Dave Robbins: Doggie Bleedin' Day Care – it'll be aromatherapy massages next!
Our dog Pipsi . . . "Don't call her that," says my wife from the next room. "Why not? It's her name," I reply. "You only use her name as a reward. If she's done something good."
My wife has been to the DSPCA's dog whisperer, you see. She is full of doggie wisdom at the moment. She took the dog to see Alex Petrilli, the Barbara Woodhouse of Rathfarnham, because she (the dog, not the wife) was getting aggressive.
While on the lead, she (the dog, not the wife) would snarl and snap at other dogs who were only trying to do something completely harmless and innocent, such as sniff her butt.
She also snarled at little kids – toddler-sizes ones only – who approached her without warning.
The other day, we stopped to chat to a neighbour. Their little boy said the words that put me on high alert: "Look at the doggie!"
I reached down just in time to prevent the dog from having a go. The boy's mum was very understanding. "I'm actually glad that happened," she said, "he's been getting too rough with dogs lately. He needs to learn they can do that."
She has other habits I'd like to discourage (the dog, not the wife, although . . .). She can – and does – jump about four feet in the air when she's excited. It's a vertical take-off, like a Harrier jump-jet, and it's a little unsettling first thing in the morning to see her face level with yours when you come down for breakfast.
She also climbs on the table and eats whatever we have been foolish enough to leave out over night.
Then there's the indoor peeing and pooing. It happens about once a week. "Have you tried Urinoff?" said my wife's aunt. This is not, as I first thought, a Russian character actor, but a pee deterrent of mythical power.
It's difficult to track down. And expensive. The shipping charges are high. "It would be easier – and cheaper – to get cocaine," I tell my wife.
So we revert to the osmosis method recommended by Cheryl Mendelson in her masterwork Home Comforts – The Art and Science of Keeping House. This involves weights, tea towels and malt vinegar, and works surprisingly well.
When my wife returns from the dog talk by Alex, I am making the Christmas cake. The dog is at my feet, snaffling the odd currant that falls from the counter. Apparently, we have got it all wrong with Pip. . . I mean the dog.
"Alex says that dogs are not hierarchical. That whole thing we did about teaching her her place in the family? A waste of time," she announces.
"Alex says dogs are not pack animals," she adds. "They may hunt in packs, but they would rather socialise with the family."
The dog was given an individual assessment. She was put into a pound with other dogs to see how she reacted. Alex brought all his experience in training police and rescue dog to bear on her.
"He says she's afraid. That's why she snaps at other dogs," my wife says. Not half as afraid as that kid the other day, I think.
"She has to go to Doggie Day Care to be socialised," she says. "Once a week should be enough, although lead aggression can take a long time to cure."
Doggie Bleedin' Day Care? She'll be getting aromatherapy massages next, I think. "How much will that cost?" I ask. "Just €15 per day," she says, "but she has to be up to date with her vaccinations first."
I notice that she has some new contraption like a training bra around her chest (the dog, not the wife). "What's that she's got on?" I ask. "Oh, a new harness. Alex says it'll stop her pulling on the lead."
That cost €18. Then there's another €115 for the vaccinations. The blow is softened when the vet calls her "a fresh-looking dog" as we leave the clinic.
Finally, I think we are getting sorted with the dog. She'll be trained and obedient and the sort of dog that walks just level with your heel when out walking, the kind of dog to be proud of.
The next morning, she greets me with the usual four-foot, vertical take-off leap (the dog , not the wife). I notice some crumbs on the table. "That f***ing dog has eaten the Christmas cake!" I cry.
"Oh Pipsi!" says my wife.
"Don't call her that!" I say.