Puppy love

09Dec14

‘Oh Christ, where’s the little fucker gone now?’ That howl is the sound of my usually non-sweary father taking a puppy for its second – and probably last – ever walk. It was good to hear my father revisit his National Service days.

We’d started aglow with virtue and good cheer, helping out a local lady who’d recently been felled by a stroke. Her daughter, in a bizarre logic-fail, decided that what her largely immobile and convalescent mother needed while living alone was an un-house-trained puppy. Not a very big puppy, certainly, but one that, like all puppies, needs to be walked. This is where my dog-loving father entered the frame, about a week ago, offering to take the boisterous scrap and trot it round a field, on a lead. The hound, a shih-tzu, is only four months old and had clearly never been taken for a saunter before. It took him a while to get the hang of it, but some kind of doggie instinct seemed to wake up and he had a lovely time. Last weekend, buoyed by that earlier success and bulked out with another human and the much loved Rosie who’s about 12 years the houndlet’s senior, my father felt the pack was big enough to take Bailey out properly.

Bailey was not singing from the same sheet, quickly earning the descriptor that my father sent rolling around the valley, along with some other fruity terms that made me want to snort and text my brother. The dog couldn’t understand kissing gates – fair enough, they’re tricky if don’t understand reaching your goal by any but the most direct route. But he also wouldn’t go through a five-bar gate that was opened wide and, judging by the mud and pats, regularly let herds of Friesians go lumbering through. That was when it got really shouty.

The sight of that tiny dog, standing in the middle of the gateway, refusing to follow us and running away every time either of us went near him, became less pitiful and more annoying with every minute that passed. The sun sank lower in the sky. Rosie wandered off and found a half-rotted rabbit’s leg to chew unnoticed. I wondered how bad I would really feel telling the owner her dog had run away (answer: not in the slightest).

We finally caught him and, when Rosie had finished exploiting our inattention by rolling in badger shit, we tied the two dogs together by one lead, giving them about a yard of slack between them, and let them trot along happily, Rosie showing Bailey how to get through gates and Bailey being gentlemanly about the unholy stink pulsing off his new friend’s fur. Both in disgrace, they travelled the mile and a half home in the boot. Bailey was given a warm bath and had the mud washed off with posh shampoo by his owner; Rosie got Fairy Liquid and the water butt.

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