I have a slight confession.
My basset hound (handsomely pictured above) has a twitter account.
It‘s not much of a confession, quite a few people know about it. Having written about a crazy cat lady last week, I thought I’d better be honest with any readers who happen upon this blog. I’m not sure who the crazy hound lady is in this post, the stranger or me. In any case, this is the story of at least one crazy basset hound lady.
When Doug first came to us, he was already a one-year-old & we were living in a small coastal town. He bounded into our life as dogs often do, in that awkward space in a relationship before marriage & children. When two people are testing the waters of commitment & responsibilities by trying to love & care for someone (or something) else.
Sometimes I wish we had’ve started with a houseplant.
Looking back at our first meeting with Doug, there were a lot of warning signs. Well, not warning signs. Warning noises – barking. Endless barking. In spite of this, we bundled him into our car & never looked back.
(Well we looked back when he threw up on the backseat.)
What I didn’t realise when we got a basset, was they are not like other dogs. I’m not even sure if they are real dogs. I think they are small grandparents wandering around in dogs’ bodies.
They don’t listen, unless they want to. They don’t follow, unless they want to. They go for walks when they want & if they want. They don’t learn, unless there’s something in it for them. They are born with a stubbornness that’s usually acquired with old age.
Bassets are victims of propaganda.
Bet you didn’t think you’d read that.
Well, they are. All the bassets I’ve seen on TV or film are sleepy, dopey, bashful & the whole repertoire of Disney-esque dwarves. Well they are not at all like that. They are stubborn, as I’ve mentioned, but they are also scamps & rogues. Despite their short stature, they can reach everything. I mean everything.
If you leave crumbs on a plate far, far out of their reach, they will sniff it out & they will get to it. You can think ‘there’s no way they can reach it’ but to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park ‘Bassets, uh, find a way’.
Their stubbornness increases tenfold in the presence of food. On the second day with us, Doug sniffed out a coconut husk that had been planted under an olive tree sapling in the garden & decided he’d trail it inside for a snack. Twice.
The slow & sleepy persona you see on ads – definitely false. Don’t get me wrong, Doug naps a lot. He’s asleep maybe 16 hours a day. But the hours he’s awake, he makes up for it. Really makes up for it. He tears around the garden, tramping everything in his path & knocking over anyone who gets in his way.
He. Is. Fast.
Unexpectedly fast. As someone who has to chase him in order to brush his teeth or retrieve half eaten tissues from his mouth, I can say, with all honestly, that people should race basset hounds, not greyhounds. They might not be as fast as their aerodynamic cousins but they are surprisingly quick for a dog that’s made up of 75% saggy skin. But more importantly, they are hilarious to watch. They can run rings around most other dogs and Doug frequently does, while barking like a lunatic.
He barks at everything. Especially dogs. Other (non-basset) dogs hate him, he stands a metre away from them & barks. Woofing just to get attention like a toddler in full tantrum mode. Just like everything about them, basset hound barks are not regular. It’s painfully loud. A sonic bark that makes your ear drums buzz.
Basset hound owners are just as unique. I don’t know if we start out crazy & that imbalance leads us to bring a basset into our lives or if the basset just drives the owners insane. Although it’s a good kind of crazy, a devil-may-care attitude which has to come with living with a dog that will steal the biscuit not just off your plate but out of your mouth if you are not careful.
If I’m honest, I wouldn’t (& couldn’t) change Doug for the world.
Despite the size of the town, Doug was not the only basset around. There was a gentleman who walked a basset along the same route as us. I say walked, it was more of a stretch of the legs. The basset in question would get around 300 yards from her back garden, then flop down & refuse to move.
Sadie was huge. Ridiculously huge. She was as tall as she was chunky. When her owner looked at Doug’s paws & declared he would definitely end up ‘at least as big as Sadie, if not bigger’ I nearly cried. By this stage, I had been toppled a few dozen times, had food dragged on to the floor from the counter-tops & had half my bed & sofa taken over by Doug.
I couldn’t imagine how I’d handle Doug if he ended up that big.
For a few weeks I had heard there was a new basset about the town. We would go for walks & Doug would be greeted by every other person we passed. They would always mention this other basset.
‘She was just here,’ or ‘she‘s just up the path ahead of you.’ At first I was excited to meet the new basset. Mostly because the only one I had met was the size of an outhouse. I heard so many times that the other basset had been ‘right here‘ that I started to believe she was mythical. Then I met her & the crazy hound lady that was walking her.
Bella was a lovely pup. Lovely to look at anyway. She did, however, beat the poop out of Doug every time she saw him. Now bassets wrestle each other a lot. They love to grab each other by their long ears & throw themselves around. It’s just the way they play. I understand that. But this girl was battering Doug, to the point he would drop on the floor as soon as he saw Bella, showing his tummy in submission.
While this bitch tore Doug a new earhole, her owner would prattle away in that high-pitched, whingy voice people reserve for cute dogs & babies.
‘Aw, you’re playing, aren’t you? You are have so much fun together.’ No. No, he is not.
‘You’re a beautiful boy, you’re a beautiful boy, aren’t you?’
Standard chat you hear from people talking to dogs. Then it got weird.
‘Did you just have a bath? Did you? Did you? Did you get your ears cleaned? Did you?’
Ok, so should I have spoken on Doug’s behalf at this stage? Was the question directed at me or not? This happened every time. She wouldn’t speak to me directly. She even said hello to Doug, but not me.
‘Are you neutered, boy? Are you? Are you neutered yet? You would make beautiful puppies, yes you would. Yes.’
A bit personal. I didn’t know if Doug would want me to share that information.
Through her conversations with Doug, I learnt that she was married, self-employed, had children & step-children. I even found out that her step-daughter was a fire-eater.
‘Yes, she is. Yes, she is, Doug. She’s a fire-eater.’
A fire-eater? How is that even a job? What exactly does she fill out on her tax return? I had a lot of questions but I was really on eavesdropping on the conversation she was having with my dog.
Each time she would talk to Doug for 30 or 40 minutes. One time it was a whole hour! An hour. Talking to a dog, while I held on to a lead trying to keep her mutt away from mine.
From then on, we changed our routes. Going out of our way to avoid the path she took even though it ran right past our house. If I saw her, we quickly turned away. One time I came up some stairs from the shore front to find her talking to someone ahead. Unable to go back the way we came, I crouched behind a Ford Focus for 15 minutes, just hoping she’d go away. Also hoping that she hadn’t seen me hide behind a hatchback.
It was around then Doug joined twitter.
I hoped to find people in the same boat as me. With dogs who didn’t listen to a word they said & find support & some solutions. I wasn’t disappointed. Well I was a little. I found a family of basset aficionados who were always there with an anecdote about hound related shenanigans that left Doug looking almost saintly. But solutions to the basset training problems? There were none.
Lots and lots of bribery.