‘Oh they’re adorable’
My wife could not contain her delight at the sight of the six little new-born brown and white springer spaniel puppies nestling against their mother in the basket at the local kennels.
The desire to own a pet had been awakened a few days before while watching Barbara Woodhouse on the telly.
Jane and I had been married about two years and had not yet been blessed by any offspring, The thought of having something to care for appealed to her maternal instincts. It seems care of husbands doesn’t count.
Mrs Godwin at the local kennels was contacted and informed us that she had some new born pedigree spaniel puppies available.
Neither of us had owned a pet before and we were grateful for any advice Mrs Godwin could offer.
‘I think I should only warn you she is a working dog and will keep going long after you are exhausted.’
‘Oh that’s alright. I will take it for long walks. I like walking and it will keep my figure in trim’ replied Jane.
Most of the puppies were either asleep or suckling but one rather more adventurous than the rest came over towards us and started to lick Jane’s hand. Jane squealed with delight ‘Oh please can we have this one.’
She looked at me with that imploring look that I am convinced women spend hours practicing in front of a mirror guaranteed to ensure that men will succumb and give them what they want.
Of course I gave in. What more can you do. I took out a second mortgage and bought the tiny bundle of fur. I was amazed that something so tiny could cost so much.
Mind you: When Mrs Godwin produced the pedigree. I found that we had bought a royal personage with a family tree going back to Adam and Eve or their doggy equivalent. We both felt highly honoured and very humble that such an august personage would deign to come and reside in our humble abode.
‘You can collect her in three weeks’ time by then she will have been weaned and inoculated against Distemper and Parva Virus. She will need a second dose in a months’ time.’ said Mrs Godwin.’ Get a basket big enough to allow for growth and put it in a warm place. Put some warm bedding in and a wrapped hot water bottle for the first few days as she will miss her mother’s body heat. I shouldn’t put her outside until she is at least three months old.’
‘We’d never put her outside’ retorted my wife. Mrs Godwin smiled but said nothing.
Off we went to the Pet Shop.
For such a royal personage it had to be the very best quality dog basket. For the price I thought they should at least have lined it with ermine.
In addition there were various doggy toys and chews. which incidentally it never looked at. worming tablets, vitamins, dog leads etc., etc. etc. My flexible friend was rapidly becoming more rigid.
At last the great day dawned and my wife carried the little creature home in triumph.
“What shall we name her?” I queried.
We were standing in the kitchen at the time opposite the spice rack. Jane looked up. “Parts of her coat are the same shade as the nutmeg.” She replied.
So Nutmeg she became although this rapidly became shortened to ‘Meg.’ With hindsight I think it would have been more appropriate to shorten it to ’Nut’ for a nuttier dog I.ve never known.
That night we settled her down in her comfy basket near the radiator in the kitchen with two hot water bottles and went to bed.
We were just dozing off when it started. We heard a pitiful plaintive whine. We stuck it for all of ten minutes when Jane said, ‘She’s missing her mother and the other puppies. We can’t leave her there. Bring the basket up to the bedroom.’
‘You know Mrs Godwin advised against it’ I reminded her.
Another ten minutes elapsed.
‘Oh please darling.’
Of course I gave in. What more could I do? The basket was transferred to the foot of the bed and all was quiet and tranquil. I fell into a deep sleep and was wakened by a wet tongue licking my nose.
‘How did it get into bed?’ I asked. ‘Meg wouldn’t settle in her basket and I didn’t wish to disturb you so I brought her into bed.’ Jane replied.
And that was it.’ Fait accompli.’ The basket was abandoned. The dog slept with us in our bed, hogged the best chair in the lounge and generally took control. It wasn’t so bad when it was tiny but it grew. In bed or on the couch it was like having a pillow between us.
During the night it would dream, I think possibly of chasing some prey which it would pounce on sinking its claws in……To some tender part of my anatomy.
Spaniels will eat any and everything and Meg was apparently suffering from a calcium deficiency for which the vet was supplying tablets at an exorbitant price. They did not appear to be working. As a consequence some of the things she ate to compensate could not be mentioned in polite society.
As a consequence she farted. I’m sorry if this is indelicate but it is true. This occurrence happened loudly and frequently and the stench would strip paint off. In spite of all the deodorants and air fresheners’, visitors to the house would blanch on entry and make a rapid excuse to beat a hasty retort.
‘I know I should have put my foot down and stopped you from letting her come into the house’ said Jane.
My wife has a Master’s degree in knowing how to shift the blame. By unanimous decision Meg was to be banished to the garden.
Back we went to the Pet Shop to buy a kennel. This again had to be top of the range and cost the price of a small cottage. I consoled myself with the thought that I might have to share it on occasions when I was sent to the dog-house.
Then there was the question of exercise. Mrs Godwin had not been exaggerating when she said Meg would be untiring.
At first when still small Jane was happy to take her on long walks across the common. Even then the dog travelled much farther than Jane did. Unfortunately Meg would disappear and the walks ended up as searches
When Meg grew stronger Jane found her more difficult to control. She had long since coerced me into accompanying her or taking the dog on my own, completely forgetting her original promise. (Jane has a black belt in selective forgetfulness.)
Sitting by the Television with my feet up I head a scratching at the door and Jane’s voice ‘It’s time for Meg’s walk. Will you take her? I’m in the middle of ironing.’
‘But it’s the first Test and Cook is just going in to Bat.’
‘You won’t be gone long and you can always watch the highlights.’
Three hours later I returned smothered in mud, scratches and nettle stings minus the dog
“‘I’ve searched everywhere. I can’t find her’ I said.
Twenty minutes later when a tearful Jane was ringing the police station and I was getting ready for my night in the dog-house there was a scratching at the door and there stood a big black ball of stinking mud. On closer inspection this was revealed to be the missing Meg.
‘There is only one thing for it she will have to be taught obedience” I said, “I will enrol her for Dog Training Classes
The classes at the local school were run weekly by Mrs Martha Bull a matronly no-nonsense lady dressed in tweeds and sensible shoes. ‘We’ll soon sort her out’ she said ‘Let her see the other dogs in action first and then we’ll give her a try.’
Meg watched with interest as the other dogs were put through their paces. sit, stand, come, fetch, stay, They all performed with varying degrees of success and their owners were encouraged to reward them by making a fuss of them and calling ‘Good dog.’.
Then it came to our turn. It was a revelation. Heel: She came to my side in exactly the right position. Sit: She immediately sat prettily beside me. Stand: She stood, Stay: She stood stock still not moving a muscle while I walked ten paces away from her. Come: She bounded up to me and sat in front of me looking up into my face.
‘ Well really that is remarkable’ said Mrs Bull. ‘Are you sure she’s had no previous training? Really I don’t think there is anything I can teach her. You’ve got a perfect treasure there.’
I thanked her and left. She wouldn’t accept a fee.
Going home I thought ‘I’ll try this out. Sit’
Meg just looked up at me enquiringly.
She bounded off.
‘Stay, Stay, Stay.’
Off she went with me in hot pursuit. I chased her all the way home dodging cars, unseating cyclists trampling through flowerbeds and finally ending up sitting on the ground completely exhausted. Meg came up to me and licked my face.
Meg has a nice home now with a friendly farmer. She has the time of her life chasing his sheep and wallowing in the cow dung in the farmyard. Jane and I visit regularly and Meg is always delighted to see us wagging her tail and jumping up covering our clothes with whatever. We both love her dearly but it’s for the best.
We now have a new pet, a goldfish. When I was young we used to keep them in goldfish bowls. Apparently not so nowadays. The heated aquarium with air filtration plant and lighting means that we won’t be able to afford a holiday this year.