Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Queer as Dogs

Always here to present you with encouraging or even good news, you will be mortified to know (unless you are Will Vigar) that winter will last until the beginning of April. It might not stay as bitterly cold, but it will stay below average, wet, windy and generally shitty. Then it's April, renowned for showers, winds and maybe some nice weather, if you're lucky and have sacrificed enough children to your gods...

I tell you, trying to find a job would be easy if I was a computer programmer or an engineer (and that isn't someone who walks up to machinery and says, "what's this engine 'ere?") I would be earning shed loads of money and have my pick of several billion vacancies. Even with a slightly more varied CV now I see maybe one job a day that I could apply for without having to bullshit my way through an interview, if I was fortunate enough to get one. The six jobs I have applied for in the last four weeks have yielded ZERO interviews and ZERO replies, even a 'You're 'aving a larf ain't you, we ain't giving you a job, not while we have holes in our arses' would have made me believe that I at least exist and am not a figment of an over-active imagination.

I don't tend to talk about the dogs too much, which considering I love them so much is surprising. I suppose I figure that if I was to really explain to you about the four of them, you'd probably wonder why we still have three of them and the fourth one, well, perhaps if he had his vocal chords removed... The thing is I have the dogs' Tumblr account which posts pics of them, at various ages, and while I'm happy to wibble on about all kinds of shit that most of you are not interested in, I rarely talk about the dogs.

I suppose the reason I've got them in my head at the moment is after 6 years I've come to the conclusion that at least three of them are winter dogs. Just last week, when we had that mild day (or the summer as I said in an earlier blog), Lexy, the Bassett/Rottweiller cross, looked like she's just been saved from a sauna by the time we finished our walk. She's a plodder anyhow, what with her dodgy legs and long body (when she runs she looks like a jack-knifing lorry), but as soon as the temperature hits double figures... it's like someone has just put her in Saudi Arabia. But, yesterday, with the windchill at around -6 and me dressed up like Scott of the Antarctic, she was bouncing around like a pup and only her absent-mindedness kept her from being right behind me for most of the walk. Lexy's faults are essentially small things - she barks at inappropriate times (6.50am every day - we think she's telling me to get up as this was the time I used to get up) and because of her absent-mindedness she sometimes gets lost. Now, she's a serial barker at times, sitting on her sofa issuing instructions to the other dogs, while never moving a muscle (she is unbelievably lazy, I've never known a dog to be as sloth like as she is); yet if she gets lost, does she make any noise when we call her? Does she f...

Ness, the little black minx, has always shown a propensity for cold weather. You open the freezer door at any time of the year and she's lying in front of it like a cat by an open fire (and incidentally, when we have a fire, she's the furthest from it). When it snows, she rolls in it, ploughs her way through it and generally acts (and looks a little) like an Arctic fox. I can honestly say she looks at her happiest when there's snow on the ground. However, as the smallest dog in the pack, it should come as no surprise that she's also pack leader, at least inside the house, outside, I'm not so sure. We call her 'minx' because she's violent, nasty and wilful. We have complete control over her, the other dogs have to put up with being bitten, bullied and barked at - and her bark is a mixture of pathetic and a squirrel. We believe that Lexy hates her, but as she is the boss, she hates her in a quiet, growly, understated way. Ness gives Lexy a really hard time, far worse than the other two. we thought it might be because Lex is #2 in the hierarchy, but actually we now think it's because Lexy is happy being #4; she's just happy to have a home and puts up with all kinds of shit as a result. Ness is insecure - massively insecure and everything she does appears to either be asserting her will or her interpretation of helping us. Yet, she is a dog that would hide from a duck fart. She is scared of the fridge; doesn't like noise that she doesn't know and if you strapped a Martini on her while the bin men come it would be fit for James Bond!

Murray is our baby boy despite him being 6 now. We've had him from 6 weeks, but we met him when he was 3 weeks and he sat in the palm of my hand and cried. He'd still do that now if he could. He is the biggest poof in the world (and I mean that in a completely non-homosexual way, despite having no testicles, Murray only has eyes for Lexy). Murray whines and whinges and then whines some more. We met his mother, she did exactly the same, but worse. Murray is a lap dog despite being a collie; he loves cuddles and curling up next to me when the wife gets up in the morning. His nickname, or at least one of them, is Pantomime Dog. This is because... He's (always) behind you!!! Never have I had a dog that can walk to heel as well and he's never been taught to do it, he just figures that's where he belongs. You have to tell him to go and run about and even then he seems reticent about it. Growing up with 3 girls has been good for him - they all worship him. He can do anything to them and they'll let him, yet if they so much as get in each others way you soon discover why female dogs are referred to as bitches.

Captain Catshit...
And then there's Captain Catshit or Marley. We should never have called her Marley, that was asking for trouble (and really not like us to call a dog by such a popular name). We often have said we should have called her Kali, because when she was younger she liked making war - with any dog. She was horrible and just to compound it, she would find anything that was dead, rotten or shit and roll in it. She has some German Shepherd in her and some Labrador, possibly some Lurcher, but I'm not so sure about that now, and she has something in her that has made her slightly smaller than either of the two main breeds in her. She is everything you wouldn't want in a dog and I love her to bits; she reminds me of a punk version of my old dog Megan. Where people say that Lexy looks like Gifford, Marley doesn't look like Meg, but as she's got older she's slowly turning into her. It's difficult to explain, but anyone who knew Meg will see Marl slowly going that way - and that'll be a good thing. Over the last year or so, she has stopped attempting to beat other dogs up and has thickened up a little. She's our summer dog - it's the breeds in her that has caused it - and if she sees water, mud, the sea, a full bucket, she's trying to be in it. She also does as she is told up to a certain point, but its like she knows what's 'bad' and what's 'advisory'. For example, out the Sunday before last, it was quite mild and we were about 100 yards from a big pond; Marley was half way between us and said pond. I bellowed at her not to go into the water and she looked at me, waggled her head and went and jumped in the muddy pond. She's a cow and she knows it; she also knows what will get her into proper trouble and what will be amateur dramatics from me.

Marley is also like Megan in that she winces; especially if she thinks she's in trouble and therefore gives the impression that we beat her at the drop of a hat. There is nothing more embarrassing than a dog wincing and pulling away from you when you're talking to other dog owners. It looks like we're really cruel to her; the last time she got a wallop (and as all dog owners will tell you, a dog wallop tends to be less hard than play fighting) she was about 3 (she's 7 now) and that was for attacking a Belgian Bassett. Bobby is her bette noir; he's a lovely dog, but we reckon he insults Marley in doggy language because the only other dog(s) she has a problem with are English Setters (not Red or Gordon Setters. In fact she positively loved an old Gordon Setter who died a couple of years ago), but that's Marley to a tee - she is brilliant with old dogs; she loves puppies, but everything between, especially for the first 4 years of her life, was classed as a threat. I think she's got out of that now. In fact, there are two wonderful Bearded Collies that go for a walk at the same time as we do at the moment - Dumble and Frodo - Dumble is lovely and a bit like Murray in that he loves cuddles and fuss. Frodo wants to play, all the time (and he's a year older than Marley) and he's a bit too much in her face and Marl doesn't like confident dogs; they bother her and she slinks off and goes for a mooch whenever there's a dog about that she can't control or bully. Frodo just wants to play and can't understand why this girl dog wants to avoid him.

There you have it: four dogs and yet Marley is the one that gets the most written about her and that's because she has considerably more going on with her. She was also the dog we took from the shelter on a whim rather than as a calculated decision. I'm just glad that's she's turned out to be a good dog because we agonised for over a year about whether we should get rid of her. But, saying that, I am horrid. When we had Meg and Giff they were such mild-mannered well behaved dogs (to the point where they were a little snobbish) and only really associated with the people and dogs they knew and if either of them were attacked or hassled by another dog I would get mega-defensive and probably accuse the dog's owner of not being in control. I positively love watching Marley get beaten up. I mean, if she was really being beaten up I would step in and break it up, but she's just being bitch slapped down by bigger and more confident dogs than her. Now, if the other three were set on that would be a different story entirely...

Meg & Giff
The weird thing is that I don't have favourites; it's like you don't favourite kids, it wouldn't be fair to have a favourite dog. When we had Meg and Giff, everybody loved Giff; and to be fair he was one of the coolest dogs you could ever have met and it was obvious that everyone saw Giff and no one paid much attention to Meg, she was just this nondescript Collie-x; but I actually miss her more. I suppose it was because she was my dog (Giff was the wife's) and we spent a lot of time together; but my mum was always my best friend, but I sort of miss my dad more now. Funny that.

But anyhow, I now can't believe that I wanted to get rid of Marley; we've never had a dog who has been so totally devoted to me. The wife's two - Murray and Lexy - both love their mum passionately; but Ness and especially Marley turn to me for everything. I've also always been 'Dad' to all the dogs - they know 'Dad' rather than 'Phil', but to Marley I'm 'Daddy'...

They all have loads of names; Lexy is 'Stinker' or 'Ginger Pudding'. Ness is 'Minx' or 'Minxy Minx', she's also 'Evil Dog' and 'Nessington' (don't ask). Murray is 'Pantomime Dog', 'Poof', 'Moz' or simply 'the boy' and Marley is 'Marley Moo' 'Captain Catshit' 'Vile shit-eating hound' and a bunch of other things including 'shitbag', 'retard' and 'you fucking useless dog...' All of them answer to the term 'sausage', but I don't think I've had a dog that didn't answer to 'sausage'. In fact, I call most dogs Sausage, even dogs I've never met before. I think dogs like being called Sausage...

Other facts about these hounds of the apocalypse include: Lexy was 24 hours away from being put down when we saw her. We had already decided she was coming home with us before we found out that she was literally going to be put to death if we didn't have her. She looks a little like a Staffy and the kennels were choc-a-bloc full of unwanted Staffies and she just got lumped in with these doomed doggies. She's also a strange dog; she doesn't play and she growls at everything; but while her growls are all the same, we worked out pretty quickly that its her way of expressing herself. She has a strange bark. She doesn't behave on the surface like a traditional dog, but scratch beneath it and talk to people who have Bassets or Rotties and you soon discover that she is just like the dogs she comes from (but she still doesn't know how to play, bless her).

Marl, Moz and Ness all love to shag her. There isn't an intact dog in the house, but shagging boils down to a dominance thing, either that or Lexy is the Karen Gillen of the dog world (I'd like to think that because she's a red head it's the latter reason. And remember Lexy rhymes with Sexy...)

Ness came from Battersea sight unseen. When we lost Gifford, we decided to rehome and we'd had no joy locally so I contacted Battersea Dogs and we arranged to have Ness (who was 10 weeks when we got her and was obviously born in the dogs' home) without seeing her first. We took Meg down to London - she hated it - met this tiny bundle of teeth - Meg hated her - and brought her home. Ness hates cars; she threw up about 40 times on the way home and was dehydrated and poorly for her first 24 hours in her new home.

Murray was arranged. He came from a dodgy estate in Wellingborough (where, we believe Marley was found) and Murray rhymes with Worry and that appears to be what he does best. He's almost the spitting image in personality to Megan (both Collies), but where Meg didn't like the sound of her own barks, Murray is a noisy little shit at times - normally when his mum gets home or when he's bored and being a Collie, he gets bored a lot.

There's tonnes more I could tell you about them and Meg & Giff, but these 'tails' can wait for another day!

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