Our cottage is very small. Tiny really. As you walk in the front room you stumble out the back door. We’ve rearranged the furniture repeatedly in the hope of gaining an extra square inch of floor space. We had to move the table into the front room so that there is space to take things out of the oven. My Very Own Newfoundlander managed to score ‘nesting tables’ from neighbours so that we have two coffee tables for the space of one – magic! Even at this optimum arrangement you can hear the other person breathing no matter where they are in the cottage. It’s kind of comforting really. Just as well we love each other. While we didn’t have space for an extra stool we found we did have a smidgen of extra love to bestow on a creature in need and had been following Dogs in Distress (DID), overcome by how many dogs were in bad need of looking after – even temporarily till they find their ‘forever home’.
In the days before MVON had found a job he reasoned that there was still a dog sized space that was free in the kitchen. Considering one of europe’s biggest parks is on our doorstep we had already devised walking routes and catch games by the time we contacted DID. Before we knew it Paulo was delivered to us one sunny Saturday morning. He had been found abandoned in a supermarket car park. ‘Hello lovely Paulo’ we chorused outside our front door and he responded by immediately lying on his back – legs akimbo and eyes begging for a tummy rub. In less than 30 seconds we were in love. All three of us.
In truth he was about two dog sizes bigger than we said we could foster but about 50 times more adorable. He sniffed every single centimetre of the cottage before retracing his steps to ensure he did it correctly. He did this three times before having a cheeky pee in front of the fireplace. And so we began the process of house training him, in between long walks and belly rubs. ‘Did he have a poo?’ I’d ask MVON when they’d return and I’d squeal in delight if a solid had been achieved. In only a few days and a gallon of bleach Paulo knew the park was his toilet with our yarden as an emergency space.
When I’d get home from work he didn’t just wag his tail, he wagged his entire lower half, with an urgency that made me dump my bike and immediately run up to him for a huge hug and belly rub. A gift of a rawhide on day 4 was like Christmas to him – it became his world – until he rediscovered the tennis ball that he’d chase about the cottage, dodging our nesting tables and slamming repeatedly into the oven. Exhausted he’d slump down against the bathroom door trapping anyone who happened to be inside. On day six we gave up protesting and allowed him on our bed. Our choices were between sticking to our principles and being kept awake by his impressive all night protests or relent and have all three of us sleep through the night.
We settled into a routine. Walks, belly rubs, food, belly rubs, napping, belly rubs, food, belly rubs, napping, walk, belly rubs, sleep, belly rubs… Then one night we headed out for a couple of hours to meet friends – the first time he was left alone for more than 5 minutes. We set him up in the kitchen for the few hours, turned the radio on, gave him toys and assurances that we’d be back soon and he’d get all the belly rubs he missed then – with interest.
We had a great time and returned eager for hugs and excited wagging. We opened the door of the kitchen and Paulo torpedoed out at lightning speed. Before us lay a scene of destruction and chaos. He had ripped up the lino trying to dig an escape tunnel, moved a chair so he could jump on the counters and knock everything off – dishes, plants, chopping board, glasses… There was earth and wee everywhere. None of us were wagging anything. There was one contrite face and two exasperated faces as MVON began the 3 hour clean up process. The lino was beyond repair and Paulo was canine non grata – no hugs or cuddles or belly rubs that night.
We reluctantly came to the conclusion that he was just too big for our tiny cottage. His puppy energy needed a garden or large space to burn off energy. He needed another dog so he’s never alone. He deserved a better home – one that doesn’t have a desperate need for nesting tables. With a heavy heart we contacted DID and told them that Paulo’s needs sadly couldn’t be met by us – no matter how much we loved him. And we did. An awful lot.
And just like that, they found him a new home. Hurray – we’ll have our lives back we rejoiced – not looking Paulo in the eye. Our yarden won’t smell like a toilet, our clothes wouldn’t be covered in a layer of dog fur.
We still had a week together before he was to move on. We began hugging him more. He stopped jumping at the table during meal times, there were even more belly rubs and he grew to love the park as much as his toys. I raced home everyday , more and more eager for my bum waggle welcome. He was extremely well behaved and we were even more in love. His rawhide bone was lovingly chewed and he was well settled into cottage life.
But the day came. His new carers came to pick him up. I left for work unable to say a proper goodbye. I had whispered in his ear the day before that he would always be loved by us – no matter where he was. MVON had to do the handover on his own. He let me know when Paulo had left, gazing out the car window at MVON till the car rounded the corner.
I sat at work fighting back the tears. MVON was at home alone with less success at keeping his eyes dry.
We’ll be finding Paulo hairs about the place for months – no matter how often we vacuum. Paulo had hidden his bone the night before and search as we did that damn thing wasn’t to be found. That bone is going to be found one of these days reducing the two of us to a weepy old mess.
But for now it’s just the two of us in the cottage again. And the place has never felt so big.
(I scribbled this on a notebook about a year ago – He’s now living in London with a doggy brother, a big garden and a loving family. We get Christmas cards and the odd email from him – by all accounts he’s finally found the happiness he deserves. Even now, we still miss Paulo. A lot.)