Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Surfeit of Dogs

Due to having rather too much work of the kind that is guaranteed to pay money for me to keep up with settling the bills, as opposed to the writing kind of work that has no certain pay cheque attached to it, I’ve been a bit lax about writing blogs of late. But since I have just finished something and am taking a short breather before going on to the next thing, I decided I had better squeeze in a new post. I don’t want to get out of practice.

My house (actually it is a flat, but never mind semantics) has been invaded. I am playing host to two small dogs for a few days and they have taken over my space and my time. My own dog, a mixture containing some German Shepherd, at least a little Husky and I’m not sure what else – she was given to me and I never saw her parents, but she is a lovely dog whatever her breeding – is settled in her ways and has her own place and routines. One of the two visitors has stayed here before, but although the other has been here for the odd evening this is the first time she has stayed overnight. The owners, who have gone away until the weekend, have four dogs and share them out amongst friends when they need dog-sitters. One of the other usual volunteers is herself on holiday (that is another story. She and her husband went to New York for a fortnight a week ago. I believe they have upped sticks and moved on to Niagara Falls, but I’m sure they will have some interesting hurricane stories when they get back) so this time I have not one but two extra mouths to feed, and dogs to walk.

On the other occasions I have hosted visitor number one the weather was warmer. Ten days ago we had temperatures in the 20s (Celsius, of course. Not Fahrenheit – they don’t do Fahrenheit in Germany, although the temperature scale was named after someone with German antecedents. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, in case you’ve ever wondered) then early last Saturday I opened my front door to let my dog out and was greeted by two inches of snow. That has melted, but it is still pretty chilly. So my wood burning stove is burning merrily and keeping the flat warm and cosy. My dog has never been allowed in the sitting room, where the fire is (although it is next door to the kitchen and the heat permeates through the open door), but the two visitors have taken up residence on the sofa in front of it. Number one visitor occasionally growls, mainly because she suffers from the Napoleon complex that haunts many small dogs. She is noisy – the noisiest of my friends’ four dogs, as well as the smallest – and can be aggressive with strangers. As well as with other dogs who want to take her toys off her. She is also fiercely loyal to those people she had decided to attach herself to and will guard their possessions, growling at all who approach as she sits by a pair of shoes or a rucksack belonging to one of the girls who stays sometimes with my friends. So now she lies on the sofa warning her companion away from the chew bone she has adopted. My own dog’s nose is rather out of joint as a result of this invasion.

Last night, I took all the dogs out – no letting them run free in the garden, since the fence is not totally secure for such small dogs (have I mentioned their size before? Sorry. But to explain, number one is a Chihuahua x Dachshund and number two is Bichon Frise x Jack Russell, both rather hairy, both very cute) so I have to get up and dressed early as well as going out late with them all – then brought them back in for the night. My dog has her bed in my large hallway, and number one visitor understands the system. Number two, however, made it quite plain that she wasn’t happy with that. She barged her way back in from the hallway and took up residence once more on the sofa. So I gave in to her. I’m now worrying whether tonight number one visitor will decide that she is being discriminated against and insist on joining number two visitor on the sofa. Or, worse still, she will decide to move onto my bed, since I keep the bedroom door open in order to keep the room warm. If she stays on the sofa, I shall probably be kept awake by intermittent growling, but I’m not keen on having her on the bed; that may encourage number two visitor. Coupled with which, I would then start feeling guilty about shutting out my own dog. And that would never do.

To give my own dog a bit of time away from the interlopers, and because I can let her run free without worrying about her, which I obviously can’t with the other two, I took her when I went to check on my horse today (no time for riding, sadly) but left the other two behind. I returned home to be greeted by barking. Number one visitor, of course; number two is not generally a barker. Settling at the computer, where I can swivel round to the table piled with dictionaries (standard German-English / English-German, Technical English-German, Technical German-English) and files of machine operating instructions that I am translating, I had to fend off dogs who wanted to sit on my lap. When this failed I had to type with one hand. After a satisfyingly productive time I decided to walk all the dogs before it got dark. The clocks went back last weekend. I swear that last week it wasn’t dark until seven, but now it is more like five o’clock. How can this be when the clocks only moved back one hour? Anyway, it seems that half the dog owners in the village had the same idea. I am fortunate in that I can go out of my back gate into the local park and from there I am soon in the fields, so I don’t need to walk along the roads. Which was a good thing as the two visitors were whizzing around causing the three leads to plait themselves. I wasn’t able to let my own dog off the lead, which would have made the situation at least a bit easier, as walking along the field were several of the more aggressive of the village’s dog population. Having been supplied with a very short lead for number one visitor, I had substituted it with an extending one of my own (which used to belong to my one of own small dogs, now sadly no longer with us) and she hurtled around from side to side and forwards and backwards until she reached the full extent of the lead and sprang backwards, then she repeated the exercise. Number two dog, who is rather more mature, and my own, bounded around with almost as much enthusiasm but a little less velocity.  

It will soon be time for bed and before that I will be going out again. It is drizzling now. Or it was an hour or so back, but since the forecast is for heavy rain it may be worse by the time I go out. I really like my friends’ dogs, and I’m happy to look after them for a short while, but it will be so nice to get back into my own routine and not have to go out in all weathers in the pitch dark. (Before you jump to the conclusion that I am a cruel dog owner who is too lazy to walk her dog, that is far from the truth. On the days when I don’t ride, I make sure we go for decent walks. On riding days we can sometimes be out for many hours, so my dog is extremely well exercised.) The two visitors now have started a growling duet. I’m not sure what that is all about, so I suppose I’d better go and check on them. Next time I manage to post, I should be back to the normal complement of dogs. Or dog, to be more accurate. She will be happy about that, I’m sure.

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