I am always enchanted by Eric Brad’s articles on dog training at the same time as I feel a bit of a failure because I have never been able to train Morwen.
I have always had Border Collies so have had a relatively easy life as they are very obedient and seem genetically inclined to do anything to please the master. Not so Madam Morwen.
I always thought that the fault lay with the fact that she was raised in kennels for 12 weeks before I could go and collect her so she was a bit institutionalised. I knew she was born with a bar sinister on her escutcheon (on the wrong side of the blanket) and no one knew who her Dad was unlike Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London whose ancestors were Royal bastards. The result is the same – he can’t become King (at least, I hope not!) and Morwen cannot be registered in the Kennel Club, although my husband tells everyone that ‘Bugger off, Morwen’ is her Kennel Club name. I believe that part of the problem with her is this bit of in-breeding.
As she has lost her eyesight, things have got worse. There is a lot of hysterical barking mostly on cue. Opening a cupboard door signifies I am going to clean something and we get the Pavlovian response to a Kennel maid – everyone yaps and barks. Hoovering drives her mad as does digging the garden, shaking out the tablecloth, rug, blankets or duvets. Hanging out the washing, folding the ironing, plumping cushions, spray polishing the furniture, moving a chair also provokes a stream of doggy vituperative barking akin to ‘For XXXX’s sake, stop that XXXXXX noise’. Where does she learn all these bad words and this laddish behaviour? (or should that be Lassie-ish behaviour?). Scrunching paper is another irritant because it signifies a fire is about to be lit.
I put her in the car for the duration of my housework because she is a big nuisance. Now that blindness has overtaken her, nothing is allowed. Opening a door to get the dishes now signifies feeding time, so she trundles off at her best old-lady speed to survey her bowl. If she finds it empty, the complaining goes on for an hour or until we brave the furious barking. To no avail do we cry ‘Leave it!’ or ‘Drop it!’, we have to brace ourselves to wrest the bowl from between her paws and hide it. However, she is still capable of growling over the empty space. This even happens if she has just been fed. Recently, emptying the dishwasher has set her off because the clink of dishes alone is promising and tapping a mixing spoon on the side of the bowl causes a cacophony of canine controversy.
In order to gauge the winds of change correctly, she places herself strategically across doorways so that we have to step over her but has the unfortunate habit of trying to leap to her feet grumpily as we are halfway across and snapping very bad-temperedly at our heels if we manage it. She crouches in the bathroom, which is opposite her bowl, and pokes her bared fangs around the door to savage my ankles if I walk past the bowl. During the course of an evening, she will awake from doggy slumbers three or four times to shout out ‘What the XXXX is going on? Where the XXXX am I?
Whatever happened to sweet old lady doggies, grateful for a lifetime of good food and Vet care? Probably the same as happened to sweet old ladies: they get tired and confused, forget their pills, forget they have eaten, forget to wash, can’t remember which bit is aching or what they were about to do. There are no residential care homes for doggies though.
I just hope she ‘goes’ without my having to take the decision with the Vet. How can you decide if she would be better off in the Great Kennel in the Sky?