Sunday, 5 January 2014

Did I ever post this one? It appeared in Dogs Today last spring and you lot were the inspiration for it. As ever, apologies if it's a repeat but some may not have seen it. 


I’ve recently joined a bull terrier based Facebook forum, where everyone is far too kind and the entire membership seems to get along splendidly, with no petty politics, fragile egos, or not-so-hidden agendas. I’m loving being virtually among Bull Terrier folk again, and it’s comforting beyond belief to see these fine people celebrating exactly the same misdoings in their dogs, as I did with my dear-departed Morris.

It’s also given me an excuse to revive some of the Morris stories previously published in this excellent journal, and it’s gratifying to see how well received those tales are, second time around. Self-regarding nonsense aside, sifting through over 100 Morris stories to select a few for posting on the forum, I couldn’t help noticing a standout fact of life concerning that remarkable dog. We seemed to spend an awful lot of time studying Morris’s bottom.

We did this because Morris repeatedly scoffed ridiculous things, and we couldn’t relax until these objects had been given ‘safe passage’, as it were. This meant watching intently as Morris did his poo, plus keeping a watchful eye on his bottom, in case what we were looking for had become lodged, en route to ejection.

As I thought about this fascinating subject, I began to make a list of the stupid things Morris had swallowed over the years, and as impressive as this was, I knew I’d missed a load. So, as soon as my family were gathered about me, I asked them to help me take inventory of the items that had put us on bumwatch so regularly. Herself greeted my, perfectly reasonable, request with the industry standard scowl, followed by an over-loud sigh and a too-slow shake of the head, but as our recollections gathered pace, even she chipped in with an odd item. Five, to be precise, and all most definitely odd.

It says something for what Morris did to our version of normality, that most of his bum list wasn’t regarded as remarkable at the time. Looking at it now, though, I have to say it’s pretty impressive, without being in the least bit pretty, of course. Among the highlights we remembered the following:
A ball of wild bird feed, and the plastic mesh bag in which it was wrapped.
Hundreds and hundreds of large garden snails.
Two toads, although only one of these stayed internal for any length of time.
A yard of purple tinsel.
A Ninja Turtle, minus head and right leg.
Lego; lots of Lego.
Herself’s new leather change purse. It was a posh designer one, too, but Morris just saw it as a hide chew.
An electrical three-pin plug, complete with fuse. We didn’t find the fuse, and one of the pins took four days to emerge.

Herself’s tights. These took forever to show up, and even then they were hanging from Morris’s impossibly muscular ‘balloon knot’, so I had to hook a stretched wire coathanger through the dangling tights foot and pull gently until the whole thing pinged free. What a truly hideous 20 minutes that was, and who on earth knew that a pair of tights would stretch so far!

Most of a lavender bush. For reasons known only to Morris, he became fixated on a lavender shrub and was determined to eat the entire thing. I tried squirting the shrub with several brands of cat-scaring product, but Morris regarded these as garnish and browsed on unhindered. Eventually, I gave in and dug up the lavender, as I did with some rather magnificent hostas, when Morris’s mania for the snails referred to earlier became unmanageable. Hostas are snail party central, and as soon as Morris discovered this he spent hours snacking on the unfortunate molluscs, shells and all, until his poo was permanently a’glitter with snail shell shrapnel. My sons and I called it ‘crapnel’, which made Herself cast her eyes to the heavens, so obviously we did it all the more.

Last, but nowhere near least, is the half-roll of Duct Tape Morris ate as payback for me going away for the weekend without him. I’d gone to Sweden, so it was hardly practical to take him, but he decided to sulk, and nothing on this, or any, planet sulks like a Bull Terrier sulks. That particular weekend, in addition to swallowing several yards of virtually indestructible Duct Tape, Morris pulled down the sitting room curtains, overturned a small table, dumping a newly-watered vase of flowers on the carpet, and crashed into Herself during one of several bonkers Bully runs round the house.

It was the crash that earned him a bit of time-out in my office, where he was supposed to take to his bed and calm the hell down for an hour. Instead of cranking things down, Morris ramped them right up, and attacked a roll of Duct Tape he found behind my desk. He actually pushed the desk away from the wall to get at the tape, so he really wanted to claim it, and when he did, boy did he go to town on it.

He ate the whole thing, cardboard inner roll, the lot. The only reason Herself found out he’d eaten it, was when he puked up about a metre of the stuff, along with the remnants of the cardboard inner. Great; Morris has a gutful of everlasting tape, and I’m in another continent. Cue panic, pan-Europe phone calls to my hotel – no mobiles and texts every five minutes, as it would be these days – and, after the obligatory consultation of the vet, the full implementation of Morriswatch. The tape was silver on one side and white on the other, so it wouldn’t be difficult to spot, no matter what Morris’s digestive system did to it. The problem was, until that tape came out, there would be nothing to spot.

It was a full 48 hours before I made it back, and during that time, Morris’s every yawn, burp and fart was studied by Herself and our three sons. Vigorous, multiple walkies, plus a full-on yomp over nearby Chertsey Meades, produced not an inch of tape, and I’m assured that every poo Morris produced was forensically examined before bagging and binning. You have to trust your family’s poo-dissection skills at times like this, but I’ll admit to feelings of unease that such an important task was carried out in my absence.

Of course, as soon as my suitcase hit the floor at home, I assumed control. I checked Morris’s vitals as he capered around me, fitter than any fiddle, trying to jump on to my lap and chew my ears. Truth to tell, to the casual observer he didn’t seem to be particularly ill. He even did a few excitement farts, as he so often did, so his personal duct definitely wasn’t blocked, at least not completely that’s for sure.

The lack of tape-decorated poo was still a major concern, though, and Morris didn’t offer release from that for another two days. When it came, that release was beyond impressive, with no fewer than four magnificent displays of silver-white dump art within a matter of hours. The Duct Tape had become pooey string by now, but it was still quite a show and kept us talking for most of the evening. Such is the quality of conversation in our house.

Yes, we’re an odd lot, we Bull Terrier owners, but we’re a happy lot, too, and that’s what counts … when you get to the bottom of it.

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