Updated: Jul 1, 2019
One of my favourite scenes from any film, ever.
Inspector Clouseau is checking into a hotel and sees a small shaggy dog. ‘Does your dog bite?’ he asks the receptionist. ‘No,’ is the reply, so Clouseau pats the dog which immediately bites his hand. Indignant, the Inspector exclaims, ‘I thought you said your dog doesn’t bite!’ To which the receptionist says, ‘That’s not my dog.’
Another shameless attempt by me to quote one of my favourite comedies in a blog? Of course, but how about this for a seamless link from that to today’s subject matter... I currently have a dog which is not my dog AND it doesn’t bite!
His name is Koda and we are looking after him while our friends, Terry and Jackie, are on holiday. How did this come about? Well, on their last visit, they mentioned to us they were going away and I offered to look after their dog. My wife, rather surprisingly, (because she is not a dog fan) agreed.
Both of us had ulterior motives.
Mine was: we look after a well-behaved, lovely, beautiful dog for a few weeks and my wife will be so entranced that she will surprise me at the next birthday/Christmas/Father’s Day/ wedding anniversary with a (not yet, but it will be worth all the crap and pee on the carpet) well-behaved but lovely, beautiful puppy.
I now know what her ulterior motive was: we look after a well-behaved, lovely, beautiful dog for a few weeks and Ian will realise how hard it actually is and won’t want a dog.
Now, Terry and Jackie are close, long-standing friends. I don’t want them to read the following and feel bad about any of the things I am about to relate. Fortunately, they are on the other side of the world at the moment so I can post this with full confidence that they are too far away to see this.
In any case, it is written with love and affection for this soppy creature that has taken over our household. Jackie and my wife both think that I am meeting Jackie at the A14 Cambridge services in 2 ½ weeks time to return Koda to his rightful owners. In fact, Koda and I will be heading off into the sunset together in the opposite direction. Such is our mutual love (the dog and I – sorry Ang) we probably won’t be overly concerned that the opposite direction to the Cambridge services is east and there won’t be a sunset. He’ll be too busy slobbering over the backseat and I’ll be too busy trying to find a suitable place to stop so I can wipe it up.
A bit of background: Koda is a chocolate brown Labrador. Terry and Jackie got him as a puppy and have trained him really well. He spends most of his life walking the lovely hills in the Peak District which has given him a level of fitness that I am doing my very best to maintain by covering twice the miles on our walks together on the flat plains of Essex. When we stay with them, Koda is usually walked twice a day, has meals when he returns from his walks (precisely 190g of something healthy), has a poo deep in the bushes when he is out and about, is allowed to pee in the garden but only in the beds and not over plants because we all know what dog’s urine does to lawns etc, will go to his bed when told and stay there, will generally not scrounge for food but if he does is sent away once and won’t return, will enjoy company but will not be obsessive about it.
Since he has been with us, it has been exactly the same. He gets precisely 190g of something healthy twice a day. The rest... (Terry and Jackie – if by some miracle of technology you have somehow been able to read this post all the way there on the other side of the world, I suggest you stop reading now. Nothing to worry about, nothing to see here.)
The rest of you, read on.
Koda and I are a perfect combination when it comes to completing the round trip on the three walks we are doing every day. For a start, there is a huge incentive for us to go on the outward journey – Koda desperately wants a pee – and there is a huge incentive for us to complete the inward journey – soon after we have left, I desperately want a pee. When we’re out walking the paths, we get a lot of exercise, covering a lot of additional ground on top of the actual route. Being a dog, he runs off all over the place, dashing backwards and forwards, chasing sticks; being a human, I throw the sticks, which he won’t bring back so I dash off all over the place hunting for more sticks to throw which he won’t give back.
We do, however, have a very good understanding about where he does his poo. Three times a day, we go to exactly the same spot of bushes down the lane, well away from the path. I let him off the lead and send him in to do his poo. As instructed, he goes in for a while, comes out to get his post-poo treat and then lets loose on the path about ten minutes later.
In between walks, I will send him into the garden to do a wee. He travels precisely 1 metre and stands at the back door, waiting for me to accompany him. There is a reason for this; he wants to prove to me that Essex dirt is of inferior quality to Derbyshire dirt in terms of urine absorption by resolutely ignoring the huge patches of non-lawn we have in our garden. It is of no consolation at all that he feels that Essex lawns are much better than Derbyshire lawns for the same job.
Indoors, he has some soft toys to play with / distribute all over the house. My shoes are available to perform the same function, apparently. He knows they are for indoors only and will usually drop the toys, if we are going outside. The picture of the bedraggled toy, after a thorough washing, at the bottom of the page is the one toy he did not drop and took out with him. Well, I say ‘did not drop’... he did eventually drop (some might say, ‘carefully placed’) it on the lawn, took 2 steps forward and then peed on it. The mournful look on the toy’s face is exactly the same look Koda had on his face after I explained to him that I was not at all keen on him doing this. He is probably thinking he can't win: the one time he doesn't do it directly on the lawn, I tell him off.
Did I say that he is a chocolate Labrador? No, he is a cow. He eats grass. I know of no other animal that eats logs and paper too, otherwise I would also compare him to that.
Like all log/paper/grass-eating cows, he has amazing eyebrows. They do this –
‘ ’ and this ‘ ‘ this ’ ’ and this , ‘ and this ‘ , and this ^ ^ and this ^ ‘ and any other combination or angle you can think of. It is a very effective means of communication. Some examples...
‘ ’ means: ‘I want your yoghurt.’
^ ^ means: ‘Play with me.’
^ ‘ means: ‘Ouch, you stood on my paw.’
, ‘ means: ‘I’ve just peed on my toy but I know you will forgive me if I do this shape with my eyebrows.’
The other evening, Ang and I warmed up for Wimbledon next week by playing a game of ‘eyebrow tennis’. The rules are simple: sit Koda in the lounge, subtly tempt him with the imminent prospect of a walk, sit at opposite ends of the room and then take it in turns to quietly call his name. So much fun watching his eyebrows, like an extended rally, flick across his head from one side to the other.
He does some strange things. Out walking today, a fly went up his nose. He sneezed, it popped out and he immediately ate it. Is that normal?
Apart from the fly, logs, paper and grass, we are not over-feeding him. We’ve offered all sorts of additional food but, like all Labradors would, he resolutely refuses everything. You can guess what’s going through his mind – ‘I may be tempted by that tasty morsel of cheese on your plate but I really shouldn’t. I don’t want to overdo it. If I do, I simply won’t eat my 190g of dog food in the morning!’ His restraint is admirable.
As I write this now, he is in his basket, fast asleep. In a minute, I will get up as silently as possible and creep into the kitchen to get my lunch without disturbing him. I just need a few minutes watching the cricket on my own, Kodaless. I will tiptoe into the lounge to switch the T.V. on – keep it on mute, just in case he hears a different sound in the house. Back to the kitchen where I will get my plate out, knife and fork – I’m well practiced at this – without so much as a clink. I’ll look over and check he is still out of it. Yes! Tray- That was noisy! Shush! Squash is already made up so I don’t have to run the tap. Gently into the glass now... That’s right. The bread bin is metal but, luckily for me, it’s been left half off. I will ease it up and take 2 slices of bread out of the bag and put them on the plate. Butter is out, quick and easy to spread in this heat. Now the tricky part – to get to the fridge for the cheese. Quick check through the window into the conservatory before I move. He is shattered – we had a 1 ½ hour walk earlier. I’ll open the door – I know which cheese I want; it’s there in front of me. I’ll get hold of the cheese, turn round and ... there he’ll inevitably be, sitting neatly right behind me, nose twitching and eyebrows already in ‘feed me’ position.
But he won’t get any of my cheese, nor any other part of my meal. If you come across Terry and Jackie lounging on sun beds somewhere and they ask how Koda is, please tell them he is just fine. Both he and I are having great fun, loving every minute of it. I don’t think Ang will allow me my puppy, despite her affection for Koda. In any case, her ulterior motive is proving effective. I might have grandchildren one day and, if I do, I will love them to bits, cherish every moment I have with them, look after them whenever possible. But, just as with my good friend, Koda, I will be pleased to give them back.
Hopefully, with them, we won’t need to do the exchange at a service station.