It was a very Autumnal Sunday evening. Leaves were dancing through a grey, rainy sky which occasionally rumbled with the sounds from dozens of exploding fireworks.
Ernie and Theo had decided not to meet beneath their favourite lamp post. Quite apart from the inclement weather, Ernie was frightened by the fireworks. Whilst Theo was too old in the tooth to worry about a few pops and bangs, he was busy trying to understand how “Ernie and Theo” would be affected by the second lock down which had been announced that weekend.
They decided to have a zoom meeting instead, and for once Ernie didn’t miss it by going into the garden and running round in circles.
“Yeo Theo, how you doing?” Ernie said in a worried voice, “it is very wet and noisy out there isn’t it? I don’t like it around Bonfire Night. I’ve been hiding in the bedroom most of the evening”
“Hi Ernie,” Theo replied, “no, it isn’t good out there. But we’re safely tucked up at home and the fireworks can’t harm us there.”
He could see Ernie wasn’t completely convinced but he went on:
“To be honest, I’m more worried by the firework Boris let off on Saturday. All our November Christmas markets are cancelled and the ones in December might be too. Of course, we must do all we can to save humans’ lives, but this is usually our busiest time of the year. We will need to change our plans.”
Ernie realised this was bad news, even if it did mean he would get more lie ins during November.
“What are we going to do instead, Theo?” Ernie asked.
“We’re going to encourage more visitors to our website,” Theo explained.
“How'll we do that Theo?” Ernie asked in a curious voice.
“Lots of ways,” Theo answered. “We’ll get busier on Facebook and Instagram to encourage more visitors to our website. And we’re giving free postage on anything they buy.”
“That’s great, Theo”, Ernie replied. “Is there enough room on the website for more visitors? You know how crowded the stall gets when lots of people visit it. We don’t want to turn people away!”
“Yes, there's lots of room for people to visit the website!” Theo chuckled. “And we need to do a lot more networking.”
“What’s networking, Theo?” Ernie asked, “is it something to do with fishing for the mackerel we had on our holiday at Craster?”
“Not quite, although you’re right, people who fish do need to work their nets!” Theo replied laughing. “But we'll be working different sorts of nets. Our networking is all about people getting to know each other. When they do, they often find they can co-operate and support one another in many ways,” he explained.
“So, it’s like making new mates?” Ernie asked.
“Exactly!” Theo replied.
“Well I did that today at Juno’s first birthday party in Manchester’s ’Feel Good Club!” Ernie said, proudly.
“I was going to ask you how the party went,” Theo said..
"Slowly at first, Theo,” Ernie replied. “My humans got me ready. They told me I'd have a great time but I wanted a lie in..”
Ernie could see Theo was about to launch into a "you don't know you're born young man" speech so he kept talking:
"...but they got me in the car. When we arrived, the party was in full swing!"
"Who was there?" Theo asked, calming down.
"Who wasn't there Theo? Every best-dressed dog in Manchester was! That's for sure" Ernie replied. "I think Juno knows everybody, and she's only one year old! She was the perfect hostess. She personally, and very excitedly, greeted every guest on arrival and spent the whole party circulating. She didn't even have time to stop and have her photo taken"
"What did you get up to then? I hope you were busy?" Theo asked.
"I had my puppacino. That certainly tasted and felt good going down," Ernie replied.
"Why are you always thinking of food, Ernie?!!" Theo asked.
"Because it's one of my favourite things, and the puppacino was delicious Theo," Ernie explained. "Anyway, after that I chatted with some of my new mates who weren't as hard to keep up with as Juno! I met lots of friendly doodles and all sorts of other breeds, and I talked to a couple of bull dogs who were near our stall."
"I hope you flew the flag for 'Ernie and Theo' flag too?" Theo asked, chuckling. "There's a lot more to networking than drinking puppacinos and talking to handsome bulldogs!"
"I didn't have any flags to fly, but I modelled our drying robe," Ernie replied. "Some of my mates' humans liked it and went to our stall for a closer look!"
"Well done Ernie. The drying robe is very popular isn't it?" Theo said. "I've checked our Instagram page and a few of your mates have posted photos of what they bought. Who won the prize we donated?"
"Teddy won it," Ernie replied. "He was dressed as a devil. He loooked a bit scary with his horns and red cape on, but he was very calm and friendly. I bet he'll look smart in his bandana and bowtie."
"Well, I am glad the party gave you that "feel good" feeling Ernie," Theo said, "let's hope many of our new friends stay in touch. I think we should send Juno a personalised drying robe to say thank you to her, Aimie and Kiera for inviting us to the party. What do you think?"
"That's a great idea, Theo," Ernie replied "if Aimie and Kiera can get Juno to sit still long enough to put it on."
Theo started laughing.
"And on that note, I think we should both go and get a good night's sleep," he said. "We've a lot to do. I've got to put all our Christmas products on the website. But I can't do all of it until you've finished modelling it."
"Sounds like a plan Theo," Ernie replied, "you'll never hear me turn down a good sleep!"