There are times, and this is one of them, when I do wonder what on earth I was thinking by bringing another dog into our home.
Oscar was settling well into being our beloved family pet and recovering from the effects of whatever had chewed away at the inside of his nose, that had caused us to consider seriously whether we could bear to put him through any more suffering.
Granted, he would be lonely whenever I went to the gym or out for a coffee, so I’d feel guilty when I closed the front door behind me but actually things were fine.
And then I said I would take on Raffles after his mum, my cousin, died and the rest of his family were not in a position to be there for him. He would have had to be rehomed here or sent back to Singapore where he was born, you see, and I felt sorry for him and thought it would be better to keep him in the family.
Don’t get me wrong: he is a cute and dear little dog, who loves nothing better than to snuggle up next to me in a chair or come and find me in the evenings when I’m in my bedroom writing this but he’s hard work.
For one thing, he cannot be relied upon to stay near me when off the lead. We’ve got hm to a point where he’s fine most of the time but, just as I begin to trust him enough to be blasé he suddenly disappears in the blink of an eye. Again, most of the time he returns but it’s always to his own timetable and not mine.
There have been several times when he’s been found running around and wandering.It was a particular nightmare when the builders kept leaving our doors and side gate open, despite being continually asked to shout them because of the dogs. He goes into people’s houses and had caused a rush hour traffic jam by running in the middle of the road by our local station. The wretched animal has no traffic sense, no sense really, and relies upon someone to stop and read the tag on his collar which he has to wear permanently for this reason. If I’m lucky the people returning him hide their judgments behind a thin veneer of sympathy but I have come across people with contorted faces and voices who tell me off for not keeping him under control. They’re right, of course.
I’ve managed to train him, every week, to reach the Kennel Club Good Citizen Silver standard, by the skin of his tartarous teeth, mind you, but I think he’s now decided that dog class is more of weekly opportunity to see and be seen rather than learn anything. Raffles does not sit: he drops flat to the floor. And yet when asked to lie down and stay he refuses. He will do a recall but ask him to pick up a ball and he runs around the hall bellowing like a lunatic.
I do worry about how much stress the arrival of Raffles in our family has put onto poor Oscar, a beloved only dog for 6 years. Suddenly Raffles is sharing his humans, his cuddles, his space, his food. We are very careful to maintain the feeding hierarchy, literally the pecking order, but we have to maintain a strict segregation otherwise Oscar can exhibit the full extent of his resentment. Like this evening, when Oscar, unprovoked, went for Raffles and they had to be forcibly separated. Before you sympathise too much, Raffles routinely dominates Oscar by mounting him. Raffles is castrated; Oscar is entire.
There are times when they seem to be rubbing along together quite nicely and even give each other kisses and play together but when incidents like tonight’s occur I do wonder if I have done Oscar a very great disservice by bringing this ginger cuckoo into our nest. It can’t be easy for him to see Raffles routinely cuddled up on my lap while he has to lie on the floor at my feet.
Still, I will NOT be responsible for another dog in a rehoming shelter so I’ll just have to persevere and hope that the dogs will eventually learn to relax with each other around food or humans. Raffles is likely to be with us for a very long time to come so I hope that happens soon.
Today has been suboptimal, even for a Monday.
I don’t really subscribe to superstitious folklore about Monday as a day to be dreaded, not as a rule. I don’t really look forward to Mondays because they’re a fast day and one I spend mainly at dog class, so they are a test of endurance. But generally I start the week no less cheerfully than on any other day.
The lack of carbohydrate boost at breakfast is not a good start but I soon busy myself cleaning lavatories and tidying up for our cleaning lady before seeing to urgent correspondence then going shopping.
Today I tried to clear up some of the displaced clothes and other objects and three more of the boxes that have been aestivating in storage. I now have bakeware everywhere in the utility room awaiting a room of its own, the tall cupboard, to be secured before it retakes possession.
Then off to dog class, which is marginally amusing with Oscar and not so much with Raffles. I have concluded that I attend these classes more or less purely for socialisation purposes: both mine and that of the dogs.
Oscar participates and manages quite complex sequences of commands at times but his demands for a treat after successful or otherwise completion of a task rather takes the shine off things.
Raffles finds it difficult to sit still. He likes the recall exercise but when retrieving or hunting, tends to run wildly around the room howling and showing off. It’s quite wearing.
Today’s worry was a little compounded by:
- The FIL being in A&E this morning after his legs game way when he woke up this morning;
- The dog class hall yet again giving me an allergic reaction;
- My grazing the car, which will necessitate repairs. I’m sighing and rolling my eyes at myself but not going to take the car to Mercedes where they would probably charge me a much as the mortgage to get it fixed.
Pah. What a day.
Nor are they allowed to sneak next door and retrieve fallen pears from the neighbour’s tree and sneak back and eat them surreptitiously on the patio.
Nor should they escape through an open side gate and run off down the road to play chicken in rush hour traffic.
Nor are they allowed to bay at squirrels.
And yet they do.
And yet they have the knack of finding the cosiest corner.
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Unpacking and its first cousin Sorting-Out have never been fun types. If they were people, they’d be the dull sorts you bump into at a obligatory family gathering, with whom you’d make small talk whilst thinking how on earth you’re going to make your excuses to mingle with someone much more stimulating.
These bin bags full of packaging stuff are currently in my hall. Today I took another five of them, stuffed full, to the rubbish tip. I inadvertently left my phone indoors and went back to get it as I was walking the dogs and it’s never good to be stuck without your phone in a dog emergency. Had I not stopped the car the other side of our bumpy bridge and gone back to get my phone, it would not have fallen out of my bum bag (I am sniggering at the American translation fanny pack) at the rubbish tip and the screen would not have smashed.
So many disasters have befallen me and the people around me lately that I’m beginning to think that there’s a problem with my aura or my ley lines or something. There was the oven debacle; the scratched hob; the flooded kitchen. Then one of the Romanian labourers tipped a kettle of boiling water down his leg at home. Apparently one of the kitchen people found his girlfriend’s mother dead at the bottom of her stairs at the weekend and this morning his boss’s girlfriend picked up her curling iron by the hot end and had to spend the morning at A&E.
I have been so preoccupied with trying to restore some order to my new kitchen and pantry that I shall not be able to see to anything else for several days and I’m in India next week so the singing practice has gone out of the window and it will be a while before my phone is mended. Luckily it’s got one of those screen films on it so it’s not moulting shards of glass just yet. Perhaps I shan’t get the screen replaced just yet: it’s going to be upgraded in 6 months’ time anyway.
Despite that, and Raffles having an escapologist phase where he’s taking every opportunity that arises to go and play in the traffic down the road, I managed it cook my first risotto for six months tonight and it was delicious. So there are compensations.
Have you ever made friends with someone just incidentally? You might have got talking to them while marooned and nibbling ostentatiously at the baguette and cheese plate at a friend’s party or they might have been a parent of someone in your child’s class and you got talking to them while putting up trestle tables at a school fair. You might have been a little overwhelmed when they came up to you at a charity coffee morning and asked to swap addresses and friend you on Facebook. That sort of thing.
And it’s lovely, don’t get me wrong, even for someone as innately shy and reticent as me to feel wanted, to feel that someone would quite like to talk to you and hear your story. So lovely that you forget for a moment that your whole mind is screaming “Beware! Beware!” at you for some unfathomable reason and you ignore everything your instinct tells you and swap addresses and then it’s too late and you’ve been sucked in? And before long you realise that your story is the very last thing in the universe that they want to hear?
So every time you go out for a drink with them or have an exchange on Facebook or they join your convo on Twitter, you are reminded that you actually have nothing in common. You are not actually friends. Perhaps your differences are irreconcilable: they support a different football team or political party and you know you’ll never see eye to eye. Perhaps they are without any filters and say exactly what they’re thinking whilst you consider and weigh every syllable several times before you say it.
Everything they say or do irritates every metatarsal, every tiny bone in your inner ear and you long to invent a time machine that will take you back to the day before you met so that you can go and hide in the kitchen when you see them make their first approach.
But that’s just silly, isn’t it? Because no-one’s perfect and you bet that there are things you say that irritate them and because they blithely carry on as if nothing has happened then that must make them a better person than you so you have to rise to their level of serenity. And after all, if we were all the same the world would be dull and they provide a window into another world as @sneezy put it so nicely yesterday.
Now, all this is fine if the things these people say are just differences in opinion. But what happenes if they blithely, routinely come out with insensitive or rude comments that cut you to the bone? Do you forgive them each time, and put a plaster over the cut and let it heal until the next time their razor tongue does its work on your quivering flesh? So that you become an infected, testing mass of resentment.
Or do you call them out and risk losing a friendship that you don’t really want but, because you’re you and you want everyone to be happy and JUST GET ALONG?
I don’t know. All of these are rhetorical questions and I haven’t got anything particular in mind.I just know that I’ve faced this a lot and, because there’s nothing new under the sun, this means that you must have had this sort of thing happen too. So what do you do?
And the relevance of that picture of Raffles? Well, we’ve had him a year now and we take him to training every week and he’s got his Silver Good Citizen test. And, despite being a beagle with a brand notoriety for bolting, most of the time he happily trots along with me off the lead. Except when he doesn’t. And today was yet another of those times when he did a runner and I received a call from a passer-by who found my mobile number on his collar. Every nanodecibel of her controlled voice screamed judgement at me for letting an obvious wanderer off the lead. I was apologetic and effusively thankful and contrite and still she judged me.
So I put the boy back on the lead and walked over Farnbvorough Common like that. Raffles shrugs his shoulders and trundles oalong nonchalantly. He just doesn’t seem to care what people think of him. But next time I walk him he’ll be back off the lead and he’ll be fine until her runs off again and causes me huge amounts of grief while I search for him, faithful Oscar always by my side.
I don’t know. What he did today reminded me of those people that you always forgive for their crassness. Why? ! suppose it’s because of the human need to form and keep a bond of affection. Despite everything.