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Thursday 14 December 2017

Family Guy: Salami saved our lives (and our house)

West Highland White Terrier
West Highland White Terrier

We have decided to involve the whole household in training Pepper, the now six-month-old addition to the canine contingent of our family which, hitherto, had consisted entirely of one rather toothless and cranky 12-year-old Molly, whose dead-seagull breath, gas-chamber farts and slavering "rage-gasms" at any sort of letterbox delivery now seem, comparatively speaking, a model of canine propriety.

"We need everyone to help," announces my wife at the dinner table, almost tearfully I think, over the muffled thumps as Pepper hurls herself at the glass door from outside.

"We need an exorcist," chuckles the younger middle teen unhelpfully as we all follow his gaze to where Pepper is now attached by the jaws from the remains of what was once quite a nice hanging basket, before returning to hurl herself at the door again. Molly shivers at our feet.

"No one," continues my wife, chewing absently, eyes a little haunted, "is to allow her in a room by herself. She must be accompanied at all times."

I pass around a frying pan of food by its distressingly masticated handle, along with the shattered, tooth-marked remnant of what was once a wooden spoon. We're a ragged lot, most of our clothes shredded either by way of lightning raids on the linen baskets, whereby the dog suddenly does a Wall of Death dash around the house trailing someone's shirt or bra; or by tug of war, in which said pup suddenly latches on to the sleeve of a jumper and attempts to drag the unfortunate occupant across the floor.

"Pick up anything you see lying around," says my wife, taking turns to look everyone square in the eye. "If it's left on the floor, table or counter, she will find it, she will take it and she will wreck it."

Entire books about dog training have disappeared into Pepper's digestive tract over the course of a single evening in this way. Shoes and slippers too have been eviscerated, only buttons and buckles conspicuously reappearing later amid the hideous biological disaster of our back lawn.

Two remotes have similarly been mauled into component parts, leaving us forlornly attempting to communicate with the television through a sort of Morse Code on a button at the back of the set, until Pepper found the aerial wire out the side of the house and savaged it. I struggle for an analogy for the four-pawed reign of terror waged against our possessions, but all I can come up with is a cross between Flubber, the crazy super-ball rubber that bounces forever, and a mincing machine. That is Pepper, Destroyer of Worlds.

"I'm sure it's just a phase that will pass," I try feebly, but I know the question in each of our minds now is: just what will be left of the place when, or if, that eventually happens?

SNIFFED

Our house has taken on a rather Spartan appearance, meanwhile, as all clutter is gradually moved to a higher and higher surface until there is nowhere left to go and these items are sniffed out and killed.

"The floor has never been so clean," agrees my wife when I point this out.

"See?" I tell her. "For every cloud . . ."

"A silver lining, quickly reduced to a pile of slobbery confetti," she agrees.

Replacing and repairing damage, where possible at all, has proved difficult or expensive and so, largely speaking, we haven't bothered and a kind of non-materialist Zen attitude has descended.

We must prioritise what must be replaced and pay for it from our weekly wine fund, meaning we must now deal with every emerging calamity utterly sober.

Perhaps, drinking less, we may live longer - but we shall die mad.

A breakthrough only comes when my wife discovers, having already failed to elicit a modicum of obedience using any conventional dog snack, a humble slice of sandwich salami seems to possess the power to mesmerise our new dog.

It proves to be a silver bullet or secret weapon of sorts and we quickly stock up and spread the word.

Where previously it proved near impossible to pry a prized bra from the iron grip of Pepper's jaws, it is dropped immediately, wet but little worse for wear, in favour of a scrap of the pungent lunch meat.

We cram our pockets with the stuff for our strolls and successfully switch to a system of reward, where once we'd have been reduced to peeking from behind a tree as Pepper, trailing a brown cloud of muddy vapour, rocketed irretrievably towards some woman out walking in her whites.

"Honestly," I tell her as the dog trundles back and snaps up her treat. "I don't remember any of this being quite so difficult the last time we trained a puppy."

I glance back at Molly, trailing calmly behind.

"They're crazy in completely different ways," she agrees.

"How convenient," I say, as we walk on, suddenly holding greasy, garlic-scented hands.

"You smell like a Frenchman," she tells me.

"Is that a good thing?" I ask.

"It could be," she says.

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