Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

This Side of the Pond

Notes from an uprooted Englishwoman


August 8, 2019

I have begun to wonder if my Dog of Very Little Brain is quite as daft as she looks. She’s still falling off more things than she stands on and she’s terrified of paper plates, but Midget has also been giving us reason to believe she could learn some new tricks after all.

You may recall that, earlier this year, our dog managed to get herself stuck behind a piece of furniture and, instead of calling out for help, spent a couple of hours waiting silently for someone to notice. She’s never had the sharpest claws on the paw, but that’s a big part of her appeal, because there’s something beautiful about her attitude to the simple things in life.

I’ve never met a creature – human or animal – who can reach such a crescendo of excitement at a simple bowl of dry dog food, every single day. She also regards rawhide as of equal value to the purest diamond and will trot a new bone around the house, “burying” it in various places, for several days before she takes a nibble.

(Her hiding places are, as you might expect, not well thought out. Among her most baffling choices are: in full view under a desk; the center of her dog bed; down the side of a chair, tucked behind my left leg.)

Also on the dog’s list of Best Things in Life are tummy rubs, for which she will do just about anything, and the outside cat, with whom she snuggles in a manner that Garfield would disapprove of.

The final addition to Midget’s collection of everyday joys happened recently. It came about as a consequence of her humans daring to leave the house for an extended period during our trip to Denver.

Midget is a creature of habit. She likes to know precisely what the day will bring and dislikes changes to her itinerary. Our short vacation was not the first time we’ve left her, and she does have a lovely time with her human grandparents, but for some reason it had a profound effect on her mood.

For a week after our return, she moped. She could be found sitting dejectedly behind the sofa (ignoring three available dog beds and all human seating), she had no interest in playing with her sister and – most alarmingly of all – she stopped trying out new techniques to achieve a belly rub.

I played an extended game of musical chairs with the dog beds, hoping she was just too hot to sit on the sofa, and tried to coax her out with treats, toys and new bones, but nothing seemed to work. She’d perk up for a moment before sloping off to her lonely spot in the corner.

If you’re a dog lover, you know exactly how that broke my heart. Luckily, I stumbled across a new item for her list that was just as simple as everything else she loves.

For the sake of context, I should mention that Midget is a rescue pup who lived by herself for goodness knows how long. This apparently did not go well, because she is now a dog of dual personality.

On the one hand, she’s as laid back as the day is long and will put up with just about anything. But on the other hand, it would be an understatement to call her “easily startled”.

Some of the things Midget finds so alarming they can wake her from a deep sleep are: the sound of a soda bottle being opened very slowly; a subtle cough; and a squeak from my desk chair. She is also, as previously mentioned, inexplicably upset by paper plates.

Her wild youth and jumpy reactions combine to give her a tendency to bolt so, sadly, she’s the only pup on the Pridgeon compound who can’t be trusted off the leash. We’ve taken her on walks somewhat more sporadically than we might have because she does such a great job of walking herself while attached to a suspended rope across the yard. But with a limited radius to work with, it seemed she wasn’t getting the chance to really explore.

One morning when the menfolk were in the next room, banging on walls with hammers, and Midget was doing somersaults of sheer panic, I decided to take her mind off it with a trot around the edge of the land. I have since been told that herding dogs like to have a job, so apparently I am wiser than I knew because Midget’s purpose in life cemented that day as she officially became Border Patrol.

It was only supposed to be a one-time thing but, at around the same time the next day, I picked up her leash and she ran to the back door barking madly. Midget is apparently perfectly capable of learning new things when she wants something, and what she wanted was to go on patrol.

These days when I get home from work, I am greeted at the door by a bouncing puppy who feels I need to go right back outside. She follows me with her nose attached to the back of my leg until I oblige, then gets so excited that she scrams for the door before I can finish putting the leash on; her enthusiasm has increased every day such that it now takes a total of five attempts before I can finally clip that hook.

The first thing we do is visit the hollyhocks in their nearby bed, because even the dog is rooting for them to bloom. Our patience was rewarded at the weekend by two big, beautiful flowers.

We must then complete the first border circuit at top speed, without pausing to sniff or investigate. I assume this is her initial sweep for obvious sources of danger.

The second loop is more casual and involves many more stops. There are certain shrubs she is convinced hide treasure and trees containing squirrels that must be barked at. It was on a second loop that she encountered her very first grasshopper, incidentally, and I’m not sure which one of them jumped higher.

On the third loop, we attempt to instill some semblance of obedience in this dog by using finger clicks to encourage her in the right direction. This was born of necessity, as she is capable of getting her leash wrapped around three trees and her own tail before I can stop her. Midget then decides it’s time to go back indoors to find the water bowl.

When you spend all day at a desk and you’re pooped as evening arrives, exercise can become a foreign concept. A tip for anyone else in the same situation: find a dog whose delight brings new life to even the simplest of endeavors and you’ll have the calf muscles of an athlete within the week.


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