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Donkin's World: Dummkopf

"This is not a game: its the dog or me and there can be only one winner,'' writes Richard Donkin. But who is the winner, Richard, or his Jack Russell pup Pippa?

Im going to eat this plant, she says. Dogs speak with their eyes. Im going to eat this plant and there is nothing you can do that can stop me.

Youre not going to eat that plant, Pippa. Now come away, I say. She rises up, balances her paws on the side of the pot and tears off a strip of husky bark from the parlour palm. I grab her and throw her out. This is great sport, she thinks.

Youve turned it in to a game, says Gill who has read the dog training manual. But this is not a game: its the dog or me and there can be only one winner.

Pippa, our Jack Russell pup, is three months old now. The past week or two have been interesting. Now shes had her inoculations its going to get more interesting as she can go for walks.

Shes already sampled the big outside. I thought I had made the garden so escape proof I was thinking of renaming our house Colditz. I performed the regular guard duties, patrolling the outer perimeter, and all seemed quiet and orderly. Then I looked through the garden gate and noticed that Pippa was on the outside. She looked at me and the eyes said: Dummkopf!

It didnt take long to recapture her and to find the weak spot in our defences as she returned to it straight away. I had fastened chicken wire on the bottom of the garden gate to within an inch of the path. That inch was all she needed to nuzzle a gap big enough to squeeze through. Ive blocked the gap now with a solid piece of wood, but I guess its only a matter of time before she finds another way out.

Like all the best escapers she has started a tunnel. It's in the compost heap but I think this might be a decoy. In the quiet of the night I suspect she is faking passports and making civilian clothing. Next shell be asking for a cardboard box in the flower-bed to practice her vaulting skills.

Nothing fazes her. She can take being shut in the slammer, otherwise known as the kitchen. As long as she has her catching glove and ball, she can endure anything. Dougie, our old Westie, is far too institutionalised to go along with her plans. Hes tried teaching her how to chill out and go with the flow but Pippa wont have it. Her duty as a Jack Russell, she says, is to cause maximum disruption wherever she can.

Slowly, were reaching some kind of accommodation. She has her manic times and her quiet times. Wet days are the worst. When the sun shines shes in dog heaven. She has a toy box with a rope, a sock filled with bubble wrap attached by string to a plant pot (good for wearing her [or us] out), three balls, a rubber ring, a squeaky frog, raggies (large and small), a rubber bone and a rubber chewy thing you can put food inside. Thats more toys than I ever had and still its not enough.

Weve tried a practice walk in the garden. The harness was a bit of a farce. She escaped from that quicker than Houdini could shed his straitjacket. Sooner or later they'll be bringing one for me. Tomorrow well try the real thing.


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