There is the patter of tiny feet in the homestead. Not the soft, kissable, minute, knitted-booty kind but polar bear-like, four-legged kind. Sproodle puppy has arrived in the home amidst cries of joy, coos of wonder and gasps of adoration. And our once organised, maybe slightly repetitive, yet very comfortable routine has been turned upside down in a flurry of primary coloured toys, cuddly cushions, paw-print blankets, bowls, huge packets of food and all things puppy.
With her razor sharp baby teeth she has punctured all three of our son’s footballs, chomped her way through her own body weight in rawhide chews, demolished every soft toy designed for your “small dog” and buried various pieces of underwear in a lawn that is fast resembling a ploughed field. What she did to Action Man was not only unholy but bore a strong resemblance to the pig scene from “Hannibal” and come to think of it, the final scene in “The Red Dragon” minus the frying pan and the Chianti.
For weeks now, she has had a strange fascination with a three inch square of my fine, hand-made Icelander rug. The only patterns on the rug are the nine small squares each containing a subtle swirl. Nothing too gaudy or ostentatious, you understand, and yet something utterly irresistible to doggy. She started, surreptitiously one evening, nibbling on the centre of the chosen square. After much scolding she seemed to leave it alone until she became much more cunning. Waiting until we were all busy in the kitchen or distracted by the telly, she worried the rug, moving aside any obstructions like a firmly planted shoe, or a nice comfy doggy cushion until she wore us both down, me and the rug. Then, once she had neatly nibbled round the edges of the square, she stopped as suddenly as she had started. Her work, obviously, complete to her satisfaction, she has never touched it since. We, of course, have been left with a bald patch on the rug as conspicuous as Duncan Goodhew in a mosh pit!
There appears to be no rhyme or reason to the things that come up on her fun radar, apart from her ability to grab, with lightning speed and laser precision, anything you would rather she hadn’t spotted. Head held high, tongue lolling and trotting up the garden with the confidence of a dressage pony, taunting us with her latest acquisition. She then reverts to a manic, lolloping gallop round and round the trampoline dragging a tea towel or a shoe. Eye-whites turning red with exertion and a comical gait, Frankie loves the ‘chase me game’ and has perfected not only speed and precision but the ability to change tack in a split second and gallop under the trampoline, reversing the circuit.
She has totally bewitched us all. I have slept on the sofa at 3 o’clock in the morning to quell her pining. I have hand fed her titbits to win her affection. I have run up and down the field in my spotty wellies, chasing a tennis ball with her, oblivious and impervious to other humans and their observations. But, the ultimate challenge presented itself, the other day, on one of our regular forays to the playing field at the back of the house. In fact, it was on the walk back home. Doggie squatted to purge herself. I had to drag her along a bit since she was about to soil someone’s beautiful cobblestone drive. I, dutifully, pooper-scooped and tugged on the lead to set off for the last few hundred yards home. To my dismay she yelped and started to try and lick her nether regions, completely immobilised by whatever was going on down there. I tugged again, but still highly distressed, she was turning like a whirling dervish trying to get to her bits. With crashing embarrassment, I realised there was a bit of poop stuck or caught up in her hind fur. She couldn’t quite reach it and was clearly going nowhere but in a crazy, tail-chasing circle, until the offending article had been dispensed with! Looking around furtively, with the deftness of a highly trained field medic, I donned three nappy sacks on my right hand and knelt down to perform surgery. “Stay with me soldier, we’re gonna get you home!” I am living the dream; Hot Lips from M*A*S*H, assisting Hawkeye: Fearless, brave, benevolent and sexy! Sleeves rolled up, knelt on the on the tarmac, doing great things for my comrade. If anyone so much as raises an eyebrow I will cite ’Chapter IV, Article 25 of the Geneva Convention’ (“Oh, yes sir, I can Google, all night long….”)
Procedure complete, I remove my glove, wipe my brow with my sleeve (on the other hand) and accept the gratitude of my patient. Well actually, I fight off the ingratiating licks because I know exactly where that tongue has been for the last few minutes. Now even more closely bonded by our joint traumatic experience, we solemnly walk the rest of the way home, with an occasional glance at each other and a silent agreement that neither of us shall ever speak of this day again.
Frankie has taken her place as my third child. I am now known as ‘Frankie’s mummy’ on the playing field and us mummies watch adoringly as our pets play, encouraging gentleness and scolding rough play. We share doggy treats, sleepless night stories, ‘you’ll never guess’ tales and offer up nappy sacks and balls with the camaraderie of a toddler group. I have a whole new set of friends and acquaintances that I have passed on the street many a time and never given more than a cursory glance. People that I now find connect with me on a new and unexplored level of human kindness and understanding, the fellow dog owner.
Donny had it right “And they called it puppy love, but I guess they’ll never know….” Until you have experienced that utterly unconditional love of a dog when she lies on her back, underbelly presented with complete abandon, for a tummy tickle that gets the back leg going with the fervour of buzz saw, you might only wonder at the bond between man and his best friend!