Saturday, 24 October 2009

Dog-gone Tragedy

Oh dear. A story that will bring a tear to a glass eye. No way of sugar-coating this bone. Mabel has been returned to her breeze block prison (or rehoming kennels). Basically, the woebegone whippet went totally bonkers last week. There was an overnight 'incredible hulk'-like transformation, from meek and timid pup to frothing, snarling demon.

It started in the early hours. I could hear Hetty pacing the bedroom, restlessly. I switched on the light and could see she was quivering with fear. Mabel was sat on her fluffy blanket, teeth-bared, snarling and growling like a mini-minotaur. I couldn't believe my mince-pies. I got up and walked over to the beast. Big mistake. That made her even madder, she lunged at me. I didn't have a clue what was wrong, I worried she was in pain. Eventually I managed to coax her out of the bedroom, I checked her bedding and discovered the lamb bone from the Sunday roast hidden amongst the blankets. She had been ferociously guarding it.

Things calmed when the bone was removed, but during the week I noticed Hetty getting rather jittery. The cats all seemed to have packed their bags and moved out. Mabel had taken to slinking round the house nervously, permanently emitting a low, angry growl. I kept finding food wrappers in her bed: an empty packet of ginger-snaps, a yoghurt carton. I began to wonder if she'd been having more guarding 'episodes' whilst I was at school.

Last Saturday we went for an extra long walk in the park. The lurcher ladies came home exhausted and happy. I got out my beloved Macbook and curled up on the sofa to do some lesson planning. Mabel snuggled next to me, like a soft, speckled cashmere blanket. I reached out to stroke her, and SNAP. She bit me. No warning. Not a nip, a proper bite. There was blood everywhere.

I spent the whole Saturday in tears. I was convinced that if I sent her back to the kennels they would put her down. Who would want to give a vicious dog a home? I was equally convinced I couldn't keep her. I rang Gladys, from the RSPCA for advice. Whilst on the phone Gladys asked

'Where is Mabel now?'

I looked round the house and couldn't find her. I went upstairs. As soon as I approached the bedroom I heard the velociraptor growls. I gently pushed the door open, and there she was: hackles up, teeth bared, 'spazzing out' again. I was too scared to even set foot in the room. Later I tempted her out with some biscuits. Whilst she was distracted I checked her blankets and found a whole flattened packet of President Slightly Salted Butter congealing underneath.

The next day I took her back to the kennels. Gladys had arranged for a behaviour expert to work with her, and for a vet to check her out. I cried all the way to the kennels and back. But, later that night I realised I had made the right decision. At bedtime Hetty came up to the bedroom with me. She peered round the bedroom door nervously. She was too scared to go in, lest Mabel was in there having a 'Shining' moment. Later that night Cecil the Maine Coon moved back in. He hadn't slept on my bed for weeks. The atmosphere in the house is calm and restful with her gone. Poor Hetty had obviously been a victim of domestic abuse for days, and I hadn't even realised.

The canine shrink has assessed Mabel. He thinks she is one fucked-up pooch. He is sure she has been beaten (by a man). She thinks she probably lived in a pack and was starved. She would have had to fight for every morsel of food. He thinks she can be re-homed, but it would have to be in a house with no other pets, and no children.

Anyway. To keep Hetty from feeling lonely I let her watch 'The Dog Whisperer' every evening. She loves to goosey-gander at those troubled pooches from the comfort of her sofa. Here she is, transfixed. Maybe one day I'll find a nice lurcher boyfriend for her. Gladys is on the look-out for me. I've told here though, no more nut-jobs. A calm, regal, happy shaggy boy is what Hetty needs.

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