This is Mr Ruffles. Ruffles is spending his holidays with us while his mum and dad are away in Queensland. Due to unforeseen circumstances Ruffles didn’t get to meet my girls before this visit, which made me a little apprehensive. You know that word they call girl-dogs sometimes? Well, I love my girls dearly, but sometimes that word really applies. I figured it was going to be an interesting couple of weeks. Ruff arrived on a Wednesday evening, bringing with him his own little bed, his blankie, his medication (not quite sure what that is for and hope I don’t actually get to find out) and a little bag of food and snacks to ensure he wouldn’t starve to death during his visit.
(Note to all future doggie visitors: there is absolutely NO chance of you ever starving to death in my household. You will always find goodoes in the bowl in the kitchen, or schmackos under the couch, or rawhide chew sticks under the cushions of the doggie beds—along with no end of other deliciously smelly, half-eaten and saved-for-later treats in a myriad hidden locations around the back garden. And that, of course, is apart from the real food that you will actually be fed by me at proper mealtimes. Starve? Never going to happen.)
Anyway, when Ruff arrived I shut the girls inside the house and let him come in through the back gate to have a bit of a wander around the garden before I unleashed (see what I did there?) the howling hordes upon him. I was pretty sure I knew exactly how it would go. Molly would barrel on up to him in full voice, puffed up to twice her usual size in an effort to appear as big and scary as possible. Given that she weighs just 4 kilos this is quite a feat. Molly would lay down the law—her house, her rules—and she would continue to enforce those rules on a daily basis. Mabel would give me one of her ‘Dear God, not another one’ looks (she’s only just getting over Molly coming to live with us 3 years ago) and would then retire regally to her favourite chair to disdainfully ignore him for the duration of his visit. And Maudie—well Maudie would just love him to bits, because Maudie loves everyone.
Boy did I get that wrong.
Molly came hurtling out like a tiny black version of the Looney Toons ‘Tasmanian Devil’, pulled up short, sniffed him once and immediately dismissed him as being of no interest whatsoever (way to prop up a guy’s ego there Mol). Maudie growled at him—actually growled!—and continued to growl at him every time he dared walk past her for the next couple of days. And then Mabel. Turns out Mabel is a bit of a tart. Who knew? She stood nose to nose with him, primped and preened, grinned her silly grin and wiggled her bum at him until the poor wee man was so embarrassed he didn’t know where to look. Animals and children, they’ll make liars of you every time.
As with any new addition to a family, even for a short time, adjustments have had to be made. The first meal time, usually such an orderly affair, quickly descended into a free-for-all melee when, for whatever reason, everyone all at once decided that everybody else’s meal was better than their own (they were all exactly the same for heaven’s sake). Pushing and shoving and snapping and snarling ensued until I eventually had a hissy fit of my own and took all the food away and made them sit there and watch me eat my own dinner while they had a good think about their manners. (Shouldn’t let the power go to my head but sometimes it feels great!) The second attempt at feeding them was a much more orderly affair. Funny that.
Sleeping arrangements are always tricky with guests. I knew Ruff slept on his mum and dad’s bed at home, but I thought it was asking a tad much of my girls to let him sleep on my bed with them that very first night so I got him all cuddled up in his own little bed and put that next to my bed and he seemed quite happy with that. Until about 1.00am the next morning. Maudie woke me (‘There’s someone moving about the house,’ rumble, rumble). Ruffles was gone. On investigation I found him out the living room, sitting on the tiles, shivering, with his nose pressed hard up against the front door—‘I want to go home.’ Poor boy. So I put his bed on the tiles by the front door, settled him down again, tucked his blankie round him and the next morning he was still there snuggled up fast asleep. Bless.
The toy box has been another bone of contention (Ha—I didn’t get that one myself until I read it back). Apart from the ball being played with most evenings by Maudie, the toy box has for years been largely ignored. But, of course, once Ruff discovered all the long-forgotten treasures within, there was all of a sudden a ‘mine, mine, mine’ scuffle every time he even walked past it. On threat of the same treatment being doled out as happened with their dinner this tension now seems to have abated. Ruff has chosen himself a favourite toy (a Santa elf which merrily continues to sing ‘Santa Clause is coming to Town’ even when it is getting its left leg chewed off) and the girls have deigned to let him keep it. Very magnanimous of them I thought.
So, having the food, sleeping and playtime arrangements largely under control the last big hurdle was ‘walkies’. Being used to walking three dogs I didn’t think one extra little one would make that much of a difference. Sigh. You’d think I’d learn. Initially I thought I’d be clever (always dangerous) and tried to do it in shifts of two at a time, but the two that were left behind (and it didn’t matter which two I left) set up such howls of distress and despair that I couldn’t bear it (and I didn’t think the neighbours would bear it for long either), so I gave up on that idea pretty quickly. I soon discovered that getting them all organised and out the door was actually harder than walking them. My first time trying to put a harness on Ruffles when he was absolutely beside himself with excitement nearly broke me. When I finally got the harness on him I had to sit down for ten minutes and have a rest. Swear to God. But once we were all outside and all going in the same direction it wasn’t too bad, except— and OMG it’s a biggie—I had forgotten that it takes a boy dog at least twice the amount of time to walk the same distance as a girl dog. Walk, walk, stop, sniff, pee. Sniff, pee. Walk. Sniff. Pee. Pee some more. Backtrack two steps. Sniff. Pee again. Aaaarrrgghhh!
So now Ruff has been with us just over a week and seems to have settled pretty much into our routine. He sits at the front window and watches me leave for work and when I come home he shoulders his way through the pack as they all swarm to meet me, intent on getting his own ‘Mums home’ cuddle. He joyfully (and loudly) joins in the mad romp around the house that invariably follows. He lines up quietly with the others for his dinner and, if I get him in a bear hug before he realises what is going on, I can get him in his harness to go walkies in under 30 seconds.
Ruff has also, of his own volition, abandoned his bed by the front door and is now sleeping on my bed with me and the girls and everyone seems fine about it, although it does bring to mind the final lines of the nursery rhyme . . . ‘and they all rolled over and one fell out . . .’
I’m just hoping that the one that falls out isn’t me . . .