Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cuddle last year's pup this Christmas

Pup of 2006 - Blanche-Neige de Neouvielle in November 2011

OK so she sometimes drives me round the twist, and it doesn't please me to know it's my own fault for accidentally encouraging her. She barks at every passing fly, eats everything unmentionable outdoors if I let her, and her habits in the kitchen would be great if she actually was the sous-chef she thinks she is - 'Mmm, that tastes good, a little more salt in that perhaps, and I'll just clear up this mess on the worktop here' (lick, slurp) 'OK, OK I'll lie down here like you've told me and just watch. Or maybe I'd rather lie down a bit nearer that cooker.' ( sneaky shuffle, lick, slurp)

What really takes me to the edge is her response to 'No, no, no.' She wags her tail and considers the matter. This means 'I hear you, just chill a bit while I decide what's best for both of us'. It's this independence of spirit that we all love - and hate - in a Pyrenean Mountain dog. Wouldn't it be lovely to start again with a cuddly fluffball puppy and get it right this time?

Despite all the advice, there will be puppies in new homes everywhere this Christmas. Here in France, the shelters are filling up with unwanted dogs. Yes, I'm sure that some of them are clearing the way for this year's puppy. Many shelters have even had open days just before Christmas from desperation at overcrowding, in hope that people will adopt a dog for Christmas - and not return it afterwards when it shows the qualities for which it was abandoned in the first place. The breeders I knew in the UK wouldn't let a puppy go to a new home until after Christmas; here I've seen puppies advertised as Christmas presents.

Yes, I'd love a puppy. But not instead of my puppy of 2006. We have a history together, nearly six years of learning each other's habits, good and bad. If she lies on her back and does kangaroo boxing with her back legs, while giving me 'the eye', that's an invitation to human-patou wrestling. If she has a sore spot, she trusts me to sort it for her. And if she tests me, that's for my own good, to keep me up to scratch. No puppy could replace her and she didn't replace the puppies before her. I'll be cuddling last year's puppy this Christmas.
by Pam Tanzey


Santa comes quietly long before dawn
While shops are still busy and lights are still on
While dinners are cooking and kitchens are warm
And children count presents they'll open by morn.

He slips past the trees in windows aglow
Through the gate to the backyard
As icy winds blow
To find the pup he brought last year
Chained up in the snow
And, kneeling, he whispers,
�Are you ready to go?�

There are too many stops like this one tonight
Before the beginning of his regular flight
He leaves not a note or footprint in sight
Just an unbuckled collar
On a cold Christmas night.....
This poem won the Maxwell Award for Excellence in Poetry
in 1998 from the Dog Writers Association of America

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