Okay, it’s time to write this post. I’ve caved after another afternoon spent trying to stay upright in ankle deep mud with a powerful dog flailing round on the lead at the end of my arm.
It’s a little thing really, but it bugs me more than anything else as a dog owner. Yes I think it’s symptomatic of wider issues but we won’t go into that right now.
I know my dog. I think I am a very responsible dog owner. Since Bailey came into my care nearly 4 years ago a lot of time and money has been spent getting him trained and analysed so that I can continue to take care of him, and know, for as long as possible.
He is a rescue and it’s clear that before he was in my life he wasn’t socialised properly and that unknown incidents left traumatic residue that he has never overcome, despite the constant care and attempts. 18 months into having him, he was attacked by a huge mastiff while on his lead, and that was the final straw. Now. He can barely deal with any dogs.
It’s sad, but he’s part Akita, and his personality is lone. He adores people, but prefers his own company to that of other dogs. It’s part early socialising, part breed. With his dog pals and those he doesn’t get freaked out by he has a quick sniff and he’s gone, on his way, to do his own thing.
Why this backstory? All will become clear.
So, because he is soooo unpredictable with other dogs he spends most of his life on the lead unless we are in a space I can see all angles within and stop him bolting. So, no town beaches, no parks. Yeah, I live in Cornwall, it’s hard. Three or four days a week we head off somewhere more remote so he can walk relaxed.
If I see another dog off the lead he immediately goes on his lead. If he is already on the lead I stop, momentarily. Yep, we are getting to the point. If possible, 9 times out of 10 it is, I lead him away, practicing avoidance, trying to get as far away from the other dog as is safely possible. If this means mud, brambles, puddles, so be it. I don’t care. If it’s not. I sit him. And stand in close to him. Between him and the dog but so he can see. And I grip his harness.
My dog is massive, and he’s strong. And he doesn’t like dogs in his face. He can’t deal with it, he freaks out, which leads to anger and aggression. I know this. I do all I can to ensure another dog doesn’t get near him. Two reasons. 1, I don’t want him attacking another dog. 2, I don’t want him upset or anxious or freaked out. He’s my world.
I spend the entirety of my walks with him both aware of him and also every other dog.
I’ve found a number of walks where he can roam free on path, cliff, field or beach and so I can enjoy our long walks too, but obviously in a place like Cornwall, a county flowing freely with wonderful canines, it’s not always possible.
So what happens? Well, more often than not and I am talking probably 90% of the time the dog off the lead races over, or saunters over, and wants to say hello, sniff, play etc. Obviously. They are energetic and curious and Bailey doesn’t like it. His hackles go up, he rears up and I pull him to me, he growls. He freaks out.
The same 90% of the time the owner of the dog off the lead says “Oh, he/she’s fine”.
Yep. I know your dog probably is fine. I can see that. I saw your dog and put mine on the lead/avoided you massively.
I reply “Well, he’s not great, he’s very unpredictable”.
10%* of the people who haven’t seen me put him on the lead, or drag him into a bush/swamp, call their dog off and apologise.
25%* call their dog off, but the dog doesn’t listen, either because they don’t listen to their owners (because down here I bet they rarely get called off approaching other dogs) or because the owners attempts to call them are weak and pathetic and they may as well not have bothered. Again, see the note in brackets above, it applies. So Bailey goes ballistic and we have to wait until the other dog has enough or Bailey gets close enough that the dog KNOWS it had better shove off.
The other 65%* do nothing. They allow their dog to do what it pleases, under the dictum that their dog is fine.
*Percentages are approximate.
That’s cool. I am happy for you. My beautiful dog was rescued from a life of hell and is adored and wonderful but he isn’t fine. And if you were to look at any of the signs in that 30 seconds before your dog arrived in his grill, you’d see that. He is clearly distressed. One look would tell you, and he’s huge, you can’t miss the signs. I put him on the lead, I walked him away.
Yes, I may have assumed your dog wasn’t fine and did it for my dog’s protection but look at my dog. Glance. And think, oh, maybe he doesn’t want my placid and playful labrador, collie, husky jumping around freely in front of him.
The difficulty is that it’s a courtesy thing and it’s mostly selfish on my part. The other owners are not irresponsible owners. Clearly they have good dogs. I am aware of my responsibility because I have a troubled dog and take it very seriously. What I can’t understand is that if you love dogs, why would you want to see another dog distressed and scared and anxious?
Why not just get your dog to leave him alone, so he can sit and watch your dog saunter by at a distance, and we can all just go on with our walks?
I know the law isn’t on my side. I practice diligent precaution taking because I know, that if he got the chance, he may do serious damage, albeit out of fear, to another dog. I don’t want that, for him or the other dog.
I’m not asking much am I? For you to just glance over and think about the other dog in the scenario and think, oh, we will leave him be. It’s taking a tiny step outside your own scenario, a tiny gesture of concern for another dog. You wouldn’t be doing it for me, but my boy.
I love my dog. Remembering it was the 3rd anniversary of Bailey coming into our lives I watched him snoozing in the sun and went to sort out stuff for work this afternoon, thinking, I must blog about the anniversary, as I have the last 2 years.
When I hear a rustling. And I go back into the garden and he has bitten through a bin bag and pulled out the salmon wrapper and is licking it transparent. He looks at me and I at him and he knows he is in trouble. I say ‘naughty boy’ and he immediately takes himself off to his bed.
3 years and 2 days ago, if you would have said to me I would write about a dog licking fish wrappers I would have laughed. Heartily. But as I have mentioned countless times, this pup changed my life.
Me and the boy are currently 300 miles away from Roma. He is with me for a fortnight while I am working. You may or may not know that I have a new job, in Cornwall, by the sea. It’s part time now, but I hope soon it’s full time. So we can all be together again. Living our dream.
It’s been a bittersweet couple of weeks. I’ve loved having him with me, even if it’s been super stressful because we are both guests in someone’s house. Not helped by returning the first day I left him on his own to find he had eaten an entire box of unopened Jordan’s country crunch cereal. The cardboard remnants of the box he had taken off the counter were strewn across the kitchen and he sat doe-eyed on his bed.
The bitter part is because I want us all together, as a family. But he has alleviated some of the loneliness I’ve felt acclimatising to a new life with no wife and no money, and going back and forth.
Since Cerealgate, as for the past three years, he has been a joy. Such a good boy. A wonderful companion. I still cannot believe the impact he has had on me as a person, as an artist.
And I can’t believe how happy he makes me. He is not quite the water puppy Roma dreamed of yet, but with every passing visit to the beach he gets more and more adventurous, and when we find more secluded beaches and I am swimming for hours, it will no doubt become second nature.
It’s been weird living here on my own for the past couple of months, realising how integral to my happiness Bailey, and the way of life he has introduced to me, has become. This past fortnight has been a glimpse of my future, our family future, and I love it, and am excited. He’s my boy. He’s changed everything, and I am so grateful to him.
I look at Bailey, our chaos dog, still, and think, you’re our dog. You’re our boy, part of our family. Wow.
I can’t believe it. I really can’t believe I’ve been a dog owner for two years, and that in that time my whole life and personality and outlook and emotional core has changed so much.
I’m a different person, because of Bailey. Along with Roma, he is my solace, and in the past few months has been my core sanctuary. Our time in the fields, with nature, has been the only thing that has kept me from madness. He has been a Godsend.
It’s been a tough couple of years. He has had some nasty outbursts with other dogs, particularly after being attacked by a Bull Mastiff. We have gone through many different approaches, as he is mostly unsociable, due to the incident with the mastiff and something from prior to his arrival with us, that we will never know about, and would need Cesar Milan to fix.
But he is wonderful. He is loved, by mine and Roma’s families, who dote on him, by our friends, by our Godchildren and by strangers, who constantly stop to admire him. And he laps it up, with mischief.
I’m smiling just thinking about him now, upstairs asleep with the love of my life, as I write this. He brings such joy to my life - he keeps me honest, creative, dedicated and focused. He calms me, raises me, infuriates me.
I am not ready for the day he won’t be with us. I never will be.
I can’t believe it’s been two years. In fact, it was two years on May 21. I forgot it. Bad Daddy. But he is just so much a part of the fabric of our lives, it’s like he has been here forever, and yet it’s only two years. I am a different person now. I’m happier now. I live more now. There are things I need to change about myself, and I’m in the process of doing that, but my life is full of love. And a lot of it comes from my biglittle pup.
Happy Birthday Mr. B.
I Love You.
Eureka! I’ve worked it out! Thank you Beginners for revealing the secret formula!
Twee + Quirky x Plaintive Piano + [Dog] / (Dys)functional families - melancholy + philosophy x voiceover - sad artists / LANY + still photographs + 8mm x kooky artist friends + feelings - art
= Indie Film
I liked Plummer, and Visnijc, but otherwise it all felt so forced real and manipulated and ultimately false. Nothing like Mills’ previous Thumbsucker which I loved. So achingly earnest and wannabe hip. Left me utterly, utterly cold. Hence my cynical formula.
A year ago today my world changed. I never wanted a dog my whole life. It was a love concession for a wife who has wanted one since dot.
I figured life would change in terms of responsibility, getting up, routines, sacrifices and was fine with that. I had no idea how much my world would change though and change it has.
For the better. Oh so better.
Since we rescued our stray Chaos Dog, I’ve learned so much about myself, found a peace and humility I never dreamed of and seen my future in technicolour and full of tranquil joy.
(Disclaimer: Next bit is coated in saccharine).
I’d forgotten how beautiful our country is, how beautiful country is. I never realised how much my soul craves and appreciates a silence punctuated by birdsong and wind. I know no ill mood will last long because nature awaits and in every frame is this tongue out potterer who fills my heart with so much joy.
I’m surprised how much I’ve enjoyed this year, becoming a dog owner, training him, bonding with him, learning about him. I’m also surprised how quickly it all fell into a beautiful rhythm.
I’ve written a short film, 2 feature scripts, 2 PhD essays and he has so much to do with that, not only the wonderful writing pattern he has provided me with, but also the peace, the calm, the positivity, the joy.
I’m a different person. I thank my wife for making this happen, and I thank Bailey, a year on from getting him, for making me see (as Justin has always attested) that I do want the ‘classic’ writer life. Wife, Dog, Sea/Country. Simplicity bound up in furry beauty with a smiley face.
I wish Tom Hanks went back to being silly, for a while, just once maybe. Anyway
Remember in my thoughts on Sherlock Holmes where I said I wasn’t going soft. Well maybe I am. Watching this for the first time in years I was expecting a fun, Saturday night hokum fest. But, unlike the first time I saw it, now I’m a dog owner. Watching this film as a dog owner was a completely different experience for me.
First time, I watched it not really caring about the dog, this time, it was all I could see. I really am going soft.
Right, the film.
It’s fun. It’s harmless and predictable. Hanks is superb. Funny, charming and at the climax, with Hooch dying from a gunshot, he is incredibly moving. He’s such a fine actor and star.
In the opening credits I spotted that the film had 5 writers and 4 editors. None of them could turn this into a classic, but it is surprisingly coherent.
Unlike my short review here, which babbles at best.