Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dog Tired

When my wife announced that we would be looking after a dog for five weeks, she tried to sweeten the news by promising that my involvement would be limited to the occasional stroll around the block. Like a fool I reluctantly agreed.

However things didn't quite turn out as I'd hoped. News travelled around the Lewes grapevine that there was a family who looked after dogs for free and before long we were joined by a second terrier - a neurotic Jack Russell that would only sleep with humans. I wasn't happy, but decided to try and put a brave face on things.

Then my wife developed pneumonia and I suddenly found myself in charge of a household of feral children and incontinent dogs. At this point something snapped.

I didn't mind the cooking and cleaning. I'd even resigned myself to the long walks and the dog poo. But after a day of being an ├╝berfather, I felt that I'd earned the right to a decent night's sleep. Sadly, Poppy the Jack Russell had other ideas, howling, barking and scratching at doors as soon as it was bedtime.

After two sleepless nights I felt a deep, primordial rage at Poppy. When, just before lunchtime, Poppy and I were alone in the dining room, I decided to vent my frustrations:

"Look, you ******* ****, we don't even want you here. You're a ******* ***** ** *** **** and I can't wait until you go. I never want to see you again, you ******* annoying, neurotic canine ****"

The rant was cathartic and Poppy was blissfully oblivious to my sentiments. It was a win-win situation.

Then the door swung open and my oldest son walked up to his laptop:

"Hi! Are you still there?"

"Yeah. I've just been crafting an obsidian sword..."

At this point, I realised my son was in the middle of a Skype conversation and that my expletive-ridden diatribe against Poppy had been relayed to her owners in Scotland. Apparently the whole family were sitting around a table, listening to my obscenities.

It wasn't my finest moment, but on the plus side I don't think we'll have to worry about looking after Poppy again.

Maisy the border terrier will be with us for another week and although I can't say I've ever got used to the constant smell of overcooked peas, I will miss her when she's gone. She has, without exaggeration, transformed our lives and my older son seems happier than he has been for a long time. For that reason alone, I'm prepared to endure the grimmer aspects of dog ownership.

I know several people who say that owning a dog is almost like having a child. I always agree with them because I don't want to shatter their illusions, but I'm afraid that owning a dog is nothing like having a child.

If only children were content to sit in a basket for hours, occasionally requesting a brief tummy tickle or a walk around the block.

A month ago, my oldest son was the only dog lover in the house. My wife was indifferent, I was hostile and our youngest son was terrified. In the space of four weeks, Maisy has won us all over. When I tried to explain to our six-year-old that he needed to wash his hands because Maisy was a magnet for bugs, he was indignant: "No she isn't! She's a magnet for love".

Before they left for their five-week holiday in France, Maisy's owners said that they were going to arrange for her to have puppies in the autumn. With any luck, a mini-Maisy will be with us by Christmas.


Kid said...

"You're just a great big softy old Hector!"

Read Lord Byron's Epitaph to a Dog:

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.

Steerforth said...

Wonderful - and so true!

Rog said...

Maisy's eyes are saying it all. Put us down for a mini-Masy.

Martin said...

Our three granddaughters are over the moon with their new family addition...a chocolate Labrador puppy. Love the Skype story. Priceless.

Canadian Chickadee said...

I wouldn't lose too much sleep over the overhead Skype conversation. Jack Russells aren't the easiest dogs to live with. Very noisy and hyper. And we all say and think things we wish we hadn't when we are sleep deprived.

However, Maisy is beautiful, and I'm sure her pups will be too. Personally, I can't imagine not owning a dog -- the few times we've been dogless have seemed terribly sad and lonely. I hope dog ownership will work out well for you all and give your son the non-verbal comfort he seems to need.

sue said...

ALove Magnet? Priceless - that is one to share at his 21st birthday party! Maisy looks like such a sweetie - no wonder you have been won over ...

Anonymous said...

Whew! A few uncomfortable moments when Poppy is handed back to her owners.... I suggest you're walking good old Maisie at that time... I look forward to seeing son/daughter of Maisie in the New Year. Can't believe I'm thinking forward to the New Year... AnnaC

Gill said...

Dog tales ...

Annabel (gaskella) said...

I'm not a doggy type person, but Maisy looks thoroughly lovely, and not yappy and boisterous like Jk Rs. A mini-Maisy sounds a great kind of dog.

My Dad is currently looking after my half-sister's Pug-cross and he is a) extremely ugly, b) yappy and leapy, and c) seemingly in charge - but he is helping to keep my 83yr old Dad fit.

zmkc said...

Provided the word canine didn't come through too strongly, I wouldn't worry. They probably just thought you were talking to your children, so no problem at all.

zmkc said...

Why is there a picture of a bearded man beside your comment box, by the way? Or is it just my imagination. (When you click on it, it says his name is Kid Robson)

Steerforth said...

I'm using a smartphone and hate typing on them, so forgive my brief response.

I loved Gill's link - that's how I feel about a lot of dogs. Like Annabel I can't stand the yappy, jumpy ones.

zmkc - You're right. They probably would have assumed that I was talking to my sons. The bearded man posted the beautiful Lord Byron epitaph.

Gill said...

I should have begun my post

The dog days ... (

Not sure it's as apt for your part of the world as it is here in Canada though : )

Donna said...

You, sir, make me happy.

Edmonton, Alberta

Mike said...

I'm a dog lover. Can I, respectfully, suggest before getting the cute puppy, take a look at the rescue centres for dogs that REALLY need a home.

I've had the pleasure and honour of living with a number of rescued dogs over the years.

Give the breeders a miss and do something really worthwhile for a dog in need.