Good Grief 2: Del Hughes is back in the dog house
So far, we’ve lost two bath towels, a Laura Ashley cushion, three pairs of my best going out knickers, a pillowcase, five slippers, one sandal and a golf umbrella.
Add in irreparable damage to Tim’s glasses, a vase of tulips, a jar of faux-peonies, a lamp, two charging cables and an inflatable kayak, and you might understand why we’re beginning to think we’ve bitten off much more than we can chew.
The lawn is pitted with holes of varying depths and the veggie patch has been annihilated, the perimeter now securely fenced with rolls of green steel mesh.
Basically, it’s an Arcadian Alcatraz out there but, as Val from next-door up wearily calls over the wall for the third time today, it’s obviously not secure enough.
Turns out that confining two puppies in one compact garden is way harder than we’d imagined.
And yes, I did say two!
If you read my piece from some months back – Good Grief! – you might be surprised that, within months of losing our lovely lurcher, Barney, we’ve already welcomed new canines into the family.
After he’d gone, I’d been inconsolable, bursting into noisy sobs with no warning, and mourning my furry pal with more intensity and tears than any deceased human relative.
When friends, tentatively, suggested that a new dog might help the grieving process, I was vehement in my refusal to even contemplate a replacement – I vowed that I would, ‘never have another dog ever again!’ End of!
But, as my grief lost its fire and settled into a softer heartache, I found I could scroll through the photos of Barney (and Tommy Zoom, who we’d lost in 2021) and remember the good times with a gentle nostalgia, and an occasional sniffle.
But still, I stood firm – no more dogs.
So, why do we currently have a pair of 14-week-old lurcher pups gnawing on our dining chairs and tearing our rugs to pieces with teeth that, though tiny, are huge in terms of destruction?
I blame social media, Tim and my daughter-in-law – in that order.
I’d been idly scrolling through various dog sites when Puppy 1 popped up on screen. He was a ball of yellow fur, with giant feet, an angelic expression, and, just like that, I was in love.
No, it wasn’t the thunderbolt I’d experienced with Barney, but I felt a smile on my face and a stirring in my heart, along with a faint fizz of panic – what if he had already been reserved, or rehomed? Puppy 1 was meant to be ours and my ‘no dog ever’ pledge was out the window.
And all it took was one stupidly, fluffy face.
See, during the Barney-free weeks, life instantly became ‘too’ everything – too quiet, too lonely, too aimless, too empty.
I missed the clack of his claws on the laminate floors, I missed his fat head resting on my legs when I ate toast, I missed the daily ambles in our favourite woods and I missed the routines we’d kept for nearly fifteen years.
I even missed the regular pffts, and the accompanying noxious odours, as Barney slept the sleep of the just, snoring deep and dreaming of rabbits.
Yep, everything felt off – and it didn’t pass.
Anyway, back to Puppy 1.
After a Zoom call, where I, virtually, escorted the owner, Sandra, around every inch of our house and garden, babbling as I desperately tried to demonstrate our eminent suitability as ‘dog parents’, we got the green light, and I went shopping.
I purchased any accoutrement the new arrival could possibly need: food, collar, lead, harness, cage, treats, toys, bath robe, shampoo, more toys etc.
Yeah, I went OTT, but I couldn’t help myself – some women love shoe shopping but I’ve always preferred a sank around Pets at Home, and one person’s Jimmy Choos is another’s puppy chews so. . .
When collection day arrived, I tanked up Geoff, (my elderly Kangoo), and headed north, staying overnight with family to break up the journey. Then my daughter-in-law, Lizzie, drove me to puppy central.
It was wonderfully chaotic – nine pups in total, plus their mum, the uniquely-named, Askit.
While I spent time with Pup 1, Liz attempted to restrain the rest of the pack but her Herculean efforts met with little success.
Askit, who was a beautiful dog of large proportions, took a shine to Liz, flinging her front paws over Liz’s diminutive 5’1” frame and slow-dancing her around the yard.
My coaxing of Pup 1 also seemed doomed to failure because he simply wasn’t having it, preferring to stay curled up on the path as the others swarmed around me. He was the most reticent of the pups, only perking up when his brother, Pup 2, (dark, dishevelled with spiky hair), bounded over.
I was a bit worried.
How would Pup 1 cope when removed, not only from Mum, but from his favourite bro too?
When Sandra, a no-nonsense northern lass, with a wicked twinkle in her eye and an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything ‘Dog’, brought us a cuppa, I voiced my concerns.
‘Oh, he’ll cry a bit at first but’ll settle in a few days, don’t you worry.’ I knew she was probably right but still. . .
I rang Tim.
After explaining, I was gobsmacked when he said, ‘Well, get them both then?’
‘What? Two! We can’t have two!’
‘Why not? We’ve always had two. And they’ll be company for each other.’
Of course, I discounted it as ridiculous, but watching Pup 1 and 2 play. . . Maybe two wasn’t such a bad idea? I mentioned it to Lizzie as she foxtrotted past with Askit.
‘We can’t get two, can we? That’d be mad, wouldn’t it?’
‘Well, you’ve always had two. And you know you want them both. . . so do it!’
I did it.
Sandra waved us off with a long list of feeding instructions and lots of ‘top secret’ advice to ensure our boys stayed fit, healthy and in tip-top condition. (I’d love to share some but she made me swear I’d keep them to myself – ‘Lurchers Honour!’) We headed home.
In the two days I’d been away, Tim had puppy-proofed the garden, and letting the boys out for the first time was a joy to watch.
They sniffed, squeaked, gambolled and frisked, thoroughly exploring, and christening, every grassy corner before leaping into Tim’s potatoes, digging ferociously and then collapsing in a rapid-onset puppy coma under the broad beans.
Aww! They seemed so happy with their new surroundings, though Tim was already muttering about getting more fencing sorted if he was to save his onions.
Names next. I’d already decided I wanted Puppy 1 to be named after either Tim’s dad, (Donald), or mine, (John). But these days, Donald’s a no go; I couldn’t run the risk that other dog-walkers might think I’m a secret MAGA.
So John it was.
Tim wasn’t happy because John ‘isn’t a proper dog name’ and ‘blokes’ll be turning around if I shout that in the park.’ LOL!
But what about Puppy 2? We canvassed opinions from family, but nothing suited – not until Grandson #4, a long-standing werewolf obsessive, suggested Wolfie. John and Wolfie – perfect!
Their behaviour, however, was far from it.
The first issue is that they move at pace – mainly trotting, eight massive paws thumping across the floors, which only ceases when they reach turbo speed.
Then it becomes the rolling thunder of galloping horses, followed by violent thuds as they use the sofa cushions to slow their charge, before ricocheting off to begin their breakneck laps of garden, kitchen and lounge once again.
And again. Ad infinitum.
They eat/chew/ravage everything they can get their teeth around – stones, pegs, cabinets, sofas, sticks, shoes, fishing nets, garden furniture, the paddling pool and on one memorable day, even their own vomit.
They also thoroughly enjoy antagonising each other, sneakily biting any passing tail, leg or head. And their wrestling is high energy, only stopping when I fire a water pistol to shock them into letting go of the other one’s throat.
Since their arrival, our days are spent trailing them around the house, removing things from their mouths before they can destroy it/swallow it/both.
We’ve had to toddler-proof the whole of downstairs because they are very long (or tall?) already and can reach the kitchen worktops with ease.
Tim is still in the midst of his ongoing struggle to keep garden, and veggies, safely enclosed. The mesh he first used is now easily jumpable so he’s having to redo it all with the 6ft version.
Basically it’s the fencing equivalent of painting the Forth Road Bridge
They might be adorably entertaining but we’ve both discovered that puppies are very, very hard work. And though they’re already well-versed in the art of innocent-puppy-dog eyes, their capacity for mischief, like their size, seems to double daily.
We needed to get a grip before:
a) they demolished any more home furnishings.
b) they morphed into the big, speedy dogs they’ll become – and judging by their current growth spurt, that won’t be too long.
Professional assistance was required asap, and luckily, we found it! (play A-Team intro)
‘If you have a problem (dog related), if no one else can help (there are others, but these are the best), and if you can find them (they’re actually on Facebook), maybe you can hire. . . the J & K Dog Training Team.’
We signed up for a five-week starter course and set off for our first class, eager to learn how to gain a modicum of control over our dynamic duo. But I’d be lying if I said we weren’t slightly apprehensive; and when J & K, (Jim & Karen), saw our boys, they seemed marginally apprehensive too.
According to Jim, getting two puppies at the same time ‘really isn’t recommended’. Yeah, thanks Jim, but I think we’ve already realised that. And so it began.
As well as training dogs, and more importantly, owners, the session included three short ‘socialisation playtimes’, where all the pups were let off-lead, to charge around with gay abandon.
At first it was bedlam, a canine version of WWE, with our two tag-teaming to spring heavily onto their unsuspecting classmates. Sooki, a sausage dog, retreated under the chairs, growling and showing her teeth, and ours quickly got the message that they were too rough and backed off.
But, by playtime three, John and Wolfie were exploring and cavorting independently of each other and even Sooki had come out of her shell, galloping after John with a definite come-hither look in her eye.
We learned recall, along with Sit, Down and Off and it was an exhausting, but informative, ninety minutes for humans and canines alike – though, as a gruff Yorkshireman, Tim’s attempts at the ‘high-pitched and happy – Come’ definitely needs more work!
And as we were leaving, Karen came over to say that our two had done ‘remarkably well’ so I was one very proud mummy.
Wees and poohs
As well as training, we’ve had several vet visits already – inoculations, sickness and diarrhoea, anal glands (unpleasant for all concerned) and suspected kennel cough.
Turns out, that when one pup is off-colour, both need the treatment, so it’s been an expensive few weeks – but thank God for multi-pet insurance!
All our neighbours are now used to our falsetto festivities when wees and poohs are done outside – ‘Clever boy, doing your biz!’ – and Haydn, the lovely old chap who lives next-door down, shouts encouragement through the trellis and applauds every toilet triumph.
They’re also used to the low-pitched, ‘No, bad boy!’ when either pup is too lazy to walk the three steps to outdoors.
But we’ve discovered that these ‘accidents’ always occur on drizzly days so I’m guessing our boys, like Tommy and Barney before them, are rather rain-averse.
Maybe it’s a lurcher thing but it’s certainly not great when you live in the 11th wettest city in the UK.
But we’re getting there. It’s been – checks calendar – eight days since the last ‘accident’ and they’ve just started crying to be let out which is brilliant.
They, mostly, will ‘Come’ if there’s a frankfurter on offer, but any distraction – dog, person, bird, leaf etc. – and we’ve go no chance.
We took them to Clyne Gardens on Monday and it’s fair to say there were a few minor kerfuffles – leisurely picnics were flattened, sandwiches were snaffled and we had to send the grandkids to collect our wayward pups as we were too shamefaced to retrieve them ourselves!
Since they’ve arrived, life’s been hectic, eventful, tiring, frustrating and much, much, busier than it ever was when living with two grown-up dogs. Ironically, it seems that puppies are a very different animal.
But the clacking of claws on the laminate is back, along with soft heads resting on our legs when we eat, and those daily, dog-driven, routines.
We’re even okay(ish) with the malodorous pffts that they emit with alarming regularity, because, though we miss Barney and Tommy terribly, life suddenly seems a bit brighter.
And being dog-parents again?
Well, that’s just absolutely, bloody wonderful!
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