The day Heather died was a sad, sad day. Chicken was nearly four and Tuna had just turned two, both old enough to feel the acute pain the loss of a pet inflicts. Knowing that only another dog could fill the gaping hole, we began the search and found Sally within a couple of weeks. Sally is a Labrador cross rescue dog, abandoned with her litter crawling with all sorts of mini beasts. It took the rescue centre six weeks to get them into shape when we became the grateful custodians of Sal aged twelve weeks. Even though Heather's puppy months were years past, I remembered all too clearly the havoc she wreaked, so Bob and I weren't against the idea of taking on an older dog who had cut its teeth on somebody else, but the girls were adamant they wanted a puppy, and as it was their childhood memories we had at heart, a puppy was what they got, complete with a mouthful of teeth just waiting to be cut.
Despite her teeth which could slice through flesh like a shard of glass, she was an instant hit, endearing herself to us with her silky fur, hazel eyes and zest for fun. The girls were always forgiving of her explorations into their toy cupboard when beloved cuddly toys would emerge missing noses, ears and stuffing in her pursuit of all things needing to be chewed. They even forgave her gnawing on them with tear streaked faces when she regularly mistook their wrists and ankles for juicy bones, such was their love for her. In their eyes, she could do no wrong. My eyes were not so easily swayed.
With the doggy shrink's words still fresh in our ears, (our lesson had been well and truly learnt with Heather) we were determined Sally should know her place in the family from the start, and that place was not at the head. (A place she still tries to dispute even now, six years on.) This was demonstrated primarily by confining her to the downstairs of the house and the floor - the furniture is for none molting species only. The kitchen had the added bonus of being tiled, thus facilitating easy wiping of inevitable accidents whilst in the process of house training; accidents which seemed to occur with far more frequency during the hours of darkness. A suspicious mind might read malice into the coincidence, suspicions which could be further aroused by her favoured spot (partially obscured behind a pillar near the kettle ensuring a sleepy brain never failed to feel her night time endeavours between their toes), but I couldn't bring myself to believe that an innocent puppy could have a contriving mind - she was a puppy - not a criminal mastermind.
We passed a few tense nights while she whined and wailed at the injustice bestowed upon her, but she eventually settled into acceptance and the whining abated. My ultimate goal was to have her so well trained that her enforced confinement would become unnecessary, her own obedience would keep her from venturing up the stairs, but I knew that was some way off - of course, she was still just four months old after all.
After a couple more months, she appeared content with her position in the family and we heard fewer and fewer complaints until eventually the nights passed in silence. Similarly, we were presented with fewer toilet mishaps each morning and were becoming quietly confident that it was now safe to enter the kitchen without encountering a poo lurking between the door and the kettle. I began to speculate on the necessity of the door, nothing more than speculate, but the seed had been planted and was preparing to germinate after one particularly drunken evening.
One day, I came across a handful of pears rotting in the fruit bowl which I immediately removed and left next to the waste disposal to await their fate. As children are unfaltering distractions, that was where they remained until Bob came home and questioned the pears.
"I'm chucking them away," I informed him not expecting a counter attack.
"Why? There's nothing wrong with them."
"Nothing wrong with them? They're practically compost!"
"No they're not! All they need is a bit of surgery."
"Well you eat them then!"
And that was the last either of us thought about the pears as the wine flowed a little more freely than usual that night. (It must have been the fumes from the pears that put us in the mood!) As the evening drew to a close and our thoughts turned to bed, I was left to lock up and Bob retired before me. As I came to shut the kitchen door in my customary fashion, I looked at Sally. She was sleeping peacefully in her bed as though nowhere in the world could be as comfy. My drunken eyes saw the epitome of obedience. I decided to speculate no further on the necessity of the door and decisively left it open.
It was just as dawn was breaking that I began to stir, aware of a particularly rancid smell in my nostrils. At first I blamed the miasma on Bob, who was not usually innocent of such actions, but then it penetrated my sleep fully and I recognised it at once; even Bob was not capable of such a revolting stink - there could be only one culprit. I got up and allowed my nose to lead the way. It led me to the vacant bedroom below which had recently been re-carpeted in small looped, Pure New Wool (imported from New Zealand if my memory serves me). As I tentatively approached, I already feared the worst not realising that my worst was nowhere near bad enough.
I peeped my head through the door with eyes screwed shut while preparing myself for the scene. Where once there was an expanse of pristine carpet in a neutral shade of Clotted Cream, it now sported chocolate coloured splats putting me in mind of a Dalmatian. It was immediately apparent that Sally had not only succumbed to the temptation of upstairs, but she had diarrhoea as well. It was also apparent, that the only way she could find to alleviate her discomfort was to deposit it all over the one and only spanking new carpet we possessed, as opposed to - anywhere!
I raced downstairs fully expecting to find a trail of liquid poo, imagining the poor thing had lost control, but I found nothing except Sally, fast asleep once more in her bed, and an empty space where the pears had once been. She lifted a sleepy head, exhausted from her night's exploits and attempted a wag of her tail.
"Don't you dare try to get round me with those soppy eyes and faux innocence!" I shouted at her, my suspicious mind working overtime.
"I knew I should have stuck to dogs - not bloody puppies!"
Sally - aka - Moriarty