status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
Well dogs, anyway.
But I can assure you they have literally been pouring down, and for the last few months there has been a moral dilemma of vastly canine proportions galloping towards me.
It all began towards the end of the summer, when a friend’s father’s year old Brittany Spaniel produced a litter of five puppies.
They were delightfully wiggly and cutesy wootsy, of course they were. What puppies aren’t? But when suggestions that I take one started to abound, my hesitation before uttering a resounding “No!” was minimal: I had only just moved into my new (and unfinished) apartment, Pooch likes puppies about the same amount as he likes having his coat brushed backwards, and I am not the greatest fan of Brittany Spaniels.
A month or so later, and I was stopped in the street by a casual acquaintance and asked if I would like a three-month old Brittany Spaniel pup from another litter (the concept of neutering domestic animals here in Italy is still considered a bit of a radical one, hence the constant supply of unwanted and unplanned kittens and puppies being touted around).
No I would not!
Or would I?
Because the seeds of a very unwelcome thought started to take root in my reluctant mind, not helped by the proximity of two litter mates from the original batch moving into my street, where they persisted in gambolling and snuggling in the most endearing manner each and every time they crossed my path.
I started to imagine walks in the countryside, with not one, but two four-legged companions: Pooch mentoring the baby steps of his new playmate up hill and down dale before collapsing in a little furry heap together on the sofa to sleep off the excesses of their countryside excursions.
And of course, as much as I hate to touch upon the finite nature of canine existence, there may well come a moment where a second and younger dog might serve as some comfort to me at a time of great sadness.
But I don’t want a Brittany Spaniel.
I don’t want a Beagle, either – the other breed hugely favoured by the hunty shooty brigade here in my Little Italian Village – and another prolific source of “surprise” puplets.
Well there’s a relief. I was off the hook. No need to think about it again until something happened along that felt absolutely right, or (and far less likely) somebody offered me a free “Segugio” puppy – a gorgeous short-haired, black and tan hunting dog, with vast ears down to its knees, Clement Freud eyes, and a bark eerily reminiscent of the Hound of the Baskervilles.
So peace reigned, at least for a week or so, when the friend’s father whose randy Brittany Spaniel has started all this hullabaloo with her unplanned knocked-up-ness, came to me with a different proposal altogether: that of taking on the young mother herself.
Because it transpired that this brave and intrepid hunter had managed to land himself with an eco-dog, who, although fairly au fait with the whole concept of the wild boar hunt, was singularly disinclined to be of any assistance whatsoever during the massacre of migrating songbirds so favoured by the terminally moronic hunting fraternity in Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Malta.
(I would beg those of you with time and inclination to sign one of the many on-line petitions against this barbaric and morally bankrupt activity; so hideously detrimental to many species of once numerous migratory birds.)
Rather than picking up the tiny feathered bodies and transporting them to their courageous and skilful assassin, she instead spends a long time attempting to nudge them back into flight with her nose, before filling up with coughs and sneezes due to an apparent allergy to feathers.
I would be lying if I denied that she is a particularly sweet Brittany Spaniel: tiny and slim, short-haired, affectionate – even Pooch finds her appealing, except when she bounces up and down repeatedly licking his nose. Which is apparently rather annoying.
Her current owner would also be happy for us (me, Pooch and Eco-Dog) to have a few trial runs – play dates, sleepovers etc before making any final decisions.
Plans for a try-out were loosely made for when the Mothership is visiting over Xmas. Thus ensuring that there are plenty of cuddles to go around, and enabling me to get a second opinion on whether the strong bond that this working dog has developed with her master (albeit based more on trepidation than affection) will be too traumatic to attempt to supersede.
So that, tentatively, appeared to be that.
Until another acquaintance popped up one morning with a brand new puppy of his own.
Hailing, in all its floppy-eared glory, from a local litter that still boasted two remaining females free to a good home.
Hell; that moral dilemma really had scored a home run. And on it ran for a number of days, accompanied by expectant stares from interested parties “Go on, you know you want one”, and a little mental film reel of domestic doggy bliss with its seductive Pastoral Symphony soundtrack.
But despite all these things, a little voice in the back of my mind never quietened down long enough for a firm decision to be made. And its monologue can be quite neatly summed up with this beautiful verse, by an anonymous writer, that brings me to tears every single time I read it:
“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You own it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”
A simple truth.
Pooch and I have been together for almost eleven years. Mostly just the two of us. Eleven years of companionship, of ups and downs, of walks and laughter and cuddles. Pooch doesn’t like puppies, he doesn’t particularly like dogs. Pooch just loves people, and most specifically, he loves me.
Turning the last years of his life upside down just for the ahhhh factor of a new puppy, or an attempt at minimising my eventual grief at what must one day come, would make me distinctly unworthy of the unquestioning devotion he has shown me over the last eleven years.
So fret ye not, Pooch, it is going to remain just the two of us – Mummy and Pooch – forever.
Exactly the way it was always meant to be.
This is Status Viatoris, rather relieved at having dodged the whole exhausting house-training business if the truth was to be known, in puppy-strewn Italy.