Our Sunday afternoon peace is shattered as bedlam breaks out in the garden. A stray dog has found his way onto our land and Bertie is vigorously defending his territory, while Vita wanders round just wanting to be friends.
Bertie has a bloody eye and I scoop him up and put him in the car, whilst yelling to Tod for help. The stray meanwhile is enjoying romping around marking every inch of our terrain.
Vita is firmly encouraged into the kitchen and I leave Tod with the task of corralling the stray while I head to the emergency vets.
The eye looks worse than it is - just a scrapped eyelid which needs cleaning, antibiotic cream twice day for a week (that's going to be fun to administer) and a hood so he can't get at it.
I return to find Tod at the top of the road talking to our neighbours. They, of the boisterous dog pack that barks enthusiastically at us as we go about our lives. Every house in rural France has dogs, usually chained up. These, at least, have the run of their garden.
The stray has eluded Tod and we thought it might be one of their pack, but it's not. So we head back down the drive to play "ring a ring o' roses" round the cars, while being given full-on vocal support from Bertie who has been left locked in the back of the merc. Each time we get near the stray he scoots away.
I take a couple of photos on my phone and resolve to set out in search of the owners while Tod sits on the garden steps with small chicken pieces as a vain attempt at a lure.
We look up to see Monsieur, our neighbour, standing on the drive. He wears dark glasses all the time so we are not sure how well he sees and he looks across at us asking: "where is the dog?" and "has it has left?" Like something out of a pantomime we say: "he's there, right behind you!"
We now understand why they have so many dogs. Quietly, calmly, he gets down to the intruder, murmuring gentle nothings and administering cuddles. A grasp of the collar leads to a moment of anxious bucking and diving, but the dog is secure and on a lead. The neighbour tells us he knows someone at the mayor's office who will help (even on a Sunday) and that he's happy to take the dog. We marvel at his skill and breathe a sigh of relief and, after a few minutes to give stray and dog whisperer time to get safely back up the hill, Bertie and Vita are released from their enforced imprisonments.
The neighbour returns later with our lead and tells us the dog belongs to a hunter from the local town. Although the hunt season is closed the hunter was out along our valley and the young dog flushed a deer and was off. The hunter knew where to come for help.
From now onwards we will see our neighbour and his dog pack in a very different light.