Grand Old Lady
Early springtime had brought about the need to find a new place to live for Dave and myself. My parents wanted once more to garden in relative peace and quiet and so the time had come to find a new dog friendly landlord. No more alfresco flower arranging for David.
I placed a “room wanted” advert online and included a photo of Dave for good measure. The basic room requirements sought with the emphasis on “must be dog friendly accommodation” and awaited replies. Soon enough I received an email from a lady in Plymouth who had seen my advert and in particular the photo of Dave.
I do suffer proud “parent” moments from time to time and acknowledge that Dave has a certain charm about him that unlocks opportunities in life. I had taken Dave along with me that day when I met my new potential landlady.
Within a few minutes of talking it had become obvious to me that she loved animals dearly and certainly had taken a shine to Dave, by now no longer a small puppy but a charismatic young dog. Unbeknown to Dave the best part was that my new landlady had a 13 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier bitch.
Plymouth was not my first choice of city to live in, in the South West. Heavy traffic levels and dense post war housing made it feel very much like inner London and not rural Devon / Cornwall ocean city. Still, I wasn’t in a position to be too choosy about location as finding a place to live that allowed pets had not proved easy.
For my part I wanted to be a modest drive from Dartmoor and thankfully the accommodation was a little over 20 minutes from the centre of the moor. I looked forward to moving day and what was to become a new adventurous chapter in our outdoor lives.
Rosie was her kennel name, or the ‘Grand Old Lady’ as my landlady liked to call her Staffy. Moving day had finally arrived and Dave, ever the explorer rushed into the new house and immediately spotted Rosie. For a few moments there was the typical sniffing and pacing, clear observations of canine submission and dominance.
The animal world power struggle between the young upstart and the Grand Old Lady. Despite or perhaps because of her age, Rosie was no fool. She knew her place in the household and that place in her mind was not about to be changed by the noisy arrival of an over enthusiastic collie; challenged yes but certainly if she had anything to do with it, not changed.
I stood out the way as did my landlady and we watched the two dogs get to know each other. We were more nervous than the animals. Rosie on her stout legs stood her ground as Dave repeatedly tried to impose his sense of being boss dog.
It didn’t take that long before the docile Grand Old Lady had found her bite and bark. Dave was unceremoniously dispatched to the corner of the kitchen with a display of fangs and a sharp bark. The lady’s not for turning.
Being a typical boy and perhaps not fully aware of household etiquette, Dave proceeded once more to attempt to woo Rosie in “that” way! Needless to say he didn’t achieve much, other than another display of temper and the proverbial “clip round the ear” by way of a sharp snap of jaws.
I smiled at my landlady and she put the kettle on for a welcome cup of tea. At least I hadn’t disgraced myself unlike Dave who was skulking in a corner wondering what course of action to take next in the battle of the sexes.
Over the following weeks Dave and Rosie came to a fairly happy arrangement over who was boss. 13 years beats 1 year. Dave would politely and sensibly leave Rosie’s food bowl alone, though in a show of dominance Rosie would happily help herself to Dave’s food if he was out in the garden or a little slow to arrive for breakfast. It was funny watching him run in from the bottom of the garden when he spotted Rosie sauntering over to see what culinary delights Dave was being served up.
It certainly made Dave into a quick eater, knowing that forever just over his youthful shoulder was a not so daft old lady, awaiting her chance to clean up. Soon enough a regular pattern would emerge; Dave would wander into the kitchen in the morning sniff his food, peer at it and then walk off into the garden with a nonchalant confident swagger for his morning ablutions.
Seconds later with a dramatic sense of panic Dave would come hurtling across the lawn, grass and mud flying in all directions, skid across the kitchen tiles with his wet muddy paws going in all directions and arrive somewhat disheveled at his food bowl – just as Rosie would be licking the first piece.
Anyone with siblings can relate to this. When your food is served it is wise to be sat at the table with your culinary rival! Dave soon understood that Rosie may have been slow to walk but she was as sharp as a knife in her ways.
Over the weeks I saw a genuine canine friendship form between the pair of them. Not a rivalry over food, Dave understood the pecking order but an enjoyment of each other’s company. Rosie would be asleep for most of the morning, remember she was at 13 years old a Grand Old Lady and Dave would be asleep beside her; the pair of them resting peacefully on an old single duvet.
As morning turned into afternoon, Rosie would take up residence in the bay window of the front downstairs lounge. Sitting on the window shelf watching the world go by in front of the vast expanse of glass.
Dave would sit beside her and the pair of them would no doubt discuss canine opinion on the state of affairs of Plymouth. It was wonderful to see how quickly Dave had settled into life with his new friends.
I mentioned the old duvet that Rosie liked to sleep on, well it seemed that Dave was also fond of that single duvet and I would very often find the white stuffing strewn all over the upstairs landing. Dave, never too far away, looking at me with a sheepish grin.
Every day I would pick up all the bits of escaping fluffy stuffing, like mini clouds scattered across the landing and carefully place them back into the duvet via a small tear that a dog had made once upon a fun time.
I would look at Dave and give him a stern look of disapproval. I might as well have been telling a leaf not to fall in autumn. The following day, I would be found on the landing picking up escaping pieces of fluffy stuffing and placing them carefully in the duvet. Pet ownership can be rewarding and also exasperating at times!
This was the beginning of Dave’s love affair with anything soft and made of fabric. Nothing was safe, cushions, shoes, slippers. Anything that was soft and fun would slowly, as if by ghostly intervention, migrate from place of origin to Dave’s domain.
I always blamed Dave, never of course with any malice in my voice but I am sure Rosie was always egging him on to do so. Pets are creatures of habit at times but you cannot deny they do know how to make us humans laugh.
These days I can spot a dislodged shoelace or misaligned cushion from a thousand paces, Dave’s flat ears telling me all I need to know.
Guilty M’lud of all charges.
Like all good things though, our time with Rosie in Plymouth was about to come to an end, though not before Dave and I had explored more of Dartmoor thoroughly. The next few chapters reveal just some of our many adventures on the moor.