Sunday, 7 June 2009

The Dog Days of My Life: #6 - Leo

Poor Biddy was bereft after Whisky's demise. She had never been an 'only dog' and human company was not sufficient to alleviate her misery. We contacted her breeders to see if they had another bitch for sale but all they had available was a two-year-old rough-coated dog. Naturally we fell for him! At the time he was called Johnny but as we had a human friend by that name we renamed him Leo, which suited his looks.
Biddy was delighted to have a new friend – and what's more he was the same size as her. Leo was a very well-behaved dog and had never been allowed inside the house at his previous home so for many months he stopped short at the threshold and had to be encouraged to step over. He had been out with the hunt many times and he and Biddy were an extremely effective rat deterrent. At the time our children also had mice, which they bred, and guinea pigs which regularly reproduced. Leo could not - or would not - discriminate between them and 'fur' he had previously been trained and encouraged to harry. He watched attentively as Gillian cleaned out her mouse habitat and when one day one little beast wriggled free of her hands he snaffled it and swallowed almost before 'NO' was formed on her lips. He was in disgrace with her for some time. The guinea pigs, delightful creatures, must have been the fittest and most athletic ever born for they were chased relentlessly when Leo was in the garden. They were perfectly safe in their mesh enclosed run but ran from his questing nose anyway.

We had been told that he had been used at stud though he never displayed any of the more undesirable traits of stud dogs – humping cushions or legs – so I suppose subconsciously we felt that he was not unduly concerned about the whole enterprise. Confidently we assured each other, Barry and I, that when the time arrived we would be able to keep him apart from Biddy. This was proved to be an entirely spurious assumption for when Biddy came into season Leo was on her like - well, like a dog!
Although Leo was a biddable and affectionate dog we didn't entirely trust him around children and never left him in their company unaccompanied by an adult. He gave no indication of potential aggression other than a change of expression in his eyes. The soft, gentle look would change fleetingly to a hard look and then just as quickly back again. After Biddy's five puppies were born she kept Leo at bay until they had grown larger and stronger.

The bitch puppy stayed with us but the four dog puppies found homes. One returned to us after a short while, his new owners finding a very small puppy and an equally young baby and two other little children too much of a challenge. I suspect also that they were disappointed we had not had his tail docked. Tails are a means of communication and such an important and delightful part of a dog.

So now we had four dogs, mother, father, son and daughter!

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