“I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth.”
– The King of Brobdingnag, Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
If I have learned anything these past few decades, it’s that life is full of mysteries.
Like, why do we sleep? What wiped out the dinosaurs? Why is a person never ready for a pee until they have one foot in the bath? Why does the word, ‘lisp’ have an ‘s’ in it? Why is changing bed covers so annoying? Why is ‘abbreviation’ such a long word? And why did I ever think it would be a good idea to get a dog?
Honest to God, I don’t think there’s a day goes past that he doesn’t annoy me in some capacity. Notwithstanding epic showdowns with foxes, it’s the little things that seem to tick me off the most, like following me to the toilet, chewing anything that isn’t made of stone and the incessant, constant, never-ending whining.
On Sunday past for example, having realised there were slugs in the garden decimating my shrubs, I decided to declare war. I dug an old margarine tub out of the blue bin and cut holes on each of the sides. Then I filled it a third full with beer and half buried it in the garden. The thinking with a slug trap is that the slugs lust after the yeasty beer, they slither and clamber through the holes and then they drown in the amber nectar.
The following day, I woke up and declared, “I must see if me slug trap has worked.” However upon exiting the house it became immediately apparent that the trap had, in fact, not worked at all – not after Waffle dug it out of the ground, drank all the beer and then chewed the margarine tub into smithereens. As I say, it’s the little things that tick me off. That said, the canine idiosyncrasy which makes me want to burst into flames in a rage, is when I call for Waffle to come back and he does not come back. This is a bad enough trait if he bounds off barking towards a little old lady ambling past my door; I can apologise safe in the knowledge that his bark is worse than his non-existent bite. But when he’s baring down on a hungry fox and there’s the distinct possibility his belligerence is going to get him seriously injured, it’s another level entirely.
So there I was, climbing the fence and running towards the fox roaring at the very top of my lungs and I found myself thinking, “Why did I ever think it would be a good idea to get a dog?”
I pictured the fox lunging for Waffle and biting off the side of his face.
I pictured myself having to carry the limp corpse back home and explain to the little humans that Waffle had gone to a better place. I pictured myself digging a grave…
All these pictures flashed through my mind like a slide-show as I ran. I roared so hard that my throat hurt. And then I ran so hard that I couldn’t roar any more. But still Waffle ignored me.
In the end though, my attempt to intervene probably made no difference whatsoever.
By the time Waffle arrived at the fox, I was perhaps 200 metres away and from my vantage point, they were silhouetted against a clear sky. Waffle stopped a few paces away from his quarry and I could tell even from a distance, that they two were sniffing at one another. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest and when I realised I was holding my breath, I let it out in a rush.
Like an oil painting, a moment frozen in time, a palinopsia postcard… I watched as the two dogs, one domesticated, one wild, considered one another over a span of just a few feet. No-one moved. No-one made a sound.
As if coming to my senses, I further realised that despite their common ancestry and shared curiosity, the situation remained precarious. Any previous encounters I’d had with foxes, one sight of upright man and they were away into the wilderness.
But not this one. Did that mean he was extra hungry for a hairy dog with an idolatry complex and obedience issues.
“WAFFLE!” I tried once again, although I held scant hope.
Unbelievably, the spell broke. At the sound of my now hoarse voice, both heads snapped in my direction and almost immediately, both dogs began backing away from one another. Keen to push the momentum further after it had swung in my favour, I starting running and shouting again. True to form, Waffle ignored me but the cunning fox could sense the murderous rasp to my voice and he made no further hesitation and sprang away, scarpering back across the field.
True to form once more, Waffle set off in hot pursuit and in that moment, I almost burst into flames. Summoning up every last vestige of anger, frustration, rage and puissance, I roared like I had never roared before.
I roared until a sharp pain in my throat brought it to a halt. It was the kind of roar which, if heard at any time of the day would elicit the comment from the listener, “That man doesn’t sound well in his head.” And indeed, I was not.
Thankfully, for the good of both our heaths, Waffle relinquished his chase of the fox and returned, tongue-lolling and tail a-wag to sit at my heel as if nothing untoward had happened.
Thinking back on it now, I should have reprimanded him for being such an arse but at that moment, I was too relived, too breathless and too throat-sore to think straight let alone care.
However, I did have the good sense to reconnect the lead.
Back at the homestead and since the evening was fine, I put on my wellies to do a bit of work in the garden.
I resolved to tell no-one about the fox encounter and not even to think of it myself. I needed to find some inner peace instead of reliving the episode blow for blow.
I can’t recall what exact task I was performing in the garden when I noticed the two ladies walking past. Waving and adding a hoarse, “Hello,” I was immediately dismayed when the dog started barking and bounding towards them.
“Shut yer mouth dog!” I snapped, all my inner peace evaporating. I had had my fill of the hairy bugger for one day.
One of the women shook her head in my direction. “Don’t be shouting at the wee dog,” she said and continued her perambulation.
I was so stunned – at her, the dog, the fox and everything that had happened – I couldn’t even manage a response.
‘I roared like I had never roared before. I roared until a sharp pain in my throat brought it to a halt. It was the kind of roar which, if heard at any time of the day would elicit the comment from the listener, “That man doesn’t sound well in his head.” And indeed, I was not’
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