It was a difficult decision to get a Dalmatian. Not because any dog is a massive – lifelong – commitment or that Dalmatians are not really normal dogs. My previous companion was with me for over 13.5 years. It was a fraught question of exposing myself to another inevitable sad loss. Dalmatian Welfare offered a win-win scenario. We could all help each other. I must admit I was a bit fussy – preferring a young dog and so I joined the waiting list at the beginning of December. Perhaps there would be an influx of dogs after Christmas? The week before Christmas, I got a very unexpected call and the next day we went to pick-up Spencer at a motorway service station and trying not to look like we were collecting for Cruella de Vil. Needless to say, I was not prepared for a young puppy plus the added complication of Christmas the following week.
Spencer could already do a very good sit but had lots of the puppy behaviour I had fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) totally forgotten about. Chewing (sharp teeth), jumping up, selective recall and omni-directional pulling on the lead. More than once we had to round him up from the back garden because the game was – come to the door – scratch – door opens – run away! Run circles around person trying to catch you – see how dizzy they get! Funny perhaps once but after a couple of hours when it is snowing and dark the amusement is fully eroded for the human participants. Or the time, he managed to destroy his new dog bed leaving the kitchen floor covered in stuffing.
We went to puppy classes which were disrupted by the snowy weather so he never graduated. “Down” was an interesting game. “Heel” remains a distant concept. At one class we all swapped dogs – on that day, apart from 1 thin and shy Whippet type, all of the others were small breeds. I was seriously worried about Spencer pulling their owners off their feet/chair plus some hidden amusement when the others – usually suddenly – realise just how strong and clever Spencer is. He remains totally non-aggressive and very affectionate but highly curious and observant. Loves going past the local primary school at break time – a lot of the kids run up and through the railings give him strokes. On walks, he stands up to look over walls (see Mr October 2014). Once when crossing a bridge, I thought he would want to look at the water below so I said “up”. Rather than stand on 2 legs and peer over – he jumped onto the bridge wall. Scary.
He jumps over streams rather than wade. And, he does love to run and run… and run. In a field, we once came across a suicidal rabbit so Spencer rounded it up safely back to its burrow. Stray cows have also occasionally received this treatment and are returned to their herd. One of Spencer’s favourite games in the house is the (non requested) unravelling of sock balls and leaving the separated pair in different places. So-called tough dog toys are viewed as a personal challenge. A couple of weeks ago, Spencer was asleep on me whilst I was watching TV and he did a little fart – the noise of which woke him up. He shot up and stared at me with a priceless expression that I can only describe as that of an outraged Sunday School teacher. I was laughing whilst trying to say “Sorry Spence but that was YOU!”.
Mid-November, Spencer invented a new game – whilst in a field – after some rolling about – he laid on his side and tried to slide down the steep grass bank – pushing himself along with his paws. Later in the same walk, I found a spot where a high strand of barbed wire provided an easy crossing point between fields. It was high enough for him to easily walk under it with his tail in the air. But, apparently this was boring, so he came back. The adjacent fence section had an additional barbed strand stretched across at knee level. Trying to give me a heart attack – he jumped between the 2 strands! Touched one but thankfully no injury was apparent (although a few days later I found a scabbed over scratch on him).
Spencer can be hard work but my symbiotic companion is a great dog.