How to have your life run by a puppy
Jet is nearly 1 year old. When I met him he was six months. He was a bright little thing that we all thought was a poodle, until he suddenly grew about twice his size and his Irish terrier side came out. This manipulative little dog, living in an apartment village of about 90 people, has 5 people looking after him, about 10 feeding him, and everyone pandering to his every whim.
This dog has always been a bit different. When he was born, the Jet’s mother used to pick him up and put him on his owner’s lap, while distributing all the other pups around on the floor for the other suckers. When he was 7 months old, he saved a toddler who’d decided to go for a stroll on the road by grabbing the kid by the diapers and hauling him back out of danger.
I’m a sheep dog person. I had an Australian kelpie/collie cross, one of a race of genius dogs with wicked senses of humor, and so of course I’ve always been devoted to them. For a while I had another of this kind, a female, who one day waited for me to settle down in my bean bag with my cup of tea, grabbed one of my socks (no minor feat of itself) dropped it on my head and jumped on top of me.
But poodles…? Didn’t think much of them, and we really did think Jet was a poodle. We soon found out he had the brains of a poodle and the strength of a dog two or three times his size. He can drag my 180lb self up three flights of stairs with ease. It’s not like there’s a choice. He bows his legs like a bulldog and hauls.
Then there was the time two pit bulls found us playing with his ball. He barked, one of them charged, he escaped, and I found him hiding six feet away from the pit bull, which couldn’t find him. A typical case, I was to discover, of the pup’s intelligence.
Before people started breeding dogs as weapons, life with a dog was a lot easier without all these damn rules. People were a bit saner in their relationships with other people’s dogs, too. This pup belongs to that time.
So far from being a lap dog, he’s a real dog, and outdoor type with incredible energy and an obsession with balls which borders on genius. I found a tennis ball on the lawn and put it up on a shelf in a shoe out of sight. Later that day he was walking past the shelf, stopped, looked up, and got on his hind legs to check it out. I was fascinated and checked whether he could see the ball from where he was. There was no way he could see it, but he knew it was there.
The little pup comes in and talks me into a game with him, and when I have to work he gives me a martyred look and sits down next to me like a saint, patiently putting up with whatever I think I’m doing. He barks occasionally and has to be reminded that I’m not deaf. He usually remembers and after the first loud bark barks under his breath.
The Jet Fan Club
His barking did get him into trouble when he first arrived. Some of the neighbors were complaining about it, until they overdid it and got everyone else on his side. There was one person in particular who was complaining, and that did more to start the Jet Fan Club more than anything. Everybody loathes this person, so if he didn’t like the pup, they liked the pup all the more.
My comment at the time was “Yeah, if it wasn’t for him barking, we could hear all the whingeing.” (Whingeing is Australian slang for “whining and groaning”. To call someone a whinger is a major putdown.) The neighbors seem to agree.
The Fan Club is pretty impressive. I’ve seen four people feed this little sneak in the space of an hour. They fed him steak, mince, a kebab, and some tea biscuits. He doesn’t put on a gram of weight, though. He runs around like a maniac having fun and gets smiles out of people you’d swear had never smiled before in their lives.
This dog has one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen and that includes faces on human beings. He’s obviously figured out that people communicate a lot with facial expressions, but his are unique. I was playing with him his favourite game of “catch Jet”, (which is practically impossible), and he looked at me as if to say “You’re kidding!” while wrong-footing me again when I made a dive for him.
One day his owner and I were talking and he obviously knew we were talking about him. He’d been playing with his leash and generally mucking around, but the next thing he was lying there hanging on our every word. His facial muscles changed expression repeatedly. If dogs can smell moods, that would explain the fact that his look varied from worried to amused, in human terms. It also looks quite likely that he’s copying at least a few human facial expressions.
His sense of humor is pretty good by any standards. One of my neighbours had just tidied up her place, had everything spotless- and Jet came tearing in with a wicked grin and snatched one of her socks, taking it out into the early evening with both of us haring after him laughing and cursing. When I play ball with him, he learns all my tricks instantly and won’t let me pull them on him twice.
He’s a bit like a little kid, only sometimes and only unintentionally giving away some of his secrets and the things he knows. We didn’t even know he knew the word “game” until one day I mentioned it and he instantly became alert, cocking his head to one side and of course forcing me to go out and have a game.
One of the most unexpected things about him is his effect on me. When I’m writing, I’ll be sitting there typing away and usually cursing typos or something else. I work long hours, so I’ve had quite a bit of practice with my cursing. I can abuse people in about seven languages, but I can only be polite in three. When Jet’s around, however, I become, in the words of one of my friends, “tolerant- almost human”. Instead of going out and conducting a nice therapeutic massacre, I play with the dog.
There’s a good reason for that. This dog is an illustrator’s dream. (Getting a photo isn't easy- A friend took the picture above on Skype, which is the only time the little so and so sits still long enough to be anything like in focus) His ears flip over when he’s excited and running around, and he can do an imitation of a grizzly bear with his big paws and claws that would have Gentle Ben running for cover. Actually, illustrators would be running over each other to draw him or photograph him. So, sucker that I am for pups and particularly intelligent sneaky pups who keep cracking me up, my mood can’t ever quite get to my normal genocidal levels when he’s around, even when I’m writing.
So that’s how to have your life run by a puppy. He comes and stays with me and we always wind up doing exactly what he wants to do, which is usually lots of fun. Tough life, this.