Maurice

Three years ago my old spaniel Muppet died from heart failure…..she’s been pushing up roses in the rose bed ever since. Or more accurately one white rose in the middle of the bed which has grown enormous.

Over the last couple of years the idea of finding another dog crossed my mind occasionally but as Muppet was really irreplaceable and we have been relentlessly busy seven days a week the new dog search didn’t happen – until after checking my shopping out at the local supermarket one day when I was inexplicably drawn to the notice board on the wall opposite the tills. Something I don’t normally look at as often as once a year.

Approaching the board one large notice instantly drew my full attention.

MALE BASSET HOUND

NÉ OCTOBRE 2016

TRICOLORE

DONNER

TEL: xxx etc.

A quick talk to self at this point, “NO. NO. NO.” (Despite the fact that I have a great love for all hunting and hound type dogs.) “No. I’m just going to get in the car. Drive home and get back to work. No Basset hounds while we are so busy………they’ve probably rehomed it by now anyway”.

Arriving home with the shopping a few minutes later I’m met by Himself with “Everything OK?”

“Yup. Guess what? Somebody is advertising for a home for a Basset hound on the noticeboard in the supermarket”.

“Did you get the phone number?”

“No, I resisted temptation while we’re so busy……..and he’s probably been rehomed by now anyway”

Him: “If you want him go back into town and get the phone number – I’ll phone it for you find out” (my French is definitely not good enough for telephone enquiries to non-English speaking people).

Thirty minutes later we drive through the gated entrance of a house on a hill to look at the dog and are met by a lady rushing down the drive clutching a big folder of “Maurice’s” paperwork – registration number, pedigree, microchip number, original receipt, health records etc. etc. Maurice is nowhere to be seen…..but we appear to already be the proud owners of “an enormous but very kind and gentle” basset hound that they can’t keep anymore for some reason that we’re not quite sure of!

As we are digesting our new unseen basset hound ownership more of the French lady’s family members arrive down the hill on foot and she gives them instructions to “go and fetch Maurice”. One man heads back up hill towards a shed and vanishes behind it. He appears two minutes later carrying “Maurice” and staggering under the weight makes his way towards our car. I’m wondering what is going on. Can’t the dog walk? Why can’t it walk? Why are they in such a massive hurry to get rid of it that they ask no questions of us?

Rather than try to ask any more questions ourselves I have no doubt that the best option for Maurice is for him to come with us, whatever problems he might have.

As Maurice gets closer the French lady points out that he smells terrible – probably the understatement of the year. He is rank. Eyewateringly so. I assume he has been wallowing in his own excrement for a long time. While I open all the car windows to cope with the shocking stench in the car, we learn that he has never, and will never walk on a lead, perhaps explaining them carrying him……..but we are assured he is the most gentle and kind and affectionate dog who loves children and all other animals!

There is no movement from Maurice on the journey home. Just an enormous bulk filling the back seat of the car. He has no collar and it occurs to me that if he leaps out of the car and runs away when we get home (in retrospect that was a ridiculous thought, the idea of Maurice leaping or running anywhere is now unimaginable) I could be trying to catch him in the garden for hours and this boy needs to be scrubbed with some hot soapy water and inspected for ‘uninvited guests’ urgently. From the look and smell of him it’s not unlikely that he is bringing a variety of additional livestock with him and it’s not in his interests or ours that the house should become populated with fleas, ticks and lice.

I know we don’t have a dog collar big enough to fit him in the house, so when we’re parked I quickly find a leather belt to put round his neck (measuring him up for a collar later his neck measurement is 76cm!) and a rope to get him out of the car. At this point I begin my crash course in learning my way round the Basset Hound personality.

Maurice isn’t getting out of the car. He fixes me with a very level direct stare, it looks quite challenging but I have no idea if it’s malevolent or just plain stubborn. It’s certainly not fearful or nervous. Then he appears to go to sleep. All attempts at coaxing or bribing him to get up or out of the car having failed, I tug on the lead as strongly as I can, not wanting to pull him too hard by the neck. Nothing. No movement or reaction. He appears to be welded to the seat. I have no problem throwing hay bales around or catching 90kg sheep and tipping them over……..surely I can’t be defeated by a dog. I try to get alongside him and get my arms under him…….all the while not sure if I’m about to lose a few fingers or even a hand There are no growls or looks of objection from Maurice but I can’t move him or lift him so I get behind him to try and push him towards the open car door …..but still no progress.

“OK big boy”, I tell him, “You’ve got 5 minutes to think about this and then you’re coming out……..with your head and body still connected – or not”.

Five minutes later…….with some almighty dragging from myself, and him realising that he’s slowly nearing the open door and the (from his perspective) long drop to the ground, he makes some effort to move his limbs, exits the car into a heap and finally stands up – the first time I’ve seen him standing. Its a relief to see that he can actually stand up…..and then walk……..and what a sight he is. A huge elongated barrel on such very short legs with an enormous head. He is so fat he has very little ground clearance and I see that he is an ‘intact male’ – the very obvious evidence something like a pair of tennis balls swinging between his ankles.

Realising that he is entire, and I am a stranger to him I feel very lucky that he lacked any aggression whilst being extracted from the car, and now I have to figure out the best way to clean him up. A walk in shower was out of the question as he’d never be able to climb the stairs to the upstairs bathroom……..that left the options of a bath…….a raised bath up one step in the downstairs bathroom, a hosepipe outside, or lots of watering cans. I decided on the bath. At least he’d be in a ‘container’ if he strongly objected and tried to escape.

He had exactly the same reaction to my trying to lift him into the bath as he had to my trying to get him out of the car. He just flopped onto the floor and pretended to be asleep. Totally passive with no sound or struggle…….but no co-operation – whatsoever. (I now know that’s normal Basset Hound behaviour). In the absence of a forklift truck to get him up and over the side of the bath it all boiled down to brute force again. After three failed attempts to lift him high enough to get him over the rim of the bath and into it I was almost ready to concede defeat, but thought I’d try one last push. After I’d got him into an upright sitting position – still concerned about the possibility of a revenge attack – I was able to lift him enough to get a knee under him and use a leg to help roll him up and over the top of the bath and he slid down in to it without comment. Two full tubs of washing water later, and all the dog shampoo I could find and he seemed to be enjoying his bath.

He loved the shower and finally smelled better. Drying him as much as I could while he was still in the bath……and then wrapping him in a bath towel so I had something to grip while I got in with him and heaved him back out saw a successful conclusion to the event. As soon as he was back on dry land his tail started wagging……and it has rarely stoppped since.

We quickly discovered that Maurice’s brain is mainly on the front end of his face, and otherwise known as a ‘nose’. There isn’t a great deal actually inside his head to compute with. It is said that the Basset Hound is the world’s number 2 in scenting dog rankings, inferior only to a bloodhound. Having such a brain Maurice is very keen on bags of shopping, or any type of handbag and can rifle through half a dozen and find anything likely to be of interest to himself – and his stomach, in seconds. Visitors to the house have put down handbags by their seats…….and found Maurice ransacking them at every opportunity, throwing out anything not edible. He also searches pockets in clothes in the same way, whilst they are being worn, or just left in an accessible place. Himself was sitting at a table drinking coffee the first time he was ‘frisked’. Both trouser and jacket pockets were forensically examined in moments…..with ‘the nose’ digging deep into all pockets in an instant. As himself is known to stuff a few ‘doggy treats’ in his pockets now and again he is now known and adored as ‘Biscuit Man’.

One lesson learned from Maurice was quite sad and spoke volumes about his past experiences. I picked up a soft broom to sweep a floor in the early days……and when he saw the handle in my hand he cowered to the ground and then fled outside and down the garden shaking, and it took some time to coax him back or for him to stay in a room with a broom or mop in someone’s hands. His instinct told him to flee anything that looked like a long wooden handle. We did some ‘broom handle’ adjustment therapy, and now he’s perfectly happy with them and knows he has nothing to fear.

We had a few hiccups in the beginning. The first occurred when he came ambling down the garden with me to be introduced to the sheep on his second day with us. As the sheep rushed up the field to have a closer look at him he decided to meet them halfway…….before I could stop him waddling into the electric fence. This resulted in lots of howling, a few somersaults and a seemingly lifetime hatred of Dorper sheep. He believes they electrocuted him and will never forgive them.

All early attempts at walking on a lead were like this. We had to have an argument about his refusal to stand up or walk. He lost…….and has loved walking ever since.

The next unfortunate event was after I’d given him some lessons in ‘walking on a lead’ ……..which was a battle he lost. I then stupidly decided to take him for a long walk along our quiet lanes, not realising that his pads were very soft through lack of use…….and I brought him home with a very sore foot I had to bathe and bandage every day for a week. This could have been much worse……but he loved having his foot soaked and bandaged. And he loved wearing my socks to keep the dressings in place so he was soon back on four feet.

Having to house train Maurice was a surprise. It hadn’t occurred to me that he wouldn’t be house trained. Luckily for us the weather was warm enough for the house doors to be open all day for easy access to the garden……..but when his persistent territory marking in the house became a real pain…..and when I caught him proudly hosing walls, furniture and curtains etc. while grinning and wagging his tail he was very confused by my trying to chase him outside ‘mid stream’. The problem was resolved when my husband stepped in and took him outside with considerable frequency and demonstrated “how we do this sort of thing on the grass Maurice. Not inside the house.” Maurice actually loved this ritual. It became known as ‘man bonding’……..and Maurice still stands and looks hopefully up at Himself when they are out in the garden together!

Over a couple of months he became very mobile, lost a lot of weight (Maurice – not Himself) and is now fit and healthy. We keep a caravan step in the car and he quickly learned to use it to get in and out so going on trips to the river or a local lake is easy. Unfortunately he can’t really swim. Next time he tries it he’ll be wearing a life jacket.

We have watched lots of YouTubes about Bassets since acquiring Maurice and laughed at so many which remind us everytime that Basset Hounds are not like any other dogs. From the stubborness to the ‘singing’, one of my favourites below…..

One day, after we’d seen several films about Basset Hound puppies I posed the question to Himself, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to get Maurice a wife……….my beloved, darlling, dearest…….?”

The reply, minus expletives, “Absolutely not a chance. Never, never, never. One Basset Hound is mind boggling. Can you imagine having 8 or 14 of them tearing round the garden and the house? Nope. Never.

“Yes dear……..you’re probably quite right………

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