Thursday, 16 April 2009

Puppies: a once-in-a-lifetime experience

There’s a woman in our village who has six children and I’ve never really got, you know, why. I mean, any romantic illusions about the sanctity of childbirth and motherhood are so thoroughly ripped through their own bum by the time you’ve actually delivered your first child and then spent six weeks permanently awake that there should be Just No Way you’ll have another. (There is a very good reason, I believe, that most women in labour, no matter how meek under normal circumstances, scream at their husbands, ‘You fucker! If you ever come near me again I’ll tear your head off and feed it to a snake!’ It’s a moment of pure, sublime truth.)

I had my second child by mistake (these things happen). Boy, do I adore her; but, goodness me, did I not want to have her at the time. (And she richly rewarded my iffiness by being the most hellacious baby ever to have arrived on the planet.)

And now I have Puppy – the Monster Baby. She is, as all our children, furry or fleshy, always are, immensely beautiful and clever. But golly gosh is she driving me stark staring insane. There isn’t a thing left in the house that she hasn’t dismembered, left needle-sharp toothmarks in or eaten in its entirety (including most of a sofa); peed, pood or vomited on; dragged about until it’s utterly broken; or brought the rotten corpses of small dead garden creatures (moles, frogs, pigeons) in on to, to irredeemably sully and stain. She has worked out how to open most cupboards and by this sneaky expedient recently found my stash of Super-Cs, which she quickly guzzled before anyone could take them away, and then had such a sugar rush that she was actually moving a bit faster than the human eye could follow. I am still cleaning up the fallout from that little party.

She takes long, luxurious snoozes all day (in between terrorising the cats and the chickens, falling in the pool, tearing open the garbage bags and scattering scum the length and breadth of the garden, eating the washing straight off the line, finding ever more ingenious ways to escape the property and - her current favourite - getting up on the kitchen counter and hysterically gobbling everything in reach before she’s caught) and then bounces off the walls all night. When there isn’t a household cat shrieking in alarm because it’s been ambushed by her in frenzy of midnight playfulness, she’s barking joyously at 2am because she’s just so damned glad to be alive. (Which is when I put the pillow over my head and think grimly, ‘Not for long.’)

Thing is, it’s groovy to have a puppy. Sure, they’re cute – cute as hell. I can’t describe what happens to my heart when, in nanosecond moments, my Monster Baby lies still long enough for me to stroke her fuzzy head and look into her mischievous sparkly eyes; I adore her puppy gangliness and how that fact that she hasn’t yet quite figured out how all her legs work together makes her skid across the verandah with an expression of excited bewilderment on her whiskery face; I’m so proud of her when, at all of three months old, she sits with perfect obedience before she gets her dinner; and even if it is at 5am, I just dig waking up to a little being who is so excited to begin the day that she literally cannot wait.

But, god! FIVE AYE EM! Demolished sofas! Vomit on the kilims! Nothing put down on any surface safe for longer than it takes you to go and have a pee! Cellphones lost and found frustrating hours later, pitted with toothmarks, down the bottom of the garden! Hens so plain pissed-off they won’t lay! Cats who sneer at you even more than they did before Monster Baby arrived! Friends who put up with the mayhem for about 20 minutes and then say irritably, ‘Muriel, shouldn’t you be doing something about this dog?’

Well, yes. Not getting another one, that’s what I’m doing. Puppies, like children, have limited appeal. You can only have one once. Or, if you’re careless or naïve or just plain stupid, twice. But beyond that, it’s your funeral. (Or, at the very least, your sofa’s.)

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