When I was on the cusp of adolescence I had a rare row with my Mum. My then dog Conker had dug up the onions or something. I was defending him. The heated ‘words’ that were exchanged included “come here”, and I ran off. I headed for the open fields. She chased me. Oh, the sheer exhilaration of realising that I could outrun her, that she couldn’t catch me.
So, it is with a wistful sense of identification that I stand, these days, blowing impotently on my Acme whistle while Hector bounds off into the distance with a newly defiant fuck-you spring in his step. At nearly seven months old Hector is officially a teenager.
Luckily, since he’s not political or idealistic or full of oestrogen, he will not be flying out of the dining room in tears, shouting, “anyone who owns a house with more than two bedrooms is OBSCENE”, as I did.
Luckily, since he is not a 21st century boy-child, I will not have to watch him in front of the mirror poking at a non-existent midriff, wailing, “Look! I am fat, Mum”. Or hold his friend’s heads while they vomit fruity smelling alco-pops into the flowerpots. Or fight a losing battle over Thank-you letters. Or…
So, what have we got to look forward to? “Adolescence is a selfish time”, the puppy manual says, and “you will feel like a failure”. “It will seem as though he has forgotten everything you have taught him” and “what you want will be much less important to him”.
Yup! It has begun. We have had one unaccustomed pissing indoors incident. We have a new but ongoing table-chewing situation. In the evenings he is literally bouncing off the walls, careering round and round the living room like a cage-motorcyclist in a fairground. If I didn’t know better I’d think he had chewed up a months supply of Berocca.
He has developed Attitude too. When I call him, he dawdles in a brazenly ‘I’ll come when I’m ready’ kind of way. I swear, sometime’s he’s laughing at me. (Maybe that is the disconcerting effect of the new mountain range of scary white pointy teeth). And these days, even when I’m proffering two cupped handfuls of FOOD, it’s clear that every leaf, post, stick and bottom is a great deal more interesting than me.
It’s a funny feeling; sort of vaguely wounded but irritated too. I used to feel much the same way when I had cooked a vast vat of pasta and the kids just whistled through one door and out the other like a through-draught, shouting “not hungry” or “eating at Matt’s” and I’d be left standing there, forlornly holding up the serving spoon like a conductor in front of an empty orchestra pit.
How long is it going to last? Six months at least, the books say. But the old ladies on the path just laugh at that and tell me, “wait until he’s eighteen months and he’s got the muscle power as well”. And some say five or even seven years, which, if true, will mean that, like me, he will segue from an extended adolescence straight into retirement.
At least when this stage is over he will remain at my fireside, chewing my pipe and eating my slippers, and not jetting off to countries where they de-capitate people, or The Future, with barely a backward glance.
In the meantime, Spring has sprung – Hooray! Perhaps that’s all that has got into him. I must say, I am feeling ready for a bit of digging up the garden too. And what is that I hear? Ah yes, it’s the song of the other mud-crusted dog-warblers trilling, “Come here, come here now, come here now or else I’ll…” Somehow I think this promises to be an energetic summer…