One summer morning when the trees loomed out of the mist like giants, Muckleflugga (remember our clever duck?) was looking for worms in the dewy grass. His friend Claudie, a French duck, who shared the cosy duck house with him and the others, was swishing through the dew drops, which coated the grass like sparkling diamonds. The wet droplets tickled her flippers and made her giggle,
‘Quackle glug, quackle glug glug!’
‘Why did you leave France, Claudie?’ said Muckleflugga.
‘Because the smell from the orange sauce factory next to our pond became too strong. Poowaah!’ she quacked and flapped her wings as if to fan away a horrible smell.
‘Besides, our mother told us stories about the disappearance of mon oncle Pierre.’
‘What happened to him?’ queried Muckleflugga, his eyes as round as saucers. He was so intrigued that he stopped eating for a few seconds.
‘Well, one day he waddled into a nearby Chinese restaurant for lunch and was never seen again. He joined the resistance, you know.’
[To the reader: ‘plat de résistance’ means the main dish in French.]
‘Oh, how mysterious,’ breathed Muckleflugga.
Just as Muckleflugga was pondering what sort of resistance Claudie’s uncle had joined, he heard a ‘woofing’ sound.
It was Vanessa, who had arrived with the Wuffingas. Do you remember the Wuffingas? They are the pack of brave dogs that live with Vanessa, although Vanessa thinks they are a bit of a nuisance sometimes.
Let’s introduce the Wuffinga pack: there is Daisy the Determined, a grey miniature schnauzer,
then Delilah the Distracted, an easy-going, liver and white springer spaniel, who can’t concentrate for long.
Then there’s Snagglesnoot, the black and tan
and lastly, Wuffa the Warrior cavapoo, who is the pack leader. He has a reddish- gold curly coat and is very brave and wise.
Vanessa thinks that she is the pack leader, but she is wrong and Wuffa keeps having to put her in her place by chewing her shoes and opening the fridge to eat her food. Never mind, she’s a slow learner but the Wuffingas are sure that, with patience, they can teach her who’s boss.
As dogs have a brilliant sense of smell, one thousand times more powerful than yours, they can find their way through the mist better than humans and the Wuffingas immediately smelt the ducks across the field. (By the way, did you know that you smell splendidly stinky to your dog? In fact, to a dog the world is smells!)
Greetings were exchanged, with much woofing and wagging of tails, and sniffing of bottoms by the dogs and happy quacking from the ducks; they were all good friends and they were happy to see one another.
‘What are you going to do today?’ woofed Delilah the Distracted.
The ducks had a hard think and then replied solemnly,
‘We thought we’d eat.’
‘Good idea!’ enthused the Wuffingas.
But just as they finished talking, Snagglesnoot, the dachshund, exclaimed,
‘Just look at that HUGE trail in the grass!’
Now, Snagglesnoot was very long and low and extremely naughty, and because he was so low he had spotted the trail first. But poor Snagglesnoot had a problem: being low-slung and the smallest of the friends he was worried that the HUGE trail might lead to a HUGE creature, which would see him and think he was a snackerel. SSSLUURRPP! Oh, dear!
All the others stared at the wide trail which smoothed its way through the flattened grass. The ducks had never seen such a big track before. It was over three feet wide!
‘Do you think it’s a giant snail?’ asked Claudie, peering into the mist.
The thought alarmed her. Now, ducks are partial to snails as a snack but the thought that a gigantic one might be on the loose and fancy a duck as an hors d’oeuvre troubled her.
The Wuffingas had their snouts pressed to the dewy grass, sniffing and snorting [To the reader: make sniffing and snorting noises and go ‘achoo’!] and the dewdrops tickled them and made them sneeze.
Daisy snuffled, and Snagglesnoot sniffled and spluttered.
Delilah dragged her tail, making sweeping motions across the trail, her nose to the ground like a giant Dyson!
Wuffa? Well Wuffa just breathed deeply, and nodded ..... he knew!
‘What a funny smell. It’s very exotic, I wonder where it’s from?’ asked Daisy, the schnauzer.
‘I wonder what it tastes like?’ barked Delilah, the springer spaniel.
Delilah was hungry because the greedy Snagglesnoot and Wuffa had eaten most of her breakfast. Well, dogs always think of food, don’t you?
It was decided that they would advance along the trail, with the ducks in the middle and the dogs either side, acting as their bodyguard. Wuffa decided this as he knew ducks tasted better than dogs, so they needed more protection.
Almost immediately they started, Delilah became distracted (as usual) and veered off towards a tree to read her pee-mails.
Suddenly, there was a massive, super-duper rumble, and....they felt the earth shake and they began to tremble with fright. Through the mist a few yards ahead towered a gigantic dinosaur. It was greyish-brown and to make matters worse, it lifted a V-E-R-Y long neck skywards and hissed and roared:
‘¡Hola! I’m Rocio, who are you?’
The mighty trumpeting split the muffled stillness of the swirling mist and I’m sorry to say that, except for Muckleflugga and Wuffa, who were the bravest, all the others shot into the air with a start!
‘Quick, call the fire brigade,’ yelled Delilah, who had got the wrong end of the stick.
‘That’s no use!’ growled Daisy. ‘The monster’s not on fire and none of us is stuck up a tree, are we?’ She looked around suspiciously.
Vanessa?’ Delilah suggested.
‘I’m not stuck up there yet, but I may be if it makes that noise again,’ quacked the terrified Claudie, who was covering her eyes with her wing and pretending the mysterious giant wasn’t there.
‘Let’s move forward in a pincer movement and surround it,’ said Wuffa, in a low growl.
As the friends encircled the giant, it raised its long neck and hissed again.
(Have you guessed what the giant is yet?)
The friends craned their necks up through the mist (the ducks had an advantage as they had longer necks than the dogs) and saw a friendly, slightly scaly, old face beaming down at them. They noticed that its long neck was smooth and that it stuck out of a vast set of armour plating. It had four legs covered in horny scales and a smallish (for its size) tail.
(Now can you guess what it is? this is how it looks from behind)
‘What are you?’ asked Daisy, forgetting her manners.
‘It’s customary to introduce oneself where I come from, but I’ll excuse you as you probably haven’t had breakfast yet. I’m a tortuga, which is a tortoise in English.’
The others looked in amazement as they had seen tortoises before, but never one as big as Rocio.
Feeling rude, they introduced themselves and then had so many questions to ask the tortoise.
‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ asked Claudie, the French duck. She batted her eyelashes.
‘I’m a girl and my name means ‘dew’, which is very appropriate today, don’t you think? I speak Spanish because I come from the Galapagos Islands. It’s also my birthday today and I’m 100 years old.’
When the friends had managed to close their mouths (or beaks, in the ducks’ case), which had dropped open with amazement, they all wished Rocio happy birthday.
Did you know what ‘happy birthday’ is in Spanish?
It’s ‘¡Feliz cumpleaños!’ If anyone has a birthday today you could all say this in Spanish, couldn’t you?
Rocio was a giant tortoise and sometimes they are brought to England to live in zoos.
‘Are you from a zoo?’ the friends chorused.
‘Yes, but I was bored and wanted to explore the countryside as a birthday treat. Do you know where I can find some cabbage? It’s my favourite food!’
‘Don’t worry, we’ll get some from the kitchen for you’, woofed the dogs; they really were very naughty, but kind, too.
‘Can you give me a lift on your back?’ asked Snagglesnoot, who, having such short legs had decided he would have a better view from high up on Rocio’s shell.
The friends all went with Rocio to the kitchen. When she had finished her cabbage, rather a lot, the friends asked Vanessa to ring the zoo so that Rocio could have a comfortable lift home on her birthday.
It just shows you, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Just because Rocio was enormous and covered in a horny shell did not mean that she was dangerous or unfriendly. In fact, she was a very gentle, friendly creature, which shows that, no matter what someone looks like, they can still be a lovely friend.