Jeff: I am writing this on day 45 of my lockdown. The last 22 of those have been dominated by the new presence in the house. We decided that, as we are both home all day, it would be a great idea to foster a dog so it has a better time of it than stuck in kennels with nobody at all able to visit. I still think it was a great idea. About 70% of the time.
Charlotte: Truth be told, I got in touch with the rescue centre in early April as directing projects were filling up my diary and I thought fostering might be really helpful for both doggy and Jeff alike. Cut to a month later and I am lessening my workload just to hang out with said doggy.
I’ve actually been pestering Jeff for us to get a dog for the best part of a year. He, quite sensibly, has been putting me off until we were settled out of our wee London flat with less travelling in our schedules. We’ve debated between puppy and doggy and spent about a year arguing about breeds before finally finding one we both liked the look of (a jack-a-poo), which is all futile when we’d go to a rescue centre anyway. The key thing we agreed on was to get a small pooch who could sometimes travel with me to work.
So, of course, we end up fostering a one-year-old Lurcher who was too much for his foster-owners to cope with – quite a large breed, for anyone keeping score. His name was Scout, and I decided that should be tweaked to something better, so Scooter was what I came up with, and I figured it wouldn’t confuse him much, as it sounded similar enough. Turns out, I shouldn’t have worried, and we could have called him whatever we wanted, as the poor lad can’t hear a sausage. Though he can definitely smell them.
Going from no dog to trying to train a deaf dog has had its challenges. We were the first to discover Scooter couldn’t hear, evident through his not flinching if a door bangs but if you step into his field of vision he jumps out of his skin! He also started off silent, but growing confidence has since changed that! Now, despite being deaf, he’s become our guard dog pretty quickly. Woe betide any animal or human on our street or even the road beyond as they’ll get the barks and howls of Scooter, who’ll also pelt it from the window to the garden gate and back a good 5 times to ensure they get the message.
Being deaf does mean he has no idea vehicles are dangerous and a lot of energy walking him goes on pulling him out from towards the road (or other dogs, or people, or pretty much anything actually). Next door’s dog is totally bewildered that, despite his barks, Scooter doesn’t reply and I’m sure the neighbours are seriously relieved that our naughty pooch can’t hear their chickens! Not that he has much of a killer nature: I was hoping he’d scare away the mice and ants who share our place but, apparently, they aren’t a threat worthy of his attention!
However, I am delighted that he has taken a real aversion to the seagulls, that have been too brazen by half since we moved in. I often praise him for chasing them off! When he isn’t doing this, he is to be found by my side, leaning on my legs, making sure I can’t go anywhere without him. We have only been looking after him for a couple of weeks, but we have fallen hard for his hilarious personality and hangdog eyes.
I mean it’s impossible not to. I had no idea any being could give so much affection so continuously (sorry Jeff!). Scooter needs us to know he’s there every waking minute which usually involves climbing his very heavy bony ass onto us, no matter what we’re doing (I’m surprised this laptop still works!) or sitting on our feet to stop us moving. If I’m sat next to Jeff, he’ll climb over my head (which bloody hurts) and squeeze between us. And the loving eyes, chin-nuzzling and gentle nudging if we’re focusing on something else too long makes it impossible to ever feel lonely in these lockdown days.
But, it is just fostering. We will be giving him back to the kennels, as soon as people can visit them again, so that he can go and find the happy home he will hopefully have for the rest of his life. I think I will be OK letting him go, as I’ve known from the outset we were unlikely to be able to keep him. It wouldn’t be fair on him, as he’s got to know us when we are around the whole time. Also, we really don’t have the patience or time (in real life) to train a deaf dog – he, ideally, needs to live with another dog, that he can learn from. Charlie is going to be less OK giving him back. Despite the fact he’s deaf, and doesn’t obey us AT ALL, and despite the fact that he is too big for her to cope with, and isn’t going to get any smaller, I think if it were purely up to her to make the decision, she would adopt him, purely out of guilt!
Guilt and love. So much love. And I’m so worried he’ll see it as a betrayal and think we didn’t love him.
Part of the problem with Charlie is that she gives the dog FAR more credit than he deserves, She believes every little thing that Scooter does has a reason behind it. ‘Do you think he thinks this’, ‘Do you think he has decided that’, ‘He definitely knows we are talking about him’, rather than the much more likely ‘eat, run, eat, shag, sleep, eat, SEAGULL!’.
I mean I do talk to him constantly. And sometimes I’m sure I can understand the goofy face responses to the full-on stream of consciousness I throw at him. Maybe it’s automatic – when I direct, I like characters to have a purpose for everything so I guess I see reason in all Scooter’s actions too! And I’m pretty sure I’m right; if only we could read his mind, Jeff would see that I’m a dog-reading genius. Shame I can’t stop him jumping on the dining table, tangling himself in the blind or trying to dig the sofa though.
Charlie probably won’t be able to be around when we hand Scooter back to the lovely Debbie at the charity, as she will decide that he will know what’s going on, and will see so many emotions in his eyes. So, it’ll be up to me to pack up his toys and pass the lead over. I will be fully confident it is the right move, but that doesn’t change the fact that there will likely be tears in my eyes. And I won’t even be able to go down the bloody pub to try and get over him.
Can’t get past this last para of Jeff’s without an actual aching heart and full-on crying. Bodes well.