Leonie Caldecott TIC process of moving house promotes some weird reflections on the nature of domestic entropy. Some of these will be familiar to you. There is, for instance, the law of vanishing returnt, which affects things like teaspoons and pens. No domestic item, however, is more prone to this law than socks. Going through everyone's underwear drawers, I have managed to isolate no less than 38 lonesome socks that have lost their partners. Unless someone is deliberately hoarding the missing socks for some nefarious purpose, the phenomenon remains a mystery.
Mind you, there is a suspect available for at least some of these separations. That suspect is our dog, Truffle, Mask of Zorro (to give him his full kennel name). Truffle, who is a one-year-old liver and white cocker spaniel, has a predilection for eating socks. Like many spaniels, Truffle deserves the nickname "tummy on legs", or indeed "Attila the Hound", as we employ Securicor-level tactics to load and unload the washing machine. He will, in fact, eat almost anything. But socks, for some reason, have a special place in his canine gourmet wish-list. When he first did this, as a puppy, I had to take him to the vet, as his digestive system would have been incapable of coping with what he had just swallowed. There, after administration of soda crystals, he eventually threw the dam thing up again. Now, each time we visit the surgery, he is greeted with the words: "Eaten any good socks lately, Truffle?" It's fame, of sorts.
Personally I would rather he were famous for something more dignified. He happens to be a particularly handsome fellow — what me, biased? I can see him in a Pedigree Chum advert. One of Truffle's most magnificent features is his tail, which is undocked, and waves like a white pennant above him as he walks. The dignified effect is slightly rained when he pounces on some gruesome tissue found by the wayside, or when he decides it's time for a mudbath in a ditch. But when newly hosed down and groomed, he definitely cuts a fine figure.
Our daughter Rosie, his true owner, was glued to Crufts this year, though somewhat disgusted at the waddling Pekinese that won. For the next couple of weeks, she trotted Truffle around on
the lead (which he handles well until something edible haves into sight), whilst I gave the commentary: "And here, ladies and gentlemen, we have our champion, Truffle, Mask of ZOM), owned by Miss Rose-Marie Caldecott. What a splendid example of the breed!" Sadly, his undocked tail would probably prevent him ever competing for real.
A friend of mine, who has also fairly recently become a dog owner, told me that she was sure that there were some spiritual lessons to be learned frdm immersion in the canine world. For instance, the devotion of a dog to his or her "pack" (which is what the family represents to this descendant of the wolf) has definite Thdresian overtones. Nothing, but nothing, can shake this loyalty:Ile dog, though not possessed of an immortal soul, nonetheless does 100 per cent better than us when it comes to the single-minded gift of self.
The contemplation of a dog also prompts some pretty profound thoughts about the wonders of creation and man's place in it. As I trustingly put my hand inside Truffle's soft mouth and look at those huge woolfish canines, the "naming and taming" interaction between us and the animal kingdom is brought home to me. Canine intelligence is different from ours, being dependent on training to be harnessed usefully. And obviously the company of a dog is not the same thing as the company of a human person (despite what some besotted enthusiasts may claim). You cannot make a moral appeal to a dog: "Truffle, do be a dear and drop that revolting thing, there's a good fellow."
Yet there is nothing in the world quite like that rapturous reception each time you enter the room: the tail swishing enthusiastically, the cold nose pressed into your hand, the eyes fixed on you as though nothing else existed. I can't help wondering, did God perhaps create dogs (or permit them to evolve from the wolf, and join us at the fireside rather than threaten us from outside it) for a purpose? Not only are dogs long-term partners and helpers of humanity in their hunting and guarding capacity, but they are also a living reminder of how we ourselves should relate to the "leader of the pack' par excellence.