Shropshire Star

Saturday column – June 10

Yap-yap-yap-yap! Yap-yap-yap-yap! Yap-yap-yap-yap!


All aggression and attitude.

As we came away, we chuckled. What a horrible little dog. Not a looker either, seeming to be a genetic cross between a Gremlin and Young Yoda.

And what a silly name – Rocky.

If we were to have a choice of dog, a Chihuahua, a breed not easy to pronounce and even more difficult to spell, would come near the bottom of our list.

But fate, destiny, and the rules of landlords in the rental market, work in mysterious ways, and around a fortnight later my wife suggested that we could help out by agreeing to look after Rocky for a while.

I put my foot down. No chance. This was an aggressive unsocialised dog and it might go for our two dogs, who having both reached double figures deserved a calm and untroubled canine dotage. Or it might happen the other way, and they would not accept the interloper.

In a clinching argument, I told my wife that I only had two hands, so I would be unable to walk three dogs.

Rocky arrived a few days later.

At first the Jack Russell was unsure whether we had brought along food or a new toy. As for the cocker spaniel, he is naturally chilled and after a exploratory sniff or two carried on his doggie business, sleeping, walking, eating, as usual.

There were hopeful signs. There was no hostility on either side. Rocky hid at first behind the armchair but was obviously curious and kept coming out to peek at his new environment.

He started to settle down, cocking his leg on the furniture. Oh, so he's not housetrained then.

Being smaller than a cat, I was really worried about accidentally treading on him, so around the house adopted a sort of shuffle in which my feet slid along the ground rather than lifted and came down again.

Rocky had not been maltreated, but had had an existence of limited horizons. If I could get a collar on him he could at least be walked. He wouldn't have it. He went mad. He drew blood. Mine. We asked the vet if they could do it, imagining they had armour-plated gloves, but they said we needed a dog behaviourist.

I ordered anti-bite gloves online, but in the event teamwork involving my sister-in-law and wrapping Rocky in a towel managed to get a collar on at last.

He hadn't had his injections. Blood again, this time the vet's. He struggled so violently that she accidentally scratched herself with the needle.

Very quickly, and rather unexpectedly, Rocky and the Jack Russell became best buddies. But out walking, if he sees anybody or another dog, it's yap-yap-yap-yap! yap-yap-yap-yap! and let me at 'em. For a small dog he exerts considerable Newton pounds or Newton metres, or whatever it is the car reviewers use to express torque, so I have fashioned a sort of little safety strap.

Nevertheless, while out this week and caught off guard while taking my jumper off because it was too hot he made a successful dart and set off in pursuit of a friendly dog-walker with a friendly dog who we had come across about 10 minutes earlier, his extendable lead bouncing behind him, and a little further behind him, trying to grab it, myself, dodgy ticker an' all.

He didn't stop until he caught up with them (yap-yap-yap-yap! yap-yap-yap-yap!). No harm done in the end, although the cocker, puzzled as to why I had broken out into a run, tripped me up during the chase and sent me flying.

People don't seem to take Chihuahuas very seriously, making jovial comments like "it's always the little ones, isn't it?"

The dog trainer is seeing him regularly. He's defensive-aggressive, she says. The vets are also giving him socialisation.

After our days keeping Rocky turned to weeks, something happened. We fell in love with the little blighter.

Coming back through the front door he would bound up in welcome before weeing on your leg through uncontrolled joy and excitement. With visitors, he tries to bite their ankles.

We asked if we could keep him. Money changed hands.

Let Rocky have the last word (almost).

Yap-yap-yap-yap! Yap-yap-yap-yap! Yap-yap-yap-yap!

Yes, he hates you all. But I assure you, we're working on him.

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