The Terrierist

BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN

The death of a family dog is a heart-wrenching experience. I detailed the loss of my best pal – our chocolate Labrador, Cadbury – last August in the pages of this magazine. My family still feels the pain, although it has tapered somewhat since the summer. Now the heartache comes in waves when you least expect – signing off Christmas cards to friends and family now excluding his name; an automated text from the vet reminding us Cadbury needs a flea spot-on; mistakenly calling the remaining chocolate lab by his name.

Although some see it as macabre, Cadbury’s ashes sit in a synonymous chocolate tin not a metre from the desk in my study and there are times I swear I still feel him brush against my trouser leg. The sun shines through the clouds in the thinnest of rays at this time of the year – still, perhaps too often, I interpret them as the old boy’s whiskers. He has gone but he has not gone.

The waiting list for a new chocolate is a long one, especially if you are set on a particular breeder by reputation who produces a certain standard and physique of dog. There is no guarantee that a Labrador will produce a chocolate male – despite my shooting friends’ protestations, those are the colour of madness my family likes. So – to assuage my mourning children and to give the other lab some company during the long wait (he was whining endlessly and chewing himself to pieces) – a local farmer talked me into taking a terrier puppy off his hands.

I had been warned against terriers. Terrierists tend to dominate the other dogs in the family and can cause mayhem. Still, my wife and I have experience of dogs from puppy stage and we felt confident we’d manage with a terrier – even with the Lakeland Patterdale ratter the farmer offered, which has a terrible reputation for tearing chickens, cats and anything furry that moves to pieces with its impressive set of sharp teeth and its clamp-like jaw.

Meet sweet little Angus.

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Angus in September

Angus joined us in early September just a month after Cadbury’s escalation to sainthood. He has been a handful but no more than one would expect from a puppy. He has learnt how to behave in the presence of the family cat, Mouse. He has been put in place by our remaining Chocolate lab, Buster. The children love him to pieces and – it took me a month to get over the guilt – the little fellow has now grown on me too. He’s like Velcro but not to the point where the other dog feels displaced. In fact, we’re very happy that we went and collected him, bringing him into the still-hurting heart of our family – he is a very bright and amusing little fellow, whose ratting skills are valuable in the midst of the farmland where we are lucky enough to reside.

Indeed there is only one problem I have with Angus the terrier. And I suppose I should be flattered? Angus is forever trying to shag my right leg.

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Angus the grinning sex fiend, January

I have no idea why it is my right leg that Angus latches onto. My left leg is very similar and surely just as appealing? Perhaps he knows my right leg is full of metal (my knee was rebuilt a few years ago and there’s a 7-inch plate holding my right leg together). Maybe it’s the lack of any sensation I have in that leg – nerves in the leg were severed during the operation – perhaps he senses that it is an easier target than my left leg? Either which way – and we have provided quite an assemblage of cushions, alluring teddies and old wellies as possible substitutes – our terrier is fixated with, and so desperately in love with, my right leg.

The shagging has been going on for a month now. I’m like the vicar at the summer fete in the Giles cartoons – you can try as much as you like to shake the little pervert off but it’s far from an easy task to budge the limpet. Angus has a strong grip, his claws dig in (of course, I don’t feel them – not even when blood drips down my shin) and the rutting tends to last as long as he wants it to last.

The shagging can happen anytime. Twice Angus has broken into the master bedroom while I’ve been asleep and ravaged my leg under the duvet. He’s jumped on my leg and shagged it during a conference call to Shanghai. He humped my leg over Christmas on multiple occasions – one time under the dining room table while we were entertaining a distinguished guest from Kathmandu, who might have mistaken my shaking for early stage Parkinson’s.

I have sought solutions to my predicament left, right and centre. There are certain sprays that are said to assist – all failed to thwart Angus’ randiness. Wear shorts I was told – shorts make the violation far more graphic and in any case wearing shorts is for Geordies and Bermudans in winter. As a last resort I tried a thin layer of Deep Heat spray on my trouser leg – even that did not put the little shagger off, although I noticed Angus vigorously wiping his privates in wet, long grass afterwards. Of course I do not wish Angus any harm nor do I wish to scare him – I do not wish to be portrayed as a brute like some dark Jolyon Maugham character. It is not as if I am justified in carrying around Mace or a rape alarm for a tiny terrier. I have tended to draw as many positives from the repeated violations as is possible – the experiences have certainly given me a load of empathy for the #metoo movement.

It was my young son who came up with the safe solution just this week. A water pistol, which I conceal in my desk drawer. A couple of squirts of the pistol at our lascivious terrier while in the act seems to return Angus to his senses. There is a look of shock on the lustful lad’s face which then turns to disappointment, as if I am somehow getting in the way of true love like some over-protective father – it is clear that Angus does not have the hots for me at all; merely that it is my right leg with which he is enamoured. Rather than cutting off my right leg and presenting it to Angus for betrothal, a trip down to the vet’s for the snip is now well overdue – for him, not me.

So, there you are. If you – like me – are the victim of trouser defiling in these 2020’s of sexual disclaimers and permissions, I suggest you readily arm yourself with a water pistol. A jet of freezing cold water in the face during a bout of steamy rutting may not put a human off but it’s like a water cannon to a knee-high terrier.

To vicars everywhere – Never wear your best trousers to a fete unless you’re carrying a water pistol in your pocket.

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