As promised, the ‘Stare of the Dog’ is focusing its gaze on the good old days of puppyhood for a while despite Dudley, understandably, seeing the whole experience as one crushingly embarrassing humiliation, rather like when your father wheels out the home videos on your wedding day.
Although the sensory force driving any hound is presumed to be their nose, in Dudley’s case, he gave us no greater joy and laughter as a tender young puppy than when reacting to a new sound for the first time. Now you’ll understand, we are not sadists, such sounds were not emanating from one of those high frequency machines used by American security companies to deter loitering youths from the lobbies of expensive apartment blocks. Hell no, I save that for October 31st. Instead, the types of sound that young Dud reacted to as a puppy were entirely innocent and lacked any hint of malice on our part.
To begin with, he wasn’t long in our care before he mistakenly discovered a soundtrack as seminal to his own adolescence as any Chuck Berry tune must have been to Keith Richards. The noise in question was that of a metal jam funnel (how very 1940’s I hear you say), which fell out of our kitchen cupboard one day by accident. Emitting ‘symbol’ like metallic stacatto sound bursts as it tumbled and toppled its way to a standstill on our tile floor, it piqued Dudley’s curiosity immediately. Until this point, we had not really heard him growl or bark at anything, and what followed was both pitiful and humorous in equal measure.(click on the picture to open the video)
A high pitch, yapping attempt at a growl best described the noise coming out of him, the sort of sound you hear on nature programmes when tiger cubs are terrorising their mother to zero effect. As he proceeded to ‘nose’ the offending jam funnel around the floor like a one man air hockey champion, we quickly realised to our unbridled joy that we could crank up the febrile atmosphere to even greater heights by hissing “get it Dud, you get that noisy thing” at him in menacing tones. The video footage attached is well worth a listen I promise you, and in typical Labrador style, it is a behaviour he has not grown out of. Then to be fair, neither have we.
Other household objects that have grabbed his attention during his more impressionable years included that of a shovel being used in the garden as well as the sight and sound of a rake being dragged across the lawn. Given that Dud’s first summer coincided with that of a European football championship, I had toyed with the idea of exposing him to the sight and sound of another of England’s naturally occurring phenomena – eleven overpaid men, dressed in white, turning out a turgid and skill-less performance on a soccer pitch. Then at the eleventh hour, I spared him the bother, realising instead that there’d be ample future opportunities to see such a sight.
Like any good parent, I thought it best to keep our fur baby away from too much TV, so football’s loss was our gain. Instead, Dudley’s attentions as a pup were held fast by plastic – and in any given form. Starting with bags, just a glimpse of them would drive young Dud crazy. Not in the ‘tree hugging’ sense either, for he’s committed more suspicious smelling plastic packages to landfill than an acid bath murderer. With Dudley, it was always about the sound they make as they crumple about on the end of his nose or I suspect, the lingering smells of food from within.
In fact, plastic appears to possess qualities that can drive most dogs crazy, young or old. My wife and I are constantly thanking the hound for the skilled way in which he can destroy the crucial moment on any good TV drama as he hurtles past the sofa, accompanied by the crackling sound of an empty ‘Quality Street chocolate’ box that’s being nosed deftly around the floor with a skill level far beyond that of those fellas mentioned above. Come to think of it, I suspect the plastic menace blighting the world’s oceans could be settled overnight by a phalanx of Labradors, all working in tandem like alpine snowploughs to guide and nudge that petrochemical flotsam ashore – preferably all the way up onto the front lawn of the moron who decided I need to purchase my coconuts and bananas wrapped in cellophane.
Of course, the best sound Dudley ever made as a puppy was the long, drawn out and over indulgent sigh he would often make from the confines of his crate after retreating there for a well earned mid-morning nap. Peace at last.