A Dog? You Want A Dog?

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The Le Pard home, circa 2002 comprised four humans of various sizes, sexes and sophistications, two cats, two tortoises, the last survivors of a tropical fish experiment and a dozen whistling cockroaches. In considering the decision-making structure that existed back then, you need to know the following: the cats refused to join in any discussions, reasoning that as the superior species they would do what they damn well liked; the tortoises were indifferent to anything beyond cucumber and making bids for freedom; in all honesty the fish never stayed still long enough to count their votes; and the cockroaches had been disenfranchised after escaping one Saturday and taking up residence in the airing cupboard.

That left the four of us, vieing for supremacy in issues of the day. A tense equilibrium had been maintained for a while but about this time the Balance of Power began to shift. The Lawyer and the Vet, respectively 12 and 9, had started to realise that The Sibling Wars were in fact a sideshow to the main event namely Home Domination and they were both failing in their aims. So a new force arose in the land: a dangerous cadre called Team Sibling, their antipathy and rivalries being buried in their need to thwart He Who Would Like To Be Obeyed and the then centre of all power: the Matritatorship herself.

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And the first real test of Team Sibling’s growing subversion was the Dog Paradox.

On the one hand both she and me had enjoyed pet dogs as children and understood Proposition Canine when it was presented to us. On the other we were well aware that (a) promises to help, eg with walking  were illusory unless dog walking happened to be trending that day and (b) Team Sibling were now of an age where we could go away more easily so having the responsibility for a dog would instantly curtail those hopes.

HWWLTBO gave in first. It was too easy really: I would be at the legal coal face for hours everyday and they understood how to guilt trip an absent adult with the same surgical precision as our cats eviscerate mice – plus I was a sucker for the idea of dog walking as a weekend treat.

Only the Boss was left unconvinced and even someone as redoubtable as the Textiliste couldn’t survive for long. Finally the thick walls of common sense that had been maintained by the distaff side crumbled and fell.

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Sometimes, when a fight has been hard fought but eventually successful you assume the next phase will be a doddle, or in this case a doggle. We all agreed on what we wanted:

  • It had to be a rescue dog
  • It had to be neutered
  • It had to enjoy walks
  • No handbag dog but also nothing that could pass as a horse in the dark with the light behind it
  • It had to get on with the cats

Battersea Dogs Home is well known and calls out for people to take on unwanted dogs and cats. It is also a couple of miles from our front door. So one weekend, a Sunday I think we set off in high hopes that that evening we would return with our new family member.

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On entering we booked a time to see a re-homer and set off up the sloping entrance to visit some of the dogs. It’s tough this bit. So many brown eyes and intelligent faces follow you on your journey. If, like me, you are utterly soft you have earmarked some fifty candidates by the time you reached the desk to meet a smiling assistant. The others had a few ideas but we were told there were a lot more not in the visitors’ areas (for a variety of reasons) which we could view online and if we liked them we could meet them. But first, some admin.

You expect details to be taken, don’t you? And we had it all planned. We were rather smug. We would tell them all about our wants and needs, they’d tap everything into the computer and we could start choosing. That’s when the questions started.

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‘How much walking can you do?’

‘How big is you garden?’

‘How high the fences, gates etc?’

‘How long will he/she be left at any one time?’

‘What about holidays?’

And on. All of them were really about the dog’s want and needs not ours. We began to realise we were approaching this for entirely the wrong perspective. It’s not about us, stupids, it’s about the dog.

Eventually forms were filled and logged. Can we choose now? We’re getting peckish.

It didn’t happen. In total, this process took four interviews spread over two weeks. They needed to see us, us and the children, the house and garden and for  us to meet the size of dog we said we wanted to make sure it was right for us. Then and only then could we meet possible candidates.

Eventually a dog was identified but first he needed to pass the ‘cat test’. Which comprised a cat being brought into the room where we all waited, taken out of its basket and put on the floor. The cat in question wasn’t happy. He had an expression somewhere between my gran sucking a lemon without her false teeth in and Donald Trump on being told the wasp he’s just swallowed is actually Mexican. Or Muslim. Or both. If the dog ignored the cat, bingo.

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We held our breath. The dog looked up, registered this tight packed piece of fur with attitude and turned away.

He’d passed. In truth, that was rather misleading since he hated our cats and they just about tolerated him but thank heavens he passed.

Blitzen, our German shepherd-lurcher-heaven-knows-what cross had melted our willing, if rather exhausted, hearts. He stayed with us for 10 years until one evening he keeled over on the hall carpet, a heart weakness having taken him prematurely. I did try mouth to mouth but even accepting there was a major flaw in the geometry of what I was attempting there was no bringing him back.

We had some great times; the ancestral greyhound in his gene pool driving him to run in circles but the German shepherd torso meaning he regularly fell over. A steam punk of a dog really. That need to twist had him rip his ligaments from his back leg before an MRI scan and pioneering surgery got him back up and running.

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We learnt something about vet’s bills then and endorsed the Vet’s career choice.

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It was a tortuous process getting him in the first place but it did mean we really really wanted him and we wouldn’t have missed those 10 years for all the tea in Tesco’s.

And now? Well, as with Royalty, the Dog is dead, long Live the Dog. As readers of this blog know, there’s a new king in the kitchen, bending us to his will… May Dog be with us for many years yet…

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His successor…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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46 Responses to A Dog? You Want A Dog?

  1. Rowena says:

    Hi Geoff,
    I popped round to see whether you were snowed in or not. Thought you might have some pics , but just as happy to read about the dogs in your family. I think sometimes they can raise the barrier a bit high with choosing owners for dogs. Indeed, I think they’re much fussier than most humans, who probably get down to “you’ll do” and that could well be said through the haze of the beer goggles too.
    As you know we were fostering 4 pups for a rescue group and kept 2. I couldn’t work out how to get them onto the central database at pet rescue so I had an intermediary. The people tended to speak to her first and she really scared them off with how they’re working dogs and really only suitable for farms or olympic level athletes. The funny this is that one of the kelpie pups was really mellow and slept a lot and clearly hadn’t read the brief. When the first couple turned up to meet them, he went and slept in his bed and almost ignored them completely. Needless to say, they took his animated brother.
    BTW I know you love a good story and I thought you might appreciate reading a bit about Australian Champion boxer Les Darcy, who formed the basis of my latest contribution for Friday Fictioneers. There’s a link at the end to two chapters written about him by author, Ruth Park, who was a close friend of my grandmother’s. https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/weekend-coffee-share-february-26-2018/?wref=tp
    The Commonwealth Games are coming up and the trials are being held here atm. It feels like they’ve pulled these puppets out of the cupboard again. Feels a bit weird.
    Anyway, hope you’ve had a great week. Almost done and dusted now.
    Best wishes,
    Ro

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks for coming over. Snow post tomorrow. First day of spring? Ha! Yes maybe human adoption is easier. Hope so.
      I’ll run past your post tomorrow. Looks fab.
      Hope Fergus is now on vacation for the weekend at least. The commonwealth games always feel a bit poor relation ish but then I get hooked watching. Same with the Winter Olympics. Who knew I’d fall for synchronised icicle bending…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        I think Fergus took out the gold medal for endurance at the Winter Olympics and got so big for his boots, and decided to play on for the Commonwealth Games. I reckon Fergus would have to be in the pool, but probably more as some incredibly nasty amoeba. Something bright green with a big toothy grin so he can smile for the cameras.
        Our last couple of days of Summer were a bit cool but that sun was back again today. I love Spring and Autumn because they’re much more cruisy and I can actually enjoy the outdoors.
        BTW the lad is reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” for school and so I’m re-reading it. Have you read it as an adult? It’s packed with so much good stuff. I’m really loving it.
        BTW is “synchronised icicle bending” synchronised ice skating? I had to Google that, and that was the best of the search responses.
        I’m going to see if you’ve posted your snow post.
        Best wishes,
        Ro

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely tail/tale Geoff. I know what you mean about dogs. When we lost Barney, I lasted 6 and a half days, and we still have Maggie, who turned 13 in January. Vetting (excuse pun) for potential owners for either cats or dogs is extensive. My friend was told she could not have a rescue cat because they lived on a main road. They were given Smudge by a neighbour and he lived to be 15.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ritu says:

    Love your take about how you ended up with Dog #1

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    Lovely story, Geoff. Common sense and practicality just go out the window when it comes to that ‘getting a dog’ moment… and we never even notice they went AWOL 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Having been through the ‘adoption’ process myself, I can appreciate this excellent story with more understanding. Jessica was working one day a week at the time. I had to swear to be there then for our rescue dog

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Poignant, and funny. I laughed out loud at your “accepting there was a major flaw in the geometry of what I was attempting,” though it was a sad moment for you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JT Twissel says:

    I had the most obstinate dog on the planet but everybody loved her. Vet bills, yeah. That’s definitely something to take into consideration when adopting a dog! May Dog Live Long!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Darlene says:

    There are dog people and then there are the others. Since we got our rescue dog 18 months ago, we are different people. Most of our decisions centre around her. Where would the dog like to go for a walk today? Where would the dog like to go for coffee? What would the dog like for dinner? I used to think people like that were odd. Now I’m one of them. This was a great post. You always pick good looking and fun dogs.

    Like

  9. Erika Kind says:

    Aw, he looks so very thankful that he could be with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. willowdot21 says:

    Dogs are just such wonderful creatures they give us so much and ask for so little. No wonder Dog is God spelled backwards. 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  11. trifflepudling says:

    You write so well about our doggie friends!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: A Dog? You Want A Dog? – Geoff Le Pard | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  13. I adored this post. I rode each emotional wave. I fell in love with Blitzen and I loved your journey. After nearly a year with a dog our lives here at Mitchell Towers have changed beyond belief. The dog makes us laugh, shout, talk to him in silly voices and enjoy coming home from work. He’s brought happy smiles back into our teenage hormone fuelled existence. I get your post. That’s what I am trying to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The dogs make us crazy. We love them madly. They love us best when we have biscuit, though they would prefer shrimp. I can’t even IMAGINE life without them. Long may we all live.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. noelleg44 says:

    Lovely story and lovely dogs! We are without a dog for the first time in 40 years, but we are getting on in age, and decided we couldn’t provide the care a dog would need. Now we have a crazy clown of an orange Maine coon cat. He keeps us laughing and busy trying to make sure his long hair doesn’t wrap itself in mats.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. KL Caley says:

    Awww this is brilliant Geoff! Despite the arduous process of bringing home our rescue dog (which you captured perfectly) we did it all again and brought home another companion (so twice as many pet hair tumbleweeds for us) Wouldn’t be without them though (the dogs obviously, not the tumbleweeds). :). KL ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Apprenticed To My Mother #amwriting #cover | TanGental

  18. lisakunk says:

    You ”get” the whole dog lover thing. It’s worth all the trouble. Nice looking king you’ve got there. If he’s like our three or five if you count the grand dogs you get lots of writing fodder from critters. Let’s see, how often is my blog about the four legged home owners who allow is to live with them?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great entry! Come read my most recent and harrowing story about how my dog ate rat posion. Oy!

    Liked by 1 person

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