Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A tall dark stranger came for breakfast this morning, and I met a fireman too

That might have got your attention.
Unfortunately, for those of you who feel I might deserve a more interesting love-life, once more, it was all about the dogs.

It al started about 6:00 ish when Izzy and Chloe started a hue and cry at the back door .. when I opened it they bolted out as they normally do when a cat has passed within 50 metres of the house, regardless of whether it was 1 minute or 1 hour ago.  They bounced up the garden and hurtled back down and ran round in circles, so I thought “Great – they’ll have calmed down by the time I take them walkies…” and wandered upstairs to get dressed.
Half-way through that process, I felt a nudge at my side, then a furry weight leaning against my leg, as the members of my merry little band are wont to do when they think the human isn’t serving breakfast quickly enough.  I put my hand down to scratch a ….very large, pointy ear… the nose came up and poked me in .. my armpit.  “That’s not one of mine,…” says I and looked (slightly) downwards at a huge black face grinning at me.
chief1Right behind him were my three concerned canine companions, filling up the door and looking very perplexed.  If I’d seen my own expression I imagine it would have been pretty perplexed as well.  Chloe, the smallest, was pushing forward, her eyes bulging and the whites beginning to turn red, not a good sign. Izzy was doing her blank stare which is her normal prelude to pouncing on Chloe and giving her a good drubbing. Only this time she was pointing her nose at the intruder.
I had a flashback to the smackdown that occurred the first day I brought Izzy into the house  - Chloe came off second best in that one, and I didn’t give her much chance of doing any better with this giant. Capable as she is of defending herself, Izzy, my biggest dog, weighing in at about 34 kilos, only came up to his shoulder.There was also the matter of all the dogs being in the very small space, full of breakables, that is my bedroom.. with no way out for me other than wading through them all. At the same time another part of my mind was going … “do I have space for another one?” And what about Timmie … if this turned into a free-for-all..he’d just get flattened.
So, as nonchalantly as I could manage, I manouevered round the big guy so I was between him anIMG00096-20120206-0749d the gang. His response was lie down politely and avert his eyes..much to my relief.  After much shuffling and shifting of positions I managed to get them all out of the door, onto the 3ft x 8 ft landing and down the stairs to the kitchen where all weight-loss considerations disappeared as I lavishly distributed dog biscuits to all parties. To encourage detente I swiftly followed up with breakfast all round, one bowl in each corner.  To give a sense of his size, the visitor is eating out of the largest size (1.5 litre) dog bowl. As you can see, the width of his face is about two-thirds of the width of the bowl.
While everybody was busy munching I had a chance to observe. Some things about this animal were not quite…right... His back was a little too long, his coat much coarser than one would expect of a German Shepherd or a Belgian (more on this later)  his body quite heavy in proportion to his legs (he was not fat, just big) and his head was just enormous in proportion to his considerable body size. But he did not make a sound when he moved. He’d made it across a tiled floor, a wooden floor, up the stairs and into my room without a sound.  My mob had followed him in stealth mode, something they never do with other dogs. He was very friendly, placid and docile, but extremely confident. 
When I went into the living room to get my camera, the whole bunch followed me.  Due to The Piano That Needs a Good Home – there is not a whole lot of space to get round the sofa. The floor space was immediately filled by the much calmer but still suspicious canines, so he basically walked across the sofa, from behind, with about as much effort as a Humvee over a speed bump. As far as he was concerned, he was going to hang with the boss (or he felt sorry for the hen-pecked human?), regardless of what the locals thought.  At this stage I felt it was safe to talk to and handle him enough to find out if he had tags or a chip, without causing the two girls to take offence.
Timmie, by this stage had made his statement about the situation (a good sized puddle in the hallway, a generous pile of poop by the back door), and had retired to his bedroom (he allows me to share it) with a few huffs and puffs of disdain. Chloe became charmed by the fact that the visitor had not finished his breakfast, and slithered off to quietly polish it off before I re-instated her dietary limitations.  Because I was paying attention to the tall dark and handsome chap, Izzy decided the best course of action was to retreat to her cushion and pout. Alternatively, the dogs had figured there was a good reason for this guy’s quiet confidence and were not going to risk getting a pasting. Animals are good at working out that sort of thing if left without interference from humans.
So I was able to confirm he was a boy, and dig through his very dense ruff to find his collar and tag. Thankfully there was a phone number on it. But it was very hard to read due to the big guy's kissing me every time I got close enough to make out the numbers (I’m very short-sighted, so there was a lot of kissing). What a shame it was a four-legged visitor, I might still be too IMG00108-20120206-0809busy to sit down and write all this.
All this was going on while the daylight was still struggling to make an impression, so if one had an active imagination, one might have thought this big silent creature was a wolf … in fact, my next-door neighbour went so far as to knock on my door to warn me they had seen a wolf jumping over my wall from their bedroom window… cue another perplexed expression when I indicated said wolf plonked comfortably in my kitchen munching on the remains of the dog biscuits.
Happily, when I called the number on the tag, I was able to contact the owner, and bring the fireman of our title into my story – the owner was a fireman whose house backs onto my next-door neighbour.  But, sadly, dear reader, no romance ensued. I’m sooooo boring, Sorry.  He didn’t even turn up in his uniform….  I did, however, establish that my guest’s name is Chief. According to his owner, he is a 9 year old Belgian Shepherd with a penchant for exploration. When he departed with Chief I was tempted to ask him would he like to take The Piano That Needs a Good Home with him as well. I’m pretty sure Chief would have had no problem towing it round to their house.
Now, bear in mind that the whole episode took place early in the morning, in the half-light, and it was a somewhat surreal experience to find any strange dog, let along a stonking big one like Chief, in the bedroom before my first dose of coffee. Factor in the opinion of the next-door neighbour. Note that even with all that going on, I managed to clock in at work only 3 minutes late (and I had to change my password before I got to clock in!).
Then take a look at the pictures below and tell me what you think… is Chief a Belgian Shepherd or something a little more exotic? I can’t make up my mind.

Here’s a picture of a Belgian Shepherd  from Wikipedia, in a pose as close as I could find to the picture of Chief I took this morning. This chap has a longish back, but his body is not quite as thick-set as Chief’s and his head is narrower
Here’s the picture of Chief  - nice smile!chief2
And here is a picture of a timber wolf hybrid from a website called Right Puppy – equally nice smile, coat not quite as long as Chief.

Whatever anybody thinks he might be, I will say that Chief was a very polite and pleasant guest, and I would be happy if he visited again – only next time, I hope it will be at a reasonable hour in the day.

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