Sunday, 30 January 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side: or 'Rizza's Coming to a Lap Dog Dancing Club Near You'.

Last Saturday my best friend Rizza went on a journey. While I was cowering from a police helicopter, he was out on the town rizzing it up (that's a new word I made up).  

It started when his owner won big at the bookies and, in celebration, got so drunk that he passed out upon his return home. Rizza found him lying unconscious in the hall, door ajar with the keys still in the lock, a bulging wallet dropped on the floor beside him. Rizza was in shock. He didn't know what to do. He'd never seen so much money before. For a moment he was torn: revive his master or fulfill a life-long ambition of getting his end away at a lap dog dancing club in Glasgow. What should he do? He looked at his master, then at the wallet. There was no choice. "Diamond-Dogs, here I come." 

Picking up the wallet in his mouth, he made his way to the bus stop at the foot of the road. A short queue of scantily dressed Foxbarians in high heels (and little else) were wiggling their bums up the stairs of a single decker, claiming child fares, despite carrying quarter bottles of vodka in their tiny handbags, beside their fake IDs. Rizza bounced up the steps unnoticed as the girls argued with the driver, who wanted them to pay full fare.

Rizza was quite excited. It showed, so the girls sat further back on the bus. He had a window seat, but was unable to see out due to the condensation. He nosed an eyehole and watched with one eye as the world sped by. Rizza isn't as well travelled as me so quickly found himself in unknown territory. If he failed to spot the 'Diamond-Dogs' logo anywhere he'd have to use his nose to sniff out the doggy knocking shop. "Shouldn't be all that difficult", he thought, "all those bitches in heat". 

A drunk man sat down beside him, fingerless gloves clutching a can of strong lager, which poked out of a brown paper bag. "Nice doggy," he slurred. 

Rizza growled and turned to face him. The man's eyes widened. A hand stretched slowly towards Rizza's mouth, drawn to the prize despite the surrounding danger. Rizza bared his teeth and repeated the growl. However Rizza knew he had a problem. He would have to drop the wallet to bite the man. At the same moment, the man was thinking if he took the wallet the dog would bite him. The stand off continued for many stops as both parties pondered the stalemate. If it hadn't been for the distraction of the Foxbar tarts making their way to the front of the bus, Rizza would have been stuck. With the drunk's head turned, Rizza jumped on his lap, catching him on the genitals with both front paws then rear paws and bounced off to follow his new best buddies from the bus. The winded drunk dropped his can, splattering his shoes, and cursed. "Serves him right," thought Rizza, "With those kind of thoughts he deserves to be on a Sex Offenders' Register." 

Brandishing their fake IDs, the girls hustled past two bouncers into a noisy pub leaving Rizza on his own. He looked around. No sign of 'Diamond-Dogs'. He sniffed for trails along to an alleyway then headed along it, attracted by the interesting mix of smells: human urine, rat poo and the kitchens of a couple of takeaway restaurants. His meanderings continued for a couple of hours with no joy. He should have had a better plan. A few concerned revellers pointed at him as he wandered the back streets but no one offered him directions to the club of his dreams.

He never did find it. Suddenly a loop of cord appeared around his neck, quickly tightening before he could realise and react. A dog warden had him in his dog grabber. Rizza found himself guided towards a van, then lifted into a cage at the back using Kevlar-reinforced gloves. A short drive later, he was in a concrete room with one glass wall and a bowl of water for company.

As Rizza had never been chipped this could have been the end of our friendship. Fortunately Rizza still had the wallet and thus ID. And inside there were sufficient funds to pay the fine hefted upon his owner for allowing his dog to roam free.

Rizza apologised to me. I was a bit bemused by this because he hadn't done anything to me. Then I thought maybe it was because, with Guido dying, he didn't want me to be left 'best-friendless'. Then Rizza explained that the whole police helicopter incident had been his fault. When his owner awoke and found his wallet gone, his head aching, he'd naturally assumed he'd been mugged and phoned the police. Hence the search party.

I wasn't angry with him. I think his little adventure had actually given him a bit of a fright. He still maintains however that one day he'll find his 'Diamond-Dogs'. And who am I to dissuade him? We've all got to have our dreams.  

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Sands of Time (for me) are Running Low

Saturday night.


I'm cowering in my bed. A police helicopter is hovering low above the garden, its rotor blades punishingly loud. A spotlight beams across the kitchen, searching for a fugitive from justice. I'm hidden, out of sight, beneath the breakfast bar. At any second I expect armed response officers to abseil down from the chopper and burst in through the double glazing, with orders to take me out. It's the one time I honestly don't want to be taken out. And all because of this picture.

I know at first sight it looks like someone has bruised a sketch of a puppy Springer Spaniel on my mistress' leg but apparently 'I' did that. My lawyer has advised me against publishing the evidence for the prosecution but I feel I must explain the mitigating circumstances. This is not one of the hundreds of dog attacks that occur every year. This was an accident. Let me explain.

I was being walked round the road beside the cricket pitch by my mistress, minding my own business, not paying too much attention to my surroundings, when all of a sudden I find sneaked up behind me a nasty West Highland Terrier who's gnashing his teeth and giving me chin. I respond with equal aggression, whirring round to meet him, only to find the mistress has interposed herself between us and my jaw meets with her thigh. I get one hell of a fright (as did she) and immediately back down. The little Westie smiles and walks on, whiter than white, job done. He'd provoked me into committing a heinous crime. Next I would be on the news, hounded by reporters and threatened with execution.

The walk back home was painful for both of us. I felt ashamed and she was trying to hide a limp. I'd drawn blood. That meant she had the right to request that I be put down. And at that moment I felt like I probably deserved it. But looking back it wasn't my fault. If that Westie hadn't been goading me it wouldn't have happened. I wasn't looking for a fight. He started it. He was to blame.

Not a very good defence, though, is it? The teeth marks speak for themselves. I wanted to apologise but what could I say? "Sorry" doesn't really cut it. "I promise I won't do it again". Correct when you're dead! When we got back to the house I went straight to my bed, without looking for a treat or my dinner, while she went upstairs to examine the damage. 

Over the next few days nothing was said in front of me but I could hear them whispering. The master took over walking duty, allegedly because the mistress was working late. Whenever our eyes met, the mistress had a cold, disappointed look. I kept out her way. I didn't even approach her for her final crust of breakfast toast. I reckoned my time was up. Which brings us back to now.

The spotlight makes another sweep across the kitchen, this time from the other window. I start to cry. I don't deserve to die. I'm too young. The kitchen door opens. It's the mistress. She's come to give me up. She crosses to the window and peers up. I'm sure she's about to shout, "Down here!" when instead she crouches down beside me, wincing slightly, and pats me on the head. She looks me straight in the eye and tells me not worry. "It's probably a burglar they're after, or a vandal." She waits with me till the helicopter moves off, allowing me to lick the moisturiser gently from her fingers and palm. There's a bit of Savlon on them too. She must have been dressing her wound. I hope she gets better soon.  

Sunday, 16 January 2011

No Fish

It's been an odd week.

On Monday I found some lovely fresh horse poo. It came back on me dreadfully but tasted delicious. Rich in carrots. In the car back from the Glen I regretted rolling in it though. A bit too fresh. I was caked in it. When we got back to the house and the mistress remarked about the smell, I didn't wait. With my lead still trailing, I trotted up the stairs, pushed open the bathroom door and jumped into the bath. The master and mistress howled with laughter. I was just expediting the inevitable. I knew it was bath time. 

On Tuesday I was rewarded with some chips at the park. I found them behind the cafe. Then later I found a nearly whole sliced white loaf in a bin near the putting green. I polished off about ten slices before my hind legs began to feel weak. I think I ate too much. It was awful. I could see the other five slices but my stomach had no more room. My master was concerned when he found me lying down beside them. Not flat out, but on my tummy. He clipped on my lead and checked me over. I burped. He told me it would serve me right if I got ill but I can't help it. I'm a food addict.

All that bread had left me dry and thirsty. I needed a drink. The pond was still frozen so I had to make do with licking at a puddle. I was thinking: if I'd found a little deep fried fish my supper would have qualified as a fish tea. Not that I had any room for fish, or Bonio, as it turned out. A couple of licks and I thought no, I'm going to be sick. And I was.

That meant I was back on the Chappie and scrambled egg for a couple of days and no off-lead walks. I don't enjoy walking on a lead. It's not natural. It makes me nervous, being leashed to a human. You can't relax and enjoy the walk, taking in the smells at your leisure. They're only interested in avoiding a fine for failing to scoop your poop. I'm surprised they haven't invented a special poo pouch to stop it reaching the ground. Or maybe they have. I've never met another dog with a colostomy pouch but they might exist. I imagine it would be quite difficult to attach one to the coat. The owners would probably argue over whose turn it was to change the bag. I wonder if having a colostomy would change my scent. When my friends nip round my rear to say hello if the well was dry would it smell different? Probably. 

Not really the thought I wanted to leave you with, so instead I'll end with a confession. It's shocking and I'm not proud of it but I feel I have to clear my conscience (in case it goes to court): I bit my mistress. She has a bruise and everything.

I'll explain what happened next time.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Big Chill Addendum

So in an attempt to make some sense of Guido's death, I've been doing some digging around the Internet for something to explain what happened to my friend. I found something that could be entirely unrelated. I also need to make clear that I don't know what medicine Guido had been given for the treatment of his depression.

There's a medicinal product called 'Reconcile', available in the U.S. for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs. It has now been granted a licence for use in the U.K. The press here have heralded it as "Prozac for pets" because both 'Prozac' and 'Reconcile' contain fluoxetine as their main ingredient. In humans 'Prozac' is used as an antidepressant. 

Fluoxetine belongs to a class of drugs known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). In humans, the use of SSRIs has been linked with suicidal thought and ideation, particularly in children and young adults. When using these drugs these patient groups need careful monitoring in case they start to display symptoms which could lead to an attempt to kill themselves. These are medical facts found in the drug literature. Yet no mention of this is found in the safety information of the pet version of the drug.

Was there no evidence of this in dogs when they conducted their trials or did the researchers discount the possibility? I ask the question: "if a human can be driven to suicide by this drug, why can't a dog?"

I realise I'm clutching at straws. The painful thing about losing a friend in this manner is being left with all these unanswered questions, trying to make sense of the nonsensical. It's unlikely Guido had been on "Reconcile" as I don't believe it's available in the U.K. yet. But he was receiving something. Could it have changed him into believing he wanted to die? Is medicine responsible for the death of my friend? I'm left with more unanswered questions.

Are these questions important? Do they change anything? With the unlikelihood of ever finding the answers, would it not be better to move on and cheer up?  Maybe I could find some cow poo and roll in it. I'd like that. It would have made Guido laugh. 

I suppose what I'm saying is I need time to 'reconcile' my loss, not medication.

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Big Chill (Part Two)

I received some awful news today from Rizza: our old guide dog pal, Guido, was dead.

He was knocked down by a gritter. I still can't quite believe it. Of all the dogs in this world Guido should have known better. He was trained to know better. I asked if there was any chance that Rizza could have been mistaken. He told me he had smelled the blood on the road himself. He'd heard first hand the tearful account from Guido's owners to Rizza's. He'd felt the increasing discomfort of being inside Guido's house, surrounded by so many old smells of the dog himself, realising he was gone forever. Tears flowed from both of us as he told me.

They'd said that Guido had been suffering quite badly in the cold, his arthritis really playing up, and that he'd appeared so depressed the vet had started him on pet antidepressants. It seemed so out of character for him to wander into the road with no justification. They wondered if the pills had muddled his mind in some way. It didn't change anything though. Guido was never coming back.

Rizza speculated that it sounded like suicide. I argued that that was ridiculous. There's no such thing as pet suicide. The survival instinct always kicks in. When I'd been a stray I'd not been happy but I'd never wanted not to wake up. I'd never felt like giving in.

Rizza argued back that that was because I'd been young and didn't know any differently. You couldn't want to die without understanding what death was. At that age I had no experience of death so wasn't aware of the option. For me there was only life and that was how it should be. But how could we know how we'd feel when we were old, knowing that most of our life lay behind us. Maybe Guido decided upon which road his final journey lay. Maybe he even picked the vehicle. Maybe it was his choice.

I felt this to be utterly preposterous, yet couldn't dismiss it entirely. At the back of my mind, an uncertainty niggled, fuelled by the many unanswered questions that would always remain. After all, we hadn't spoken to him in a while, due to the prolonged cold spell; we didn't know how he'd been feeling. We'd always wonder if there was anything we could have done to prevent it. 

At times like this, your friends and family become so important. You need them around to share the grief and lessen the pain. And you hold a mirror to your own life and reflect upon what you've achieved. Personally, I've always lived for the moment. I've had fun destroying squeaky toys, running fast and guzzling snacks. I'm loved by my owners but I've no chance of a family of my own (unless I adopt, which I've no plans to do). This blog (and some photo gifts created by my mistress) are probably the only lasting things that will survive me and even then only noticed by a few. I pondered my legacy.

Rizza seemed thoughtful too. He came closer, sniffed behind my ear and whispered softly he needed my friendship now more than ever. His face gently nudged my neck. I glanced into his big, teary eyes and nearly weakened. As I hesitated, his pupils widened. He licked his lips and made for my rear. At that point I could have succumbed but instinctively I spun round. Instead of biting him, though, I licked his face, a consolation for declining his 'comfort doggy'. He wasn't a bad friend. He was just wanting to ease the hurt like a boy dog does. I continued to lick away the salt from his face and his eyes and he liked it. He rolled onto his back and wagged his docked tail. I wasn't going to lick anywhere else though, even if it was protruding and whiffy in a salty way.

We remained silent for a time, pondering the implausible. We were missing a corner of our triangle. Guido will always be in our memories. We'll chat and play again in our thoughts and dreams. In dog heaven we will be reunited, but not yet.

Farewell Guido, guide dog, retired. I'll miss you forever.

Guido R.I.P. 1998-2010