Now however, as we bade goodbye to the last forever dog on Saturday, that is - one not going to a close friend who we’ll probably never see…
Anyway, I wanted to write in rather more detail about this most incredible, heart-expanding and heart-rending, and most importantly, genuinely bonding experience.
So I’m going to. It’ll be in several parts dictated by time and memory.
PART ONE – A dirty weekend in Margate
Alba, would you like to go to Margate and see Sven?
Her ears prick up – she’s knows what and indeed who Sven is. He’s her other boyfriend, as in boy-who-is-a-friend (for now). He’s a sensationally beautiful white German Shepherd who has moved from the lush urban surroundings of Finsbury Park to the peaceful seaside town of Margate. Sven was initially reticent about the provincial nature of Margate and wouldn’t consider himself particularly a fan of Tracey Emin, so leaving Zone 2 might have been a wrench, however his owners Simon & Mariano persuaded him to keep an open mind.
A beach, a BEACH! A beach sounds fun, can I EAT a beach?
Alba knows who Sven is. She doesn’t know what a Margate is yet. That is – at this point – she has no particular sense-memory of the place with which to connect.
She does now.
The conversation between Helen, myself, Simon and Mariano had gone a little like this:
Imagine how beautiful their puppies would look?
Well, we’ve been talking about another dog, would you keep a puppy?
And that was it.
We did our research on canine pregnancy and canine copulation as neither Helen nor myself had beyond beginner-level knowledge of either, which is probably healthy. And boy (here boy!) are we glad we did.
We all know the familiar image of male dog straddling female dog from behind, pumping away whilst we anthropomorphise a giant smile on his face. However – are you aware of THE TIE?
Yeah, thank God we were.
“Helen look at this – on many occasions the dogs will INVERT facing outwards and become terrifyingly STUCK TOGETHER until the act of intercourse is completed, with ONLY the ORGASM of the male dog, hereafter referred to as the Stud (well naturally), allowing all the muscles involved to contract enough for the two dogs to be released. They may remain in this position, i.e. stuck together with the unyielding unbreakable force of Katie Hopkins’ delusional self-confidence, for between FIFTEEN and FORTY-FIVE minutes. You are advised to comfort your respective dogs for the entirety of this period… No. Shit.” I was probably not quoting verbatim.
In the early evening of an unseasonably warm Friday in January we set off on a very pleasant and stress-free drive from London, where for once the South Circular decides not to be a dick. Our roadtrip soundtrack is mostly Elbow augmented by Helen occasionally reading me passages from self-improvement books to distract herself from my driving, which I should qualify says more about her nervousness as a passenger rather than the quality or safety of my driving.
‘Tis what I’m told anyhow.
We discuss the fact that Alba may not be receptive to Sven’s attention, or vice versa; that if you are breeding you’re advised to facilitate a minimum of two matings 48 hours apart – we only have the time for one, as our schedule demands we leave relatively early on Sunday morning, when we probably won’t have a hangover; and the advice that one should allow the dogs a little time to connect with each other and then find a quiet safe place, perhaps outdoors, before they have the confidence to begin the mating process. During this quiet time is when we’ll let Simon and Mariano know all about THE TIE.
We arrive – brrrrring. Mariano answers the door –
“Hi guys, so the way this is meant to work is …”
And like an Alton Towers ride taking off – the bit they’re good at – Alba has SHOT into the house to find Sven. There is a blur of bright white/tricolour fur flying around each and every room of the house as Alba discovers Sven’s living arrangements and Sven discovers Alba’s being-on-heat arrangements. When we finally find them panting in the living room Alba is considerably covered in romantic dog slobber, resplendent in goo as a result of the many hundreds of well-solicited dog kisses her baby-daddy has bestowed upon her. And then the hump…
“Oh it’s started,” says Helen. “We should let you know about the possibility of something called the tie… it’s…”
And then they show us.
As reported – they are utterly entwined. Facing out. Panting. There was some initial squealing from both dogs as they discovered they couldn’t move away and made noises that are probably loosely translated as – and this is my interpretation – “What the shitting fuck is going on?”
However they are both calmed by their respective daddies. I grab Alba’s head and gently stroke her, making a promise to myself that I’ll wash my hands clear of dog-saliva before supper, and Mariano holds Sven. The squealing subsides into major rhythmic panting from the pair of porking pooches.
“How long do they do this for?” asks Mariano, aware he has time-sensitive fish in the oven.
“Between fifteen and forty-five minutes,” I reply, saying the ‘forty-five’ part very quietly indeed.
He looks a little perturbed, as if to say, you could have told me that before we let them loose around the house and if the fish supper is fucked it’s your fault. Of course he’s such a lovely man that he would never think that never mind imply it with a look, I think what’s going through his mind is what is going through mine. That whilst one is holding a shagging dog stuck to another shagging dog, there isn’t a lot to DO.
“How’s work?...” I ask.
Simon and Helen keep popping in and out of the room and utter emotionally proud little comments like ‘it’s such a precious moment’ or ‘I can’t believe we’re here right at the beginning of potential new life’, and then leaving the room so Simon can keep an eye on supper and Helen can unpack properly.
Whilst Mariano and I hold the dogs.
Thankfully it’s closer to the fifteen minute end of the spectrum and with no great fanfare it’s done. Humans and dogs alike then enjoy a beautiful weekend of food, drink, making new friends, enjoying the beach and modern art. Sven makes his mark by vomiting heavily right in front of the Turner Contemporary Art Museum. This is more to do with the volume of seawater he has happily imbibed rather than any comment on the exhibition itself, which was excellent.
The dogs are definitely in love and spend the next two days not leaving each other’s side, including getting even less sleep than their decadently partying parents – none in fact as they spent the whole night lolloping around the house. A match made in doggy heaven. And they would have beautiful puppies. However, the big question now is … is our little girl actually pregnant.