We need to go back in time. A couple of weeks ago we went to visit friends who live in Craster. Keeping in touch with old friends is a blog topic in itself but one for a later date as is their suggestion about continued learning. No, the focus for this blog and the visit is the soon-to-be-favourite topic of dogs. They have two dogs, a huge standard, totally bonkers poodle called Bella, apparently she can leap as high as your head, and a more relaxed, older dog, a Labradoodle, called Dylan (Chris is a fan!). Perhaps we’ll call ours Knopfler and Clapton.
Anyway, we wanted some advice from them about dogs. We got quite a bit most of which was confusing. I was already feeling confused about dogs – whether we wanted / needed one, just what the implications of having a dog were, what kind of dog etc etc. My confusion has been growing, for example, watching the Youtube clip about the guy being interviewed at the seaside when some protester with a dog interfered with the TV recording. The guy who was being interviewed had a friend who tried to wrestle the protester and his dog away. What a tit. He sort of fell over with the protester on top of him and then, and this is the point of this story, the protester’s faithful dog started attacking his master rather than the idiot who he should have been attacking by way of protection. Well, bloody hell, I thought is that what dogs do, wait and see which way the attack or whatever is going and then join the winning side. I don’t remember Lassie or Rin Tin Tin doing that. If they had they wouldn’t have starred in their own TV programme, well not of the type they did star in.
Another, slightly less violent, example of dog changeability happened at the weekend in Craster. We were taking both dogs for a walk along the coast and I, by way of apprenticeship, was allowed to be in charge of Dylan. Easy, going, laid back, well-trained Dylan that is. And it was so. He walked at heel nice and calm and obedient until that is we got about two hundred yards from the house and then this calm etc. etc. elderly dog turned into a raging lunatic. As I held his lead, he turned his, until now, amiable head and seized the lead and pulled and growled, pulled and pulled and growled and growled and shook his head pulling me and it and me and it along the road. He would not let go. Chris said let him have the lead, he always does this when he gets near home. So I let him have the lead. Chris proceeded to explain the complex psychological nature of this act, apparently he was demonstrating to his younger, attention-seeking sibling, that he was still the man. Just seemed to me that letting him have the lead simply reinforced his bad behaviour but then what do I know, they’re the dog owners.
We all survived this unexpected trauma and arrived back at their house. They had a book for us to read entitled ‘The Dog Expert’ by Karen Bush and this is where the confusion really kicked off. My wife started to read and then put the book down and said it was giving her a headache. Still I thought and then I began to read : “becoming a dog owner is not a decision to be taken lightly…. Examine your reasons for wanting one and ensure right from the start you have a very clear idea of what will be involved… be prepared to spend plenty of time researching what kind of dog will be best for you.” Well, no shit, Sherlock.
The book had 8 chapters – 1: You and your dog. 2: All about your dog. 3: Caring for your dog. 4: Teaching your dog. 5: Unreadable from my notes. 6: Behaviour problems. 7: Dog health. 8: caring for elderly dogs. Followed by – can you afford a dog? Do you have enough time/ What are your future plans –any major changes or upheavals, marriage, divorce, house move, pregnancy, large family celebrations, an imminent holiday, a period of bereavement? All will be stressful for the dog.
I closed the book, I had a headache. I was stressed and we hadn’t even got round to thinking about what kind of dog we wanted – the only questions we were interested in were – size, temperament, looks, need for walks and cost. We hadn’t covered any of these.
God, I mean we even watched Kate Humble and an unbelievably crap TV programme called ‘The Wonder of Dogs’. I can honestly say we wouldn’t have been seen dead watching a programme like this before our decision to think about having a dog. The programme was ridiculous, they had found a village with a 1000 (I exaggerate slightly) dogs of every variety and they tested them. The best bit was when Kate’s own dog (one of three) was trialled as a sheep dog. The dog was delightfully rubbish and spent the next 15 minutes simply chasing the sheep like a maniac. The dog ignored all Kate’s and an unimpressed sheepdog handler’s attempts to get her to return and stop biting the heads and hind legs off of the sheep. When Kate eventually got her dog back, she laughed and said, “You’ve had a great time haven’t you.” What she actually meant was when I get you home I’m going to put my boot so far up your doggy arse I may never be able to retrieve it.
We enjoyed it immensely and made a mental note, considered everything we had learned so far and decided to get a goldfish. And there it remained until the visit to the farm. If you read the last doggie blog, you’ll know all about this episode. If you didn’t read it, it may be that you’re not interested in dogs. But just take a look at the attached photos.