Ojo loves his new haircut
Many people have been forced to cancel celebrations this year. Weddings have been postponed and landmark anniversary and birthday parties simply haven’t happened (including my twin sisters’ 50th). We all agree to reschedule when we can and keep everything crossed for that momentous day to arrive – and hope it isn’t five years hence, by which time enthusiasm will be about as buoyant as a deflated balloon.
Meanwhile, we did manage a mini birthday bash chez Hammond for Ojo, our “ultimate doodle” puppy. There were no party hats or streamers and nobody dressed up or made a doggy cake, but I was relieved the milestone had been reached because, on the vet’s advice and to avoid any chance of malformed hips or future back problems, Ojo has been lead-walked since his arrival.
Ojo is one year old
OK, so after my arms had been stretched by an inch or two, we upgraded to an industrial-strength flexi lead. But even that struggled to hold a boisterous 30kg pup desperate to play with his pals.
There were advantages. Blea and Sparrow could chase each other for hours around the fields without their lunatic younger brother charging in, Dimple Chicken had a lead-walked companion and I learnt all kinds of contortionist-type moves to avoid lead entanglement.
As the birthday date crept closer, Ojo’s training was intensified until he was bored rigid with recall and wondering why he was having so many incredibly dull solo excursions.
He must have thought I was losing my marbles because no sooner did he wander 10 feet away than he was called back and rewarded with a tasty treat.
It made me wonder, do our dogs think we reward them for leaving us or for coming back? And where do they think this never-ending supply of food comes from? They bury bones for storage, so maybe they think our pockets serve as magical storage vessels for bottomless bounty?
While lead restraints were being revised for Ojo, our terror of a terrier, Dimple Chicken, was still under close scrutiny. She may be the most adoring lapdog indoors but her hunting instincts have always kicked in outdoors.She’d ignore us, go where she pleased and, after several nail-biting moments when she almost disappeared forever down a badger sett, had been declared leashed for life.
Then lockdown rules eased a little and we were allowed to go for walks in the wide open spaces. So Izzy took Chicken with her for a walk around a nearby hill and although she was lead-walked the whole way, the little terrier seemed glued to Izzy’s side. Feeling confident, when she reached the first of our fields Izzy unclipped the lead and, to her delight, Chicken stayed beside her, not even glancing in the direction of the big rabbit warren and more concerned than curious over the strange rustling in the undergrowth.
The following day Izzy walked her again, armed with treats, and to keep her focussed Chicken was denied breakfast that morning. It worked like a dream and she was such a good girl she was treated to a walk on the Malvern Hills with Willow the following week.
Ojo’s fur coat had been a mud magnet
Ojo had started coming to the yard in the mornings with Sparrow. For the first couple of months he was on a long lead tied to the post supporting the overhang on the stables, but on the morning of his birthday his lead was unclipped and he spent 20 minutes jumping in muddy puddles, chewing hay nets and badgering Sparrow to play.
His shaggy coat was a mess and no amount of washing or grooming was going to fix it, so for his launch into adulthood Ojo had a haircut. He is half the dog he was and although it took a few days to get used to his new look (Blea didn’t even recognise him for five minutes), he is a much cooler and happier pooch. He has far more energy and instead of a big cuddly cushion now has the appearance of an elegant, if goofy-faced, dog version of an alpaca.
Keeping up with a puppy can be exhausting
All the dogs can now enjoy their freedom. Ojo runs like a greyhound, which is the best of games for Blea and gives Sparrow a quieter life, while Chicken happily trots along, although she regularly plants her bottom until given a treat.
Ojo has loved his birthday surprises so far, but there’s one he’s not likely to enjoy…The big op is imminent and nobody is volunteering to tell him.