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Food, Drink and Toys

Jake the Dog has been living with us for a couple of months now and we are slowly getting used to each other. I have discovered what things he most enjoys eating, and he has discovered what things I least enjoy having him eat. Strangely, these two lists are almost identical to each other.

In the house, Jake likes to eat cellphone chargers, torches, cookery books and rugs. In the garden, he likes to eat solar powered lamps, wheelbarrows, plant pots, buckets, hosepipes and Robin's favourite bamboo plant. He also seems to get quite a kick out of turning on the outside taps and watching gallon upon gallon of water flow into the foundations of the house. Thankfully our water usage is not on a meter...

When we go for our morning and evening walks, Jake enjoys eating crab apples that have fallen from the trees and lemons from a lemon tree that has had the temerity to grow out through the fence that surrounds its garden. Our walk takes us along a route that children use when they are going to and from school and we often find treasures that the children have emptied out from their lunchboxes in disgust. One memorable day we found that the lunch packed with loving care for one particular child clearly did not meet with that child's approval at all. The entire contents of the lunchbox had been emptied out on to the ground, so that day Jake got to eat an apple, a ham sandwich and a slice of cake. Best walk ever!

Jake's favourite drink is water. He drinks cloudy water from the birdbath in the garden and he drinks copiously from both our toilets. In a vain attempt to discourage this habit, I have experimented with not flushing, but that just appears to make the water even tastier. In fact, Jake drinks water from absolutely everywhere except from his water bowl. That's what the cats drink out of.

On our lunchtime walks we go to a park where Jake can run free from the lead. There's a lovely river that meanders and trickles through the park. It passes through a lot of farming country before it reaches the park and the water is often cloudy with accumulated nasties. Jake loves the water in the river and always drinks lots from it. I enjoy watching the water level in the river drop dramatically when he fills his belly from it. One day we spotted a dead sheep floating in mid-stream. Jake drank twice as much water as usual that day. It seemed to have added body...

On Monday evenings we go to Dog Disobedience lessons. These are held at a local riding school and the dogs are taught their lessons in a large enclosure that has a floor covered in wood chips which the horses have spent all day peeing and pooing on. Jake finds Disobedience lessons very boring, mainly because he already knows everything there is to know about disobedience. So, in order to relieve the boredom, he spends most of his time at the class eating the floor.

Sometimes, particularly at mealtimes, I feed him dog food. He clearly disapproves of this and he will only eat it under supervision. As long as I am watching him closely, he will condescend to nibble at the stuff in his bowl. But if my attention wanders, so does Jake, and he trots off to snack on a sofa or dine on a duvet.

Like all dogs, Jake loves his toys. Because his major joy in life is putting things in his mouth and biting down hard on them, toys that can be chewed are always high on his favourites list. And since, as far as Jake is concerned, absolutely anything can be chewed, then clearly anything and everything can be a toy. The logic cannot be faulted. In a vain attempt to keep our furniture safe, we've tried several official dog toys on him, but most of them are made of plastic and so they do not survive his fearsome jaws of death for very long. By now I think all his internal organs must have a plastic lining.

Being good citizens, we always make sure to pick up and properly dispose of anything that Jake poos out. His excretions are always exciting to examine – they are a positive treasure trove of novelty. We have found lumps of pink plastic and blue plastic, miscellaneous electronic components such as transistors and capacitors, and several lengths of yellow string. Worringly, we have never found any trace whatsoever of the purple plastic ball that he feasted on for several days.

The most long lasting toys are those made of rope. Not only can he use them to play tug'o'war with us, their flexibility seems to protect them from the constant gnawing and they quickly rebound and stay roughly in shape. Some robust fabrics share the same desirable property as long as the seams are securely stitched and the stuffing is substantial. Knowing this, we bought him an elephant made out of corduroy. It had all the desirable properties, and, as an added bonus, it was very lifelike with a pink tummy and a multi-coloured fringe made of twisted cotton. Jake absolutely loved it. He threw it around the room, indulged himself in an orgy of self-flagellation with it, jumped on it from a great height, chewed on it and generally beat seven kinds of brick dust out of it.

Then, quite unexpectedly, it squeaked!

Jake jumped back in shock. Oh my goodness – the elephant squeaked! Jake slowly backed away from it, never taking his eyes off it in case it squeaked again. When he was at a safe distance from the elephant, he examined it carefully. After a few minutes of silence, he walked all the way round the room, sticking close to the walls for the sake of safety, and then he examined the elephant from the other side. Luckily it just lay there and didn't squeak.

We left the elephant on the carpet where Jake had dropped it, but for the next few days he refused to go anywhere near that part of the room, so we picked the elephant up and put it away in a cupboard. Two weeks later we took it out again and presented it to Jake as if it was a brand new toy. But he wasn't fooled for a moment. The trauma had clearly scarred him for life and now, deep in the throes of PTSD, he wasn't having a bar of this utterly scary elephant. His ears drooped, his tail went between his legs and he backed away from the terrible toy in total terror.

We have accepted the fait accompli and now the elephant sits on a chair in our second lounge, lord of all it surveys. Every so often, as he passes through the room on his way to the toilet for a drink, Jake notices it and he sneaks past on tiptoe. Fortunately it has not yet squeaked again.

But one day it might...

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