Over the three decades that our family has lived on our plot we have seen our fair share of mortality among our pets, of which we have had an adequate, but not excessive, number. For at various stages our three children all had pets of their own, and we parents have kept dogs and cats for as long as we’ve been married.
But as time has passed the inevitable has happened: a couple of cats were run over on the nearby main road, a dog died of biliary, another died after an attack by a neighbour’s dog, and others we were able to relieve of their suffering in old age by euthanasing them. (It is one of life’s great conundra that we can legally arrange to have our pets euthanased but we cannot do the same thing for our loved ones. And that the state, in many countries, can legally euthanase criminals, although death by hanging, firing squad or the public spectacle of execution by legal injection as meted out in the USA can hardly be called euthanasia. But I digress).
So earlier this year we found ourselves reduced to one little dog, a sweet enough but brainless little chihuahua cross-breed from Brakpan.
So my beloved and I ~ with great encouragement from our children (all of whom have now flown the coop) ~ resolved that the time had come to obtain more pets.
What breed to get became a big decision, and we settled on a Labrador. We wanted a dog that was at least basically house-trained, so we started to look at animal rescue centres for a suitable mutt.
After some considerable desk-research we set off one Sunday, accompanied by our adult daughter, to a rescue centre that seemed to have a suitable selection.
It would seem, however, that people of our vintage (we are just past retirement age) should not be looking for pets, for the first question we were asked was “What will happen to the dog, ahem, if your circumstances should change?”
Initially I took this to mean what would happen if we were to lose our jobs and be forced out of our house and I said something about “Well, I’ve run my own business now for more than 30 years and I don’t think my circumstances warrant changing any time soon…” when it dawned on me that the lady questioner was discretely asking what would happen to the dog if, due to our advancing years, we should pop our clogs. Hardly an encouraging start, and as it happened we found no candidate there suitable to share our home.
So instead, our daughter heard of a litter of mistakes and we recently acquired two pavement specials. They’re supposed to be Jack Russell x Daschhunds, although as they were being handed to us we were told there was some Bull Terrier in them, too. Not that you can tell if you didn’t know beforehand. One is similar in colour and shape to a black and tan Daschhund and the other looks like a classic Fox Terrier.
So they may look odd, but they’re very sweet and loving, and we know that they will be fiercely protective and alert when they’re adult. And, hopefully, good ratters.
But for the moment, we are enjoying watching them grow and adapt to their new surroundings. Every day that passes they become a little bolder, venturing further into the garden on their own, playing with each other more enthusiastically, terrorising the older dog and bounding about, chewing everything they see.
It’s been a long while since we had puppies about the place and it’s been fun and rewarding for us to watch them play and horse around and then, suddenly, collapse in a heap at our feet and fall sound asleep.
But there’s one thing about having puppies around the house that is beginning to cause some friction, and that’s the question of house training. While we managed to have fairly consensual views on how to bring up children successfully, it appears we don’t share the same approach when it comes to pets. I come from the “rub its nose in it and throw it outside” school of house training, and my beloved comes from the “positive reinforcement” school. (For the uninformed this entails not berating the pup if it pees in the house, but praising it fulsomely each time it widdles or takes a dump on the lawn.)
In the interests of marital harmony (and so as to minimise stress and confusion in the puppies) I have declined to apply my method and have opted to support my beloved’s approach.
I’m not sure that it’s working though. Oops, I’m off to mop up another puddle.