My wife was giving me “the look”. This is a serious eye-lock during which real communication is possible. It usually precedes a state-of-the-marriage address.
“So,” she said, “should we get rid of her?”
“Hmmm,” I replied, “I have to say I am very tempted.”
“What would Gracie say?” she asked.
Yes, there was our seven-year-old daughter to think of. “Well, she told me today that she and Pipsi weren’t friends any more,” I said.
We left it there, our minds filled with the image of our dog’s face looking out of the rear window of the car as she is driven to the Dog Rescue shelter.
It had begun so well. Get a dog! Of course, what a great idea! Company for our little girl, and a cuddly presence for us.
We were dog people, after all, weren’t we? Brought up with wet noses and dog hair on our jumpers.
My wife’s childhood memories centred on her dog Willie. Grace especially liked the story of how Uncle Richard stepped on a Willie poo on the landing , and how it oozed up between his toes.
Me? Well, I had Homer, a golden lab, and Paddy, a cocker spaniel. I just loved the endless enthusiasm of dogs, the tail-waving, crazy, breathless joy of them.
I loved dog jokes (Gary Larson’s cartoon of two dog bouncers outside a doggie nightclub, with one saying ‘I don’t care who he is, I’m sniffing his butt’, is a classic) and dog stories.
Like the one I heard about a friend’s father who lived in a draughty old country house. “You’re cold, my dear,” he said to an attractive lady guest. “We’ll put another dog on your bed.”
Pipsi was a rescue dog. We got her as a puppy from the DSPCA. She fell sick soon after we got her home, but a short stay in the vets and €250 later, she was back to her bouncy best.
She grew into a strange animal, a terrier type body on lurcher legs. She is the canine equivalent of a cross between Danny de Vito and Agnes Deyn.
“Her legs are so long for her body that when she sits down, her bum doesn’t touch the floor,” my daughter is fond of announcing proudly.
Naturally, all Pipsi-related matters fell to me. I walker her. Fed her. Brushed her. Toured the garden with shovel and bag. And, on one occasion, did some delicate extraction work after she ate a string of wool.
Mostly, it was all fine. I got a warm feeling when I’d see our daughter drawing at her table with Pipsi at her feet.
Then, for some reason, Pipsi began to pee indoors. And once she did one, the residual smell made her do it again. And again.
We tried vinegar. In typical Dublin middle-class fashion, it was organic white wine vinegar, but austerity has kicked in and we now use malt.
Immediately, I researched the matter in Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson.
This a hygiene and domestic arts manual for those who are borderline OCD. Cheryl recommends putting a tea-towel on the stain and then piling books on top – osmosis takes care of the rest.
This method worked on the pee, but there was still the smell. We tried vinegar. In typical Dublin middle-class fashion, it was organic white wine vinegar, but austerity has kicked in and we now use malt.
We could be seen, late at night, sprinkling droplets of essential oils on our rugs before going to bed. It was like a Buddhist ritual and was actually quite calming.
But soon, we were having to slalom between towers of books and the kitchen smelled like a bowl of cheap potpourri. Something had to be done.
It was at this point that my wife gave me “the look”. Get rid of Pipsi? Well, maybe she’d be happier elsewhere…
We mentioned it to a doggie friend. This guy is a serious dog person who actually raises money for canine charities. Plus, he knows a lot about the canine mind.
“She’s lonely,” he said.
“No she’s not. I’m there all day,” I countered.
“Well, she’s bored then,” he said.
I tried not to take that one personally.
He went on. “What you need is a second dog. They’ll keep each other company. They look after each other, really.”
We’ve enough trouble with one, I thought.
“What a great idea!” exclaimed my wife, giving me “the look”.