We got a puppy! Pat has been wanting one for years and I’ve resisted as I’ve never been a dog person, mainly because I’ve never had a dog, as opposed to not liking them. I’ve always held them a bit at arms length in that nervous way that people who aren’t familiar with dogs do. I like them, but I’m worried they might bite my face suddenly. Or if I stroke them that they might do something sudden and unexpected and I might lose a finger. Thinking about it, it’s now clear to me that this is because I have had no intimate experience of dogs as pets until now.
In Brazil as a small child dogs were ONLY guard dogs. Growly dark shadows kept in kennels on a chain at the back of the dusty garden and let out after all the doors to the house where bolted and everyone was in the bedrooms upstairs. Not surprising then that I’ve always seen dogs as suspicious, double agents… hmmm- you might be all cutesy and fluffy here in England BUT I’ve seen your tropical kin prowling the gardens after dark, yelping and howling, waiting for some bony intruder ankles to chomp at. There were no doggy cuddles on the sofa in my childhood. (In fact the only pets I’d had before this were some tortoises when I was about 4 years old. I do remember loving those tortoises but apparently I showed it in a strange way by turning them all upside down and wandering off. I must have thought it was funny, or maybe I just didn’t want them to escape.)
But now we have Fergus! Fergus is a Scottish dog, which is why we called him Fergus. He is a Border/ Lakeland Terrier cross. This meant nothing to me just months ago, and now I’m all over the dog breeds. Pat decided to bite the bullet and get the pup around mid-December when we heard that there were some available at the bargain lockdown rate of £350,000! Well, we thought, we’ve got nothing else to spend our money on at the moment so we might as well buy an entity, a living entity in animal-form and frankly £350,000 pounds is nothing when you consider the fact that you are acquiring an actual life.
So when lockdown was announced on whatever date that horrendous day was- Dec 31st or something- Pat announced that he would go and fetch the pup in a week or so. This news, along with the prospect of homeschooling in the dark for probably 200 days (January is my least happy time even when there isn’t a pandemic on) prompted over 2 weeks of anxiety, dread and stomach cramps. I might sound light-hearted about it but it was genuinely frightening to me to entertain the idea of bringing a living creature into our lives in this hideously precarious time and I pretty much turned to mush. Pat was very steely about the whole thing, determined and a bit distant which made me confused at the time. So off he went on his Friday afternoon road-trip to the Scottish border for an overnight in a travelodge followed by another 6 hour return drive back.
For 24 hours the kids were beyond excited, leaping about the place while I drank a lot of rescue remedy (why do they make those bottles so small?) Pat meanwhile made it to ‘Bread and Beer Cottage’ (yes!) the wild home of Fergus and his siblings, where the pups lived amongst the chickens. The breeder turned out to be a Deerstalker and apparently these dogs are excellent hunters! So useful that will be for us! When the apocalypse comes we will be basically self-sufficient. Fergus was not the pup we had baggsied but the seller had two pup sales fall through so Pat was able to take his pick of the three. Of course he picked the one fashioned most in his own image; scrappy, orange-faced and cheerful. (Since then, the two of them have been grooming in each other’s image, Pat’s beard is bushier and Fergus’s ears are hairier).
Fergus is shaping up to be a right little river dog. He is hardy and friendly and curious. Everyone who meets him is immediately charmed and he is already a local celebrity at the park where he rolls around on his back letting all the other dogs lick him. I’m becoming all tuned in to dogs and their world and I can even put my hand right in his mouth and he has a very gentle chew on it, which is very sweet. And when I meet new dogs now I have an air of dog-person as I confidently stroke them and ask appropriate questions about their heritage (to the owners not the dogs). If they jump up at me, I am not phased.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting how much chat English people have when it comes to dogs. My mum has always complained about how nobody talks to each other ‘here’ but that’s because she’s never had a dog! All these years and we had no idea that the gateway to community integration was just a furry-friend away. Even though this is a lockdown (errr) it’s practically a carnival in the park on a Saturday morning, especially at the moment with all the new lockdown puppies around. Who needs the Sambadrome when you’ve got Westerly Ware? (sob sob…)
Anyway, Fergus is a great addition and even though I nearly divorced Pat that week, I am pleased to say I may forgive him for fetching that waggy bundle of fun just in time to distract us from the endless Covid winter days.