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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

i no longer know why I’m surprised, really

Lo, who is this crone who wanders near, leprous among the shadows, bleary and distressed and best to be avoided? Fresh from a Dickens slum, a look of bleak bewilderment crossing her smudged brow – lately blown in from the coal face. People whisper and point and shield their children. A deranged poor soul is she, in search of but a shawl, a basket of heather to unsettle the superstitious and perhaps extort a few quid in the doing (kerching!).
The sort of look to haunt the early hours, to wake from sweating, clutching the reality of sheets in hot grateful fists; but a glance in the mirror confirms the grim truth. This was no dream but me, following an unsuccessful session with DIY hair dye. Some rough old bit of grim mac is what I now call hair.
I mean, I hardly expected to morph into the simpering lovely on the box, not in 25 minutes, and luckily my fringe does conceal dark crimes against my hair line, but the Mind The Gap discrepancy between expectation and brutal reality is hard.
Hard, but cheap.
I think this particular box of disappointing lies set me back a fiver, whereas at a salon it can run to eighty pounds.
I sound like my father. That’s 1600 shillings. Sheesh.
It’s also a question of terms, some vocab-cocky copywriter’s “natural medium brown” is my “Crow Black: fit to scare the kiddies.” The children flinch, they flee from me that sometime did me seek…
Two weeks and it'll be brassy again, three and I'm back on the box, fiddling with the gloves, living in hope.

But meanwhile face the world I must, to walk the dog, a creature who is no longer the random flash of impetuous fur that has tortured our life for what seems like decades.
Instead, she stands mute and obedient.
When I open the door she waits, all but saying, “After you, love.” She does not barge between my legs, prompting an unseemly scuffle, where the lead whips across my skin, a domino effect of pain and rage and tears ensuing, laced with the adrenaline of failure. And once out, she is calm, not deranged, not displaying truly disproportionate joy in what is, let’s face it, a pretty dull walk round a field, and an unlikely trigger for such hysteria. No more is the walk a time of deep stress and unhappiness, my control freakery sent into freefall by Lolly’s jolly sociable ways, outstaying her welcome wherever she went.

For if the dog is the worst thing I have ever bought, then the zapper (aka obedience collar) is the best. Particularly when half price on eBay. And, whereas I’d love to lay claim to efficient training schemes, I must confess that this seismic shift in her behaviour is due purely to the detonator in my feverish sticky paw. My new best friend.

One session, lasting about 10 mins, and Lolly is TRANSFORMED. Say it loud, and it’s almost like thunder. Finally, I am the owner of a Good Dog and can pat her with a hearty laugh and say “marvellous” as if I mean it when talking about her.

The collar arrived, and seldom has a package been opened with more anticipatory thrill. No cross dresser on receiving his nipple tassels could have torn at the jiffy so eagerly. I fumbled with the strap, the box, the remote control with obscene joy. I all but used my teeth.
My busy hands were necessarily stilled for the 24 molar-gnashing hours it took to charge, time I used to attempt the instruction booklet, the bit of the process I’d rather busk normally. Or get E to read.
Page one tends to be fine in these things, then there’s a confusing set of diagrams where they try to convince you of 19 myriad functions, 17 of which you never tie down and, then, when the page is turned, all hell is let loose, all sense of sense obliterated while the words ‘input’ and ‘mode’ and ‘function’ and ‘interface’ make worryingly frequent appearances.
So normally I don’t bother but, better and better, since this kit has 3 buttons, just 3, one of which you don’t even need, then even I was able to read through to the end, read and digest: one for bleep and one for zap. Yo.

The next day, I rubbed my hands with glee, and got me started.
I tested the zapper and found that level ‘one’ gave but a mild thrill, a bit like a TENS machine. This was marginally disappointing, since I’d hoped for something more industrial; but not disappointing enough to risk testing ‘eight’ on myself. Ho ho, no. Stupid I am not. Eight could wait for dark days with Lolly. There would be plenty.
I strapped her into her kit, very Hannibal Lecter Wears Bomb. A most pleasing sight, a physical embodiment of ME being in charge. Me, Lolly, not you.

Look at her now, an unwitting (naturally, hello? she’s a dog AND she’s blonde) suicide bomber. She’s still unaccountably pleased with herself but I let it go, despite regretting the long chat which we’ll never have, when I could put her straight on that particular little myth.
If dogs spoke English life,would be a good deal easier, “Lolly, you are very, very dim,” I could say, “there is nothing to be proud of in your helter-skelter ways...”
Instead, I take comfort where I can. Well, you've got to.
So the flashing box is tied tight beneath her chin, tight as an old bag’s head scarf.
It works.
It works so well I could weep.
The thought that it might malfunction, to boot, and blow the dog sky high in wonderful random bits is the stuff of giddy dreams; greedy maybe, but it sure does lighten the step. There’s nothing like a bomb at a dog’s throat to cheer one up.

So I have been feeling sort of benign towards her, and sort of smug with myself for having sorted things out (albeit employing vast expense and electrocution) which was a damnfule thing to do and shows me how one never learns and should certainly never think that things are going well.
Oh no.
For the doorbell has only just this minute gone, as I was typing this, skewing the balance of my blog and making it too long, for it was the chap from the local shop.
I had thought that my newly surprised hair was the main arrow in the quiver of current cock-ups: I was wrong.

I half shut the door in his face, not able to bear a renewed session of chat about his teeth (“Dropping. Like bits from a glacier. Six of them. I’m on medication”) when I noticed a loathsomely familiar beast at his legs, grinning away with misplaced confidence, half bouncing on stiff woolly legs. “Hoiiii!”
“In!” I hissed, using my best steel-capped slippers as a means to guiding the hound sharpish with speed, holding the door firm meanwhile to keep shop man well and truly out.
The “In” will never apply to him: the last thing I need is a man on medication missing half his teeth.
“So sorry,” I muttered, which loosely translates as Bloody Hell I Hate That Dog.
“Peugeot nearly got her,” he said, rubbing it in.
Damn, I thought
“How nearly?” I said
He held up his hands to illustrate the gap – a few, cruel, fisherman’s centimetres – between us and a dog-free house. Life sucks sometimes.
There’s always next time, I thought, dredging up optimism from deep despair, such is habit.
“Oh well,” I said, “Lucky, huh.” When you live round here you have to pretend to care.
“She was on the mother-in-law’s bed yesterday. In the bedroom.”
“What? Upstairs?” I squeaked, thinking: little soft paws on grimy gritty sheets, yuk!
Upstairs,” he confirmed, in a way that can only be described as threatening.

My second fear was more real – sod the paws, she can lick ‘em clean – that this uninvited entrée, this furry surge, to Upstairs, somehow suggested that I might have to pay him something. Compensation, say.
I wanted to thwack into touch the gleam of dry cleaning bills lurking hungry in his eye.
Surely I make more than my fair share of unnecessary purchases from the shop to assuage my guilt at Lolly’s horrid interest in the white mice and sherbet puffs? When you’ve seen where that face has been the last thing you want is to buy sweets for your children seconds after she’s been rummaging, giving them the lusty once over. Just the thought is enough to regret not having installed a chair in the porch for recuperative purposes.
Lolly may have misjudged the mother-in-law for me - the ancient being does even better crone than I do, being the real thing. I smoothed a hand through my fearsome locks.
Shop man took flight, and backed away down the path, as if noticing the hair for the first time.
Five pounds well spent.

What that dog really needs now is manacles. Something desperately hard-core. Dog drugs maybe.
I was hopelessly naïve to trust in a mere collar alone.
But are they legal? Will I be arrested for simply typing in “incarceration methods” to eBay – dare I risk “inquisition techniques”? Is there a cyber keystroke police out there?
How much more, oh Lord, must we suffer with this dread dog, this greasy bag of fur? How very bad must I have been in a former life.
And if it’s not Shop Man, it’s Grim Duo from next door, ferrying Lolly back on an ostentatious lead bought for this purpose alone muttering about boundaries.

No wonder my mantra is Think Gin.
Meanwhile, what I can do, I will do, which is to wear a hat and turn the zapper wheel up to 8. We must take our pleasures where we can. Revenge is a dish best eaten whenever possible.
See who’s laughing then, dog. Mwah ha ha.


Elizabethd said...

Oh how do you cope with such a dog!

Isnt there a reverse hair product that one might try? Though perhaps best to pay the £80 next time?

Dumdad said...

That zapper sounds like fun!

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Firstly step away from th hair dye - find a cheaper hairdresser - then lo thee crone will begone . . .

As for your dog and your collar . . . sigh . . . so how close was it . . . and don't rely on it - our old dog got out and got hit twice - cost a fortune and she still didn't acquire any road sense to go with her wonder lust and vets are dearer than hairdressers.

£77 it cost me today because Sassy snuck off on a walk and ate something disgusting . . can I borrow your collar . . . oh and make sure you have a good supply of batteries - they don't last long . . .

lampworkbeader said...

Milla dear, I read all the way down to the bottom line hoping to think of some little ways to alleviate your distress. As for the hair, there are some very cutesy things one can do with head scarves nowadays that I'm sure would suit you.
And surely the correction collar, is wasted on a mere dog. I understand a girl can make a few bob...It's been in all the papers, particularly if you've got nice severe black hair. Do you have access to a racing car or perhaps a nice whip?

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Have been here ...have laughed til tears dripped on the keyboard...no advice to add Milla...nothing at all...just keep writing it, coz the imagination just runs riot!

Eve said...

Lampwork may have found a way for you to afford the hairdresser.....

I can't believe the neighbours bought a lead...they obviously don't belong in the country. What's wrong with a piece of old baler twine?

Edward said...

Top blog as usual, and as so often I'm glad I go to work, if only to escape the canine shenanigans. I wonder, too, how many blogs anywhere have the following tags:
crone, eBay, hair dye, Hannibal Lecter, nipple tassels, obedience collar?

LittleBrownDog said...

Delicious blog, Milla - I do so love it when the humans manage to outwit the dog even for a few short moments. Am v tempted by thought of zapping collar, v expensive though they are, and you have to kind of be sure they're going to do the trick to part with such dosh. Even more tempted since I was supposed to be interviewing someone on a mobile phone in Spain last week when Brown Dog chose his moment to launch himself bodily on our tall and singularly clattery Brabantia bin, which rolled round and round the kitchen noisily while I tried to pretend nothing at all was happening. Have now to make up contents of interview and hope against hope not to be sued for misrepresentation. Do you think the collar might work for such an eventuality? Off to eBay now...

FairSailor said...

Another entertaining blog, Milla. And that was before I'd read Edward's comments about the labels. Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine has ne of those for his dog, it's known as her "ASBO collar" - strangely appropriate!

KittyB said...

Whip the zapper up to full blast. Quick. A friend told me of his attempt to video (why on earth?) his training attempts on their unruly dog with such a zapper. He strapped the collar to the mutt, fired up the Handycam, sent the dog into the field to worry a sheep, then pressed the button. 'Yip!' the dog leapt bodily a full three feet into the air. He'd started the power off at 10, not 1. Oops. I'm dying to see that clip. I feel youtube coming on.

blogthatmama said...

Ha, ha, hilarious! Guess what? I'm going to buy two collars on ebay asap, one for each son, I can't wait to press that zapper..

elizabethm said...

Oh Milla what a time you have. I am sure you will defeat Lolly in the end. You have skill and cunning and fabulous way with words. Oh, sorry, that won't help. You have mighty zapper. Go Milla go!
Lampie has a possible idea there but I wouldn't be tempted by that one.

ChrisH said...

Am I the only one who will be sorry if Lolly is successfully transformed into a Stepford Dog? As for the hair dye... weren't you the one who asked why my hair colour had morphed from dark to light??? I think you are looking at the answer. Don't worry it'll wash out in two minutes flat - probably just when you've got to the stage when you think it's just right!

Potty Mummy said...

Love the labels to this post Milla... Have you experienced something of an increase in traffic as a result?

Fennie said...

Now then now then now then. Lollykins can't be that bad, can she?

You just have to be firm. Besides if you really want to frighten her - and thereby kill two birds at a stone - you could buy a wig. The dog would be disoriented and so would everyone else, especially if you wore it back to front. Your neighbours might even be more sympathetic ---'poor dear, such a terrible thing, alopecia.' Lost all her hair. Given all her beautiful hairbrushes away. They came from her grandmother, you know.

Then they would understand and mutter - 'so devoted they are -'er and 'er dog.' And even Lolly would then need to find a new sense of purpose for fear of a similar dreadful metamorphosis.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

I thought you liked the wretched beast milla; though her incontinence would put me off. If for any reason you have to stop with the collar (shock police turn up say) try entering clicker training into google, or click 'n treat.

Good alternative, cheap, and not hard once you get the hang of the timing.

toady said...

Brilliant as usual Milla. I can just picture her stretched out on that bed.

DJ Kirkby said...

I gave up dying my hair 2 glorious years ago. I am grumpy and grey, why pretend otherwise? How did the zapping collar not work on your dog? Perhaps you could market her as a dog houdini for films?

Pipany said...

Oh Milla, this is a gem, you poor soul. Your hair MUST be rectified at the cost of your purse strings. The idea of mad hound at the heels of harridan looky-likey is not a good one!

Love the sound of the zapper and feel all dog owners should purchase one along with the dog. Hmm, You Tube is worth a visit perhaps? xx

Expatmum said...

Your train of thought is staggering sometimes! I have learned numerous things from this post - namely, 1) don't give in to the kids' whinings about getting a dog. 2) banish all thoughts of a do-it-yourself strawberry blonde rinse, and 3) if blogthatmama could kindly let us know if it works on kids, I'll be renewing my Paypal account forthwith.
Great post!

MoziEsmé said...

Dog wins again . . .

Pondside said...

GAWD.Milla - you had me howling. The thought of the lank-haired crone with the cattle-prod collar - too, too much!!
I so understand the hope embodied in the words on the hair dye box...not from personal experience, but from having been the instrument of my sister's transformation from blond-with-roots to Debbie Harry-channels-Phylis Diller wild haired horror. Yet she continues to beg me to do 'just a few highlights' for her.
We never learn - proof positive of the amazing resilience of the human spirit. She believes positive change will come from a box and I believe I can effect that change.

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Have just completely caught up Milla, laughing all the way. Does the zapper only go up to 8? Ah well. And the hair colour - well, head shaved can be a good look if you have the head for it. M :-)

Preseli Mags said...

Ow, ow, ouch! Bad Milla. Too funny. I started laughing at "very Hannibal Lecter Wears Bomb" and was completely and utterly howling by "blow the dog sky high in wonderful random bits". I've been a rubbish day today (kitchen refurb + impending visitors = doom) but you have really cheered me up.

CAMILLA said...

Hi Milla,

Laughed till I cried, great blog, and see those fantastic labels, absolute winner.!

Dogs and beds, yep, Daisy took herself onto one only last week, the sheer force of the thunder was too much for her to bear until I felt furry paws scratching near pillows.


Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.