SOMETHING FOR THE DOG TO CHEW OVER

Heard the one about the man with the top-of-the-range Aston Martin sportscar? His dog chewed off the fibreglass wheel arch.

 

It is not a joke. Sadly this true tale is no laughing matter. Dogs, especially young canines, are known to chew whatever they can get their teeth into, particularly when bored or under-stimulated. A dog-owner in the UK went to work one day and came home later to find that his mutt had munched on his precious automobile. As someone who loves nice cars, or just any car that works, I empathise greatly with his heartbreak. The dog had done quite a bit of damage; the photographs were painful to look at. Imagine how the pooch’s owner felt? According to reports his reactions was: ‘Ah well, you have to laugh I suppose’.

 

You have to laugh? No you don’t; you have to cry. You have to break down and fall to your knees in front of the chewed Aston Martin and bawl your eyes out. The crying must be prolonged by the frustration of not being able to do anything to the dog.  You can’t scream and shout or mete out any physical punishment, not just because hitting an animal is the wrong thing to do, but because the dog simply won’t get it and you’re wasting your time and energy.

 

I know all this because I too have a dog with an over-active chewing gland. While I don’t own an Aston Martin, I do own things like shoes and garden furniture and plants, and they’ve been the victims. Paddy is a cross between a sheepdog and a golden retriever and he’s about a year and a half old. He’s big, he’s strong and he has energy to burn. He also likes to chew things.

In hindsight, I feel like we sleepwalked into getting Paddy. That is to say, any previous dog we’ve owned simply didn’t chew. One was an old rescue dog with no teeth, the other an abandoned Jack Russell that was more concerned with barking at things. We didn’t stop to think about one of the main issues with rearing a pup such as Paddy: the destruction.

The back garden has been the scene of much devastation. Never mind the recent storms; Hurricane Paddy has wreaked untold damage. He chewed the garden furniture so that it now looks like it’s been infested with particularly voracious termites. He chewed the waterproof covering off his kennel roof. He’s dug up any plant we’ve attempted to put down and, just to break my heart into smaller pieces, has dug further down into the ground each time – burrowed I think it’s fair to say – and created mounds of earth and compost in his wake. Each time I’ve shovelled it all back in I’ve tried a variety of methods to deter him: sprinkling peppercorns, chilli powder, and a repellent spray we bought in the pet shop. None of these worked.

 

Are you familiar with the Marie Celeste? It was a ghost ship that was discovered a few centuries ago, bobbing along the ocean, abandoned, with tattered sails blowing in the wind. Our trampoline is like a stationary Marie Celeste. Paddy diligently shredded and ripped the green protective material that circles it, so that it currently sits there with strips of netting fabric eerily fluttering and hanging forlornly in the breeze.

 

He’s taken to stealing and eating lumps of coal. I’ll pop into the shed to fill the scuttle; he’ll sneak in behind me and grab a lump of coal. Then he flops down on the lawn munching away like one of those people with weird eating disorders you read about on the internet.

There are shoes strewn about the garden, old teddies, and a hosepipe which we decided to yield to this maddening habit of his. He’s also used his teeth to partially dismantle the swing set.

 

How much longer will this go on for? According to owners of similar dogs, we’re looking at maybe one more year of this. It feels like a prison sentence.

 

Let me assure you that Paddy gets plenty of exercise and attention. In fact, it’s a case of him walking me rather than the other way round. I value the time I have to put in, each and every day, because it’s pretty much the only work-out I get. At weekends we bring him off to lakes and forests and parks. Yet his chewing continues unabated.

 

Do I still love Paddy? I reluctantly suppose that I do, however I’d caution anyone against getting a pup unless they really, really know what they’re letting themselves in for.

 

Despite everything, his relationship with our two boys makes it just about worthwhile. A bond has developed that cannot be put into words, and it’s a bond for life. They’ve made him part of the family. It’s funny because I often think they’re on the same level in many ways: they crave attention, they’re fiercely loyal, they make a lot of noise and they enjoy wrecking the house. At least we don’t have to read Paddy a bedtime story every night, but that’s only because he’d chew up the book.

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