In the Sticks: Shameful tale of violence, sex and butter
Monday 16 November 1998
The smell was the first thing that alerted us to his growing up. You know that moment when you go into your son's room at night and instead of tucking him in and smoothing his sleeping brow, you find yourself opening a window and wondering how a ferret managed to get in under the bed. I came down to the kitchen one morning and was greeted by a wave of dog pheromone so powerful you could see it snaking under the door. It even had an effect on Dog who, being a spayed lesbian, should be unmoved by male hormones: She bounced up to No and gave his new acquisitions an approving lick.
Pleased as he was with his Rambo odour, No felt the need to experiment in the same way that 15-year-old lads, who only change their underwear for special occasions such as Christmas, go out soaked in half the contents of the aftershave counter at Boots. And if you think neat Kouros on an unwashed armpit is bad, try badger poo on an unwashed terrier. No tried every delicious doggy aftershave there was, a series of ecstatic "rolling in it" sessions taking in three kinds of droppings, two varieties of corpse and the bottom of the compost heap.
After the fourth bath in three days, however, he began to sulk and look hurt. Why didn't we appreciate his wonderful new array of adult pongs? Poor dogs, not quite bright enough to cop on to the whole plot, they just think we'd like to smell like them if only we could.
Maybe it was the feeling of rejection that drove him to substance abuse. We'll probably never know. But the day after a particularly nasty incident with some putrefied sheep bones, half a pound of Lurpak disappeared from the kitchen table. The butter dish wasn't shifted by so much as a millimetre; just empty and clean when it had been full 10 minutes before.
The same night, pizza dough left to rise alone near the Aga never made it to meet its anchovies. No went a bit quiet. I am sure that many of us remember the terrible consequences of ill-advised brushes with three pints of cheap cider or with our best mate's home-made blackberry wine. So I probably don't need to tell you about the number of places that the Lurpak and dough turned up.
And then, with Dug and I already in deep gloom (where did we go wrong? We taught him to sit and stay, he's never been allowed upstairs, we always told him we loved him...) there was a terrible chicken murder. This crime involved a forced entry, through the dodgy wire on the side of the biggest pen. The body count was high, and No was found on the scene wagging his tail over one of the corpses.
More substance abuse may have been involved as a portion of chocolate cake had not been accounted for, and sugar is a dangerous substance - as anyone who has attended parties where six-year-olds have unlimited access to biscuits and jelly can confirm.
No had by then spent a week or more hearing nothing from us but his name. We decided a more positive approach might be appropriate. Something that might boost his self-esteem and confidence and let him see that he was indeed a truly valued pack member and didn't need to exhibit unacceptable attention-seeking behaviour.
And what we came up with surely exhibited selfless devotion on our part, as spending a Saturday in a sports hall with 50 dogs and more than 100 owners with the politics and humour of Norman Tebbit isn't anybody's idea of a good time.
On a short leash, we introduced him to other dogs of good family, hoping that he would gain some sense of higher identity and purpose through seeing other pedigree examples of his breed. Encouraged by his good performance on a leash just this side of a garrotte, we entered him in the "Best Puppy" class, because, in spite of his impressive wedding tackle, he's still classed as a junior at six months.
I guess it was just unfortunate that all the other puppy entrants were canine cupcake. While Dug waited in line with No and the other dogs for the judges' verdict, our dear little pup just stood with his tongue out and an erection visible at 50 paces. He tried to mount every female that came within range, even his own sister.
When the competition was over, I greeted poor Dug, as he came from the ring, with expressions of sympathy for the humiliation he'd suffered at the paws - and other parts - of No. But Dug was fine."Hey," he said, "did you see him with those girls?" And he grinned, a proud owner at last.
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