I don’t know what it is about my crazy family, but there seems to be no such thing as a quiet weekend in the Dunford-Castro household.
This weekend was to be no exception and had been much anticipated by my wife Loly, and me. Some very close friends were due to take our boys out for most of Saturday, and we were standing on the brink of six glorious kid free hours to do whatever the hell we liked. Little did I know that I was just hours away from meeting a four hundred pound Demi-God
Just behind our house is the beautiful River Stour (Dorset) and we had a plan to take a couple of Kayaks and paddle downstream to a well located river-front pub for lunch and a few drinks. Friday arrived and our moods, which had been steadily rising all week, had reached a hide tide. I went to play football with my friends as I do every Friday evening, planning to join them for a few drinks afterwards before returning home – life was good.
After the game I checked my bag before heading for the showers and realised I had forgotten my shirt. “I’ll meet you at the pub later, I have to go home to shower, I forgot my shirt!” I called to my friends as I got into the car.
My wife was playing chess with Marcus when I got back and it was clear that all was not well. “Don’t be angry, but we have a problem,” she said, fixing me with a serious stare.
“What happened?” I asked, concern growing by the moment.
“I think Rafael has headlice,” she said, “and I can’t possibly send him to Bea’s like that.” I thought about it for a few moments realising that no amount of sulking or hysterics from me would help.
“Okay, let’s check him out first and then decide what to do.” I said, burying my disappointment. “If he has nits we treat him and keep him with us tomorrow. You’d better call Bea.”
Loly bathed Rafael and combed his hair and removed eight or nine lice including one particularly large one that was obviously the mum. She made the call to our friend Bea and the promise of ‘adult time’ once more receded into the realms of mythology.
The following morning was a little subdued to begin with while my hyperactive wife considered what new itinery wouldn’t constitute a wasted day. At this point it is probably good to explain a little something about Loly. My wife needs purpose and structure to her day, and almost always has a plan. The times when she doesn’t have a plan? Well, let’s just say that anything can happen and probably will, and this day was one of those.
I decided to made constructive use of the time by catching up on some lost sleep and was dozing quietly on the tiny slice of the bed that was left to me while my wife and all three kids scoured the internet on a laptop, in search of the perfect chihuahua. A few weeks ago her obsession was swimming pools and she would spend countless hours in pursuit of a pool that was big enough for a proper swim, but still qualified as a bargain.
“Look James!” She had exclaimed on finding the ‘perfect pool’. “This one only takes forty five minutes to put up!” It was true, it did take about forty five minutes to erect the pool. Of course the ground excavations, the heater and filter plumbing installation, the electrical services, the filling of the pool and chemical balancing etc. took me another five days of hard labour, but hey (he says through gritted teeth), what price the smile on your loved ones faces?
After a couple of hours of debate and forced viewing of countless ‘little cuties’ they had whittled down the list of potential candidates to just two dogs that fitted our criteria: A – within a reasonable driving distance; B – within our meagre budget. Before I had time to say ‘A dog is for life’ it was all settled. Calls were made, appointments fixed, our mission determined. We were going dog hunting, and the house would never be the same again.
Armed with our senile satnav and a couple of cash point cards we were off to house number one to interview our first potential candidate. I have to say at this point I envisaged that the process would pan out something like this: we visit dogs, go home to consider, select dog, place deposit to secure dog, prepare for arrival, then collect some days later.
How foolish of me.
Breeder number one was based in a council house in Calmore, near Totton in Hampshire. The house was mid- terraced mayhem, with three rather angry looking French Mastiffs crammed into what looked to be an extremely small cage just inside the front door, and a pack of chihuahuas roaming the kitchen.
The house wasn’t terribly clean (he says generously) but the dogs were very pretty. After forty minutes or so of cuddling about ten different dogs we all left smelling just a little bit worse than we had arrived.
Breeder number two was in Southampton and was in surprise, surprise – a council house. But there the similarities with breeder one ended. This house was immaculate, with not the slightest canine whiff to offend my delicate nostrils. The breeder brought out our candidate and he was gorgeous. his hair was long hair and cream coloured with a few patches of caramel and he was most appealing.
“Would you like to see mum and dad?” the breeder asked before fetching the pup’s parents. Dad was large and frankly obese, but still pretty. Mum was a horror story. If I say that pup took after his dad that is probably the kindest thing I can really say because the poor mum looked like a miniature hell-hound; all long scraggy grey hair and fox-like features with that permanently wet look that does so little for baby starlings.
We said our goodbyes and retired to consider our verdict. It was after seven at night, and we were all getting hungry. We paid a surprise visit to an aunty of mine who lived in the area and I knocked on the door by myself not to cause alarm as they are in their seventies.
Diane and Tony were amazed to see me. I had bumped into them at a funeral a month earlier and they had made the mistake of telling me to ‘drop in any time’. They hadn’t seen my older children or Loly for many years, and had never met our youngest. It was like poor Bilbo Baggins opening the door to the dwarves as one by one my noisy brood piled into their kitchen before their disbelieving eyes. We stayed for an hour drinking tea and munching cakes before with a flourish of kisses and hugs, the benign invasion withdrew.
I pulled the car over a little way down the road and we had a brief family conference. Long haired white candidate or fawn coloured short hair. One by one we gave our answers and the jury was split. Marcus, Aisha and me all favoured the fawn coloured short hair, but Rafael was howling for the white hair. “It’s your call, mum.” I said to Loly as she chewed her manicured nails, deep in thought.
After a while she spoke, “The white one is the prettiest now, but what if he starts to look like his mum when he grows up, or gets fat like his dad? No, I’m going to call the other woman and try to make a deal. Everybody be quiet now.”
After a few minutes of negotiations the deal was made. I stopped at a cashpoint and we returned to Calmore to pick up the fawn coloured pup. “Oh my God, James, we’ve got a dog! Have we done the right thing?” said Loly when we got home. I didn’t bother to say ‘you are asking me now?’ This is how it works in our house.
I should add that in our family we have talked a lot about getting a dog, but I was the only obstacle remaining. Once my futile ‘voice of reason’ had lost its strength it was all just a matter of time.
So what about the four hundred pound Demi-God? Well, he is just a little bit further down the page. 🙂
Meet Hercules the chihuahua. Price paid = £400. 🙂