We unexpectedly acquired a puppy at the end of last year.
This adorable nightmare of energy and attitude is a stark contrast to our previous dog, which mellowed into serene dotage before sadly passing away several years ago.
We are now back to being tugged along the pavement in all weather; paw prints on the kitchen floor/furniture/walls; chewed possessions; lost socks; dead grass; and the constant chorus of, “NO!… DOWN!!… OFF!!!”
It is all so exhausting! I can’t remember the last dog being this much work, but that may have something to do with the fact I am twenty years older than when we last had a young dog in the house… but let’s not dwell on that.
This Tasmanian Devil in our lives has been introduced to several of her predecessor’s favourite walking haunts.
In Moseley Private Park, a formidable Barbara Woodhouse type (80’s TV dog trainer), garbed in sensible tweed, inquired, “Is it a bitch?”
“She’s a bit naughty sometimes,” I replied, “but I wouldn’t go that far.”
The woman conceded a thin smile then swiftly changed the subject to the horrors of teething.
“We have been quite lucky with the chewing,” I told her, “but my arms are covered in marks.” I pulled up my sleeves to reveal red welts and scratches, “I look like I’ve been self-abusing.”
“I think you mean ‘self-harming’,” the woman corrected me, in the curt tone of a tolerant schoolmarm.
It was not until we bid goodbye and moved on, that I realised my faux pas and felt my cheeks flush.
On another occasion, in a Kings Heath park, renowned for cruising, I was innocently walking the dog (yes really!), when a patrolling police officer called out, “Hello, beautiful.”
I cheekily responded, “Hi, handsome.”
I knew full well he was addressing the dog, but I could live in hope.
I wanted to add, “I know this park’s reputation, but never expected to be hit on by a copper,” but wisely chose to keep that comment to myself.
The pup is yet to accompany me to any of Birmingham’s cruising grounds, where the old dog was my regular wingman.
Old Dog seemed to understand the concept of privacy and would discreetly vanish off to investigate the surrounding shrubbery, should I hook-up with anyone.
On one occasion, I meet a student on his way to or from Birmingham University. Old Dog gave him a once over with her nose, to ascertain his suitability, then trotted off into the bushes… as did we. She circled around us, exploring the undergrowth and unearthing rocks to chase, returning sporadically to check-in on our progress.
Unfortunately, Old Dog reappeared at an inopportune moment, bursting between my acquaintance’s legs just at the trembling conclusion of our alfresco encounter (She did something similar to Tenko’s Louise Jameson, but in very different circumstances). The guy reached the top of his ladder… and fell off, cascading onto her head.
The poor lad was mortified.
“Don’t worry, It’s nothing a shampoo won’t rectify,” I assured him… before heading home, with the dog resembling Cameron Diaz in that scene from There’s Something About Mary.
After that experience with Old Dog, the little Devil is unlikely to join me at the cruising beats, but we did introduce her to Birmingham’s gay village one Sunday afternoon.
A member of staff at one Hurst Street pub, delivered drinks to our table, then dropped to her haunches to fuss the pup, which immediately delved, nose first, under the hem of her apron.
With innate nonchalance and dignity, she arched an eyebrow and cooed, “You could at least buy me a drink first.”
Another member of staff, wearing unseasonably short shorts, was depositing a round of drinks at a neighbouring table, when the pup leaned over, from her spot on my lap, and licked his smooth toned thigh.
The barman turned to find myself and pup sat there with matching hound-dog expressions.
“It was her,” I snitched, pointing at the culprit.
“I take it where I can get it.”
If there were a prize for deadpan banter, the staff at Missing would win hands down.
Down at The Village Inn, the dog was inundated with attention from inebriated admirers, although I had to repeatedly remind people that tickling fingers make tempting treats to a six-month-old puppy.
She met her first drag queen, but the real highlight was an encounter with a human pup of indeterminable gender, decked out in full rubber suit, collar, chain and leather mask.
“This is too good a photo opportunity to ignore,” I commented to my partner.
Our pup was besotted, boisterously scrambling all over this fascinating new character, trying to investigate under the mask. I pulled her away when she got too enthusiastic.
“It’s okay,” the human pup assured me, “I’m a dog person.”
“Well, it would be ironic if you weren’t.”
We chatted for a while and posed for photos.
“Thank you for talking to me,” this sweet, but socially awkward, pup said. “People can be nasty when I’m dressed like this. This is my favourite outfit and people are really mean when I wear it to the supermarket.”
I am automatically drawn to the most oddball characters in any situation but can understand how this leather clad hound might turn heads in Sainsburys.
The bar manager came over to remind human pup to maintain social distancing, “You have to stay seated.”
“Sorry, it’s my fault,” I explained, then snapped my hand to my shoulder and instructed, “SIT,” in the manner of, (aforementioned) Barbara Woodhouse.
The manager gave me a sidewise smirk, “Erm… harsh… but that worked!”
“Know your audience.”
Our dog day afternoon on the gay scene was a success… and there have been several since. The pup is destined to become a regular scene queen. She is a canine fag hag in training.
Feel free to come and say hello if you spot us out there… but watch those fingers.