He prefers the fingers of little girls
The jury is still out on The Pooch, his hold on family affection loosened by a series of canine character flaws. He has been the tail wagging member of the household at Medders Manor for the past four years, surely long enough to have found a secure place in our hearts.
Yet the doubts remain.
First the positives. When a pup, The Pooch was nursed through injury and illness back to full health after he was trampled in the stampede he created by nipping at the hooves of a neighbour's herd of bullocks. A stint in the role of suffering patient has always been a good way to earn the loyalty those who have cared for him.
We all still laugh when we recall the evening he peed on the shoe of one of The Uncles just as the visiting relative delivered - for the umpteenth time - the punchline in his oft told story about dropping the soother of Hermione (then a baby, obviously) down the toilet. Such comic timing is a rarity among dogs and should be prized.
Nevertheless, he remains something of an outsider.
The Pooch wins no friends with his determination to wrap his jaws around whatever cat strays into his path. His insistence on chasing the kitties frequently disturbs the peace of an otherwise restful afternoon. The cats taunt him by appearing to be within his grasp before skipping out of reach with nimbleness such that any matador at work in the bullring would envy.
Of course the day he actually corners his feline prey will be the day he sustains the sort of lasting damage that not even rampaging cattle can inflict. The claws will be out and the talons will take the sight from his big brown eyes before he knows it. No tender loving care on the part of the family will restore The Pooch one hundred per cent after that.
The big selling point for any family that considers adopting a dog is the prospect of going for walks, promoting the well-being of the pet and his human guardian alike. And it is true that The Pooch has had a beneficil effect on the physical fitness of those with whom he resides - or at least some of them. Persuading teenagers that they should bring him for 'walkies' is problematical.
The youngsters are immune to his cute appeal for exercise which he delivers with those big brown eyes unblinking, one ear perkily up and the other disarmingly down. Persephone appreciates his services as a living hot-water bottle when slouched on the couch when but she feels no compulsion whatever to venture with him out of doors.
Our sportsman Eldrick argues that he already had his share of fresh air chasing a ball around a pitch from which all hounds are expressly banned. So it is largely left to Hermione and me to head out into the countryside with our charge hauling impatiently on the lead.
I had fondly imagined before we actually assumed responsibility for such a creature that walking a dog, particularly a little terrier like The Pooch, would be a sociable pastime. Surely dog ownership would be a wholesome means of extending acquaintance. But no.
I found myself recently telling a little boy who approached The Pooch keen to stroke our pet: 'He prefers the fingers of little girls but he will settle for yours if you let him.' The words were uttered half in jest whole in earnest but I fear the young fellow may have been traumatised for life by my creepy warning. Though he did not cry, the blood drained from his chubby cheeks as dog and master hastened on.
So, all children must be avoided for fear they will be nipped. Adults without dogs must be avoided for fear that they are allergic to dogs or simply do not appreciated their company. And other dog walkers must be avoided at all costs for fear of provoking mass conflict.
The Pooch is no bigger than a loaf of bread but he creates pandemonium when confronted by another of his kind, whether a tiddler of a Chihuahua or a massive Great Dane. Chance encounters degenerate rapidly into a confusion of snarls and bites.
At least The Pooch has learned those whisky dogs.Other breeds may throw shapes but Highland terriers are genuine killers.