26 November, 2008

Bertie, Lord of Chaos

Having a dog is a strange experience for me. Having spent all my life striving for order, dignity and tranquility in my domestic arrangements, my Airedale puppy, Bertie, arrived in my life like a hand-grenade.

The name, Bertie, by the way, is short for 'No, Bertie! Stop that!' He's a handsome fellow, no doubt about it. And cute! God, that nose! I often feel my life has become the emotional equivalent of rolling in syrup. He's funny too. The Charlie Chaplin of the dog world. You should see him trying to hump his big, red cushion, or with a bath towel wrapped 'round his head because he can't quite work out how to subdue it.

Yet, most of all, he's a wild, untrainable, disobedient, wilful, thuggish, stupid, farting, food-obsessed monster. And he has a serious attitude problem. Dogs are supposed to be fawning lickspittles, right? They're suppose to love it when you fuss them and hate it when you're cross. Well, not Bertie. He sees Wifie and me as a kind of interactive furniture - something to be climbed over, or chewed, pounced at, or hassled, as the mood takes him. Sure, we give him food and treats now and then - but so does the bin, and with far less fuss.

Of course, he's a handy dog to have around the place on our rural property. He attacks, bites and claws at all our guests and visiting tradespeople. He digs holes in the lawn to get at the crickets. He bites the heads off all the flowers as they come up. And he likes to chase after people's cars when they leave. He's also good with the native flora and fauna, having trampled several delicate local wild plants into the mud and grabbed up a red-bellied black snake among other creatures. (The snake is highly poisonous and might have been Bertie's last free meal had not Wifie attacked the pair of them with a stick and sent them both packing - she being by far the most dangerous of the local life-forms.)

I have to cut him some slack, I suppose. It seems a trifle annoying to me the way he bites everything in sight - including my arms, legs and face - and uses his great, bony head as a combination battering ram, cudgel and slime dispenser. Yet it must be odd only to be able to use one's head to explore things and to pick them up and move them. Where I'm used to getting things done with my hands, Bertie's equivalent is his enormous great jaw. Where I manipulate, Bertie mandibulates. I think this is where many of our little cultural differences originate.

I also have to remember - despite his size, weight, and flatulence problems - he is still just a toddler in 'dog years'. They say he'll still be puppyish for maybe another year. (Of course, one of us may have killed the other by then.) As much as I'll regret the passing of his frolicsome ways, his exuberance, and the wild, leaping dance he does around me when I bring him his food bowl, I must confess, I won't miss fighting with him to get his harness on for the car, or to get it off again, or having to stop him mauling our visitors, or to stop him waking me by bounding onto the bed, clawing my flesh to ribbons and sticking his dribbling nose in my mouth (or eye, or ear).

'Maturity' isn't a concept that seems even remotely associated with Bertie, yet I'm sure it will come, one day. Oh God, please let it come! Please, please...


Pamela Heywood said...

Having had a mutt for whom obedience was an optional upgrade that I never got around to installing (because I didn't want to suppress all the things about her that I liked best), I can't help on that. I do, however, have a suggestion for the flatulence that worked for us. If you can get Friskies Shapes, Dog Biscuits (or something similar: multi-colored biscuits, of which some are black, i.e. charcoal), they should absorb the problem.

graywave said...

Hi Pamela, nice to hear from you again.

Since Bertie is a cross between a crocodile and a goat, he will eat anything and everything (he ate an iPod the other day!) it shouldn't be too hard to get a bit of charcoal inside him.

And well worth a try!

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