May 17th - Little doggie visitor
I haven’t had many dealings with pedigree dogs: mine have always been mongrels. Even Dolly, who passes for a Bichon (and is the best dog in the world), is probably not pure-bred. We don’t know for sure though, as she’s a rescue dog. I always get rescue dogs. Nice, well-behaved middle-aged females. Lots of company, and no nonsense. I simply don’t have time to deal with hysterical puppies leaking all over the kitchen floor, chasing the cats, and demanding walkie-porkies every two minutes.
I stick to certain breeds. I like gun dogs; soft-mouthed spaniels, pointers, setters and retrievers. I don’t like Alsatians, too demanding for me. I like retrievers and lapdogs and old sheepdogs. I prefer dopey, sloppy dogs to ferocious, energetic, rat-catching, ankle-biting little terriers.
I love Dolly because she sleeps a lot, and hates going out in the rain. Just like me. I love her because she washes up splendidly - as long as there’s no ketchup on the plates when you put them down on the floor. I love the way she cuddles up on the sofa to watch The Bridges of Madison County without sighing about it being too sentimental. Me and Dolly are a seriously good match for each other.
Also, Dolly barks at Tibbles, a huge grey tom cat from next door who tries to come through the cat flap and steal Bad Boy Tombo’s cat food from the kitchen. Dolly sees him off. Tibbles, not Bad Boy Tombo. She’s been his foster mother since he dashed into the kitchen two winters ago, a bedraggled kitten on the point of starvation. So she lets him into the house. In fact she even lets him into her bed.
Also, she hoovers. Tail up, nose down, she snuffles round the kitchen floor twice a day and keeps it clean. (Apart from stray bits of onion skin, of course.)
I’ve had Dolly for eight years now, and in that time she’s picked up all my bad habits; she stays up late, sleeps in half the morning, snores, takes shortcuts on the daily walk, and eats too much. She’s also very, very cute. A white fluff ball with shiny black eyes, coal-black wet nose, and the sweetest little pink tongue. And not just cute; she’s engaging. She cocks her head on one side when I’m speaking, pricks her ears up if I crack a joke and sighs lustily when telesales people ring up asking if I want to buy a new kitchen. All of which makes her just perfect.
But this week everything’s changed - we’re looking after a friend’s dog for a fortnight. This is a good thing as she is wildly doggy and in return, is going to look after Dolly later on in the year.
But I have to admit that the introduction of a teenage Yorkie into our leisurely and orderly lives has come as something of a rude shock. He’s very sweet, mind you. But he er... (shhh) just between you and me... he bounces. He boings up and down. He’s like blooming Zebadee - boings right up onto the table.
And he quivers with excitement over things like smelling a mouse on the terrace. He digs up the cat beds and zings up onto the window sills. But worse than that, bless his little cotton socks, he’s the only person in the entire household who doesn’t need glasses. So he sees things we don’t see.
He hunts ants wandering about on the kitchen floor, he can see people coming along the road, and that’s not all. He can hear things, too. I’m so used to Dolly being hard of hearing and partially-sighted, I’d forgotten what it was like having a lively, fully-functioning dog in the house. I mean, when people come through the door whistling coo-ee, Dolly doesn’t even wake up, but Freddie goes ballistic. Any excuse for a good barkathon.
And he’s reminding me just what the word dogged means. He follows me everywhere. I mean, he even tried to get in the bath with me this morning. Blimey. Made the whole bathroom stink of wet dog. Yuk.
He dogs my every footstep, too. Doggedly. He doggedly dogs me. Dog, dog, dog, dog, dog. He never takes his eyes off me for a second, and he sleeps the very lightest of sleeps. I only have to twitch and he’s instantly sitting up, gazing at me, his little brown eyes sparkling with anticipation. Even if all I’m doing is making another boring cup of coffee.
He’s got a lot of bottom though. Far more than me and Dolly put together. Out in the meadow yesterday, collecting dried horse dung for the roses, Dolly very soon got exhausted and had to have a lie down in the clover. Within minutes I’d followed suit, and then the kids were all lying down in the long grass too. Not Freddie. Boing, boing, boing. He was bouncing and jumping, his little head appearing at intervals over the tall grass as he leapt about chasing poppies. Had us all in stitches.
So I’m not complaining, actually. I mean, I think he’s doing us good. He gets us all up in the morning by sitting by the front door and howling to go out, and the days of a slow amble down the lane are history - we have to sprint off down towards the bridge to keep up with Freddie. Which is good exercise. For me as well as Dolly. And he’s a ferocious guard dog, in spite of his diminutive size.
Now whether all this is because he’s male or because he’s young, I don’t know. It might even be because he’s a genuine pedigree boy, I suppose. After all, he might be tiny, fluffy, pretty, and just about small enough to fit in a handbag, but he is a terrier. A blooming Yorkshire terrier.
And he’s got a pedigree to prove it.
Next column will be uploaded around 1st June.
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