This post first appeared in the November 2018 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News
While I was growing up in a suburb where many roads were lined with horse chestnut trees, playing conkers was one of my favourite autumn games. I still can’t walk past a freshly fallen conker without picking it up and slipping it into my pocket. My grown-up excuse for collecting conkers and taking them home is that they’re an effective spider deterrent.
Nature’s timing is perfect, because the conker harvest coincides with the mass migration of spiders from our gardens into our homes. Escaping from the chill and damp outdoors is the arachnid equivalent of flying south for the winter.
However, I’ve just heard on the radio that ingesting conkers can be harmful to dogs. They contain a toxin called aesculin, also present in every other part of the horse chestnut tree, which can make dogs very ill and in rare cases prove fatal.
On his podcast, the radio presenter, Rhod Gilbert, wondered how to reconcile his arachnophobic wife who fills their house with conkers and a pet dog who perceives every conker to be a dog toy. How to keep both of them happy and safe?
My cat Dorothy suggests the answer. All summer she’s been snacking on flies and moths. Rhod just needs to follow her example and cut out the middleman (the conker).
If he trains his dog to eat spiders, his problem will be solved.
For more information about dogs and conkers, visit: www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/conkers-and-dogs.
* With apologies to 18th century Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith for repurposing the title of his excellent and very funny play, She Stoops to Conquer.
Meanwhile in other news…
I’ve just launched Sophie Sayers’ fifth Village Mystery,
Springtime for Murder,
now available in paperback and ebook.
If it’s a more seasonal read that you’re after,
check out her third adventure,
Murder in the Manger –
a cheery antidote to festive stress.
Coming in 2019:
- Murder Your Darlings (Sophie Sayers #6)
- Flat Chance (Staffroom at St Bride’s #1)