It has been very cold this week. I have engaged in lots of conversations about the “fierce chill in the wind” or the “early winter frost”. Ireland has always been obsessed with the weather. It as much a staple of our daily conversations as tea is to our breakfast.
In recent times, we have gotten on first name terms with our storms, “Oh I hear Deirdre’s on her way, and she’s in shocking bad form” could be a conversation you would in the pensions queue at the local post office and not know if it refers to an impending hurricane, or a long-lost cousin returning from Dublin.
We recently were left very disappointed by Storm Lorenzo, who by his name alone, threatened to be be very exotic and wild. He turned out to be a damp squib and barely even managed to rattle the wheely bin. Leaving us all very disappointed at the lack of a day off work, binge watching Netflix, eating chocolate Hobnobs.
Probably the worst weather event of recent years, that lived up to the exciting weather predictions, was in 2018 with the arrival of the ‘Beast from the East’, which saw snow in March and those uber-willing civil defense volunteers finally got the opportunity to put their vast training into practice. Here in Leitrim, more specifically our house, we got our own Beast from the East, but it arrived in July not March 2018. Her name was Heidi!
We are dog people, my husband hates cats with a passion. I like kittens but find it annoying that they ever have to grow up. We like big dogs, not those little rat-on-a-rope types that fit in your pocket and yap like narky toddlers who haven’t had their nap. I don’t mind some small dogs, Jack Russells’, Westies, Pugs, but the list of what I find acceptable is about as short as their legs. Early in 2018 our two longest serving family pets died. Our beloved dogs, Rhea and Henke died within two months of each other.
Given that I had been complaining about them peeing on the floor for the past year (Rhea was sixteen to be fair), I was surprised to realise, that I actually really missed having them around.
So, when Saoirse saw an advert in a local shop for Labrador puppies, I managed to convince (i.e. whinge long enough) my husband that we ‘needed’ another dog. As Patrick is Autistic, in my mind he simply had to have a companion dog in case he struggles to make friends as he gets older. I envisaged they would be inseparable, the dog would sleep in his room and put in an Oscar worthy performance as his best friend, just like in all the best dog companion movies.
As the dog was going to be Patrick’s, he got to choose the breed. Patrick is obsessed with all things Police (he even has crime scene toilet roll), so it had to be a German Shepherd. He got no arguments from us as Rhea was half German Shepherd and we were all still grieving her loss.
We set about sourcing German Shepherd puppies in an ethical way (Done Deal obviously). Me being me, we had to have it within a week, as I don’t do this ‘waiting’ lark. We found a litter of little beauties over in Dublin (Kennel Club Approved). Mick and the kids went to go and see them after a trip to the zoo.
I was gutted when they didn’t bring her home that night, but Mick and Saoirse collected her the following Friday – she was teeny and adorable. We whittled down our shortlist of German names, and with some big sisterly ‘encouragement’, Patrick settled on Heidi. And so, the love affair with our dog began – er NO – she’s an absolute lunatic that has added to my stress levels exponentially and I spend most of my time cursing the day we got her.
An annoying habit she had as a puppy, was to eat her own poo and anyone else’s she came across – the chicken’s, other dogs’, she really wasn’t fussy. Fortunately, I don’t see her doing it often anymore, but I have observed a distinct lack of poo in our garden when I do my weekly poo patrol. It has to go somewhere, so I’m guessing she’s still at it. This is the reason why you should never let dogs lick you – EVER!!
She grew very quickly, don’t get me wrong I knew she would be big, but if anyone remembers the TV programme ‘V’ from the 80s, she grew like the alien children in that, from 0 to 100 in less than a second.
We have chickens and duck, who I am proud to say are free range and have the free run of our back garden/mudpit. We put up a fence between the back and the front of the house, but Heidi kept finding a way through and we then had to catch her – can you recognise the irony of running around like a headless chicken trying to prevent a chicken becoming headless! To be fair though, she left Johnny Sexton, the duck, alone. I don’t blame her on that one, he’s a vicious little fecker who would gladly peck your eyes out!
As she’s grown bigger her jumping up at people has gotten to be a real problem, it’s not quite so bad when she does it to us. But when she starts doing it to visitors it can be a serious issue. One of our neighbour’s children often comes to play and one day Heidi jumped up and grabbed her by the pigtail. Luckily our neighbour has four kids, of which this child is the youngest, so she doesn’t freak out about these kind of things, but there are limits to everyone’s patience.
Heidi is indiscriminate when it comes to who she’ll knock over, and recently floored my Mother-in-law’s friend, who is pushing 80. This lady fits the stereotype of an inner-city Dublin matriarch,even though she’s from Ballinteer, a suburb beside Dundrum just not as posh.
Let’s just say that, as she was toppled to the ground by our adorable puppy there were a few choice F’s, B’s and C’s coming out of her mouth. Heidi also likes to jump up at the half door that separates her room and the kitchen, at first it was cute like a baby peeking over his cot when he learns to stand. Now I’m worried she’ll go over or possibly even through the bloody door!
She is ridiculously noisy. Many people with Autism will engage in self-stimulatory behaviour, it’s known as stimming. You may often see an Autistic person rocking back and forth or flapping their hands wildly. As a neuro-typical person, we must overcome our urge to stop them doing this, just because it seems ‘weird’ to us. It is vital the person be allowed to stim, as it helps to keep them calm and regulate their emotions in challenging situations.
Patrick’s stim of choice, is to screech, very loudly. He does it a lot before and straight after school to help him cope and sometimes if he’s surrounded by too many people. Heidi screeches too, she’s not Autistic, just a pain in the arse.
She likes to share her very loud high-pitched bark with us all if she thinks we aren’t paying her enough attention, which is most of the time. On the plus side, when everyone else has left the house and it’s just me and Heidi I do respond to her with a loud screech myself, something along the lines of “shut the fuck up Heidi” it’s great for releasing my own daily tensions.
Another plus is that Heidi is my walking buddy. Again, like a small baby it takes at least ten minutes to get her out of the house by the time I’ve collected up all of her paraphernalia – poo bags, treats for rewarding good behaviour, an iron bar for dealing with bad behaviour (don’t call the ISPCA, I’m joking).
We’ve given up on a muzzle for the time being, as three quarters of the walk wearing one, consisted of me trying to drag her along the lane as tries to get the stupid thing off, by doing forward rolls like a drunken man on his way home from a serious session. If I had a spare hand to make a video of her doing this, I’d make a bloody fortune on Youtube.
I have to wrestle her into her dog harness every day. It’s some fancy new thing that Mick got and looks like one of those mad stringy swimsuits that WAGs wear on their many sun holidays. The harness is great when it works, but if you put it on the wrong way, which I often do, then the poor dog ends up walking along looking like a dressage horse on speed for the whole trip.
Taking her on a walk does make me a bit nostalgic as she loves splashing in muddy puddles, just like my kids did in their Peppa Pig phase, and she is very cute when she chases leaves thinking she can fly.
I also enjoy throwing things around the garden for her to catch, sticks, a ball, dynamite! We have quite a big garden so she gets a good run. I usually do this in the mornings, so I’m out there in my foxy dressing gown (it’s not silky and sexy, it’s just actually designed to look like a fox), sometimes bra, sometimes not and my Fit-Flops. The only problem is, that our garden is positioned right on a very bad bend on the lane we live on, so people generally slow down when they come up to it, meaning my neighbours often get to see me in all my resplendent morning glory, my husband must be so proud!
I can’t, not go out in the garden with Heidi, as she can open doors and will come in forlornly looking for a someone to play with if you leave her alone outside for too long. She even turned a light on with her paw once, but the little bollox won’t do it for me again when I have the camera out – I’m beginning to think I’ll never be a Youtube millionaire ☹.
In the evenings, Heidi jumps up on the sofa and stretches out between Mick and I, surveying her domain whilst snuggling in for a cuddle. She’s flat our beside me now as I write this, exhausted from chewing her stone! My heart melts a little bit when she’s like that, and I do look at her and think I can put up with all her faults, because, as a L’Oreal advert would tell me – she’s worth it (I hope!)
PS – It turns out my cunning plan failed, Patrick can’t stand the bloody dog and can often be heard to shout ‘get that fucking dog out of my room’ – he has rage and cursing issues – it’s part of his Autism.