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All Boy-ed Up

I knew it was a mistake, even as I was saying the words, “Yes, sure. Bring him over!”

I haven’t clue why I did it. I can’t even explain why I didn’t ring back and cancel. And half an hour later it was too late: there was a wild-eyed lurcher at the door.

He didn’t have a name, didn’t have a home, didn’t have anything at all. Not even one iota of common sense.

“He was found on the road near St Bauzille,” said the lady from the local dogs’ rescue charity. “Running about being hit by all the cars. But the vet can’t keep him and we’re full up, so it’s either you or the pound where he’ll probably be put down.”

Oh Blimey. I looked at the dog, straining at his lease, slavering and cringing as he scattered drifts of dried mud all over my nice clean floor. “Oh well, you’d better bring him in,” I said weakly.

The dog exploded into the kitchen, over-turned all the chairs and knocked the bin over on his way to investigate the cat bowls. I’d never seen such a large puppy in all my life: his shoulders were level with my knees. Worse, he stunk like a dumper truck and his fur was all matted and sticky.

“I can’t keep him, you know.”

“No, I know. Just foster him until we find his owners... Well, I’ve got to go now,” said the lady. “I’ve got 23 other dogs to feed, not to mention the 17 cats. I’m sure he’ll enjoy himself with you.”

She went and I gazed at my unwelcome visitor. He gazed back, absent-mindedly scratching his belly with an outsized paw.

Well to cut a long story short, in less than 24 hours I was sending out SOS calls to every dog trainer and behaviourist on the internet. And back came the answers. House-training, according to one American, is easy. You buy a bandage which makes the dog wee all over itself and you only take the thing off outside. Needless to say, we didn’t even bother reading the rest of that email.

Give him extra love, advised another. Try discipline, wrote a third. Hourly walks, never let him out of your sight, watch him like a hawk, use the classic newspaper method, they said. What a nightmare. And then finally one of them said give him sausages if he wees outside.

That sounded easy enough and, thank God, it worked. By the end of the day, a very surprised lurcher had learned to stand at the door and ask to go out whenever he fancied a quick wee and a sausage. Good Boy!

The rest was more tricky. Poor Boy is about five months old according to the vet and he sucks everything: carpets, curtains, chair-covers, rugs, lumps of coal, bits of wood, the poor thing just wants mummy. He’d suck my fingers if I let him.

“Probably been taken away from his mother too early,” said the behaviourist. “Try buffalo hide.” Off we went to SuperU for a dog chew. And a squeaky toy. And a fluffy dog blanket for his bed.

Boy was over-joyed. Presents? For me? Wow! He trotted about the house all night with his squeaky tiger and his rawhide bone before flopping into his fluffy basket at midnight and sleeping the sleep of the innocent baby that he is...

We think his nervous habits - at the beginning he was frightened of everything including his own reflection in the car door, his own shadow on the wall, doors, cats, the dark, the sound of dogs barking, church bells ringing, bicycles passing... were the result of ineffective training (ie lots of punishments).

But he’s fine now. He’s clean of course, and he follows us about wagging contentedly, he eats his dinner, chews his rawhide bone, enjoys his walkies, plays a neat game of footie, snoozes, watches tv before bed and generally behaves like a normal house dog.

Which is sad, because in spite of extensive advertising, no-one has ever claimed him.

So he’s up for re-homing but in the Cevennes this is easier said than done. No-one wants another dog - however sweet he is. We can’t even keep him ourselves because we’re away too often, so his future remains uncertain.

So if you know anyone who might be interested in giving a good home to a Play Boy, get in touch!

Next column will be uploaded around 15 February.

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