Thursday, 2 February 2012

What will Henry do next !

I wrote this story when I was house and dog sitting for my friend Helen, two and a half years ago. Henry was seven months old, it was a week I shall never forget.

Henry is a young chocolate Labrador which I am looking after in his own house, while his owners are on holiday. I have only been here three days and already I feel exhausted, what a boisterous boy he is. Every few minutes I am looking up from what I am doing, just to check what Henry is doing. I sit at the dining room table looking out through the patio doors over the large garden. He parades around for a few minutes to check on me, then strolls around some more, and when I look again he has disappeared from view. I give him a few more minutes to appear. When there is no sign, I know I have to get up and look for him because he is bound to be getting into mischief. I am right, he is in the flower bed eating what is left of the flowers, having already made several meals out of them. I chase him off. I know this is futile because as soon as my attention is diverted he will do exactly the same again.

He is a crafty little chap. He has a guilty look on his face, and his eyes are watching mine as he parades once more. I notice he has done a poo on the lawn, he seems to poo for England, there’s no stopping him. Hardly surprising when his whole day seems to be taken up with searching for whatever he can find to eat. His nose is like the nozzle on a vacuum cleaner, this must be the tidiest lawn I have ever seen, every little speck of garden debris gets sucked up by Henry the Hoover.

There is a very nice rockery close to the house, well it was before Henry arrived. He likes nothing better than to lie on top of it plucking the juicy plants from their roots and munching away. His instincts must tell him that ivy is poisonous though, because that is the only greenery which survives the onslaught. I go to pick up the poo and find a pile of grey gunge, it looks more like wet concrete. There is so much soil and compost in there, it’s amazing how it all goes straight through him.

There is a lovely big pond in the garden, well the birds and frogs think it is lovely, but there isn’t much plant life left. Measures have now been taken to protect it from Henry, and it has been fenced off. Well theoretically that is what is supposed to happen. Several times Henry has found a way in, and if you don’t happen to be watching when the break in occurs it remains a mystery as to how he has done it. What we perceive as being secure is a joke to Henry, just another challenge to beat the humans.

The whole garden is supposed to be secure, wrong! Last night Henry was no where to be seen for a few minutes, my heart missed a beat, I called his name as I searched the bushes. A female voice answered, ‘He’s over here.’ I remembered that he likes to play with the dogs next door, and has been caught frolicking with them several times before on their lawn. I picked up his lead and went to collect him. Nora was very understanding, we searched her side of the hedge, which also has chicken wire along it, for any sign of a break in. A complete mystery to us as to how he did it. Back on our side I made another inspection, the chicken wire could be lifted a couple of inches off the ground, surely not! A lot of large logs had already been laid along the edges, they were obviously not working so I searched for something else that might do the trick, and keep Henry enclosed in his own garden. Hidden down the side of the garage I found a neatly stacked pile of used house bricks, just the job. Several trips backwards and forwards and hopefully all escape routes have been sealed, but I won’t hold my breath.

Well guess what, I caught him squeezing through the fence around the pond, and then he was almost through to the next garden, so that’s how he did it. There is some extra chicken wire rolled up, so with a clever re arrangement of the iron stakes pushed firmly into the ground, along with the excess wire, I think I may have cracked it, whew!

All went quiet for a few minutes so I went out to check Henry’s whereabouts, just to put my mind at rest. I hope to reach the end of this week with one dog still intact, and hopefully no visits to the vet. I looked along the hedge on the other side of the garden, and what a sweet sight I found, Henry has a friend. A cute brown dog was laid on his back, his nose poking underneath the mesh and Henry was kissing him, he has a best friend. Aaahh! My appearance caused him to jump up and start barking at me and I felt guilty for a moment for disturbing what was no doubt a tender moment of affection between two canines who are obviously happy in each others company. Perhaps a meeting can be arranged to bring these two pooches together for some playtime.

I suspect Henry is missing his owners, although I do my best to give him lots of hugs and kisses on their behalf. We play games, I take him walks and give him treats, but I suppose it’s not quite the same when the two people you love most in the whole wide world aren’t there. He mooches around the place, can’t seem to settle for very long before he is off again, checking and rechecking, just to make sure he hasn’t missed them anywhere. Every morning I have to show him all the rooms downstairs just so he can check. Although he isn’t allowed upstairs I did catch him once on the landing, after he did a full inspection. There is good reason not to allow him upstairs, he would eat everything.

Helen told me I could sit in the front room and relax and watch the big television in the evenings. She left notes on what I should do with Henry. He is allowed in with me, I have to play with him for a few minutes and he will settle. She said he likes to chew the fringes of a very expensive hearth rug, and try and remove the leg from the leather settee with his razor sharp teeth. I am advised to distract him from these destructive habits by encouraging him to play with his toys. This doesn’t suit Henry at all, and the toys I offered him are repeatedly pushed away so he can get down to the more serious matter of destroying the furniture, much more fun.

I gave up going into the front room because I know I am not going to be able to relax and watch the TV, a luxury I was looking forward to as I don’t have a TV of my own. It isn’t worth the hassle to do battle every night when I know I am going to lose. So I am resigned to sitting in the dining room on a hard chair, peering at a small portable TV in the corner. There isn’t much worth watching anyway, which reminds me why I haven’t got a TV at home.

I think this is going to be a week of disasters. Henry’s bed was the first casualty of his sharp teeth, I’m sure he didn’t mean to tear the cover of the floppy cushion as he threw it from one end of the room to the other. He was probably having a lot of fun as he tossed it around. Luckily I have my sewing box with me. It seemed a good idea to bring it and get on with some crafty projects as I have a lot of time to fill, well that was the plan anyway. Henry came in and searched for his bed, he wandered around crying, ‘Henry I am sewing as quick as I can’. He was pleased when it appeared back in his box again.

Disaster number two. It had been a sunny day and I had the sun lounger out on the lawn, lovely to relax, albeit only a few minutes as I constantly had one eye on keeping track of Henry’s movements. After tea I thought it would be a good idea to use the sun lounger in the dining room, a little bit of comfort while watching the portable, I moved it inside to use later on.

My house sit is only five miles from where I live, which is pretty convenient because it means I can go back and forth to water my veg garden, feed my cats, and check emails. I was away for half an hour, enough time for Henry to tear open the seat cushion of the sun lounger, and scatter thousands of tiny foam pieces around the dining room. Now I know why they have nothing on the kitchen and dining room floors. Everything is put away in cupboards, or lifted out of Henry’s reach onto tables and worktops. But what am I going to do with the damaged cushion. I inspected the gaping hole, it seems to be missing some of the fabric, inside Henry’s stomach no doubt, so I can’t just stitch it up in the same way I repaired his bed. This will need a patch, a pretty big patch as well.

When I called in home the next day I had a look in my fabric box, I haven’t anything of the same colour to match it, but found a piece of cotton with a floral design, this will do the job.

I seem to be painting a pretty chaotic picture of Labrador owning, it baffles me why anyone would want to share their house and garden with such a whirlwind of destruction? At the moment he is chewing the handle of a plastic brush, amazingly inflicting very little damage to it. Maybe if you provide them with robust toys to play with it might distract them from chewing other more valuable household items. Oh dear, I spoke too soon, I could see that the end of the brush handle was about to disappear down Henry’s throat, so I took it off him. I got a handsaw from the garage and remove the jagged edges so that he can no longer get a grip strong enough to break a piece off.

I had my first taste of dog training classes last night. Henry sat very still while I fitted the harness around his body, and happily climbed into the back seat of the car where I secured him with the seat belt. He is used to car traveling, as this has been his routine for several weeks of puppy training classes. Who would have thought that he shows no interest in chewing his way through the car interior, a new personality emerges as he seems to enjoy his journey.

He grew excited as we pulled into the car park, an emotion that escalated when he found a field full of dogs and their owners. Of course Henry wanted to say hello to each and every one of them, I fought to hang on to his lead as he pulled me in every direction. People turned to look at us as I battled to stay upright on my own two feet, veering first in one direction then another.

We were a few minutes early, a chance for Henry to exchange pleasantries with his class mates before the training commenced. At one point I thought that the first task was one that Henry was going to have great difficulty completing, as his attention levels were nil. His only interest was to meet and greet as many of his new friends as possible, sniffing first at the front end, then the rear. The little dog next to us was a particular distraction as it spent the whole time barking, or should I say yapping, with no sign of it ever giving up.

I listened closely to the teachers instructions, she was very precise as to how the relationship between dog and owner should develop. We practiced some simple exercises, and when Henry finally began to concentrate, it was clear that he has remembered a lot from his earlier classes. The teacher borrowed Henry to demonstrate some of the moves, surprisingly he co operated with her, perhaps this proves the point that it is me that needs to be trained.

The class proved to be exhausting for both of us. Henry, because he yearned to be off the lead to run amok, playing with everyone, and me, because it took an enormous amount of strength just to stay upright. The cuddly puppy is turning into a powerhouse of meat and muscle.

Henry is now three years old, and has grown into a beautiful and gorgeous dog. All credit to his owners Helen and Paul, who have done an excellent job of bringing him up. They deserve a flippin medal :o)


  1. I know exactly what you mean with dogs chewing just about everything! My dog seems to be into shredding towels and blankets. He tried to pull a towel off a hook and the whole rail fell down! He's also into chewing the weights in the bottom of the blinds...

  2. No medal is needed they are privileged and they know it... If there is a god he defo made the labrador. Quite splendid story though made me laugh.

  3. What a gorgeous boy. My dog is almost 3 now. She loves balls, and will spend all day retrieving. We need an automatic tennis ball thrower. She has completely trashed our lawn skidding about, still loves an occasional chew of my crocs, but I wouldn't trade her for all the tea in China.

  4. Training classes just about did me in...between the aching back from being pulled around and the mental exhaustion of trying to pay attention, follow directions, and remain cheerful! and happy! and never never scold!
    My dog is now about 8 years old, and people always tell me how wonderfully well-behaved she is. Yet, while I was away at the doctor's today, she crawled under two chairs and through the legs of an ironing board to get to the "safe" stash of cat treats. I came home to shreds of foil and a dog who pretended she had not heard me arrive.
    Would Henry like a girlfriend??

  5. Friends of mine got two new Lab puppies (Pork and Beans) just as there brand new house was being finished. THey had a dog flap put in so the dogs could go in and out the fenced and newly landscaped yard. Jan said there were many days she would step out of the shower to find a newly dug up shrub, a slab of turf, or other plants sitting on the bathroom floor, proudly given to her by one
    or both! Yes, they both eventually grew up, settled down and the yard was redone!!

  6. This is what my son was like at two--always moving and destructive to the indestructible. I could never relax if his eyes were open. However, he never ate cushions or dug up

    You told a very funny story that I really enjoyed and was sympathetic to your plight. Maybe the owners took a vacation from all

  7. Aww! I feel like I know Henry from your stories! He does sound like a human child rather than a dog! "Tee hee, what naughty thing can I do now?" :D

  8. Henry is just beautiful !
    I have the cat from hell here !
    I swear he is worse than Henry, if something can be broken, smashed, chewed, shredded or eaten - Rasputin will do it ! and yes, he does live up to his name !
    I also have to put 'stuff' out of his reach, or he wrecks the whole house -
    just now I've found a pot and compost in the conservatory - or should I say on the conservatory floor, he's raked right through the leather on the arm of the sofa, broken the curtain pole, pulled down the conservatory blinds, opened the fridge and eaten tomorrows lunch, two fresh cooked corn cobs, about 4 ounces of cheese, and knocked over half a carton of milk and has mopped it up also, the fridge presents no problem to him, he opens it with ease, I've watched him do it, he gets on all fours on his back at the bottom of the door and beavers away until it clicks open, then he helps himself.
    I've put all manner of heavy things in front of the door but he manages to push ev erything out of the way, he has now managed to get into the freezer also and scatters the contents over the kitchen floor, obviously too cold to eat but ruins it all anyway.
    My other cats think it's great fun and join in the picnic when I'm out.
    Even Mothercare childproof catches don't work with him ...
    Before you ask, he's not starving, and he has access to outdoors through a catflap, which incidentally he has broken 3 of already, when I 'foolishly' try to lock him out for a bit of peace, he just pushes the flap off it's hinges, and cracks the plastic !
    Anyone want a cat ?
    but be warned - I swear he is the sperm of the devil !!

  9. Henry has a lot of spunk and personality for sure. I was laughing all the way through this post. Waht a cutie pie!

  10. I too have a chocolate Labrador - gorgeous dogs but hard work. So many people give up and rehome their Lab pups.

  11. We lost our lovely chocolate girl five weeks ago aged 9. As a pup, Biscuit would chew anything. we lost about a dozen pens, mum`s glasses, my expensive metal cased compact camera, not to mention the countless other items which were disfigured by deep bite indentations. She was also, all her life, world class at excavating huge craters in the garden, but we didn`t really care, and never punished her.

    In just over 2 weeks we will be bringing home our new chocolate pup, Polly. I have done the research to remind myself what we tried to do with Biscuit, and I am confident I know how to avert any destructive behaviour, but I suspect it is we who need the training.


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