Friday, 4 May 2018

Pets and a crowded bed

Among many other aspects, the history of my marriage has been one of decreasing dog size.

When I first met Danielle, she had a couple of Borzois, Taiga and Sador. These Russian wolfhounds stood to well above our waists and covered territory with extraordinary speed in chase of prey, though they were also, as it happens, unusually gentle, even timid, creatures.

They slept on the other side of the bedroom from where we lay on a low bed – basically a mattress on the floor – but would come and flop onto the bed as soon as either of us showed the slightest sign of waking up. And when I say ‘flop’, I mean flop: they’d just let themselves fall sideways on top of their victim, and when a Borzoi flops on you, you’re left in no doubt it’s happened.

After our marriage, we had a border collie, Bess, we liked so much that we eventually added another, Floss. You think there was a pattern to our naming of them? You wouldn’t be wrong.

Border collies are brilliant and highly trainable, as well as strong-willed and devious enough to get their way when they set their mind to it. They stand about thigh height. Of all our dogs, they were the toughest and they got the toughest treatment: we built them a run outside the house and they slept there, with nothing better than a kennel to retreat to in the cold. But they flourished in that regime: they’re sheepdogs and don’t belong indoors.

Later on, while we were living in Strasbourg, we decided it was the moment to have a Puli. Well, to tell the truth, we decided we wanted a poodle, and travelled to Budapest where many are bred and, at the time at least, the prices were competitive. But when we got there, we found there were no puppies to be had so we settled for a Puli, Janka, instead – frankly, we fell for the dreadlocks and the beautiful disposition (though I have to say, that heavy pelt did occasionally reek just a bit…) She came about nearly to our knees.

Janka was an indoor dog, sleeping on a mat in our bedroom.
Janka was always good at making friends
In this case, with our granddaughter Aya
Now we do indeed have a couple of poodles, Luci and Toffee. That’s poodles of the toy variety: tiny little dogs that barely reach mid-calf (and even lower in Toffee’s case). And the inevitable has happened: they sleep on our bed.

This is, I admit, primarily my fault. I seem to have become remarkably soft-hearted towards our pets. ‘Oh, let them sleep there,’ I say, ‘they don’t take much space’.

That’s true enough. As Danielle points out, however, they chiefly like to feel the presence of both of us at the same time. That means that, even if she kicks them to the bottom of the bed where they really wouldn’t disturb us (yes, she’s the disciplinarian), they sneak back as soon as they think we won’t notice and lie between us or, often, on us. They may not weigh much, but after a while, even a small weight can get irritating if it’s right on top of you. And you’re trying to sleep.

The mornings are fun, too. The moment one of us stirs, they’re on to us like lightning. The right thing to do, they’ve calculated, once one of their humans wake, is to jump on top and start licking a face. Well, there’s only one of us whose face they lick: they know that Danielle would soon mete out terrible punishment if they tried that trick on her, so I’m the only one to get my face slobbered before I’ve even had coffee.

Conditions in bed become still worse if our cat, Misty, decides to join us, too. Then there’s a little competition between the three of them. Competition tends to be (a) noisy and (b) fidgety, making it a source of disturbance on both counts.

It got to the point that I began to feel a little guilty at having given in to the dogs’ obvious desire to sleep on our bed. Danielle was quite mocking, frankly. Especially when they refused even to make the effort to jump onto the bed and one or other of us had to get up to lift them onto it.

‘Perhaps I ought to get a bit tougher,’ I began to think, ‘and see if there’s any way of getting them to sleep somewhere else. Just for Danielle’s sake.’

But all such feelings of guilt evaporated when one day she revealed a new purchase she’d just made.
Staircase to heaven (or at least bed) for them
To something more like purgatory for us
A set of nice wool covered steps – ideal for a small dog to get up onto the bed.

She was encouraging them to join us!

And there was I feeling guilty. Wondering whether I owed it to her to put an end to this abuse of our sleeping arrangements. While all the time she was subverting them herself.

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘screw that for a game of soldiers,’ and rolled over on my side to enjoy my rest undisturbed by any pangs of conscience.

Having kicked the little ones out of my bit of the bed beforehand, of course.

Occupation forces. In full force.

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