Grace the Wonder Dog (part 2)

I now had several challenges ahead of me: to house-train Grace, encourage her to eat, train her to walk on a lead, socialise her, vaccinate her, and eventually find her a home. My plan was to keep her for a few weeks, nurse her back to health and then to re-house her. It turned out I wasn’t alone in this task. With her uncanny seductive powers, Grace chose another new parent. This time it was Cocky´s turn. After a couple of days she had discovered the sofa, and it became her throne. She would haul herself onto it, fold her wasted limbs and sit regally waiting for visitors to come and stroke her. One evening Cocky came round and we sat like bookends either side of her and chatted. Every time he spoke she raised her head so she could gaze lovingly at him, and when he began tickling her chin, her eyes would roll back with pleasure and her head would slump blissfully in his hand until she fell asleep like that with her soft white muzzle in the palm of his hand, breathing warm puffs of breath into it. He was infatuated. It was another example of her extraordinary ability to get people to fall for her.

Cocky had just been betrayed and then dumped by his partner and he was also out of a job at that time, and something struck a chord with him too. She became his project. Possibly it was the other way round- his seduction became her project. Either way it kept both of them busy. He started to visit every day while I was out, and take her for walks, then sit with her while he used the internet. In a very short time her pathetic bony flanks started to fill out a little with muscle as she got used to walking. We made great improvements over the next couple of weeks. Cocky taught her to understand commands like ´sit´, ´stay´and ´walk´. She started to eat dried food, she learnt to pee on newspaper or hold it until it was walk time. She no longer cried when I left in the mornings.

On the other hand she developed an incomprehensible habit, when she could no longer hold it in, of peeing and even a couple of times, crapping in my bed rather than on the newspaper.

‘You know I sleep here, you watch me get into bed every night.’ I muttered at her as I stripped the bedding yet again. ‘Is this how you repay me for getting up at 6.45 every morning to walk you before I go to work? Hmm?’

I checked out The Dog Whisperer. I watched a few of his programmes online and read everything I could find on dog training. I knew her behaviour had a perfectly logical explanation as long as you could understand dog-think. It´s just that I couldn’t. We’d had dogs when I was a child, so I spoke basic dog, but was missing some nuances here. Soon we built up an understanding though, that dog and I. I realised I was now part of her wolf pack. The important thing was to establish who was leader of the pack. Safe and secure for the first time in her life, having claimed the sofa as her throne, and with me running around catering to her every whim, Madam soon believed herself to be Top Dog. I knew that if I didn’t nip this in the bud there would be a power struggle later on, and I didn’t fancy my chances against Little Miss butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth. This was a manipulative princess who had sharp teeth and had grown up on the streets. I live in a small flat and there was only room for one alpha female, and I decided that it was going to be me.

The showdown came one evening when I gave her a juicy, grizzly bone from the butcher. You could tell she was a carnivorous hound, and I had started picking up chicken hearts and scraps for her, and sometimes a bone for her to chew on so she didn’t get so bored while I was out. I needn’t have bothered on that count: I have never seen an animal with such a patient capacity for solitude. She whined when I unwrapped the bone from its waxy white paper then took it carefully from my hand and padded away with it. However, I was less than happy with her choice of dining table, ie: my bed. The bone dribbled bits of goo and gristle. It was not the kind of thing you could eat in bed. I had put newspaper down where she could gnaw at it in a contained area. But no, she would be far more comfortable on my bed, which is in an alcove, walled in on three sides. How, you might ask yourself, does one remove a ravenous and suspicious stray who is guarding a bone from ones bed? Buggered if I know. I told her sternly,

‘Get down from there. Over here. Come on.’ She looked at me and folded her paws over the bone. I moved toward her and she growled feebly, a high pitched sound more like a frightened whine.

‘Get OFF my bed.’ I said.

She lowered her head and peeped at me shyly, giving me the Diana Spencers again. Don’t imagine that I felt like doing this, having this stupid showdown in my bedroom alcove. But if I didn’t set the record straight here and now she would believe she was running the show.

‘GET OFF!’ I shouted. Grace whined again, yapped and snapped her jaws in my direction. And then it came to me- thank you Cesar, even if you are a bit weird and a touch creepy. The cushion… Block the dog, move in steadily, it can’t bite you, it will back down eventually. I’d seen him do it on tv with a far more vicious beast. And that’s how I did it, got Grace off my bed. I pushed her slowly but insistently on the flank with a cushion, around the bed until she gave in and jumped off, shoving her head against my thigh, quivering in a total act of submission. I gave her back her bone and told her she was a good girl and must eat it over here, on the paper, and she curled up there like a good girl and lost herself in chompy heaven for a while.

My heart was thudding. I had done it, I had won! I was queen of the castle: for now, anyway. I hoped my home wasn’t going to be turned into a battleground in an epic fight to assert hierarchy. If I didn’t find her a bigger, more adequate home, this wolf was going to get too big for her paws. I’d been harbouring some vague passion, like a teenage crush, the idea that I might keep her after all. I was the best person for her, she loved me and nobody loved her fiercely the way I did. But how many single people do you know with dogs who don’t treat them like surrogate partners, and who don’t totally re-arrange their lives to suit the dog? Could I really go through with this or was it too hard? And possibly not even very healthy? I may have been a little optimistic when considering my own levels of commitment. I wasn’t sure that what I needed most in my life right now was a volatile love affair with a lesbian wolf. The shitting in the bed was really the dealbreaker for me. If I was going to share my personal space like this it would be with a man, not with a she-wolf. He doesn’t crap in your bed when you’re out at work (and hopefully not when you’re back home either). You don’t have to take a man outside to have a pee, and he can get his own dinner from time to time. Also he doesn’t generally spend half an hour licking his own arse and then come and try and kiss you.

I loved this dog with all my heart. If ever I was going to have a dog it would be this one. But I wasn’t going to have one at this stage in my life. It just wasn’t feasible. Besides, I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with my role as mother. I worried about her from the minute I left home to the minute I got back at night. Would she be all right? Would she get scared? Was she comfortable? Was I doing this right or was I causing her suffering? Was I even feeding her properly? Along with the maternal role came all the maternal guilt as well. I observed myself fussing over her, smothering her with kisses and watching her every move anxiously. I saw what kind of mother I might be, given the opportunity. A fear blossomed in me day by day- the fear that comes with responsability. This helpless creature depended on me for its wellbeing; if I didn’t feed it and look after it it would die, and this status quo would continue 24 hours a day for the rest of its life. Soon I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want a dog right now and if this is what it’s like having a pet I certainly didn’t want a baby. Now or any time. Grace certainly helped me with the biological clock issue that seems to have gripped so many of my peers. Oh no, I’m ok thanks, I think I’ll just stay over here in my selfish little corner all alone, independent just the way I like it, not skivvying and arse-wiping for anyone. No, really, like I said, I’m fine.

It was time to get onto the adoption agencies.

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