This week the ‘Stare of the Dog’ was firmly fixed on a tree. A Christmas tree to be precise and one hastily stripped of its chocolate appendages ahead of his arrival. For almost exactly a year to the day, Dudley’s first Christmas was getting underway, so it seemed appropriate to submit this festive post today. As you’d expect from any newborn, his inaugural Noel would be a milestone and he was about to tick off more personal ‘firsts’ than a horny teenager in ‘freshers week.’
First up and in keeping with the usual traditions of Christmas in the UK, it was necessary to leave one perfectly well decorated house and decamp to another. As ever, the packing up of the car was over complicated, a glutinous and over indulgent array of foodstuffs were forced into the car and carefully segregated from the hound, a series of overcrowded roads were negotiated and all the while as we wended our way slowly south, the sound of Christmas classics from Slade and Wham were crackling through our car speakers. Our destination for the festive period was to be my parents house, a three bed semi which was about to see its number of regular occupants increase fourfold.
In confidant style, and with the Christmas spirit of ‘giving’ firmly on his mind, Dudley’s first action upon entering the house was to move from room to room scent marking like a honey bee, darting from one spot to the next. Fortunately, his first two targets were wipe-able surfaces and he was swiftly intercepted and ushered into the garden before reaching a third. With a flurry of Dettol spray and a damp cloth – other cleaning products are available – mother had rectified the problem, but an auspicious start this was not.
Christmas eve night passed in normal fashion. That is, children too excited to relax, adults too tired to relax and a desperate bun fight for the seats offering the best view of the television – whose programmes had already been dismissed for “getting worse by the year.” Billeted in the conservatory on a Futon, we were last to bed and only after making the foolish decision not to lock the hound in his cage in the garage overnight. Saps that we are for a sob story, we opted instead to let Dudley roam free around our sleeping quarters for the duration. I say sleeping quarters. Fleeting moments of rest were stolen that night against all the odds but that was about it. On and off the bed he bounced with regularity, whining, panting, shaking, pawing and ear licking his way through the witching hours. The final straw came around 05:00 when he managed to purloin and then scatter in the dark the contents of a lavender scent bag all over the pillows. Christmas day had begun.
Opening presents later that morning, it became apparent that the hound had received more gifts than anyone else including two children under six. A variety of balls, squeaky soft toys and chews emerged from bag after bag. To his credit, Dudley did his bit to tidy up afterwards, eating his way through at least a metre of wrapping paper and the cardboard rolls. Next, a pre-dinner walk was undertaken to stir up the necessary appetite for turkey and trimmings in which Dudley managed to topple and then trample an elderly golden retriever into the deep December mud. When the poor mut was back on his feet, he looked like a ‘Somme’ survivor. A testy glance between owners was enough to let me know that the damage was already done and that the best help I could offer now was to remove Dudley and quickly.
That afternoon Christmas dinner was prepared and consumed without interference from Dudley, though not through lack of trying I suspect. Instead, the stout cage lurking in the garage in which he frequently found himself detained proved to be a vital security feature in protecting our provender. Once stuffed with food and clogged up with booze, opposition to his presence in the lounge waned so much so that soon he could be seen and heard under the dining room table, squeaking his favourite toy and hoovering up ribbons of party popper filling. To the untrained eye and ear, this kaleidoscope of sound and vision emanating from below the festive tablecloth gave the impression of a one man ‘pride’ march.
Later that evening with parlour games in full flow – or at least 2016’s equivalent – Dudley’s last comedic act was to intercept, burst and devour a variety of modeling balloons which had, until then, been a part of my nephew’s present selection.
For anyone left wondering, the answer is no. Modeling balloons do not break down easily inside a dog, as I found out around 12 hours later but then that never stopped him sleeping.