Monday, 25 October 2010

Louie (aka accidental troubleshooting)

Let me get this off my chest: I hate Louie. With a passion. I have done my utmost to avoid our paths crossing ever since he arrived on our street three years ago, mainly because our meetings have a 100% record of ending in a battle that I could never have hoped to win. I blame this on the fact that his personality seems to be made entirely of malice, spite and a general hatred for people.

However, he is also cunning. He covers his twisted persona cleverly, by presenting himself in an adorable four-legged form with the sweetest little face you ever did see, guaranteed to make the hardest of people melt at the sight of his cuteness. 

Jack Russell Terrier

Yes, Louie is a dog – a Jack Russell terrier, which as the picture suggests, means he should be pretty irresistible to anyone who understands the meaning of the word 'cute'. Indeed, that was my first reaction to the new arrival, but it didn't take long until my opinion of him transformed from aww, what an impossibly cute ball of fur, to this:

A 12 month old Louie moved into the house next-door-but-one to ours when its dog loving residents agreed to take him in after their friends revealed they couldn’t cope with his behaviour. The alarm bells started ringing when we heard this particular element of the story, and proceeded to go into overdrive when our neighbours admitted that it would be ‘tricky’ to discourage any behaviour he had developed during the first year of his life.
It quickly became apparent that the previous owners’ method of training was either non-existent, or it involved wearing socks made out of bacon, because Louie moved onto our street with an uncontrollable problem that meant he immediately attacked the ankle region of any given human he happened to encounter.

This was far from an okay situation. Our house is a typical terrace where four buildings share one alleyway to get to the back of the properties – sadly for us, Louie’s house shares an alleyway with ours and as we used the back door as our main door, we had to venture past his domain whenever we wanted to go anywhere. While the garden that usually contains the doggy devil is fenced off, in all truth, the containment proved inadequate for such a rogue canine. Within what seemed like an hour of his arrival, he had learned that he could open the gate to the garden by leaping at it repeatedly, until he was lucky enough to unhitch the latch that kept him locked in, and us protected. 

The instant we would open our door, we could hear him throwing himself at the gate, leading us to freeze as we nervously waited for the moment when he achieved his aim: freedom and ankle eating. And this wasn’t an exuberant method of showing his pleasure at seeing us, it was a co-ordinated vicious display of his offence at our ankles. Neither was it only our ankles he took a disliking to – a roofer working on the house next door made an official complaint to the council after Louie escaped and bit him, and we had a workman call Fiance in a blind panic after another escape-and-attack-some-random-ankles episode, which left our worker effectively barricaded at the front of our property – a significant problem given that the back of the house was the location of all the work that needed doing.

For some reason – presumably the adorable face which belies his evil personality – his owners did not look upon the behaviour in the same light as those of us who suffered at the teeth of this horrible canine, instead joking about how difficult it was proving to be to train a one-year old dog who had never experienced suitable discipline before. They even tried to teach us to love the mutt as they did, demonstrating his sweet nature by inviting us to stroke him while they cradled him like a baby. Yeah he might have looked extra cute, and remained calm whilst being fawned over but I wasn’t fooled. You don’t stroke a dog with your ankles, so what was there for him to get angry at?

Eventually – after input from the council, I suspect – Louie was chained up, leaving the residents of the other three houses relieved to be able to get through our gardens without fear of attack. It was a blissful couple of weeks – until one morning, we left for work and were greeted at our back door by a lightning fast streak of dog trying to attach itself to our lower legs. It turned out that whilst trying to attack an unknown victim the day before, Louie had jumped at the gate, got his chain caught over the latch, and nearly managed to hang himself. I felt like a terrible person for having the thought, but what instantly popped into my mind was this: 

We were back to square one. The only solution we could come up with was to stop using the back door – and our garden – in order to minimise our contact with the dog. While this did work to an extent, there were still encounters with Louie that were unavoidable - if we happened to be out front as he was being taken for a walk, there would inevitably be a reunion between his teeth and our ankles until the neighbours stepped in to shout at him (and when that didn’t work, to pry his jaws open and forcibly remove him from our bodies).

So, that was how the first six months of living near Louie panned out for us. Since then, there has been a slight improvement in his behaviour, by which I mean he still pelts towards us at top speed, but stops at the last minute to bear his teeth and growl his displeasure at the sight of our ankles instead of actually trying to consume them.

In an ideal world, even this experience would stop, and a couple of months ago Fiance (accidentally) stumbled over a solution that worked, and resulted in Louie tearing away from him with his tail stashed firmly between his legs.

The solution was a chainsaw.

Fiance had gotten the chainsaw out to cut back the monster of a hedge that adorns the front of our house, and was happily minding his own business when he received a surprise visit from our doggy nemesis. So consumed was Fiance in his task, the arrival of a barking ball of fur at his feet somewhat startled him and he leapt about a mile into the air, the momentum of which led to the chainsaw being wielded downwards towards Louie’s general direction. The dog sensibly decided that avoidance of such an object should take precedence over his lifelong hatred of ankles and he scampered back to the chainsaw-free safety of his own territory.

While it is impossible for us to ensure we are carrying a chainsaw with us whenever we are leaving the house – it is not cordless for a start, which would lead to significant impracticalities – it is nice to know that we have found a solution to the problem should it present itself again.

I guess that means the moral of the story is that sometimes, ignoring a problem is for the best - because then you might just accidentally solve it with a chainsaw.

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