Petting dos & don’ts

I feel great nostalgia for the pets of my childhood. I’m convinced that Rosie the labrador was the greatest dog that has ever lived – and I don’t mean that I’ll just stick up for her memories and life out of loyalty, regardless of evidence of other doggie greatness, I mean that I believe, fully and unreservedly, that Rosie is the greatest dog that has ever lived. I have kick-ass anecdotes made entirely of love and awesomeness that have never been surpassed. Feel free to test me, it is a competition.

Recently I stayed at home with my parents for a couple of months (a frankly embarrassing length of time for which I have several excellent excuses) which gave me ample opportunity to observe and interact with the current dogs, all personal-like. They’re two yappy little motherfuckers (poodles by breed, of the size that would comfortably fit into the tumble drier), called Mort and Sophie. They’re apparently unrelated, a recently learned factoid that made me feel a bit guilty for the multiple slippers I’ve thrown at Mort every time he starts humping Sophie.

“They’re terribly intelligent, darling”, pronounces my Mother when I question their dogworthiness. “At least Sophie is, Mort can be a tad retarded on occasion, but honestly just look at his coiffure.”

They emerge from the local dog-groomer bi-monthly, smelling very nice and looking ever so pretty, something I can’t deny, yet it throws into strange relief the memories of me and my sibling’s getting our hair cut at home with such paraphernalia as bowls and scissors, until, near grown, we fled home hoping to discover a social life undetermined by our weird looking heads.

“Stay still, dear… oh no, look what you made me do,” tolled the social death knell.

So some envy may have biased my failed relationship with pets, generation 3.

The dogs were taken to ‘Obedience School’ for some training, yet all they seem to have learned is to wait, sitting down, as their food bowls are put in front of them, whimpering until the key word is uttered and they can chow down. They pretty much just stare at you blankly if you expect them to do anything else.

Honestly, they’re idiots. Occasionally cunning idiots but, as I’m fond of pointing out to my mother, cunning doesn’t necessarily denote intelligence. My nephew can cunningly and consistently crap his nappies 2 minutes after they’ve been changed, no matter how varied the changing times or places. Very impressive, but the important thing to remember is that it’s his pants that are full of shit.

But embarrassment catches me up and pokes me in the sternum with the stiff finger of ‘so you think you’re so smart’ once more: My parents were away and I had to go around to theirs and hide the dogs in the laundry. Easy enough to do, you just have to get these beef-jerky treat things and bribe them into the laundry and close the door, they always fall for it. This stops them spending the next two hours yapping at the neighbour’s butterfly infestation. While I was at it I figured I’d try that discipline thing and get them to wait for their treat while reinforcing my obvious superiority. Firm commands of ‘sit!’ and ‘stay!’ were successful so down go the treats. Sophie and Mort are swapping their eyelines between the jerky and me, almost vibrating with the need to devour the food. I wait just a few seconds, getting a momentary feel for the joys of power over lesser creatures, before generously saying ‘eat!’. But they just sit there staring at me. I say, ‘Go on, you can eat now’, then, ‘go!’, ‘eat!’, ‘food!’ ‘alright!’ They just stare at me dubiously, like they’re thinking, ‘come on, we’ve got like one trick, stop fucking around and give us the word already’. I’m just staring at the beef-jerky saying random words, ‘yours… consume…  now… hairdrier… shamrock… sphagnum… …um, please?’

I eventually had to kind of push them right to the food and make encouraging noises and eating sounds while rubbing my belly. It was quite embarrassing for me and obviously confusing for the dogs. I swear they were looking at me differently afterward.

I asked my mother today, when I swung by to welcome her home, what the magic word was. Apparently  it’s ‘okay’.

I’d been hoping for something like ‘menopause’.

I don’t think I’ll give it another try, I really couldn’t cope if it didn’t work out again, the implications would be difficult to blot out. And those poodles can generate some pretty mocking looks, the bouffant bastards.

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