Our dog Nessie has many virtues and at least as many vices. Here’s a seasonal story in which the consequences of her vices, though vile enough by any reasonable measure, are less vile than those of her virtues.
You could argue that the whole thing was the humans’ fault. On Christmas evening, the Art Student and I packed a basket of leftovers from lunch, including most of a roast chicken, and set off for dinner with my sister and her family who are in town for the holiday break and living just down the street. After a pleasant evening, in which the Art Student displayed her Auntie qualities to striking effect, and my sister’s leftovers, including spectacular poached salmon, won the day, we brought most of the chicken home with us. We went straight to bed, absentmindedly leaving the bag of chicken in the basket on the stairs.
Enter evil Nessie.
The next morning, Boxing Day, the chicken bag was on the kitchen floor, completely empty: no bones, no crumbs of stuffing, not even a smear of grease on the lino. We didn’t know which of the dogs was the culprit – Oscar, the Honeymooners’ foxy Jack Russell, is staying with us while they’re in Thailand – but our dog-walks during the day made the criminal’s identity clear, as Oscar was his usual energetic and regular self Nessie was uninterested in chasing balls and failed to produce anything for our doggy-do bags.
That night when we humans went to bed, we shut doors as usual: the back door so the dogs couldn’t get out to bark at the possum, the front door in case of an unlikely intruder, our bedroom door, and the door that separates the front of the house, where we sleep, from the kitchen area, where the dogs sleep, because Oscar hasn’t quite accepted the principle of Separate Sleeping Quarters. The Art Student, usually a very light sleeper, took some anti-inflammatories for pain she’s been having in her hip. So there’s the setup: many closed doors, two deep sleepers (I don’t need drugs to make me stone deaf when asleep), and a dog with a dangerously overloaded digestive system.
I’ll spare you a description of the state of the kitchen floor the next morning. It was at least as retch-makingly noxious as you can imagine. That was the result of her vice – and though the ghost of a smell still lingers, there was nothing that carpet foam, scrubbing brushes, newspaper, disinfectant, deodorant and the passage of time couldn’t fix. It was her virtue that caused the serious damage. Unlike A Small Dog That Shall Not Be Named, she recoils from the very idea of crapping or piddling indoors, and had tried desperately to make the back door open: from the evidence she knocked, scratched and bit, presumably in the hope that one of us would appear, godlike, as we normally do to the faintest of her knocks because the door is new and beautifully stained – at least it was. We didn’t hear. And the door is a mess. We didn’t have the heart to beat her severely or even yell at her, but our hearts bleed for the door. Behold just some of the damage: