Evan – the dog that stayed for a week.
When I first went up to check out the dogs at Bleakholt, I spotted (ha!) a dalmatian cross that I loved, and reserved. I would call him Geoffrey and he would be mine and he would be my Geoffrey. However, he wouldn’t, as I found out the next day that he’d already been reserved.
On the rebound, I noticed this feller – handsome, isn’t he? One year old Evan, background unknown due to that fact that he’d been “brought in as a stray by two druggies” according to the dog man at Bleakholt. “Never mind,” my hubris shouted, “You’ve had a Labrador almost that young before, and look how well he turned out.”
And so Evan came home to Wombat Towers… and proceeded to run rampage both physically;y and metaphorically through every aspect of my life. He walked me for hours; eight hours of it on one day. Which was good, I argued, because I was getting fit. Indeed, I lost seven pounds in Evan’s first five days with us. Other benefits included seeing a multitude of wildlife as we strode (me) and snuffled (him) across the hills that enclose the Rossendale Valley. On the down side, my feet were often killing me.
Helped by Gordon, the remarkably splendid trainer at Bleakholt, I taught him close control work. He was a fast learner, and quickly knew HEEL, WAIT, STAY, BACK, ROUND and GET DOWN OFF THAT COOKER (he couldn’t half jump for a Labrador). On the down side, the cats were not impressed and I had HUGE blisters, but I felt generally optimistic.
And then the biting started. Not mouthing, that gentle holding of a master’s hand that Labs are prone to, but actual pierce-your-skin painful biting. Expert advice was to turn one’s back and ignore it, and he would stop. This worked for ooooh… maybe three times. And then he bit my arse. And then he jumped up and bit my shoulders and then he started humping me. I ran for the kitchen door, big dog hanging off my backside and panting like a perv. And I’ll tell you something, those bites really hurt. These episodes went on for days, growing more frequent as Evan became more settled in to our house.
And he wouldn’t stop. No amount of “NO!”s would cause him to halt in his biteygrabby hand-hurting, so that my only recourse became to leave the room. Of course, you can only leave the room if you’re actually IN a room when it happens. Out in a field, say, how do you stop being bitten on all your sticky-out places? You do what I did. You try to grab the back of his collar, being gnawed if ever you missed, and wrestle the dog, together with its stabby teeth, to the ground, and pin him down with sheer strength until the madness passes and his eyes calm. And this was a strong dog.
Came the day when I’d walked him for four hours, and he’d attacked Mary a couple of times, neighbour Barry when he visited, and me a total of six times. The last time we were walking pleasantly in a sunny field. He was on a long lead, and paused to wait for me to catch up. As I came alongside, he calmly turned and sank his teeth into my hand. Have you ever wrestled a squirming octopus to the ground while trying to hold two of its tentacles behind its head? (God I hope at least one of you answers ‘Yes’ to that). It was NOT easy. I was hit by the teeth more than once. Eventually, short of breath due to the twisted collar and with my forearm pressing him into the rough grass, he calmed down. My hand was trickling blood and I was shaking, in tears. Where had my peaceful life gone? I was constantly nervous now that Evan would “’go off on one’. I had stopped writing. Daughter Ellie, affected by all she’d seen, had taken to her room and wouldn’t leave.
So I called Gordon. Bless him, he put my mind at rest straight away. “Bring him back,” he said, among many other things, and eventually had me smiling by the end of the call.
And so Evan went back to Bleakholt. After hearing my tale of his development over the week, and my vivid description of Evan’s behaviour (including voices and actions), they think that he probably has much working stock in his DNA, and with appropriate training might be a good dog to be rehomed in a working environment. I hope he finds a rewarding home. When he wasn’t possessed of Satan, he was a good dog. One time, early on, I tripped like an eejit while walking him. He came back and licked me, obviously concerned.
The staff at Bleakholt had told me that they knew nothing of his background, since he was brought in as a stray, and he had exhibited no such behaviour while at the kennels. No blame should be thought of them. On the day I returned Evan, Gordon and two of the dog staff took me with them walking six six-week-old puppies. Now that took the edge off the sadness. Puppies can cheer anyone up.
I want a puppy now…