As regular visitors to the farm will know, we have three dogs.
There’s Mabel. Stroppy, 11 years old, a Border Terrier whose main joys in life are a) treats b) tummy rubs c) barking at nothing and c) washing the other dogs’ faces. She has figured out that treats are forthcoming as a reward for a) stopping barking at nothing and b) stopping washing the other dogs faces. QED she does both of those things all of the time and is not underfed. She also figures that a tummy rub is a joy and a privilege she bestows upon her owners and therefore she also needs to be rewarded for the time she spends lying down blissed out and snoring. Mabel generally has life sorted. Our main job is monitoring her waistline.
Tilly is our 18-month old Boxer. She worries a lot and is scared by many things (like plastic bags and puddles) deeply suspicious of other things (like the dishwasher and tall men), is allergic to most things (food, grass, leaves), but lives for football and has a den under the spare bed that she thinks no-one knows about. She also adores cuddles and Countryfile.
But the largest personality in the room, in fact, the largest everything in the room – is Mungo. He’s our just-turned-one-year-old Boxer. He’s a giant. We always knew boy boxers would be a bit bigger than girl ones, but Mungo has broken all records. It’s like having a hyperactive four-year-old boy in body plus the strength of a Royal Marine Commando shortly before a 36 mile yomp. With full pack. He recently ate the wall. Really. He ate a part of the kitchen wall. How do you eat a wall? And this was after he had eaten most of a brand new sofa, all the cushions and the upholstery on two chairs, and a table leg.
We take him (and Tilly and Mabel) to dog school. Or, to be more precise, Mrs. B takes him and I sometimes go too. He’s been going since he was three months old. He’s now in the advanced class which is astonishing but true because he is perfectly behaved. He walks calmly round to heel, is polite and courteous to the other dogs, sits when told, stays, comes running when called, does a ‘finish’ (that’s dog school language for a special trick which is a bit involved), and lies down and goes to sleep when there’s nothing more interesting going on. At home he turns into an amiable barbarian.
Much like a four-year-old boy, Mungo is obsessed with anything with wheels – so the tractor, the lawn mower, the wheelbarrow are all endlessly fascinating and we can’t go for a walk in the lane if there are kids on bikes or skateboards because it’s just too exciting and it’s impossible to walk with a 35kg – all muscle – dog pulling in the other direction. He’s also obsessed with young men. Seriously. If you’re a bloke in your twenties and you enter our garden wearing trainers – Mungo thinks you are the perfect person to barge to the ground, have his 9-inch tongue shoved up your nose and have your trainers chewed – while your feet are still in them.
We love him dearly but he’s a bit lacking in the brain department. We’re hoping the grey matter is just the last part of him left to grow, but if we’re honest the signs of intellectual development aren’t looking good. When Sarah comes downstairs first thing in the morning she’s not entirely sure Mungo recognises her from the day before (I sometimes have the same problem). He’s still super pleased to see her, but his ability to live in the moment may extend so far as to not remember that there have been any other moments ever, in the history of moments, prior to the one he’s currently in. Mabel was taken for a haircut yesterday and now Mungo thinks we have a new dog living with us. On a walk this morning we practiced recall across a large open field. Mungo came back to us because he followed Tilly and he was genuinely surprised to find us each time. It was his first birthday last week and we allowed him a piece of plain cake. He didn’t know how to eat it. Not a problem you associate with dogs very often. Tilly and Mabel ‘helped’ him with that particular issue after he’d been licking the slice of sponge for five minutes and you could tell even they thought he was being a bit thick.
More brawn than brains, he’ll never be top of the canine class but we wouldn’t have him any other way.
(Although Sarah points out she’d like to have Mungo AND an uneaten sofa if that isn’t too much wish for).
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