“Help!” The forest rang with the sound of my desperate scream. If there was ever a time for my knight in shining armour to appear and charge to my rescue, it must surely be now. Or my guardian angel, if I had one. Even a geeky random stranger would do. For I was outstretched full length on my belly in the dirt and being dragged bodily along a stony forest trail at speed, bumping my head on protruding tree roots as I went.
A voice in my brain was yelling “Let go!”
Another yelled back “Hang on, don’t let go, never let go, you’ll never get him back!”
The monster which was so carelessly treating me like a human sledge was no demon, no ancient forest fiend carting me off to its lair for lunch; it was none other than Indi (ana Bones), my very own BFF (Best Furry Friend) and VBBD (Very Badly Behaved Dog).
And what had got us into this predicament?
Well, VBBD does not tolerate doggy rudeness. So when that innocent-looking little yorkie out walking with its human snapped some insult at us as it bustled self-importantly by, Indi launched himself with the force of a missile, forgetting (or not caring) that his own human was attached to him by a lead.
I was yanked instantly off my feet. The yorkie let out a most un-doglike squawk, and made a run for it into a tangle of undergrowth. The yorkie’s owner bellowed in alarm and followed her foul-mouthed pooch into the brush. In the distance, I saw her scoop up what looked like a bundle of autumn leaves, casting reproachful eyes in my direction, and that was the last I ever saw of them.
You would think at this point that VBBD would have given up the chase. Not at all. He was enjoying his new-found power and the realisation that I couldn’t stop him. Suddenly, he was top dog, not me. And he was making the most of it.
However, even the fittest, strongest mutt-hound can’t continue pulling his (slightly overweight…ahem) owner around the forest forever. He took a flying leap into the peat bog for his daily dunk, and that’s when I finally let go. That pleasure was his alone; my golden lab emerged from the mud as black as the fabled Cu Sith, the Irish hounds of hell.
I crawled shakily to my feet, winded, scratched, bruised pride in hand, and limped slowly back to the car.
Following hard on the heels of the other ‘incident’, this latest episode was hard to take.
That time, I had been walking with my friend and her dog, Harry. Harry was older than Indi, so I thought he would teach Indi some good doggy manners. Unfortunately, Indi taught Harry all his badness, instead.
It was a big mistake to let them off the lead, even though the path seemed deserted. Another dog appeared, Indi challenged its right to enter his territory, and a fight ensued. Harry darted to his friend’s aid, and suddenly, the pair were a pack, ganging up on this lone stranger, which inevitably came off worse.
In floods of tears, I dragged Indi off to the vet. “I can’t have an aggressive dog in my house, I have my special needs little girl to think of,” I snivelled.
The vet knew Indi well. She looked at him as he made a fool of himself at her feet, rolling onto his back and gazing up at her adoringly, wagging his whole back-end not just his tail, and licked her hand. “Indi…aggressive? He hasn’t got an aggressive bone in his body,” she said.
“Well, would someone mind telling him that, because he doesn’t seem to know it,” I wailed plaintively.
This was not naughty puppy behaviour. God knows, we’d had more than our fair share of that; stealing Carys’s socks off her little feet, chewing everything in sight, specifically the boys shoes, Carys’s toys and the furniture, leaping up at the washing line and making off with Conor’s favourite work shirts, only returning them when they resembled nothing more than muddy rags, shredding all his bedding for the fun of chasing the fluff around the floor.
No, this was altogether something more serious. This was a case of Teenage Terrors. Like when the Dog Warden called round. I thought he was checking up on my dog license, and waved it brightly at him as he walked up to the front door.
“There’s been a complaint about your dog,” he said gravely, as Indi fawned around his legs. “He harassed a woman out walking her dog the other day, and nearly caused a rider to come off his horse.” He scratched Indi’s ears, and frowned, puzzled. “I can’t understand it. He’s not shown any aggression to me as I’ve walked up your drive. Best you keep him indoors from now on.”
“Yes,” I said miserably. “He hasn’t got an aggressive bone in his body, apparently.”
When I told Conor later, he said, “Well, you know I’m not an animal lover, but even I can see he’s not aggressive. It’s up to you, but perhaps you should think of finding him a new home.”
I seriously considered it, but I didn’t want to act rashly, and then regret it. When Indi came and laid his heavy head on my knee, slowly wagging his tail, I knew I couldn’t do it. The fault lay with me. I had to get better control.
So VBBD stayed on the lead. We abandoned the woods for a while, where there were too many dogs all claiming it as their own, and walked the local country roads. Indi went often to The Dog Ranch, where he learned to socialise with other dogs. And we practised discipline at home. I became the boss, instead of just acting like it.
And the Dog from the Bog, well, he’s learned his place in the Walker family pack. He still has his moments, but finally, walks are becoming fun again. But with the benefit of hindsight, what would I do differently?
I’d never have let him off the lead, for a start. You may think you know your pet well, but they can change dramatically in the presence of a female on heat, for example, or a territorial male, or a jogger, or a child on a bike.
I would have used a slip lead earlier. Knowing how to use one properly makes a world of difference, and for a strong dog that pulls, it really helps the owner keep control.
And I would have established my role as ‘leader of the pack’ right from the start. It’s too easy to overlook the discipline and indulge a cute, playful puppy.
Finally, a word of warning: Don’t go and view that litter of pups unless you are absolutely certain you want a dog, and you have done your research. Once you see them, it is impossible to come away empty-handed.
Had I known then what I know now, I would probably be the very proud owner of a cute, fluffy kitten instead of an over-sized, over-enthusiastic, rumbustious eternally-adolescent mutt-hound !