo asked rhetorically. “Did the market go well? I’ve not had chance to study the figures,” he added, changing the subject.
“It wasn’t too good really, there were no dog treat stalls at all. I had to hunt for the humans’ scraps and my human told me to stop. it was hard work” Ernie explained sadly.
Theo sighed, he’d forgotten how differently he and Ernie measured the markets’ success.
“Have you been up to anything else?” Theo asked, thinking a couple of markets could hardly have filled three weeks.
Ernie thought hard before answering.
“I’ve been to Summerseat Garden Centre a lot too,” he replied. “It’s one my favourite places. I love the smells in the gardening section and I always get a bite to eat in the café.”
“Well, that’s nice for you,” Theo said. “Some of us have businesses to run you know,” Theo grumbled. “We can’t swan around smelling the flowers and posing in cafes,”.
“I’d love to do more to help, you know I would,” Ernie said pleadingly, “but I just haven’t got your head for business. I’ve seen a dragons’ den but I’d never go in it like you would.”
Theo wasn’t for being mollified. He just muttered a “Hhhmm” instead.
The sun had almost gone. The air was turning chilly. Ernie’s attention had been distracted by some branches he’d seen that the recent gales had broken off a nearby tree.
“Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you,” Ernie said. “I did see my human talking to some important-looking people at the garden centre. The when we got home, she phoned her friend to say she had some exciting news.”
It was Theo’s turn to be curious.
“What was it Ernie? Tell me!!” he asked excitedly.
“I don’t know. As she started to tell her friend, the doorbell rang and I ran off to answer it”.
Theo wasn’t surprised but he sighed deeply nevertheless.
“Well,” he started, “find out as soon as you can and let me….”. He stopped in mid-sentence.
During Theo’s half-sentence, Ernie had sprinted to the broken branches, picked one up and was now doing what looked like some sort pre-historic rain dance.
Theo turned homeward. His brain was full of thoughts about budget forecasts, stock inventories and strategic objectives for 2019/20. However, as we know, Theo’s brain still had plenty of room to speculate in what the “exciting news” might be.
Theo didn’t have long to wait to find out what this news was. That evening, whilst he was quietly watching “University Challenge”, Theo heard his human on the phone to Ernie’s human. He overheard that Ernie and Theo would soon be supplying Summerseat Garden Centre with an exclusive range of bandanas and bowties.
He was both delighted - and a little concerned. He had not been involved in any discussions with Summerseat Garden Centre. ‘Here I am, singlehandedly trying to develop our growth strategy,’ he said to himself, ‘and the pet-humans just fly solo like that.’
He resolved to call an urgent board meeting with his co-owner with a one item agenda:
“Taking Back Control”