PHIL CALVERT: My dog is a kleptomaniac

For around 14 years, old Rory the Alsatian was my faithful companion, trotting around after me, utterly devoted to me (unless there was an opportunity to cadge a biscuit from someone) and whether at work or on one of our regular outings, he was pretty much always at my side. He slept next to my chair during the evenings snoring away, or if the fire was lit, at my feet in front of the fire. When I moved into another room, he would nearly always be following me, often getting under my feet.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 27th June 2011, 1:56 pm

When I went out alone, he would be near me. As I drove the van he would be laid across the bench seat, his snout pressed up against my side. Indeed everywhere I went, he did his utmost to be near. Not allowed upstairs, he would sleep at night in the hallway on the stairway return, as close as he could be without actually breaking the rule although near the end of his life I would hear him sneaking up to sleep outside the bedroom door (his snoring was a bit of a giveaway) only to slip back to his supposed place of sleep when he heard me getting out of bed.

Of course, old Rory has been gone a year now, although customers often ask after his whereabouts, but he has a worthy successor in the little short-haired border collie, Monty. He is a smashing dog but with a completely different character. Much more sociable and comfortable with other people than old Rory he makes an excellent “meeter and greeter” and seems pleased to see pretty much everyone. More often than not, he will trot up to people, tail wagging, offering his head for a pat, and then promptly abandon them after he has checked them out for dog biscuits.

Indeed, he has developed quite a fan club, and with good reason. He has the advantage over Rory of a friendlier appearance. Alsatians have a bit of the look of the wolf about them, and carrying their head slightly lowered, can convey a sense of menace, where, certainly in Rory’s case, there was no intended threat whatsoever – although he did put on an impressive and noisy show when the postie came near the house. Collies have a much softer, gentler look and Monty is only half the size of old Rory.

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But my goodness, can he run. For such a little animal, he can travel at a remarkable speed, and in cool weather sustain the pace for considerable distances, combining as he does speed with agility and stamina. Work commitments recently, during the bedding plant season, mean that our more adventurous and demanding outings have had to be put on hold. Monty has had to be content with trotting around all day at work and perhaps running down into the garden areas to play on his own.

“Play” usually entails amusing himself by throwing an empty plastic drinks bottle in the air and catching it or running around in circles at breakneck speed. He then will break off to go up to the car park to jump up onto a pallet of compost to watch people and cars come and go, but don’t let this seemingly innocent behaviour lead you into a false sense of security, because behind this friendly facade there is mischief afoot.

I have often wondered whether dogs have a sense of humour, and if any dog has it, it is Monty. His list of crimes to be taken into consideration is getting longer. Not long ago, one of his “regulars” drove into the car park, and little Monty jumped down from his resting place on a pallet of compost and trotted over. Having eaten all the treats brought with him in mind, he then stuck his snout into the stowage well in the car door, before running off at speed with the chamois demisting pad in his mouth. He returned a moment later to the highly-amused customer, who after a pathetic effort at giving chase, watched Monty shred his demisting pad into tiny pieces.

But this was not a one-off. A child’s cuddly toy was the next booty he stole. Again the family concerned were fans of Monty and had brought him a treat, which he gratefully received, before leaning into the customer’s shopping trolley and snatching the child’s cuddly toy which had been temporarily placed there. Again this opportunist crime was followed by a dash into the gardens to taunt his victim before once more destroying the object of his crime. Apologies followed and it was all taken in good heart. Last week, however, Monty plumbed new depths bringing shame on the family.

A familiar scenario. Innocent victim. Friendly welcome. Lots of fuss and then when the victim is lulled into a false sense of security…a lightning strike. This time the customer, a lady was changing shoes from driving “flats” into something a little more glamorous…at least that was the plan. Monty was in there like a bolt from the blue and in a moment away with one of her shoes. Her anxious cries as she gave chase with one shoe on, the other bare, were ignored. A friendly knight in shining armour came to her aid, himself giving chase. The mayhem only ended after several laps of the lawn when Monty dropped the shoe, thankfully completely intact and undamaged and the gentleman was able to return the stolen property to its rightful owner.

I’m quite proud of that little dog, but at that moment, I could have run a mile. Rory would never have put me through that, and a year after his passing, it seems his successor, the supposedly sweet and innocent little Monty, is nothing more than a kleptomaniac. The shame of it.