Dear Bendigo: Pardon the pun, Pat

We were almost late to our first day of school this week. I’m not one to be dishonest, but I wondered, if we hadn’t made it on time, would the teacher have believed our excuse?

“Sorry we’re late. One of us was bitten by a free-range kamikaze* guinea pig.” 

Granted, he was being chased at the time… Further proof of how much we needed to attend puppy school.

Last month we welcomed Pat into our home. Pat the dog. Get it? 

It had been about four months since we lost our darling old mate, and his life-long companion wasn’t faring too well.

We adopted Ruby when our first dog was six months old, and from then on they were known as “the pooches”. How they loved each other.

At first I thought getting another dog would be the wrong thing to do with an old lady in the house – Ruby is 13, and I reasoned she had earned her place as top dog in her twilight years. But she wasn’t too good on her own.

First, she stopped talking to us. Stopped popping in and out of the house. Stopped scouting for scraps under the table at tea time. 

It broke my heart all over again to see her like that. And I understood. Some of us just need the company of our own kind. It’s why I adore my fellow word-loving friends. Without them, well, life would be well watered down.

“We’re just going to look,” I said to my boys as we drove out to see a litter of pups one Saturday morning. Knowing they’re both softies for a little cutie, I predicted they’d be mush in a puppy’s company.

And granted, it would be a steely heart not to be charmed by a silly little sausage dog with pale blue eyes and freckles. 

“He definitely takes after your side of the family,” said a friend.  And how lovely it is to have some new life and love in the house… To have a little bundle of fun barrel in each morning, closely followed by our Ruby, both sidling up for a hug and a hello.

Apart from the chewed shoes and piddle puddles, cat chasing and guinea pig hounding, all’s good. He’s learning to bring the morning paper in – and now, he’s learning to sit and look and drop and give. Puppy school was too much fun.  Imagine two lively Labradors – one cream, one black, the cutest cavalier, a chihuahua with ’tude, a spoodle the colour of maple syrup, a west highland terrier straight from a My Dog commercial, and our silly sausage dog, all lolloping about and sizing each other up. 

It was as if we’d stepped off Eaglehawk Road and straight into a Hairy Maclary book.

We’re learning to respect and respond to their natural behaviours and there’ll be some puppy troubleshooting along the way. 

The whole family was waiting to hear about our first day at school when we came home… including our gorgeous old girl, who’s chosen to rejoin the household again. In her rightful place as top dog.

*A kamikaze guinea pig is not a recognised breed, but is the name ours received after getting jack of too much seven-year-old boy attention on the trampoline, taking a flying leap off the mat, landing on all fours and scuttling off under the bottlebrush bushes. It survived unscathed, proving the age-old theory that things are indeed bred a little tougher in the Borough.


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