The more Frank and I go to his puppy parties, the more they feel like group therapy sessions.We all sit in a circle on plastic chairs listening sympathetically to each other as we take turns to tell ‘our stories’. Heather, the lady who runs it, is mostly understanding, nodding and offering advice and encouragement. On occasion, her eyebrows shoot up in alarm when someone confesses they give their puppy a digestive biscuit every morning, or let it sleep on the bed (both no-no’s in Heather’s book). This week it was Coco’s owner who got the eyebrows on the ceiling treatment.
In the space of 7 days Coco had drunk surface cleaner, gnawed at an iron cable (when it was on), ran off for 2 hours in the woods and had a visit to the out of hours vet surgery for an eaten golf ball. Her final act of vandalism was only uncovered by her owners when they sat down to watch TV – or rather tried to – there was no signal, because she’d chewed through the satellite wire. I felt myself breath a sigh of relief as Frank’s foray into the kitchen bin and his conker habit seemed small fry by comparison. I needed a glass of wine just listening to this story, the poor owner looked beaten.
Heather, meanwhile, looked mortified but after composing herself, reached into her bag to pull out some cocktail sausages. Had she read my mind, were these nibbles to go with a nice bottle of red she was secreting about her person? Unfortunately not. The sausages were for the puppies. And I spent the next five minutes trying to get Frank to distinguish between the cocktail sausage and my fingers, as I used it to try and manoeuvre him into the ‘down’ position. Turns out that was a pretty difficult distinction for Frank, so I was glad when Heather clapped her hands and declared the puppy party over.
I walked out with Coco’s owner and going with the group-therapy vibe I decided to share my secret, ‘dont worry about Coco, she’s not the only one, Frank ate a battery last week.’ He shot me a look of pure horror as he was pulled off into the night by a charging Coco. I found the look hard to decipher – would he report me to the RSPCA? Was he worried that Coco might do the same thing? Or had he just realised where his new pack of triple A’s had disappeared to? I’ll guess I’ll find out next week.
Since my last post there’s been some pretty momentous moments in Frank’s life. He’s had his vaccinations, which has meant he can be put down on the ground (before this we had to carry him about like a toy dog, which he found all very embarrassing), he’s been off the lead in the park (slightly nerve-wracking for all involved) and he’s a regular on the puppy party circuit.
And what, you may ask, is a puppy party? A good way to socialise your puppy. apparently. Essentially, you rock up with your puppy whatever the breed – then you let them off in an enclosed area and chaos ensues. Frank and I went to his first puppy party a couple of weeks ago. He went mental. He ate all the dog treats within seconds, ganged up with the other puppies to terrorise a Whippet, won a wrestling match with a Doberman (that’s my boy) and attempted to hump Coco (the other brown lab). After an hour of mayhem, trying to chat politely to strangers while my puppy was either terrorising theirs or vice versa against a background of incessant barking, the trainer declared that time was up.
I’m not sure who was more knackered when it finished. But, we didn’t get barred and more than that, the trainer identified Frank as the ‘most dominant’, which I cannot deny made me feel a little proud. Next week we’re going to start some basic training and as long as this includes ripping up courgettes, chewing shoes and eating bricks, Frank will be all over it.
One Sunday 2 weeks ago my life changed irrevocably when my husband and I bought a puppy. It was a point from which there’s no return – from now on we’d look back on our life in 2 parts, the dogless wilderness, versus the years we are fully paid-up members of the canine appreciation society.
This may sound dramatic, but it was in chatting to my friends that I realised just what a big deal having a dog was. When I’d drop into conversation that we were thinking about getting a puppy, I’d nearly always get the same reaction, they’d tell me stories about their childhood dog – how ‘Casey’ had an amazing talent for rugby, or about the time ‘Duke’ gnawed through the kitchen wall. They’d be sweet stories of Christmases and birthdays, even family tragedies when the presence of a dog made things that much more bearable. Dogs, it seems, are pretty important and so choosing one became virtually impossible. What if we chose one that was aggressive, had deep psychological issues, or worse, was indifferent – no one wants a dog that just cant be arsed.
So, we embarked on a period of research. Bad decision. Everyone we spoke to had an opinion and there seemed to be no common ground. Suggestions came thick and fast not only did the usual suspects appear (Spaniel, Terrier, Collie) but we also had to investigate breeds which would not seem out of place in a Harry Potter novel: Sprockers, Vizladors and Puggles were all in the mix. The weight of responsibility weighed heavy on our shoulders, so we did what any self-respecting semi-rural living-with-a-young-child-couple would do, we played safe and went for a Lab.
I’m glad we made the decision we did. Frank takes most things in his stride, he’s very playful, not to mention mischievous (as a burst paddling pool and a wrecked veg patch will testify) but he’s a whole lot of fun. And as I watch him stalking the laptop charger, clueless of the expectation being placed upon him, I wonder will he cope with the pressure of being ‘the one’? Who knows, but it’s going to be pretty entertaining finding out.