I came second with this story in the Hounddog Tails competition in the over 18 category. The short story competition was kindly organised by the owners of Hounddog Dog Grooming in Galway. By the way, I highly recommend them: They do an excellent job, are lovely to owners and dogs, and they always have time for a chat about walking routes and grooming tips. The competition categories were under 12, 12 to 18 and over 18. Thus, there was a great mix of people at the awards ceremony and of course doggies of all shapes and sizes. The first place winners received three free dog grooms, second and third place one and we even got trophies. The best part however is that three dogs from the MADRA rescue centre get groomed for free every month in the name of the first prize winners. The people I talked to all own rescue dogs, so there is absolutely no need to support scrupulous puppy farmers. It was inspiring to meet so many people who truly care about dogs. Plus, I would never have written the following story without a prompt. So here it is:
Mixer the Trouble Maker
As a child I’ve always wanted a dog, but we lived in an apartment and my mum said it wouldn’t be fair. Instead, I got guinea pigs. They lived to ten and I loved them, but they wouldn’t walk on a lead. They just hopped in circles around me and I had to defend them from real dogs.
When I moved from Germany to Galway, I suddenly had a big garden and the Salthill promenade right outside the door. After almost refusing to give a dog back after two weeks minding, I decided to finally get one myself. One day I turned up at the GSPCA shelter and when asked what kind of dog I was thinking about I gave the very precise answer:
“I don’t know, medium energy terrier-something, that can be on it’s own for a few hours perhaps?”
Assuming small dogs are less work than bigger ones is a typical first-time owner misconception.
“What about a Jack Russell than?”
“Oh yes, a Jack Russell, my best friend’s parents have three and they are one of three breeds I would recognise.”
Needless to say, I fell in love with the first dog I was shown. A Jack Russell called Mixer. He rolled over to let me tickle his tummy for a while, than got up and walked confidently away. They called him Mixer because he used to sleep under a concrete mixer until the lads on the building site built him a shelter. They fed him until they were finished at the site and he had to go to the rescue shelter. I thought about renaming him, but the name fits. Having lived on scraps, he’s definitely not picky. In fact he eats absolutely everything. Like a giant food mixer he devours everything often without even chewing it. I still can’t leave him alone with food. On our second day together, the cheeky monkey stole a banana out of the fruit basket. Since I have Mixer, the floor is definitely clean, apart from mucky paw prints and hair.
It’s a bit like I imagine it to be to have children. In a way having children should be easier, because you can bring them everywhere without having to tie them outside and they wear nappies and have no teeth in the beginning. Ok, that’s a silly comparison, but like first-time baby parents, I wanted to do everything right as a first-time doggie mum. I spent hours looking at the ingredients of dog food, reading toy reviews to find out which ones last longest and contain no toxic materials, and browsing training tips websites. I even broke my vegetarian existence, because I tried a piece of kibble I can’t quite remember what meat tastes like, but if it’s all like this, I’m not missing much. Well, Mixer obviously likes it.
I heard somewhere small dogs often have dental issues. Have you ever tried to brush a dog’s teeth? Reflexively I opened my own mouth and started dribbling, while Mixer licked the dog-toothpaste, bit the brush and spat at me. The dog dental care set is made in Germany and I thought we export mainly cars and beer.
Mixer is an escape artist. Geraldine who did the home check showed me some gaps I had to fix and I blocked them off with concrete blocks, thinking he’s no bank robber so why would he dig a tunnel. However, after all the blocking and several roles of wire later, he still finds gaps. He digs, jumps, climbs and balances on walls. There must be a bit of a cat in him, maybe he is a “Cat-Russell”. You would imagine someone from the former DDR should be good at building walls, but every time I’m convinced that he won’t find another one, he disappears for another adventure, only to loiter back into the garden after a while, as if nothing has happened. Now I’ve ordered an electric fence. This is war!
The only positive thing about Mixer’s rambles is that I got to know most of the neighbours. The most embarrassing incident was when he sneaked into a house, ate the resident dog’s food and left a smelly surprise. Thankfully the neighbours still talk to me.
Sometimes, because I’m visually impaired people ask me why I didn’t get a guide dog, but I wanted to find out whether I’m a doggy person first. One day a lady asked me, if Mixer was a guide-dog. I thought it was a joke and replied: “Of course, he is still learning,” all the while having to hold onto the lead with both hands to stop him from chasing a cat. However, she was serious and while walking away mumbled: “Well he still needs some training, but at least he takes up less space than a Labrador.”
I would never go hungry with Mixer, if allowed to lead he would navigate me to wherever he smells food, but it could be a bin instead of a restaurant.
Mixer definitely changed my life for the better. I bring him for a run on the beach everyday. Sometimes the place is like a canine playground. Mixer is the kid – I mean dog – nobody wants to play with, because he’s not really interested in making friends, all he does is bully bigger dogs and runs off with their toys. If they are squeaky toys, I’m in trouble, because he loves them but never gets them because they are killed within minutes.
I got to know some lovely people. For some reason, I tend to remember the dogs’ names better than their owners’. One night a man even gave me a reflecting collar with flashlights, just because I remarked that it is a brilliant idea. Walking Mixer also raised my awareness of the environment. It’s only since I have to stop him from picking up every bit of rubbish along the way that I’ve realised how littered the streets actually are.
We even bring Mixer cycling in a basket on the tandem bike, but I much prefers running alongside the bike.
Having a dog is certainly a big commitment, time – and moneywise. However, I already miss Mixer when I’m just gone for a weekend. It’s nice to come home to a furry friend with a wagging tale, although he’s probably only happy because it’s dinner time again. There he is, five past six and he sits here staring accusingly at me. So, I better give him his dinner.
Hounddog Dog Grooming: