Looking at Portia now, peacefully napping on her bed, the mischief that is perpetually swirling in her brain is not apparent. Yet, that scoundrel, aided and abetted by her brother, Ottie, have caused their share of havoc. Neither of them has ever chewed shoes or furniture, and long ago I learnt the trick of scattering a couple of cardboard boxes with a small treat inside before leaving the house, to be sure I will return to everything as I (mostly) left it.
Reading a post by Monika of Tails Around the Ranch bemoaning the loss of her reading glasses to her dog Sam, I mentally made an inventory of everything valuable my dogs damaged or destroyed over the years.
- Ottie was abandoned in the streets and, when I adopted him, aged 18 months, he had a deep fear of abandonment. If left at home alone, he would try every which way to get out to go look for us. As he joined our family in the Summer, we had a tendency to go out and leave the screen doors locked, with the windows open. He pretty much broke all of them, even the small ones in the living room where we thought he could never wiggle through. Now that they both learnt to open the screen doors without actually tearing through them, I nonetheless lock all the windows even if go over to the neighbours for 10 minutes.
- Ottie was never interested in the Christmas tree but, when Portia came along, the ornaments proved irresistible. Every year since, she has broken one. Just the one. Because they are glass and they shatter, which scares the hell out of her, we are good until the following Christmas. But on the first year she came, having an inkling the gifts under the tree might not be safe, I left them wrapped and piled up on the dining room table. Only to find them unwrapped and partly chewed on Christmas morning. That year, my guests received nibbled on books and objects.
One morning, I came down the stairs and I could have been forgiven for thinking the living room ceiling had caved in and snow had blanketed the floor. A huge floor pillow I had inherited from my mother’s boyfriend, filled with feathers, had been slashed open by Ottie who, white feathers smothered on his nose, was clearly the culprit. The clean up was horrendous.
Lesson learnt: a dead bird, even stuffed inside a pillow, is still an interesting bird to a boxer.
Portia can get fixated on the weirdest objects for days: it could be a couple of teddy bears I keep in my office, she will gently move to different rooms until she loses all interest. Pillows on the couch are found in new locations as a matter of course but nothing gets destroyed. Aside from a teeny tiny ivory Gandhi my mother gave me a million years ago, a little figurine that I always remembered seeing in my house growing up. Not sure what piqued Portia’s interest, but Gandhi is now legless.
Lessons learnt: do not keep ivory around. You shouldn’t anyway .
- On the only day I ever saw snow in Los Angeles, I was rushing around trying to get to work. I had prepared a pair of boots and left them by the bottom of the stairs where I found just the one when it was time to leave the house. Ottie sat with a contented grin on his face, a “what are you gonna do now” type of grin. You have to give him credit: his thought process to stop me from leaving the house pushed him to pick up a boot, lift his bed, hide boot under it and sit on it.
Lesson learnt: when picking an outfit, never start with the shoes.
Lastly, in a gruesome and very sad twist, the biggest loss of all was our beloved Oppe the parrot. Smart as a whip and talkative to the point of annoyance, (he could imitate me answering the phone and my mother’s laughter to a T), he was not entirely beloved by the dogs who, for years, have been scheming to get into the neighbour’s chicken coop and, routinely, bring me dead birds they somehow manage to catch. We must have left the cage open one day, Oppe flew out and must have landed on the floor. It was devastating but, I suppose, the lesson here is that some species just shouldn’t live together.
All was forgiven, in due course, because, let’s face it, in most matters that have to do with living, dogs bring much happiness. Like eccentric relatives, we like to recount their mischief around the dinner table, while they nap peacefully, or, more likely, plot their next adventure.
And what have you forever lost to your pets?