Last night my housemate Una and I had a chat with our old vet Dr Hans about getting a dog at the end of the year.
‘Two dogs, perhaps,’ encouraged Dr Hans. He is a great animal lover and has one three-legged dog, numerous four-legged dogs and five cats along with a few goats and pigs. Now he will start looking out for a medium-sized stray for us.
I still mourn my beloved overgrown ridgeback Dexter, my big red dog. And the boerbul-cross-labrador we called the Blonde. The house is so quiet (and clean, admittedly) without dogs, even though I have been adopted by a couple of semi-feral cats and the housenmartins are tame enough to search for crumbs on the kitchen table. There are semi-domesticated cobras slithering about at the far end of the plumbago thicket, but we have worked out a mutual non-interfeence policy. They are very shy and I am not inclined to prune the plumbago.
I want a short-haired breed because it is so hot here in Africa and long-haired breeds suffer. There is no dog parlour in the village so I would have to clip the coat of the dog myself and the dog would look hacked at and feel demoralised. I want a medium-sized dog because protection is a factor. I love the strong silent type of dog that I see others walking around the mountains, well-trained and obedient and utterly devoted to me alone.
What I will get is probably a woolly yapping tiny little tyrant who runs off promiscuously with passing strangers. Or so possessive that he bites anyone who comes near me.
Any dog I have ever had takes one look at me, even as a small puppy, and thinks,’This is my chance to lead a life without social constraints of any kind. This mama is a pushover.’
‘Let go and let God,’ I tell myself.
I have an impractical fondness for gigantic dogs like Scottish deerhounds and Great Danes, but must not go there. When I was in Wales I met a curly grey Scottish deerhound with brown eyes who towered over his owner and could take bread rolls right off the bakery counter. His name was Boo and I dreamt about him for weeks after our Brief Encounter. His owner would take him up to dog shows in Birmingham on the bus and he would gently knock over World War II veterans at the busstop and trample unsuspecting children. Like all huge dogs he was terrified of Yorkies. The man with whom I was living did not care for dogs and was deeply and understandably afraid that I would dognap Boo the Gentle Giant and bring him home to eat Hereford beef steaks and raw liver and sleep with us in the double bed.
Una is as excited as I am, but she wants a little terrier, with a black spot over one eye so that she can name him Spot.
Dr Hans thinks that the backyard is large enough for several medium-sized dogs and perhaps a goat.
Making sober decsions feels so much more sensible and rational than my old drunken impulses, even if it is just as irrational in a different way. I wonder if MacTavish is a good name for a Scottish deerhound.