Thursday, March 17, 2022

The dog who came to dinner

 Michael - Thursday


Most people write about their own dogs (sometimes rather too much), but everyone loves a dog story. Since I don’t have a dog, I’m taking the opportunity to write about someone else’s dog – a gorgeous Golden Retriever named Dougal who belongs to the neighbours. I know Dougal well from frequent visits to their house. They did a great deal for me during lockdowns while I was on here my own, so when they mentioned they were going on holiday for a couple of weeks and would book Dougal into kennels, I wouldn’t hear of it.

“No, no, he must come and stay with us,” I said at once.

His owner looked at me as though I’d lost my marbles. “He sheds a lot,” she said with British restraint. “And he must have two walks each day. Are you sure you’ll cope?”

“Of course. It will be a pleasure!” How hard can it be to look after a dog for a couple of weeks? Even if he does shed – one simply vacuums, right? And have two walks every day, rain or shine – good exercise.

Ready to roll

So in due course Dougal arrived, took a good look around the house, and collapsed on a Persian carpet. Later, when he got up, his shape was still clearly visible on the rug. The first walk was a bit nerve wracking – would he climb into my car, would he try to run home, would he… But all was well.

Reading his p-mail

Dougal is a great fan of social media. No FaceBook-addict is more ready to drop whatever he’s doing and start communicating than Dougal is. Every tree, needs to be read. Every shrub. And he feels beholden to reply publically to every message posted. It’s hard to imagine a more dedicated Tweeter. Presumably, these posts are appreciated by his followers, although it seems only messages from bitches in season go viral...

A public post

He fell into a routine with no trouble at all, and wolfed his dinner on our return.

Until that night. One of our occasional thunder storms built up, and a single threatening rumble occurred.  Instantly, he was up and panting. He is terrified of thunder. Another rumble brought him over to us for comfort and support - and special pills supplied by his owners. These pills, we had been told, quickly sooth him. We gave him two, and he did seem to relax. We breathed a sigh of relief. I checked the bottle. The pills are a homeopathic remedy for humans.  At that moment, there was a new roll of thunder and Dougal was exactly as nervous as before.

So, of course, we couldn’t shut him out of the bedroom on his own that night. This helped enormously. He could go outside onto the patio to get weather updates and bark at any intruding bushbuck. (He completely ignores them during the day.) Then, when lightning struck (twenty miles away), he could rush in to wake us with the news.

The storm carried on all night.

Buck are ignored by day. They are not Followers

But by morning it was over, and Dougal was cheerful and ready for his walk. We dragged ourselves from sleepless beds.

A new challenge was ahead of us a few days later. I needed to take my car to the garage in George (about an hour’s drive away) and they would need it for the whole day. I had explicit instructions for this event.

“No problem. Take him to our house, put him on the deck (which has a covered section in case of bad weather), give him water, and leave him. He’ll be fine.” This was to be after his walk and breakfast, of course.

We tried. Dougal is a smart dog. He eyed the house. You could see the cogs moving. No one is there, he thought. Why are they taking me there? Nevertheless, because he has a lovely nature and to be a good sport, he climbed the stairs up to the lounge. Then we opened the door to the deck for him.

He sat down.

This is Dougal’s way of announcing that he’s not going anywhere. He weighs 50 kg and this move is hard to counter. He would never think of snapping or running away. Such behaviour is way beneath him. But he has red lines he won’t cross and this was one of them. He was not going to be left all day on the deck on his own. No way.

I tried to soft talk him. He eyed me calmly. He wasn’t born yesterday. And he sat. I succeeded in getting him to stand by lifting his back side. Then he sat again. It was a case of a resistible force meeting a more or less unmovable object.

Sitting in happier circumstances

Time was marching on. Garages wait for no man. Eventually, in desperation, we managed to slide him over the tiles across the floor to the deck. He treated this indignity with the contempt it deserved, but at last he was safely ensconced.

We spent the rest of the day agonizing about the reception we would get on our return, and the chaos he might create on his owners’ patio by way of revenge. We returned late at 5:30 exhausted, but all was fine. He greeted us in a friendly way and pointed out that it was time for his afternoon walk and his dinner.

We await the next episode – not without some trepidation.


  1. That is just hilarious, Michael! It’s easy to see what a bright and appealing a personality he is.

  2. I think Dougal will be booking you in to classes as he's obviously having trouble training his hooman.

    1. It's not worth his trouble. He knows that his real hoomans are back next week.

  3. I think it only fair, Michael, that you offer Dougal a guest spot on MIE, in order that we get to hear his side of the story on your wanton abandonment of him to the patio without access to his Twitter account.

  4. I love a dog who doesn’t hold a grudge.

    1. Wait... is THAT why you get along so well with Jeff???