This story is about Rosie, who, for seven weeks, came to stay. Several months ago Ollie, our youngest son, decided he wanted a dog. Through emails and photos he was offered, and fell for, Rosie, a tiny Lurcher puppy, but there were conditions – he would have to collect her almost immediately. Here was a crisis in the making – he was about to go on a round-the-world trip. He rang my wife, Rohan, to ask for help and her response was predictable. “We would love to look after Rosie for a few weeks” – and so it came to pass.
Asking Rohan was the right choice; I might well have refused. While I like dogs – we had them at home for over thirty years when the children were growing up – they were always very much Rohan’s pets and her responsibility. She loved them and they her, and that is still the case. Increasingly for me, however, playing host to a dog represents hard work, sacrifice and interruption, all of which I would prefer to go without.
When Rosie arrived she was ten weeks old, gangling, bemused, not yet house-trained and with a very limited ‘vocabulary’. She came supplied with everything a puppy might need; there was a bed, a substantial lockable pen, a bag of treats and various transitional (comfort) objects – ‘Piggy’, ‘Rabbit’, chews, two blankets and a cushion. With the introductions done, Ollie set off next day for the Antipodes.
It soon became clear, even to this reticent guardian, that Rosie was a winner – intelligent, cunning and very endearing. But while Rohan immediately adopted her, even celebrating some of her more impossible antics, I found things difficult, sometimes infuriating. Even at the end of her stay and for no reason she would still occasionally bark, nip, howl, rip paper, tug at the wickerwork of some antique seats, spin around like a whirling dervish, and, on occasion, have ‘accidents’. For me, keeping calm was difficult, but, she had so many strengths that she was always forgiven:-
She was endearing; often she fell asleep hugging one of her friends – most often Rabbit. She was just like a little child.
She was affectionate; each morning I would wake her up, let her out into the yard and then give her some breakfast. After this was over it became her habit to come and lean gently against my leg demanding a pat, or lay on her back inviting a tummy scratch. I would melt.
She was intelligent; in no time she discovered three ways to escape from her ‘secure’ pen. Similarly, and within seconds of realising she could not pull Piggy or Rabbit out through one of the tiny holes in the pen wall, she went back into the pen and brought her toy out through the door.
She was a brazen trickster; Rosie would be rewarded with treats each time she peed outside rather than in the house. We soon discovered that, in order to get more treats, she would ask to go out, squat as appropriate, do a fake a pee and return for her reward! For some time we were fooled.
She was sociable; from the very beginning, strangers loved her and she them. On her walks, endless passers-by wanted a pat and, for her part, and she loved the attention. Near us we have people who sleep rough and on them she lavished love too, with one even saying that Rosie’s unreserved warmth had made his day.
Finally, she had a most uncanny understanding; one evening Rohan and I were watching a TV documentary about a pack of Zimbabwean ‘Painted Wolves’. Soon we realised that Rosie had joined us, planting herself in front of the TV and staring up at the screen. For the first time, this normally busy dog just sat still for an hour, glued to the picture. Once she peeped behind the TV to check for the wolves and, when she found none, returned to watch from in front.
What followed next was extraordinary. David Attenborough told those humans watching how the pack in the story had just lost its leader and was walking away feeling miserable – “See how they walk with their legs bent, their heads down and their ears folded back”. To our amazement, Rosie, having identified with their sadness, had taken on the self same posture, so pressing her belly and chin on the floor. How could I get angry with a dog who saw fit to do that?
Oh, by the way, at the end of the seven weeks Rosie was almost house-trained and had learned her name and around seven words – our goal. She is now very much part of the family and through her character Rosie has won me over. It was right that she came to stay and, as far as I am concerned, she is always welcome back.