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Trial and triumph in a dog's life

Scottish dogs stay busy asserting their rightful places among the wildlife outside and the animals indoors.

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It's a busy time for our dogs – particularly for Bugsy, the one that's a sort of fluffed-up, would-be sheepdog. I am not really sure what "sort of" the other one, known as Muffy, is, but both of them have been endowed with richly mixed parentage and are all the better for it. We'll have none of your pedigree posturing round here, thank you very much.

I say "busy" but, since we are talking about dogs, it is a purely relative term. "Busy" is a contrast to when they aren't dozing. Their capacity for dozing is fairly considerable. It seems that to be canine is to require as much sleep – in between brief and abandoned bursts of activity – as can be arranged.

Bugsy has somewhere inside him, I strongly suspect, a fully fledged sheepdog wanting to get out. But in our part of the city of Glasgow, there is a noticeable lack of authentic sheep for him to practice on.

So he makes do with what substitutes there might be at hand, and there are quite a few he considers good enough. Foremost is the cat. There are the wild birds. Then there are the regular (and probably several irregular) visiting squirrels, a mother and her young at the moment, we think, who – trapeze artistes extraordinaire – eat much more of the bird food outside the kitchen window than the birds do.

And there are the foxes, whose territory we like to think of as our garden, although, contrariwise, it is they who indulgently tolerate our occasional intrusions into their domain. They stop in their tracks and give us a good long stare as if to say, "Humans are becoming remarkably tame lately; they are almost domesticated." We have established a status quo.

But behind the window glass, Bugsy's sense of priorities is altogether different. A fox trots through the undergrowth – like a wild thing in one of Henri Rousseau's primeval forests of the imagi­nation – not caring at all if he is visible to the bark-monger. But the bark-monger does care, and, day or night, he lets out a succession of coloratura growlings and utterly indignant barks, high-pitched and piercing.

The other dog, slumbering contentedly and dreaming, as ever, of food, opens an eye in the hope that such a minimal gesture of support will prove sufficient. Often enough, it doesn't, though, and she feels obliged to rise from her recumbent posture and join in. The nonsense then becomes self-perpetuating and turns into a complex revolving dance routine of overwrought bravado and mutual canine entanglement.


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