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Woman's Best Friend, My Dog
My Maltese Terror
They say that a dog is a man's best friend, well, it can be a woman's best friend, too. When our children were young we always had pets, including a dog or two. It was supposed to be good training for the kids to learn to care for something live and although the pet was officially owned by the child, it often seemed to fall on Mum to do a lot of the feeding and caring.
When the children were off our hands, I decided it was time to have my own dog. My husband was not so sure as we did go away sometimes. One day we walked past the pet shop and there in the window was the dearest little ball of white fluff with dark eyes and a shiny black nose. I fell in love with her at first sight. When we entered and enquired, my husband did not fall in love with the price. I must admit we'd certainly never paid so much for a pet before. However, quite soon she was my dog. The first thing was a name. I chose Miffy, short for Mifanwy, and it suited her perfectly. As she was a Maltese Terrier, Miffy soon became known as the family's Maltese Terror.
Miffy was not really a terror at all. She was a baby, though and needed care. She had left her mother early and had no idea of how to groom herself. We'd always had smooth-haired dogs before, and while Maltese don't shed and are great for people with allergies, woolly ones certainly need lots of brushing. She thought it a great game. There are still tiny toothmarks in the wooden brush-back to prove it. We tried to train her to doggy 'nappies' and newspapers on the floor, but that wasn't her idea of fun. The instalment of a doggy door was more expense, but it worked. At first she was so tiny, she loved to curl up and sleep in my lambswool slipper where she fitted beautifully. Friends thought she would chew all the shoes in the house. Instead, she teethed on my Gran's antique wooden workbasket. Teethmarks remain there, too.
As she grew, I took her to Dog Obedience School. I'm quite certain that title should be Owner Obedience School. Like a small, wilful child, she had a mind of her own, but over time passed her grades and even came second, gaining a Blue Ribbon at the end of Grade Two.
Now she was full size and had lost her baby teeth. She loved to play and learned not to bark continually, a lesson a brother also in the School, never learned. We were proud of her. She had her own bed in the laundry and was not allowed into our bedroom, although she would like across the doorway and those little paws would gradually creep over the imaginary line. Some of the other owners bought all sorts of fancy equipment, but we thought there was a limit, after all there are children in the world dying of starvation. She was a pet, not a substitution child.
Yes, there are problems. Because she is fluffy, she has to be bathed and clipped regularly. When I tried clipping, she looked terrible, so that is a regular cost. I bought nail clippers and thought I could save with that, but then was horrified in case I made her tiny nails bleed, so that also lies in the groomer's domain.
There are annual visits to the Vet for health checks, heartworm and other injections.
A couple of years ago she developed a growth on a front paw and that resulted in an expensive visit to the Vet and an overnight stay in Doggie Hospital.
I must watch her diet. Whoever heard of dogs having food allergies? Apart from things that can upset dogs, like chocolate, sweets and onion, she is allergic to dairy produce - and has to be watched because any tiny pieces of cheese can cause her to itch. So can some grasses, so tiny tablets have to be halved and hidden in her food. Have you ever tried to keep a dog off grass?
Recently, the fur on her back has thinned. There are large freckles that often break out in itchy pimples. A new Vet thinks it is heat-rash and that she is allergic to the sun, so now we have to keep her indoors and cool on hot days.
Miffy is almost eleven now. She understands lots of words, and responds well to polite requests. Over the years she has had a number of adventures. She is not allowed to jump onto my lap unless invited, but once, when we went away, some Grandchildren cared for her. They allowed her onto the sofa and she spread out too much. One kid plonked down almost on top of her, yelling, "Shove up, Miffy!" And was promptly growled at and bitten, something she had never done before nor since. Later I pointed out that if she had been spoken softly, "Move, please, Miffy," she would have done so. Dogs do not need to be yelled at, their hearing is much better than ours.
We continue to go for long walks twice each day and I don't think Miffy has any intention of growing old. We still play games, throw and fetch and tug-of-war, but she doesn't like dancing on her back legs any more. Yes. I have lots of people friends, but my faithful dog Miffy remains one of my best friends, too.
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