As regular visitors to El Perro will know, Teddy is a very hairy boy. The three dogs are like the Three Bears of Comparative Hairiness: Min is virtually a naked little rat, Teddy makes a yeti look a bit sparsely covered and Poppy, as in most things, is Just Right.
Teddy’s furry knickers and tail foliage are inches long. Every day, we have been picking dozens of prickly burrs from his beautiful feathering, combing them out of the fur on the backs of his feet and carefully extricating them from the delicate areas under his ‘armpits’ and around his ears.
Normally, unless there is pressing dog stuff he wants to get on with, Ted will roll onto his back or side and allow us to do the necessary. From time to time he will take his tormentor’s hand in his mouth and hold it gently. I often hear Geoff chuckling and saying, “Now, we’re not going to hurt each other, are we?”
In short, Ted is a very handsome, splendidly furry boy, but his long coat is sometimes inconvenient.
Unfortunately, his beautiful coat is also very thick, with a dense, woolly under layer. The poor lad has been suffering in the sudden extreme heat and has not been his usual enthusiastic, playful self.
A few nights ago, I took the scissors to the fur around his back end and his flanks. I figured that if I could help him keep his vital organs cooler, he might feel happier. Ted was either placid enough or flaccid enough to let me have my wicked way with him.
After about half an hour, he was sporting a slightly moth eaten look. He had insisted on lying on his side, so his two sides did not match at all well and his magnificent tail was down to a lopsided, tufty stump. (I hasten to add that this was because he was born with a short tail – I might not be a great dog groomer, but I’m not that bad!)
I put the pile of hair into a bag, ready for spinning into yarn for Min’s new winter coat.
We were not convinced that this partial trim was enough to make Teddy comfortable, but he did seem to be a little happier, so we booked him in for a proper cut. I love Ted’s beautiful mane and his lovely, furry ears. It was with a heavy heart that I left him to be shorn.
“He might come out looking a bit like a pointer, but we’ll see…” said the nice lady at the dog parlour.
Two hours later, a pale shadow of our beautiful boy was glad to be home. He tiddled his relief copiously, but he seemed somehow diminished. His glorious, plumy tail had lost its wag along with its hair. His fabulous ears looked flimsy and did not want to stand up. Worst of all, the girls appeared not to recognise him.
Minnow would have nothing to do with him. Her hackles went up and she snarled if he tried to get near her. Poppy slunk behind our legs to get away from him. Maybe it was the fact that his undercoat is far paler than his usual colour. Maybe the salon cologne was making him smell like some primpy interloper. Either way, none of them was happy.
I have not enjoyed watching the three of them trying to come to terms with Teddy’s new look. The happy sound of them rolling about and play fighting has not been heard here for days, even when the temperature has dropped a little in the evening.
It has been heart wrenching to see Teddy lying quietly, not even wagging his tail when we approach. Normally, he only has to look at us and his tail starts to flap gently, like an ostrich feather fan. His usual affable grin has been sadly absent as well. We agreed that we might have though twice about having him trimmed if we had known how dejected he would be.
I considered re-naming him Samson: shorn of his glorious locks, he is a shadow of his former self.
Poppy was the first to agree to his cautious overtures. Over a couple of days, she and Ted gradually worked their way from tentative sniffing to a brief and careful round of mouth jousting.
Min was still not convinced. I wondered if it was something to do with her not being able to grab mouthfuls of Ted’s fur to swing on. Much of their play has made use of his big, cuddly, soft, furball attributes and maybe she just does not know how their games will work now.
This morning, for the first time since his hair cut, Ted was a waggy boy when he greeted me. We made our way out onto the terrace (better for managing his usual incontinent joy) and the three of them milled around my chair. There was much sniffing and everyone’s hackles stayed where they should be.
I have still not come to terms with my gorgeous boy’s skinhead look, although it has been beautifully executed and I know he is probably going to be more comfortable once he is accustomed to it.
I know that his coat will grow back.
I also know that Minnow will be snuggly warm in her Ted coat this winter.
These thoughts are comforting, but what really did my heart good today was seeing the three of them, bums in the air, wagging at each other and having their first proper frolic in days.
In other news, one of the chicks fell into the pond yesterday and drowned. I got there just too late – he was still flailing when I reached him, but he died after a couple of minutes, in spite of my efforts to save him,
I had not wanted to frighten Louisa and the chicks by crashing about near the nest with a heavy board to cover the pond but, clearly, it had to be done: The holes in the fireguard were just not tiny enough.
They all panicked and ran off when I approached and I feared Louisa would desert the nest and the remaining eggs. Fortunately, they all went home after half an hour or so, and this morning they had a family outing around the pen before returning to the nest when it got too hot to stay out. I counted three eggs still in the nest. Two are missing, presumed buried under the nesting material.
All together now, as the locals would say, vamos a ver!