Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Calamity Janet isn’t impressed with Hullabaloo

My auntie Janet had a stern word with me late one evening on her recent visit to South Africa, on the subject of my ill-bred animals. ‘They shouldn’t, for instance, be sitting on the furniture – where your guests might like to sit,’ she pointed out, nodding her head meaningfully at the inside sofa, where the Wobbly Dog and Flossie the Lost Child were peacefully bedded down (while, it must be said, we perched on uncomfortable bar stools).

But I didn’t realise quite how appalled she was until we popped in to visit old friends, Sally and Francois, at their home in Franschhoek. Sally and Francois have lovely animals – among them, Sabre, a gazillion-year-old Rottweiler-cross who, having left his obnoxious leg-humping days behind him too long ago to count, now moves slowly but cheerfully from room to room, delighting in growing old with those he loves; and a new addition, Okey-Dokey.

Okey-Dokey looks precisely like Hullabaloo, only he’s short-haired – and what a little darling he is! Obviously a well-brought-up creature, he doesn’t jump, lick, eat sofas, swim in the pool then roll around on the beds, steal food off tables, disembowel cushions or any of the other countless heinous crimes that can be attributed on a daily basis to Hullabaloo. Janet was entirely charmed by him.

As we were leaving, Francois happened to mention that Okey-Dokey (who’s still a young dog) hadn’t yet quite got the hang of house-training. ‘He still poos in the house now and again,’ he said.

I tutted sympathetically. ‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘My little darling took about six months to house-train…’

I was interrupted by a howling sound that I thought only people having their limbs sawn off could make. It was Janet, in a state of loud disbelief. ‘House-trained?’ she hooted. ‘House-trained??!! I’ve seen monkeys better house-trained than your dogs! Your dogs are completely wild! Wild, I tell you!’

Fearing the onset of an aneurysm (you never know with Janet), I quickly ushered her out of Francois and Sally's house.

But it must be admitted that when I looked anew at these pics of our pasta evening, I realised that Janet may, indeed, have a point. It could be that it isn’t normal to have your animals (in this case, Kali, a visiting ridgeback, and Maui, one of the resident cats) join you at (or, okay, on) the dinner table.

(Interestingly, by the time Janet had been in our house for about 24 hours, Hullabaloo suddenly began behaving impeccably. I asked Janet if she’d employed violence or other not-officially-approved methods of discipline in my absence, and she denied it vociferously. But I have to wonder.)

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