The dog has become an alcoholic. As always, I blame myself.
When he is left in charge of the house, he often reclines in the front room. It is always a problem if thunder or gunfire occurs when we are out, because they frighten him. When he is frightened he likes to take the bottles of spirits from their shelf and play skittles with them. It relieves his feelings of panic.
These feelings are entirely natural, going back to an occasion when we took him with my mother for a walk in the grounds of a stately home in Yorkshire, and were caught up in a real hunt. The gentry hurtled by on their slavering horses (or ‘steeds’ as horses are often called once they start slavering). Horns and small arms rang out. Of course they were after strays and not well-behaved pets accompanied by National Trust members, but he wasn’t to know that.
Recently the police were anxious to have a little chat with a neighbour of ours, a barrister. We are still picking lead out of the exterior woodwork and the dog’s nerves are shot completely.
Some time after that there was another incident. This time it was not gunfire but a thunder storm that unexpectedly interrupted our placid and balmy June weather. He manhandled a bottle of Famous Grouse and another of vodka to the floor with such anxious force that the tops came off. He greeted us as usual when we came home – and promptly keeled over to one side, like a bit-part-player in a Western who has taken a blow to the head from the hero. He had clearly had at the contents.
We comforted him, put him to bed with his blanket, disinfected the front room so as not to stir memories for him, and hoped that that would be that. But it wasn’t. Next time we went out, the placid and balmy June weather was affected by showers, but there was no thunder; nor, unless the civil authorities are lying to me, had they indulged in gunplay in the area.
Again he greeted us on our return, affectionately as always, but when he tried to jump up to demonstrate his affection it all went very badly wrong as regards his legs.
Since then it has only taken one of us to open a bottle of Sainsbury’s White for him to barge in and try to intercept the contents between bottle and glass, or, which to me is even less acceptable, between glass and lips.
Tough love was required, and one-to-one tough love – an alcohol-free week, where he could let it all out and we could try to heal. After all, as I told him, Famous Grouse is one thing, but have a go at any of the malts and you’re for the taxidermist. The better half has selflessly taken herself off to a beach in Tuscany, and together the dog and I have wrestled with his addiction.
It’s been an emotional roller-coaster!
(That’s a horrid expression, by the way. From a roller-coaster the last thing you want is feelings: you want it to work.)
One minute he’s been crying, I love you, Dad, his tongue lolling over his broken teeth. The next he’s at your ankles. The hardest thing to take is the mood swings. At times he can analyse his issues with merciless clarity (as he himself puts it when in that state of mind); the next moment he’s slipping his lead and savaging a postman’s bottom.
Then he goes all analytical again. He said last night, I’m only fulfilled when I express my feelings and my anger, and I can only do that when I’m drunk. I’m only really happy when I’m drunk.
That cut through me, I can tell you, after all that the better half and I have done for him. The complimentary castration was just the start.
The postman’s bottom is only symbolic, he explains smugly.
Not to the postman, I muttered.
He explained that this wasn’t all about the postman, it was about him.
His personal hygiene has suffered too.
I’m not sure how much more I can take.