Tuesday 8 January 2013

Hoist those storm cones: it's the year of the dog

The Chinese believe we are in the year of the dragon, suggesting that they are about as much use as the ancient Mayans at drawing up calendars.

Because you only have to glance at The Journal to see that this is, without question, the year of the dog.

And they call it [remainder of caption vetoed by the cliche police]

You have already been treated to news of Tom Gutteridge’s puppy Boots (not the chemist) and Kate Fox’s Norbert (one can only admire the chutzpah of someone in her line of business selecting a name that is so damnably hard to fit into a rhyme scheme).

I can only apologise for being so pathetically unoriginal after a three week absence occasioned by a seasonal mix of illness and indolence, but on Friday we took delivery of our new Border terrier puppy, Dunstan.

Preparing to leave mum
Getting to know his surrogate Mum
Doing what puppies do best

The spelling is quite important because a number of people have already asked me why I am so attached to that place near Gateshead with the combustible staithes.

The choice is my attempt to continue the Northumbrian coastal theme I began 11 years ago when I named my incumbent Border terrier Craster. He has duly evolved into the world class kipper that I was wittily anticipating, after those first few difficult years of mania, destructiveness and aggression.

A very rare shot of Craster not asleep or drenched in the summer of 2012

My first thought for the new puppy’s name was Warkworth, but I then foresaw a canine lifetime of confusion with the prospect of a refreshing constitutional.

Mrs Hann, who is by nature a cat person, has bought one of those advice books on what to do with puppies, from which I now know that I have been doing almost everything wrong over the last half century of dog ownership.

This is no doubt why my dogs have never respected or obeyed me, only complying with my requests on those rare occasions when they happen to coincide with what they were planning to do anyway at the time.

The worst aspect of this is being congratulated, whenever I collect Craster from kennels, on having such a charming and biddable pet. Making clear that he actually knows all the usual commands and how to respond to them, but simply isn’t prepared to do so for me.

Craster cheerfully ignored his new assistant for the first couple of days, until the true horror of the situation finally dawned on him and he grasped that this might be a permanent addition to the family rather than a casual visitor. At which point he made his views clear by lunging to bite the puppy’s head off when it tried to play with him.

Luckily we have extensive experience of this sort of behaviour after bringing our three-year-old son Charlie the precious gift of a younger brother last February.

In an attempt to reduce the number of random attacks on baby Jamie, Mrs Hann had the bright idea before Christmas of commissioning one of those bespoke online videos from Father Christmas. Santa duly opened his book on Charlie and noted that he had been mainly good through the year, but really needed to be a bit nicer to his younger brother if he wanted to maximise the haul in his stocking. 

Charlie took this in with rapt attention, then fixed his brother with a venomous look that clearly conveyed that no one likes a grass. He faithfully promised to be a model brother to Jamie in the future, then gave him a hearty kick up the backside when he thought we weren’t paying attention.

Mummy warned Charlie that any more of this would land him on the naughty step, to which he calmly replied, “While I’m on the naughty step, will you please make sure that Jamie doesn’t touch any of my toys?”

My brother got a Scalextric set and they gave me THIS?

I have a nasty feeling that the naughty step doesn’t work with Border terriers, while Mrs Hann has vetoed the shouting, screaming and corporal punishment that were the mainstays of both childrearing and pet training when I was growing up myself.

Assuming that UN peacekeepers or a drone strike are also out of the question, prospects for the remainder of the year of the dog look suspiciously like the political forecasts for the coalition: decidedly stormy.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

CC said...

Wishing a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all the Hanns 2 and 4 footed.