If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a crazy dog lady.
Despite spending my early childhood thinking dogs were the most terrifying creatures on four legs (hello, anxious disposition!), somehow, by the time I turned 12, I calmed down enough to accept Jammy, a one-year-old, particularly-rotund Maltese terrier, into the family. (Jammy wasn’t the name we bestowed on him by the way – he was given to us by a woman who couldn’t keep him in her apartment anymore – and even though we thought Jammy was a stupid name, he already answered to it).
We doted on Jammy. He was prone to throwing back his snowy, fluffy head and singing with all the heart and false-confidence of a twelve year old at a recorder recital. “Clap your hands, Jammy,” we would squeal excitedly, after his regular operatic performances, and he did. It was eerily human of him, though having furry paws, he could only clap silently.
Jammy was like a brother to my sister Fluffy and me, and our parents loved him like a son. So, when he died, at 16-years-old, three months before I was due home from London for a visit, I was devastated. Cue a borderline fluffy dog obsession. I couldn’t walk past a pomeranian, a maltese, an oodle of any kind, without stopping for a chat and a pat.
Years later, having moved into a courtyard-apartment with my husband Matty, I started thinking about the possibility of finally filling that little-dog-shaped-hole in my heart. And so, I began to bombard Matty with pictures of all sorts of fluffy dogs, looking for homes. Little ones and big ones. Droopy ears and pricked ears. Underbites and overbites. I sent him pictures, and character profiles and tug-at-the-heartstrings-please-will-you-adopt me desperate-doggie-pleas.
Eventually, he caved. One Saturday, we went to the RSPCA to adopt our furry child. I already knew the dogs by name, from trawling the website. And yet Hash Brown didn’t like me. Neither did Gus or Barkley or PomPom. They may have been fluffy, but they weren’t friendly. They were skittish and coy. Try as I might, they refused to bond.
“Ah, I don’t suppose you have anything …. bigger?” Matty ventured to our RSPCA volunteer.
“Actually, there is one more dog I would recommend,” she said. “Meet Maya.”
Maya was a Staffy. I had never really been drawn to them. For starters, they’re no fluff, all muscle. They look a bit butch.
And yet the moment Matty and Maya locked eyes, I saw my fluffy-dog dreams evaporate. The Staffy had won. Before I could say ‘woof’, she was in the car.
It took me about two hours to come round. There I was, sitting cross legged on the floor at home, and Maya (who had already been renamed Tiggy, on account of her beautiful, stripey, brindle fur), a consumate emotional-blackmailer, gave me her most soulful puppy-dog eyes, before climbing into my lap and snuggling down. I was putty in her paws. It was true love at last.
Now, Tiggy is a one-in-a-million rescue dog: no emotional issues to speak of. Loves canines and cats alike, isn’t bothered by noises like thunder or fireworks. Enjoys exercise, but is happy to chill. Barely makes a sound, except for when she squeaks and whines, like an endearing mouse or a diminutive, whinnying pony. Her fur, while not the luxey dog-fluff of my dreams, is as soft as the most expensive velvet.
So, just imagine how unprepared we were for rescue-dog-reality, when Matty decided Tiggy (who spends time alone while we’re at work during the day) needed a friend. Before I knew it, we’d driven to Sutherland Shire Council Animal Shelter and Sherman had joined our happy family – now a family of four, with twelve legs between us.
Sherman was the opposite of angelic. The first two days were hideous. I howled my eyes out dramatically and hugged my knees to my chest, as Tiggy and Sherman fought. As Tiggy looked at us and said, with her eyes, “I was fine. I didn’t ask for a brother.” As Sherman barked his throaty, guttural, scary-dog bark that had us running around the house and going into lockdown. Our over-exaggerations to his various transgressions bordered on comical. “GET TIGGY OUT OF THE HOUSE,” shrieked Matty, as Sherman BARKED and BARKED at a phantom walking past our wall, outside.
And then, within a couple of days, Tiggy and Sherman became close. Exceedingly close. So close, that Tiggy couldn’t stop humping her new playmate. So close that Sherman’s bad behaviour started to rub off on our sweet, velvet-covered, impeccably-behaved angel-dog.
In the space of 30 unsupervised minutes at Tutti and the Guru’s house, Sherman and Tiggy egged each other on to:
– Relieve six chair cushions of their stuffing
– Rip a blanket (which the Guru had ill-advisedly left on the grass for them. Gd knows why. So they could have a picnic?) to absolute shreds. It was a family heirloom blanket, handed down by my grandfather
– Tear two towels into scraps
– Eat two large tubs of fish food, and gnaw on the plastic packaging until it was unrecognisable.
– Crunch up three pegs
– Demolish an outdoor, solar-powered lamp
– Destroy four dog beds.
Not to mention the fact that Sherman also:
– Jumped in the fish pond four times (once, he jumped straight out of the fish pond and into bed with an unimpressed Tutti)
– Barked like a banshee in Lane Cove plaza (eliciting cold stares from various judgemental Lane Cove dwellers with their perfectly behaved, professionally-groomed oodle-breed-pooches)
– Pretended to be friendly and waggy before launching himself crazily at a sweet, innocent poodle
– Snores like a wildebeest
And yet, like Tiggy he has found a way into my heart. I think it was somewhere between him reaching up to put both paws around my neck, like a child yearning for a cuddle, and him falling asleep, face-up on my stomach, like a fat, drunk, snoring old man.
I’m still not keen on the barking, or the occasional, socially-unacceptable, hostile brain-snaps (RAAAAWR!) but you know, no one’s perfect.
A fact I’m reminded of every time I see small children at the park, using their lungs, and lunging on leashes.