Charlie (a Spoodle) is our ever so slightly dimwitted dog that simply refuses to do things by the canine rulebook. All in all he’s a complete nutter who acts like a shadow, snaps at the air, barks at the boiler and escapes from the front door if ever the opportunity presents itself.
If he wasn’t so fluffy and cute he’d probably have been banished to a dogs home long ago and he certainly wouldn’t have been flown back at Business Class prices to join us in the UK.
The worst of his habits is definitely the bolting. I’ve lost track of the number of times panic has descended as I spot his tail disappear out of an open door at roughly 50mph. Faster than a bloody whippet, there’s no stopping him in his tracks. There are times he’s been missing for hours as he races around the neighbourhood with absolutely no regard for road safety or the neighbours privacy. He went into one woman’s house on our street in Perth, ate all the tuna from her cat’s bowl and then stretched out on her bedroom floor for a sleep while she was in the shower. Luckily she had a strong heart and a fairly forgiving nature.
The same can’t be said of others who have experienced his flighty nature. In fact I think nearly all of my family have written him off as a lost cause and pain in the backside.
Whilst friends were staying with us last year Charlie once again did a runner. He shot down the road and into a nearby church with our panicking house guest chasing down the hill after him in not very suitable running shoes. Apparently he was eventually cornered by some gravestones by a few people who came to help. I say apparently as I was upstairs recovering from my eye op at the time and was oblivious to the drama unfolding below. Needless to say Charlie, having nearly induced a heart attack in said house guest, wasn’t exactly the flavour of the day.
On another occasion when we were out enjoying our first country walk back in the UK, he also managed to wind up a herd of cows and cause the most almighty stampede. I suppose you can’t really blame him for investigating these strange new creatures but you have to wonder why he thought it a wise move to hang around when they all turned to face him with a rather menacing look in their eye.
Had he been a cleverer dog he might have hopped it then, but he wasn’t and he didn’t. He barked up at them loudly and then looked mighty surprised when they all started to chase him – in our direction no less. Now I never realised how fast a cow could run up until that point. Let’s just say that with all of us sprinting at full pelt we only just made it to the gate in time. I pushed my daughter through in front of me, my husband literally picked my son up by the seat of his trousers and chucked him over, before vaulting over himself.
Poor Charlie, with no time to make it through behind us he had to keep running. I’ll never forget the sight of a small fluffy dog streaking around the field with 6 angry cows in hot pursuit. Luckily for him he’s damn fast. All was going well until he reached a dead-end and was eventually cornered. For a while we lost sight of him, then there was a lot of mooing and what sounded like a yelp. At this point my daughter was in floods of tears and shrieking “They’re going to kill” him. I have to admit the same thought was also going through my mind although obviously I didn’t voice it out loud.
Finally we saw him tearing back along the path towards us. We opened the gate a fraction and for once he actually came when he was called. Needless to say we didn’t go back into that field again and every time we walked past it after that he gave it a sideways glance and picked up the pace.
So having narrowly escaped death by cattle, you’d have thought Charlie would have learned to control his wanderlust and keep his head down around bigger animals. Sadly not.
Shortly after moving into our new house, and at a highly stressful time for us all, he squeezed out of the front gate and disappeared around the corner. In the time it took for me to open the gate and follow him, he was nowhere to be seen.
I eventually heard some distant barking and tracked him down (through someone’s garden) to a nearby field. And there he was, racing around in circles and barking at 4 horses, who were in turn, racing around after him. To make matters even worse 2 farmers (who I later realised also happened to be our neighbours) were also chasing Charlie, screaming the most offensive of all profanities at him and throwing rocks at his head. Like that was going to help the situation.
Of course Charlie didn’t come when I called him, but by this stage he was being attacked on all sides and didn’t know which way was up. I was stressed out and intimidated by those missile-wielding men, so it’s no surprise that he just kept on running in circles and barking at everything that came near him. One strangled howl later and the horse clocked him on the head with its hoof. Charlie went down like a ball of blood covered fur and lay shaking on the ground. “Well that will probably have killed him” the ever so friendly farmer said. I grabbed the dog, turned and ran in the direction of home.
My husband was searching for us and nowhere to be seen when I got there, so I grabbed the car keys and drove off to find him. His anger at the disappearing dog did diminish slightly when he spotted the quivering pooch laid across my lap, sneezing blood all over the steering wheel.
A trip in an ambulance, an x-ray, 2 nights in hospital and a load of medication later and Charlie returned home with his large plastic collar on and a rather sheepish look in his one good eye. The other one, in which he very nearly lost the sight, was so black and blue he could hardly open it.
Once again I’d like to say that Charlie has finally learned his lesson about the perils of bolting, but I’d be lying. And kidding myself.
Alas I fear it’s in his nature to run, so instead of focusing on how we can teach him to stay put, we’ve simply designed the house so he can’t leave. This may not be the right approach but what to do. Putting in new fences and a complicated system of gates sure beats having to scrape the family pet off the road at some point in the future. Or more worrying still, him causing an almighty pile up, or worse.
Of course if anyone out there can let me know a way to stop dogs bolting like this, then please do. And if Cesar Millan happens upon this tale of woe and fancies a bit of a challenge, he’s all yours.
And one more thing, if you’re getting a dog and can’t decide whether to splash out on pet insurance every month, then take it from me, it’s worth it and you’ll probably get back every penny you spend – and then some.