1970 - How It Starts
People get into the doggy showing world in a whole variety of ways. The first group comprise those who make a specific decision to buy a puppy and later show it. If it does well, they buy or breed another, trying to have the fun all over again. If it does not win, they either give up or buy or breed another.
Then there are the people who are born into it - like our daughter, Briony. Dogs are as much a part of their lives as food. They don’t need to make a decision to get involved in the doggy world. They only need to decide, if they wish, to opt out. There are many families which have “been in dogs” for generations.
The third lot are a rare variation on the first group and are the ones who are borne into it. Viv and I are part of this group. It usually goes something like this –
You quite like dogs and you have finally managed to buy a house. You have an amenable next door neighbour who will have your puppy for a couple of hours in the middle of the day whilst you are at work, so you buy the puppy. Usually that is the end of a fairly unexceptional story. For some of us, however, one of a number of things then happens. You see Crufts on T.V and think that it would be fun to have a go. You know someone who shows and they invite you along to witness their glory (this approach does not always heighten your interest). Or maybe like us, a cousin of Viv’s lets her have an extremely expensive, well bred, golden retriever puppy for practically nothing, on the understanding that she can show it. Later, before you know it, Viv too is “in the ring” with the puppy.
Brena was brought home on our laps in the back of Viv’s father’s Austin Somerset. I can remember it was late in the evening, the journey took an hour and we wondered if this little bundle would soon destroy its cuddly image by vomiting over our laps. She didn’t. We arrived home late and settled her down in the kitchen.
Lesson number one. When you bring your puppy home and she cries because she’s lonesome after you have gone to bed, don’t take her upstairs to the bedroom. If you do, she’ll never sleep anywhere else.
Fortunately, we did not fall for this one. We’d been warned. When Brena cried on the first night, I went down and stayed with her until she was asleep, gently closed the door and heard no more until the next morning.
She nearly lost her new home on the second night. I couldn’t understand it. Dogs are supposed to be intelligent. Surely she should have learned after the first night that whimpering would cut no ice with me. Brena made a noise in the kitchen late at night - whining - which, as it dawned on her that the nice man wouldn’t be coming down to tickle her behind the ear, became a rather annoyed yelping. Viv became upset - we’d have to get rid of her - the neighbours won’t stand for this. After all, no one had told us that owning a dog would be like this.
The nice man went back downstairs. Tried being nice, but she wasn’t falling for that one again. As soon as I close my eyes, you’ll be off to that nice warm bed I know you’ve got upstairs. I want to play and if you won’t play with me, I’ll damn well bark. Hoi, come back here or else. All right you asked for it, bark, bark, bark!
It is, some people would say, all right to chastise an adult dog so long as you know they understand what is required. The effect, however upon a small, 10 week old puppy is significant. The nice man turned nasty and told her in a loud firm voice to be quiet. She flew across the kitchen floor, ending up crouching in the corner - bemused, bewildered, rather sad, and quiet. I was appalled and went towards her. She told me with eyes that were big, brown and soft, that I was totally unjust. I was bigger than her and after all, it was only a game. I closed the door and went to bed.
Looking back at it now, it would have been much better to ignore her barking and apologise to the neighbours the next day or, better still, to have warned them in advance that the new puppy might be noisy for a night or two. But, we were new to this. We didn’t know.
In the morning she came up to me when I went into the kitchen. She was as bright and happy as ever. Dogs are very forgiving - or maybe they just want our love and affection and know the best way of getting it.
We were “with dog”.