Around the beginning of 1990 we decided, after much thought and deliberation (arguments) that a dog would be a welcome addition to our family life. A true companion and, hopefully, guardian of our home. The decision more or less made we only had to decide what size/type/age of dog best suited. First hitch! Mum wants BIG dog, Dad wants MEDIUM dog, Daughter wants LAP dog. So, we have to compromise - Dad wins.
Mum still hankering after GSD or Dobermann, the family heads for a local exemption dog show to get some ideas. Dad meets GSD there - No Way. But Mum thinks, OK, Dobe not ruled out yet. Dad realises Dobermanns bear ‘striking resemblance to anorexic Rottweillers!’ - No Chance. Dad goes on to chat to people who have breeds which appeal to his more sensitive nature, i.e. hairy ones (not ‘hairy’ people you understand, ‘coated’ breeds!). First meets a girl with an extremely ‘hairy’ Bearded Collie - he loved it, one to keep note of. Then there was the couple with an Akita puppy and another with an Elkhound. Two more possibilities for the list.
Next stop the library for some doggie books. The list grew to include Samoyed, Keeshond, Husky, Finnish Spitz and the one and only smooth coat - Dalmatian. We wrote to the Kennel Club for a list of breeders of the above and began researching their suitability to our home situation. Akita was promptly ruled out when Dad heard someone refer to it as ‘the new Rottweiller’. Samoyed gone - too yappy. Finnish Spitz and Keeshond gone - too small and yappy. He went off Dalmatians too - yes, just too ‘BALDY’. Elkhounds and Beardies were still definitely possibilities and now also the Chow Chow.
Mum not being overly enamoured with any of these and Daughter having firmly decided to stick with existing rabbit, a family consultation was called. Yes, we’d get something more exotic than a Beardie - they’re just too British. We’d keep on the list Elkhound and Chow and search dog books and Ads for something unusually foreign and fluffy. Let’s get a real eye catcher, as long as it’s medium sized and ‘hairy’, will always move out of the way when we want past without filleting our ankles, never destroys carpets, furniture or Dad’s shoes, wont want out to relieve itself during Coronation Street, Brookside or any of the numerous televised snooker tournaments and will have every other person on the street stopping to ask what breed our perfect dog is - not too much to ask, surely?
Weeks passed, few of our chosen breeds were advertised and nothing we fancied was available. Then one night in our local paper the kind of Ad we’d been looking for .... Japanese in origin and only a phone call away. Mum phones, very polite gentleman answers.
MUM: Hello, I’m phoning about your Ad, could you tell me anything more about them please?
MAN: Certainly Madam, what would you like to know?
MUM: (quick think, erm...) How much are they?
MAN: £100 each Madam.
MUM: (thinking WOW that’s cheap for an eye-catching, never-seen-the-like-of-it-before pedigree)
Do you have many to choose from?
MAN: Yes, quite a few.
MUM: How big do they grow?
MAN: (sounding a little bemused) Oh, to a fair size .....
MUM: Yes, but roughly how big?
MAN: What exactly are you looking for Madam?
MUM: A bitch.
MAN: (through convulsive laughter) Madam, Japanese Koi are FISH
MUM: Ah, I see. Well, thanks for your time, Byeeee. (cringe).
Back to the Ads, this time with umpteen doggie books for reference purposes. BINGO! A Chow appears and something called a Belgian Shepherd Dog?
Mum phoned, reluctantly, about the Chow - only one, male, four months old and someone en route to see it as we spoke. Next phoned about the Belgians (having seen pathetic sketch of same in an awful little book - the blacks looked like chunky GSD’s and the reds like Newfies with pointed ears!). Mum wasn’t quite sure what to expect but a black GSD look-a-like sounded fine. They were even ‘hairy’ so Dad might not notice the resemblance. There were three pups, all bitches, two red and one black, only 9 weeks old and costing considerably less than a drooling wheezing Chow - how could Mum fail? Dad came home and phoned about the Chow (~~~~) but it was already sold. Mum brought out the “sketched” Belgians - he wasn’t impressed and on hindsight who could blame him! We went to see them anyway, Mum and Daughter filled with anticipation, Dad firmly reserving judgement.
Like tubby bear cubs they bounced in and quickly won us over and so, a few days later, we collected our first Tervueren. She was beautiful and not at all destructive, caught everyone’s eye that met her but didn’t quite have the bladder control to see her through the desired TV programmes. Nobody’s perfect - we were delighted. She did have some peculiar habits we hadn’t bargained for - she didn’t eat. We thought dogs scoffed everything you put down to them and then raided the kitchen waste for dessert. At least she’d perk up at the smell of “tender meaty chunks in gravy”. WRONG. Any dog food, be it tinned, boxed, dry, vacuum packed - YUK. She would only eat morsels from shopping bags that read ‘Gillespie’s, Your Family Butchers’.
She was frightened of the dark! At least she screamed the place down every time the lights went out at bedtime. We thought only the phone bill, spiders and Jimmy White missing an easy black could induce such horrific noises in our home. Perhaps British would have been best - no cultural differences to overcome.
She didn’t bark. A mute guard dog that would top-and-tail an intruder was not exactly what we’d had in mind. So, in our new found doggy wisdom we decided to teach her to bark. The doorbell rang and all the family would break out into wild woofing and yapping, followed by great praise for one another. A strange noise outside - ditto. A car pulling up the driveway - ditto. Throats raw, eyes popping and blood vessels bulging we persevered as she looked on .... silently. Some weeks and megga amounts of throat lozenges later, it finally worked - a small woof came through her tightly closed black lips. Much praise and sweeties (Cadbury’s of course) was lavished upon her. Not long after that we sat on many occasions with jumbo-sized bars of chocolate trying to teach her to mime! Fourteen years later, we were still trying....
Raw novices in the world of dog ownership, we certainly had a lot to learn
Our Initiation had begun.....