Button eyes and cute incomprehension can go a long way

Walking round our house at the moment is like a cross between River Safari and a reclamation yard. This is all down to maturing Norfolk  puppy Coco, whose desire to play with everything and pee everywhere has created our New Look. I’m thinking of getting the Sunday Times Home supplement in to record the result as a sign of major social change: the middle classes are keeping chickens in the garden…but at the same time, we bourgeois doggie folks are in the vanguard of reaction to interior minimalism. A vanguard of reaction may seem to you something of an oxymoron, but when one has witnessed thirty years of progressive madness syndrome, it becomes ever easier to argue that oxymorons are exactly what our civilisation needs.

We will never again acquire a puppy in winter. Winter is for closed doors, but closed doors produce interior wee-pools. As the puppy gets bigger, the pools turn into the sort of lakes for which the EU is infamous. To encourage the lakes to migrate into the garden, one needs permanently open doors. But as long as winter endures, this is a battle between hypothermia and soggy kitchen roll as to which might be the lesser of two evils. The First World War battle of the Somme was, I imagine, very similar.

Very few things do better reclamation than a terrier puppy, if only because everything left lying around is seen as something to be reclaimed in pursuit of a new purpose. During any average day, Coco will come across – and drag away for disciplinary action – shoes, glasses, coal, kindling, TV listings, socks, toys, cardboard, and any other objects deemed likely to give good chewing. What she is absolutely crap at is tidying any of it away. What she is even crapper at is discerning the intentionally supplied toy from that heat patch designed to alleviate Dad’s back pain. While I was leaning forward to type on the sofa last night, Coco went to investigate the builder’s cleavage thus created, and liberated my Deep Heat patch. By the time I realised that the patch had gone missing, the puppy was engaged in thrashing it to within an inch of its life against our carefully distressed oak living room doors.

Coco’s abiding obsession involves keeping her dentistry in good order. This is a good thing, in that our oldest Norfolk Foxie’s teeth are the result of her greed in sucking all food directly into her stomach –  a process during which she perceived teeth to be something in the way. The downside is that when Coco’s owner is lying on his back on the floor (with legs on the sofa to repair repetitive blogging injury) she views my head, ears and fingers as more raw material for varietal chewing.

The most engaging action she performs is the four legs off the ground bouncing and growling thing. She does this better than any electronic cuddly toy I’ve yet encountered – and with such determined vigour that middle-terrier Tiggy is clearly impressed to the point of being terrified. Tiggy began by seeing Coco as a toy whose squeak needed to be extinguished, but she has learned otherwise over the last three months. I doubt very much if even Syrian water-cannon weapons could extinguish this latest addition to our menagerie.

When we return to France in two months time, the problem will rapidly cure itself: for there, little bottoms can be gently encouraged outside by human feet to dispose of waste materials via open doors to the outside…..there to chew upon real rodents and rabbits, rather than crucially important investment and probate documents.

Ever since I married Jan eighteen years ago, I have been an incurable dog-watcher. I still stick to my theory that wolves are the stupid buggers who couldn’t grasp how easily animals can manipulate humans into providing all their needs – in return for a bit of obedience and ritual rat-slaying. Many years ago, the Kennomeat dogfood brand ran an advertising campaign casting dogs as owners, and vice versa. In one memorable commercial, a canine ‘Human Owner’ observes, “Y’know, sometimes I think he understands everything I say”. I think that got the real relationship about right.