The doghouse – still Simon

Our dogs were thoroughly indulged.  In the house, they rarely drank water – bowls of milk were provided for them instead.  They would drink from the muddiest puddle outside, but turned up their noses at a bowl of clean water.  After our au pairs, my parents had a live-in Spanish maid for a while – they came via an agency.  First we had Dolores, then Maria, then another Maria, who was the only professional, the other two being middle-aged housewives who were going abroad for a while to work and earn some capital for their family.

Dolores came to us at the start of winter, shivering in a summer dress and thin coat.  My mother took her straight out and equipped her with suitable clothes.  None of us spoke Spanish, but it’s surprising how far a basic dictionary and sign language goes.  My mother ended up speaking fairly fluent but completely ungrammatical (so she said, I don’t remember) Spanish.  When Dolores arrived and found there were several dogs in the house, she was shocked.  “In Spain, we throw knives at dogs!” she said.

A few weeks later, my mother found her crouched on the kitchen floor holding a bowl, at which Simon was lapping daintily.  “Salma doesn’t like cold milk from the floor,” she explained.  She’d taken the top of the milk (the creamy Jersey milk at that), warmed it in a pan and was holding it for him to drink at a comfortable height.  That was the power that Simon held.

Of course, there was no question that we would give the dogs tinned food.  It was cooked for them freshly, meat and vegetables, then mixed with biscuit.  Actually, I used to do that sometimes for my dogs too.  They liked it far better.

Simon listened to every conversation and understood a lot of what he heard.  He noticed, too.  So if my mother went upstairs to get changed, he’d deduce that she was going out and position himself at the door ready to shoot out the moment it was opened a chink so that he’d get a ride in the car (as I said the other day, he’d chase the car for a ride and there was nothing to be done about that, so either he wasn’t let out or he was taken along).  There were various key words that got an instant reaction – walk, milk, car, out and so on.  Because he out-thought us so often, we started saying those words in French.  So he learned them in French.  Then in Dutch and Spanish.  Then we started to spell them out.  He learnt that too.

He was a remarkably dignified dog and acutely aware of himself – honestly loves, I’m not kidding, nor exaggerating.  I have never known this in another dog, not to anything like the same extent.  The worst insult you could give was “you smell.”  He’d stalk straight out of the room and no amount of pleading would make him forgive you, not for hours.  It could be true of course, he was all dog and loved to roll in something smelling dreadful.  The garden led down to the river and sometimes the dogs would find a dead fish, the stinkier the better.  This would lead to a bath, if you could catch him.  He didn’t enjoy the bath but he did love the grooming and preening that followed it.  He became more sensitive about the word as time went by and you couldn’t innocently use the word ‘smell’ in conversation without him getting huffy.  “Sorry Simon, not you, you’re lovely”.

Once, he got shut in the downstairs loo.  Of course, what I said earlier about them not drinking water in the house was wrong.  I should have said that they (I’m talking male dogs here of course, the girls never did such a thing) drank plenty of water in the house, as long as it was out of the lavatory.  Our toilet seats didn’t have lids.  They were the original wooden ones from when the house was built in 1913.  And I’m sure you realise by now that there was little chance of us remembering to shut the toilet door.   Anyway, it was a joke.  Simon was engrossed in lapping away and my mother quietly shut the door, meaning to go back in a minute and let him out.  But something happened to distract her and she forgot and it wasn’t for quite some time that she noticed he wasn’t around and ran to let him out.  He stalked into the cloakroom, a look of thunder on his face and wouldn’t speak to her for hours.  

6 comments on “The doghouse – still Simon

  1. Z

    The right dog hasn’t found me yet. Going out to buy a dog just doesn’t work for me. And thank you, darling, but I’m no writer. I never thought I was, but six and a half years of blogging has proved it. This suits me just fine.

  2. martina

    Well, I think you are an excellent writer!
    We had a wire fox terrier who would pout. If we were on a road trip and she was scolded, she turn her back towards you and ignore until her trainer apologized. The problem was her trainer (Mom)was just as stubborn as the dog.

  3. Ros

    Ella (new dog) has almost too much personality.

    After La Fluffita sadly, but gently, went to the place that good doggies go, with as little fuss as she’d lived her near perfect life, I’d registered with several rescue charities, saying I was looking for a quiet German Shepherd about 5 years old who was used to living with cats.

    After a few weeks I had a call from a local rehomer who said she had a dog who although she wasn’t exactly what I’d asked for, she thought would suit us, and she was still with her owner so hadn’t been disturbed by kennels. She was, I was told, an 18 month Malinois Belgian Shepherd, with good basic training and cat friendly.

    We just fell in love with her, incredibly affectionate, obedient, and astonishingly beautiful. She has a dense honey coloured coat that has the dull sheen of Duchesse satin, and every hair is black tipped, giving the impression that she’s outlined with charcoal, and a beautiful black muzzle.

    She and Otis also hate each other with a passion. He has moved into the conservatory where he has direct access to both garden and dining room, both of which contain cat flaps. He delights in taunting her through the dining room cat flap. I can hear him flipping it at 3 in the morning, and her snuffling.

    They both chose us. We must make it work.

    When my therapy finishes and I can get into a more comfortable typing position, I might start a new blog chronicling the (lack of) progress.

  4. Z

    It can be really difficult, can’t it? It’s what has put me off making a more determined effort to find a dog. I like a dog with plenty of character – which is another way of saying it’s quite difficult and needs a lot of work. Please blog again, Ros.

  5. Z

    Ah, I’m a blogger, Martina. I haven’t the skill, dedication or determination to write a book. I take the easy way out. I can’t even draft a post, because when I go back to it I find it too trite to publish and I can’t be bothered to edit. I have my niche!


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