Pavlova and I had an interesting encounter in the churchyard this morning, with two women and three dogs. I’m not messing around with dogs I don’t know, and I picked Pavlova up (to her considerable ire). The woman with the two spaniels, who I’ve seen before, said half in alarm and half in accusation, Where are the whippets? At home! I said, and she relaxed. What do they think of this one? she said. Not a lot, I said. One of them will put up with her bouncing on him and the other one runs away.* But by now both women were falling under the spell of Pavlova’s manifest adorableness. Both said they’d never seen a baby bullie before. I said hastily (I’m getting kind of used to saying this hastily) she’s a MINI! She’s not ever going to get really big! And so we discussed relative sizes for a while, and I said she’d probably weigh about the same as a hellhound**, but she would be short and square. They said, what’s a bull terrier like, after five whippets/hellhounds in a row? Hungry, I said. She is hungry all the time. It makes a change. But really . . . she’s like a puppy. She’s more like a puppy than she’s like some strange unique bull terrier thing, although I’m still kind of worrying that the strange unique bull terrier thing will emerge later. The one thing I knew I was worrying about was bite inhibition, and even at nine weeks when I got her she already had bull terrier jaws. But screaming and picking her up seems to be working really well.
The woman with two spaniels stared at me as if I’d grown a second head and it was making rude faces at her. Bite inhibition? she said cautiously.
Yes, I said. All puppies bite. It’s how you teach them not to bite too hard. Don’t you know about this? —One of her spaniels was only half grown.
She shook her head.
Ah um, I said. Well, puppies bite each other, and when the sibling they’re biting cries, the biter backs off. So you’re kind of pretending to be another puppy. Picking her up—which her breeder suggested—reinforces that something has happened, since bullies tend to be a bit stubborn and single-minded.***
And it works? said the woman with the half-grown spaniel.
Yes, I said.† It’s not a perfect system [fortunately I was wearing long sleeves] but it does work.
We went our separate ways (Pavlova instantly shot off after those fascinating other dogs, and it took several bits of kibble to get her pointed in the right direction again) but there’s something that I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the puppy books I’ve read. This didn’t happen with the hellhounds, probably because they had each other, and furthermore they have never been great munchers of anything.†† But Pavlova would rather bite me than any of her toys††† and I can see her backing off so she can bite me. In something stubborn, single-minded, prone to the Mad Scampers and twelve weeks old, this seems to me a high level of getting-it-ness.‡
* * *
* I am aware this is not an unusual reaction. Lots of grown dogs don’t like puppies because they scuttle^ around so in a manic and unpredictable manner. I understand this. It’s my attitude toward spiders.
^ All puppies—and some grown up dogs—have a frenzied-dash setting. It’s not as conspicuous in sighthounds because they’re built to move at extreme speed and pretty much can’t make an ungraceful gesture. Hazel, the smallest of the previous generation of whippets, used to swap ends while running at top speed, which was a hoot—but it was still beautiful. Bull terriers have a kind of special take on the frenzied dash which is called hucklebutting. Southdowner and Olivia say they all do it, it’s just a question of CONTAINMENT. There are a lot of videos on YouTube of hucklebutting and bullies generally . . . most of it fairly scary, or maybe I’m just clicking on the wrong clips. Bullies are lovely dogs, given decent genes and a decent upbringing. It’s not necessary to risk death and the loss of all your worldly goods because you’ve got a hucklebutting bullie. Anyway. Pavlova has always dashed around because she’s a puppy, but this last week she’s starting to do proper hucklebutts. You can see one coming on: she gets a light in her eye and drops down a level, which is something that none of the videos show properly because they’re taken from human height or at least from above, and she then streaks across the floor—since she only goes out on lead she hasn’t had the chance to try it outside yet—in forty directions at once, belly just about brushing the floor, zigzagging as if she’s dodging sniper bullets. It’s hilarious.
At the mews the hellhounds are in an open bed—at the cottage downstairs they sleep in their crate, and I can close the door against puppy attack—which I wall off with my knapsack and canvas briefcase to prevent her from getting at them+—but if she plunges past, which she is more likely to at the mews because there’s more open floor space, Darkness moans.++
+ And which, just by the way, is only going to work a week or so longer because she’s getting LARGE ENOUGH TO CLIMB OVER.
++ I thought I was being clever by sending hellhounds upstairs to their favourite bed in my office at the cottage while I strove with the hellterror in the kitchen. Nope. Hellhounds muster on the stairs, peering through the banisters . . . and both moan.
Chaos, who is still trying, will stand there—and occasionally lie—while Pavlova climbs all over him at blur speed, as witnessed in those photos a few days ago, but emits quite a complex moan when he Doesn’t Think He Can Bear It A Moment Longer. Whereupon I remove her.
** I’m telling myself that her feet aren’t very big. So she’s not going to get enormous.^
^ Of course bullie feet are pretty small, proportionately. . . .
*** But so do sighthounds. Not so different really.
† I didn’t think of it at the time, but I don’t know how it’s going to work on a half-grown dog who hasn’t been biting his siblings in several months.
†† She says feelingly
††† Note: sigh. Although I think it’s also a relationship thing. Puppies interact by biting. And again I say: siiiiiigh. Couldn’t we have domesticated something to be our fireside companions 40,000 years ago that interacted by tail wagging or bringing flowers and chocolates or something?
‡ It’s still not a perfect system. I’m glad it’s cold enough to wear long sleeves.
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