Updated: Sep 4, 2020
We were asked whether we would look after a Terrier for a couple of weeks. I wasn’t sure. I knew what a Terrier was: a yippy yappy thing that attacked other dogs.
Attacked dogs like Koda, the lovely chocolate Labrador that I looked after last summer. Several times on our walks he was accosted by something a hundredth his size that had no right to challenge a canine of his bulk and stature. Most of the time he would ignore them and stroll past, hunting for a rank piece of tissue he could chew into a thousand pieces. But there was the odd occasion that one or two of these excitable pooches extended the lead they were using to walk their owners and Koda would be faced with a direct challenge to his personal space.
His response would be to stare down the challenger, disdain writ large on his face (hard to pull off when you have eyebrows that you have no control over and a lolloping tongue the size of a small country), while the tenacious terrier jumped up and down shouting, ‘Come on, if you think you’re hard enough!’
Actually, I don’t blame the dogs when they wander into another dog’s space. The rules for such things are not always that well defined, especially nowadays. They must be as confused as we are by the current government advice:
Do go out for walkies. Don’t go out for walkies. Do run around in circles for no apparent reason. Don’t run around in circles. Do sniff that man’s crotch. Don’t sniff that man’s crotch. Do sniff that man’s crotch, but only if you’re wearing a face mask. Don’t crap on the pavement. Crap on the pavement, but take advantage of our Monday to Wednesday scheme through August when fines will be reduced by 50%.
I’ve never been that keen on the little dogs. They can be annoying and, on top of that, not that manly. I’m a proper geyser, hard as nails with guns the size of Yorkshire Terriers. I’m the kind of guy who can quaff two Babyshams a night and still get up at 5am to walk the dog. When I’m out with a dog, I want people to think or say, ‘Yeah, respect, mate!’ or ‘Cor blimey, that’s a fine, handsome BIG dog,’ and not, ‘Why don’t you put that dog in your man-bag?’.
(I keep my phone in my pocket but I’m trialing a man-bag because of the increasing list of other things I need, mask and hand-gel having just been added to wallet, keys, pen and reading glasses. There’s no room for a dog in it, not even a diddy one).
Rule of thumb (not Tom Thumb): Dogs should be bigger than cats. If you have to bend down much past the perpendicular to pat one, it’s not a dog. It’s something else.
So, when our Joe’s girlfriend, Lorena, asked whether she could bring her dog to live with us while the rest of her family were away, I was just a little reticent. After all, I had an image to maintain.
I had met Lulu once before and had fond memories of her being a sweet little thing. I didn’t spend a lot of time with her but I went away thinking, ‘Ahhh...’ But, in my eyes, ‘ahhh’ wasn’t going to be enough to compete with Koda who was a ‘proper’ dog.
Eventually, the day arrived for us to collect Lulu. When I took Koda back to his owners, I had to put the back seat down to fit him in with all his paraphernalia. When we picked up Lulu and her things, we had 4 of us in the car plus three suitcases, and we still had enough space to swing a cat (she doesn’t like going in the car so we had to do something to keep her distracted).
Now, I should tell you more about Lulu. Her mother was a miniature terrier and her dad was a teacup terrier. I don’t know much about the terrier breed (by this stage, any terrier owners who have not already left this blog are pulling their hair out and shouting at their screens, ‘You don’t say!’) but, apparently, teacup terriers are even smaller than their miniature cousins. So much so, Lorena informed us the other day, that Daddy Teacup had to stand on a book to help produce what turned out to be Lulu. Lulu is not as small as her dad but she’s still small. When the family got her 8 years ago, she was the size of a hamster.
Another rule of thumb about dogs: they should be bigger than hamsters.
Koda was bigger than several cats and hamsters standing on each other’s backs. (Incidentally, never have the hamster at the base if you’re trying this at home). He used to bound about everywhere: in the garden, along streams, around the house, through his food. If he wasn’t bounding, he was bowling along the street, with me, looking cool, suave and sophisticated. Lulu can’t bound anywhere because she has tiny legs. They have to work very hard to move the rest of her from one place to another and are so quick that her body and head can’t keep up. It's amazing how swift she is across the ground, especially when there is a cat to be chased.
The other day, there was a cat at the end of the garden sitting nonchalantly on the lawn. Lulu was out of the house in a flash. This one spotted Lulu but seemed totally unconcerned. Cats have good vision and perspective. This dog was very small. Either that or the house it came out of was absolutely huge! The cat had that smug look about it, mocking the yapping bundle of fur heading its way. You can imagine the cat thinking what a laugh it would have with its feline friends later. It was already planning its punch line: I bet that dog is so small, its dad has to stand on a book to make love. (Note to self: ask Lorena if the book was flat on the floor or balanced on its end – I don’t know much about terriers or... oh, never mind).
So the cat sat there, all cool, enjoying the sunshine, knowing full well that the dog would bottle it and retreat. How wrong could it be! Lulu was a metre away before it knew she was deadly serious. The cat jumped up and only just made it under the fence into next door. Lulu stopped at the boundary. The cat was twice her size yet she had seen it off the property. Daintily, she skipped back, pride etched on her face.
I say, ‘pride’, that’s not quite correct. All her expressions are variations of cute. When she’s proud, she’s cute. When she’s angry, she’s cute. When she’s hungry, she’s cute. She is cuteness in all its forms: adorable, bonny, sweet, endearing, charming, captivating, delightful, bewitching, click here for more synonyms (shouldn't have copied that bit). She has had all of us in the palm of her hand – and vice versa, of course.
And so photogenic! Conscious that I might be exploiting her if I took photos of her to promote my new book, I have been taking photos of her to help promote my new book. Lots of likes on Instagram. She is a natural and even covers up the fact that she’s not that interested in sci-fi.
She just loves to be cuddled which is just as well because everyone just wants to cuddle her. It’s hard not to fall madly in love with something that comes up to you, rolls over onto their back and waits for its belly to be rubbed. My wife fell for that trick 38 years ago and Lulu knows what she’s doing now.
Everything about her is gorgeous – her looks, her mannerisms, her ability to make you bring her into your conversation and say things like, ‘Don’t I, Lulu?’ in a childish voice. We are smitten. Totally and utterly smitten. She was sick on our sofa the other day and I just shook my head and said, ‘Who’s a poor little doggie then?’ I know – it’s that bad.
Slightly incongruous is the way she stands. If you ignored the face – ‘How can I ignore your lovely, little face, Lulu, it’s soooo cute’ – sorry... If you ignored her face and just looked at her legs from the front, she stands with them slightly facing outward. It’s a pose which boxers might take pre-match – elbows out, strutting about, showing off their chests; a mixture of preening and aggression. Then you scan up and look at Lulu’s face – ‘Ah, just look at her face, it’s soooo...’ Sorry, I’m off again.
Lulu gives lots and doesn’t demand much back. I like cats but only when they are affectionate. Lulu is like a cat with all the loyal qualities of a hamster... I mean dog. I threatened not to give Koda back when I looked after him last year. It’s heading in the same direction with this one.
I think I’ve got round the man-bag problem I mentioned earlier. I’ve googled i-phone cases and they supply ones with special inserts to carry small Terriers. I don’t think Lorena’s family will notice if I sneak her in there and promise to look after her.
I might even take her for a proper walk occasionally - just like a proper dog.