Written by Christine Riley
Professional photography by Guy Neveling
In the beginning of the year, I went to TEARS to drop off some stuff for them… DELIBERATELY out of viewing hours, so I couldn’t even look; because I know me… they also know me!
This little scrap was really struggling in kennels, because he has a balance issue. He couldn’t compete for food with all the other pups and was spending most of his time huddled in a corner. He couldn’t even join in the rambunctious play – not being steady and robust like puppies usually are.
Even if someone had wanted to adopt him, TEARS couldn’t risk him going to just any home, as he needs special attention from an experienced person.
“Just meet him… it’ll be nice for him to have a cuddle,” they said (sneaky buggers!). And so, I did. Then I managed to give him back. Then I managed to walk out of the door. Then I managed to get in the car. Then I managed to drive to the bottom of the road. Then I “goooied a U-ey”, drove straight back, and adopted him!
He’s found himself as part of a family of very different characters… We have Shaggy, the Labradoodle, who adores him; Wizard, who treats him like an annoying younger brother… plays with him to a point and then just gets growly; Gemma, the Wirehaired Foxy, who is, to be frank, too old to be bothered; Rupert the rescue, who’s such a mommy’s boy that he takes little notice of anyone else!
And then we have the cats… two of them. He has no clue what to make of them, especially because they’re dying to make friends, choosing to rub against him and purr rather than what they “should” do when he confronts them… run away in abject terror! Surely? Isn’t that the proper order of things? But no…
I’m so glad I took this pup in before lockdown; I don’t know what would’ve happened to him – even if he’d been fostered out, who out there would have the time (maybe the inclination, but the time?)... (Mind you… with the Lockdown that’s all we have had, I suppose – time)… to spend like I’ve had with this precious boy. Also, we managed to do quite a bit of walking (on the beach and in the reserve behind the house) before being confined to home.
Initially, he couldn’t quite believe that he was here to stay. I had to be careful not to trip over him, because he was always at my feet and cried if I dared close the door when I went to the loo! I’m happy to say that the longer he stays here, waking up each day to his new, forever reality, the more his self-confidence (and confidence that he is part of this family) is starting to grow. He is settling as his confidence is settling…
The “official” “prognosis” is that he’ll always have this tilting issue. (I’ve decided that his theme song is Tilted, by Christine and the Queens. Its main, repeated lyric is, “I am actually good, can’t help it if I’m tilted”…) It annoys me when people “praise” him for straightening up, telling him he’s a “good boy” in the brief moments he does, because that implies that he’s a “bad boy” if he doesn’t. I do realise that it’s not meant in that way, but, as I say, the implication of the “other side of the coin” cannot be ignored. The wobbliness is not a behavioural thing – i.e. praising him for not tilting/castigating him if he does, will make not one jot of difference – it’s a physical issue, not a psychological one. He actually “came” with the name “Wobbles”, which I thought wasn’t really fair! It’s like calling me “Amnesia” (yup – I have that).
He can’t swim, which I nearly learnt the hard way. He went down like a stone when following his siblings across a “riverlet”. It was only about one metre deep. Where the water doesn’t even reach Shaggy’s tummy, it puts Riley completely out of his depth. He happily bounded into the river after his brothers and sisters, and not-so-happily, promptly sank! Luckily, I was close enough to be able to immediately grab him… lesson learned!
Riley is, understandably, absolutely terrified of water. To bathe him, I sit in the bath myself, with him on my lap, and use the hand-shower on him that way. I now make sure he’s always wearing his harness when we go out – to expedite easy-grabbing if necessary!
The harness also helps when we’re exploring outdoors and I need to navigate him up or down a steep hill. Although he’s taken quite a few tumbles, he simply brushes them off and carries on, tail wagging and gleeful.
Riley is mad and crazy to the point of exhaustion, but, as I well know, that’s actually perfectly normal for any puppy. I can’t leave him alone for one second. The neighbours must think I’ve finally lost it, as all they can hear is me yelling “Riley!”… “Riley!!”… “RILEY!!!” at the top of my voice (it’s worth remembering here that “Riley” is my surname!).