Fetch The Ball

 |  October 28, 2011

I always enjoy watching ‘The Dog Whisperer’. I find his ability to turn an unruly dog into an exemplary model of canine citizenship with just a few sounds and gestures to be fascinating. Mind you, I am not sure why I should as all Mrs. D has to do is give me a look and I am cowering in the corner along with our two dogs. There is no doubt who is head of the pack in the Daring household.

It didn’t use to be like that of course. I remember the days when what I said was law. At least, that’s how I remember it. I know now, and have been told repeatedly, that that was what I was being allowed to think, and funnily enough, it was our first dog that brought that home to me. It was just after we moved to Thailand when a teenage D1 and Mrs. D arrived home announcing that they had found this mange-riddled puppy in one of the pet shops.

The discussion got quite heated and emotional that Sunday. D1 was in tears, making statements like “my life would be perfect if…” and “don’t worry, I will look after it”. Mrs. D accused me of being heartless and unfeeling. Nothing new there. But I remained firm and resolute. I put my foot down and said “no, we are not having a dog” and everyone went to bed in a sulk. Next day, we kept the dog. To be specific, a neurotic, female poodle.

Mrs. D had grown up around dogs but I hadn’t and it took me a couple of weeks to realise that I was engaged in a battle of wills for Mrs. D’s affections. I tried sitting on her lap and licking her face too, but ultimately it didn’t work and I was shoved to the bottom of the pack order. To add insult to injury, just as I had predicted, D1’s interest waned within a matter of weeks and I was assigned dog walking duty. Which I did at night because I was too embarrassed to be seen with it during daylight hours. After all, it wasn’t a real dog, was it?…A point that I was to highlight (much to my regret at the time) at a friend’s dinner party following several glasses of wine. It just so happened that they had one of the largest golden retrievers I had ever seen.

“See” I said, pointing at the slavering beast at the window, “that’s what we should have got. That’s a proper dog. Not that wiggling toy we have.”

Never being one who needs a second opportunity, Mrs. D pounced on my words and a few weeks later presented me with a son-of-mega-hound lab. His paws were huge which was a portend of things to come including vet’s and food bills, the amount of exercise required and the size of his deposits in the garden. Of course, with his arrival, my position as bottom of the pack was confirmed but at least I felt more manly taking a stroll around the moo baan.

In fact, as an additional male member in the house, I started to empathise much more with him than the poodle. Partly because years of in-breeding to produce and maintain a pure-breed meant that he wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer which resulted in an expression of continual puzzlement at the world around him (much like me). He developed a ball fixation both for the thrown kind and his own which he regularly and loudly chewed, especially when we had visitors in the house (not like me). To ensure that he knows where he fits in, the poodle would regularly discipline him by humping his leg and enforcing pack order despite being maybe one fifth of the size. I just get shouted at.

I do see a certain semblance between his life and mine. As a puppy he would run and play all day; as an adolescent, he would basically hump anything that moved irrespective of species. Ok. Maybe that wasn’t quite like me plus his success rate was much higher. Now he is older, his joints ache, he has put on weight and he just can’t be bothered to return the ball after it has been thrown. He still plays with his balls though, and according to Mrs. D, so do I although I am not aware of it. Must be a subconscious man thing.

He is lying at my feet now, looking up at me with the occasional flick of the tail. If you ignore the aroma of old dog that permeates the air around him, it is really rather a sweet scene. The master and his devoted companion. I wonder what would happen if I laid at Mrs. D’s feet and wagged my…no, I think not. I am sure that would result in an immediate visit to the vet. What would I play with then?